It is Finished! - Part 2 (John 19:28b-30)
It Is Finished! - Part 2
Good morning everyone. If we could take our Bibles and open them to John 19:28. The title of our message this morning is It Is Finished! Part 2. The reason we are doing part 2 is we didn’t finish It is Finished last week so we’re going to try to finish It Is Finished today.
John 19:28 and of course here we are in the final words of Jesus Christ as he was hanging on the cross. He has made a few statements related to His mother, to John and how John is to take care of His mother, given His soon departure. And then Jesus, in verse 28, begins to speak to the soldiers that had played a role in His crucifixion and He does that in verse 28 and notice the second half of verse 28, which is where we left off last time. You’ll notice what Jesus said; Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
One of the things that’s very interesting to observe about John is the things he decides to include and the things he decides to leave out. Matthew tells us, in Matthew 27:45 that darkness fell upon the whole land as this was happening. Matthew tells us, in Matthew 27:46-47, he talks about Christ saying, “‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” Matthew includes those subjects; John, on the other hand, omits those subjects. Why is that? Because John has a purpose in writing. John is trying to stress the unity between God the Son and God the Father. He’s trying to stress things like what he says in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” So John is not trying to rewrite history but what he’s trying to do is to highlight only those things that are pertinent to his purpose.
And so the focus of all of this is who Jesus is, and His relationship to the Father. But you’ll notice Christ’s statement here in verse 28, “I am thirsty.” As we mentioned last time, I don’t know if your eyes are good enough to see what I have three on the screen, but there are seven statements that Jesus made from the cross at the very end of His life. John is highly selective, as we said before, in what he decides to include and what he decides to leave out. That should come as no front page news, John has told us about his selectivity. For example, in John 20:30 he said, “Therefore, many other signs Jesus also performed …” but these are written. So John makes no claim to give us an exhaustive historical treatment of the life of Christ.
John, at the very end of his book writes this, in John 21:25, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” The Bible could read almost like Encyclopedia Britannica if it was designed to reveal everything. So there are many other things that Jesus said and did; John is highlighting a few. And it is like that with this reference to the seven final words of Jesus on the cross. John is not going to reveal to us all seven statements; you have to read all of the gospels to get that. John is focused on statement three, which we studied last time, “Woman, behold, your son!” He is also focused on statement number five, which I have underlined there, “I thirst.” And then one more statement I’m hoping to get to today is number 6, a very important statement that Jesus made when He said, “It is finished!”
But notice, if you will, what is being said here. Jesus makes this statement, “I am thirsty.” We ask ourselves a very important question, how could God be thirsty. And the answer to that is we’re not just dealing with God, we are dealing with the God-man. We’re dealing with a being in Jesus Christ, the second member of the trinity, who at the point of the virgin birth added humanity, not to subtract from deity but He added humanity alongside eternally existent deity. And Jesus came into this world and lived as a man. He was not beset by a sin nature; had He not been born of a virgin He would have had the same sin nature we all have, because our sin nature is passed down to us, genetically, in Adam’s line. But Jesus having been born of a virgin did not have that sin nature genetically passed down to Him.
However, He did live as a man and as a man He experienced not sin but what He experienced is the limitations associated with being a man. For example, in John 4:6 it says this: “and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.” Notice that Jesus experienced fatigue. Anybody here fatigued? Jesus experienced that. Jesus experienced emotional turmoil; in John 11:35 we read this: “Jesus wept.” In John 11:38 we read this: “So Jesus, being deeply moved within,” speaking of the death of His friend, Lazarus, He was “deeply moved” with that death.
We should not, therefore, look at this man, Jesus Christ, as some sort of despot who is asking us to do things that He Himself has never experienced. I have used this analogy before, but in my basketball days I had always two kinds of coaches; I played basketball from 7th grade all the way through college. I had coaches, and sometimes assistant coaches that had never played. I had other coaches and assistant coaches that had played. Now one of the things a coach likes to do is he likes to scream and yell and get his team in condition, in shape. And getting in shape and getting in condition is always painful. And when a coach is screaming and yelling and saying work harder, push yourself, which coach had the respect of the players? Not the one that had never played, what would he know about the pain that we were in as athletes, but the one that had actually played the game, because he was not asking us to do something that he himself hadn’t already gone through before in his life, in terms of conditioning. In other words, he could identify with us by way of experience.
And this is what you have in this man, Jesus Christ. He is not just some callous removed dictator or despot commanding things to His people. He is somebody that was tried, as the book of Hebrews says, Hebrews 4:15, he was tried in all ways, “yet without sin.” [Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”] He is One who has actually stood in our shoes, as the expression goes, He’s walked a mile, what is the expression, in our moccasins, I think that’s the expression, something like that. He stood in our shoes, He knows what it’s like to feel limitations, and pain, and difficulty, and consequently we have a high priest who can sympathize with us.
So many people, you will tell them your problem and they just have no capacity to sympathize with you because they’ve never been through that same problem. Not so with this man, Jesus Christ, who was tested, as the book of Hebrews as Jesus says, “in all ways, yet without sin.” And this could only have been accomplished if Jesus was the unique… not just God but the God-man.
Now this subject of the God-man brings up a lot of confusion in the minds of people. There are many confused teachings on this subject. One of the great areas of confusion that people move into is they begin to say well, when Jesus became a man He gave up either deity, he gave up the prerogatives of deity, He gave up an attribute, or the attributes of deity. At which time you turn around and you ask them, you say well, how did Jesus perform miracles then? And the answer is always the same; He depended upon the Holy Spirit to perform those miracles. Or, He depended upon the Father to perform those miracles. This type of teaching is very popular and prominent in charismatic circles because many of our Pentecostal charismatic brothers and sisters in Christ believe that they have the ability to perform the exact same miracles that Jesus performed. Now why do they think that? They think that Jesus depended, having emptied Himself of an attribute or a prerogative of deity, Jesus depended upon the Holy Spirit to perform that miracle, so obviously, we (as limited human beings) have the same ability to depend upon the Holy Spirit or God the Father to preform that miracle.
And may I just say to you that this is, I believe, a false teaching. What did Jesus give up when he became a man? He never gave up, number 1, deity. Number 2, He never gave up the prerogatives of deity. Number 3, He never gave up the attributes of deity. Jesus, by Himself, as not just the man but God, could perform miracles at will. You say well, how do you know that? I know that from simply reading the Bible. For example, you might remember John 1:48, this is what it says: “Nathanael said to Him,” now remember Nathanael under the fig tree, a good distance removed from Jesus from the human perspective, “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I,” that is Jesus, not the Father, not the How, “I saw you.’”
So even in His incarnation omniscience was something that was still his. And if we don’t understand this it makes the temptations bizarre, because Jesus was tested by the devil three times and what is Satan seeking to do in these tests is he is seeking to get Jesus to use His powers as deity, independent of the Father. The temptation itself really makes no sense, then, if we don’t understand it that way. The devil is trying to drive a wedge in the trinity because as I’ll show you in a minute Jesus submitted those powers to the authority of God the Father.
Matthew 4:3 says this, “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” That temptation would make no sense, in fact, that wouldn’t even be a real temptation, would it, if Jesus did not have the power on the spot to make those stones into bread. Jesus, therefore, in His humanity, what we call the incarnation, the fancy words for it if you want fancy words, maybe you don’t, I paid a lot of tuition money to learn these fancy words so I’ve got to give them to somebody, the hypostatic union is a fancy word for it; another fancy word for it is the kenosis; the kenosis is a Greek word, it comes right out of Philippians 2, it refers to the emptying of Jesus Christ.
What did He empty Himself of? Not deity, not the prerogatives of deity but the privileges of deity. You see, because when Jesus was existent prior to the virgin birth eternally He had a very cushy job; we might put it that way. He was with God the Father in glory in the ages gone by. He, in the incarnation temporarily severed Himself, not from deity, not from the attributes of deity, but rather from the privileges associated with deity. And part of this involved the submission to the independent exercise of His attributes. He never submitted to losing an attribute. How can God lose an attribute? He never lost the capacity to perform miracles; what He lost, temporarily, in the incarnation was the independent exercise of those attributes because while having the power to do these things He submitted Himself to not exercising His attributes but He submitted Himself to the authority of God the Father. Jesus could have called off the whole crucifixion had He wanted to. In fact, He made that statement about myriads of angels could shut down the whole thing right now. But He kept saying, “Nevertheless, not My will be done, but Thy will be done.”
John Walvoord, the great scholar, in his book, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, makes this very important statement, he says: “The act of kenosis as stated in Philippians 2 may therefore be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose of living among men and their limitations.”
And so when we get into this subject of the emptying of Christ we need to be very careful what we’re saying and we need to be very precise with our language because as I mentioned before, there is a whole sector of the body of Christ that is very confused on the topic, and this is what I would call cardinal critical Christianity. There is room to agree disagreeably among ourselves on a lot of different issues that we could talk about. But this one just strikes too close to home; in fact, without this there is a fundamental misunderstanding of Christology and the doctrine of Christ and who Christ is.
What Did Jesus, therefore, surrender in His incarnation, in the hypostatic union, in the kenosis? He surrendered not deity, not the attributes of deity, not the ability to perform miracles, but what he surrendered is the capacity for a season under the direction of God the Father to exercise miracles at will. And this is why it’s so critical to understand this in light of statements like this, “I am thirsty.” How can God be thirsty? Because he’s not just God, he is the God-man.
Now is it not interesting that He says here, “I am thirsty.” I believe there is a tremendous irony in this. His sacrifice of physical thirst allows us to be blessed as He satisfies our spiritual thirst. Through His physical thirst and what he went through allows us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to have the deepest yearnings of our nature and our being to be satisfied in Him. Why is that? Because people are born into the world without a relationship to God, and consequently there is an emptiness inside of people.
Pascal put it this way, he said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made through Jesus Christ.”
Augustine put it this way, “God made man for Himself and our souls are restless until we find rest in Him.”
It doesn’t take an awful lot to prove this; all you have to do is gather the quotations from some of the richest, most successful, most powerful people in the world, the people that seem to have it all by the world’s standards. And yet if they are not in Christ there is that nagging sense of unfulfillment, there is that nagging sense of emptiness. One of the most interesting videos you can watch is the interview with billionaire Howard Hughes, prior to his death. Howard Hughes in his life, I believe had about four goals; he wanted to be the world’s richest man, he wanted to be the world’s greatest aviator, he wanted to be the world’s greatest movie producer, and he also wanted to be the world’s greatest golfer. And Howard Hughes, in his life, achieved three of the four, which is outstanding. He didn’t quite do the Tiger Woods and make it up to the world’s greatest golfer, but the other three he attained. There are stages in Howard Hughes’ life where he was the greatest on the whole planet at different times on those three different areas.
And yet you would think somebody who has risen to the top of the world would be happy, right? They would be fulfilled. I heard the last interview that billionaire Howard Hughes ever gave, the last question the reporter asked was “Mr. Hughes, are you happy?” It was fascinating to watch this. After a little hesitation Mr. Hughes, who at one time was the richest man in the world, replied, “No, I’m not happy.”
Why is that? Because of this ache and this God-shaped vacuum inside of us, this spiritual thirst that can only be quenched in a relationship with God. I can’t help but think of quoting here that great theologian, Mick Jagger, he says this is a song (which I won’t sing for you), “I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction because I try and I try and I try and I try.” I don’t know how good of a song that is but that is phenomenal theology, a theological accurate statement.
Solomon, and we don’t have time to look at it but I would challenge you to read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. Did you know that the kingdom in the nation of Israel expanded to its largest borders that it’s ever expanded to under the Solomonic reign? Solomon, around 971-931 B.C., about a forty year period, presided over the last…he was the last king of what we call the United Kingdom and he had it all, this man Solomon. He had political prosperity; he had money and finances as the envy of the world. In fact, we learn in 1 Kings how foreign leaders would travel, sometimes 1500 miles; this was the time, of course, before airlines and Skype and things of this nature. And they would travel, as did the Queen of Sheba, simply to sit at his feet and learn of his wisdom.
And yet through it all was Solomon really fulfilled? He was never fulfilled when he rebelled against God. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 says, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility.  I said of laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and of pleasure, ‘What does it accomplish?’  I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives.  I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself;  I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees;  I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees.  I bought male and female slaves and I had home¬born slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem.  Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines.  Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me.  All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.  Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold” here’s the Howard Hughes quote, Howard Hughes sort of being a precursor or Solomon being a precursor to Howard Hughes, “Behold, it was all vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”
How interesting it is that Jesus Christ, through His physical thirst, through that transaction can give to us a quenching of our spiritual thirst that the world system cannot offer. Jesus made this statement to the woman at the well who was seeking to fulfill this God-shaped vacuum in her life through promiscuous relationships. Jesus said to her in John 4:14, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” You’ll notice how the ministry of Jesus Christ touches the innermost being of man, and provides two men in His fallen state what is missing in all of it.
I love how John concludes the book of Revelation. Revelation 22:17 puts it this way: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” If you drink from this well you will thirst again; if you drink from the water that I give you’ll never again be thirsty.
Are you here today thirsty? Are you here today seeking to find what’s missing? We believe that we have the answer, which is the gospel. The only thing which can satisfy the aching of the human heart is a relationship with God, because that’s why we were created, to experience a relationship with Him. And as long as I am trying to fill that void with other things I ultimately will come up empty. Why is that? Because I’m living outside of my design.
You know, you can’t use a screwdriver for a hammer… well, you can, you’re just not going to be very effective because the fact of the matter is the hammer was designed for one purpose and you’re not using it for that purpose, you’re using another instrument that was designed for a totally different purpose to accomplish something effectively that only the hammer can accomplish. And you see, that is what so much of our lives are like without God. We are living outside of the purpose for our existence, so when we look at it that way how can we be happy? How can we be fulfilled? How can we experience joy of any sort? You are living outside of the purpose of why you exist.
But how different it is when a human being believes in this man, Jesus Christ, and through the process of progressive sanctification begins to come under, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the authority of God. How different they feel about life; how their life begins to have significance; how their life begins to have meaning. And how interesting it is that this quenching of our spiritual thirst was accomplished and is now available because of what He went through as signified by His physical thirst.
I can’t help but bring up at every possible juncture the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy because David, in the Psalms, particularly Psalm 22, talked about his experiences. And most understand that David, in that psalm, written a thousand years before Christ was ever born, begins to go beyond simply his own life. The Holy Spirit is giving him glimpses, if you will, into the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 22:15, of Jesus therefore says this: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death.” This thirsting that Jesus experienced in a physical sense is part of a divine script, or a blueprint, if you will, written a thousand years in advance by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the only book you will ever find on this planet that reveals the end from the beginning. Why is that? Because it was written, ultimately and inspired ultimately by God who is omniscient. The best human prognosticators can come up with are vague generalities about the future.
I don’t know if you ever had a chance to read some of the prophecies, so called, of people like Nostradamus, Jean Dixon, people of this orientation. After having studied the precise prophecies found in the Word of God, these prophecies that these people come up with are laughable. Many of them are so general and vague that almost any event that happens, good or bad, in the world could satisfy the prophecies. Not so this man, Jesus Christ, who is living out His life based on a script revealed in advance in pinpoint sharp accuracy, the manner of death, the manner of burial, where He would be born, how He would die. All of these things are revealed with precision in the past.
And that’s why I like to bring up this subject of Messianic prophecy whenever possible, to show you that the Bible is unique among the books of the earth, since it reveals the end from the beginning.
Notice, if you will, verse 29, notice what it says, “A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.”
Apparently there nearby the dying Christ was a jar full of wine. What was it doing there? I believe it was probably there to torture and to mock the dying victims on the cross. Of course, we know that sour wine, sour vinegar can never satisfy the thirst and so it gave them just a moment of liquid into their mouths, only to find that the liquid in their mouths did not cure their physical thirst but exasperated it.
So here are these soldiers, mocking and very callous towards Jesus Christ as He is dying, giving Him this sour wine to drink. And they probably thought that they were acting independently when they were doing that. In reality, back to the subject of Messianic prophecy, they in and of themselves, through that act of callousness and rebellion, were fulfilling the divine script. Isn’t it interesting that the rebels of God, the people that deny the things of God, are themselves a fulfilment of prophecy?
I have many people that tell me and they write to me and they say you know, you put too much stress on the second coming, you put too much stress on the end time. And my response to that is what you just said is a fulfillment of prophecy because 2 Peter 3 says,  “…in the last days mockers will come …  and say where is the promise of His coming?” You want to bash the end time study in the Bible? You want to bash the vast subject of eschatology, which represents over a quarter of the Scripture? Fine, bash all you want, just understand that when you do that you yourself in your so-doing are fulfilling prophecy.
And you see, this is what is happening with these mockers; they are fulfilling Psalm 69:21, it says this, “They also gave me,” this is in the Old Testament, a thousand years before the time of Christ, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” How interesting it is that they were fulfilling Psalm 69:21 as they were mocking God.
And of course, one of the things that we have brought up is the death of Christ is happening on a very important feast day in Judaism, revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai, going all the way back to the book of Exodus, around 1446 B.C. or roughly one thousand five hundred years in advance God set up a calendar for the nation of Israel. He gave them feasts to commemorate, one of them is Passover. Passover, of course, commemorates the time in history where the Jews were commanded, as they had been in Egypt in a place called Goshen for about 400 years, they were commanded to put the blood of a Passover lamb on their doorpost, and if they walked by faith and did exactly what God said then when God came in plague number 10 the consequences of that plague would pass right over the homes, the Jewish homes where that blood had been applied.
This is why Jesus is called our Passover Lamb, 1 Corinthians 5:7, [“…For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”] When the judgment of God comes it’s coming upon every person except those who have the blood of the Passover Lamb applied to themselves by way of faith. When God, and it’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when,” when the judgment of God comes it is coming upon every person where God does not see the blood of the ultimate Passover applied to them. Jesus, in this sense, is our Passover.
Isn’t it interesting there in John 19:29 it mentions hyssop; did you catch that? Exodus 12:22, 1500 years in advance, says this: “You shall take,” regarding the Passover lamb, “You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of the house until morning.”
The Jews were specifically told by God to sprinkle hyssop on their doorposts at Passover. And how interesting it is that the very sponge extended to Jesus’ mouth was on a branch of hyssop. The Passover imagery and typology is just jumping right off the page here, and that’s not the only place, we’re going to see Passover imagery in Exodus 12:46 (maybe next time), it says this, “It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone in it.” That’s going to become a big deal later in John 19.
Exodus 12:5 says, “Your lamb” speaking of the Passover lamb shall be an unblemished. [Exodus 12:5, “our lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old….”] Is it not true that Jesus is the only unblemished human being that has ever lived? No sin nature because he had no biological father, because he was miraculously born of a virgin.
You see how in control God is of all things at all times? The very mockers and rebels of Jesus Christ, we look today at the world’s mockers and rebels against the things of God and we have a tendency to become distraught; the unbelief and rebellion against God is almost like a tidal wave today. And yet even those mockers and unbelievers and ridiculers are themselves within the control of a sovereign God. And how we need to be reminded of this because we have a tendency if life to get our eyes off of God and onto our problems. We think the problem is too big and you’re right, in one sense it is too big… too big for you! It’s too big for me, but it is not too big for God because even those who rebel against God through their own free will are operating within His sovereign permission.
And now we come to verse 30, in verse 30 Jesus stops speaking to the soldiers and He begins to speak to His heavenly Father who sent Him into the world, who dispatched Him into the world to accomplish His mission. And you’ll notice what Jesus says there in verse 30, it says, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Let’s focus, just for a moment, on this expression that is now coming out of Christ’s mouth, “It is finished!” This would be statement number 6, in total, that Jesus made from the cross. I am not the type of preacher or teacher that likes to bring up grammar just for the sake of bring up grammar. There are those that do that, they will drown you in endless discussions of verb tenses, stems, and all of those things. The reason I don’t do it is because many times a discussion of those things does not bear on the passage, it’s just a pointless exercise in intellect.
However, I will bring up grammar when it’s relevant to how a passage is interpreted; I will bring up grammar, syntax, original languages, and those sorts of things when it bears on a specific meaning of the passage. And I don’t think you can really understand what is being said here in verse 30 simply through the English expression, “It is finished!” The Greek word, translated “It is finished!” here in John 19:30 is the Greek word τελέω (teleō). That word means completion, end, maturity, fullness, you’ve arrived sort of idea. And what is so interesting about this is this verb, teleō is in the perfect tense. You say well, who cares? What difference does it make? It makes all the difference. What is the perfect tense in Greek? A perfect tense is a one time, let me say that again, one time, so I get the point across let me say it again, a one time, it takes me three times to say one time… a ONE TIME action in the past with on-going benefits. In other words, it happened once but the benefits go on and on and on and on but the act that accrues the benefits is singular.
What is being said here through the perfect tense teleō which I believe is the most beautiful Greek verb or word, perhaps, in the entire Bible. It’s the word tetelestai, but teleō is in the perfect tense. Tetelestai, what does that mean? It means totally finished! Totally completed! In fact, one of the things that’s very interesting is that is actually a financial term. Let me quote Ed Bloom in one sentence here from the Bible Knowledge Commentary, he talks about manuscripts or papyri receipts for taxes have been recovered with the word tetelestai written across them, meaning “paid in full!”
In other words, when Jesus says tetelestai He is using a financial term that everybody in the Greco-Roman world understood, which is to be paid in full; payment rendered, payment completed, this sort of thing. And how easy it is for us to live our lives as if tetelestai never actually happened.
Let me ask you a question: if it has been paid in full, (full meaning full!) what can I possibly do, or you possibly do to add to it? The answer is NOTHING! And this is why coming to God by way of works is such a heresy and an abomination in the eyes of God. Isaiah 64:6 puts it this way, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” If I am coming to God by way of human performance, if I am coming to God by some sort of merit in myself, if I am coming to God based on my track record of financial giving or service, or philanthropy, or trying to be better, then that is a path to God that is blocked; that is a path to God that is unacceptable. In fact, that is a path to God berthed out of human pride—God, I’m happy with what you did for me in tetelestai but I’ve got this one covered. What an abomination to think like that, to even say something like that.
And beloved, I hope you hear my heart in this, this word, tetelestai has a bearing on how we share the gospel. How we share the gospel is exegetically and theologically driven; if it has been paid in full, IF God is not interested in accepting human works or human merit, then the only possible way that I can receive the gospel is as a free gift. Ephesians 2:8-9, we all know the passage, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” the faith, contrary to what many people teach is not the gift spoken here. How do I know that? Because faith and gift are in different genders. You can’t have two words speaking of the same thing with different genders. God is not going to give you the faith; what God is going to do is he is going to put you under the conviction of His Spirit, thereby allowing you the opportunity to believe. But once we believe what we receive is salvation. Salvation is the gift of God. 8b, “it is the gift of God,  not as a result of works so that no one may boast.”
Wow, God must really not like this subject of pride because He has designed the reception of the gospel in such a way that when you receive it you receive it completely by faith.
When you receive it, you receive it completely as a gift. Now I want you to notice very carefully Romans 4:4-5, this is huge, this verse, Paul writes and he says this: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor,” so I may log in a certain number of hours on the job and I may get a paycheck for that, and I don’t say well, gee, thanks for the gift, I appreciate that, because I logged in hours to receive the paycheck, that’s his point. “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness.”
We have to start thinking the way God thinks. To God, tetelestai, it is all paid for, therefore to come to God we have to receive it as a gift and not as a work and the only way we can receive something in the mind of God as a free gift is by faith. This is why the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 6 says, “And without faith it is” what” “impossible to please God;” “impossible” is a pretty strong word, isn’t it. You can only come to God by way of faith. If you come to God with faith and works mixed together, or just by works in and of itself, then you cannot come to God.
And this is what allows us to recognize a false gospel. By the way, did you know that John’s Gospel is the only gospel written to the unbeliever? How do I know that? Because he says so in his purpose statement, that Jesus is presented so that people might believe and have life. That must mean he’s writing to people that had not yet believed and are not yet experiencing the gift of spiritual life. John is an evangelist in his gospel; therefore we should place a focus or see some sort of emphasis on faith. And you know what, we see it, because over a hundred times John uses pistis, pisteuō, a hundred times to communicate to us this reality that we only come to God by way of faith.
What’s the false gospel, then? The false gospel is something like this: Jesus did about 90% but you’d better kick in the final 10%. Why is that a false gospel? Because it contradicts tetelestai, how could I kick in 10% to earn favor from God when it is “paid in full”? The proper understanding of the gospel is Jesus did 100%, ALL of it, there’s nothing else to add, even if you want to. And when we receive what He has done as a gift, and there is only one way to receive a gift, which is by faith, we come into a relationship with God.
What is a false gospel? A false gospel is simply this: God bought lunch, let me leave the tip. That’s a false gospel. You know when your father-in-law is grabbing his wallet, he wants to pay for lunch and pride kicks in, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re going to buy lunch let me at least throw in something, let me throw in a little tip, and he says no, I’ve got it covered. I’ve got to eat a little bit of crow on that one.
And you see, a lot of people are like that with God; well God, You did all this stuff for me, can I at least leave a tip? Well, you can if you want but you can’t come to Me that way! You’re coming to Me by receiving this as a gift and there’s only one way to receive a gift, which is by faith. That’s the only thing in the mind of God which is not a work, or you’re not coming. What is a false gospel? A false gospel puts the emphasis on man, always. The spotlight isn’t so much Jesus, it’s on me and what I can do to merit favor from God. And God has designed this in such a way that I get no spotlight; my human pride, a lot of times, doesn’t like that. If I like the spotlight, I’m using some this morning here, I like to brag, I like to boast, but the gospel itself the way it’s designed by God excludes boasting.
What, then, is the true gospel? The true gospel is by grace alone, by faith alone, by Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone for the glory of God alone. That is what the Protestant Reformation was fought over; they’re called Sola’s, Sola is Latin for by itself, grace alone, Sola gratia; faith alone, Sola fide, Christ alone, Sola Christos, based on the Scripture alone, Sola Scriptura; for the glory of God alone, by the way, what is God’s purposes in human history? To glorify Himself. If that’s His purpose in human history why would he design salvation in such a way that we get part of the glory? Based on the glory of God, Sola Deo’ Gloria.
This is why the Scripture condemns, in the harshest terms, imaginable a false gospel. Don’t take my word for it, listen to Paul, in Galatians 1:6-9, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;  which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” The Greek there is anathema, for “accursed,” meaning a condemnation into hell. Verse 9, “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
And the greats of the past all understood this. There’s a picture of Lewis Sperry Chafer, one of my theological heroes, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary. He writes in his book, Salvation, “The privilege of preaching the gospel to one soul is priceless. So in like manner any blunder in its presentation may contribute to an eternal disaster and woe. Carelessness in preaching the gospel is criminal and ignorance is inexcusable.” Wow, that’s strong language. “The gospel is plain. Earnestness is important but no amount of earnest can be substituted for the exact statement of God’s message to lost men.” I’m finding myself more and more having to skip the current generation in terms of its writings and I’m having to go back multiple generations to men of God of the past who understood this. Here is one such man, his name is Dr. Harry Ironside, he lived from 1876-1951, a godly author and a teacher for many years; he served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948. I found a quotation from him and I said wow, I wish I could say it like that. So I’m just going to read what it said.
“The gospel is not a call to repentance, or to an amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promises to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed.”
Let me read that again. “The gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed. Do not make the mistake then of thinking of the gospel as a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your position, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past… Nor is the gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things and yet have never believed the gospel and consequently never be saved at all….”
You want to look at some self-reforming people? Look at Alcoholics Anonymous, that’s what the whole program is designed to do, to get you to do better. How many of those people are really saved. You can go thru the Alcoholics Anonymous and make great strides. That, in and of itself, is no guarantee that a person is saved.
“And because it is the Gospel of God, God is very jealous of it. He wants it kept pure. He does not want it mixed with any of man’s theories or laws; He does not want it mixed up with religious ordinances or anything of that kind. The Gospel is God’s own pure message to sinful man. God grant that you and I may receive it as in very truth, the gospel of God.
“How often I have gone to meetings where they have told me I would hear the Gospel, and instead of that I have heard some bewildered preacher talking to a bewildered audience about everything and anything but the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel has to do with nothing else but Christ; it is the Gospel of God’s Son…it is called the Gospel Of The Grace Of God because it leaves no room whatever for human merit. It brushes away all man’s pretensions to any goodness, to any desert excepting judgment. It is the Gospel of grace and grace is God’s unmerited favor to those who have merited the very opposite. It is as opposite to works as oil is to water. ‘If by grace,’ says the Spirit of God, ‘then it is no more by works … but if it be of works, then it is no more by grace.’ But people say you must have both. I have heard it put like this; there was a boatman and two theologians in a boat, and one was arguing that salvation was by faith and the other by works. The boatman listened, and then said, ‘Let me tell you how it looks to me. Suppose I call this oar Faith, and this one Works. If I pull on this one the boat goes around; if I pull on that one the boat goes the other direction. But if I pull on both oars I get you across the river.” “I have heard,” Ironside comments, “many preachers use that illustration to prove that we are saved by faith and works. That might do if we were going to heaven in a rowboat, but we are not. We are carried on the shoulders of the shepherd who came seeking lost sheep. When He finds them He carries them home on His shoulders.”
Isn’t that great! False gospels, we’ve got them everywhere folks. I would call these false gospels. You know why these are false gospels and false indications? A very simple reason, they are preached by well-intentioned people but they put the spotlight in the wrong place. They put, through sloppy vocabulary, sometimes well intentioned, the spotlight not on Christ and tetelestai, not on what we must do that’s not a work, which is faith alone in the eyes of God, but they place them under some sort of… the spotlight is placed on some sort of human performance of some sort.
Can a person be saved with a sloppy presentation of the gospel? To be honest with you, it’s possible, because God is so sovereign and good, sometimes he allows us to hear what really wasn’t presented. The people that preached the gospel to me were so confusing; to be totally honest with you the fact that I’m a believer today must be a work of God. But that does not mean that we can be careless or sloppy with the greatest message we have to give. “Ask Jesus into your heart,” there’s not a shred of evidence of that in the Bible, not one. “Give your life to Jesus,” see how it’s a focus on me and what I do? “Make a commitment to Jesus.” “Turn the controls of your life over to Jesus. I’m not seeing faith here, in these. “Believe,” you got the first part right, “and be baptized.” The second part is wrong. “Believe and keep the Ten Command¬ments.” “Submit yourself to the mastery of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Repent of your personal sins.
Do you know what Jesus believed about this subject of repentance of personal sins, so that a person can be justified before God? All you have to do is read what He says in John 4:10, to a woman who had had five husbands and her current partner she wasn’t even married to. If there was ever an opportunity for Jesus to say repent of your personal sins He would have done it in John 4. John 4:10, “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” You need “living water” which you receive by faith.
But what about our personal sins? That’s not how you get saved, by repenting or your personal sins. Personal sins, He’ll start dealing with you in the area of progressive growth once the Holy Spirit comes in you. How could you tell an unsaved person to repent of their personal sins when the Holy Spirit is not even inside of them? They couldn’t repent of their personal sins even if they wanted to; they don’t have the power to. What they can do, though, is the one thing God will receive which is not a work, which is to believe and to believe gives you access into the riches of God. And as you gain access into the riches of God the power of the Holy Spirit comes into you, where for the first time in your life subsequent to salvation you have the ability to disentangle yourself from immorality. And how sloppy we get and we get the cart before the horse and well intentioned people preach a false gospel in the process.
Charles Ryrie, on John 4, writes this: “Notice that Christ asked the woman to receive Him and His gift without any prerequisite change of her life.” Confess your sins, confess Christ. What if you don’t have any vocal cords? What do you do then? Come forward; what if you’re in a wheel chair? People say well Andy, come on, it’s just semantics. Semantics matter, words matter when you’re talking about this topic. I can get into semantical debates with you on all kinds of subjects and we can agree at the end of the day to agree with one another or disagree with one another agreeably. We can’t do it here folks, because this is eternity for folks, understanding the gospel.
Well, Andy, you can’t just tear down, you have to build up. By the way, did you notice that in John’s Gospel, which is the only evangelistic gospel that we have, did you know the word “repent” does not show up once? Not one time! The word “faith” and “belief” is there a hundred times. That, to me, is a sign that the Holy Spirit is giving us regarding how to share this gospel. There is a way to properly understand repentance that is in harmony with faith, but if you’re dealing with someone that does not understand that distinction, and similarity, you have to be very careful about the use of the word “repentance.” Because you know what they hear when you say “repent?” They don’t hear change of mind, which is the proper understanding of repentance, what they here is don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls that do.
You may have well intentions presenting it, in your mind it means one thing, they’re not interpreting it that way. And so unless you have tome to explain what repentance is, I would follow John’s pattern here and dump the word in its entirety. Repentance becomes very important after you are a Christian as the Holy Spirit begins to convict you of various sins, but it can be grossly misunderstood when you use it as an evangelistic platform.
Well Andy, you can’t just tear down, you’ve got to build up. Okay, so we try to do that. As elders we try to agree on what we would consider to be a proper evangelistic model, you told us what not to do, what are we supposed to do? And that’s why in all of our classrooms you’ll see hanging there five points; this is the suggested approach, or actually at Sugar Land Bible Church the required approach, but I suggest that you use it also when you’re outside the walls of this church.
The first two points, excuse me, one, two, three and five are educational. You’re not telling people to do anything, you’re educating them. Point 4 is you’re telling them to do something in the context where you’re dealing with an unbeliever.
Number 1, you tell them that you’re a sinner before a holy God, Romans 3:23 is good on that one, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Number 2, you tell them the penalty of their sin is death. Sin has a price tag, Romans 6:23 is excellent on this, “The wages of sin is death.”
And then you move to the good news, point number 3, God, in His infinite love provided Jesus Christ who died for you and paid your sin penalty, Romans 5:8 on that is excellent.
And now, once you get that point then you begin to tell them what they can do, which as we have studied is there’s only one thing they can do, that God will receive as a non-work, that is to believe. Number 4, you can be saved from hell by believing or depending, which is a synonym for believing, upon Christ alone to save you. And then you don’t just leave them hanging, if they have believed in Jesus Christ you tell them that on the authority of the Word of God your eternity is secure. So it’s easy to tear down and I don’t desire to tear down but I have to through this to explain to you why this church thinks the way it does. And I’m using tetelestai as the springboard. I don’t want to just tear down but I want to tell you how to do it correctly.
Well, I’m out of time again. Maybe you’re here, you’re unsaved; I’ve got five things to tell you. Ready? You’re a sinner before a holy God. Number 2, the penalty for your sin is death, but… good news, God in His infinite love provided Jesus Christ who died for you and paid for your sins. Number 4, you can be received from hell right now as I speak, by believing in Jesus, which involves relying or depending upon Him. And if you have done that in your life, then on the authority of the Word of God your destiny is secure. Shall we pray.
Father, we remain in awe of this majestic word, “it is finished,” tetelestai. Help this not just to be a theology lesson, uproot us Lord from bad habits and bad practices so that we can accurately represent Your truth to a lost and dying world. We are overwhelmed at the task that You have given us and we ask that You would help us in this regard. We lift these things up, in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.