Gen. 1:1-3 π Gen. 1:14-15 π Gen. 2:1-2 π Dan. 7:25 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 25:40 π Mt. 25:45 π Jn. 1:1 π Jn. 1:14 π Jn. 15:5 π Jn. 19:30 π 1 Cor. 2:9 π 1 Cor. 3:12-15 π 1 Cor. 15:31 π 2 Cor. 3:5 π 2 Cor. 4:7-8 π 2 Cor. 4:10-12 π 2 Cor. 9:8 π Eph. 2:6 π Eph. 2:10 π Phlp. 2:12; 2nd π Col. 1:24; 2nd π Col. 1:24-26 π Col. 1:25-26 π Tit. 2:14 π Heb. 2:1-3; 2nd π Heb. 3:13 π Heb. 6:4-7 π Heb. 12:14-17 π Jas. 1:27 π 1 Pet. 4:12-13 π 2 Pet. 1:3 π Rev. 13:8
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body which is the ekklesia [His called out people], of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. ( Col. 1:24-26; top )
From the cross, Jesus said,
ďIt is finished,Ē and then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. ( Jn. 19:30; top )
Some have taken Jesusí last words to mean, among other things that Christís sacrifice was completely and ultimately finished - that there was and is absolutely nothing any human could do to add to the finished work of the cross. From this notion - which indeed has many solid, foundational elements of Scriptural truth within it as we shall see - has evolved the ďonce saved, always savedĒ theory and many other confusing notions about ďpredestination.Ē
The misunderstanding lies in the failure to differentiate between the temporal realm (where time is measured in increments and divided into past, present and future) and the eternal realm (where time is largely just an abstract concept). This is not an easy concept to grasp - I am not sure I fully understand it but I have grasped (at least apprehended if not comprehended) what I have perceived from the Scriptures as the Spirit has opened them up to me. To describe the ďtemporalĒ aspect of the eternal (in itself this is a contradiction in terms), we might say that it is always now (another contradiction in terms). That is, there is no past and future but an ongoing, eternal, unchanging existence. What keeps this from being a hellish proposition (like growing old and living forever while still in these decaying bodies would be an unthinkable nightmare) is that everyone in the eternal realm is already perfected in that unchanging state. None can even imagine just how glorious that will be. (see 1 Cor. 2:9; top )
If the two realms remained separated, it would be difficult enough to grasp these concepts. When the eternal enters or intersects time, it is mind boggling to say the least.
Consider Christís sacrifice. When did it occur? Historically (in time) it was around 33
...the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. ( Gen. 2:1-2; top )
So, when was it finished? On the first day of creation (before the foundation of the world) when God divided the light from the darkness? On the seventh day when God rested? In 33
But in the realm of time - which has been subjected to rules even Satan is apparently unable to violate (see Dan. 7:25 ) - we must recognize that it (my life, my interaction with the eternal) is not finished until I have either been consigned to the eternal lake of fire or I am chosen to reign with Christ forever. This is the difference between our being seated (past tense) in the heavenlies in Christ ( Eph. 2:6 ) and the need for us to work out (future, ongoing action) our salvation with fear and trembling ( Phlp. 2:12 ) lest, having neglected so great a salvation ( Heb. 2:1-3 ), how shall we be brought again to repentance ( Heb. 6:4-7 ) and obtain our inheritance. ( Heb. 12:14-17 ) In the realm of time, Today is the day of salvation. ( Heb. 3:13; top ) There is no promise of reaching tomorrow and yesterday can only be vaguely remembered. These are simply the limitations of time.
Let us now return to Christís sacrifice and the question of whether it is finished or not. In the eternal, the answer is unequivocably: yes! But we are in the realm of time and the answer to whether Christís sacrifice is finished or not - as is indicated by Paulís declaration that he was filling up in his flesh what was lacking in Christís afflictions ( Col. 1:24; top ) - is: no. Let us be careful to understand exactly what that means for, if we are not careful, we will take a difficult truth to grasp and propel ourselves right into heresy and error!
Let us first differentiate between sufficiency and completeness. Paul wrote:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God... ( 2 Cor. 3:5 - emphasis added)
Because Christís sacrificial work is finished in the eternal, our sufficiency for all of life and godliness is found in Christ. (see 2 Pet. 1:3 ; 2 Cor. 9:8; top ) There is needed no other resource for the believer than the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Period.
But the completeness of the sacrifice of Christ is another matter. In the eternal, where everything is finished, perfected and completed, nothing can be added to Christís sacrifice. It is done and it is sufficient. Let us be very clear on this for this is a foundation stone within our faith that Christís work (that is, those things which only Jesus could and did do) on the cross is finished and complete.
But Paul also wrote:
?I die daily. ( 1 Cor. 15:31; top )
Everyday we must participate in Christís sacrifice. It must be His resurrected life we live every day if we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling ( Phlp. 2:12 ) and not neglect so great a salvation. ( Heb. 2:1-3; top )
If we examine the context around Paulís declaration that he provided what was lacking in Christís afflictions ( Col. 1:24 ), we find that he did this for the sake of Christís body which is His called out people and that the stewardship Paul had received from God was for the people so as to fulfill the word of God as it is now revealed to His saints (set apart ones). (see Col. 1:25-26; top ) Paul did not supply what was lacking in Christís afflictions for his own sake but for the sake of Christís people, those others who are also called out and set apart to attend to Christ and His kingdom.
Christís death on the cross in the temporal realm does nothing - in itself - to minister to the needs of the orphans, widows and least of Christís brothers. (see Jas. 1:27 ; Mt. 25:40 , 45; top ) That is, Jesus does not personally descend from the cross, travel through time and personally minister to those in need. Rather, by His Spirit, which is available to us because the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb was sacrificed on the cross, we are sufficiently supplied to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in Christís afflictions for the sake of His people around us in our time.
Because Christís sacrifice is complete in the eternal is precisely why we must take care that all our good works (which will be many - see Eph. 2:10 ; Tit. 2:14 ) be done in Christ and not done in the flesh. Any ďgoodĒ work we do outside of Christ is simply not present in the completed sacrifice of Christ in the eternal. At best it will be considered by Christ to be nothing (see Jn. 15:5 ) or it will be wood, hay or stubble to be consumed away by His fiery presence (see 1 Cor. 3:12-15 ) or, worst, it will be deemed lawlessness - the pursuit of our agendas - that disqualifies us from our inheritance. (see Mt. 7:21-23; top )
If all things were finished in time - as they are in the eternal - there would be no need for us to make every effort to abide in what Christ has supplied for us. We would simply be done. Every day, we clearly demonstrate that we are not done - that is, we are not perfected, completed, glorified (the end result of Christís redemptive work in our lives). It is precisely the negligence and laziness regarding our salvation which the ďonce saved, always savedĒ theory produces that betrays its deceptive source.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not us. We are... always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ( 2 Cor. 4:7-8 , 10-12 - emphasis added; top)
And Peter wrote:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ?s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. ( 1 Pet. 4:12-13 - emphasis added; top)
Because the eternal I AM - that Being Who Exists in Every Moment and Beyond - was sacrificed in time, we have the breathtaking opportunity and the mind-boggling responsibility to be delivered into and partake of His ongoing sufferings and death so that His life may be manifested in our lives to the people around us. This is true Christianity. We have both the privilege and responsibility to partake daily of His ongoing sacrificial death and display His divine treasure - His life - from within our earthen vessels. Anything else done in His name is apostasy and false religion.
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