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Jesus’s unfinished work?
H. A. Ironside on the work of the Savior that’s not done yet.
In many ways, Jesus’s final cry from the cross serves as the definitive motto of every sinner and saint. “It is finished” is the shibboleth by which the church stands. And, what’s more, it is only because of that finished work that sinners have any chance at all before the judgment seat of the Arbiter of the Universe. Be that as it may, there is one aspect of Jesus’s work that is not finished, and you better pray it never ends. I am, of course, speaking of the work of his intercession.
The doctrine of Jesus’s intercession is indicative of his position in heaven where he serves forever as the priest of the church, representing them in matchless, unparalleled holiness before the Father. The apostle Paul mentions this all-important work of Christ, declaring: “Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). The writer of the Hebrews, likewise, refers to this when he says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
Notably, the anonymous writer says that Jesus’s intercessory work is something “he always lives” to do. It is part of our Lord’s continual service on our behalf that he takes our case before seat of heaven’s Magistrate, where he mediates a “better covenant” that’s “enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6). Mid-twentieth century pastor and theologian H. A. Ironside calls this Jesus’s “unfinished work,” which, perhaps, catches you off-guard. How can there be a work of Christ that’s not finished? Well, as Ironside proposes, it is because we’re continually in a state of need while here on this earth. He writes:
We often speak, and rightly so, of the finished work of Christ. This refers of course to His vicarious atonement which took place upon the cross. But it is just as scriptural to speak of His unfinished work, if we have in mind this special ministry of intercession which He has been carrying on in the Holiest ever since He was received up in glory, and which will never be finished so long as one needy saint is in the place of testing here on earth. His Cross work can never be repeated. No repetition is required, for He settled the sin question perfectly when He took our place in judgment. And in this we have the great distinction between the legal sacrifices and His one offering of Himself, when in the consummation of the ages He appeared to put away sin by His mighty sacrifice. The offerings of old had to be repeated again and again because they did not possess value sufficient to settle the sin question. But His precious blood poured forth for our redemption was of such infinite value that it is sacrilegious even to think of adding to it in any way. (112–13)
As our Intercessor, he is our Intermediary, our Go-Between, the One who mediates our case before the Most High God, ensuring our pardon. This he does by showcasing the wounds which purchased our absolution. What remains unfinished is the perpetual application of what’s been finished already. And, to be sure, he isn’t exasperated or exhausted by this work. It is the Savior’s delight to intercede on your behalf. He never tires of representing you before the throne of God. There won’t ever be a day when Christ clocks-out as your Priest. That’s the part of his service that’s unfinished, that won’t come to an end.
Therefore, there won’t ever be a day when his atoning death on the cross becomes insufficient to cover your wretchedness and mend your brokenness. Your salvation is “to the uttermost,” it’s all the way (Heb. 7:25). Yours is an “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). The shadow of the cross stretches into eternity to welcome every pitiful sinner into Christ’s redemptive shade.
Grace and peace to you.
H. A. Ironside, Hebrews, James, and Peter (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Bros., 1985).