- Religion and Philosophy
Epiphany: It is Finished
John 19:30 : ‘When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.’
Even though I was baptized as a baby and raised in the Christian church all of my life, the actual church that I attended has changed on several occasions. Moves across town as a child or out of state as an adult have always sent me in search of a new church. And even though my various churches all did most things in a similar but slightly different manner and preached the issues from a similar but slightly different viewpoint, they were all Christian denominations and could all be counted on to end up at pretty much the same spot by the end of service: The Call to Salvation Alter Call.
The preacher would ask the congregation something like “if you were to die today, where you would spend eternity?” Sometimes they would then tell us stories of unexpected funerals that they had recently performed for people who had been sitting in the congregation just weeks before, but had never raised their hand to say that they wanted to be saved. The horror and sadness of it all would spread thru the congregation like wildfire, and the guilt trip would fall on whoever would allow it. Sometimes they would direct their attention on the backsliders, those who had been saved and walked the narrow path at one point, but then for some reason returned to their evil ways.
I always wondered though – exactly when did your salvation expire and require that you go back up to be re-saved? I sort of assumed that sleeping with someone else’s husband or doing drugs would send me scrambling back to the altar, but what about committing those small little sins that some people unthinkingly commit every day? Things like telling your boss that you are taking a sick day because you don’t feel well when you really just want go Christmas shopping. Or maybe having a glass of champagne at a friend’s wedding even though your denomination frowns upon drinking. Where exactly was the “I need to get re-saved” line drawn? This question had haunted me for years, and I eventually relegated it to one of those things that I would just never know the answer to, so it was better to play it safe and just get re-saved whenever I felt extra-guilty about something. That usually worked out to about once every two or three years – just to be on the safe side.
Then one day about four years ago I was visiting a church at a friend’s request, and was totally surprised to find that they did not do an alter call at all at the end of service. I thought that surely this was a mistake because service had been running a little long that day, so I returned the following week. But again, no alter call. Both services had been extremely enlightening and enjoyable; more so than any church service that I could remember in a long time, but I could just not understand what was up with the lack of alter calls. On my third visit, the pastor finally made mention of it, for the benefit of visitors like myself.
He said that if Jesus had died on the cross to wash away our sins, and he himself had said that “It is finished”, then what was the purpose of a salvation alter call? If Jesus had finished the work of salvation when he died, then what was there left for us to do? Nothing, but just walk in it.
Wow. My mouth fell open and must have stayed that way for about two days. The logic of his argument just made so much sense to me, but surely that could not be all there was to getting saved (at least this is what my preconditioned brain kept telling me). I searched to scriptures for opposing evidence, and could only find Romans 10:9 which says “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” That is the scripture that had been drilled into my head since birth, but Jesus himself never uttered those words. What he himself said was “it is finished”. So which to do you go with?
Some would think that if we believe that we are already saved without any action of our own that many of us would just take advantage of that fact and run hog wild. But actually, I find the opposite to be true. I find that I worry less now about those little gray areas that might be sins and just get on with the business of living my life in a manner befitting someone that is saved and they know it. In my mother’s old Baptist church they would say “I know that I know that I know I am saved”.
And I guess that a certain level of spiritual maturity is required to practice this belief, because can a person truly call themselves a follower of Christ if they go around robbing banks or sleeping with other peoples husbands without any fear of spiritual retribution? It is true that God would probably forgive them afterwards, but they knew that before they did whatever you did, and yet they did it anyway. Something is lacking deep within you if you can do that, and raising your hand every weekend isn’t going to fix it.
Do I know what the answer for those people is? Nope. Remember, this is a diary of my spiritual epiphanies as I discover them, and I haven’t figured that part out yet. So for now, all I know is that I know that I know that I know I am saved, and that it is finished. And that is all I need to know for now.