In regards to types of christian teachings, we tend to coin a new phrase to differentiate ourselves from something that is more commonly accepted. In this case, the term “message of the finished work.” Sometimes the new phrase is just a re-branding of the same old thing. At other times, it is a new perspective, but essentially the same principle or doctrine. Yet, there are times when a teaching will add something that has never been widely taught, or has been misunderstood. Sometimes the teaching will radically reinterpret scripture to mean something totally different than how the modern church understands it. So, when one says “I teach the finished work message, or the finished work of Christ message”, it can mean lots of different things.
It is best to start a definition by establishing common denominators. For this term, the following seems to be widely agreed about the cross:
- Jesus perfectly accomplished His work
- Jesus left nothing undone or incomplete
- Jesus left nothing unfinished or deficient
- Jesus left nothing unaccomplished or lacking
- His work was totally sufficient.
Since Jesus paid it all, nothing needs to be added to His finished work.
So the message at its core is about resting in what Jesus already did, and not laboring to receive or to some how earn inheritance. It is done!
Most evangelical christians I have met in my 32 years of being saved would say a big amen. There should be no controversy. But, the addons to this message are what differentiate the message.
Finished work message = understanding who you are
Back in the 50’s, a message emerged that focused on who you are in Christ. For instance, you are the righteousness of God in Christ positional because of the finished work of the cross. If the white walls surrounding the Tabernacle of Moses represents God’s righteousness, and we have entered into that tabernacle by accepting Christ, the Father only sees the righteous walls of Jesus, not you. When God sees you, He sees His Son. Your only part was to enter in. Additionally, when you entered into the tabernacle, you abide in Him because the Person of Jesus is that tabernacle. At the root, this is who you are.
So, I taught this message in the early 80’s, thus you could have called me a “finished work” teacher. But in reality, the message was not new, it just added another perspective on that simple truth. If we can see a picture like the tabernacle, it helps us to understand and walk in it better. The Bible is full of these types and pictures that even show the intricate detail of who we are in Him. We understand even better when we combine these pictures with truth such as: Eph 1:7-8 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. NASU
As this message progresses, we learn to not return to the cross every time we do something wrong. We learn we are not bound to oppression by other christians, to be force-fed doctrines, or to obey a list of do’s and dont’s. There is a grace we rest in that receives deliverance from anything that does not look and act like Jesus Christ, and that grace allows us to do much more than we can imagine.
I see the finished work message adding even more to what the last day church looks like. How will the bride make herself ready? What are the things that she is doing that demonstrate the finished work of Jesus to the world? And the message gives the needed guidance to train the bride how to make herself ready. This is the type of “finished work” message that aligns with the Temple Builders message.
What is the finished work message accomplishing? Its objective is to get us to see who we are in Christ to the point that we will start walking in that reality. We will truly walk by grace, not under law. We will cease to be sin conscious. We will stop a life preoccupied with christian works to make us feel righteous before Him. Then we flip it by saying that the revelation of knowing who we are in Him propels us to good deeds, obedience, and becoming a mature temple builder. We will start understanding the desert life–the dealing of God that are painful, and learning their lessons.
So, where is the controversy? I mean. . .all of this looks solid, right? The controversies appear when we start deviating from this core message. The deviation comes when you go too far with a truth, losing balance, or start getting goofy with scripture interpretation.
For instance, just because you now have a better revelation of this does not mean you can relax and forsake obedience, stop building, start sinning more, or shun discipline. We know that if the righteous seed is pure, we are now destined to become God’s tree of righteousness in the Earth, but that may not happen even with a revelation of the finished work. This is where the practicality of understanding God’s ways come into play. You can be a walking revelation and still be cruel to others. You can understand that you are His righteousness and be lazy. You can fully understand the finished work on the cross, and choose to practice homosexuality until the day you die.
The idea is to stay balanced, and do not forsake the discipline of the Spirit. Learn of His ways and His correction, staying humble.
How do I spot deviations in this message?
- Does the message of grace hold christians accountable? It should!
- Does the message downplay rewards in heaven, or consequences of disobedience in eternity? Your walk should have fruit that remains, and that fruit will be rewarded
- Does the message try to label scriptures as old covenant? Both OT, NT, and the Gospels all have applicable truth for your daily walk, and will also prophesy to a day that will come. Scriptures have a strict meaning, but also have interpretations that instruct us in God’s ways
- Does the message brand scriptural observances such as water baptism, the Lord’s supper, the sabbath, as useless? Jesus is the Sabbath, and there is a great revelation of that rest, but God allows for duality of meaning to observe a day of physical rest as well
- Is the message theoretical but you find it hard to apply in your current trial? A good finished work message will help you to practically walk out your salvation
- Does the message remove the role of the Holy Spirit convicting christians? A new doctrine suggests that the Spirit does not function in convicting christians. Without the Spirit showing us our sin, disobedience, or false thinking, none of us would mature
- Does the message oppose types and shadows of who the church is? For instance, does the message say that you are NOT the bride, essentially removing this prophetic picture of the body of Christ? We ARE the bride of Christ and messages should not spread confusion of our prophetic identity
- Are the defenders of the message acting in the spirit of humility? Or, do they dismiss critics as religious and law-oriented? Many times you can tell a message by the character of the people following it. Maybe there is error, but maybe they are giving an incomplete picture, which results in no one walking in God’s purposes
In all, the gospel is good news. And the good news is that the work of the cross is finished and there is nothing to add. However, Jesus is not done. He is actively working through His body to build the true temple of God. Jesus is the Temple Builder, and He is the Branch that is growing up in that temple. That part IS NOT FINISHED.
John Robert Lucas
August 27, 2011