By Rev David Burke
The unfinished business of Jesus and his church
I want to acknowledge: the indigenous people who walked before us on this land; the officers and members of the General Assembly; friends and churches who reflect my past and present walk in faith and service; the family from which I come and to whom I belong; and the Triune God in whom we all live and move and have our being.
I want to talk about: The unfinished business of Jesus and his church.
The unfinished business of Jesus
We speak of the “finished work of the Cross” and indeed the work of the Cross is finished. Nothing needs to be added, or can be added, for our justification.
However, there is still unfinished work for Jesus.
Let’s review the work of Jesus:
First the background.
There was the pre-creation vision of the Triune God that included the Fall and corruption of all things. In that vision there isa divine commitment to restore, renovate and perfectthe good good creation. God is not a demolition contractor who trashes and abandons his good creation, but a renovation specialist on a cosmic scale.
Then there is the pure love of Father that resolved to reconcile all things and the execution of that plan through Jesus and its facilitation by the Holy Spirit.
And so we now focus on the work of Jesus as the one through whom the Father’s plan is executed:
As our Bible teaches & our Confession and Declaratory Statement reminds,there were certain key objective, supernatural and historic events at the heart of the gospel. They are all about Jesus.
- Incarnation: Jesus shows us God in a way we can understand. He shows us ourselves in the best and truest humanity as we were meant to be.
- Active obedience: Jesus is the one who alone lived the life of true Adam and so fulfilled the terms of God’s covenant with humanity through the law.
- Atoning death: God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement that made propitiation for sin-guilt of all who believe. This is life for a life: his life’s blood for our guilt in which the penalty of sin is paid & the power of sin is broken.
- Resurrection:The resurrection of Jesus is glorious display of life by his triumph over the last enemy of death and his foreshadowing of the brimming, overflowing life of the new creation. It gives us hope of that which was and which shall yet be.
- Ascension: mission accomplished, the Son could return to his throne at the Father’s side.
All that is done, but work of Son is not finished. This is his past work. There is also his present and his future work.
Future: Yet to come is that glorious day when, with shout of angels and trumpet blast, the Lord will return; raise all who are dead; separate his own to himself for eternal life; separate the rebels for eternal judgement; and when he delivers the kingdom to God the father and subjects all things to him(1 Cor 15:24-28).How we long for that day and call Maranatha!
However, the work of Jesus is not just past and future.
Jesus already reigns with the Father from heaven’s throne & in him the whole universe continues to hold together.
Consider also the present enduring priestly work of Jesus.His sympathetic understanding gives us confidence as we draw near to throne of grace in our prayers that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our times of need (Heb 4:14-16). Every time we pray we draw on this present work of Jesus.
There is another present work of Jesus that draws us in. Let’s focus here…
There is a curious start to Acts. Luke writes of how in volume 1 he spoke of all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up (Acts 1:1-2). That word began has hint that Jesus had more to do and teach. But then Luke immediately gives us his second account of the ascension. How can an absent Jesus continue and finish the work whose beginnings Luke describes?
The answer, of course, lies with the third person of the Trinity and then through the church.
Before his death, Jesus promised that he and the Father would send the third person of Trinity to be another helper or counsellor to be alongside his people (eg Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15). His last word between his resurrection and ascension was again to promise the Holy Spirit and to promise that he would empower the witness of the church (Acts 1:8).
And so it was and is. Acts 2 describes the extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The rest of the book of Acts describes the extraordinary and ordinary work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. As is widely recognised, Acts gives a pivotal place to this work of the Spirit.
This is Jesus at work. This is the Son continuing his unfinished business as he causes the gospel of God to be proclaimed on earth as well as to the heaven lies (Eph 3:10). This is Jesus, working to the Father’s plan through their Spirit. The work of the Spirit is the work of the Son. And the work of the Son is the work of the Father.
Their work creates our unfinished business.
The unfinished business of his church
Our work can be variously described.
- It is to be salt and light to a fallen but much loved world. It is to show the gospel in lives of love, integrity, generosity and authenticity. It is to tell of the gospel in words that are utterly faithful to God, and utterly connected with clarity to the world around us.
- It is to make disciples as we go through life. We do this by telling people about Jesus, seeing them converted and then