Jesus’ final word from the cross was “tetelestai” and it should be the final word (Jn.19:30). It is translated into the English “It is finished.” These words ring just as fresh, sweet, and glorious today, as when they were spoken. God’s penalty for sin has been once and forever paid in full. Jesus Christ’s body was buried, and God the Father miraculously raised Him bodily from the dead. Christ stood up and walked out of that tomb – alive, to die no more. He ascended back to the throne of God and was seated there. He lives today at the Father’s right hand to be a continuous Mediator – our faithful High Priest – mediating for us.
These miraculous facts are all reflected in seed form in Jesus’ words “it is finished.” The final exclamation mark was added. The precious benefit of what the God-Man had achieved on the cross can only be received today by personal faith in Him and personal faith in Him alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Nothing needs to be added or removed; it has been finished.
The truth of this gospel of grace was unleashed and was moving through the world at amazing speed. It was being spoken throughout the world and turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6; Rom. 1:8). Satan had to act and act quickly. He had to stir the pot. He knew of man’s prideful lust for power. Many religious works and traditions were added to the gospel. The perpetrators of these religious acts were not any worse than this writer. I am a sinner. The people involved were sinners, and they became trapped – ensnared by Satan. They could not free themselves. Satan used these people to add human works to the finished work on the cross but in humanly pleasing ways. They began to deify human beings as saints; they painted and displayed eye-appealing, heart-touching pictures of Mary holding little Jesus; they added graphic heart-wrenching images of Jesus hanging from the cross; they created the mystic worship of the Lord’s Supper, teaching that the bread and wine actually become the real body and blood of Christ. They added sacraments – visual signs reflecting that only the church could extend grace and only the priest could read and teach the Bible. And they included the worship of the rosary (prayer beads), supposedly started by St. Dominic when Mary mysteriously appeared him and asked him to pray the “hail Mary’s.”
All of these additions became religious traditions that strongly appeal to man’s lusts: lust of the flesh, lust of eyes, and the pride of life (Jn. 2:16), and all quietly whispered that Christ’s death on the cross was insufficient to pay man’s sin debt. Did I mention that wealth came pouring in? Satan knows that religious traditions, once instilled become engrained – implacable, almost impossible to lose. This became Satan’s weapon of choice. Add pride-stimulating, eye-appealing, heart-wrenching, power-enhancing works to the finished work of Christ and then make these works strongly traditional, and your snare is in place (Rom. 11:6). The result led to a landslide of religious works being added to grace – stimulating man’s pride, but nullifying grace.
Satan’s knowledge of man’s prideful lust for power never ceases to amaze. Stop and think! How in this world could salvation be truly finished if it is then weighted down by human works – any works. This should shout to the readers that any religious system that adds human works to Christ’s finished work – no matter how well intended – does not truly believe that Christ’s death and resurrection was enough. All of the Christian martyrs discovered that it is – it is enough – it is finished. They protested against any added human work. They became Protestants. These protests were at first private and quiet. But they could not help but speak. They became public and loud. How did the religious crowd respond? They shut them up! And they had to send a message. They burned and beheaded the them.
When the smoke from the burning martyrs settled, the church in England (the Anglican Church) had not fully made the trip. They still reflected a blend of Catholic ceremonies and Reformed teaching. But two strong groups of believers came out of the fires of the martyrs: the Puritans and the Separatists. What I know of each group comes as a result of the writings of the Puritans and studying the history of the Separatists. The Puritans were truly purified by the fires of their burning brethren. They wanted the church to change. They became believers who – like the Reformers – had a passion to know God only through His Word. They wanted the church to reflect this passion. They were committed to Biblical scholarship, and a knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin because they believed that a knowledge of these languages could be tools to know the Bible better. Then there were the Separatists who became the first pilgrims to America. They – like the Puritans – had a hot heart to know the word but were a little less enamored with scholarship and more with knowing and doing the word (James 1:22). The Separatists wanted a simpler Christianity where the Word of God was not only revered and read but was also reflected in the life – and they longed for the freedom necessary to truly live a Christian lifestyle. It seems to this writer that they would fit more snugly in the “not wise, not strong, and not noble” category. This would have probably been my group. Said simply, many in England had come to know God’s grace and the freedom that it brings, and because of this they also saw more clearly the malicious tyranny that can come from religion run amuck. Both groups had experienced the refreshing freedom from the penalty of sin that grace affords, and they had also witnessed with their own eyes the tyranny. Now they wanted freedom – they wanted to be really free.
On to America! Blessings!