an expository sermon on Matthew 25:31-46 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on May 16, 2021
The Work of Christ
Having discussed the person of Christ, the Baptist Faith and Message includes a paragraph on the work of Christ: “He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.” This discussion of the work of Christ extends from the past, to the present, into the future.
The Work of Christ in His First Coming
In his first coming, Jesus’ work centered on accomplishing the redemption of his people from sin. Jesus did this by living a life of perfect obedience and dying in our place on the cross. The Baptist Faith and Message affirms what theologians call the active and passive obedience of Christ. The active obedience of Christ is “His personal obedience.” This is a positive way of putting the doctrine stated negatively in the previous blog post (Christ’s sinlessness). Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17). “He is and does all that they predicted” (Charles Quarles, The Sermon on the Mount [Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011], 93). Jesus obeyed the Sabbath, even though the scribes and Pharisees objected to his actions (Matt 12:1-14). He affirmed the law of the tithe (Matt 23:23-24). Jesus perfectly obeyed the law.
Jesus’ death is referred to his passive obedience, even though he was no less active in going to his death than when he was obeying God’s commands. He submitted himself to the punishment of the law that everyone else deserved but that he didn’t deserve. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). He accomplished redemption at the cross, and we receive this redemption “through faith” (Gal 3:14). “Christ crucified” is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:22-24). Because Jesus died on the cross in our place, he “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).
We know that Jesus’ death accomplished redemption because God raised him from the dead. All four Gospels record Jesus’ resurrection. Paul affirms that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to Peter, his disciples, hundreds of Christians, and James his brother (1 Cor 15:3-7). John records that Jesus still had scars from the nails and spear that pierced him (John 20:19-29). He also tells us that Jesus ate, which indicates that his was a bodily resurrection (John 21:4-14). Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3-11).
The Work of Christ Now
Now, Jesus is “exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man.” He remains the God-Man. Paul explains that it is precisely because Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross that God has highly exalted him to this position where he has the name above all others (Phil 2:6-11). Jesus told his disciples before the ascension, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). He is the one Mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5-6). As Mediator, he intercedes for us his people (Heb 7:23-25).
Jesus also now puts into effect the reconciliation between God and man that he accomplished at the cross. Now, God reconciles us to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:18). He accomplished this reconciliation at the cross (2 Cor 5:19). He applies that reconciliation to people throughout history through the preaching of Jesus’ death and resurrection by Christians. All Christians have this ministry of reconciliation, of proclaiming to others that you can be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for your sin.
Finally, Jesus “now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.” Jesus prayed that Christians would be “in” him and the Father (John 17:21). He also prayed that he would be “in them” (John 17:23, 26). Jesus now is present in the lives of all Christians in the person of the Holy Spirit, as will be discussed in future blog posts about the Holy Spirit.
The Work of Christ in His Second Coming
At his second coming, Jesus will accomplish two purposes: “to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission.” John foresaw Jesus accomplish each of these things in the vision the Lord gave him:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”Revelation 20:11-21:8
The work of Christ as the incarnate Son of God extends from his first coming, through the present, to his second coming. Eternal judgment and eternal salvation will be consummated at the end of the age under the auspices of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us Christians praise our Lord Jesus for his obedient life, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, present intercession for us, and promised return! As we await his sure return, let us live faithful lives to him for his glory!