|INTERCESSION OF CHRIST |
The general conception of our Lord's mediatorial office is specially summed up in His intercession in which He appears in His high-priestly office, and also as interceding with the Father on behalf of that humanity whose cause He had espoused.
1. Christ's Intercession Viewed in Its Priestly Aspect:
The function of priesthood as developed under Judaism involved the position of mediation between man and God. The priest represented man, and on man's behalf approached God; thus he offered sacrifice, interceded and gave to the offerer whom he represented the benediction and expression of the Divine acceptance. (For the various forms of these offerings, see special articles.) As in sacrifice, so in the work of Christ, we find the proprietary rights of the offerer in the sacrifice. For man, Christ as one with man, and yet in His own personal right, offers Himself (see Romans 5; and compare Galatians 4:5 with Hebrews 2:11). There was also the transfer of guilt and its conditions, typically by laying the hand on the head of the animal, which then bore the sins of the offerer and was presented to God by the priest. The acknowledgment of sin and the surrender to God is completely fulfilled in Christ's offering of Himself, and His death (compare Leviticus 3:2,8,13; 16:21; with Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). our Lord's intercessory quality in the sacrifice of Himself is not only indicated by the imputation of guilt to Him as representing the sinner, but also in the victory of His life over death, which is then given to man in God's acceptance of His representative and substitute.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the intercessory character of our Lord's high-priestly office is transferred to the heavenly condition and work of Christ, where the relation of Christ's work to man's condition is regarded as being still continued in the heavenly place (see Hebrews 9:11-28). This entrance into heaven is once for all, and in the person of the high priest the way is open to the very presence of God. From one point of view (Hebrews 10:12) the priestly service of the Lord was concluded and gathered up into His kingly office (Hebrews 10:13,14-18). But from another point of view, we ourselves are bidden to enter into the Holiest Place; as if in union with Christ we too become a kingly priesthood (Hebrews 10:19-22; and compare 1 Peter 2:9).
It must not be forgotten, however, that this right of entrance into the most Holy Place is one that depends entirely upon our vital union with Christ, He appears in heaven for us and we with Him, and in this sense He fulfills the second duty of His high-priestly office as intercessor, with the added conception drawn from the legal advocacy of the Roman court. The term translated "Advocate" in 1John 2:2 is parakletos, which in John 14:16 is translated "Comforter." The word is of familiar use in Greek for the legal advocate or patronus who appeared on behalf of his client. Thus, in the double sense of priestly and legal representative, our Lord is our intercessor in Heaven.
Of the modes in which Christ carries out His intercessory office, we can have no knowledge except so far as we may fairly deduce them from the phraseology and suggested ideas of Scripture. As high priest, it may surely be right for us to aid our weak faith by assuring ourselves that our Lord pleads for us, while at the same time we must be careful not to deprave our thought concerning the glorified Lord by the metaphors and analogies of earthly relationship.
The intercessory work of Christ may thus be represented:
He represents man before God in His perfect nature, His exalted office and His completed work. The Scripture word for this is (Hebrews 9:24) "to appear before the face of God for us." There is also an active intercession. This is the office of our Lord as advocate or parakletos. That this conveys some relation to the aid which one who has broken the law receives from an advocate cannot be overlooked, and we find Christ's intercession in this aspect brought into connection with the texts which refer to justification and its allied ideas (see Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).
2. Christ's Intercessory Work from the Standpoint of Prayer:
In PRAYERS OF CHRIST (which see), the intercessory character of many of our Lord's prayers, and especially that of John 17, is considered. And it has been impossible for Christian thought to divest itself of the idea that the heavenly intercession of Christ is of the order of prayer. It is impossible for us to know; and even if Christ now prays to the Father, it can be in no way analogous to earthly prayers. The thought of some portion of Christendom distinctly combined prayer in the heavenly work of the Lord. There is danger in extreme views. Scriptural expressions must not be driven too far, and, on the other hand, they must not be emptied of all their contents. Modern Protestant teaching has, in its protest against a merely physical conception of our Lord's state and occupation in heaven, almost sublimed reality from His intercessory work. In Lutheran teaching the intercession of our Lord was said to be "vocal," "verbal" and "oral." It has been well remarked that such forms of prayer require flesh and blood, and naturally the teachers of the Reformed churches, for the most part, have contented themselves (as for example Hodge, Syst. Theol., II, 593) with the declaration that "the intercession of Christ includes:
(1) His appearing before God in our behalf, as the sacrifice for our sins, as our high priest, on the ground of whose work we receive the remission of our sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and all needed good; (2) defense against the sentence of the law and the charges of Satan, who is the great accuser; (3) His offering Himself as our surety, not only that the demands of justice shall be shown to be satisfied, but that His people shall be obedient and faithful; (4) the oblation of the persons of the redeemed, sanctifying their prayers, and all their services, rendering them acceptable to God, through the savor of his own merits."
Even this expression of the elements which constitute the intercession of the Lord, cautious and spiritual as it is in its application to Christian thought and worship, must be carefully guarded from a too complete and materialistic use. Without this care, worship and devout thought may become degraded and fall into the mechanical forms by which our Lord's position of intercessor has been reduced to very little more than an imaginative and spectacular process which goes on in some heavenly place. It must not be forgotten that the metaphorical and symbolic origin of the ideas which constitute Christ's intercession is always in danger of dominating and materializing the spiritual reality of His intercessional office.
L. D. Bevan