Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Intercession of Christ
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him,
since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 7:35 NKJV
Question 55 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How doth Christ make intercession?” It gives the answer, “Christ maketh intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers; answering all accusations against them, and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services.” Last week we examined the session of Christ at the right hand of the Father. This week we consider His ongoing role as intercessor for His people.
Biblically, intercession most often refers to a type of prayer where one petitions God on behalf of others. During His earthly sojourn, Jesus engaged in this type of prayer. Regarding those crucifying Him, He prayed that God would “forgive them” (Luke 23:34). In John 17 in what has been called His high priestly prayer, Jesus interceded for His disciples and “also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (v. 20). In these examples, Christ’s intercession took the ordinary form of human prayer. However, that is not the kind of intercession that Christ makes for us now. Jesus has not been on His knees for the last 2,000 years praying or even pleading with God to forgive us! Jesus makes intercession for us by His appearing, declaring, answering, and procuring before the Father on our behalf.
First, Christ makes intercession for us by His continual appearing before God, in our nature, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice. Jesus is always in heaven as our victorious advocate. He earned eternal life and blessing for all whom He represented; even as Adam earned God’s wrath and curse for all whom he represented. Whereas Adam fell by his sin, Christ stands in the merit of His obedience and sacrifice. Merit refers to what Jesus has earned before God by His works, in accordance with the terms of the covenant He has with God. As a sacrifice, He merited or earned our forgiveness by taking upon Himself all of the wrath we deserve for our sins. Likewise, He fulfilled the requirement of God’s law, which we owe to God as rational and moral creatures, by earning or meriting righteousness for us in His perfect obedience. Thus, simply by being in God’s presence, as our representative before Him, Jesus makes intercession for us!
Second, Christ actively makes intercession for us by declaring His will that His merit be applied to all believers. Jesus wills, that is, He desires that the merit He has earned be given to us! In this sense Christ continues to personally express to the Father, what He prayed in His high priestly prayer, that “I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am” (John 17:24). In addition to declaring our salvation to be His will, Christ answers, that is, He refutes any accusation against us. Here, Jesus does for each one of us what the Scripture records He did for Joshua in the book of Zechariah: “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” (3:2). Satan is the accuser of the brethren, relentlessly accusing us (Rev. 12:10). But Jesus is just as persistent in His defense of us: “Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?... It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33a, 34b).
Finally, Christ in heaven continues to procure for us the grace we need to successfully live the Christian life. Having already purchased it, He actively gives it to His elect in accordance with His will to meet our need. Especially when we experience great weakness, falling, and suffering in ourselves, Jesus does not fail to give us an unshakeable peace of mind and heart: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). We can always boldly come before the throne of Grace, for in Christ—our advocate with the Father—we are accepted and our imperfect works are counted as good. The throne of judgment is to every believer, only and ever more a throne of grace. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, our intercessor!