Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
There is another aspect of Christ’s priestly office that deserves special mention. I refer to His lasting intercession for us.
His Lasting Intercession
This aspect of Christ’s priestly function was also typified in the Old Testament. We read of that in Leviticus 16:12-14, where we read of the high priest entering into the holy place with the blood of the sacrifice and the sweet incense. “And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.”
Christ’s offering Himself on the cross answered to the killing of the sacrifice outside the veil in the Old Testament typology. His entering into heaven, there to intercede on behalf of His people, is that which answered to the priest’s going with blood, and his hands full of incense, within the veil, into the holy of holies.
So we read in Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
And in comparison to those Old Testament priests, we read of Jesus in Hebrews 10:12: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” What does it mean that Christ is our Intercessor, and what is included in that continual intercession with the Father?
That Christ is our Intercessor means that He appears before God to make requests for us. He does so as an act of that office which God has given Him. We may therefore say that in a very real sense Jesus Christ is in heaven as our attorney before God, appearing for us and making continual peace and friendship with God on our behalf. Though Satan would accuse us before God, as we read in Zechariah 3, and though he would demand that God release us to him because of all our sins, Jesus Christ appears in our defense, perfectly prepared to seek our acquittal before God the righteous Judge.
How comforting are those words recorded in I John 2:1: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He is the Righteous One, who appears on our behalf. And Jesus Christ is the only One in whom we may approach unto God. For He alone is the One appointed by God for that office.
The Robbery by Rome
What a terrible robbery of Christ’s glory it is on Rome’s part to request people to pray to saints. While Scripture defines as saints all those who belong to Christ, the Roman Catholic Church has a different definition. Saints among the Romish are those who have been recognized as such by the pope, and therefore those in whose name people may pray and who supposedly serve as advocates and intercessors before God.
A few years ago, an American news magazine1 gave coverage to the attempts on the part of some church members to secure sainthood from the Vatican for a black man who died in New York City back in 1853. It was a fascinating
1.Insight, October 22, 1990.
article which demonstrated very clearly that Rome has not changed one iota in the essence of their Romish theology. The article described the tremendously complicated process of securing sainthood, part of which is the necessity of one verifiable miracle, such as the healing of a person who has prayed to the prospective saint. And according to the article, in the case of this particular man long dead, Cardinal O’Connor suggested that his skeleton be dug up from its current grave and be reburied at the heavily trafficked St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City because—and this was a quote—”you can’t get people to pray to someone unless they know about him.”
Rome continues to rob Christ of His peculiar glory, and desecrate His peculiar office as our only High Priest before God. Blessed be any who have been brought by God out of the bondage and corruption and idolatry of Roman Catholicism. And thank God for the great Reformation of the sixteenth century which freed the church from that bondage.
To make intercession is the peculiar prerogative of Christ, which He cannot give to another. None but He can go in His own name to God. For that reason also He says in John 16:23: “Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give it you.”
Christ’s Blessed Work
The continual intercession of Christ with the Father consists of two things in particular according to the Bible.
In the first place, He appears in the presence of God as our Advocate, presenting His blood and all His sufferings to God as a moving plea on our account. All the wrath that Jesus bore for our sakes and the wounds that He received still bleed fresh, as it were, in heaven—a moving and prevailing argument with the Father, to give out the mercies that Christ pleads for on our behalf. The very sight of our High Priest prevails with God, and causes Him to turn His wrath from us.
And secondly, Jesus Christ our Intercessor presents our prayers and the prayers of all saints to God with His merits, and desires that those prayers may be granted for His sake according to the will of the Father. We may safely bring all our concerns to the Father through Him. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15, 16).
What a tremendous blessing for us is found in this intercessory work of our High Priest!
God has revealed to us this truth that we might glorify Him, being encouraged against all the causes of our own misery and troubles. Many are the sins which cleave to us. Those sins grieve the Holy Spirit, trouble our own consciences, and shame the Holy One and His church. But because we have such a High Priest in heaven, our sins cannot be our ruin. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).
Oh, make no mistake. This promise, as with all the promises of Scripture, is particular. He who is the Intercessor for some, will be an Accuser of others. Therein is the necessity of faith. Christ is active in His intercessory work for those who are members of Him by faith.
How sad is the case of those who have no interest in the blood of Christ, but trample it under their feet. Instead of pleading for them, that blood of Christ cries to God against them, as the despisers and abusers of it!
But how precious is His intercession on behalf of you who are saints in Christ Jesus.
Christ says to God the Father, “O My Father, give me Thy Spirit, that I may apply the forgiveness of sins to the consciences of Mine elect.”
Christ does not need to persuade God. But He understands the need that we have, to be persuaded in our own minds and to hear the testimony of His Spirit with our spirits that we are the children of God. Do you hear that testimony? Are you assured that your sins are forgiven forever? That is the effect of intercessory prayer of Christ on your behalf.
May we, therefore, draw encouragement also in our own prayer life and in our daily walk as Christians. That also is emphasized in Hebrews 10:21-23: “And having an high priest over the whole house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).”
Our prayers, however weak, when offered in faith, are lifted up to God by Christ, and are purified by His Spirit, that they might be presented to the glory of the blessed triune God. And He answers those prayers with His presence, with the fellowship of His grace, and the assurance worked by His Holy Spirit.
Christ our Intercessor is the Author and Finisher of our faith, ever begging for us new and fresh mercies from heaven.
Our Christian Priesthood
When we understand and confess the perfect priesthood of Christ, the Son of God, then we also will spontaneously know the place of our own Christian priesthood. Our priesthood is not one of making payment for sin. Christ has made that payment once in full for all God’s elect. Our priesthood is enjoyed and experienced in the freedom which we have to serve the living God. When we are partakers of Christ’s anointing and beneficiaries of His priestly office, we are compelled by the Spirit within us to present ourselves living sacrifices of thankfulness to God.
What a blessed place we have, by faith in Christ!
When we live by faith, acknowledging what God has given us in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, then we say, “Blessed be God!” We say that as His prophets. But we also confess that as His priests. For that is the living sacrifice of praise we offer to Him, looking forward to the day when we can begin to offer ourselves perfectly, even forevermore.