The High-Priest that becomes us is, then, as the apostle has declared, One "separate from sinners," those sanctified by His blood being "perfected in perpetuity" by it, so as being "once purged," they might have "no more conscience of sins." But this, as we know well, does not mean, "no more consciousness of sins," (that is, of committing them,) but that we have consciousness of the efficacy of that work abiding ever before God for us. There is never a moment's intermission as to this.
But then, what about the sins which are committed after conversion? Is there simply no notice taken of them? That, we are sure, is impossible: both Scripture and our own experience would refute the unholy thought. That the people of God have often to suffer greatly because of their sins is known to all; and Scripture is full of examples of this, and asserts it doctrinally in the clearest way. Thus, "if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work," says the apostle Peter, "pass the time of your sojourning here with fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as with silver and gold... but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:17-19). And again he says: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? and if the righteous scarcely" — or rather, "with difficulty" — "be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:17, 18.)
Thus there is even a special judgment going on of the people of God at the present time; a judgment so necessary that on account of it, the righteous are said to be with difficulty saved: not, of course, because of any uncertainty about it, but simply because so much has to be done in this way to maintain the holiness of God. And the apostle Paul also speaks in even stronger language to the Corinthians: "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:31, 32).
This is indeed strong language as to those for whom the work of Christ avails in so full and absolute a manner as we have just seen it does. This work, then, does not set aside the need of such judgment. Nay, rather it secures it. Let us notice well that it is the Father's judgment: "if ye call on the Father who without respect of persons judgeth." In the final judgment of wrath it is not the Father who judges: as to that the "Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" (John 5:22, 23). The Father's judgment is "of every son whom He receiveth;" so that "if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Heb. 12:6, 7).
How blessed it is to know, and at the same time how solemn to realize, that the sin of a child of God is against his Father, and that it is the love of relationship that is called into exercise about it, — love which acts towards us "for our profit, that we might be made partakers of His holiness" (Heb. 12:10). It is impossible that He should treat it lightly; and it will be impossible in the end for any one of His own to treat it lightly either. Grace abides toward us; and because grace abides, sin cannot be permitted to have sway over the objects of it.
But because this whole matter of a believer's sin is between the Father and His child, we are not to imagine that Christ has not to do with it. His priestly work has indeed been so fully done that in this character He has nothing more to do: He sits down, because His work is accomplished. But as Son over the house of God, priesthood is not His whole work. The children of God are put into His hand, who is the First-born among brethren; and in every thing that concerns them He has His necessary place and part. So then it is here: "if any one sin, we have an Advocate" — a Paraclete — "with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:1, 2).
The last is the ground and justification of the grace expressed in the former. Suited Advocate is He indeed who has been Himself this propitiation for us; and here "Jesus Christ the righteous" is very fully manifest, — love and righteousness alike displayed in Him. Here is the very character of the Advocate or Paraclete — the One "called to our side," "to our assistance," as both words mean; and this is in natural relation with the fact that we are given to Him. We being in His charge, He stands forth in our behalf pledged and proved on both sides, God's and ours, and who has made both one. On earth, the Spirit of God is our Paraclete, and makes intercession for us, though perhaps, as far as we are concerned, in a groan that we cannot utter. In heaven, Christ our Paraclete is, as it were, similarly our voice uttering itself, but infinitely better than any utterance of our own could be. How well are we provided! Here are two Witnesses in our behalf, each perfect absolutely, and having perfectly the ear of Him with whom they plead. How certainly effectual must be such intercession as this!
How good also it is to know that it is "if any one sin," not, if any one repent, "we have an Advocate." In Peter's case, which is surely intended as a typical one, it is before the sin that Christ intercedes for him, and how tender is the intercession, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Having need to learn himself, and to have the spirit of self-confidence broken in him, he cannot be spared the needful experience. Satan is permitted to sift him, but the Lord's gracious eye, as Peter at the critical moment was given to see it, was watching the result with unwearying care, and guiding all to the predicted issue. The knowledge of ourselves — the needful exercise as to good and evil — He cannot ask that we shall be spared; but the end is sure, and we are invited to realize the strength and tenderness upon which we may lean at all times without a shadow of fear.
The maintenance of communion is that which our Advocate continually is occupied with. For this the knowledge of ourselves is a necessity. Whether this shall be acquired as Simon Peter acquired it, it depends upon ourselves to say. I suppose we have all of us had to learn a good deal by such painful experiences; but there is surely a better way. Peter, we may remember, had resisted, if but for a moment that washing of his feet, for him and for us all so needful; and it is still the independency which under whatever fair appearance resists His way with us, that condemns us to such a painful discipline. The Lord is still and ever our one necessity. Wisdom is with Him and we must find it in Him; if it be in the way of the Cross, we need not wonder, though He Himself has borne all the burden there.
The Cross is indeed the fulness of all wisdom for us. It is the judgment of man; it is the manifestation and glory of God. If we accept it as the setting aside for us of self and all that self can glory in, we shall find that it has set aside at the same time all that would hinder safe and steady progress. Christ is then ours with all His fulness, to draw from for every need that can possibly arise. Take it as the apostle puts it, that "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him we are complete" — filled up. Here is the one daily provision to carry with us, but for it the judgment of the Cross must be accepted in its entirety. Then in this Cross Christ is entirely for us, — all that God is as manifested here in Him.
This lesson is the lesson for all of us. The Advocate is with the Father, that our very failure may make for the learning of it, though it be in shame and bitter tears of repentance that we have to learn it. His advocacy is not to spare us what is needful for this, but that His end in us may be fully attained, and God glorified. Tenderest love there is in it, assuredly, and divine comfort, — tenderness, but no laxity; and no way of blessing for us except in complete surrender into His hands. We cannot but remember that they are hands that were pierced for us, and that for Him there was no way but that of the Cross.