“We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).
It is only in the Epistle to the Hebrews that Christ is definitely spoken of as Priest—“the High Priest of our profession;” but, if intercession belong to that office, as it surely does, we read in Romans 8:34, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Mark, His intercession is His present exercise in heaven, as the result of His death and resurrection. These, completed to the glory of God and the settled peace before Him of all who believe (in present justification and filial relationship), furnish the ground of this precious intercession—of Priesthood.
By no means does intercession add to our security as believers. That is assured already; nor does it move the heart of God toward us, as though we needed reconciliation. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). The death of the Son of God, sent of the Father in infinite love, effected our complete reconciliation; the life of that Son, in present glory and power, secures our salvation from every menace.
We start our Christian course as reconciled, and made secure for ever, by that which has been done for us in the death and resurrection of the blessed Lord; but we have to pursue that course in conscious weakness and dependence. We need an arm on which to lean and a heart as faithful as it is kind in which to confide day by day.
This we have fully in our great high Priest. His intercession is active for us before God; and His succour and sympathy are continually realized by His tried and tempted people here below.
If the Spirit makes intercession in us with groanings which cannot be uttered, so does our faithful Lord intercede for us on high.
Little we know how indebted we are for those intercessions!
Little did Peter appreciate that his Master was praying for him, so that, when the temptation came, his faith should not fail; or how that intercession was answered when, having failed, he “wept bitterly.” His faith, thus, was kept in life, though, in order to learn his lack of dependence, he himself was allowed to fail.
“If any man sin,” we read in 1 John 2, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
It is advocacy with “the Father” because relationship is supposed, and confession is made to the Father on the part of the offending child, so that his offence is forgiven, and he is “cleansed from all unrighteousness.” Advocacy is therefore subsequent to intercession. This is for sustainment, that is for restoration, so that communion may be full and unclouded. Advocacy is distinct from intercession, which properly has to say not to sin or failure, but to infirmity and need.
Hence we are told to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy [pity] and find grace for timely help” (Heb. 4:16). A more lovely expression could not be found for the tried and needy pilgrim than “the throne of grace.” It signifies the omnipotence of compassion—pity all powerful!
The words are derived, I gather, from chapters 1 and 2. In chapter 1, having made expiation, Christ sits down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; while, in chapter 2, He is presented. as a merciful and faithful high Priest. Hence we may speak of a mercy that is majestic, and of grace enthroned! And all this for those who feel their own personal inability for one step of the way.
Is not such living compassion predicated in John 13-17? We have the feet washed in “another Comforter” in chapter 14; slavery exchanged for friendship in chapter 15; “good cheer” in face of a hostile world in chapter 16; and the most wonderful intercession in chapter 17. Surely we may discover all this in the present priesthood of our Lord. And were not His “learning obedience” when here below, His “strong crying and tears,” and His death itself His qualifications for that office? Did He not reach perfection by the things He suffered? He alone can best sympathize who has passed through the sorrow; and so we read of His being a “Man of sorrows” before we read of His soul being made “an offering for sin” (Isa. 53). His Perfect life as Man preceded His expiatory death on the cross. Now He is highly exalted. “We have such an high Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1). Nor did He glorify Himself to be made an high priest. That He did not, but the title lay in the unique dignity of His person: “He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee,” said also, “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 5:5-6). His title lay in His personal glory as Son of God; His qualifications lay in the sore ordeal of His perfect life of sorrow among those who had proved the bitterness of the results of sin in its myriad forms. He was apart from sin, but not from tears, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor weariness. He went into death itself to complete His path of perfect obedience, and, at the same time, to atone for sin, and to overcome all the adverse power of Satan.
He is free now to exercise, in the place of divine power, the functions of a merciful and faithful high Priest toward all who come unto God by Him. He ever lives to intercede for them, and is able to save them to the uttermost—for ever!
All thanks and glory to Him!