by Wilhelmus a Brakel
Intercessory prayer is the second element of Christ’s priestly office, of which we read, “Who also maketh intercession for us,” (Romans 8:34); “He ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25); “.to appear in the presence of God for us,” (Hebrews 9:24); “We have an advocate with the Father,” (1 John 2:1). Concerning His intercession, we must consider its necessity, nature, and efficacy.
WE WILL FIRST CONSIDER ITS NECESSITY.
Intercession is a task that belongs to Christ’s high-priestly office: “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” (Hebrews 8:1). As High Priest, He is in heaven; as High Priest, He sits at the right hand of God. The task in which He engages Himself as High Priest is to appear before His Father on behalf of His elect, interceding for them. It is thus a task of Christ’s high-priestly office to intercede. The matters for which He intercedes there are these:
(1) All that which His elect are in need of in this life in order to enable them to walk in the way to heaven—namely, the Holy Spirit Who illumines, comforts, and sanctifies them. This we observe in John 14:16-17: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth.”
(2) He intercedes for them so that they may perfectly possess salvation after this life. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am,” (John 17:24). This is also confirmed in Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” For men to be saved, it was not sufficient that by His suffering, death, and holiness He merited salvation; but it is also necessary that by means of His intercession He would apply salvation and make them actual partakers of it. This was typified in the Old Testament by the high priest, who was not finished after offering the sacrifice, but had to enter the Holy of Holies with blood in order to sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and burn incense. The Lord Jesus, being the antitype, likewise had to enter in with His own blood (Lev 16; Heb 9:12). This prerequisite was of such necessity that without it He could not be a high priest. “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest,” (Hebrews 8:4). Had He not been a priest, there would be no salvation for the elect, for they must come to God and be saved by way of a priest. For this reason, sacrifice and prayer are joined together. “It is Christ that died…who also maketh intercession for us,” (Romans 8:34); “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 2:1-2). This necessity is also evident for the following reasons: First, it is fitting to God that it be continually acknowledged that He has been despised by man, that His righteousness neither permits man to approach Him nor Him to approach man, except by an atoning Surety Who continually displays His atonement. He therefore “ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25). Secondly, since God’s majesty had been despised, it could not be tolerated that He would come to man or even to the Surety, but rather that the Surety would come to Him, and that, so to speak, He would bring the ransom home and lay it down before His countenance. Thirdly, in reference to man as well as to the gift of the Surety, God also wills that His free grace in the salvation of the sinner be displayed and ever be acknowledged: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:24). Therefore, although the sacrifice of Christ is perfect and is of an eternally atoning efficacy, it must nevertheless be applied by way of intercession. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest…Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:14, 16). Fourthly, it was also necessary in reference to the Lord Jesus Himself. He was Surety and could not be released from His Suretyship as long as His elect had not in actuality been made partakers of salvation. In order to prepare a place for the elect, however, and to lead them unto salvation, intercession necessarily had to occur (cf. John 17:24; Hebrews 7:25). Thus, the Lord Jesus must continue with His intercession until all His elect will have been gathered into heaven. Fifthly, the Father also wills that the Lord Jesus be acknowledged as still being engaged to the advantage of the elect, so that they would come to the throne by Him, and in coming would there find Him to be an Advocate Who brings their prayers before the Father (Rev. 8:3-4) It is necessary that the Surety continually display the atonement before the throne. Paul pointed to this in Romans 5:10: “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.” And why are we saved by His life? “He ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25).
THE SECOND THING THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN REFERENCE TO INTERCESSION IS THE MANNER IN WHICH HE PRAYS.
First, even as Christ executed the first element of His high-priestly office as Surety, that is, the sacrifice of His body, He likewise administers the second element of His office, that is, intercession, as Surety. He does not merely stand before the throne as a friend who speaks well on behalf of His people but stands there as Surety, Who has taken upon Himself to fully execute the salvation of His own. This is evident from Hebrews 7:22-25. In verse 22, the apostle expressly calls Him “surety.” He also speaks of Him as such in the subsequent verses: “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood” and “ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:24-25). Furthermore, since He executed the first aspect of His priestly office as God and man, the efficacy of His sacrifice being derived from His divine nature—from the divine Person—Christ must likewise be viewed as God and man in the second element of His priestly ministry. That the efficacy of His intercession is also derived from His Person, that is, from His divine nature, is demonstrated by the apostle in Hebrews 4:14, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” He is great, for He, being the Son of God, is equal to the Father. That is the critical point, and it is that which yields comfort and boldness. Secondly, one must not think that Christ falls upon His knees there and prays with strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7). No, that was His engagement in His humiliation. His intercession, however, consists in His appearance in the sanctuary before the countenance of His Father with His blood, “that speaketh better things than that of Abel,” (Hebrews 12:24). It consists in the demonstration of the efficacy of His suffering and death. Thirdly, it consists in His efficacious will whereby, on the basis of the covenant, He demands the fulfillment of all the promises for His elect both in this life (John 17:15-17) and in the life to come. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am,” (John 17:24). The Father gives Him license to make such demands by saying, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,” (Psalm 2:8). The Father has promised Him this. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand,” (Isaiah 53:10). This the Son demands. Fourthly, His intercession consists in advocating and pleading the cause of His elect against all accusations made against them. The Apostle John therefore calls Him an Advocate (1 John 2:1). This is confirmed by the apostle who says, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is Christ…who also maketh intercession for us,” (Romans 8:33-34). Since He is able to demonstrate that He has fully paid for each and every sin and has fulfilled the Law on their behalf by placing Him self under and being obedient to the Law, He concludes that there is no condemnation for His elect, but that they have a right to eternal felicity. Fifthly, it consists in presenting the prayers of His children that, through the Spirit of grace and supplication, have been offered in His name. Since they have been offered in His name, His merits must have such efficacy that their prayers are heard.
THE THIRD MATTER THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN REFERENCE TO INTERCESSION IS ITS EFFICACY.
Such is evident for three reasons: First, there is the righteousness of the cause. Here, neither favoritism comes into play, nor is there a looking the other way, nor does Christ merely make a request. Rather, the matter that Christ pleads as Advocate is entirely just and is confirmed by superlative documentation. He appears on behalf of His elect with His paid ransom, which is so perfect that not one penny is lacking: “.he had by himself purged our sins,” (Hebrews 1:3); “By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” (Hebrews 9:12). He has so completely fulfilled the Law on behalf of the elect that they are “the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4). This He demonstrates to His Father, and therefore this can only be followed by actual justification and the bestowal of the right to possess eternal felicity. Secondly, the efficacy of His intercession is also evident from the relationship between God and the elect, which is as between a father and his children. The Lord Jesus prays for those whom the Father has loved with an everlasting love, accepted as His children, designated to be the objects of His grace and benevolence, and towards whom His heart is tenderly inclined. The Father is therefore desirous that someone would speak to Him on their behalf. How can this Advocate then possibly be rejected? Thirdly, this efficacy is also evident from the Person Himself Who is the Advocate. He is the great High Priest (cf. Hebrews 4:14; 10:21). He is great in His Person, being coessential with the Father, and great is the friendship between Him and His Father. “For the Father loveth the Son,” (John 5:20). With full acquiescence and total delight He has become Surety. By an oath, He has been consecrated to His priestly office and has been obedient to His Father in all things, even unto the death upon the cross. The Father Himself says to Him, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee,” (Psalm 2:8). How can such an Intercessor possibly be rejected? Now consider all of these things together. As such a High Priest—the very Son of God Who as the one party in the covenant of redemption has submitted Himself willingly and obediently to everything—He represents the most righteous cause, which He can confirm by way of His passion and death and prove from His obedience to the Law. With all of this He pleads the cause of His elect, doing so before a gracious and benevolent Father on behalf of His beloved children and heirs. For these reasons, His intercession is efficacious to the superlative degree. It is thus most certain that it will prevail and the matter be given to His children. Yes, if Christ, while upon earth, was always heard (John 11:41-42), much more will He, now being in heaven, receive everything at His request.
From The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 1, Reformation Heritage Books. Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711)