INTERCESSION OF CHRIST. The intercession of Christ refers to prayer offered by Christ on behalf of others. It is frequently understood as the activity He exercises in this respect in His exalted glory at the right hand of the Father. This aspect of His heavenly ministry is all-important, and the passages of Scripture that speak expressly of Jesus’ “intercession” refer to it. There are also the examples of Jesus’ intercession while He was on earth, and most eminent being John 17. This address to the Father is not exclusively intercession. It includes prayer on His own behalf (vv. 1, 5). But it is largely prayer on behalf of others and is an index to the content of Jesus’ intercession in heaven. Not only do we have this example but we have express reference to this ministry on His own part (Luke 22:32) and also the record of intercessory utterance (23:34).
That Jesus pleads the case of God’s people and prays on their behalf points to the economy of redemption and to the distinct functions performed by the persons of the Godhead in terms of that economy. The process of redemption is not yet consummated, and therefore the distinguishing operations of the three Persons are still in effect. If it was consonant with supreme love and wisdom for the Father to send His own Son into this world to redeem His people, it is consonant with the same love and wisdom for the Father to act now in the progressive realization of His saving counsel through a mediation that the Son exercises in intercession.
In those contexts where the heavenly intercession is mentioned, there is an index to the kind of intercession Jesus offers. In Romans 8:34, the context is one in which believers are viewed as challenged by their adversaries, and the apostle provides the answer to any charge laid against them. The intercession is coordinated with the death, resurrection, and exalted glory of Christ as that which insures the security of the people of God. The active and abiding intercession of Christ is engaged with the bond that unites them to Christ. The intercession is appealed to for the purpose of assuring believers that the exalted Lord is unceasingly concerned with the conflicts and trials that beset them, concerned by way of prayer on their behalf. As a result they will be more than conquerors in every engagement with their adversaries. It is intercession directed to every exigency of their warfare.
The intercession of Christ is mentioned as that which insures salvation to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). Such salvation is inclusive; it is salvation complete and perfect. The intercession, therefore, brings within its scope all that is necessary to salvation in its consummated perfection; it is interposed to meet every need of the believer. No blessing enjoyed, no need supplied is outside the range of Christ’s intercession and it is the guarantee of all grace.
The intercession must be construed as based upon and proceeding from Jesus’ atoning accomplishment. In the two passages mentioned above, this dependence is clearly implied. “It is Christ Jesus that died...who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34 ASV). Both the preceding and succeeding contexts of Hebrews 7:25 are replete with references to Christ’s high priestly identity and sacrifice. The intercession is, therefore, to be viewed specifically as a phase of Jesus’ high priestly function. 1 John 2:1, 2 intimates the same relationship. As in the priestly propitiation, the notion that the Father is won over to clemency finds no place. The intercession is one aspect of that provision that God the Father in love has made to bring to perfection His redemptive design.
J. Calvin, Institutes, III, xx, 17-20; W. Symington, On the Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ (1839), 239-281; J. Murray, The Heavenly Priestly Activity of Christ (1958); J. G. S. S. Thomson, The Praying Christ (1959).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The general conception of our Lord’s mediatorial office is specially summed up in His intercession in which He appears in His high-priestly office, and also as interceding with the Father on behalf of that humanity whose cause He had espoused.
1. Christ’s Intercession Viewed in Its Priestly Aspect:
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the intercessory character of our Lord’s high-priestly office is transferred to the heavenly condition and work of Christ, where the relation of Christ’s work to man’s condition is regarded as being still continued in the heavenly place (see Heb 9:11-28). This entrance into heaven is once for all, and in the person of the high priest the way is open to the very presence of God. From one point of view (Heb 10:12) the priestly service of the Lord was concluded and gathered up into His kingly office (Heb 10:13,14-18). But from another point of view, we ourselves are bidden to enter into the Holiest Place; as if in union with Christ we too become a kingly priesthood (Heb 10:19-22; and compare 1Pe 2:9).
It must not be forgotten, however, that this right of entrance into the most Holy Place is one that depends entirely upon our vital union with Christ, He appears in heaven for us and we with Him, and in this sense He fulfills the second duty of His high-priestly office as intercessor, with the added conception drawn from the legal advocacy of the Roman court. The term translated "Advocate" in 1 Joh 2:2 is parakletos, which in Joh 14:16 is translated "Comforter." The word is of familiar use in Greek for the legal advocate or patronus who appeared on behalf of his client. Thus, in the double sense of priestly and legal representative, our Lord is our intercessor in Heaven.
Of the modes in which Christ carries out His intercessory office, we can have no knowledge except so far as we may fairly deduce them from the phraseology and suggested ideas of Scripture. As high priest, it may surely be right for us to aid our weak faith by assuring ourselves that our Lord pleads for us, while at the same time we must be careful not to deprave our thought concerning the glorified Lord by the metaphors and analogies of earthly relationship.
The intercessory work of Christ may thus be represented: He represents man before God in His perfect nature, His exalted office and His completed work. The Scripture word for this is (Heb 9:24) "to appear before the face of God for us." There is also an active intercession. This is the office of our Lord as advocate or parakletos. That this conveys some relation to the aid which one who has broken the law receives from an advocate cannot be overlooked, and we find Christ’s intercession in this aspect brought into connection with the texts which refer to justification and its allied ideas (see Ro 8:34; 1; Joh 2:1).
2. Christ’s Intercessory Work from the Standpoint of Prayer:
In PRAYERS OF CHRIST (which see), the intercessory character of many of our Lord’s prayers, and especially that of Joh 17, is considered. And it has been impossible for Christian thought to divest itself of the idea that the heavenly intercession of Christ is of the order of prayer. It is impossible for us to know; and even if Christ now prays to the Father, it can be in no way analogous to earthly prayers. The thought of some portion of Christendom distinctly combined prayer in the heavenly work of the Lord. There is danger in extreme views. Scriptural expressions must not be driven too far, and, on the other hand, they must not be emptied of all their contents. Modern Protestant teaching has, in its protest against a merely physical conception of our Lord’s state and occupation in heaven, almost sublimed reality from His intercessory work. In Lutheran teaching the intercession of our Lord was said to be "vocal," "verbal" and "oral." It has been well remarked that such forms of prayer require flesh and blood, and naturally the teachers of the Reformed churches, for the most part, have contented themselves (as for example Hodge, Syst. Theol., II, 593) with the declaration that "the intercession of Christ includes: (1) His appearing before God in our behalf, as the sacrifice for our sins, as our high priest, on the ground of whose work we receive the remission of our sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and all needed good; (2) defense against the sentence of the law and the charges of Satan, who is the great accuser; (3) His offering Himself as our surety, not only that the demands of justice shall be shown to be satisfied, but that His people shall be obedient and faithful; (4) the oblation of the persons of the redeemed, sanctifying their prayers, and all their services, rendering them acceptable to God, through the savor of his own merits."
Even this expression of the elements which constitute the intercession of the Lord, cautious and spiritual as it is in its application to Christian thought and worship, must be carefully guarded from a too complete and materialistic use. Without this care, worship and devout thought may become degraded and fall into the mechanical forms by which our Lord’s position of intercessor has been reduced to very little more than an imaginative and spectacular process which goes on in some heavenly place. It must not be forgotten that the metaphorical and symbolic origin of the ideas which constitute Christ’s intercession is always in danger of dominating and materializing the spiritual reality of His intercessional office.