Having looked at what Christ’s intercession is in my last post, in this post I want to make 15 applications from it:
1) The love and compassion of Christ for us is real and personal, not merely legal and formal. We cannot conceive of him praying for us and think of him as reluctant to forgive, or receiving us out of necessity only. His intercession shows that he regards us with warmth and tenderness and even affection.
2) Our prayers of repentance do not need to be perfect in order to be acceptable to God. We all know that nagging voice that says, “but did you really mean it? Were you really sorry enough?” after a prayer of repentance. Christ sanctifies our prayers with his own, and the Father hears him every time.
3) The infinitely sweet benefits of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross can be freshly communicated to us at every instant of our lives. The intercession of Christ provides a mediating link from the accomplishment of Christ in his Friday afternoon agony to any other point in history where it is received by faith. As often as we draw near to God, he washes and cleanses us afresh (Hebrews 10:22). The grace of God is not a flash flood after which we have to try to retain the water that is left over. Its a continuous waterfall, flowing unto eternity.
4) The grace of God meets particular sins at particular points in time. It doesn’t merely cover my life as a whole, leaving the details to work out on their own. Christ meets us again and again in our particular moments of lust, resentment, fear, negligence, coldness – and says, “Father, forgive them, for the sake of my blood.”
5) I’m not my own advocate before the Father. I don’t have to make a case for him to receive me; Christ makes my case for me. Even after my conversion, my faith is not the ultimate ground of my assurance and salvation. Christ and his electing, redeeming love is my assurance, my boast, my confidence.
6) The glory of Christ’s risen and exalted state in heaven before the Father is not such that he has left us behind and is too lofty to care about us or notice us. Though he has left earth, he has not left his saving office for us. We are on his mind and heart, even as he is exalted above all angels and powers.
7) In the lowest moments of guilt and anguish, there is light and hope for the true believer (Micah 7:9).
8) Christ’s intercession is as terrible for those outside its scope as it is wonderful for those inside it. Symington: “not to have his prayers for us is to have them against us” (301, italics his). We must never mistake Christ’s tenderness and compassion for the elect for a general softness of character. At the same time as he is compassionate priest toward the church, he is reigning king, making war on his enemies and destroying them (Psalm 2:9, 110; cf. also the imagery in Revelation 1:16 of a sword coming out of his mouth).
9) Thinking that our security in grace is less dependent on Christ than our initial entrance into grace is blindness to our helpless condition and our need for his constant upholding. Symington: “[believers’] security springs not from anything naturally indestructible in the principle of the new life of which they are possessed, nor from any want of criminality in the sins they commit, nor from anything less dangerous in the circumstances in which they are placed: but wholly from the intercession of Christ” (298-9). Thinking we can remain faithful to Christ without his intercession is no less foolish than thinking we could come to Christ without his atoning death.
10) Heaven is not merely a place of worship. Until the perfection of the church, heaven is a place of salvation. Owen: “Our high priest is now likewise entered into the most holy place, within the second veil, where no eye can pierce unto him. Yet is he there as a high priest; which makes heaven itself to be a glorious temple, and a place as yet for the exercise of an instituted ordinance” (idem, 544).
11) God did not expect us to become perfect and never struggle with sin when we became believers and received his atoning death. If he did, he would not have provided this continual help for us. The very nature of our salvation assumes that we will struggle with sin as Christians.
12) Christ has a greater commitment to my salvation than I do. Our faith ebbs and flows, rises and sinks, waxes and wanes. His intercession never wavers for an instant. Even when Peter was denying him, Christ prayed for him (Luke 22:32). Even when an elect sinner is wandering, God’s call does not waver. Samuel Rutherford: “it is your comfort that your salvation is not rolled upon wheels of your own making, neither have ye to do with a Christ of your own shaping.”
13) We often don’t know what we need or how to pray. Christ prays for us in accordance with his infinite acquaintance with our needs, his perfect desires for our holiness and salvation, and his tender compassion for us in our weakness. Where our prayers are off target or weak, his never are.
14) Growing as Christians means greater acquaintance with the tenderness of Christ towards us. Owen concludes his discussion of Christ’s intercession with this: “He whose soul hath not been refreshed with a due apprehension of the unspeakable love, tenderness, and compassion of Jesus Christ, is a stranger unto the life of faith, and unto all true spiritual consolation” (Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 5, 545).
15) Christ’s prayers for us are not only based upon his divine omniscience of our needs, but on his experiential familiarity with our situation. Hebrews 2:17: “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.” 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” No matter where we are, Christ has been there before us and conquered it. All of that personal acquaintance with our struggles gets funneled into the way he prays for us. He has the compassion of one who knows what its like.