Many people are confused about the present-day ministry of Jesus Christ to Christians. They believe in a "shift-worker" concept of God. They believe God the Father had the early morning shift, from creation to the birth of Christ. Therefore, the Father is the God of the Old Testament. They believe the afternoon shift was filled by God the Son in his earthly life and ministry. They feel Christ has finished his job and is resting on the throne in heaven. Finally, they think we are living in the evening shift and as we approach the final hours of human history, it is the Holy Spirit who works this shift. As easy as this idea is to accept in the mind of many Christians, it is not an accurate portrayal of the biblical teaching concerning the Trinity.
The Bible teaches there is one God in three distinct persons, each possessing the total attributes of God and each working together throughout history to accomplish the work of God. The Bible teaches that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were involved in creation, the judgment of Old Testament civilizations, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the New Testament church, and, still future, the return of Christ to establish His kingdom.
As we have already seen in our study of the person and work of Christ, he had an existence and ministry before his birth in Bethlehem. We also know he is coming again someday, to call away his own and will later establish his kingdom on earth. It should not be surprising, then, to learn that Jesus is currently engaged in a special ministry for believers.
The Bible calls Jesus both our intercessor (Heb. 7:25) and our advocate (1 John 2:1). While some do not distinguish between these two works, a distinction does exist. As our intercessor, Jesus represents us before the throne to give grace so that we may gain victory over temptation.. It would be ideal if Christians were all victorious over temptation. Unfortunately, that is not the case. When we do sin, as Christians, Jesus is our advocate, restoring us to fellowship with God. These two words summarize much of the present ministry of Christ. Understanding the present ministry of Christ will help us live consistently and confidently for him.
THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST
A concerned mother will take great care concerning the health of her children. She will reflect that concern by practicing both preventive and curative medicine. She will prevent her children from eating the wrong kinds of foods, or stop them from playing in dangerous places, or keep them inside when it is cold outside unless they wear warm clothing. A loving mother will carefully plan a family menu and provide her children with supplementary vitamins whenever she feels it is necessary. Many times her preventive steps are far more effective than treatment for some sickness.
The intercessory work of Christ is similar to preventive medicine for the Christian. While in one sense we may use the term "intercession" to identify all of the present work of mediation in heaven, the biblical use of the term more specifically relates to the work of Christ on behalf of the believer's weakness and temptation. As a lawyer may often make calls on behalf of his client, so Christ is continually interceding to the Father on our behalf. "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" (Heb. 7:25). Several things characterize this ministry of Christ.
Continual intercession. Effective intercession is not a once and-for-all event, but a continuing event. In our world, intercessory prayer is a ministry of praying for the needs of others as long as the needs exist. Yet Christ is not described as praying, but he personally is our intercessor. "He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25, italics mine). Since Christ lives forever and will not change, we can expect him to be our continual intercessor for us. Paul asked, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34).
Active intercession. Many parents will teach their children to pray at bedtime for others but it is often in maturity that those same Christians pray actively for others. The intercessory prayers of Christ are not just a recitation of an old familiar prayer list, but an expression of the heart of God. Jesus was "moved with compassion" (Matt. 9:36) when he asked his disciples to intercede for the world. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:38). It is significant that his intercessory prayer for us is also motivated by love. As Jesus prays for us he also becomes actively involved in helping us.
Christ has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in our Christian lives. This was one of the first items on his prayer list. Jesus told his disciples, "I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" (John 14:16). Christ wants to give us the best in every part of our life. Paul asked, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with 'him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:31, 32).
Specific intercession. We should rejoice that the prayers of Jesus for us are not as general as some Christians' prayers for others. There are certain matters in which Jesus will specifically intercede. He alone understands us, even better than we may understand ourselves. In addition to the specific needs and weaknesses in our own lives, there are a number of specific prayer requests on' the "Prayer List of Jesus." Some of these are listed in the following chart. The Scripture references help us better understand what Jesus wants God to do in our lives.
Preventive intercession. A fourth characteristic of Jesus' intercession or prayer is that it is preventive in design. God does not delight in our failure. Some seem to feel that God delights in judging us and punishing us for our sin (1 Sam. 15:22). The ministry of Christ as our intercessor works in cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit and Scripture to prevent us from sinning. As long as we are in the flesh we are subject to sin, but sinlessness should still be the aim of every Christian. David said, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 119:11).. This promise is one of the Old Testament foundations. John writes in his first epistle, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not" (1 John 2:1). As we attempt to gain victory over temptation in our lives on earth, we have an intercessor in heaven who understands the nature of temptation experientially and interprets for us. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" Heb. 4:15).
Effective intercession. "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). We seek to apply this promise in our own prayer life, but it can also be applied to the prayer life of Christ. The apostle Paul described righteousness as an attribute of Christ, because he is the source of all righteousness (Rom. 5:17-21). Certainly if our prayers are guaranteed to be effectual if we live righteously, then we may be certain God will respond to the intercession of his righteous Son.
Every Christian sins because he was born with a sinful nature (Ps. 51:5; 1 John 1:8), because of the temptation of Satan (1 Pet. 5:8), because of the influence of this world (Eph. 2:2, 3), but most of all because of the lust within him (1 John 2:15, 16). Christ intercedes for the believer lest he sin, but when he sins . . Jesus is his advocate.
JESUS CHRIST, OUR ADVOCATE
However we may wish to rationalize it, when a Christian sins, the creature is actively rebelling against his Creator, despite all God has done to prevent him from sinning. It would be understandable if God chose to punish us as we deserved, but the Lord chooses rather to show mercy. Although it is ideal that the. Christian break the habit of sin, John gives the sinning Christian the following consolation, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). An "advocate" is a legal term denoting a lawyer who represents his client before a court of law. When applied to the present ministry of Christ, it speaks of his work for sinning believers to restore them to fellowship. His work as an advocate is based upon the sufficiency of the blood of Christ for all sin, past, present, and future.
Lost fellowship. When a person receives Christ, he is saved eternally. Nothing can separate him from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39). Even if he denied Christ, Christ remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). Although our union with Christ is secure, our fellowship with God is dependent upon our daily walk with him. As long as we attempt to do what is right, i.e., "walk in the light, as he is in the light" (1 John 1:7), our fellowship is secure, and any sin committed unknowingly is cleansed. "And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us" (1 John 1:7). It is when we step out of line and do sin that we break our fellowship with God. As long as we are consciously aware of sin that exists between ourselves and God, there is a barrier that God will not cross. Our salvation remains secure, but the quality of our Christian life suffers because we are out of fellowship with him.
Restored fellowship. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). We should never cease to be amazed how much God desires to fellowship with us. Sin is an insult to the nature of God, and when a Christian commits such an act, he is choosing his own way and actively opposing God. The fact that God tolerates our sin is evidence of the depth of the love of God. There is nothing on the part of God that will prevent the restoration of fellowship. We must simply be willing to admit and turn from our sins and he will forgive (1 John 1:9).
Propitiation. Fellowship can be restored only because Jesus "is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The term "propitiation" means "satisfaction." When we sin, the holiness of God is offended. To be restored to his fellowship, the holiness of God is satisfied by the blood of Christ. The cost involved in providing salvation for a lost world was the person of Christ and his shed blood (Rom. 3:24). This payment was necessary to satisfy the righteousness of a holy God. Only in this way could it be possible for God to forgive sins and still be righteous. The blood of Christ is sufficient to save the entire world from all their sins (1 John 2:2). This makes possible restored fellowship even when we sin against God. Confession. A lawyer is only as good as the information given him by the client. Sometimes the client may fail to follow his lawyer's advice or forget to tell him something that is necessary for the trial. Christ, our advocate, knows already about our sins. The root meaning of "confess. . . " is "to say the same thing," or to agree. We must agree with Christ concerning our sins in order to find forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
If the Advocate is going to restore our fellowship with God, we must confess our sinstotally. If we are unwilling to do that, we prevent the work of our Advocate in heaven.
Confession involves acknowledging our error and agreeing with God as to its sinful nature. When we are prepared to admit our responsibility in sin, Jesus pleads our case before God on the basis of the payment he has already made for our sin (1 John 2:2). God "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Jesus used the social custom of the day of footwashing to illustrate this principle of continually cleansing the Christian. Before the disciples came to the meeting place for the Passover, they had no doubt washed in a public bath completely, including their feet. In walking along the dusty streets of Jerusalem to the upper room, their feet got dusty. When we are saved, we are cleansed from all sin (parallel to an entire bath), but as we walk in the world our feet often get dirty. It is not necessary that we seek a total cleansing again (getting saved again), as Peter suggested (John 13:9), but rather that we confess known sin in order to be cleansed (John 13:10).
There is no good reason for the Christian to fail. Jesus is our intercessor, praying for our success as Christians. If we should fail to live up to that expectation, he is also our advocate and will represent us before God. It is needful for us to regularly evaluate our life to determine the degree to which we are allowing Christ to minister to us today.
Monday: Hebrews 7:11-28
Tuesday: Psalm 23
Wednesday: 1 John 1:5-2:2
Thursday: Luke 22:31-46
Friday: John 17:1-26
Saturday: Romans 8:28-39
Sunday: 2 Timothy 2:11-18
Taken from: What The Faith Is All About by Elmer Towns