CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Five :: Chapter Four
The second head: the great security the consideration of Christ’s intercession affords to faith for our justification, showed, 1. By way of evidence; by two things.
And so I come (as in the former I have done) to show what strong grounds of security and triumph our faith may raise from this last act, namely Christ’s intercession for us in the point of justification; “Who shall condemn? It is Christ that intercedes.” And was the second general propounded and therein to proceed also according to the method taken up in the former.
1. What assurance by way of evidence this does afford unto faith of non-condemnation.
2. What powerful efficacy and influence this must be of that Christ intercedes.
1. First, to handle it by way of evidence. That Christ intercedes is a strong evidence to our faith by two demonstrations.
(1.) From the very intent and scope of the work of intercession itself, and what it is ordained by God to effect.
(2.) From the end of Jesus Christ himself, who lives in heaven on purpose to intercede for us. Our salvation it is both finis operis, the end of the work, and finis ipsius operantis, in some respect the end of Christ himself, the Interceder; and both these do lay the greatest engagement that can be upon Christ, to accomplish our salvation through his intercession.
(1.) For the work itself. Intercession, you have seen, is a part of the office of Christ’s priesthood, as well as his dying and offering himself. Now all the works of Christ are and must be perfect in their kind (even as God’s are, of which says Moses in Deuteronomy 32:4, “His work is perfect”), for otherwise he should not be a perfect priest. Now the perfection of every work lies in order to its end for which it is ordained; so as that work is perfect that attains to such an end as it is ordained for, and that imperfect which does not.
Now the immediate direct end of Christ’s intercession is the actual salvation of believers elect, and persons whom he died for. The end of his death is adoptio juris, purchasing a right unto salvation; but of intercession, procuratio ipsius salutis, the very saving us actually, and putting us in possession of heaven. To this purpose, observe how the Scripture speaks concerning Christ’s death in Hebrews 9:12, “He entered into heaven, having obtained redemption,” or found redemption, that is, by way of right, by procuring full title to it. But of his intercession it says in Hebrews 7:25, that by it “Christ is able to save to the utmost them that come unto God by him.” That is actually to save and put them in possession of happiness; that is made the end and scope of intercession there and that phrase
(εἰς τὸ παντελὲς?) to the utmost, notes out a saving indeed, a doing it not by halves, but wholly, and thoroughly, and completely; εἰς τὸ παντελὲς is to save altogether, to give our salvation its last act and complement, that is the true force of the phrase, even to effect it to the last of it, all that is to be done about it. Thus also Romans 5:9-10, “We are justified by his death, but saved (namely, completely) by his life;” that is his living to intercede. So that the very salvation of believers is it that is the work, the τὸ ἔργον of Christ’s intercession.
Now what security does this afford? For to be saved is more than to be justified; for it is the actual possessing us of heaven. So then do but grant that Christ’s intercession is as perfect a work in its kind as Christ’s death is in its kind, and you must necessarily be saved. The perfection of Christ’s death, and the work thereof, wherein lay it (as on Christ’s part to be performed) but in this, that he should lay down a ransom sufficient to purchase salvation for such and such persons as God would save? And so the perfection of it lies in the worth and sufficiency of it, to that end it was ordained for. It being a perfect sacrifice in itself, able to purchase eternal redemption for us, and to make us salvable against all sins and the demerits of them, and to give us right to heaven; and had it wanted a grain of this, it had then been imperfect.
Now then, answerably for intercession, the comfort of our souls is that the proper work that lies upon Christ therein is the complete saving those very persons, and the possessing them of heaven. This is the τὸ ἔργον, the proper work thereof. To out vie the demerits of our sins was the perfection of his death, but to save our souls is the end and perfection of his intercession. Our sins are the object of the one, and our souls of the other. To that end was intercession added to his death, that we might not have a right to heaven in vain, of which we might be dispossessed. Now therefore, upon this ground, if Christ should fail of our souls’ salvation, yes, but of any one degree of glory (purchased by his death to any soul) which that soul should want, this work of his would then want and fall short so much of its perfection. That place in Hebrews 7, says not only that Christ
will do his utmost to save, but save to the utmost.
You may say, my infidelity and obstinacy may hinder it, though Christ does what in him lies.
Well, but intercession undertakes the work absolutely; for Christ prays not conditionally in heaven, “If men shall believe,” as we do here on earth; not for propositions only, but for persons. And therefore he prays to cure that very infidelity. Now, as if a physician undertakes to cure a madman (if he knows what he does), he considers the madness of his patient and how he will tear off what is applied, and refuse all physic. He therefore resolves to deal with him accordingly, and so to order him as he shall not hinder that help which he is about to afford him, and so upon those terms he undertakes the cure: even so does Christ, when by intercession he undertakes to save us sinners. He considers us what we are, and how it is with us, what unbelief is in us, yet undertakes the matter; and so to save us is the scope and end of this his work, which if he should not accomplish, he after all this should not be a perfect priest.
It was the fault that God found with the old priesthood, that it “made nothing perfect,” Hebrews 7:19. And therefore in Hebrews 7:12, the “law was changed,” and the “priesthood was changed” together with it, as there you have it. Now in like manner Christ’s priesthood should be imperfect, if it made not the elect perfect, and then God must yet seek for another covenant, and a more perfect priest; for this would be found faulty, as the other was. So then our comfort is, if Christ approve himself to be a perfect priest, we who come to God by him must be perfectly saved. It is in this office of his priesthood, and all the parts of it, as in his kingly office. The work of his kingly office is to subdue all enemies, to the last man, even fully to do the thing; and not only to have power, and to go about to do it, so as if there
should be any one enemy left unsubdued, then Christ should not be a perfect king. The same holds in his priestly office also; he should not be a perfect priest, if but one soul of the elect, or those he intercedes for, were left unsaved. And this is indeed the top and highest consideration for our comfort in this argument, that intercession leaves us not until it has actually and completely saved us; and this is it that makes the apostle put a further thing upon intercession here in the text, than upon that other, his “sitting at God’s right hand.” So as we are in this respect as sure of attaining unto the utmost glory of our salvation, as Christ to have the full honor of his priesthood. A man saved is more than justified; and Christ cannot reckon his work, nor himself a perfect priest, until we are saved. “Who shall condemn? It is Christ that intercedes.”
(2.) Besides the consideration of the nature and scope of this work itself, which Christ, upon his honor of acquitting himself as a perfect priest, has undertaken, there is in the second place a farther consideration that argues him engaged by a stronger obligation, even the loss of his own honor, his office, and all, if he should not effect salvation for those that come to God by him; so much does it concern him to effect it. Of all the works that ever he did, he is most engaged in this. It will not only be the loss of a business which concerns him and of so much work, but himself must be lost in it too and the reason is that he intercedes as a Surety. He was not only a “surety on earth” in dying and so was to look to do that work thoroughly, and to be sure to lay down a price sufficient, or else himself had gone for it. He pawned in that work, not only his honor, but even his life and soul to effect it, or lose himself in it; but he is a surety now also in heaven, by
interceding. This you may find to be the scope of Hebrews, by observing the coherence of Hebrews 7:22 (wherein he is called a “surety”) with Hebrews 7:23-25 that title and appellation is there given him, in relation unto this part of his office especially. And although it holds true of all parts of his office whatsoever, yet the coherence carries it, that that mention there of his being a surety does in a more special manner refer unto his intercession, as appears both by the words before and after. In the words before (Hebrews 7:21), the apostle speaks of this his “priesthood, which is forever,” and then subjoins (Hebrews 7:22), “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” And then after also he discoursed of
and instanced in his intercession, and his continuing a priest forever in that work, so in Hebrews 7:23-25, “Wherefore he is able to save to the utmost, seeing he ever lives to make intercession.” Yes, he is therefore engaged to save to the utmost, because even in interceding (for which he is said there to live) he is a surety.
He was a surety on earth, and is a surety still in heaven; only with this double difference, which arises first from the different things which he undertook for them, while on earth and for which now he undertakes in heaven. That on earth he was a surety to pay a price so sufficient as should satisfy God’s justice; which having paid, he was discharged (in that respect, and so far) of that obligation, and his bond for that was cancelled. But so as still he remains a surety, bound in another obligation as great, even for the bringing to salvation those whom he died for; for their persons remained still unsaved, though the debt was then paid; and until they be saved, he is not quit of this suretyship and engagement. And secondly, these two suretyships do differ also by the differing pawns which he was engaged to forfeit, by failing in each of these works: for the payment of our debt, his soul itself lay at the stake, which he offered up for sin; but for the saving of the persons all
his honor in heaven lies at stake. He lives to intercede. He possesses heaven upon these terms and it is one end of his life; so that as he must have sunk under God’s wrath, if he had not paid the debt, his soul standing in our souls’ stead, so he must yet quit heaven, and give over living there, if he brings us not thither. It is true, he intercedes not as a common person (which relation in all other fore-mentioned acts he still bore; thus in his death he was both a common person and a surety representing us, so as we died in him. So likewise in his resurrection we arose with him, and in his ascension we ascended, but yet he intercedes not under that relation, namely, not as a common person), for we must not, cannot be said to intercede in him, for this last work lay not upon us to do. He does it wholly for us indeed, but not in our stead or as that which we should have done, though on our behalf; for it being the last, the crown of all his works of mediation, is therefore
proper to him as Mediator, and his sole work as such.
Thus in like manner the first work of incarnation and answerably the last of intercession, in neither of these was Christ a common person representing others, though a common Saviour of others in these. For the one was the foundation of all, the other the accomplishment of all, and so it is proper only to himself as mediator. But although he intercedes not as it common person, as representing us in what we were to have done for ourselves, yet so as that other relation of a surety is continued still in that work. He stands engaged therein as an undertaker for us and so as a surety intercedes: such as Judah was for Benjamin in Genesis 43:9, “I will be surety for him; of my hand shall thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame forever.” So says Christ for us. And therefore sponsio, or undertaking for us, is by divines made a great part of this part of his
office. Now the consideration of this may the more secure us, for the more peculiarly and solely it is his work, the more his honor lies at stake, and the more he will set himself to effect it. Yes and being by way of suretyship, it concerns him yet more nearly, for he has engaged, and if he should fail, might even lose that honor which he has now in heaven.