CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Five :: Chapter Five
The prevalency of Christ’s intercession, and the powerful influence it has into our salvation, demonstrated, first, from the greatness of Christ, and his favour with God.
2. Thus we have heard what matter of support to our faith, by way of evidence, this must necessarily afford that Christ intercedes. Let us consider now what further assurance will arise to our faith, from the influence which Christ’s intercession must necessarily have, to effect and carry on our salvation to an assured issue. The work of intercession being effectually to procure our salvation, and to continue the pardon of our sins, and hold us in favor with God, therefore the influence and energy it has herein must necessarily lie in that potency and prevalence which this intercession of Christ has with God, to obtain anything at his hands for us, and so to continue his favor towards us. Now, to raise up our apprehensions how potent and prevalent this intercession of Christ must necessarily be, let us consider both the Person interceding, namely Christ; and the Person with whom Christ intercedes for this favor, which is God. The one the Son, the other the Father and so the
greatness of Christ with God, and the graciousness of God to Christ, together with the oneness of wills and unity of affections in them both, so that Christ will be sure to ask nothing which his Father will deny, and his Father will not deny anything which he shall ask.
(1.) Now first, for the greatness of Christ the Intercessor, that is his greatness with God the Father. This is often urged in this epistle to the Hebrews, to persuade confidence in us, in this very point in hand; thus in Hebrews 4:14, 16, “Seeing we have a great high priest, let us come boldly.” And while great and priest are thus joined together, the more comfort and boldness we may have, the greater he is, for he is a priest in relation to his dealing with God for our pardon. As he is a priest, he deals in nothing else; and the greater the person is who uses his interest herein, the better, the sooner he will prevail. And he is there said to be great, because great with God in prevailing with him; and indeed so great, as it is impossible but he should prevail. It was the greatness of his person which did and does put such an influence into
his death that it was, as you heard, a price more than enough to satisfy justice, even to overflowing. And therefore, “Who shall condemn? It is Christ that died.” And the greatness of his person must necessarily have as much influence to make intercession prevalent. In a matter of intercession, the person that intercedes prevails more than any other consideration whatsoever. We see what great friends do procure oftentimes with but a word speaking, even that which money, no, nor anything could have obtained. Now Christ must necessarily be great with God in many respects.
[1.] First, in respect of the nearness of his alliance to him. He is the natural Son of God, God of God, and therefore certain to prevail with him. This is diligently still put in, almost in all places, where this part of his priesthood (his intercession) is mentioned, in the Epistle to the Hebrews. So in Hebrews 4:14, “We have a great high priest entered into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” So in Hebrews 7:25, 28 compared, the apostle having said in Hebrews 7:25, that “he is able to save to the utmost, seeing he ever lives to make intercession,” he does devolve this ability of his to save (ultimately) upon his being the Son. Thus in Hebrews 7:28, in the end of that
discourse, this is made as the basis of all: “The law (says he) makes men high priests which have infirmity,” which infirmity or disability of theirs is mentioned in opposition unto what he had just before spoken of the great ability of this our high priest in his interceding, Hebrews 7:25, in those words, “He is able to save to the utmost.” Those priests whom the ceremonial law made, Aaron and his sons, are unable to save, they have infirmity. Now what is it in him that makes this difference, and him so able above what they were? “The word of the oath makes the Son (says he), who is perfected (as you have it in the Greek and margin) for evermore.” He mentions this his sonship principally in relation to his intercession, which there he had discoursed of. Intercession is a carrying on our salvation in a way of grace and favour, as his death was by way of satisfaction.
And answerably it may be observed in the Scripture, that as the all-sufficiency of the satisfaction of his death is still put upon his being God, and so upon the greatness of his person considered in respect of his nature or essence, namely his Godhead; so in like manner, that the prevalency of his intercession is founded upon the nearness of his relation unto God, his alliance to him and the being his Son. Thus for the first. When redemption is spoken of, the sufficiency of the price is eminently put upon his God-head, “the blood of God.” Thus also in Hebrews 9, where when he had (Hebrews 9:12) shown how Christ had purchased and obtained a “perfect redemption,” he then argues the sufficiency of it from his Godhead in Hebrews 9:13-14, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes
of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself?”
The eternal Spirit is his Godhead. Thus answerably, when he speaks of the prevailing of his intercession in heaven, he puts it upon his sonship, “Jesus the Son.” He mentions the nearness of the relation of his person to God, as being that which draws with it that great respect, and favour, and grace, he being by this great with God, as great in himself. All matters of intercession are carried, we know, by way of favor. And therefore look how prevalent in a way of merit his being God makes his death in its kind, no less prevalent does his being the Son of God make his intercession in its kind, namely in a way of obtaining grace and mercy; yes, so prevalent of itself it is that we might build upon it alone, even as much as upon his death. And indeed, Christ intercedes not only in the virtue and strength of his satisfaction, though in that also, and of his obedience to his Father but also in the strength of his relation as a Son who pleads his own grace and interest in God, as
he is his Son, which is a consideration that does always actually exist and abide.
Whereas his obedience, though perfect, was but once offered up and its existence is but virtual; but he continues a Son forever, not virtually only, but actually. And therefore it is added in Hebrews 7:28, that the “gospel ordained the Son, perfected forever.” The meaning whereof is that he is not only a priest, perfected in the time past by that perfect offering once made, but in that he is the Son, he remains a perfect priest forever, for time to come; whom therefore no imperfection in his office, no failing or missing of his suits can befall. So as if it could be supposed that his obedience, because past so long ago, might be forgotten; yet never this, that he is a Son. That forever abides and of itself were enough to prevail. And how effectual must the intercession of such a Son be, who is so great a Son of so great a Father, equal with him and the express image of his person? Never any Son so like, and in
so peculiarly a transcendent manner a Son, as the relation of sonship among men is but a shadow of it! Christ is one with his Father, as he often speaks; and therefore, if his Father should deny him anything, he should then cease to be one with him, he must then “deny himself,” which God can never do. He is in this respect “the Beloved,” as he is called in Ephesians 1:6, as on whom (originally and primarily) all the beams of God’s love do fall. Solomon (the type of Christ) was “the beloved of God,” 2 Samuel 12:24, and had his name from thence (namely) Jedidiah, that is “beloved of the Lord.” And to show how beloved he was, God, when he came first into his kingdom, bid him “ask what he should give him,” 1 Kings 3:5. Now the like God says to Christ,
when come first to his kingdom also in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will give thee,” namely, when “he had set him as King on his holy hill,” Psalm 2:6. And of him he says, “This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear him.” God bids us therefore and upon that respect to hear him; and that speech was but the echo of his own heart, in that he himself is so well pleased with him for this that he is his Son, as he himself will hear him in everything. Yes, and is so pleased with him, as that although Christ had never died nor obeyed the law, yet simply because he is his Son, he has so full an acquiescency of all desires in him, and complacency of delights, that he could deny him nothing. How prevalent then must Christ’s intercession must be, though there were nothing else to be considered!
And that God had indeed this as one main consideration upon which he made him a priest thus to intercede, those words do testify in Hebrews 5:5-6, he that said unto him, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” As he says also in another place, “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.” These latter words are not only a paraphrase (as some think) merely to show that he that said, “Christ was his Son,” said also, “he was a priest;” but it is to show the foundation of his call to that office. The great consideration that fitted him for it was that he was God’s Son; especially that fitted him for that part of his priesthood which was to remain “forever,” of which that Psalm 110 and the Epistle to the Hebrews do especially speak. Neither is the meaning of the fore-cited place only to
show that in that he was God’s Son, it was his birthright to be a priest, so as if God would have any priest at all it must be he, and so upon that consideration, he that said to him, “Thou art my Son,” said, “Thou art a priest.” And that being his right, he therefore called him to it because he was his Son, for according to the law of nature, the eldest of the family was to be priest; and so Christ, even as God-man, being the “first-born of every creature,” and the natural first begotten Son of God, had right to be the prime leader of that great chorus in that eternal worship in heaven. That (I say) is not all the meaning of those words, nor all that God considered in it, when he thus ordained him to be a priest, but he had a further and more peculiar respect unto this especial part of his priesthood, his intercession (as that clause forever imports). As for which, he being his natural Son so nearly allied to him, would transcendently fit him,
and give such an omnipotent prevalency and effectualness to his requests, that he would be the most absolute perfect priest forever in this respect that could be.
That as God himself is perfect and his power irresistible, so his priesthood through this relation might be perfect also, and his requests undeniable. Thus did God order it to strengthen our faith. And that indeed, God did consider this relation of his to him to this very end is evident by that of the Psalm 2, out of which that saying, “Thou art my Son,” is cited. Psalm 2:7-8, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” and what follows? “Ask of me, and I will give thee…” He connects both these together, namely intercession, that part of his priestly office of asking, with his sonship. For that is it which moves God to grant all that he asks. God loves Christ as he loves himself, and therefore can deny him nothing, as he cannot deny himself. And so, by the way, this clears the ground of the apostle’s quoting those words of
Psalm 2 in Hebrews 5, as a proof of Christ’s call to the priesthood, which interpreters have been troubled how to make out. For (as you have seen) that speech, “Thou art my Son, ask…” is all one as if he had said, “Thou art a priest.” And so was as fit and full a place to prove his being a priest in the Holy Ghost’s intent, as is that other quoted with it out of Psalm 110, though uttered in more express words, “Thou art a priest forever.” Both speeches come to one in both places, the Holy Ghost especially aiming in both at that part of his priesthood in heaven, his intercession. In the one speaking of him after he is set upon God’s hill as king (so Psalm 2:6); and in the other, after he is set down at
God’s right hand (so Psalm 110:1-2). Yes, and this his favor with his Father and intercession alone, might have procured pardon for us sinners, but that God’s will was to have justice satisfied.
[2.] And secondly, he intercedes not only as a Son (and in that respect a priest perfect enough forever), but also as a Son who has been obedient to his Father, and has done at his request, and for his sake, the greatest service for him, and the most willingly that ever was done. And you all know how much former services done do always forward suits. In Hebrews 5:8-10, it is said that “though he were a Son, yet he learned obedience,” and thereby “became perfect.” The apostle had said in the verses before that in respect of his being his Son, God had called him to this office, as one that was thereby sufficiently qualified to be a priest that might prevail. And yet in these verses he further adds that though he was a Son and in that respect a priest perfect enough, yet he was to be obedient also, and thereby yet to become, in a further respect, a perfect high priest also, even in respect of service done and
obedience performed. And so shows that he comes to have a further perfection and power of prevailing in his priestly office added to that relation of sonship spoken of in Hebrews 5. And therefore it follows that he being thus become perfect, namely through his obedience, “he became author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him, called of God a high priest forever.” That therefore which makes him yet more potent, that he may be sure to prevail, is his obedience and service done; and this alone also were enough to carry anything. And both these considerations, of his sonship and obedience, as giving an efficacy to his intercession, you have also in that, Hebrews 7:26-28, he had spoken of the power of intercession. Hebrews 7:24-25, how he was “able to save to the utmost;” and then, in the
following verse, he shows the ground of it, first in his fore-past “obedience,” in Hebrews 7:26.
First, active, “for such a high priest became us, who was holy, harmless, undefiled.” And such a priest he was, and therefore able thus to save by his intercession. For such a one who was holy, harmless, and no guile found in his mouth, what requests come out of such lips must necessarily be accepted.
Then, secondly, he mentions his passive obedience in Hebrews 7:27, “He offered up himself once,” and thereby made so full a satisfaction, as he needed not to do it but once. And in the strength of both these he intercedes, for to that purpose does the mention of both these there come in. And then he adds that other which we before insisted on, that he is the Son, which follows in the next words in Hebrews 7:28. And accordingly you shall find Christ himself urging this his obedience, as the foundation of all those his suits and requests for us that follow after. So in that last prayer in John 17 (which is, as it were, a pattern or instance of his intercession for us in heaven), “I have glorified you on earth, I have finished the work you gave me,” John 17:4. And whereas two things may be distinctly considered, in that his obedience.
First, the worth of it, as a price in the valuation of justice itself; secondly, the desert of favour and grace with God, which such an obedience and service done for his sake, might in a way of kindness expect to find at his hands. You may for your comfort consider, that besides what the worth of it as a price, which I shall urge in the next chapter, might exact of justice itself between two strangers (as we use to say), he having well paid for all that he asks; he has moreover, deserved thus much grace and favour with his Father, in that this obedience was done for his sake and at his request; and this it calls for even in way of remuneration and requital, as of one kindness with the like. That therefore his Father should hear him in all the requests that ever he should make, yes so transcendent was the obedience which he did to his Father, in giving himself to death at his request (and it was done at God’s sole entreaty, “Lo! I come to do your will”), as he
can never out-ask the merit of this his service. And which may yet further encourage us herein, he has nothing at all left to ask for himself simply, for he has need of nothing. So that all his favour remains entire, for to be laid forth for sinners, and employed for them. And then add this thereto, that all he can ask for them is less, yes far less than the service which he has done to God comes to; our lives, and pardon, and salvation, these are not enough, they are too small a requital. So that besides his natural grace and interest which he has with his Father, as he is his Son, which can never be lessened, this his acquired favor by his obedience must necessarily make him prevail, seeing it can never be acquitted to the full. Some divines put so much efficacy in this that they say, Christ’s very being in heaven, who once did this service, and so putting God in mind of it by his very presence, is all that intercession that the Scripture speaks of; so sufficient they
think this alone to be.