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Thomas Goodwin :: Section Five :: Chapter Nine

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Section Five :: Chapter Nine

The potency of Christ’s intercession demonstrated, in that he intercedes with God, who is our Father. How God’s heart is as much inclined to hear Christ for us as Christ’s is to intercede.

Secondly, Christ is an advocate for us with our Father. You may perhaps think there is little in that, but Christ puts much upon it; yes, so much as if that God would however grant all that Christ himself means to ask, whether Christ asked it or not. This you have expressly in John 16:26-27, “At that day (says Christ) you shall ask in my name, and I say not to you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you.” To open this place, where he says “at that day.” The day he means through this whole chapter, is that time when the Holy Ghost should be shed upon them; for throughout his discourse he still speaks of the fruits of his ascension and of giving the Comforter, which was done upon his ascending, and was the first fruits of his priestly office in heaven. Thus Peter informs us in Acts 2:33, “He being (says he) exalted by the right hand of God, and having received” (namely, by asking, “Ask, and I will give thee”) “of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.” Now of that time when he shall be in heaven, he says, “I say not that I will pray for you;” which is not meant that Christ prays not for us in heaven, but rather those very words are the highest intimation that he would and does pray for us that can be.

When men would most strongly intimate their purpose of a kindness they mean to do for one, they used to say, I do not say that I love you, or that I will do this or that for you; which is as much as to say, I will surely do it, and do it to purpose. But Christ’s scope here is, as in the highest manner to promise them that he would pray for them; so in addition, further to tell them of their more abundant assurance and security, that besides their having the benefit of their prayers, God himself so loves them of himself, that indeed that alone were enough to obtain anything at his hands, which they shall but ask in his name; so as he needs not pray for them, and yet he will too. But now in case that he himself prays for them, and they themselves in his name, and both unto a Father who of himself loves them, and who has purposed to grant all, before either he or they should ask; what hope must there need be then of a good success! This is both the meaning of this place and a great truth to be considered on by us, to the purpose in hand. That it is the meaning of the place, the manner of Christ’s speech implies, “I say not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loves you.” It is such a speech as Christ used upon a clean contrary occasion in John 5:45, “Do not think (says he) that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you, even Moses.” He there threatens the obstinate and accursed Pharisees with condemnation. Never stand thinking that it is I (says he) who am your only enemy and accuser, that will procure your condemnation, and so prosecute the matter against you merely for my own interest, no, I shall not need to do it; though I should not accuse you, your own “Moses in whom you trust,” he is enough to condemn you, he will do your errand sufficiently, you would be sure to be damned by his words and sayings; I shall not need to trouble myself to come in and enter my action against you too, Moses and his law would follow the suit, and be enough to condemn you to hell. So as this speech does not imply that Christ will not at all accuse them; no, he means to bring in his action against them too, for he after says, “if he had not spoken to them, they had had no sin,” and therefore he meant to bring the greatest accusation of all.

Now, in an opposite (though parallel) speech here, to comfort his disciples, he says, “I say not that I will pray for you,” that God may save you, I who yourselves shall see will die for you, I say not that I will pray for you, not I. But though I speak this to insinuate in the highest manner that I will, for if I spend my blood for you, will I not spend my breath for you? Yet the truth is, that the case so stands, that but for God’s own ordination I should not need to do it, “for the Father himself loves you;” that is, the Father of his own motion and proper good will, taken up of himself towards you, and not wrought in him by me, does love you, and bears so much love to you, as he can deny you nothing, for he is “your Father” as well as mine. How much more then shall you be saved when I shall strike in too, and use all my interest in him for you? Christ on purpose uses this speech, so to dash out of their hearts that conceit which harbors in many of ours, who look upon God in the matter of salvation as one who is hardly entreated to come off to save sinners, and with whom Christ, through the backwardness of his heart, has so much ado. And we are apt to think that when he does come off to pardon, he does it only and merely at Christ’s entreaty and for his sake, having otherwise no innate motion in himself sufficient to incline his heart to it. But that it is in this transaction by Christ with him, as a favorite procures a pardon for a traitor, whose person the king cares not for, only at his favorite’s suit and request he grants it, which else he would never have done. You are deceived, says Christ, it is otherwise; my Father’s heart is as much towards you, and for your salvation, as mine is; himself, of himself, loves you. And the truth is, that God took up as vast a love unto us of himself at first as ever he has borne us since, and all that Christ does for us is but the expression of that love which was taken up originally in God’s own heart. Thus we find that out of that love he gave Christ for us.

So in John 3:16, “God so loved the world (of elect), that he gave his only begotten Son to die.” Yes, Christ’s death was but a means to commend or set forth that love of his unto us. So in Romans 5:10, it was God also that did himself give the persons unto Christ, and underhand set him on work to mediate for them. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself:” He only used Christ as his instrument to bring it honorably about. All the blessings he means to give us he first purposed and intended in himself (so Ephesians 1:3, 5, 9, 11, compared) “out of the good pleasure of his will.” Yet in Christ (as it is added there) as the means through which he would convey them; yes, Christ adds not one drop of love to God’s heart, only draws it out; he broaches it, and makes it flow forth, whose current had otherwise been stopped. The truth is, that God suborned Christ to beg them on our behalf for an honorable way of carrying it, as also to make us prize this favour the more; so as his heart is as ready to give all to us, as Christ’s is to ask and this out of his pure love to us.

The intercession therefore of Christ must necessarily speed, when God’s heart is thus of itself prepared to us. In Isaiah 53:10 it is said, “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” If our salvation be in Christ’s hand, it is in a good hand; but if it be the pleasure of the Lord too, it must necessarily prosper. It is said of our hearts and prayers, that “he prepares the heart, and hears the prayer;” much more therefore, when his own heart is prepared to grant the suit, will he easily hear it. When one has a mind to do a thing, then the least hint procures it of him. So a father having a mind to spare his child, he will take any excuse, any one’s mediation, even of a servant, a stranger, or an enemy, rather than of none.

Now, when Christ shall speak for us, and speak God’s own heart, how prevalent must those words need be! David’s soul, “longing to go forth unto Absalom,” in 2 Samuel 13:39, whom notwithstanding, for the honor of a father and a king’s state policy, and to satisfy the world, he had banished the court for his treason. When Joab perceived it, that “the king’s heart was towards Absalom,” in 2 Samuel 14:1, and that the king only needed one to speak a good word for him, he suborns a woman, a stranger (no matter whom, for it had been all one for speeding), with a made tale to come to the king. And you know how easily it took and prevailed with him, and how glad the king’s heart was of that occasion; even so acceptable it was to him, that Joab could not have done him a greater kindness, and that Joab knew well enough. Thus it is with God’s heart towards us, Christ assures us of it, and you may believe him in this case. For Christ might have took all the honor to himself, and made us beholden to himself alone for all God’s kindness to us; but he deals plainly, and tells us that his Father is as ready as himself, and this he does for his Father’s honor and our comfort. And therefore it is that in John 17, in that this prayer so often cited in this discourse, he pleads our election, “Yours they were, and thou gavest them me,” John 17:6. You commended them unto me, and bids me pray for them, and I do but commend the same to you again. In the high priest’s breastplate, when he went into the holy of holies, were set twelve stones on which were written the names of the twelve tribes, the mystery of which is this: Christ bears us and our names in his heart when he goes to God; and moreover, we are God’s jewels, precious in his own account and choice. So God calls them in Malachi 3:17, “Made precious to him out of his love,” Isaiah 43:4. So that God loves us as jewels chosen by him, but much more when he beholds us set and presented unto him in the breastplate of Christ’s heart and prayer.

To conclude therefore, we have now made both ends of this text to meet, God’s love and Christ’s intercession. The apostle began with that, “Who shall accuse? It is God that justifies;” and he being for us, “who can be against us?” The Father himself loves us, as he is our Father. And then he ends with this, “Christ intercedes,” namely with our Father and his Father, “who then shall condemn?” Who or what can possibly condemn, all these things being for us, the least of which were alone enough to save us?

Let us now look round about and take a full view and prospect at once, of all those particulars that Christ has done and does for us, and their several and joint influence which they have into our salvation.

  • 1. In that Christ died, it assures us of a perfect price paid for, and a right to eternal life thereby acquired.

  • 2. In that he rose again as a common person, this assures us yet further that there is a formal, legal, and irrevocable act of justification of us passed and enrolled in that court of heaven between Christ and God; and that in his being then justified, we were also justified in him, so that thereby our justification is made past recalling.

  • 3. Christ’s ascension into heaven is a further act of his taking possession of heaven for us, he then formally entering upon that our right in our stead; and so is a further confirmation of our salvation to us. But still we in our won persons are not yet saved, this being but done to us as we are representatively in Christ as our head.

  • 4. Therefore he sits at God’s right hand, which imports his being armed and invested with “all power in heaven and earth, to give and apply eternal life to us.”

  • 5. And last of all there remains intercession, to finish and complete our salvation; to do the thing, even to save us. And as Christ’s death and resurrection were to procure our justification, so his sitting at God’s right hand and intercession are to procure salvation; and by faith we may see it done, and behold our souls not only sitting in heaven, as in Christ a common person sitting there in our right, as an evidence that we shall come thither; but also through Christ’s intercession begun, we may see ourselves actually possessed of heaven. And there I will leave all you that are believers by faith possessed of it, and solacing your souls in it, and do you fear condemnation if you can.
Section Five :: Chapter Eight ← Prior Section
Section Five :: Chapter Ten Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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