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The Intercession of Christ

Francis Turretin (1623-1687) - The Most Precise Theologian of the Reformation Era

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“Every decree of God is eternal; therefore it cannot depend upon a condition which takes place only in time. (2) God’s decrees depend on his good pleasure (eudokia) (Mt. 11:26; Eph. 1:5; Rom. 9:11). Therefore they are not suspended upon any condition outside of God. (3) Every decree of God is immutable (Is. 46:10; Rom. 9:11).”

The Scholastic Reformer explains how Jesus Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of God.

Fifteenth Question: The Intercession of Christ: Why and how does Christ intercede for us?

I. The other part of Christ’s priestly office consists in intercession. Concern­ing this three things may be remarked: (1) its necessity; (2) its unity; (3) its mode and nature. Of its unity, we treated under the unity of the Mediator (Question 4). We must now discuss briefly its necessity and its nature or mode.

II. Various arguments prove the necessity of his interces­sion. ( 1 ) The institution of God, who wished two parts to Christ’s inter- be in the priesthood-satisfaction and intercession; just cession is ~roved: as under the Old Testament the high priest was bound to do two things in virtue of his office-first, to offer a victim upon the altar of whole burnt offerings; second, to carry the blood of the offered victim into the holy place and to burn incense upon the altar of incense. Having finished his sacrifice on earth upon the cross, Christ must intercede in heaven. Hence Paul testifies if he were on earth, he should not be a priest (Heb. 8:4) because he ought not to exer­cise his service (leitourgian) in an earthly temple (one made with hands), but in the heavenly.

III. ( 2 ) The method of our salvation; it was not sufficient to obtain salvation once, unless it could be perpetually preserved and applied. Christ obtained the former by his satisfaction, but the latter he should procure by his inter­

cession. By the former, he obtained salvation; by the latter he preserves it. By the former, he purchased the right to life and reconciled us to God; by the latter, he actually admits us to a participation of life and continually keeps us when once established in the grace of God. ‘

IV (3) The consideration of our unworthiness; since we are not such as could approach God by ourselves (who is a consuming fire), it was necessary that a Mediator should interpose for our help to secure our access to God so that we might come with confidence to the throne of grace. And because we offend God every day, we need an advocate to intercede for us every day.

V (4) The accusation of the Devil; for as he continually criminates and accuses us to God, we have need of a most efficacious advocate to plead our cause before God, against the charges of a most unjust adversary-to stop his mouth (Zech. 3:2) and to wash away the guilt of the crimes laid to our charge (Rom. 8:33).

VI. Concerning the nature of his intercession, the Socinians err maintaining that it is to be understood figuratively and as properly belonging to his kingly office and that nothing else is meant by it than that “Christ, furnished with divine power, zealously accomplishes all things pertaining to the method of our salvation,” as Volkelius expresses it (De vera Religione 3.38 [1630], p. 149). They wish this to be designated by the word “intercession” that it may appear that Christ has the power to govern us and to procure our salvation, not at all from himself, but from the Father. Thus they overthrow the whole priesthood of Christ, making him a pure King. But the orthodox think that a real intercession is to be held as a part of his priestly office, distinct from the kingly.

VII. The reasons are: ( 1 ) Christ is everywhere introduced as performing the office of intercession, not as a King, but as a Priest: “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24, 25). The apostle manifestly alludes to the high priest of the Old Testament, who, having offered the sacrifice, entered into the holy place with the blood of the victim to intercede for the people. Hence it is described by appearing (emphanismon) be­fore the face of God, which cannot be referred to an exercise of his regal power, but properly to a priestly intercession.

VIII. (2) In the same sense, he is called our Advocate (parakletos) with God (1 Jn. 2:1) that he may supplicate for the pardon of our sins and plead our cause as an Advocate and defender with God against the slanderous charges of Satan, “the accuser [kategorou] of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). The Holy Spirit is indeed distinguished by the same name (Jn. 14:26), but with a different meaning. For as the word sometimes signifies an adviser or teacher and master, sometimes an ad­vocate, then again a comforter, Christ is properly called a parakletos under the second notion on account of his intercession. But the Holy Spirit is so called under the first and third because they belong to him both as teacher and master (who must lead us into all truth) and as consoler to encourage us by the promises of grace and to excite in us groanings which cannot be uttered, by which we may cry unto God.

IX. (3) In Rev. 8:3, the intercession of Christ is represented to us by the angel with the golden censer, to whom was given much incense to offer with the pray­ers of the saints on the golden altar before the throne. These are truly sacerdotal, not kingly acts. For it is elsewhere proved that this can be referred only to Christ, the objections of our opponents being refuted.

X. (4) If his intercession is nothing else than an employment of the kingly power, these two offices (carefully distinguished in Scripture) would be con­founded. Nor should Christ have been adumbrated by and compared with priests, but with kings only.

XI. The intercession ascribed to Christ does not derogate from his glory because it is not supplicatory and after the manner of a request (like that of saints on earth and men praying for themselves); but an efficacious address after the manner of jurisdiction (as it is commonly called) by which Christ repeatedly represents to God his blood once shed that by its virtue and efficacy our sins may be pardoned and the gift of perseverance granted to us. This proves an economy of office, but does not lessen his glory. On this account, Paul claims both dis­tinctly for Christ, his sitting at the right hand and his intercession for us (Rom. 8:34), in order to indicate that both properly belong to him: the former belongs to him as a King; the latter to him as a Priest.

XII. As the humanity of Christ does not hinder us from invoking and adoring him as a supreme and omnipotent King because he is not a mere man, but the eternal God equally with the Father; so his divine and regal power does not preventhim from interceding for us because he is God-man (theanthropos) and as such the Mediator between God and men.

XIII. As to the mode of his intercession: ( 1 ) the circum­stances of prayer are not to be considered as belonging to it, as if he knelt after the manner of suppliants, raised his hands or eyes to heaven and prostrated himself before God

(which would be inconsistent with the glory he obtained by his sitting down at the right hand of God); but only the substance of prayer, by which he declares and asks for the blessings necessary to us. (2) This intercession made either in express words or interpretatively; more in things than in words by a representation of his death in heaven, in which the blood of Christ is said to speak (Heb. 12:24). (3) In whatever manner it is made, we must not suppose that

it is made to obtain anything by way of new merit because Christ finished all things in his death (as he himself testifies, Jn. 17:4; 19:30, as does Paul, Heb. 7:28; 10:14). Rather we must hold that what he acquired for us by the merit of his death may be actually and efficaciously applied to us for salvation.

XIV This intercession consists of various acts. ( 1 ) The appearing of Christ for us by which he places himself before God the Father as the only satisfier for our sins, representing the blood once shed (i.e., the merit of his death) and asking that at the sight of it he would pardon our sins and bestow upon us all blessings necessary to salvation, until he has conducted us into the possession of full felicity: Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (Jn. 17:24). Hence the Lamb is seen standing in heaven, as it had been slain (hos esphagmenos, Rev. 5:6) because his blood is ever fresh and living (i.e., of eternal virtue and efficacy). (2) Our defense and protec­tion against the thunderbolts of the law and the accusations of Satan, pleading our cause at the tribunal of God. (3) His suretyship for us by which as he demands grace from the Father and the gifts of the Spirit necessary to our perseverance, so in turn in our name he promises to God obedience and fidelity. (4) The offering of our persons and the sanctification of our prayers and of our entire worship, inasmuch as he presents all our prayers to God as spiritual sacrifices, perfumed with the most fragrant odor of his own sacrifice, so that in and through him they may be pleasing and acceptable to God (1 Pet. 2:5). Hence he is represented as an angel with a burning censer (Rev. 8:3) to whom is given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of saints. Elsewhere he is called an altar upon which all our sacrifices must be placed and on which alone the rational worship render to God can be pleasing to him.

XV. Hence it appears how widely and greatly the prayers which believers offer r each other differ from the intercession of Christ. For Christ alone intercedes for us, relying upon his own merit and righteousness, by himself alone and on account of himself obtains what he seeks, approaches God by himself immediately and without any other intercessor, by himself stands in our place and appears before God, by himself offers to God our persons, prayers and actions. But believers neither rely upon their own merit, nor seek nor obtain anything by and on account of themselves, but only in the name of Christ. Nor do they dare approach imme­diately to God without Christ, nor presume to stand in our place before God, nor can they present to him our persons and prayers. Hence the Romanists unite the intercession of Christ with secondary intercessors with no less sacrilege than when they unite his sacrifice with secondary priests; nor is this crime diminished by their distinction between mediators of intercession and mediators of redemption (as has already been seen).

XVI. But when intercession is ascribed to Christ, it must not be so restricted to his human nature as to remove it wholly from the divine considered in per­sonal union with it. Although it cannot belong to the latter with respect to essence absolutely (since it is one with the Father under this relation [schesei]), prayer cannot be predicated of it (by which he demands something from the Father). Still there is nothing to prevent our ascribing intercession to it according to the economy of grace because to pray is just as consistent with it as to take the form of a servant and to undertake the mediatorial work.

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