Saturday, June 24, 2006

Jesus: Our Perfect Mediator

Preface: I wrote this a long time ago and truly regret the fact that I failed to footnote my sources. I now have no idea where each idea and statement came. Just know up front that I do not claim credit for all of this.
The very first chapter in Hebrews demonstrates Jesus’ superiority over the old shadows of the Jewish system. Every chapter that follows expands on this theme. Chapter seven introduces Jesus as a superior priest. The NT closely connects the work of Christ as our High Priest with His death on the cross. In this passage, we are told that Jesus, since He lives forever, has an unchangeable or permanent priesthood. Because of this (and in opposition to the earthly priests who pass away), He is able to save completely. He is not the Great Assistor who makes it possible for men to save themselves.
Hebrews 7:24-26
But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Because Christ holds His priesthood permanently, He, as opposed to the Jewish priests, is able to save COMPLETELY, FOREVER, TO THE UTTERMOST. WHY is Jesus able to save forever? Because He intercedes for them. So if Jesus intercedes for those who are lost, the passage makes no sense. The biblical truth is that if Jesus intercedes for you, you will be saved.

Also, we see that He is able to save completely a PARTICULAR PEOPLE, i.e., “those who come to God through Him.” Of this group, Jesus, “lives to intercede for them.” At first glance, this seems to refute the position. However, as we [know], man can not naturally draw near to God. Only those whom God draws approach the cross (John 6:44, 65). Furthermore, would Christ (Does Christ?) intercede for those who are NOT approaching God? Christ’s intercession is only on behalf of the people of God. Christ’s intercession is for all of those for whom He dies.

Upon what ground does Christ intercede with the Father? Does He appear before God and ask the Father to forget His holiness and justice and simply pass over the sins of men? Of course not! The Son intercedes before the Father on the BASIS of HIS DEATH. Christ’s intercession is based on the fact that He has died as a substitute and has borne believers’ sins on His body and has placated the Father’s wrath through His act of propitiation. Just as the High Priest of old could not intercede for anyone without a sacrifice, so too does our Great High Priest not make intercession without atonement.

Someone might say that just because Christ intercedes for someone does not mean they will be saved. However, in the context of the passage, the writer is arguing the superiority of Christ as priest. The old priests could indeed intercede for an individual to no effect. If Christ does likewise, how is He superior?
Hebrews 9:11-12
11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
Did Christ enter the Holy Place having made salvation a “possibility”? When Jesus entered the Holy of Holies, He did so “once for all.” This refers to time (once for all time) not scope (once for all individuals). He did so by “His own blood.” When He did this, we are told that He had ALREADY “obtained eternal redemption.” This is not theoretical or hypothetical but a statement of fact. Christ did not enter the sanctuary to attempt to gain redemption; He entered HAVING ALREADY OBTAINED IT. So then, what is He doing here? Christ is presenting before the Father His perfect and complete sacrifice. He is our High Priest and the sacrifice He offers is Himself. We see the following truths:

  1. The Son will intercede for everyone for whom He died. If Christ died as their Substitute, how could He not present His sacrifice in their stead before the Father? Can we believe that Christ would die or mediate for someone He did not intend to save? Can we further believe that God would accept that sacrifice - as a substitute - and then reject it later based on man's rejection?
  2. Anyone for whom Christ dies will receive Christ’s intercession. If Christ did NOT die in behalf of a certain individual, then Christ will not intercede for that individual because He will not have the grounds on which to seek the Father’s mercy.
  3. No one for whom Christ dies will be lost. Can we imagine Christ interceding for someone and pleading His perfect atonement and then the Father rejecting the intercession? The Bible tells us the Father ALWAYS hears the Son (John 11:42). Would the Father not hear the Son’s pleas in behalf of a man the Son wants to save? If so, then there is incredible disagreement and disunity in the Trinity.
Hebrews 9:24-26
24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Again, we see the finality of Christ’s work. It further says He appeared in order to “DO AWAY” with sin (other versions say “PUT AWAY”). If His self-sacrifice does indeed “put away” sin, how can man FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED be held accountable for those same sins?
Hebrews 10:8-14
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
What does the ONE offering of the body of Christ ACCOMPLISH? Answer: the setting apart, or sanctification of believers. Read carefully and consider the following:

What is the effect of the one time sacrifice of the body of Christ? Verse 10 above tells us that we have been made holy or sanctified! The Greek language is perfect tense, indicating a past and completed action. The death of Christ ACTUALLY makes us holy. Do we believe this? Did the death of Christ actually set apart those for whom the death was made? Or did it simply make possible the future sanctification?

1 comment:

Jim Pemberton said...

"I wrote this a long time ago..."

Was this prior to your apotheosis as a reformed theologian (particularly your full assent to limited atonement a couple of years ago)?