We commonly held viewamong us is that, when we pray, the Lord Jesus seeks the presence and hearing of God on our behalf. Accordingly many feel that Jesus Christ adds his appeals to ours that the Father may act favorably to our requests. The view is expressed clearly in Hymn 258:
He died, but lives always, and in the holy stands
To plead for saints who pray, to hold up failing hands:
Our advocate abides in heav’n
That erring saints may be forgiv’n.
We other priests deny, and laws, and offerings too;
None but the Priest on high the mighty work can do:
Through him, then all our praise be given,
Who pleads his household’s cause in heaven.
Behind this thinking is our feeling that the Lord Jesus is more sympathetic to our plight than the Father because, in the days of his mortality, Jesus, too, had to wrestle with the powerful lusts of the flesh. In addition, we see Moses, and others, pleading to God on behalf of Israel, and we see the Lord Jesus himself praying for his followers in John 17.
Reasons to question that Christ pleads for us
There are three main reasons to have serious misgivings about the idea that Christ now, at this present time, pleads to the Father on our behalf.
1. In John 16:26-27, the Lord very clearly and directly contradicts the idea that, once he is glorified, he will pray the Father for us. “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loves you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” In his exposition of this section of John’s gospel (Tidings July-August, 2005, pg. 307-308), Bro. Tom Barling saw the difficulty of reconciling this passage with the notion that Jesus pleads with the Father on our behalf. The Lord himself says he will not do so. The Lord’s reason for making this point is the very character of God Himself.
2. The ultimate moral standard for the Son was the Father. In John 14:9-10 we read, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father…I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” This rather obviously does not refer to physical attributes but to the behavior, word, and works of the Lord Jesus. Since the character attributes of God were duplicated by the Lord Jesus even in the days of his flesh, how much more is this true now that he is immortalized at the right hand of the Father. “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) makes the same point; the standards, decisions, and objectives of the Son are identical to those of the Father. As they think alike, it thus is hardly appropriate to suggest the Son is more merciful than the Father. A careful reading of Hebrews 1:3 reveals the same point: “He [Jesus], reflecting God’s bright glory and stamped with God’s own character…” (Moffat’s version which comes close to the sense of the Greek). The Son is thus neither more loving nor more severe than the Father; the Son is identical in character and attitude to God.
3. The Lord Jesus has been given all the power he needs to forgive our sins and help us in our needs. During the days of his mortality, the Lord Jesus had authority to forgive sins (e.g. Mk. 2:5-11). Now, exalted to the Father’s right hand, all power in heaven and earth is given to him (Mt. 28:18). In his present position, the Lord surely has the power to forgive our sins himself and act on our behalf himself. The Father gave the Son this power, position and authority: “When he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places…and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:20-22). Furthermore the Father has already delegated to the Son the power and authority to raise from dead whomever Jesus decides to raise. And the Father has delegated to the Son all authority and power to exercise judgment over all persons as to eternal life or death (John 5:21-27). Thus the Lord Jesus does not have to seek the Father’s permission or authority to act on our behalf. The Father has already granted such power and authority to him.
Here, then, are three very compelling reasons to question the common idea that the Lord Jesus pleads our case to the Father.
Christ the one mediator for all
We rightly believe in the mediatorial role of the Lord Jesus. One of our key first principle passages is I Timothy 2:5: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
But we very likely misunderstand the biblical role of a mediator. We tend to equate it with what a mediator does in our society – going back and forth between two parties, who have different points of view, but are seeking to reconcile. In our situation, the mediator conveys ideas and requests between the two parties, adding some suggestions of his own, until a mutually acceptable agreement is reached.
This is not what scripture means by a mediator. In scripture, the mediator is one who conveys the covenant of God to human beings. It is a one-way street, from God to people.
Moses provides the key to a right understanding of the mediator in scripture. Consider two verses:
Galatians 3:19-20, “Wherefore then serveth the law?…it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.”
Acts 7:37-38, “This is that Moses…that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us…”
These statements are alluding back to the giving of the law at Sinai. At that time, seeing “the thunderings, and the lightings, and the noise of the trumpet and the mountain smoking…they [the people] said unto Moses, ‘Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die’” (Ex. 20:18-19). At the end of the 40 years, Moses would remind them, “I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD; for ye were afraid…” (Deut. 5:5). “And the LORD heard the voice of your words…but as for thee [Moses] stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them…” (Deut. 5:28,31). Moses was thus the mediator through whom God communicated the covenant to Israel. This was not the role of a mediator as in our society. This was a one-way communication of the statutes, ordinances, and promises of God to the people.
In the New Testament, Christ in his role of mediator is in exactly the same role as Moses: communicating the new covenant from God to all people. Consider the references in Hebrews: Now Jesus is the “the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises…And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament…And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant…” (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Every instance refers to the case of communicating a covenant, the new covenant which Jesus Christ relays from God to humankind.
And Christ is the only one from whom this new covenant can be learned. He is the one mediator between God and mankind. The new covenant is not relayed from God to people through Muhammad, or Buddha or Confucius, or any other source. That is why Paul urges the believers to pray for the authorities that peaceable conditions will exist to foster his role as “a teacher of the Gentiles.” There is only one way for people to be saved, that is through the preaching of the one saving gospel as there is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:1-7). Look carefully at the context in this passage to see that it is clearly in regard to preaching the gospel to all mankind. Thus the reference to Christ as mediator is exactly in harmony with what we have seen in relation to the role of Moses.
(To be continued, God willing, as we comment further on Christ as mediator, advocate and intercessor.)