In recent issues of the Tidings,we have featured comments on the present activity and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. The November and December editorials commented on Christ’s position as the mediator of the New Testament. We noted that the scriptural concept of a mediator is different from the way we would use the term in business or every-day matters. In scripture, Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant, and Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant, do not negotiate between God and man to work out an arrangement suitable to both parties. Rather, in scripture the mediator conveys the covenant from God to the uncovenanted. The mediator is God’s representative giving the covenant from God to man.
The point was stressed that Jesus is not our mediator conveying our requests to God. We noted that in John 16:26-27 Jesus very specifically says he will not do that, because it is not necessary, as the Father Himself loves us.
Not only does Christ specifically say he will not pray the Father for us but to think of him now praying to the Father on our behalf fails to recognize two fundamental points:
- The Son is neither more loving nor more severe than the Father; the Son is identical in character and attitude to God. So if the Son thinks we should be forgiven or helped in a certain matter, so does the Father, and vice versa. As Jesus says, if you have seen him, you have seen the Father.
- The Son has been given full authority over all matters relating to the ecclesia. The Lord Jesus does not need to ask the Father to forgive us, or help us, as the Father has already given the Son such authority and power.
The January editorial then explained the term “advocate” and noted it is the word for “comforter.” While some translations have in mind a court scene where Christ is standing by our side seeking to appease an angry God, this is wholly contradictory to scripture. In John 14-16, where the idea of the “comforter” is amplified, we noted that it is clear that Father and Son work side by side answering prayers and helping the believer. Furthermore, we pointed out that the Father is seen in the Old Testament and in the epistles as being the source and definition of the One who comforts us.
As further amplification of this topic, the January magazine included an extensive exposition by Bro. John Launchbury on the “The Present Work of Christ.” John reinforced some of our editorial comments and, in addition, provided excellent explanations on the role of Christ as priest and intercessor. A letter to the editor was also included noting that the view of an angry God being appeased and pleaded with by Christ has roots in the religion of Calvin and those who followed him.
In this issue, an article is included by Bro. Alan Fowler reflecting on the personal relationship we can have with the Lord Jesus both in prayer and meditation.
We have given this topic extensive coverage because of its important bearing on our personal attitudes to the Father and the Son and because we feel it has needed discussion in the community. Inevitably, however, certain questions have been raised.
Isn’t John 17 an intercessory prayer to the Father by Jesus?
Yes, it is. The setting, however, is before Christ was glorified and before he was given all power in heaven and earth.
The prayer begins with the Lord’s request that he be glorified by the Father according to God’s plan and promise. “Glorify thy Son” (John 17:1) he says. He had not yet been glorified.
His prayer continued: “Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (v. 5). The Lord was about to humble himself even to the death on the cross. Upon his resurrection, he was to be given a name above every name, exalted above the angels, elevated to the Father’s right hand, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Phil. 9-11; Eph. 1:20-21; I Pet. 3:21-22). But that had not happened yet.
In the hours prior to the prayer of John 17, Jesus had said to the eleven: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” But he hadn’t gone there yet. He continued: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do…If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” But he was not yet in that position. He was still a mortal human being praying that the Father would do according to the Father’s plan. Later in his discourse he makes the matter even clearer: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 14:12-14; 16:23-24).
The exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the right hand of God brought about a major change in the status, power and dominion of our Lord. It is this present position of our Lord that we sometimes do not fully comprehend.
Because of the Lord’s present authority, should we pray to him?
This is the issue addressed in Bro. Alan Fowler’s article. The precedents in the New Testament are more heavily weighted to addressing our prayers to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, as Alan notes, there are many examples of requests directed to the Lord Jesus as well; and I Corinthians 8:6 provides a concise summary of the present order of things: “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” The Father is the source, and Christ is the means by whom things are carried out in relation to ourselves.
The formula we commonly use in our private and public prayers is to address the Father in the name of the Son. This maintains a proper balance and recognition so long as we realize the Father wants us to honor the Son even as we honor the Father (John 5:23). Accordingly, since Father and Son are working together to answer prayer and to help us to the kingdom, it is wholly appropriate for us to thank, praise and “speak to” the Son, as we do in many of our hymns.
If God is so merciful, should we intercede on behalf of others?
Yes. Moses did on behalf of Israel, and his prayer was answered. Nehemiah’s prayer was answered in respect to helping rebuild Jerusalem. The prayer of Mordecai and the Jews was answered in regard to Esther. By one count, of the 650 prayers recorded in scripture, 450 are recorded as being answered. Praying for others is good for us, it focuses our attention on the needs of others, it is according to scripture, and prayer changes things.
We see things from our point of view and thankfully, very graciously, the Lord God of heaven and earth considers requests from ourselves, who look at things from our limited and mortal perspective. And, on occasion, the Father and the Son answer such requests.
Let us not think, however, that the Son is more merciful, or loving, or comforting than the Father, for the Father’s conduct defines comfort, love, and mercy. Let us not think that the Son now adds his prayers to ours to petition the Father on our behalf, for the Son has been given all the authority and power he needs by the gracious action of the Father. Let us not think that our problem is with the Father; it is with sin. Let us recognize that the intercessory work of Christ is to help us overcome the sin that so persistently besets us.
Let us have a right attitude that honors the Father and the Son as the Father has, in all things related to this dispensation and the one to come, exalted the Son above every name that is named.