Last week we defined the exaltation of Christ. I said that Christ’s exaltation, which began at his resurrection, continued through his ascension, and will culminate in his return, is the biblical witness to Christ’s dominion over all things. God’s right hand is the image of his power and authority, and at his right hand is where Christ is enthroned.
I also said that Christ is praying for us, and we are assured that the Father hears the prayers of the Son. So let’s look at that a little deeper.
Intercession. noun. Prayers by the Son and the Spirit directed to the Father on behalf of God’s people.
Paul makes it clear that the Son is definitely at the right hand of the Father and is praying for us. He says in Romans 8:34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
And the author of Hebrews wrote, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25).
But what is interceding? Is it a special kind of prayer? Can only Jesus do it? Maybe the Spirit?
Intercession happens all the time in forms other than prayer. Another word for intercession is mediation, one we may be more familiar with. This is what some lawyers do. Trial lawyers mediate on behalf of a defendant or plaintiff by speaking for them in front of a jury and judge. Lawyers do this because they know the right things to say in the right contexts. They know the law better than us plebs. You and I may not know when we’re about to step in it, and our lawyer is there to do the walking for us. In a court system, you want a lawyer.
We intercede for people in prayer, however, all the time. Whenever you pray for someone else, you’re interceding on their behalf. If you’re praying for someone’s salvation, returned health for the sick, or safety in someone’s travels, you’re interceding. And more generally, when you pray for the end of abortion or success in missionary endeavors, you’re interceding. Much of prayer should be intercession.
But back to Jesus and the Spirit. How exactly is Jesus interceding, or mediating, for us? We get a glimpse of that in 1 John 2:1. John wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Sin is the problem. Jesus’s blood is the solution. His once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice covers over our sin. And yet we still sin, and we will until this life is over or he returns. But, like a lawyer before a judge, Jesus Christ is advocating for us before the only righteous Judge. He is, in effect, saying, “Look at my blood, not their sin. You sent me in their place, and I went willfully. Look at me, not them.”
Will not the judge of all the earth do what is just?
Jesus is not re-sacrificed when he intercedes, mediates, or advocates for us. On the cross, he said, “It is finished.” But Jesus continually prays for us and advocates for us before the Father. And the Spirit continually applies that redemption to people in real time. That’s how we know our salvation is assured in this moment.
But what about the Spirit? How is his intercession like or different from Christ’s? Paul wrote in Romans 8:25-26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
So while it might be said to be a difference without a distinction, the Spirit prays for us in Spiritual ways.
Jesus intercedes for us so that we are saved. Our Father is not so wishy-washy that Jesus is trying to convince him we’re still “worth saving”. Jesus intercedes for us because, like John wrote, we still sin. But, that means his blood is still the saving kind.
In Romans 8, Paul wrote that we have “the first-fruits of the Spirit”. Even more so than the rest of the world, the church groans for new creation because we’ve tasted it in the Spirit. We wait for adoption and redemption; this is our great hope. And the suffering around us doesn’t compare to the glory ahead of us.
Throughout Romans 8, Paul has outlined the work of the Spirit. In verse 2, it’s the Spirit’s law that freed us from sin and death. In verse 4, it’s the Spirit who makes us walk in righteousness. In verse 6, the mind set on the Spirit gives life and peace. In verse 11, the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. In verse 13, the Spirit helps us kill the sin that remains. In verse 14, the Spirit leads the sons of God. In verse 15, the Spirit assures us of our adoption. In verse 16, the Spirit aligns our spirit with his to assure us of our adoption. In verse 23, the Spirit guarantees redemption.
And if that’s not enough, Paul then wrote in verses 26-27 that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Every moment, our physical decay picks up speed. We only get weaker. Our bodies groan for redemption. Every moment, we become more and more aware of the decaying nature of not only our bodies but the world. And we become more aware of sin's deep-seated effects.
Up until this point in the passage, Paul has been summarizing what the Spirit will do. But today, the Spirit prays for us. In this moment, the Spirit intercedes for our heartbroken groaning about the things that are not right in us and in the world because of rebellion against God.
We may not always know the will of God for each and every moment, but that’s okay. The Spirit does, and that’s enough, because the Spirit prays for us “according to the will of God.” If the Spirit prays in God’s will and we seek to walk in the Spirit, we will be in God’s will. Don’t get frustrated when you don’t have a point-by-point outline for your future. The Spirit will guide you.
The church need not be a worrisome, frustrated, panicky people. Jesus is interceding on our behalf, and his blood has already paid the debt. The Spirit guides us in our daily lives and guarantees our future in God’s kingdom. What more could be done?