Christ’s intercession in heaven is unseen but that does not mean we cannot see the benefits and effects of it. Because it is unseen we are inclined to forget about it and not derive the comfort and help we should. The more we meditate on it, the more it ought to fill us with a sense of wonder. As we consider our own weakness and neglect in prayer by contrast it helps us to think that He is more conscious of our spiritual needs than we are. He knows the spiritual dangers we face better than we do. The more we contemplate Christ’s intercession the better we would be able to trace the benefits we experience from it.
Christ’s intercession for believers is continual (Hebrews 7:25). Andrew Gray opens up something of its nature and benefits with a sense of wonder. He says that this “divine action of Christ’s interceding at the right hand of God for sinners, is that in which a sinner may behold much spotless condescension and much boundless compassion”. It is a great mystery indeed to “behold infinite majesty standing as a suppliant before the throne of God”.
If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me – Robert Murray M’Cheyne.
What is the nature of this intercession? Gray speaks of it as “successful” because Christ has infinite power. The Father also gives Christ whatever He requests (John 11:22). The Father has a “precious delight” in “doing good to sinners”. Christ “intercedes with a great deal of brotherly affection and sympathy for us”. “Christ is more affected with the miseries of His own than they themselves are”. It is also a constant intercession. This “consideration may sweetly engage our souls to Christ”:
when you are all asleep in the silent watches of the night, Christ is standing at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for you
Andrew Gray also draws out helpfully the following ways “in which Christ’s intercession reveals itself”.
1. When We Are Tempted
When a believer is surrounded with temptations, Christ intercedes for him, as we see in relation to Peter in Luke 22:31-32. Christ prays for His own in the world to be kept from evil (John 17:15). I would only say to you concerning this to lay more strength on Christ’s intercession than on your own prayers. Were you never convinced that all the strength that comes to you to put to death even one lust is by Christ’s intercession? I confess that there are many works that Christ does for us which we do not at all acknowledge He has done.
2. When We Are Discouraged
Christ’s intercession for us with the Father also shows itself when believers are under the spirit of discouragement. It is then that Christ prays for their consolation. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). Is it not Christ’s great purpose to have His own refreshed in a strange land?
3. When We Pray
Christ’s intercession shows itself toward us in relation to our prayers. He stands at the throne of grace, pleading for the acceptance of the prayers and petitions that believers send up to God. An excellent purpose of His intercession is for believers to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). In Revelation 8:3-4, John saw an angel standing at the altar (this is usually understood to be Jesus Christ). There was given unto Him much incense, which represents His merits making the prayers of His people to be accepted. He offered the incense with the prayers of the saints before God.
I desire then to mention the three works that Christ performs concerning the prayers of believers.
(a) Christ sweetly takes away the superfluities and redundancies that are in our prayers. Christ puts all the prayers of believers in a new frame, and He cuts off all expressions that may render our prayers unsavoury to God. Is that not an excellent work?
(b) Christ takes our prayers and supplications and presents them to the Father.
(c) Christ stands before the throne of God, pleading for an answer and return to our prayers. Do you know the reason why Christians get so few answers and returns to their prayers? It is because they do not make use of Christ’s intercession surely; otherwise they would get answers to their prayers. He has promised that whatever we ask in His name, that is, through His intercession, we receive it.
4. When Sin Has Ensnared Us
Christ’s intercession shows itself when sinners are taken and ensnared in sin. He intercedes for their pardon, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He answers the charges that are laid against us and intercedes with the Father for all our offences done against Him to be forgotten. He is praying today that our sins may be buried in that immense sea of everlasting forgetfulness. We see this in Zechariah 3:2-3 where Christ answers the challenges of the devil against believers.
5. When We Experience an Extended Time of Trouble
When believers are under a long and painful period of troubles, Christ prays that they may have release from that condition. This is clearly illustrated in Zechariah 1:12. In this passage, Christ as a priest is making intercession for believers. An explanation is made to Christ in verse 15 of chapter 1 “For I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction”.
6. When We Face Death
The last aspect in which Christ’s intercession reveals itself is this. He intercedes with the Father, that those for whom He died should be where He is, to partake of the everlasting depths of that precious and blessed happiness that is above. We see this in the prayer of Christ recorded in John 17:24 that they may be “with me, where I am; that they may behold my glory”. We do not know whether that looks more like a prayer or a command, but certainly it is a most imperious prayer. Christ longs for believers to come where He is.
We need to make use of Christ’s intercession. Gray gives three reasons why believers make so little use of Christ’s intercession.
(a) most of us do not believe in the power of the spiritual virtue of Christ’s intercession. It is a mystery to us, a great mystery even to a Christian’s faith to believe the power of Christ’s intercession for them.
(b) we are not living under a spiritual conviction of the absolute necessity of the things we seek in prayer. The result is formalism in prayer.
(c) we are not deeply convinced of the sweet delight of that which we are seeking from God in prayer; therefore, we seek it with great coldness of affection.
We must value the benefits that we receive by Christ’s intercession, if we are believers.
(a) It strengthens justifying faith like a pillar (Romans 8:34). Indeed that verse mentions four pillars of justifying faith: Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and intercession.
(b) It is evidence that Christ will finish the work of your salvation and lead you within the borders of eternity. Christ will save to the utmost all that come to Him through faith.
(c) It persuades Christians of Christ’s infinite love towards them.
(d) It is an excellent encouragement to go to the Father and pray to Him. It greatly helps the duty of prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16).