Christ Our Advocate

(His Appeal to the Father)

QUESTION: If the Father is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere, why do we need the Son to advocate on our behalf? Surely the Father already feels and understands everything the Son does.

ANSWER: Christ our Advocate. That's a most interesting subject. And, with it, we move into an area where little has been revealed in the Word of God. Not only that, some of these things are beyond words, and beyond our comprehension, even if they could somehow be expressed verbally. A couple of thoughts, in response.

1) God the Father is a spirit Being (Jn. 4:24), and therefore incorporeal and invisible. The Spirit of God is, likewise. And even God the Son, though He took on our humanity, somehow didn't lose the attributes of deity (Col. 2:9). Either through the Holy Spirit, or in His own Person, Christ is still omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; Jn. 3:13, NKJV).

However, even though God is an invisible spirit, in order for us to comprehend His working, and be assured of His presence, He has sometimes taken on a physical form, or revealed Himself in ways that are observable to human beings. For example, the Holy Spirit appeared like a dove at Christ's baptism (Matt. 3:16).

Added to this, we have the poetic imagery of the Bible. For instance, Isaiah says, "The LORD has made bare His holy arm" (Isa. 52:10), and we get the idea of someone rolling up his sleeves to get to work. Or the psalmist (Moses, I believe) writes, "He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge" (Ps. 91:4), picturing a mother bird sheltering her chicks under her wings.

We're not expected to believe that God has sleeves and feathers. These poetic pictures are, to use a technical term, anthropomorphic. They portray an immaterial spirit Being in physical and observable terms, so we can get a better idea of what God does.

Something similar can be detected, I think, when it comes to the throne of God. We have less trouble picturing the Lord Jesus sitting on a throne (His Father's throne, actually, not His own messianic throne as yet, Rev. 3:21.). But how can we imagine Him sitting on that throne with His invisible Father, and the latter having a "right hand" (Heb. 1:3)?

The Holy Spirit's presence there is likewise made concrete and observable for the Apostle John. "From the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Rev. 4:5). Seven, in Scripture is often the number of completeness and perfect fullness. And rather than seven separate spirits being pictured by the lamps, I believe, with many commentators, that the seven-fold perfection of God the Holy Spirit is being represented. So the triune Godhead is there.

2) The other thing is this--and it gets us closer to the heart of your question about Christ our Advocate. The Lord Jesus is called our Intercessor (Rom. 8:34), and our heavenly Advocate (I Jn. 2:1), but it seems to me we have invested these terms with a kind of earthly and human significance they do not have.

We know what an "advocate" is; it's a lawyer. And we imagine a courtroom scene where we stand charged with some crime, and our lawyer is interceding for us with a stern judge, arguing our case, in order to somehow convince the judge that we should not be condemned, because (to carry the imagery one more step) our lawyer himself has actually paid what was owed.

A dramatic scene, but I doubt that it relates to what happens in heaven. As you quite rightly observe, God the Father is omniscient. He already knows all about our case. And there can be no dispute or disagreement between Father and Son. The Lord Jesus doesn't have to argue the Father into sparing us!

No, I think it is the very presence of the crucified, risen Saviour in heaven that is all the advocacy we need. Just the fact that He is there is enough. Christ "became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him" (Phil. 2:8-9). Christ "was delivered up [to death] because of our offenses, and was raised [from the dead] because of our justification" (Rom. 5:25).

His resurrection and ascension to the Father's right hand are absolute proof that the sacrifice He made was sufficient, and was fully accepted by the Father. He never needs to die again for our sins (Rom. 6:9); "He always lives to make intercession for us" there (Heb. 7:25), simply by His living presence.

Charles Wesley, in his marvelous hymn, "Arise, My Soul, Arise," dramatically pictures the advocacy of the blood of Christ in heaven:

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,
"Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"
My oh my! What a picture! And here's another.

During the latter part of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln's government offered amnesty to Confederate soldiers who were willing to change sides, swearing allegiance to the United States of America. Nineteen-year-old Private John Ennis decided to do so. But he was a prisoner of war in Camp Douglas at the time, and the offer excluded imprisoned soldiers.

However, Ennis belonged to the 3rd Kentucky Regiment, and his powerful congressman, Henry Grider, made a successful appeal directly to President Lincoln on his behalf. Lincoln himself, signed the order to grant amnesty to this obscure teen-aged soldier.

When the incident was discussed on the PBS show History Detectives, I was immediately struck with the way Grider pictures our heavenly Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ. The museum curator who had asked History Detectives to authenticate the note from President Lincoln (which they did) said, "That piece of paper will be the most important thing in our collection." So the Bible's declaration of our emancipation and pardon should be a sublime treasure to us, as Christians. All glory and praise to the Lamb of God!