What Is the Difference Between the Lord Jesus Acting As Our Intercessor and Advocate?
As our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus, has, ‘offered one sacrifice for sins for ever’, dealing with sins permanently. With this work completed He is now, ‘sat down on the right hand of God’, Heb. 10. 12. However, other aspects of the high-priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus continue every day we spend here below. These include His work as intercessor and advocate. But what do these words mean and are they the same thing?
In Romans chapter 8 verse 34, we read, ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us [?]’. Paul is concluding his treatise on justification by faith where he has viewed the human race as on trial and been found guilty before God, falling short of His righteous standards. Yet, through grace we can be justified, declared righteous, through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. In verse 35, Paul considers the judge, the Lord Jesus, the One to whom all judgement has been committed, John 5. 22. Who shall condemn us? Paul answers a question with a question. Shall Christ condemn us who, in the past, has died and risen again, and is, right now, interceding for us at God’s right hand? Of course not! He has demonstrated unequivocally that He is committed to our welfare and cause. Hebrews further reminds us that the Lord Jesus, ‘is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them’, Heb. 7. 25. In this context, He saves us by enabling us to hold fast to our faith during persecution and difficulty.
The word ‘intercession’ means ‘making a petition or plea’, meaning that the Lord Jesus is praying for us continually, individually, and specifically, while here below. This is an astounding truth that should humble us and cause us to carefully reflect on the way we live. The Lord Jesus referred to this ministry in John chapter 17. He said of His disciples ‘I pray for them’, v. 9, and also, ‘neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word’, v. 20, incorporating all New Testament believers. John chapter 17 informs us that He prays for our spiritual protection, v. 15, and sanctification, v. 17, while we live in a harmful and hostile world. He also prays for our testimony to this world through our love for each other, v. 21.
In 1 John chapter 2 verse 1, we read, ‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with [or “towards”] the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’. The word ‘advocate’ is the Greek word parakletos, which means ‘to draw alongside to help’, the same word describing the work of the Holy Spirit as our Comforter.1 Although this word can refer to someone providing legal aid,2 perhaps it better describes the ministry of the Lord Jesus in drawing alongside us when we fail in order to restore us.3
These ministries are illustrated in the life of Peter. The Lord Jesus told Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not’, Luke 22. 31, 32. Peter’s world was about to be violently shaken as the cross approached. Although Peter denied the Lord, the Lord’s prayer for him ensured that Peter’s faith did not fail. Ultimately, he came through it. In John chapter 21, we see the Lord Jesus acting as the Advocate. The Lord drew alongside Peter to gently remind him of his failure but also that He hadn’t given up on him and had a ministry for him to do, vv. 15-17.
E.g., John 14. 16, 26.
An alternative view of parakletos has been expressed by F. B. HOLE as, ‘The risen One, Jesus Christ the righteous, has been called alongside the Father in glory for the help of His saints, if and when they sin’.
It is the view of the author that the teaching that the Lord Jesus is ‘pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins’, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, is at odds with the truth of justification by faith. When we sin, we need to change our minds rather than the Father. Hence, we need the Lord Jesus to draw alongside us. Also, the tone of 1 John chapter 2 verse 1 is not a judicial but rather a family setting. There is, no doubt, a Godward aspect to the advocacy of the Lord Jesus since He is our heavenly representative, Heb. 9. 24, and His advocacy is ‘towards’ the Father. For example, Revelation chapter 12 verse 10 may indicate that the Lord Jesus defends our cause against the accusations of Satan. However, we need to be careful about applying Old Testament passages which refer specifically to Israel and the priesthood, e.g., Zech. 3. 1-7.