Jesus fulfills the Old Testament priesthood by representing us to God in his death as our representative and his ongoing ministry of intercession for us. “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.” (Hebrews7:25 ESV)
Who is “them”? Those who come to God by faith. There’s the gospel. There’s personal trust in Jesus. What does Jesus do as our priest? Intercession.
Intercession = the priestly work of Christ in which he represents us and our needs to the Father and prays for the application of covenantal promises and blessings to us which the sacrifice of his own life made possible.
How qualified is he to intercede to the Father on our behalf?
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)
So we have this amazing combination in Christ of perfect identification and perfect representation. He perfectly identifies with our weaknesses because he has a human nature that experienced weakness. No matter what you are going through today, Christ can identify with it. He has been there, felt that. He perfectly identifies with us. He’s one of us. At the same time, he perfectly represents us as priest to the Father and prays that the Father would fulfill his promises to us, in our trials and in our pains. In our sorrows and in our joys. He takes our feeble prayers and cries and appeals to the Father according to the Father’s will for us.
Chrysostom, 4th-century preacher, told the story of a young boy whose father was away on a trip and wanted to present his father with something that would please him. His mother sent him to the garden to gather a bouquet of flowers to give to his dad when he returned. The boy gathered a handful of plants, weeds and flowers altogether. But when his father returned home, he was presented with a beautifully arranged bouquet. How? Mom had intervened, removing all the weeds, and presenting the flowers.
Anybody pray some weed-filled prayers this week? I want this and I want that. Take this out of my life. I don’t want this person around me anymore. I am tired of this issue in my life. On and on. We have weeds of selfishness in our prayers with a little flower or two in there. As you prayed those prayers, while perfectly understanding the weakness that produced the prayers, our great high priest takes out the weeds, gathers the flowers and adds a few of his own, and presents the bouquet of requests to the Father. He intercedes for us.
- We pray, God take this pain away! The Father hears from Jesus, Father, give her grace to meet every trial.
- We pray, God give me money because I want this or that. God hears, Give him more of yourself that you might be his satisfaction.
- The discouraged prays, God give me different circumstances, I can’t take it! The Father hears, Let him know that your grace is sufficient.
- The dying prays, God, I am afraid of what is going to happen. The Father hears, Let her know that you will never leave her nor forsake her and there is nothing to fear.
And God always answers the intercessory prayers of Christ because Christ intercedes for us according to the Father’s will. He ever lives to pray for us.
Can any sinner do this? No. Regardless of whether your title is pastor, priest, or pope, no. Here is where the Reformation applied Christ Alone to the church of the day. The medieval church over the centuries had wormed its way into spiritual roles the Bible says are God’s.
On the left side of this diagram is what Hebrews teaches. On the right is what was going on in the 16th-century church. And since the people didn’t have a Bible, they didn’t actually know what Jesus was doing. So essentially, it was the church that had placed itself between the people and God.
I heard an interview with Evangelical Anglican Phillip Jensen and he pointed this out. I had never considered it before. What does Pope mean? Father. Yet Jesus said, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) God the Father needs no replacement.
The Pope was called the Vicar of Christ. What does Vicar mean? Substitute. The substitute for Christ. Jesus needs no replacement; certainly not by a human. He alone is the perfect priest for us.
Another title, Pontiff. What does Pontiff mean? Pontiff means bridge. The bridge between man and God. But who is the bridge for us? Any human priest? No. Christ and Christ alone is the way, truth, and life. (John 14:6)
St. Paul’s church in London, while Anglican, has a similar falsehood as you walk in, a sign above the door of the church that reads, “This is the gate of heaven.” What does Jesus say? “I am the door of the sheep…If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:7, 9)
Buildings and relics and the like are Christ plus which doesn’t actually add anything and ends up subtracting from Christ’s perfection and all-sufficient work. They imply Christ was not enough. Yet we don’t need any other intercessor whether that be priests or Jesus’ mom or Peter himself. That is what the Reformers said so powerfully. Christ’s work is all-sufficient. He is our perfect prophet, priest, and king. We need no other.
Some years ago a group from our church did a Steps of Paul tour. We went to places like Ephesus and Athens. It was a great trip. One stop was Rome. In our group was a woman in her 20s who had grown up just like Martin Luther. She had grown up in the same faith tradition. Like Luther she had a conversion experience and realized salvation was by faith alone. She went on the trip. I’ll never forget when we were in Rome and had our first moments in St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s an amazing and huge building. Beautiful and eerie at the same time. Over here is a centuries-old pope enshrined in a marble tomb carved in his likeness. His papal clothes are on the statuary. Over there is the foot of a statue that millions have kissed and the line is long to get your chance. It is astonishingly huge with wonderful artwork by Michelangelo and Bernini and others. The architecture is second to none. It is the biggest church in the world paid for by the very indulgences Luther wrote against when he nailed the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.
I gazed at the splendor and sacramental rituals all around. I glanced over at this young woman and she had tears streaming down her face. I said, “What’s wrong? What are you thinking as you see all this?”
She said to me, “These are all the things that got in the way.”
What did she mean? Got in the way of what? Got in the way of seeing Christ and him alone. Got in the way of realizing the all-sufficiency of what Jesus did. Got in the way of realizing his death was once for all. Got in the way by getting between us and Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t need any help. He is our perfect and complete prophet, priest, and king forever. Do you know him as your prophet, priest, and king? Sola Gratia. By God’s grace alone. Do you know him with sola fide, by faith alone? Is your trust in Christ and in him alone for your eternal salvation? Only Jesus saves. Solus Christus. Christ alone.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 Philip Jensen, “The Reformation Meets Trellis and Vine, T4G.org, We Are Protestant (2016 Conference Panel Video) at 24:40.
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