“My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:1-2).
In the last Praiseletter, we looked at Christ as our intercessor. We considered the security we have in Christ because “He ever lives to make intercession for us.”
Not only are we assured of our standing in Christ because of His continual intercession on our behalf, but we possess a great hope in knowing that even when we’re not praying, He is. When we say our “amens,” He continues on, ever and always interceding for us.
So, one might ask, “What then is the difference between Intercessor and Advocate?”
I’m glad you asked.
In his book, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund writes as follows: “When we talk about Christ’s intercession, we are talking about what Jesus is doing now, and the present manifestation of His heart for His people. In general terms, it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a case to one on behalf of the other. Intercession applies what the atonement accomplished.”
All that was needed to accomplish God’s plan of salvation was realized and completed at the cross. However, as we continue through life on this fallen planet, and in these corruptible bodies, we need help, daily, for each step of the journey. Thus, He intercedes on our behalf.
Let’s now look at Christ’s ministry as Advocate. Again, Ortlund writes: “Intercession has the idea of mediating between two parties, bringing them together. Advocacy is similar but has the idea of aligning oneself with another. An intercessor stands between two parties; an advocate doesn’t simply stand in between the two parties but steps over and joins the one party as he approaches the other. Jesus is not only an intercessor but an advocate.”
The Greek word (parakletos) is difficult to define by one English word. Some translations use Helper, Counselor, Comforter, and even Companion, but Advocate perhaps best describes the unique aspect of one aligning with another to represent them, in a legal sense.
Ortlund gives further clarity when he writes: “Intercession is something Christ is always doing, while advocacy is something He does as occasion calls for it.”
John Bunyon wrote: “Christ, as Priest, goes before, and Christ, as an Advocate, comes after. Christ, as Priest, continually intercedes; Christ, as Advocate, in case of great transgressions, pleads. Christ, as Priest, has need to act always, but Christ, as Advocate, sometimes only.”
Let us remember always that Satan is, “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Scripture also tells us, “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Here’s an interesting question: does Satan still come into the presence of God, as he did in regard to Job, and bring accusations against God’s elect? Or is he going to show up in a kind of heavenly “court of appeals” and make his accusations, in some last-ditch attempt to convince God, that perhaps His elect weren’t as secure as they thought?
Here’s where the word propitiation “wins the day,” as recorded in I John 2:1-2. This word assures us that God’s wrath towards sin was fully satisfied through the substitutionary, atoning work of Christ’s blood, shed on the cross. So, whether Satan still comes before God, as with Job, and accuses us from time to time, or whether he’s saving up for some final “courtroom showdown,” or both – as Erwin Lutzer writes in his powerful book, The Serpent of Paradise: “When Satan accuses us, we must show him our canceled certificate and read aloud, Paid in full. We must say to him, Begone! For it is written, ‘Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us’” (Romans 8:33-34). Our attorney (advocate), Christ, has pleaded our case, and God has accepted His plea. And when God speaks, the universe listens!”
There’s much more that could be said about Christ, as both Intercessor and Advocate, but I hope these letters have served to point out some distinctions and, in the process, given some clarity as to Christ’s ever-present and ongoing ministry in our lives. We, who are saved, have a confident and secure standing in Christ because He is always and ever, to us, both Intercessor and Advocate.
Now, I would like to take just a moment, on behalf of Linda and myself to wish you a most Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Amidst life’s challenges and surprises, may you know, “The peace that passes understanding.” Even in sorrow. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.” You remain in our prayers.