The Priest Who Intercedes Perfectly
“[Christ] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”- Hebrews 7:25
Classic Protestant theology makes much of the “finished work of Christ.” In response to abuses in the medieval Western church that suggested Christ is sacrificed anew every time the Mass is celebrated, that we must endure temporal punishments in purgatory, and several other errors, the Reformers emphasized the once-for-all nature of the sacrifice of Christ. As the author of Hebrews tells us, the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross has sanctified us once for all (Heb. 10:10). Our Lord’s atonement has set those who trust in Him definitively apart as God’s people and has paid the full price for our sin. In terms of our standing before our Creator, there is nothing else we must do to receive eternal life except trust in Jesus. We may grow in the degree to which we please God as our Father, but our obedience does not secure our right standing before Him or our pardon. That is ours only through the propitiatory work of Christ wherein He satisfied the wrath of God against our sin and made it possible for His righteousness to be imputed to us (Rom. 3:21–26).
However, when we refer to the finished work of Christ, we are speaking only of His priestly work of offering Himself as the perfect atonement for sin. For there is one aspect of our Lord’s priestly ministry that has not finished but is ongoing. As Hebrews 7:25 explains, Christ “always lives to make intercession” for His people. This verse is a part of the author’s extended presentation of the priesthood of Christ and its superiority to the old covenant priestly ministry. The priestly work of intercession forms the background for the point Hebrews 7:25 is making. Under the old covenant, the priests not only offered sacrifices for the people, but they also interceded in their behalf before God. On the Day of Atonement, for example, the act of sacrifice included taking the sacrifice’s blood into the Holy of Holies where the priest cast it on the mercy seat, asking for God to pardon the Israelites. Second Chronicles 30:27 records the priests’ praying for the people of Judah during the Passover celebration.
Christ, as the fulfillment of the priesthood, assumed this work of intercession. Unlike the intercession of the old covenant priests, however, Christ’s intercession never ceases. He “always lives to make intercession” (Heb. 7:25). Having risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, Jesus endures as a priest forever. There will never be a break in His intercessory work as there was when there was a transfer from one high priest to another under the old covenant.
Old covenant priests came and went, but Christ continues as High Priest forever. His intercession never ceases, so He is praying for our perseverance at every moment. Moreover, because He knows His Father’s will perfectly, He prays perfect prayers. Christ is our advocate before the Father, and because His prayers are effective, we are secure in our salvation and know that God will give us every good thing.
Passages for Further Study