Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Intercessory work of the Trinity

Throughout my whole life I have believed a pretty standard version of the story of Jesus making intercession for us before the Father. The story as I understood it was closely related to the penal substitutionary view of the atonement and goes something like this. God the Father is driven by His need for justice to bring sinners to judgment, yet the Son, driven by love, takes upon Himself the wrath of God by dying in our place. Those then who accept Christ are covered by His sacrifice and avoid the Father’s wrath. One preacher I used to listen to illustrated this by saying that God goes on a killing spree but Jesus jumps in front of the elect and says, “No dad, this one is mine”. While I still believe that the wages of sin is death and that those who are outside of Christ will not inherit eternal life, my view on God the Father has changed drastically over the years. I repented (changed my mind) regarding penal substitution theory a few years ago and while I do recognize different roles within the Godhead, I no longer see different needs, goals, characters or agendas between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So the other night while reading through Romans 8 I noticed something for the first time that I wanted to share. I think most people miss it because whenever we are read through the second half of Romans 8 we are thinking about things like predestination, sanctification and glorification. But this time, something new caught my eye in the second part of verses 26 and 27:-

…but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us…

…because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Wait a minute; isn’t God the angry one that Jesus (Hebrews 7:25) and the Spirit are holding back on our behalf? If I am hearing Paul right, then the whole of the Godhead is rooting for us. Paul says that it was the Father will that the Spirit and Christ should intercede for us and then follows this thought up with these statements. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us (v31)? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (v33). Paul then adds that the risen Christ sits at the right hand of God also making intercession for us (v34)! After emphasizing that God is for us he then in the same verse also asks the question “who is he who condemns us”? The answer must plainly be Satan who is the accuser of the brethren who seeks to condemn us. As John 3:17 says, God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save it.

The idea that two-thirds of the Godhead is making a plea to the other third on our behalf seems unlikely given everything that Paul is saying. Paul carries on and answers his own questions (who shall bring a charge? Who is he who condemns?) in the verses that immediately follow:-

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus  our Lord (v38-39).

I don’t have all of this figured out yet. My mind is still processing things. But this I know, Jesus truly is the exact representation of the Father. The Father is truly in love with us and is for us as much as Son and Spirit are. Take courage in the fact that God holds you in His hand and nothing can separate us from His love which is in Christ. I am thinking that we have allowed a distorted view of the atonement to influence how we read verses like Hebrews 7:25. Is Jesus our mediator with the Father? Certainly. Is He the one who has reconciled us to the Father? For sure. Does He intercede to save us from God? Hmmm, I don’t think so. I’m thinking rather that Jesus intercedes, as the Father has purposed, for us against the principalities and powers. Does this not fit better with the message of John 3:16? Much will be said about Jesus’ love for us over this Easter/Passover period. But let me add here that you are dearly loved by your Father in heaven as well. They are of one mind toward you and don’t you ever forget it.


  1. Yes, Christ's role as Mediator >>in heaven right now<< is totally obscured by Penal Substitution. The Greek verb for 'interceding' are in the present tense, meaning it wasn't a one time Mediation-Intercession. This is why it's important to understand why Protestants advocate PSub in the first place: Salvation by Faith Alone. Jesus had to have everything accomplished so that it could be accepted at a single-moment conversion, when you first come to believe. But if Jesus in presently interceding, this means you're not 'saved once and for all', but rather must continue to walk with Him daily. As Intercessor, He is there for forgiveness when we fall. But PSub teaches all your sins are forgiven the moment you convert (since Jesus was already punished for them). It's all tied together, but the ultimate culprit is Salvation by Faith Alone theology.

    1. Thanks Nick. I had not considered a connection between Faith Alone theology and intercession. I see you have a blog as well, is there something you could point me to or recommend where I can look into it?

  2. Hi Wesley,

    I have written a ton of stuff about Penal Substitution (see today's post for the latest), as well as how all the issues tie together, Imputation, Active Obedience, Eternal Security, etc.

    Regarding Intercessory Prayer, I have talked about it with others, but the only post I recall writing on it is this one: