There are two fascinating expressions in Isaiah’s prophecy in which God speaks as though He was looking for a man among the sons of men who might be able to stand in between man and God and act as a reconciling mediator. The two passages are Isaiah 50:2: “Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? When I called was there none to answer”; and Isaiah 59:16: “And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor.” Isaiah 63:5 is somewhat similar. In each case the preceding verses speak of the profound sinfulness of His people; in fact so entrenched is the wickedness, that there was none able to occupy the breach, to act for Yahweh to further His desire to reconcile man to his Maker. Every man was fallen in sin; how then could any of them stand before the Almighty?

In each of these passages the solution is provided in a beautiful way. In chapter 50 the Lord God educates a young child, a Son, His Son, so diligently, so regularly that when he is grown to be a mature man he is so wonderful in spiritual power and mind that he is confident to take on any enemy. “Who will contend with me? Let us stand together: who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me” (v 4–8). As the Lord Jesus will put it, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). Before such a force of moral strength the Scribes and Pharisees just backed off! (cp v10).

In the 59th of Isaiah it is similar. In the absence of a suitable intercessor, Yahweh steps in with His own direct solution: “therefore His arm brought salvation unto him; and His righteousness, it sustained him” (59:16). This Saviour is of God, direct and divine, “His Arm”! And the awesome presence of this Saviour is as though his breastplate is righteousness! and his helmet salvation and his garments vengeance and zeal! (59:17). It is the same unique and wonderful Saviour as in chapter 50 and the salvation that comes in him is not deficient or limited in any usual human sense!

In each of these passages the critical mediator required is quite evidently God’s own Son. The context of both demands this! The essential quality this intercessor brings to the matter is righteousness. He will be a sinless priest whilst he deals with the sins of men.

The Picture of Isaiah 53

Now quite intriguingly between these two passages we have another precious comment, in the great 53rd chapter. After presenting the sin-bearer: “Surely he hath borne our griefs” (53:3–6) and his arraignment before his enemies (53:7–8) and yet still his flawless behaviour (53:9), the prophet then says, “by his knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities”. The continuity of thought with chapter 50 is just so beautiful! The daily Divine education gave him this “knowledge” and now that knowledge has empowered him to righteousness, to personal sinlessness. He is seen as both the sacrifice for sin and the priest who officiates! Nor does his sacrifice put an end to his service, for in the very next verse this willingness to offer gives him the reward of dividing the spoil with the strong. He is again alive and strong and glorious. In fact, his priestly duties go on beyond the sacrifice; for those “transgressors”, among which he was “numbered”, he then went on to make intercession! (53:12).

Isaiah’s prophecies are truly astonishing. The whole of Messiah’s main acts are told in such a delightful and inspiring way. Knitting one strand here and another there, the whole beautiful story is shown 200 years before the virgin conceived and bare a son! (7:14; 9:6).

What Job had so greatly desired and Elihu had so eloquently described (Job 9:33; 13:3; 16:21; 23:3; 33:23–28), Isaiah has now pronounced in the clearest and most emphatic terms. The “messenger”, the “interpreter”, the “one among a thousand” is promised through Isaiah.

A Priest Forever After the Order of Melchizedek

There is another key Old Testament passage dealing with this promised new priest, spoken by king David 250 years before the prophet Isaiah and strengthened by Divine oath. “Yahweh hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” When David by the Spirit of God spoke these words, there was already a functioning priesthood; the sons of Aaron had fulfilled this office for some 500 years. This statement of Psalm 110:4 was therefore of great significance and could only mean that the Aaronic priesthood was going to be superseded by a new order based upon principles that were characteristic of Melchizedek, the king-priest of Salem in Abraham’s days (Gen 14:18). So David’s statement must surely have caused a great stir and curiosity among the family of Aaron during his reign. Psalm 110 made it obvious that this promised priest would also be king, for there is repeated emphasis upon his rulership and judgment of the nations of the earth (eg v2, 5, 6). More interesting to our subject, however, is the fact that the psalm opened with the Divine affirmation that this priest would be seated at the right hand of Yahweh before the great battles against the armies of the world.

Now if this priest is the king, then he is Messiah and therefore of David’s lineage–so not of Levi! If of David, then he is a mortal man, yet if later at the right hand of God, then he has been raised from the dead; and if in the presence of Yahweh, then made immortal. So the promised Melchizedek priest is going to be ever-living, a “priest forever”, and the fact that he has risen into heaven itself must have required his sinlessness, or, as the writer to Hebrews says, “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26). How beautifully this verse summarises the supremacy of the New Priest; and yet almost every aspect of the Hebrews description can be reasoned out of the psalm David spoke one thousand years before!

A Great High Priest, Jesus The Son of God

What grand language is this! Awe-inspiring it must have been to come to the temple and present one’s sacrifice in the company of God’s high priest; but how much more is the privilege when the high priest is “Jesus the Son of God” (Heb 4:14), officiating not upon earth in human buildings but “passed into the heavens”, who inspects our offerings not with human eyes that may often fail to discern, but with infallible insight: “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13). Such unerring knowledge, such authority! We may have felt that our opportunity to successfully approach God is the more difficult. Yet the apostle reasons the other way, for our High Priest is not untouchable. “We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). This is such an important verse, for whereas his effectiveness before the Almighty is enhanced by his Sonship, by sinlessness, by his immortality, yet his sincere experience of all human weakness means that we have an understanding High Priest, who feels and knows our problems, who sympathises with our trials in our temptations.

A Merciful and Faithful High Priest

Thus this Priest satisfies the needs and requirements of both parties for whom he mediates. Speaking of this bilateral arrangement, Hebrews 5:1 says: “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God.” This passage confirms the Scriptural sense of a mediator. The Son of God has been appointed “for men”, that is to say, to bring their causes before the throne of grace. This is the direction of the interceding. It is not a ministry from Christ to man as though mediating for his people against the wiles of sin. There is no entreaty with sin; Christ never negotiates with sin; there is no sense of intercession with the lust of the flesh, neither in his own life nor in our lives. “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). “Get thee behind me, satan” is his only response to the power of temptation (Luke 4:8; Matt 16:23). The same advice is given to ourselves. “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry… Flee fornication” (1 Cor 10:14; 6:18). “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17). Christ makes no intercession between us and the power of sin; with him there is no deal, no negotiation, no entreaty with the enemy. “It is finished” were his final words.

Nor do we hear the voice of the Master as though the Lord is openly speaking with us, advising on how to overcome. No brother alive makes this claim! We are simply unaware of any open intervention in our present era. We certainly are aware of the impingement (and that is the essential meaning of the Hebrew word for intercession in the Old Testament; eg Isa 53:12; 59:16; Jer 7:16) of an active conscience when sin lurks in our path, a conscience that is strong and alert only as its owner is active in prayer and the meditation of the Word of God. There are other ways in which the Father doubtless helps us in the struggle with sin, but no brother in all our ecclesias lays claim to a direct voice of Christ “impinging” upon him in the struggle or triumph over sin. Nor do the Scriptures teach this as the role of the Christ-mediator.

An Advocate with the Father

The apostle John has some memorable words on the subject of sin and its overcoming. He states emphatically that we are all involved. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). In fact the apostle goes on to say that if we claim sinlessness then we “make God a liar and His word is not in us” (1:10). “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What then does the apostle teach about the removal of those transgressions? What provision has the righteous Father made for the blotting out of these daily sins in our lives. Scripture is very clear: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

What role does the Lord Jesus Christ have in this finding of forgiveness? The apostle John’s comments are quite unambiguous, for he immediately goes on to say, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Note in passing that John also emphasises the essential need of righteousness in the one who draws near to God; only Jesus the Son of God had that credential. We could not find a better Advocate.

We are quite familiar with this term “Advocate”, for it is the same word in the original as “Comforter” (Grk parakletos), signifying one who draws near to speak or entreat. The direction of this intercession is quite clear from the context. The disciple has sinned and needs forgiveness, which he finds through confession (v9), which is expressed to God in the name of the Advocate who is “with the Father” (2:1). His being at the right hand of the Father enhances our access. His sinlessness and his Sonship also enhance the power of his advocacy on our behalf. The Aaronic priesthood fell short on all these points. Ours is a better Priest! It is worthy of note that in the next verse the apostle John mentions the importance of Christ’s atoning work, that Christ is the propitiation or mercy seat for our sins. It is his sacrifice that has laid the basis for the reconciliation of his people: in fact, laid the foundation for the remission of the sins of the whole world, if they would (1 John 2:2). Some have felt that if that basis is there since the time of his offering in AD 33 then there is no further need for Christ to be involved for intercession for his brethren. His work is completed. The 10th chapter of Hebrews comments at length upon the all-encompassing, once-only, perfect offering of Christ: “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (v12,14). So it is reasoned, there is nothing more to be done; all the mechanism for atonement is there just waiting for any man to make use of it; there is no need for Christ to be further involved as advocate or mediator, for he has done it all. Besides, it may be reasoned, does Jesus need to tell his Father what our needs are, since by Christ’s work we have access to the throne of grace to the Father Himself in heaven?

John and Paul Together

We have seen in 1 John 2 that the apostle puts Christ’s historic work of reconciliation alongside his present ministry as a priest and advocate (v1, 2). He clearly affirms that our High Priest has an intercessory role in keeping with his work of reconciliation in his death. The foundation was laid, but a loving saviour is hardly likely to leave it there.

This teaching is in harmony with what we have already seen in Hebrews 4.

However, in the same letter there are the clearest statements of Christ’s active mediatorial role. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (9:24). In the next verse the singular nature of Christ’s sacrifice is stressed, yet right alongside the teaching of his present intercessory role. Again, in chapter 7 of Hebrews we have the most explicit statement, “But this man, because he continueth ever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [mrg ‘evermore’] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:24–26).

A Christadelphian Teaching

These passages mean that our beloved Master is presently active on our behalf in the presence of his Father, completing with intercession the work begun in his life and death, for the salvation of his people. “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” (Rom 8:34). So in one full and beautiful verse the whole work of Christ then and now is put together.

It is on the basis of these explicit, apostolic teachings that our Statement of Faith contains the following clauses:

13 That on the third day, God raised him from the dead and exalted him to the heavens as priestly mediator between God and man, in the process of gathering from among them a people who should be saved by belief and obedience of the truth.

14 That he is a priest over his own house only and does not intercede for the world, or for professors who are abandoned to disobedience. That he makes intercession for his erring brethren, if they confess and forsake their sins.

Thankfulness

It is doubtless difficult for our finite minds to comprehend the communication of heaven, the dialogue between the Father and the Son. Even in the days of his flesh mere mortals were incapable of participation in this ultimate company. When God spoke they thought that it had thundered (John 12:29–30). When the Lord invited them into Gethsemane to be with him in his desperate struggle, they could not measure either the time or intensity of his prayer to his Father. Would we venture to describe the practices of heaven? Nor do we need to. It is for us to believe and preach the fact of our Master’s works, foreseen in the mediatorial role of many like Job, Moses, Daniel in times past, foretold in the Psalms and prophets, and confirmed by precise apostolic comment.

Would not our Saviour want to be about the securing of the salvation of his people, his seed, his children, for whom he gave so dearly that they might be with him in the glory of his kingdom? His last words to us, given nineteen hundred years ago, were these, “Surely I come quickly”. That long wait has been filled with anxious love for his people, his brethren, and we can be absolutely assured that he has been busy in the securing of our salvation.

What a beautiful thought this is.

How apt the prayer of the apostle Paul: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:17–19).