Whose Coat of Arms do You Wear?

There is a story that comes from the mists of history…

bagrationgerbial…about Peter de Dreux, who was the German Cousin to the King of France and Bishop of Beauvaias.  After being taken captive through force of arms by Richard I of England, he was imprisoned and fettered by King Richard for the personal injuries Richard had received during his own captivity.

The reigning Pope, Celestine II, wrote to the King gently remonstrating him in favor of the prelate, which the King answered by sending to Celestine the Bishop’s helmet and armor, with this one bible text, “know now whether it be thy son’s coat or not.”

This answer, was so just, and so appropriate, that it put a stop to the Pope’s intercession, and he replied “that the coat the King had sent him did not belong to a son of the Church, but of the camp; and the prisoner, therefore was at Richard’s mercy.”

So it is today, whose coat of arms do you wear, the world’s, or Christ’s?
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Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 

–Hebrews 7:25

Christ the Intercessor

by Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711)

Intercessory prayer is the second element of Christ’s priestly office, of which we read, “Who also maketh intercession for us,” (Romans 8:34); “He ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25); “…to appear in the presence of God for us,” (Hebrews 9:24); “We have an advocate with the Father,” (1 John 2:1). Concerning His intercession, we must consider its necessity, nature, and efficacy.

WE WILL FIRST CONSIDER ITS NECESSITY.

lIntercession is a task that belongs to Christ’s high-priestly office: We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews  8:1).  As High Priest, He is in heaven; as High Priest, He sits at the right hand of God. The task in which He engages Himself as High Priest is to appear before His Father on behalf of His elect, interceding for them. It is thus a task of Christ’s high-priestly office to intercede. The matters for which He intercedes there are these:

(1)  The Holy Spirit:  All that which His elect are in need of in this life in order to enable them to walk in the way to heaven—namely, the Holy Spirit Who illumines, comforts, and sanctifies them. This we observe in John 14:16-17: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth.”

(2)  He intercedes for them so that they may perfectly possess salvation after mthis life. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am,” (John 17:24). This is also confirmed in Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” For men to be saved, it was not sufficient that by His suffering, death, and holiness He merited salvation; but it is also necessary that by means of His intercession He would apply salvation and make them actual partakers of it. This was typified in the Old Testament by the high priest, who was not finished after offering the sacrifice, but had to enter the Holy of Holies with blood in order to sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and burn incense. The Lord Jesus, being the antitype, likewise had to enter in with His own blood (Lev 16; Heb 9:12). This prerequisite was of such necessity that without it He could not be a high priest. “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest,” (Hebrews 8:4). Had He not been a priest, there would be no salvation for the elect, for they must come to God and be saved by way of a priest. For this reason, sacrifice and prayer are joined together. “It is Christ that died…who also maketh intercession for us,” (Romans 8:34); “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 2:1-2). This necessity is also evident for the following reasons:

judgement_1844First, it is fitting to God that it be continually acknowledged that He has been despised by man, that His righteousness neither permits man to approach Him nor Him to approach man, except by an atoning Surety Who continually displays His atonement. He therefore “ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25).

Secondly, since God’s majesty had been despised, it could not be tolerated that He would come to man or even to the Surety, but rather that the Surety would come to Him, and that, so to speak, He would bring the ransom home and lay it down before His countenance.

Thirdly, in reference to man as well as to the gift of the Surety, God also wills that His free grace in the salvation of the sinner be displayed and ever be acknowledged: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:24). Therefore, although the sacrifice of Christ is perfect and is of an eternally atoning efficacy, it must nevertheless be applied by way of intercession. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest…Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:14, 16).

Fourthly, it was also necessary in reference to the Lord Jesus Himself. He was Surety and could not be released from His Suretyship as long as His elect had not in actuality been made partakers of salvation. In order to prepare a place for the elect, however, and to lead them unto salvation, intercession necessarily had to occur (cf. John 17:24; Hebrews 7:25). Thus, the Lord Jesus must continue with His intercession until all His elect will have been gathered into heaven.

Fifthly, the Father also wills that the Lord Jesus be acknowledged as still being engaged to the advantage of the elect, so that they would come to the throne by Him, and in coming would there find Him to be an Advocate Who brings their prayers before the Father (Rev. 8:3-4)

000000It is necessary that the Surety continually display the atonement before the throne. Paul pointed to this in Romans 5:10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” And why are we saved by His life? He ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25).

From, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 1,

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Wilhelmus à Brakel (2 January 1635, Leeuwarden – 30 October 1711, Rotterdam), a contemporary of Voetius and Witsius, was a major representative of the Dutch Further Reformation (known in Dutch as De Nadere Reformatie). This movement was contemporaneous with and greatly influenced by English Puritanism. Scholars in the Netherlands have defined this movement as follows:“The Dutch Second Reformation is that movement within the Dutch Reformed Church during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which, as a reaction to the declension or absence of a living faith, made both the personal experience of faith and godliness matters of central importance. From that perspective the movement formulated substantial and procedural reformation initiatives, submitting them to the proper ecclesiastical, political, and social agencies, and/or in conformity therewith pursued in both word and deed a further reformation of the church, society, and state.”à Brakel and his ministry functioned at the approximate center of this Pietistic movement, both historically and theologically. On a time line, beginning in 1606 with the ministry of the father of theNadere Reformatie, Willem Teellinck, and terminating in 1784 with the death of Theodorus Vander Groe, à Brakel’s ministry (particularly his most important pastorate in Rotterdam from 1683–1711) marks the center of this time line. However, more significantly, his ministry represents a remarkable balance of the Nadere Reformatie relative to both its early and concluding stages.His prominence as a major representative of this movement is largely due to his magnum opus The Christian’s Reasonable Service. After its initial publication in 1700, this four volume work was quickly recognized as a monumental contribution to the literature of the Nadere Reformatie. It has been argued by scholars that this work is a synthesis of the best Puritan literature published in England and the Netherlands. Nadere Reformatie scholar, F. Earnest Stoeffler puts it this way, “He supplied Reformed Pietism with a theological textbook which…came out of a tradition wholly native to the Netherlands. In it he…preserved the balance between the mystical and ethical elements in Christianity which is so characteristic of the great Pietists in the Reformed communion.”As a result of this work, à Brakel has permanently endeared himself to hearts of Reformed believers in the Netherlands. Already during his lifetime, the affection for him was such that he was fondly referred to as “Father Brakel”—a title by which he is known in the Netherlands until this day. For more than three centuries the influence of The Christian’s Reasonable Service has been such that “Father Brakel” continues to be the most influential of all the representatives of the Nadere Reformatie (frequently referred to today as Dutch Puritanism). Since the publication of The Christian’s Reasonable Service in English, his influence is growing steadily among both scholars and lovers of Puritan literature as well.The uniqueness of à Brakel’s work lies in the fact that it is more than a systematic theology. His selection of the title is already an indication that it was not merely his intention to present a systematic explanation of Christian dogma to the public. 

Jesus Christ the All-Sufficient Priest

by Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)

Now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
—Hebrews 9:26
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mQUESTION: How does Christ execute the office of a priest?

Answer: In His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us. What are the parts of Christ’s priestly office? Christ’s priestly office has two parts: His satisfaction and intercession.

HIS SATISFACTION:

This consists of two branches:

(1) His active obedience: He fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). Christ did everything that the Law required. His holy life was a perfect commentary upon the Law of God; and He obeyed the Law for us.

(2) His passive obedience: Our guilt being transferred and imputed to Him, He suffered the penalty that was due to us. He came into the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The paschal lamb slain was a type of Christ Who was offered up in sacrifice for us. Sin could not be done away without blood. Without blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22). Christ was not only a lamb without spot, but a lamb slain. Why was it requisite there should be a priest? There needed a priest to be an umpire, to mediate between a guilty creature and a holy God. How could Christ suffer, being God? Christ suffered only in the human nature. But if only Christ’s humanity suffered, how could this suffering satisfy for sin? The human nature being united to the divine, the human nature suffered, the divine satisfied. Christ’s Godhead supported the human nature that it did not faint and gave virtue to His sufferings. The altar sanctifies the thing offered on it (Matthew 23:19).

0602212The altar of Christ’s divine nature sanctified the sacrifice of His death and made it of infinite value. Wherein does the greatness of Christ’s sufferings appear?

(1) In the sufferings of His body. He suffered truly, not in appearance only. The apostle calls it “the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:8)…The thoughts of this made Christ sweat great drops of blood in the garden (Luke 22:44). It was an ignominious, painful, cursed death. Christ suffered in all His senses. His eyes beheld two sad objects: His enemies insulting and His mother weeping. His ears were filled with the revilings of the people. “He saved others, himself he cannot save,” (Matthew 27:42). His smell was offended when their spittle fell upon His face. His taste, when they gave Him gall and  vinegar to drink. His feeling, when His head suffered with thorns, His hands and feet with the nails. His whole body was one great wound; now was this white lily dyed with purple color.

(2) In the sufferings of His soul. He was pressed in the wine—the press of His Father’s wrath. This caused that vociferation and outcry on the cross, “My God, my God,” (Matthew 27:46). Christ suffered a double eclipse upon the cross—an eclipse of the sun and an eclipse of the light of God’s countenance. How bitter was this agony!…Christ felt the pains of hell in His soul, though not locally, yet equivalently. Why did Christ suffer? Surely not for any desert of His own. “The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself,” (Dan 9:26;Isa 53:6)—it was for us…He suffered that He might satisfy God’s justice for us. We, by our sins, had infinitely wronged God; and, could we have shed rivers of tears, offered up millions of holocausts and burnt offerings, we could never have pacified an angry Deity. Therefore, Christ must die that God’s justice may be satisfied. It is hotly debated among divines, whether God could have forgiven sin freely without a sacrifice. Not to dispute what God could have done, when He was resolved to have the Law satisfied and to have man saved in a way of justice as well as mercy,

0…it was necessary that Christ should lay down His life as a sacrifice.

(1) To fulfill the predictions of Scripture: “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer,” (Luke 24:46).

(2) To bring us into favor with God. It is one thing for a traitor to be pardoned, and another thing to be made a favorite. Christ’s blood is not only called a sacrifice, whereby God is appeased, but a propitiation, whereby God becomes gracious and friendly to us. Christ is our mercyseat, from which God gives answers of peace to us.

(3) Christ died that He might make good His last will and testament with His blood. There were many legacies that Christ bequeathed to believers, which had been all null and void had He not died and by His death confirmed the will (Hebrews 9:16). A testament is in force after men are dead: the mission of the Spirit, the promises, those legacies, were not in force until Christ’s death; but Christ by His blood has sealed them, and believers may lay claim to them.

(4) He died that He might purchase for us glorious mansions. Therefore heaven is called not only a promised, but a “purchased possession,” (Ephesians 1:14). Christ died for our preferment; He suffered that we might reign; He hung upon the  cross that we might sit upon the throne. Heaven was shut: the cross of Christ is the ladder by which we ascend to heaven. His crucifixion is our coronation. Use one: In the bloody sacrifice of Christ, see the horrid nature of sin. Sin, it is true, is odious as it banished Adam out of paradise and threw the angels into hell. But that which most of all makes it appear horrid is this: it made Christ veil His glory and lose His blood. We should look upon sin with indignation, pursue it with a holy malice, and shed the blood of those sins that shed Christ’s blood…The sight of Christ’s bleeding body should incense us against sin…Let not that be our joy, which made Christ a man of sorrow. Use two: Is Christ our Priest sacrificed? See God’s mercy and justice displayed. I may say as the apostle…

“Behold the goodness and severity of God,” (Romans 11:22).

imagesCAGHSHM0(1) The goodness of God in providing a sacrifice. Had not Christ suffered upon the cross, we must have lain in hell forever, satisfying God’s justice.

(2) The severity of God. Though it were His own Son, the Son of His love, and our sins were but imputed to Him, yet God did not spare Him, but His wrath did flame against Him (Romans 8:32). If God was thus severe to His own Son, how dreadful will He be one day to His enemies! Such as die in willful impenitence must feel the same wrath as Christ did; and because they cannot bear it at once, therefore they must endure it forever. Use three: Is Christ our Priest, Who was sacrificed for us? Then see the endeared affection of Christ to us sinners. “The cross,” says Augustine, “was a pulpit, in which Christ preached His love to the world.” That Christ should die was more than if all the angels had been turned to dust; and especially that Christ should die as a malefactor, having the weight of…men’s sins laid upon Him, and that He should die for His enemies (Romans 5:10). The balm-tree weeps out its precious balm to heal those that cut and mangle it; so Christ shed His blood to heal those that crucified Him. He died freely. It is called the offering of the body of Jesus (Hebrews 10:10). Though His sufferings were so great that they made Him sigh, weep, and bleed; yet they could not make Him repent. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied,” (Isaiah 53:2). Christ had hard travail upon the cross, yet He does not repent of it, but thinks His sweat and blood well bestowed because He sees redemption brought forth to the world. Oh infinite, amazing love of Christ! A love that passeth knowledge!—that neither man nor angel can parallel (Ephesians 3:19). How should we be affected with this love!…At Christ’s death and passion, the very stones cleave asunder, “The rocks rent,” (Matthew 27:51). Not to be affected with Christ’s love in dying is to have hearts harder than rocks. Use four: Is Christ our sacrifice?

Then see the excellence of His sacrifice.

00(1) It is perfect. “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” (Hebrews 10:14). Therefore, how impious are those who join their merits and the prayers of saints with Christ’s sacrifice! They offer Him up daily in the mass, as if Christ’s sacrifice on the cross were imperfect. This is a blasphemy against Christ’s priestly office.

(2) Christ’s sacrifice is meritorious. He not only died for our example, but to merit salvation. The person Who suffered being God as well as man put virtue into His sufferings; and our sins were expiated and God appeased…No sooner did Christ die, but God’s anger was pacified.

(3) This sacrifice is beneficial…It procures justification of our persons, acceptance of our service, access to God with boldness, and entrance into the holy place of heaven (Hebrews 10:19)…Israel passed through the Red Sea to Canaan; so through the red sea of Christ’s blood, we enter into the heavenly Canaan. Use five: Let us apply this blood of Christ. All the virtue of a medicine is in the application. Though the medicine be made of the blood of God, it will not heal unless applied by faith…Faith makes Christ’s sacrifice ours. “Christ Jesus my Lord,” (Phil. 3:8). It is not gold in the mine that enriches, but gold in the hand. Faith is the hand that receives Christ’s golden merits…Faith opens the orifice of Christ’s wounds and drinks the precious tonic of His blood. Without faith, Christ Himself will not avail us.

This sacrifice of Christ’s blood may infinitely comfort us.

2173776885_1108b59098This is the blood of atonement.  “Christ’s cross is the hinge of our deliverance,” (John Calvin); the hinge and fountain of our comfort.

(1) This blood comforts in case of guilt! “Oh,” says the soul, “my sins trouble me, but Christ’s blood was shed for the remission of sin (Matthew 26:28).” Let us see our sins laid on Christ, and then they are no more ours but His.

(2) In case of pollution. Christ’s blood is a healing and cleansing blood. It is healing. “With his stripes we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5). It is the best weapon-salve —it heals at a distance. Though Christ be in heaven, we may feel the virtue of His blood healing our bloody issue. And it is cleansing. It is therefore compared to fountain-water (Zec 13:1). The word is a mirror to show us our spots, and Christ’s blood is a fountain to wash them away; it turns leprosy into purity. “The blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all our sin,” (1 John 1:7). There is indeed one spot so black that Christ’s blood does not wash away, viz., the sin against the Holy Ghost. Not but that there is virtue enough in Christ’s blood to wash it away; but he who has sinned that sin will not be washed; he contemns Christ’s blood and tramples it under foot (Hebrews 10:29). Thus, we see what a strong tonic Christ’s blood is: it is the anchor-hold of our faith, the spring of our joy, the crown of our desires, and the only support both in life and death. In all our fears, let us comfort ourselves with the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ’s blood. Christ died both as a purchaser and as KingJesusa conqueror: as a purchaser in regard of God, having by His blood obtained our salvation, and as a conqueror in regard of Satan, the cross being His triumphant chariot, wherein He has led hell and death captive. Use seven: Bless God for this precious sacrifice of Christ’s death. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” (Psalm 103:1). And for what does David bless Him? “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction!” Christ gave Himself a sin offering for us; let us give ourselves a thank-offering to Him. If a man redeems another out of debt, will he not be grateful? Let us present Christ with the fruits of righteousness, which are unto the glory and praise of God.

From A Body of Divinity.

Fragrant Flowers

Charles Spurgeon once quoted a story by Aurelius Ambrosius (better known in English as Saint Ambrose), who vividly and wonderfully illustrates believers’ prayers. He says:

“We are like little children who run into the garden to gather flowers to please their father, but we are so ignorant and childish that we pluck as many weeds as flowers, and some of them very noxious, and we would carry this strange mixture in our hands, thinking that such base weeds would be acceptable to him.

The mother meets the child at the door, and she says to it: “Little one, thou knowest not what thou hast gathered.” She unbinds this mixture and takes from it all the weeds, and leaves only the sweet flowers, and then she takes other flowers sweeter than those which the child has plucked, and inserts them instead of the weeds, and then puts back the perfect posy into the child’s hand, and it runs therewith to its father.”

I think that the Holy Spirit, with an infinite tenderness, takes our prayers and re-wraps them; taking out the noxious notions that that would offend the sensibilities of the Divine Court, and adds to our petitions the special sweetness of the life and ministry of Christ and finally, wrapping it with the blood of Jesus, presents to the Father, the bouquet of our hopes, dreams, and needs.

But that is not the end of the story.  The Father is hoping to receive just such a bouquet from his child, from you: He is waiting for it.  And he takes this bundle of fragrant flowers, and he excitedly looks at it, and he looks at you, and he smiles: you look just like your older brother, Jesus.  You see, the Father loved you so much that he sent Jesus, your older brother, to save you.  The Father missed you, and he misses your flowers.  Have you prayed lately?

“In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what prayers to offer nor in what way to offer them. But the Spirit Himself pleads for us in yearnings that can find no words….”  Romans 8:26 Weymouth Translation

Mike

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