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Particular Redemption: The Relationship between Christ’s Sacrifice and Intercession

June 19, 2007

The relationship between the sacrifice of Christ, and His intercession, and the impact this has upon the subject of Particular Redemption.

(An Overview of John Owen’s discussions in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)

The Mediatorial work of Christ revolves around His office as our High Priest. This was typified under the Old Covenant in the shadows of the Levitical priesthood. The Scriptures defines the task of the priest as being twofold:

1. Firstly, He was to make atonement for the people

2. Secondly, He was to intercede for them.

The intercession of the priest was based upon the acceptance of the oblation made. There is an interrelation between the atonement and the intercession, both having one aim, that is, “in bringing many sons unto glory”. This principle is carried to the office of Christ as our High Priest, but in its brightness and glory. Will Christ open His side for His people and not open His mouth for them?

In Christ’s offering of Himself, we see His willingness in that He came to die: emptying Himself of His glory, His humiliation in being born of a woman; His obedience to His Father throughout His earthly life, which ended with the cross.

As well as the acceptance of His oblation, Owen includes both Christ’s resurrection and ascension, as the basis of His intercession. Each one of these acts forms the basis upon which Christ intercedes.

Owen in his ‘Death of Death’ argues strongly that both the oblation and the intercession of Christ are linked directly to the doctrine of Particular Redemption. In relation to the death of Christ he argues that, Christ’s “blood-shedding” had an end in view. It was not as it were, reverently speaking, shooting in the dark. The arrows of God which shot Him in the heart as our sin-bearer also shot down the condemnation of God upon the heads of all those for whom He died. Christ did not die for the sake of dying, but it had an end in view. As the puritan, William Jenkyn describes the origin of the Church of Christ, “The Church comes out of Christ’s side in the sleep of His death.”

The intercession of Christ is an act which is filled with success, for He said, “And I knew that thou hearest me always:” (John 11:41) With this in mind, we can say that, therefore, all for whom He died must receive all the benefits of salvation purchased for them by His blood: disproving the notion of universal redemption. “Those for whom Christ died are those for whom He rose again and His heavenly saving activity is of equal extent with His once-for-all redemptive accomplishments.” (John Murray)

The same end of the oblation and the intercession of Christ is vindicated by assailable scriptural proofs by John Owen. His arguments are summarised thus:

1. Scriptures makes both of one purpose

Isa. 53:11, “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Here in Isaiah’s prophecy, the substitutionary death of the Servant of Jehovah is very clear. Representing the oblation of Christ by bearing our iniquities. But the prophecy goes on to say in v.12, “…and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Again, in Rom. 4:25 we are told, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” For whose offences He died, for them He arose. “Christ rose again, but our sins did not: they are buried for ever in his grave.” (John Brown) If He died for all, then all are justified, which is disproved by the fact that not all are justified. Then later in Rom. 8:33,34, “33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 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.” How could He have died for all, but only intercede for some? This is disproved by these verses, showing the unity between the two priestly work of Christ.

To summarise:

  • Those whose sins Chris carries, He also justifies – “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Isa 53:11
  • Those whose sins Christ carries, He intercedes for – “he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isa 53:12
  • Resurrection of Christ was to justify those for whom He died – “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Rom 4:25
  • Those for whom Christ prays for, are those for elected to His death – “33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 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 8:33-34

Are all men justified? No. From the above passages, therefore, it is clear that only those elected unto salvation, are the party which were given to Christ to redeem – if this was not the case, then all men would be justified. The elect are the only ones who have any interest in Christ’s death, and are attached to Him by the eternal Covenant. They belong to Christ individually. All the saved elect people would unanimously say with Rutherford, “Since He looked upon me my heart is not my own, He hath run away to heaven with it.”

Both the oblation and the intercession of Christ dovetail together to the same end; that, for those for whom Christ gave His heart’s blood, for them He offers up intercession by His lips.

2. That He is a Complete and Faithful Priest

As Christ is the antitype of the high priests of the Old dispensation, He surpasses them all. He does not fail in His office as His people’s High Priest. If He fails in either, the sacrifice or the intercession, He cannot be a faithful priest. He remains faithful for ever, since He is shown to be satisfactorily both our propitiation and our advocate, as in 1 John 2:1-2, “1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” His oblation and intercession are accepted in the following Scriptures: Heb 9:11-14, and Heb 7:25. In these duties, He remains perfect.

Before the throne of God above,

I have a strong, a perfect plea,

A great High Priest, whose name is love,

Who ever lives and pleads for me.

(Charitie Lees de Chenez)

3. The Nature of the Intercession inseparably conjoined with the Oblation

The nature of Christ’s intercession in the words of Owen, “for as it is now perfected in heaven, it is not a humble dejection of himself, with cries, tears, and supplications; nay, it cannot be conceived to be vocal, by the way of entreaty, but merely real, by the presentation of himself, sprinkled with the blood of the covenant, before the throne of grace in our behalf.” This intercession of Christ includes His appearance before God in His Human body which He suffered for His people. Like the old High Priest, Christ also appears not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His own – this is His intercession, which really continues on from His work of oblation. Both acts are of equal extent – of eternal and high value. If we extend the intent of one from the other we have to reduce its value, as B. B. Warfield describes, “The things we have to choose between are an atonement of high value, or an atonement of wide extension. The two cannot go together.” (Benjamin B. Warfield)

4. The Instrumentality of Intercession in the Application of the Atonement

It is argued that, since the oblation of Christ is applied, and all the benefits conferred to the elect by the instrumentality of Christ’s intercession – then it must be that both aim to the same final end. It must be remembered that in the agreement of the Covenant of Grace, between the Father and the Son, Christ was promised to obtain all those for whom He would die, by His interceding for them. The intercession of Christ rests upon the promise of God to Him, as in Ps. 2:8, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” He intercedes for those who He purchased by His blood, and His intercession is granted upon such promises. They both of these arrows are, if it could be said reverently, fired toward the same target, and He hits the target in both instances – thus achieving His end.

5. Oblation and Intercession are Inseparably Joined

We can distinguish and analyse the two acts of our High Priest, but they must not be separated from one another. Christ unites the two in His words of John 17, “for there and then he did both offer and intercede.” Both Christ’s humiliation and exaltation is necessary – His death and entrance into heaven as our High Priest – so there is a merging of the two.

To conclude, we can say, that our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, was completely qualified to Mediate for those given to Him by His Father. This is the consolation of the believer – that not only Christ has died for us, but that He continues for ever to make intercession for us. This brings with it certain applications:

1. That if Christ appears for us in heaven, so must we appear for Him on earth. That if He is not ashamed to bring our sinful names before His Father, then how much more, we must bring His blessed name before sinners.

2. That if He lays out all His interest for us in heaven, so must we spend all our talents for Him.

3. That in times when we fall, we receive comfort that the work of our High Priest is a work of grace. That even though we did not and do not deserve the least of His mercies, He continues to apply the benefits of redemption for us in heaven. He does not look at our worthiness, but He looks at our need. From this daily the believer receives comfort.

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, John Owen, Vol. 10, p.184 (The Banner of Truth Trust)

ibid., p.186

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2007 3:11 pm

    Thank you for this insightful overview. Only yesterday I listened to your Sermon from Hebrews on Christ’s intercessions (from SermonAudio) and it was a source of great cheer on a long wet car journey. Hope to meet you soon.

  2. July 3, 2007 6:04 pm

    Enjoyed reading your work on the Sacerdotal office of Christ, it was a real blessing to study this subject. Trust you settle quickly in Cheltenham.
    Best regards to Becky and the Family

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