This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.
The Advocacy of Christ
Please explain the word “Advocate” as applied to Christ. We were told in the Bible class that it means “one who comes alongside to help.” Is not Christ always within us? How then should we think of Him as being away from us and coming close to help when we sin?
Our Lord Jesus Christ exercises three great ministries from the right hand of God: they are mediation, intercession and advocacy. The first is linked to our alienation as sinners and rebels. He is the only One in all the universe who can introduce a poor sinner to God (1 Tim. 2:5). This ministry is expounded in Romans, and is exercised on the basis of His propitiation (Rom. 3:25-26).
The second is linked to our infirmities as saints. This ministry is explained in the Hebrews, and is likewise exercised on the basis of His propitiation (Heb. 2:17). It is the same word as in Romans. He succours the tempted, and leads on through all the vicissitudes of life to final victory (Heb. 7:25).
The third is linked to our failures as children. This ministry is taught in 1 John. Like the other two ministries, this too is exercised on the basis of His propitiation (1 John 2:3). I might add here that the New Testament word propitiation is the exact equivalent of the Old Testament word atonement. It means satisfaction. The satisfaction that has been given to divine justice in the work of the Cross to meet all our need, from conversion to glorification.
It is true that the word “advocate” means one who comes alongside to help, However, this requires a fuller explanation than what was given in the Bible class. The same word is applied to the Holy Spirit, and is translated Comforter in John 14-16. Note that the Lord said, “I will send you another Advocate,” meaning that He, himself, was an Advocate while here on earth. In what way was He an Advocate while here on earth? He stood by us in all our need as sinners. He stood surety for us before the demands of the stern justice of God. The full weight of God’s wrath against sin fell on the head of our Advocate until every demand of holiness was met and satisfied. God put the seal of approval upon Christ’s work of atonement by raising Him from the dead, and by exalting Him to be a Prince and a Saviour at His own right hand.
From the right hand of God our Lord sends the other Comforter or Advocate, namely, the Holy Spirit. Acting on the intercession of the first Advocate in Heaven, the second Advocate on earth “helpeth our infirmities” (Rom. 8:26). He strengthens and supports us in all our weaknesses and guides us through all confusion and temptation to peace and victory. Mr. August Van Ryn has pointed out that there are three prepositions used in the Holy Spirit’s relationship to the people of God (John 14:16-17): “Abide with them,” “Dwell with them” and “Be in them.” The first means “among,” the second “alongside,” and the third “in.” This writer says, “Among us for power and worship in the assembly; He is by the side of each believer for help and guidance; He indwells us for fruit and fellowship.” In the same way Christ can be within us as the hope of glory, and at the same time represent us before the face of the Father in Heaven.
Not only was Christ our Avocate while on earth to deal with the question of sin, not only has He sent the Holy Spirit to deal with the question of our weakness, but he is an Advocate now with the Father to deal with the question of our failures. Observe that He is an “Advocate with the Father.” This means that while the failures of the children break communion with the Father, they do not break relationship.
The Advocacy of Christ in Heaven takes on a legal form. The picture is that of a lawyer taking up the case of his client and assuming full responsibility before the law. But an earthly lawyer may not be able to satisfy the law on behalf of his client. Our Advocate is more than able to meet the demands of God’s law on the basis of the abiding efficacy of His atonement. Always, where the word advocate is used there is an adjective to describe the holiness of our counsel “the Spirit of truth” or “Jesus Christ the righteous.” Even in the work of restoration everything is done to maintain the rights and purity of the law of God.
We are given an illustration of how the advocacy of our Lord works in Luke 22:31-32. The Lord saw the temptation coming and prayed for Peter. The work of restoration began, not when Peter repented, but when he was being led into sin. Though Peter’s courage failed, his faith was sustained. When the Lord prayed for Peter, the Spirit of God began to work on Peter’s conscience. Godly sorrow wrought repentance, and Peter was restored, restored in conscience in heart, and to his position of service (John 21).
The word for advocate (parakletos) is used in the New Testament both as a title of the Holy Spirit and for the work of the Lord Jesus as Priest at God’s right hand. In John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 the Lord promises another “Comforter” (parakletos). This Comforter is the Holy Spirit, and is the same word as Advocate in 1 John 2:1. “And if any man sin, we have an Advocate (parakletos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word, parakletos is a combination of two words: para—beside and kaleo—to call. It, therefore, means, one called to our side to help. Technically though, the word was used of a legal assistant, counsel for the defence, an intercessor. We have, therefore, two Advocates; the Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, to comfort, encourage, teach and guide, and the Lord Jesus on the throne to plead our case when we sin. Of course, it is also true that the Lord Jesus dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). He is also “at hand” that is, by our side (Phil. 4:5). He is all this because He is divine and has the divine attribute of omnipresence. But above all He is personally present on the throne in Heaven performing priestly functions on behalf of His people. His work as Advocate comes into operation as soon as we sin. He is a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, (Heb. 2:17), but He is an Advocate with the Father (John 2:1), indicating a family relationship.
We have a lovely word in Africa which is used to express this idea. An advocate or comforter is sometimes called a kasendo mukwashi. The first word kasendo means a blood-brother, one with whom a solemn covenant sealed in blood has been made. The second word mukwashi means, one who helps by laying hold. The Lord is both to us, a kasendo mukwashi.
Ernest T. Wilson