Questions often on Christian minds – adapted from Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund.
Q: I know what Christ did with my sin on the cross, but what is Christ doing with my sin now?
A: We don’t have to speculate. The Bible tells us. He is interceding for us. Justification is tied to what Christ did in the past. Intercession is what he is doing in the present.
Think of it this way. Christ’s heart is a steady reality flowing through time. It isn’t as if his heart throbbed for his people when he was on earth but has dissipated now that he is in heaven. It’s not that his heart was flowing forth in a burst of mercy that took him all the way to the cross but has now cooled down, settling back once more into kindly indifference. His heart is as drawn to his people now as ever it was in his incarnate state. And the present manifestation of his heart for his people is his constant interceding on their behalf.
Q: If we speak of the finished work of Christ on the cross, does the doctrine of intercession suggest that the cross was actually left unfinished?
A: The answer is that intercession applies what the atonement accomplished. Christ’s present heavenly intercession on our behalf is a reflection of the fullness and victory and completeness of his earthly work, not a reflection of anything lacking in his earthly work. The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work. In the past, Jesus did what he now talks about; in the present, Jesus talks about what he then did. This is why the New Testament weds justification and intercession, such as in Romans 8:33–34: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Intercession is the constant hitting “refresh” of our justification in the court of heaven.
Pressing in more deeply, Christ’s intercession reflects how profoundly personal our rescue is. If we knew about Christ’s death and resurrection but not his intercession, we would be tempted to view our salvation in overly formulaic terms. It would feel more mechanical than is true to who Christ actually is. His interceding for us reflects his heart—the same heart that carried him through life and down into death on behalf of his people is the heart that now manifests itself in constant pleading with and reminding and prevailing upon his Father to always welcome us.