SANCTIFICATION What Jesus Is Doing For The Believer… …CLAY Fit For The Master’s Use…Because He Is Sanctifying It!
“What is Jesus doing now?” How would you answer that question? Most Christians have a fairly good understanding of what Jesus has done in the past and what Jesus will do in prophecy, but how many know what Jesus is doing in the present? The theology books on the author’s shelves usually have big sections on the resurrection and ascension of Christ and large sections on the second advent of Christ, but nothing on the period between His two comings. Throughout your Christian life, how many sermons have you heard on this subject?
Someone may respond, “Well, isn’t Jesus sitting at the right hand of God?” Yes, He is, but the Bible teaches that He is doing something as well. Someone else may say, “Isn’t Jesus preparing a place for us?” Yes, He is, but the omnipotent Son of God does not need almost two thousand years just to prepare our eternal dwellings. The Bible does teach us that there is a continuing, active ministry that Jesus is performing for believers today.
The Three Appearings
The epistle to the Hebrews gives us part of the answer:
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; Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world. But now once, in the end of the ages, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb. 9:24-28).
Three times in this passage the word appear is mentioned. Each one has reference to some action of Christ in regard to our great salvation. In the past, Christ appeared (v. 26) to deal with the penalty of our sin. This is called our redemption. In the present, Christ now appears (v, 24) in the presence of His Father to intercede as our Advocate. Such advocacy on His part deals with the power of sin over us and has reference to our sanctification. In the prophetic future, Christ shall appear (v. 28) to consummate the third phase of our salvation, when He will eliminate the very presence of sin from us. This is called glorification.
It is that middle appearing of which the writer speaks which helps to answer the question, “What is Jesus doing now?”
The Old Testament High Priest
One cannot understand this passage without a knowledge of the work of the high priest outlined in Leviticus 16. In that chapter the elaborate ritual of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is described. The main participant on that day was the high priest. The acts of the high priest moved through three basic stages. First, the high priest sacrificed a bullock for his own sins and a goat for the people’s sins. Secondly, he entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of the sacrificial animals. There, he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat over the ark as an atonement for sin. Thirdly, he departed the Holy of Holies to a breathless congregation who were anxiously awaiting his return. It was then that he confessed verbally the sins of the people over the head of a live goat which was then led forth into the wilderness.
This very basic description of the high priest’s unique ministry provides a rich background for the teaching of Hebrews 9:24-28. Just as the high priest offered a blood sacrifice, so Jesus the High Priest “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Just as the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies representing the people before God, so Jesus has entered the heavenly sanctuary “now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). Just as the high priest emerged from the Holy of Holies to an awaiting congregation, so it is written of Jesus: “. . . unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28).
The present ministry of our great High Priest consists of applying the efficacy of His blood sacrifice in the Holy of Holies of the heavenly tabernacle. There He represents believers and has opened up the way so that we can approach that “throne of grace” ourselves in prayer (Heb. 4:14-16).
The New Testament further elaborates this present ministry of our great High Priest by stating that He is interceding for us as our Advocate.
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 (Heb. 7:25).
Who is he that condemneth? Shall 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)?
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 (1 Jn. 2:1).
The word advocate is the Greek word parakletos, which literally means one called alongside. The setting is that of a courtroom. Jesus is the one called alongside to represent us and to plead our case. If there is an Advocate for the brethren (i.e., a defense attorney), then there must be an accuser of the brethren (i.e., a prosecuting attorney). And the Scriptures indicate there is such a one:
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night (Rev. 12:9.10).
Satan’s activity of accusing the saints is graphically portrayed in Job 1 and 2 where he slanderously accused Job of serving God insincerely. Job longed for someone who could be a mediator to plead his case (Job 9:33), Job’s longing for such an advocate has been fulfilled in the present ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Satan accuses the brethren before the Judge of the universe, we have an Advocate who represents us, intercedes for us, and pleads for us on the basis of His atoning sacrifice which has paid for all our sins.
The poet, Martha Snell Nicholson, has graphically described the scene in Heaven enacted every day:
I sinned. And straightway, posthaste, Satan flew
Before the presence of the most High God,
And made a railing accusation there.
He said, “This soul, this thing of clay and
Has sinned. ‘Tis true that he has named Thy
But I demand his death, for Thou hast said,
‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Shall not
Thy sentence be fulfilled? Is justice dead?
Send now this wretched sinner to his doom.
What other thing can righteous ruler do?”
And thus he did accuse me day and night,
And every word he spoke, oh God, was truel
MustThen quickly One rose up from God’s
Before whose glory angels veiled their
He spoke, “Each jot and tittle of the law
Must be fulfilled; the guilty sinner dies!
But wait — suppose his guilt were all transferred
To Me, and that I paid his penalty!
Behold My hands, My side, My feet! One
I was made sin for him, and died that he
Might be presented faultless, at thy throne!”
And Satan fled away. Full well he knew
That he could not prevail against such love,
For every word my dear Lord spoke was
The great difference between the work of a human defense attorney and our Advocate is that Jesus does not maintain our innocence but confesses our guilt. Then He enters His plea before the Father on our behalf as the One who “. . . is the propitiation for our sins. . . ” (1 Jn. 2:2).
How often we speak of an elected representative as “Our Man in Washington.” He is there to represent our interests and our cause. How appropriately we can speak of Jesus, the great High Priest, as “Our Man in Heaven.”
Probably no human words have ever been penned that so graphically portray the present ministry of the Lord Jesus than those of Charles Wesley in the immortal hymn, “Arise,My Soul, Arise!” Read them with a new appreciation for the work of our great High Priest.
Arise, my soul, arise!
Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the throne my Surety stands —
My name is written on His hands,
My name is written on His hands.
No greater application of this wonderful truth can be made than the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews: “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
My God is reconciled,
His par-d’ning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child,
I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry,
And “Father. Abba, Father” cry.