“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “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. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

“Reconciliation is His masterpiece” by Thomas Goodwin

“Are not all God’s attributes His nature, His justice as well as mercy? His hatred of sin, as well as the love of His creature?

And is not that nature of His pure act, and therefore active, and therefore provokes all His will to manifest these His attributes upon all occasions?

Doth not justice boil within Him against sin, as well as His bowels of mercy yearn towards the sinner?

Is not the plot of reconciliation His masterpiece, wherein He means to bring all His attributes upon the stage?”

–Thomas Goodwin, “Of Christ the Mediator,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1862/2021), 5: 16.

“God stamped upon His Son all His glory” by Thomas Goodwin

“He is the Son of God, and second person, and therefore the express image and brightness of His Father’s glory, (Hebrews 1:3) the essential substantial image of His Father, which transcends infinitely more all other drafts of Him than the image of a king in his son begotten like him, and in a board or tablet.

But this image, you will say, it is too bright for us to behold it shining in His strength, we being as unable to behold it in Him, as we were to see His Father Himself, who dwells in light inaccessible, which no eye can attain to.

Therefore that yet we may see it as nigh and as fully and to the utmost that creatures could; this Godhead dwells bodily in a human nature (Colossians 2:9), that so shining through the lantern of His flesh we might behold it.

His human nature and divine make up one person, and being so, are united together in the highest kind of union that God can be to a creature, and the nearest and fullest communications follow always upon the nearest union.

To Him therefore as man are communicated these riches of glory that are in the Godhead, as nearly and fully as was possible unto a creature; and being thus communicated, must needs shine forth in Him to us to the utmost that they ever could unto creatures.

And therefore more clearly than if millions of several worlds had been created every day on purpose to reveal God to us.

God having stamped upon His Son all His glory, that we might see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, (2 Cor. 4:6).”

–Thomas Goodwin, “A Discourse of the Glory of the Gospel,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1862/2021), 4: 232.

“Help me to devote all my words and thoughts to You” by Hilary of Poitiers (A.D. 315-368)

“I know, O Lord God Almighty, that I owe You, as the chief duty of my life, the devotion of all my words and thoughts to Yourself.

The gift of speech which You have bestowed can bring me no higher reward than the opportunity of service in preaching You and displaying You as You are, as Father and Father of God the Only-begotten, to the world in its blindness and the heretic in his rebellion.

This is, to be sure, only the expression of my will. Besides this, I must pray for the gift of Your help and mercy that You may fill the sails of our faith and profession which have been extended to You with the breath of Your Spirit and direct us along the course of instruction that we have chartered.

The Author of this promise is not unfaithful to us who says: ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’ (Matthew 7:7)

We, of course, in our helplessness shall pray for those things that we need, and shall apply ourselves with tireless zeal to the study of all the words of Your Prophets and Apostles and shall knock at all the doors of wisdom that are closed to us, but it is for You to grant our prayer, to be present when we seek, to open when we knock.

Because of the laziness and dullness of our nature, we are, as it were, in a trance, and in regard to the understanding of Your attributes we are restricted within the confines of ignorance by the weakness of our intellect.

Zeal for Your doctrine leads us to grasp the knowledge of divine things and the obedience of faith carries us beyond the natural power of comprehension.

And therefore we look to Your support for the first trembling steps of this undertaking, to Your aid that it may gain strength and prosper.

We look to You to give us the fellowship of that Spirit Who guided the Prophets and the Apostles, that we may take their words in the sense in which they spoke and that we may explain the proper meaning of the words in accordance with the realities they signify.

We shall speak of things which they preached in a mystery; of You, O God Eternal, Father of the Eternal and Only-begotten God, Who alone are without birth, and of the One Lord Jesus Christ, born of You from everlasting.

We may not sever Him from Thee, or make Him one of a plurality of Gods, on any plea of difference of nature. We may not say that He is not begotten of You, because You are One.

We must not fail to confess Him as true God, seeing that He is born of You, true God, His Father.

Grant us, therefore, precision of language, soundness of argument, grace of style, loyalty to truth.

And grant that what we believe we may also speak, namely, that, while we recognize You as the only God the Father and the only Lord Jesus Christ from the Prophets and the Apostles, we may now succeed against the denials of the heretics in honoring You as God in such a manner that You are not alone, and proclaiming Him as God in such a manner that He may not be false.”

–Hilary of Poitiers, The Trinity, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Stephen McKenna, vol. 25, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), 25: 33–34. (1.37-38)

“A righteousness that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds” by Thomas Goodwin

“In the gospel, and work of redemption, we see a righteousness of that breadth that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds; of that length that it reacheth to eternity, and no sin in God’s people can wear it out or nullify the virtue of it.

And those attributes which God accounts His greatest riches and greatest glory, (Rom. 9:23), even His mercy and free grace, which He intends most to exalt, never saw light till now.

The doctrine of salvation by Christ being the stage, wherein only it is represented, and elsewhere it is not to be seen, and upon it acts the greatest part, for all passages in it tend to this, to shew, as, that ‘by grace we are saved,’ (Eph. 2:5) and therefore, the whole work of salvation is called ‘mercy,’ (1 Peter 2:10) all God’s ways to His people are mercy, (Ps. 25:10), the whole plot and frame of it is made of mercy, and therefore the doctrine of the gospel is called grace, (Titus 2:10-11).

Mercy manageth the plot, gives all other attributes, as it were, their parts to act.

Mercy enters in at the beginning, acts the prologue in election.

And mercy, giving Christ, continues every part of it, sets all a-work, ends the whole in glory.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “The Glory of the Gospel,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2021), 4: 230-231.

“Angels are worshippers of Christ” by Thomas Goodwin

“My brethren, the angels are part of the worshippers of Christ as well as we; as they are part of His family, as they are part of His city (Heb. 12:22), whereof He is the King and Lord, so they are part of His worshippers. And, as you shall set anon, we, with all them, worship God and Him together, both here, and shall do so hereafter.

They are worshippers of Him, and in that sense make a part of the Church; for ecclesia colentium, a church is properly for worship. If they be therefore part of the worshippers of Christ, they come under His Church, they are a part of it; particular churches are ordained for worship, and so is the general Church for a worship to be performed to Christ.

And it is the proper expression of the members of a church, what they are designed unto—they are worshippers. Now, in Heb. 1:6, you shall find that the angels are all worshippers of Jesus Christ, ‘And again, when He bringeth His first-begotten into the world, He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him,’ speaking of Christ…

Little do we think it, but the angels fill our churches as well as men, and are present at all our congregations and assemblies. Because we are to be with them hereafter, and to worship God together with them, therefore they come down and are present at the worship of God here with us…

Angels are round about the throne; and they are present at the courts of God’s house; still they are worshippers, you see, together with us on earth. They do delight to hear Christ preached, because Christ is their Head, and therefore are present (Eph. 1:21-22).

The text is express, Eph. 3:10; Paul sheweth there the end why to him was committed, and so to others, the preaching of the gospel: ‘To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’

They do not know it out of the Scripture simply, but as it is opened in the church, by the ministers of the church, for the good of the church, so they come to know it; and they delight to do so, for so you have it, 1 Pet 1:12. Saith he, speaking of the fathers before in the Old Testament, ‘It was revealed unto them, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you’ (he speaks in general) ‘by them that preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.’

The angels are present, and they are glad to hear Christ laid open and preached unto men, to hear their Head spoken of. They are worshippers together with us of Christ…

Here on earth angels have joy when any poor soul is converted. As they come to church, be they observe who is wrought upon. When they see a poor soul go home and humble himself, fall down upon his knees and become a new creature, news is presently carried up to heaven; for the text saith, Luke 15:10, that ‘there is joy in the presence of the angels of God’—that is, in the court of heaven, amongst them all, so the word signifieth, ἐνώπιον, in the face of all the angels; it is the same word used, Luke 12:8, ‘him shall the Son of man confess before the angels of God,’ He will own him in his court, and confess Him in the presence, in the face of all the angels; so there is joy amongst the angels, they rejoice before God—‘over one sinner that is converted,’ over a poor soul that is gathered unto Christ their Head.

This association, my brethren, we have with them, besides all the services they do us, which I cannot stand to repeat and reckon up unto you; for all the angels are our fellow-servants; so that angel calleth himself, Rev. 22:9. And Jacob’s ladder that touched heaven, the angels ascended and descended upon it; and Christ himself, John 1:51, interprets it that He is the ladder; they all come down upon Him and ascend upon Him, for the service of men.

He is their head, their ruler, their governor. But as we have in this world this association with them, so in the world to come we shall all worship God with one worship, both angels and men together.

Such he there is Heb. 12, the place I quoted before; ‘you are come to the Mount Sion,’—so he calleth the Church, which consisteth both of angels and men, as I observed before. Mount Sion, you know, was the place of God’s worship.

What is his meaning, then, when he saith, ‘you are come to the Mount Sion, to the heavenly Jerusalem?’ You are all come, saith he, to the place of worship whither angels are come up; for al the tribes came up there, to that Mount Sion, to worship God—the mount where all the angels are, and where all the souls of just men made perfect shall come up in their succession, and all to worship God.

It is called Mount Sion, because it is the place of God’s worship. And that which we translate the company of angels, μυριάσιν, it is the solemn assembly of angels; so the word signifieth, such an assembly as was at a solemn feast of the Jews, whither all the people came up.

The men that dwelt at Jerusalem, he compareth them to the angels, for that is their standing seat and dwelling; and we that are upon earth, he compareth to the tribes that came up to the solemn assembly, to the solemn feast. And he calleth them the general assembly, for there God will have all His children about Him. So that both angels and we one day shall be common worshippers, live in one kingdom together; we shall be as angels; so Matt. 22:30...

Angels have a happiness in Christ, in seeing of Him as well as we. I take that to be part of the meaning of that 1 Tim. 3:16. I have often wondered at the expression there; I shall give you what I think to be the meaning of it.

Speaking of Christ, and of the great mystery of godliness in Him, saith he, ‘God, who was manifested in the flesh,’—and there was more of God manifested in the flesh in the person of Christ, than there is in all creatures that were made, or possibly could be made,—‘justified in the Spirit,’ which was spoken of his resurrection, ‘seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.’

Here are two principles, faith and vision. Here is faith attributed to men; they cleave to Christ their head by faith, ‘believed on in the world.’ The angels cleave unto him by vision, ‘seen of angels;’ admiring Him with infinite joy, looking upon Him as their Head.

They saw more of God manifested in that man Christ Jesus, than they had seen in heaven before. We cleave to Him by faith; they cleave to Him by sense: that which we shall have, for we shall see Him one day as He is, that the angels do, and are made happy in Him; the same eternal life that we have, they have, ‘and this is eternal life, to know God, and to know Jesus Christ,’ John 17:3.

Their happiness lieth, as our happiness, in seeing God incarnate, in seeing God in the flesh, in seeing God face to face, and His Christ forever.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “Sermon X: Ephesians 1:10,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2021), 1: 160–161, 162, 163, 163–164, 166.

“The miracle of miracles” by Joel Beeke

“Every miracle of personal salvation rests upon the person of Christ, who is the miracle of miracles.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 860.