Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.—(Hebrews 7:25.)
There is great power in advocacy. Many a man has no doubt escaped from the just sentence of the law through the eloquence of the person who has pleaded for him; and let us hope that far oftener justice has been obtained, where otherwise it might not have been, through the clear and earnest pleadings of the advocate before the bar. There is a remarkable instance in Holy Scripture of the power of pleading. Benjamin and the rest of Joseph's brethren had gone away from the Egyptian court. On their road home to their father Jacob they were overtaken by Joseph's steward. He charged them with having stolen Joseph's silver cup. This was, of course, denied, and an offer was made that the sacks of corn should be searched. Beginning with the eldest, the steward continued his search till he came to Benjamin's sack; and there it was. There was no denying the evidence. The fact was proved. They themselves were all unwilling witnesses that the charge was true. The stolen goods were found upon Benjamin. They go back; they are brought into the hall of Joseph, whom they think to be the governor, and do not know to be their brother. He charges them somewhat severely with their ingratitude. They had feasted at his table; he had sent them away with provisions; and the only return they had made was that they had stolen his cup.
Now, as it seemed to them, there was a clear case against them. Benjamin must be kept a prisoner. They make an offer all of them to stop and to be bondsmen, but Joseph says, "No, the man with whom the cup is found, let him lie in prison." And then it is that Judah rises and begins to plead, and marvellous was the effect of his pleading. He did not attempt to urge that there was innocence in the case of Benjamin. It appeared to him very clear that the cup was there: therefore he did not attempt that plea. But he described his father at home, and the love that the old man bore to this, his youngest, son. He said there had been two by his father's favoured wife, but one is not, and this is the only one that is left. He declared that if this child was taken from him he should see his father dying of grief; he should bring his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. And then he went on to plead that he would be willing to stay and be a slave instead of Benjamin. Substitution was his argument. "Take me," said he. And then he mentioned that he had made a covenant with his father Jacob, and had said, "My life for the lad's life. I will be a surety for him." And with all his might he pleaded his own suretyship engagement; he pleaded his willingness to fulfil it by becoming a substitute, and begged that Benjamin might go free. Such seemed to have been the effect upon Joseph that he could no longer restrain himself. He had played his part well up to that moment, but suddenly he bade the Egyptians begone, put every stranger out, and then, bursting into a flood of tears, he cried, "I am Joseph your brother. Doth my father yet live?"
Perhaps he might have continued a little longer the part he had assumed, but Judah's earnest-hearted eloquence prevented all this, and the soul of Joseph poured itself forth in love. It was a faint type, this, of the power of the advocacy of our greater Joseph, the shepherd of Israel. He pleads for us His brethren, guilty as we are. He does not deny our guilt, but He pleads that He is a surety for us. He brings forward the ancient covenant engagements into which He entered with His Father when He put His life for our life; and there He stands, even now, pleading also His own substitutionary sacrifice—not only that He is willing to be bound for us, but that He has been so bound—not merely that He is willing to take our guilt and be regarded as the guilty one, but that He has been numbered with the transgressors and has borne the sin of His people. No wonder that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us. No wonder that e'en the Father pours forth His love in plenteous streams of benediction upon the souls for whom the Saviour pleads.
Now, for a very short time this evening I have to call your attention to the advocacy of Christ, and you will notice in the text that there are three points worthy of your careful observation. The first is that the participators in the benefit are mentioned—"they that come unto God by Him." Secondly, the benefit itself is mentioned, and the extent of it. "He is able to save unto the uttermost." And then, thirdly, concerning the benefactor, we have a teaching with regard to the source of His power to save: "Seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Briefly, then, upon each head.
It is a very important enquiry for all here present, who are the participators in the intercession of Christ.
Not all mankind, certainly, for our Lord has expressly said it. "I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them also which Thou hast given me." And, if you remember, there is a sort of enlargement of that, but it does not alter the case. He says, "Neither pray I for these alone"—who were already around Him and were saved—"but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word"; so that this intercession is for His people, and for those who shall be His people. Or, to put it in the words of the text, to which we will keep, "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him." Here, then, are the people for whom He pleads. He maketh intercession for "them that come unto God by Him."
What is coming to God? Now, every man, every reasonable man, who sincerely desires to exercise worship, wishes, when he worships, to come unto God. When I pray I do not wish my words to die on the air, but that they may come to God. When we sing, if we are at all thoughtful, we are not satisfied with catching the melody, but we want our praises to come up to God. Worship is a sort of coming to God. There is a coming to God for the supply of our needs. We are sinful. The only way to get pardon is to come to the offended God for it. Besides, being sinful, we need to be purged from the propensity to sin. The way to get holiness is to come to the holy God for it. Whenever we have any need or any want, he that knows that all good things are of God will come to God in prayer for the supply of his need. Coming to God means seeking pardon and desiring to be reconciled to Him. By nature we are going away from God, and that is the place where the sinful heart wants to be—farther and farther from God; but when the Holy Ghost touches us, then we desire to come to God to seek pardon, that the obstacles between us may be removed, and to seek holiness that we may be like God and able to have communion with Him. To come to God is for the spirit to approach the great unseen Spirit, whatever it comes for—whether to pray or to give thanks—whether to seek pardon or to seek sanctification.
Now, there are some in the world who try to come to God, but they do not come by Jesus Christ. Such persons are excluded from the benefit of the Saviour's intercession. "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him." By Him. Some will come by an earthly priest. They believe that he has a power which they have not, which is a delusion and a lie—a very fit lie for men to teach who wish to gain power over their fellow-creatures, but of which an honest man would be utterly ashamed. Every Christian is a priest unto God, but no man is more a priest than any other man. Each believer is one of the chosen priesthood, but none above the rest of Christians. Christ will have nothing to do with you if you come unto God by a human priest, for the human priesthood is ended. There is but one priest, even Jesus, who is "a priest for ever," as we read just now, "after the order of Melchisedek." All that intrude into that office now are simply thieves that come not in by the door, but climb up some other way.
There are some who try to come to God without any mediator at all. They speak of addressing the Deity themselves. This would have been proper enough before the fall, but now the great scriptural truth is given out: "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." You may think you are approaching God, but you certainly are not. There is a presumptuous familiarity about such an approach which is rather a dishonour than an honour to God. "There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus"; and to attempt to approach God without the Mediator is to insult His Son and so to provoke the Most High. Alas! there are some foolish enough to attempt to approach God on the footing of their own goodness. Let them beware lest the pure and holy God break forth against them, for this is a terrible provocation of His fiery holiness, for the uncleanness of man to talk of holy things—for sinful man to speak about worthiness—for guilty man to dream of merit. Who art thou? Get thee back to Thy place among the lepers. Cover thy forehead and cry, "Unclean, unclean!" What hast thou to do to come unto the temple of the Most High, for "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." 'Tis all God thinks of thee, and His thoughts are true.
But, beloved, there are men in the world, and they are not a few, who have been taught by divine grace to come unto God by Christ. They have sought pardon for the Mediator's sake, and found it. They seek every blessing now in Jesu's name, and they obtain it. They live now in dependence upon the Son of God, and their life cannot die. This is the way to come to God—trusting in Jesus, pleading His merits, acknowledging our own unworthiness; and Christ will stand by every man and save every man to the uttermost who comes unto God in that way by Him, for this is the appointed way. God bids you, sinner, come to Himself through Christ. "There is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved." Come through that door which is marked by the blood of the atonement, and you shall be admitted. Attempt any other entrance, and you shall be driven away as breaking through the laws of God. It is the appointed way, and, thank God, it is a most fit way. We can come to Jesus, for He is a man. He can go for us to God, for He is "very God of very God." The blended natures of the human and the Divine make the Lord Jesus a suitable medium between man and God. All the wisdom in the world could not have devised a more excellent plan than this. The son of Mary and the Son of Jehovah! O thou blessed Saviour, with Thy right hand grasping the Deity, and with Thy left hand laying hold upon the infirmities of manhood! Well may we come unto the Father by Thee. Thou art the ladder that Jacob saw, and the rounds are so placed that we may readily climb by Thee into heaven. Thy foot doth rest on earth: Thy top reacheth unto the excellent glory of the Godhead.
Beloved, since we have, then, a way of coming to God that is appointed by God, and that is so fit a way, let us also be glad that it is so available a way. Any soul here that wishes to come to God by Christ may come. There is no embargo in Scripture against any man's coming. "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me"; but whoever will come that way may come, and he may come as he is. He may come without any other help than that which God has provided. That is a sweet thought. You do want a mediator between your soul and God, but you do not want any mediator between your souls and Christ. You cannot come to God except through the intervention of another, but you may come to Jesus just as you are, whoever you may be, and in whatever state of heart you may be. If God the Holy Ghost do but give thee the will now to come, and thou desirest to approach to God like a poor prodigal, saying, "Father, I have sinned," come along the blood-stained way of the Redeemer's sacrifice, and there shall be no lion there to stop thee, but all along it the sweet bells of Heaven shall ring, "Come and welcome! Come and welcome! Come and welcome!" Every soul may come that cometh to God by Jesus Christ. That is the limit; but come by Him, and those that come unto Him He will in no wise cast out.
Thus we have described the persons. Oh, happy is the preacher if he can hope—if he could hope—that all came to God this way. May he hope that some will be led to-night to come unto the Father through the crucified Son.
Now, the second interesting point of our text is this—the benefit which Christ the intercessor is prepared to give, and the extent of it. "He is able to save to the uttermost "—or, as the margin puts it, "He is able to save evermore"—"them that come unto God by Him."
First, He is able to save them. Now, there are some that come to God or desire to come, and they say, "Oh, that I might be saved, but my sins! my sins! my sins!" His precious blood is pleaded before the throne, and it can put away all sin. "But my sins," saith one, "far exceed those of any other man. My sins, they are many, grievous, aggravated. They clamour against me. Like Abel's blood which cried against his brother Cain, my sins cry out against me." Yes, and thou art like Joshua of old, who stood in the vision in filthy garments, and the angel of the Lord said, when he was accused of Satan, "Take away his filthy garments from him." Jesus saith the same to thee. If thou comest to God by Him, He is able to take all thy filthy garments from thee, and to make thee now pure. Believe it; it is His own gospel. He is able to make you as though you had never sinned. If you have had a long course of sin, in a moment He can blot out those sins, and set you in the sight of God as though you had never once transgressed. The pardon which Jesus brings is perfect and complete, making a clean sweep of all iniquity, so that if the sins of the pardoned be sought for they shall not be found, for He will pardon those whom He reserves in this respect—in having power by pleading His blood before God. He is able to save from sins, and from the uttermost sins, those that come unto God by Him.
Oh, that blessed word, "to the uttermost"—because there are some that seem to have gone to the uttermost. There are persons who appear to have sinned as far as ever they could. They have flung the reins upon the necks of their fiery steeds, and then they have lashed them to see how fast they could go. We see some who seem to defy all laws, human and divine. They sin with both hands greedily. In the ways of transgression they seem to have wings to their heels as they run along the dangerous pathway. Well, but if thou wilt stay in thy course and come to God by Christ, thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee. Though they be red like scarlet they shall be as wool: though they be as crimson they shall be whiter than snow. Glory be to God, we have a Saviour not for little sinners, but for great sinners—ay, the greatest sinners that ever lived. "This is a faithful saying, and. worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom," saith Paul, "lam chief."
Yes, but there are some who, when they are coming to God by Christ, not only find sin in the way, but they find Satan in the way. "Oh," saith one, "I have such horrible thoughts. Ever since I began to seek a Saviour I have felt blasphemies rising within me, to which I was a total stranger before. I am forced to clap my hand to my mouth for fear sometimes I should say these frightful things." Well, do you hate these things? If so, they are none of yours; they are Satan's injections. Press forward to God by Jesus Christ, for the living Intercessor is able to save you from Satan. "He hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat," but Jesus has prayed for you that your faith fail not. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," because he sees Christ behind you, and he is always afraid of Him. "Ah, but," saith another, "it is not only that. I have such an evil nature, ant ever since I have been seeking God through Christ my nature seems to be more evil than ever it was. Whether it is worse or not I cannot tell, but it seems so to me. Why, when I try to pray I find rebellious thoughts. I get up and go to my business with a solemn resolution that I will live near to God, but at the close of the day I seem to have drifted farther away than ever. 'When I would do good evil is present with me.'
Snatches of old songs come up when I am trying to praise God; and recollections of old sins come and haunt me just when I desire my mind to be most in union with the purity of Heaven." Ah! we know what that means. What a mercy it is that Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him from their besetting sins, from their constitutional sins, from these inward temptations, from their tendency to evil. Christ killed on the cross not merely our actual sins, but our original sin, too. While the blood made atonement for the guilt, the water which streamed with the blood presented cleansing from the power and the defilement of sin within us. Continue still to come to God through Christ, poor soul, however hard thou be beset, for surely He lives who will intercede for you.
I wish I could depict—if it were possible I would—the souls that have gone to the uttermost. Perhaps there is one here driven to desperation. He has come to God by Christ, and yet feels he cannot come. He believes that everybody else might be saved, but not himself. He feels that he, of all men, bears a mark like Cain upon his brow. It may be that once he was a professor, and he thought he walked with God. Now he has lost all hope—not only all the comfort, but, as he believes, all the life of true religion in his soul. He believes himself to be the most hopeless case that was ever laid at the feel of the great Physician.
Oh, my dear friend, I am glad of that—not glad of your sorrow, but I am glad that now there is opportunity for Christ to show how grandly He can save. What renown it brings to the Saviour when He saves to the uttermost! Why, when He has fully saved you, you will sing louder than anybody; you will work for Him more than any. You will be like the woman who broke the alabaster box: you will love Him much because you have had much forgiven: and when you get up yonder, where all the singers meet, you will want to lie the lowest at His dear feet, and yet to sing the most sweetly to the praise of His grace. I am glad I have met with you. I only trust the Master may meet with you now, and prove that "He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him." Oh, if you do but come to God by Him, He can, He will, save you, far as you may have gone, and desperate as your state may be.
I seem to hear somebody say, "I am afraid of death." Oh, then, how this text ought to cheer you! He is able to save to the uttermost. A man has lain long upon his bed, and grown very faint: the bones are coming through the skin. He has a difficulty to breathe; sleep forsakes him. Now comes the trial hour. The death-sweat lies cold upon his brow. He can scarce pray: his thoughts are distracted by his pains. He cannot listen now to good advice. The mind has become feeble. Ah! even in those last moments he that has come to God by Christ need be under no alarm. He is able to save when we are not able to pray; able to save when we are not able to think. Do not think that the Lord will let the safety of His people depend upon their happening to be conscious when they come to die. Oh, no; we are in the hand of Christ. A lifeboat saves the man that is in it, though that man may be fainting and unconscious while he is there. So will Christ bear into Heaven, I doubt not, many a soul that shall be too faint to know the moment of its departure; and it shall come back from its swoon and find itself no longer on the pallet that grew hard in its long sickness, but there with a crown upon its brow praising the Lord. Well, if there be any fear of anything after death Christ is able to save to the uttermost, for after death comes the judgment, the resurrection, the standing before the throne, the sheep as well as the goats. Ah! in—
That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
When heaven and earth shall flee away,
before the Judge's face—in that dread hour beneath the wings of Him who is messenger of the eternal covenant we will cower down and rest in safety. "He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler." Unto the uttermost He will save us. Thoughout eternity He will still live, and, living, He will still be able to save them that come unto God by Him.
Now the third point—though upon all these things we might profitably enlarge—the third point is the source of this remarkable power which rests in Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Why is He "able to save them that come unto God by Him"? It is because "He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Notice the terms: "He ever liveth." Under the old law, when a priest died there might be an interregnum before the next took his office; at any rate, there might be some time elapse during which the worshipper or penitent might bring his sacrifice, and there would be no one to present it. That case can never occur with us. He ever liveth. I think I have told you the story which Robby Flockhart, who used to preach in the streets of Edinburgh, was accustomed to tell sometimes about the usefulness of a living Saviour as well as a dying Saviour. He said that when he was a soldier one of his comrades was condemned to die. Calling in his friend Robby, he made his will, and left him what little money he had; but on the day appointed for the shooting of the soldier he was pardoned. "So," says Robby, "he lived, but I lost my legacy, for a testament is not in force while the testator liveth." Jesus, the great testator, is dead. There is no fear about that; therefore the testament of His love is valid. It would not have been unless He had died. "Well," said Robby, "another time a person left me a small legacy, and I did not get it, for some rogue of a lawyer got a hold of it, and I never saw a penny of it. And," said he, "I used to say, 'Ah! if he had been alive he would have seen me righted; he would have got his old friend Robby the money.' But being dead he had no power to see his will carried out. Ah," said the good old preacher, "Jesus Christ lives to see His own will carried out. He died on the cross; that made it valid. He lives again to see it carried out, so that every blessing in His will, in the covenant of grace, is sure to all those to whom it belongs"; and those are known as those who come unto God by Him. What a mercy it is to have a dying Saviour! What a mercy it is to have a living Saviour! Oh, to confide in Him who hung upon the cross, but who now sits upon the throne! Here is one great rock upon which to build our hopes, and we need never fear that the foundation shall fail us at any time. "He ever liveth."
But do notice the words. "He ever liveth to make intercession for them." We say sometimes of a man, "Why, that man lives for pleasure." We mean that that is the great object of his life. Another man seems to live for his children. Very well, the text says, He lives to make intercession, as if He had nothing else to do but that—as if he lived for that, threw all his life into that—to make intercession for those that come unto God by Him. Do I strain the text when I put it so? I think I do not. He lives to reign. He lives to come again. He lives for many objects; yet is it fair to say that all the force of His life seems to run in this channel. He lives to make intercession for those He bought upon the cross; that is ''for those that come to God by Him."
O may we all come to God that way! May we come to God through a crucified Saviour. May He be our channel of communication with the Lord, for, if so, the intercession of Jesus goes up for us—goes up for us continually. Why is there such power in the intercession of Christ? It is because Christ is what He is—God and perfect man. It is because Christ did what He did: He suffered, and He kept the law. His merits and His miseries put power into His plea. His nature and His office and the covenant make His plea effectual. It is this that keeps us in the favour of God. If the Lord should hide His face from His servants Jesus stands in the gap and says, "Remember that they are Thy people, that they are bone of My bone and flesh of My flesh. Accept them for My sake." And once again the Father takes away the cloud, and His unchanging love shines on His people. And when His people are in great need, then Jesus comes again, and saith, "My Father, all things are Mine. Give to My people what they need. Give the Holy Spirit yet again to them"; and it is done. And in temptation Jesus comes unto the Lord, and says, "Thy enemy assails My people. He accuses and vexes them. Deliver them." And deliverance is sent. You do not know, dear brothers and sisters, what you owe to the pleadings of Christ. If you could only put your ear, as it were, to the keyhole of heaven's palace and hear Jesus pleading there, oh, what notes would you hear I—not sighs and cries, 'tis true—
For with authority He pleads,
Enthroned in glory now.
It is a royal pleading, not a pleading with bloody sweat as in the garden of Gethsemane, but it is effectual pleading, and wins for us everything the Saviour seeks for our good.
What shall we say, then, to all these things? Why, that happy are those that come to God by Jesus Christ. Let them be happy. Christ is able—and we are sure He is willing—to save them to the uttermost. Go and be glad. Go your way. Eat the fat and drink the sweet. Let your head lack no oil, and your face no ointment. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." "Be glad in the Lord, ye righteous and shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart."
But if you have never come to God by Christ, you have no intercessor; you have no share m His blood. You are lost; you are dead in sin. What then? The voice of the Gospel speaks even to you, and it says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," May the Spirit of God go forth with that Gospel, and may you be made to live by the power of the Holy Ghost, that you may then believe in Jesus, and find salvation in Him!
The Lord bless you! And may we meet in Heaven for His, the Intercessor's sake! Amen.
—Able to the Uttermost