The Gospel offers more than an eventual entrance into Heaven; rather, it invites us into the life of Trinity. It is, indeed, marvelously correct that the gospel frees us from the penalty and power of sin; however, it is lacking. The Gospel also frees us to walk with God and pursue His purposes on earth.
As I was running errands, I decided to use the time in traffic to pray. I wish I could say that the first things that came straight from my heart to my mouth in prayer were pleas for the salvation, sanctification, and flourishing of others. Instead, what my heart sent via my lips were selfish requests.
Then, the Spirit was gracious to remind me of a short phrase from Isaiah 51, the chunk of Scripture that has held my soul captive for the past few weeks. “Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of his people…” (Isaiah 51:22).
The One Who Pled Our Case
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, has been telling His captive, exiled, circumstantially-pitiful people, to take comfort. He has given them rich promises and prophesies of hope.
“Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait. Isaiah 51:4-5.
He tells them that though they have been rightfully drinking the cup of God’s anger from their continually turning away from Him, He is the kind of God who will plead their case. On the other side of the Cross, we know what Isaiah and his literally captive audience did not know. While Cyrus would soon send them home, their patterns of turning away from God would continue ad nauseam. The solving of their external problem would only expose a much deeper eternal and internal one.
Christ was the one Sent from God, the One who drew near in the incarnation, the One who pled our eternal cause before the Father and took the solution upon Himself. In John 17, Jesus’ adaption of the high priestly prayer, he pled our case. On the Cross, He bled for our doomed case. And He still sits at the right of the Father to continually plead our cases with the help of the Holy Spirit whom he sent to indwell us and translate sighs into prayers (see Hebrews 7:24-25 and Romans 8: 26-27).
In light of His pleading on our behalf, we are freed to plead on behalf of others. His advocacy for us before the Father should compel our hearts to advocate on behalf of others. We need not spend too much time listing of our adult Christmas wish lists, for we know that we have a Triune God who already knows what we need and has provided for our greatest need.
Pleading for Those Inside the Fold
When our hearts and minds are freed from the need to constantly be thinking for ourselves and pleading our needs and desires, we have room to carry the burdens of the body of Christ. The Philippian Church so beautifully modeled this in prayer and in action. For though they were outwardly poor, they knew the God who pled their case and were freed to look out for the financial needs of Paul as he continued to plant churches.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again (Philippians 4:14-16).
The local body of Christ aches with hurts. Members of our churches are fighting cancer, drowning under financial needs, and irked by isolation. The gospel invites us into pleading in prayer and responding in service for the sheep of the flock.
Pleading for Those Outside the Fold
As former enemies of God who have been reconciled by Christ’s atonement and intercession, we are invited into an active ambassadorship. Because Christ has both pled and bled for us, we are invited to implore others, to plead with others, to be reconciled to God.
In addition to pleading with those outside the fold, we are also compelled to plead for them to God in prayer. In Romans 9, we hear Paul’s compulsion to plead on behalf of His Jewish brethren who were still rejecting Christ as the Messiah.
I am speaking the truth in Christ-I am not lying; my conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit- that I have a great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3).
May the reality of our Lord who pleads our case free us to plea this Advent season!