The Advocate With the Father

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In considering the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus, we find that it is to maintain us in spite of weakness here, in consistency with our heavenly calling. Priesthood does not contemplate sin in the people of God. It is founded on the perfection of the sacrifice by which sins were removed from before God forever, and removed therefore from the conscience of the believer. Yet we do sin, and if there were no provision for failure and sin in the believer, how terrible it would be.
In infinite grace this first epistle of John brings in the office of Christ as advocate. Let us look at the way the Apostle presents Christ in this character, considering what has gone before. Addressing the whole family of God in the endearing term of “children,” he says, “These things I write unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:11And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: (John 2:1)). He refers, of course, to what has gone before in 1 John 1. Three things belong to the Christian position. First, we walk in the light: The light is God perfectly revealed and known. Then, we have fellowship one with another in that light. And, then, the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin, is the basis of the whole position, alone making it possible for sinners such as we.
Relationship With the Father
All that has thus gone before in 1 John 1 is brought to bear upon our souls in 1 John 2, that we might not sin. But he immediately adds, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.” Even when the sin of one of His own is in question, the love of the Lord Jesus does not fail. He does not leave us to ourselves, but takes up our case and acts for us, according to our necessity. This is the force of the word “advocate.” It is the same word in the original as “comforter” applied to the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel. It is one who acts for us in all our circumstances, wherever we have need of Him. Note also that He is an “advocate with the Father.” The sin of the believer has not changed the relationship in which he stands with the Father. We can never be disowned as such. This makes sin a far more heinous thing — being committed against all the light and relationship and love into which we have been introduced.
According to Hebrews 10, there is no more conscience of sins for those who have believed God’s testimony to the perfection of the finished work of His Son. That is, the conscience never again connects sin with judgment to come, but rather with a judgment that has taken place in the death of Christ and is forever past. The conscience rests where God rests, and He remembers our sins and iniquities no more.
Communion Broken
But Satan might seek occasion to tempt the fallen one to think he could never call God his Father again. In this very connection John presents the Advocate with the Father, that we might know the relationship to be immutable. And besides, it is “Jesus Christ the righteous.” He is there in all His own personal perfection, and “the propitiation for our sins,” in all the abiding efficacy of His work. No charge can stand against those whom God has justified. Rather, sin has interrupted our communion, and the blessed service of the Lord as advocate is to restore that communion. Nor is it that we have to go to Christ to intervene for us. “If any man sin, we have an advocate.” He acts from Himself to bring about in us all that is needed for restoration. His object is to bring us to detect and judge in ourselves that wherein we have failed — to confess our sins, that we may know a Father’s forgiveness and be restored to the joy of communion with Him.
The Washing of Peter’s Feet
This precious service of the Lord for us is illustrated by His ways with Peter in the Gospel of John. John 13:1-111Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; 3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. (John 13:1‑11) gives us the principle of it in the symbolic washing of the disciples’ feet. There was clearly something far deeper in it than the mere lesson of humility. The first verse shows us the new position that the Lord was taking, and this gives its character to all the subsequent communications. “Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father.” We have to go through the world out of which He had to depart, but He would not forget us in all our need, for “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” In His unfailing love was found the spring of His action that follows, and Peter was allowed to hear of a love beyond all our thought, the very night he was to deny that he ever knew Him. He into whose hands the Father has given all things undertakes the cause of those who are beset with danger in such a world as this and are so liable to fail.
Peter resents the humiliation of the Lord in stooping to wash his feet, till he learns that it is essential to his having part with Jesus where He was going. And thus we learn that while His wonderful service for us includes recovery from sin and the soul’s restoration, yet it goes much further in love. He cannot bear a cloud between us and Him, and He provides for the removal of whatever would intercept the light and joy of His presence. Peter thought he could not have too much of such washing: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:99Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (John 13:9)).
The Water of the Word
This leads the Lord to distinguish between two applications of the water. In type, water, in Scripture, represents the Word of God applied in the power of the Spirit. The first is that by which we are born wholly anew and made partakers of a new life and nature. This application can never be repeated. The second is what the washing of the feet implies — namely, the constant application of the Word to preserve or deliver us from what would hinder blessed nearness to Him. Nor are we left to apply it to ourselves: “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.”
We see it as we follow out His ways with Peter and with each of us. No warning led Peter to suspect the danger he was in — he thought that a warm heart would carry him through anything for the Lord. But nature’s energy must fail in such a path as that, and he succumbs before the taunt of a servant girl, even to deny repeatedly that he ever knew the Lord. “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter” (Luke 22:6161And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (Luke 22:61)). That look broke his heart, for it told of a love that knows no change. He knew that he was forgiven even before the special message from His risen Lord, or the personal interview that was accorded him.
Communion Fully Restored
But communion was a very different matter and had yet to be restored. There was still the sense of distance and a void in his heart that none but Christ could fill. He goes back to the old occupation of fishing, leading others with him. It was a profitless night, but it made way for the Lord to intervene in His power and grace and to lead Peter into the reality of what He could not understand when the Lord wanted to wash his feet. “Jesus stood on the shore” (John 21:44But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)). The net was now well filled and all brought to land, where already a meal was prepared for them by the Lord Himself. When it was over, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?” (John 21:1515So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. (John 21:15)). How gently and yet irresistibly the question would recall his confident boast — “I will lay down my life for Thy sake” (John 13:3737Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. (John 13:37)). Who had failed so appallingly as he? What can he say? To whom can he turn but to the One so sinned against? “Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:1515So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. (John 21:15)). But it is to be noted that Peter does not content himself with using the general word for love that the Lord employed, but he uses the word for the special love of a friend. “Thou knowest that I am attached to thee,” and so again when the Lord repeats His question. But three times he had denied Him. It was painful work, but the conscience must be deeply probed, and the root of his failure laid bare, that the recovery might be thorough. The third time the Lord puts the question, but with a touch of inimitable grace He adopts Peter’s word, already implying that He trusts him. “Simon, son of Jonas, art thou attached to Me?” (John 21:1717He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:17) JND). Peter could not but feel it, but under that all-searching eye fixed on him in such love, he could only answer, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I am attached to Thee” (John 21:1717He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:17) JND). The work is done. The defiled feet are washed, and the Lord can confide to Peter His most precious interests here — His lambs and sheep, to shepherd and to feed. And now He gives him, in the power of communion fully restored, to take the path in which once he had broken down so utterly. He should go into death for the Lord.
The Lord’s Advocacy
Thus we are permitted to have a precious sample of the action of the Advocate in the case of the sin of His own. It is the Lord who sets Himself to apply His Word to the conscience and heart, to detect and bring to light what it is that has broken communion or hindered the enjoyment of His presence. He does so that we may confess it and judge ourselves. The moment that point is reached, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
How blessed the revelation of these distinct aspects of the service of the Lord Jesus for us, whether as priest with God or as advocate with the Father. But how it should make us abhor the defiling thing, whatever it may be, which has needed the service of the Son of God to deliver us from it. He desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psa. 51:66Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6)), but He must work to produce it, so that we may have confidence before Him with a heart that has nothing to condemn us.
J. A. Trench, adapted