God is love. Love is the greatest thing. All we need is love, right? We could solve all of the world’s problems if we just had love.
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
– 1 John 4.8
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
– 1 John 4.16
“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Cor 13.13
Love is indeed great. But what is love, exactly? We, as Christians, often invite people to know God, because God is love, and we tell them that He can save us, but we rarely answer the question, “from what do we need to be saved?”. We preach so freely that we need to be in relationship with God, that if we know Him and love Him that we can go to Heaven when we die. This, unfortunately, is only half of the story. And not only that, it leaves out the most important part of the story: we need an intercessor.
We have a problem, and the problem is guilt. We are sinners, and because of our sin we deserve to spend eternity in Hell.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
– Rom 3.23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Rom 6.23
God has always, however, offered us forgiveness for our sins, if we repent, confess and make amends for our sin. In the Old Covenant (the time before Jesus), people would have to kill an animal and make a blood sacrifice because the punishment for sin is death. Something must die.
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
– Heb 9.22
But why? Are we trying to appease some equal and opposite force of God? Because if God is love, all warm and fuzzy, surely He wouldn’t require blood.
On the contrary. God’s love is perfect and holy and will never overlook sin. He will never pardon the guilty.
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
In whirlwind and storm is His way,
And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.
– Nahum 1.3
And He is, in fact, the punisher. Jesus warns us to fear God because He is the only one who has authority to cast people into Hell!
“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
– Luke 12.4-5
So before Jesus, there were priests who would make sacrifices for people. They were appointed as the ones who served God in the temple, who appeased the wrath of God against the sins of all of the people. But then Jesus came, as fully man and fully God, and He became the perfect priest by never sinning and offering Himself as the final and perfect sacrifice. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by shedding His own blood.
The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
– Heb 7.23-25
So what does it mean that Jesus is making intercession for us? Jesus stands before God as our advocate and intercessor when we sin, after coming to faith (1 John 2.1). God hates sin and He judges it and condemns it. Without faith, without being hidden in Jesus, we are left on our own before the judge. We have no representation before God. But when we believe and repent, we gain representation: Jesus. Every time we sin, Jesus stands before God and intercedes saying, “that sin is paid for” – “time served”, if you will.
Sin is the problem. It is what separates us from God. You cannot come to know God and to have a relationship with Him – you cannot “be saved” – until you deal with the sin problem. And the glory, as well as the terror, is the fact that we cannot deal with the sin problem on our own. Only Jesus can. So we turn to Him and confess and repent. Then Jesus, as our High Priest and intercessor, steps in and takes care of it.
Have you dealt with your debt of sin to God? Do you have representation in the Heavenly court? Have you confessed and repented of your sins and turned to God for forgiveness? If not, do so today. Jesus lives to make intercession for His followers. And He will forgive you.