While it is perfectly Scriptural to talk about the finished work of Christ (see John 19: 30), we may also speak of His unfinished work. Of course, when the Lord died for our sins on the cross His work there was completed, but as ascended up into glory, He is “always living to intercede” for us (Heb. 7: 25). That is what He is doing now, and it is a work that will not be finished until we are all gathered to glory.
Now though Christ has “become higher than the heavens” (v26), in no sense is He a high priest that is “not able to sympathise with our infirmities” (Heb. 4: 15). He has been here as a real man and is perfectly acquainted with the weakness of the body and the trials of the way. His sympathy has nothing to do with our sins—it relates to our infirmities or weaknesses. As believers, if we avail ourselves of the high priestly work of Christ we will not fall into sin. In time of need, we can go to Him in prayer and “receive mercy, and find grace for seasonable help” (v16). This is His ongoing service.
Yet this is not all. The Bible also presents the Lord Jesus as our advocate, and as such He has to do with the question of our sins as believers. Now Scripture presents Him as a high priest with God, but He is our advocate with the Father. The more I read God’s book the more I become aware of its exactness, and how imprecise we are when talking about divine things. It is quite usual for some of us to speak of the high priest with the Father, or of an advocate with God, but Scripture never speaks in that way. When I was converted, God became my Father—a relationship was established in which God is towards me as Father. Now if I fail as a believer and fall into sin, then the Bible tells me that “if any one sin, we have a patron” (AV: “advocate”) “with the Father” (1 John 2: 1, my emphasis). It does not say an advocate with God, but with the Father. Why? Because the Holy Spirit would teach me that the relationship has not and cannot be broken. Sadly, as a Christian I may sin, and even sin grievously, but God remains my Father. Enjoyment of that relationship is another matter altogether, but my failure does not alter the fact that God is my Father and that I am His child. This in itself ought to be a great comfort to the believer who has lapsed into sin.
The word translated patron or advocate is exactly the same as the one used in John 14: 16 where the Lord speaks of the Holy Spirit as the comforter that will be given to Christ’s own in the time of His absence. The sense of a comforter is one who comes to your side to help. God has sent His Spirit to dwell in me and to look after God’s interests in me—in essence He is the advocate on earth. At the same time, the Lord Himself is up in the glory as my advocate there, looking after my interests with the Father.
Why do I need an advocate? Because I have a great adversary. An advocate is one who goes to court to represent me and to plead my cause. You cannot do it yourself, but you go to your advocate, and he goes to plead your case against your adversary. The adversary is Satan, the one who is called “the accuser of our brethren … who accused them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12: 10). He was once the “anointed covering cherub” (Ez. 28: 14) charged with protecting the throne of God from unrighteousness, and even now he presumes to fill out the role he has long lost. So it is that the moment we sin, the Devil constitutes himself the prosecuting attorney in the high court of heaven. He goes into God’s presence and says ‘Is that one of your Christians? See what a great sinner He is! He is not fit to be one of your children!’ And, furthermore, his accusation is warranted! What then, can be done? Thank God then, that “Jesus Christ [the] righteous” (1 John 2: 1, my emphasis) is also there as the living demonstration of the basis by which the believer is eternally accepted! He took account of all my sins—past, present and future—when He died on Calvary’s tree. I become painfully aware of my unrighteousness when I fall into sin and may well give up in despair—unless I see there, in the presence of the Father, an absolutely righteous One who gives me a perfect representation such that God sees me in Him. He has satisfied all the righteous claims of God about my sins—“he is the propitiation for our sins” (v2)—wonderful truth!
John does not say ‘if any one repents’ or ‘if any one confesses his sins’ or ‘if any one weeps over his sins he has an advocate’. No, what he says is “If any one sin” (v1, my emphasis). It is not merely when I am repentant that I have an advocate, but the moment I fail Christ takes up my case—indeed, long before I become concerned about it. It must be so, because the moment that hasty word left my lips or the instance I did that crooked thing, and long before my conscience was troubled, the Devil was there in the presence of God accusing me. However, the Lord is ever there to represent me, and as a result of His advocacy, the Spirit takes the Word of God and applies it to my conscience. Thus I begin to be troubled about my actions and I confess my sin. Sin, therefore, does not touch the question of my relationship in the family of God but it does affect communion. As a result of the Lord’s advocacy we are brought to repentance and confession, and He graciously restores our souls—not to makes us part of the family of God again but to restore communion between the Father and His child. How thankful we should be for this ongoing service of Christ!