Calvary Road Baptist Church

“INTERCESSORS”

Romans 8.26, 34; Hebrews 7.25

Allow me to read a poem, the first line of which you have almost certainly heard:

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

John Donne

“No Man Is an Island is an expression emphasizing a person’s connections to his or her surroundings.”[1] The portion of the poem about the bell tolling has reference to the church bell that tolls when someone in the village dies. Do not bother to inquire who died, the poet suggests, because in a sense when someone dies we all die, so the tolling of the bell for someone else’s death is also a tolling of the bell for our own deaths. Of course, Ernest Hemingway took the phrase “for whom the bell tolls” as the title of his 1940 novel. Nice sentiment. The kind of thing you would find posted by someone on Facebook. And at a superficial level in our existence, it expresses reality. We are all connected by our humanity, by our common environment, by our experiences of life, and by our ancestry. However, what we have in common also guarantees that in a profound and eternal sense we are not connected. We are each of us very much alone.

Consider what God’s Word tells us about each of us. Yes, we have common heritage and ancestry. Yes, we are of a common race, with a common origin, and a common fate. However, one thing that we have in common makes us very much individual islands that are not at all connected to each other in a comforting and helpful sense. I speak, of course, of sin. We all have sin in common. You recognize that there are sins and there is sin. Sins are deeds, doings, actions, attitudes, thoughts, contemplations, considerations, and behavior. Sin is the nature, the principle, and the inclination that gives rise to all these actions and attitudes, these evil dispositions and wicked designs. When Adam committed the deed of a sinful act he took upon himself by that willful rebellion an entire nature and disposition that from then on was inclined against God, tilted toward wrongdoing, and entirely predisposed to self and selfishness. That is what gave rise to his awareness that he was naked, as he had always been but had never before noticed. Sin, you see, is all about self. The same was true of Eve, and she first displayed the characteristic when, after eating the forbidden fruit, she immediately gave to Adam and he did eat.[2] Additionally, sin so completely distorts one’s perception that observations and conclusions become twisted and warped by sin, as evidenced by Adam and Eve’s vain attempt to hide from the all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful LORD God.[3] So damaged is one’s comprehension of reality who is in sin that he mistakes bondage for liberty and being crippled in both will and ability for freedom. The reality, however, is that the sinner has no liberty at all, and certainly no freedom of will or ability. He is spiritually dead, after all, and what liberty, freedom, or ability does one have that is dead?[4]

One of the most tragic consequences of sin is the isolation it produces in the lives of those who are afflicted, infected, and quarantined by it. Isaiah 59.2 speaks only of sin’s consequence relative to God: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Is it any wonder that the sinner, the one who has such a degraded nature as would produce behavior categorized as sins, as transgressions, and as iniquities as we have in this verse, is separated from God and his sins have hidden God’s face? Why would God, Who is holy, righteous, true, love, merciful, and gracious, want to have anything to do with beings that are contaminated, defiled, selfish, cruel, mean-spirited, unloving, unmerciful, dead, and resolutely opposed to His will, His glory, and His plan for the ages? Sadly, being isolated from God seems to be of no concern at all to so many sinners because their selfishness and self-absorption, coupled with their pride and sense of self-sufficiency, convinces them that they have no need for God or His blessings, until they do. Those same people, however, admit by their conduct that they need other people, their approval and their admiration if not their constant companionship. Oh, what people will do for the admiration and approval of others, all the while pretending they do not. Convinced they have no need for those they reject, what people will do to gain the admiration and evoke the approval of those whose acceptance they crave.

However, despite the displays of camaraderie that are so often seen, and the heady intoxication of romantic love, sinners are actually, in reality, all alone. You will see a group of men pulling together in a seeming display of unity as they join in a struggle to achieve a common goal, such as was on display during the World Series or with men in uniform in combat. However, what happens as soon as the goal is either achieved or irretrievably lost? Consider baseball. Contract negotiations begin, trade talks are rumored, retirements are announced, surgeries are scheduled, and as last year’s Dodger catcher A. J. Ellis remarked, when the Dodgers were eliminated, that group of men will never be in the clubhouse as a unit again. Therefore, it is no surprise that Boston’s center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, was reported yesterday to be unlikely to return to the team next year.[5] Just one illustration showing that memories are what is left of what was in reality only temporary.

Young lovers convince themselves that their love for each other will endure, having absolutely no statistical evidence that their relationship with each other will last, much less that that they will be delivered from a long and empty marriage that features two people who sleep in the same bed, yet who do not talk to each other except when it is necessary, do not share the same hopes, dreams and aspirations, and frequently ending up actually working to thwart each other’s purposes. Just as it is possible to be entirely isolated from humanity in a crowded room full of laughing and happy people at a party, so it is possible for two people who sleep together, who have made babies together, who cooperate to some degree to actually raise those babies, and who publicly and for all to see put on a great show of solidarity when threatened, to in fact be completely isolated from that other person on an emotional and spiritual level. “But Pastor, my spouse and I are on the same page.” It doesn’t matter. You can be in complete agreement with each other regarding your financial, philosophical, political, entertainment, and other matters, yet remain isolated and apart from each other in ways that really matter. Excuse me, but sin not only separates you from God (which may at present not concern you, though I promise someday it very much will), but also isolates you from every other human being you know, including those you are very much in love with. It is the nature of sin to separate. You think Cain and Abel did not love each other? They were the first two brothers who ever existed, yet the elder brother ended up murdering his kid brother. Why so? James 1.15 informs us that “when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” The problem is sin.

Young people will compromise themselves; forsake their parents, cast off the values of the home and church they were raised in, and for what? The chance to fulfill a desire for sex, or a desire for booze, or a desire for a drug high, or to temporarily please their friends. By the way, the friends they sometimes prostitute themselves for will just as surely turn away from them at the drop of a hat, or for someone else, or for a job transfer, or for a promotion, or for a chance to be famous. My point is that you think you are not alone because of these relationships you take comfort from. However, the relationships you take comfort from seem to be virtually meaningless to you, just as they seem to be virtually meaningless to those you have those relationships with, if past performance is any indication. Consider what you deem to be your most important relationship. Perhaps it is your marriage. Maybe it is with your dad or your son. Do you have any idea how many times I have seen a so-called happily married man’s marriage destroyed in one day, a day when he went to work just like any other day, who went to work without any idea that every important relationship he had would be severed before the end of the day? In a matter of 30 minutes his marriage is destroyed and his relationship with his wife is beyond repair, his children are abandoned and they forever lose their daddy, and why? Because the only one who ever said “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” and meant it, was the Lord Jesus Christ, and He never said those words to anyone who does not know Him, or who rejects Him.[6]

What does it matter to you that the one who left you left as the result of a personal choice or because of a fatal automobile accident? He is still gone forever. Does it help in any way that he died in combat while serving in the military, or while wearing a badge, or while working atop a telephone pole? He is still gone, and the relationships that existed have ended. He is gone and he is never coming back. If that can happen to you, if those who mean the most to you can be suddenly ripped away from you, either through bad choices they choose to make or tragic accidents that are beyond their control, then the reality is that you are effectively alone. No one is immune. Everyone is affected. Enjoy your loved ones, appreciate your friends, and do all that while you can, because the reality is that those relationships will not last. You really are alone, and the cause of it is sin, sin in the human race, sin in your own life, and sin in the lives of those you love and like. They are alone, as well, unless they know Jesus Christ. Unless is a great word, is it not? It highlights an exception.[7] Because sin is a universal problem, it has universal consequences, separating every individual from God and separating every individual from every other individual, despite the temporary relationships and alliances we forge to make life a bit more tolerable. Oh, we want them to be permanent relationships (and some do seem to last longer than others), but the cold reality is that they do end, and too frequently so very quickly.

Unless you are a Christian. For the Christian, everything is different. Not only are the Christian’s sins forgiven, but his sin has been dealt a crushing blow by the One who died on the cross for my sin and for my sins, and who rose again. Because of Him, because of the forgiveness He provides through His precious shed blood, I have a real relationship with God, and real and unending relationships with other Christians. Thus, when a Christian’s Christian father, for example, is taken by death, that relationship does not end, but has only altered somewhat until they both meet again in heaven. So, you see, when the sinner turns to Christ and is saved from his sins, then the Savior’s promise applies to him: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Thus, a relationship is established at conversion that is the first truly enduring relationship you will ever experience or enjoy. However, and now we come to my message for this morning, it is the beginning of the benefit to the Christian life that the unsaved will never understand or experience so long as they reject the Savior and continue their existence as truly isolated individuals, separated from God and from everyone else by their sin.

I have titled this morning’s message “Intercessors,” and there are only two points, revealing wonderful blessings made possible by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, and enjoyed only by Christians, most especially when they are engaged in the great privilege of prayer. Consider two things:

First, THE INTERCESSORY MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Scripture is clear that while the Holy Spirit was not immediately given to every believer at the beginning of the Christian era, by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Romans it could be said that anyone who was not in possession of the Holy Spirit was certainly no believer in Jesus Christ. Romans 8.9:

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

However, it is Romans 8.26 that is of particular interest to us at present:

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

In this verse, the Apostle Paul informs the Christians in Rome that though believers are infirm, the Spirit has been given to us to help us, and that though we do not even as believers know what we should pray for as we ought, the Spirit of God intercedes for us. Let me pause for just a moment to observe that though this verse is commonly employed by those of Charismatic or Pentecostal persuasion as being evidence of the gift of tongues being a prayer language employed by believers, such cannot be the case if the final four words of the verse are not ignored: “which cannot be uttered.” AlalhtoV, found only here in the Greek New Testament, means unexpressed, wordless.[8] Thus, it can hardly refer to the gift of tongues. What we should focus our attention on, that which Paul sought to emphasize in this verse, is the role the Holy Spirit of God plays as our Companion (using another word found only here in the Greek New Testament, uperentugcanw) Who intercedes for us, literally pleads for us, in our prayers to God.[9]

Feeling lonely, isolated, discouraged by events or perhaps by disappointments, slights and betrayals? Go to your heavenly Father in prayer, being mindful that when praying to your Father you always have Someone with you, Someone in you, the Holy Spirit of God, Who actually pleads on your behalf when you are praying that the Father will answer your pleas, even when your prayers are reduced to groans of a heavy heart and of unutterable needs.

Next, THE INTERCESSORY MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The intercessory ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is very frequently overlooked in this day of professing Christians minimizing the significance and import of the Savior being seated at the Father’s right hand on high.[10] However, that fact is of paramount importance, not only to refute the notion that Christians are the result of sinners asking Jesus into their hearts, but also to clearly establish His role as our Advocate in general and our Intercessor in prayer.

Look down to Romans 8.34:

“Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

Here we see how important to the intercessory ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is His enthronement at the right hand of God, with the word “intercession” being the same root word that is found in connection with the Holy Spirit’s intercession in verse 26.

Now turn in your Bible to Hebrews 7.25:

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Notice that the first phrase of the verse attests to the risen and glorified Savior’s ability: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” Of course, this underlines the importance of insisting to the unsaved that no one is saved who seeks to come directly to God, since no sinner can come to God but through the Person of Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and men.[11] As well, the Lord Jesus Christ’s ability to save sinners is in no way diminished by His regal enthronement at the Father’s right hand, for two reasons: First, justification by faith is the result of a divine pronouncement, an alteration of the sinner’s status before God, not an alteration of the sinner. Second, justification is not something that Jesus Christ does to the sinner, but rather something the Lord Jesus Christ does for the sinner. It is outside of you work, not inside of you work, that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplishes from on high. However, with justification accomplished by the enthroned Savior, and with the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer in Jesus Christ, we see in this verse, as we saw in Romans 8.34, that the Lord Jesus Christ ever lives to make intercession for us.

I know that some will protest most of what I have said this morning, insisting that people are not really and truly alone in this world. However, human conduct belies the fact, so many people behaving in ways that are otherwise inexplicable. A man leaves his wife for another woman. A child leaves home without a thought or concern for his parents or siblings after his departure. A lifelong friend meets a guy and suddenly moves into an entirely different circle of friends. You pretend you are not alone. You hope your relationships are durable and will last. The truth is, in the end all merely human relationships are severed by death if they remain until death. You really are alone, no matter how much it hurts you to admit it. Sin makes it so, and until the sin is remedied nothing can change the fact that you are ultimately alone.

However, when Jesus Christ becomes your Savior, two results are immediate and most evident in the believer’s prayer life. The indwelling Holy Spirit is your in-the-bosom Intercessor where prayer originates and the enthroned and glorified Savior, Jesus Christ, is your heavenly Intercessor where prayer culminates. Thus, in a way that no lost person can appreciate or understand, and unlike the experience of any lost person, the child of God is not alone, cannot be alone, and will never again throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity be alone. What does this mean for the Christian? It means that those relationships you have with other believers, with a believing spouse, with believing parents, with believing children, and with believing friends and church members, are as eternal as your relationship with Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. And though you may be temporarily separated from other Christians by death or other circumstances, you will see them in heaven and with them you will rejoice and worship God forever.

To conclude, sin is terrible. It not only damns the soul, but also separates . . . from God and from others. It is so selfish and self-centered that the sinner’s entire existence is focused on himself. However, the Lord Jesus Christ saves, forgives, and cleanses. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will give you the indwelling Spirit of God. And He and the Holy Spirit will each intercede for you (in different ways and in different places) when you approach the throne of grace in prayer. If you are not now saved, you are alone. Despite all pretense to the contrary, you are actually and irreparably alone. Therefore, I urge you to not only consider Christ, but also to turn from your sin and come to Christ.



[2] Genesis 3.6

[3] Genesis 3.10

[4] Ephesians 2.1

[6] Hebrews 13.5

[7] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 2001.

[8] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 41.

[9] Ibid., page 1033.

[10] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[11] 1 Timothy 2.5



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org