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Can the saints can intercede for us?

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

religion, articles, christianity

From the Internet

A question posed on Bible Infonet (http://www.bible-infonet.org/) required some time to answer and provides information that may be interesting and that may stimulate further Bible study. We thought it would be acceptable to print the question and answer.

Question: I am looking for a verse that states that the saints can intercede for us.

Answer:In a few words you have asked about a difficult and complex subject. A full treatment of the question of intercession would require several full length articles, but I will try to give a succinct summary. There are several intercessions mentioned in the Bible. We will describe four such intercessions:

  1. Intercession in the Old Testament where a superior and righteous person seeks reconciliation between God and a fallen human. Abraham's intercession for Sodom (Gen. 18), and Moses interceding for Israel (Ex. 15:25), and Melchizedek's meeting with Abraham (Gen. 14:18­20) are examples of this kind of intercession. The sacrifices of Old Testament priests were often acts of intercession. This carried over to the Levitical priesthood where men from one tribe were selected to represent the people of the other tribes to God. It was always a case of a more righteous person or group intervening and negotiating for those less favored (See Heb. 7:6). Under the law of Moses, a person not of the tribe of Levi could not serve as a priest and approach God directly, but had to go to the Creator through another person who was of the proper tribe and possessed the necessary credentials. Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi and could not be a priest on earth without a change in the law (Heb. 7:11­14). Incidentally, this shows one reason why Christians are not under the Old Covenant but under the New Covenant-the law has been changed to allow the priesthood of Christ.
  2. The intercession of each persons' human spirit within the physical body (sometimes called the "inner man"). The only place in the New Testament where this intercession is mentioned specifically is Romans 8:26. The Spirit of a person, within that person, can act, speak and witness. Paul said, "The (Holy) Spirit itself beareth witness with our (human) spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom 8:16). Here we have the spirit of a person bearing witness with the Holy Spirit ... that is, the spirit within an individual acting on behalf of that person. Romans 8:26 says the spirit makes "intercession" with groaning which cannot be uttered. The unutterable groaning is the result of an infirmity and therefore cannot refer to the Holy Spirit, who is God and who has no such infirmity, or limitation. Paul clearly is saying that the spirit within a person's physical body can make an intercession for the person. Your spirit within your body can act for you. Your spirit has limitations (infirmity) and you may not always know how to phrase your request or express your needs, and it becomes a groan that cannot be uttered. Elsewhere Paul mentions the groaning of the human spirit (Rom. 8:22­23; 2 Cor. 5:1­4). The groaning of Romans 8:26 cannot be the groaning of the Holy Spirit, as some think, because this would impose an infirmity on the Holy Spirit that his God­nature will not allow ... He has no such limitations. We do!
  3. The intercession of the heart searcher and knower mentioned in Romans 8:27. This is clearly the intercession of mediation. The case of a superior representing an inferior to a higher power. The unutterable groaning of the human spirit in Romans 8:26 is presented to Jehovah as an interpreted prayer in Romans 8:27. Paul identifies the intercessor of Romans 8:27 as Jesus (see Rom. 8 :34) Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 2:17); our Advocate (1 John 2:1); our only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5); our Intercessor (Rom. 8:34); and our (elder) Brother (Heb. 2:11­17). It is Jesus who searches the hearts and mind of "the Spirit" to make "intercession for the saints" (Rom. 8:27). It cannot be that Jesus searches the heart and mind of the Holy Spirit to make intercession for the saints. It must be that the groaning of Romans 8:26 is that of the human spirit and Jesus, acting as High Priest, Advocate, Mediator, Intercessor and Elder Brother searches the hearts and mind of the groaning human spirit (saints) to make intercession for the saints. Since he makes intercession for the saints then it must be that he searches the hearts and mind of the saints' spirit (not the Holy Spirit).
  4. Saints pray for those in authority and for one another. In 1 Timothy 2:1 this is called intercession (KJV and ASV). The Greek word translated intercession in Romans 8:26 is huperenthungchanei; the Greek word translated intercession in Romans 8:27 is entungchanei followed by the Greek word huper; the Greek word translated intercession in 1 Timothy 2:1 is enteuxeis and is translated "prayer" in 1 Timothy 4:5. Greek scholars say the intercession of Romans 8:26 is not the same as the intercession of Romans 8:27. One suggests a peer and the other a superior. The intercession of 1 Timothy 2:1 is very different from that in either Romans 8:26 or Romans 8:27 and carries the idea of supplication. James 5:16 tells the saints to confess to and pray for one another. This is not the intercession of a priest representing to a superior another person, as in the Old Testament, but is supplication. Under Christ every redeemed person is a priest. The Bible teaches the priesthood of all believers in the Christian system. In the church the prayer of the every saint is effectual. Still, if I have sinned against a fellow saint, it is my duty to confess my sin personally to the one(s) I have sinned against and for us to pray together. We may pray for one another, but this is not the prayer of intercession in the sense Jesus intercedes for the saved, nor in the sense the Levitical priests of the Old Testament interceded with God for the people. Under Christ every saint is a priest and goes to the Father through the Son and not through some other righteous human. The saints are priests under the high­priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek and do not need the Pope, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sainted dead nor any other creature in heaven or on earth to intercede for them with the Almighty.

These four areas of intercession must be understood to give a proper answer to the question of whether one saint can intercede for another saint. We may pray for each other and should do it, but we do not intercede for each other in the way Jesus intercedes for us. Thayer says of the word translated intercession in 1 Timothy 2:1 that it means, "a falling in with, meeting with, a) an interview-a coming together-to visit-converse or for any other cause, and b) that for which an interview is held-a conference or conversation-a petition, supplication." So, the idea is prayers and supplications for each other, but not a superior representing an inferior to a higher power, as is the case in Romans 8:27. If a child of God must go through another child of God to reach the throne of God, then the two children of God are not equal. Under the Levitical system, the priest has a superior position to the people he represented. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ is different and puts every child of God on the same plane as every other child of God.

This, I know, is a long answer to a simple question, but it is a complicated matter. Hope you find this helpful. If you require more information, please let me know.


Published January 1997