Blog 145: 3.20.18 - 3.20.22
In these paragraphs, Calvin emphasizes the uniqueness and the centrality of Christ's mediation for his intercession, underscoring the fact that it is only through his work, from the very beginning of time, that any believer has ever had access to the Father. Nevertheless, since Christ has risen and ascended to the Father, believers are now more free to call upon him than in times past.
This shapes how we should understand the prayers of the church. It might surprise some to know that Calvin does believe in the intercession of the saints; and, indeed, it is quite likely that most readers of this blog do so as well. How often have you asked a friend to pray for you? Or how many times have you heard of a friend or acquaintance in some difficulty or going through some time of hardship and said to them, `I'll try to remember to pray for you'? If you are a Christian, you have probably done so many times; and thus you have practically acknowledged your belief in the intercession of the saints. What is crucial, however, is that you understand such intercession neither supplements the intercession of Christ with the Father, as if that were lacking in some way; nor does it stand over against it, as if your prayers and those of Christ were somehow in competition with each other to find a hearing with the Father. Rather, your prayers ascend to God the Father in and through the mediating intercession of Christ.
In this context, Calvin quotes Augustine: `Christian men mutually commend one another by their prayers. However, it is he for whom no-one intercedes, while he intercedes for all, who is the one true Mediator.'
Calvin also warns us to avoid crude conceptions of Christ's intercession, as if he were kneeling before the Father, begging him for some result or another, or in some kind of conflict of wills, supplicating for us in some anthropomorphic way. Rather, his intercession is inextricably connected to his death: he stands before God's presence in such a manner that the power of his death is his intercession, and it is this that allows him to bear to God our intercessions. Only by the blood of Jesus do our prayers find their way into God's presence.
This is why notions of the intercession of dead saints derogates from Christ's own majesty, because it implies that his mediation is not sufficient and that his death is thus somehow inadequate and defective. We have no need to call on saints as intercessors in this sense, let alone, as some do, as co-authors of salvation.
The blood of Christ is the basis of all intercession - our Lord's and our own. Surely that should regulate the mind of things for which we pray, and the spirit with which we do so.