The Defense Counsel
(Reading time: 7 minutes)
Our spiritual existence and related conflicts are legal in nature. God is the Judge and Satan fills the role of prosecutor. We are the accused or defendants in this scenario and Satan brings formal legal charges against us before the judge. Now let’s identify the defense counsel and examine how it works.
The Old Testament shows us that Satan brought charges and accusations against God’s people and the priests offered sacrifices for people’s sins. However, I’m not aware of any defense counsel or explanation of any legal activity in heaven related to those sacrifices. In contrast, the New Testament makes clear references to what we today would call defense counsel.
The Greek text of the New Testament uses a noun, parakletos, which primarily means one who represents another’s legal interest before a judge in a court of law. More generally, it describes a person who helps, counsels, advocates or comforts someone. In church, we typically interpret “paraclete” as one who comes alongside to help or comfort.
As we’re examining the legal aspect of our Christian experience, let’s see whether Scripture uses parakletos in a legal sense. Following are three of Jesus’ statements from the Gospel of John that use this word. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17, NIV). “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me” (John 15:26).
We see the Advocate is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent to be with us forever. The Advocate teaches us everything, which includes legal advice — do or say this, not that. “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). The Advocate reminds us what Jesus said, which is crucial because we need to remember what he said about who we are, why we’re here and what we’re to do. This is important when presenting our defense before God the Judge.
Another relevant Greek word is entynchano, a verb which means to request formally and earnestly, usually from someone higher in authority, and is often translated “intercede.” It appears in Romans 8:27: “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” So the Holy Spirit, our legal advocate or counsel, intercedes for us by making formal and earnest appeals in our behalf before God the Judge.
This word also shows Jesus “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). And he is “able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25). So our defense counsel consists of the Holy Spirit, who is with us continuously, and Jesus, who is at God’s right hand in heaven. That’s an unbeatable defense team, if we simply do what they tell us.
As if that weren’t enough, considering Jesus’ background and roles helps us understand why he can intercede for us so effectively. Literally in the beginning, he was fully God. On earth, he stated he and the Father were one (John 10:30) and twice the epistles refer to him as our “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1). Because he was and is God, he fully understands God’s position on all matters related to us and therefore knows exactly how to intercede for us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1-2, 14). This clearly describes Jesus. There are three leading opinions about his nature while he was on earth: he remained fully God while he was a man; he was God in spirit and had a human body; or he laid aside his divinity to become exactly like us.
As I understand it, Philippians provides some important insight: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7). Bear with me while we examine some important words.
“Nature” occurs twice, both times translated from the Greek word morphe, which means the outward appearance or expression of something fully reflects the essence of what it is. In Jesus’ case, what we see is what he is.
The reference to his “equality with God” means he was equal to or the same as God. The original language shows he didn’t consider his equality something worth grasping, from a Greek word describing something held forcibly, clutched or seized. That is, he didn’t cling forcibly to his divine nature and identity, and therefore couldn’t use it to his own advantage.
Instead, he “made himself nothing,” which means he emptied or drained himself, divested himself of his position; that is, he laid aside his identity and position as the Son of God.
Not only did he become a human, he became a servant (doulos), one who has no personal rights, whose entire livelihood and purpose are determined by someone else. This describes a radical and complete transformation: God became a human doulos; the absolute highest voluntarily became the absolute lowest.
The book of Romans states that Jesus was “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29), where “firstborn” is from the Greek word prototokos, equivalent in meaning to the English word “prototype.” As his “many brothers and sisters,” we Christians should be just like him, because he has all the features we’re to have. Here’s the point: If Jesus the man were anything more than human, he wouldn’t be our prototype, because he would be and do what we never could. In my opinion, Jesus laid aside his divinity to become fully and only human while he was on earth, which made him the perfect prototype for us.
He most frequently called himself the “Son of Man,” though he referred to or acknowledged himself as the “Son of God” at least once (Matt. 27:43). He had to rely on the Holy Spirit in him just as we do, and he was tempted in every way just as we are (Heb. 4:15).
After his resurrection, he regained the glory he had before the world began (John 17:5). Now he’s fully God and fully man. I don’t understand how he can have a dual nature, but he does. Jesus was and still is human, so he fully understands our position, and his dual nature qualifies him as an excellent intercessor for us, an outstanding member of our Defense Counsel.
But there’s more. He became our high priest, who completely understands our weaknesses because he was and still is one of us (Heb. 4:15). One responsibility of a high priest is legally representing the people before God and acting in their behalf. This is consistent with his role as our Defense Counsel.
He’s also the mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 12:24). A covenant is a legal agreement and a relationship recognized in court. Mediators are officers of a legal system sent to resolve conflicts and bring covenant parties to an agreement. Jesus didn’t just initiate the new covenant, he remains actively involved in it, resolving conflicts between us and our covenant partner, God. Where an intercessor represents a lesser party before a greater one, a mediator represents both parties equally.
Because he is both fully God and fully human, Jesus is the ideal intercessor, high priest, and mediator of our covenant relationship with God.
Jesus is our intercessor, high priest, and the mediator of our covenant with God, and all of these are legal positions. Holy Spirit is our intercessor and advocate. Our Defense Counsel consists of Jesus and Holy Spirit, who both represent us before the Judge, who is our Father and God.