Jack Cottrell — Summer 2017

Crime stories are a popular genre for books and TV shows. From them we learn that when a suspect is arrested and is being questioned about a particular crime, one of the first things he or she says is “I need a lawyer!”

The “right to counsel” is guaranteed in the U.S. by our Constitution. When charged with a crime, you have the constitutional right to have a lawyer to assist in your defense. The Sixth Amendment says (among other things), “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury . . . and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

So, if you do commit a crime, you’d better call your lawyer!

Maybe you are thinking, “Hey, I’m not a criminal! I don’t have to defend myself before any judge or jury. I don’t need a lawyer!”

Well, that may be true in terms of our earthly courts. But in another real sense, every one of us has sinned against the laws of our eternal Creator and Lawgiver, and one day we will stand before Him as our Judge to answer for our sins! (See James 4:12.) So the bad news is this: you need a lawyer!

But here is the good news: in God’s justice system, even though you do not have a constitutional right to a lawyer, God in his grace has provided you with one anyway! See 1 John 2:1-2 (NASB). Here the Apostle John says to Christians, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

“And IF anyone sins!” John may be a bit optimistic here, since there is no “if” about it. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Actually, the word translated “if” in 1 John 2:1 (ean—two syllables, “eh-an”) can at times mean “when,” as in John 12:32 and 14:3. But John’s point is simply this, that whenever we sin, we have an ADVOCATE with the Father.

The Greek word translated “advocate” is paraklētos, which is the same word Jesus used of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 (sometimes rendered “Paraclete”). It literally means “one called alongside you, to help you.” In the Greek world it was sometimes used of the person we call a lawyer, whom we sometimes address as “Counselor.” In some circumstances a lawyer is called an “advocate,” especially when defending a client. This is the translation used by most modern English versions.

In the United States we have a public defender system which says that if the accused in a criminal case cannot afford a private lawyer, the government will provide one for him or her, free of charge. This is also the way it works when we stand in judgment before God: we cannot afford an Advocate on our own, so the Judge Himself appoints one for us as a provision of pure grace.

And who is the Advocate whom God provides for us? “JESUS CHRIST THE RIGHTEOUS!” The Apostle Paul tells us this same thing in Romans 8:33-34: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”

How does Jesus intercede for us as our Advocate when we appear before the Judge? As John says, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins”! As Paul explains, “Christ Jesus is He who died”! The basic idea of Christ as our propitiation is that he saves us from the penalty of sin by paying that penalty for us, in our place! As sinners, we deserve the death penalty (Romans 6:23), which is the eternal death in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). But on the cross, Jesus was suffering the equivalent of eternity in hell in the place of every human being!

When we are standing before God the Judge, this will be the plea entered on our behalf by our Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous: “Father, this man (woman) IS a sinner and deserves the punishment of eternal hell. But I am telling you now: you can let this one GO FREE, because his (her) penalty has already been paid – by Me; and this one has accepted your gracious offer to let Me be his (her) Advocate.”

I don’t know about you, but this is the lawyer I need, and the lawyer I want, on that dreadful day of final judgment! But what I want to do right now, as we are taking these emblems of the Lord’s Supper, is to THANK Jesus Christ my Advocate from the bottom of my heart for offering Himself up in my place on Calvary’s cross!

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  1. Dear Mr Cottrell, I am the preacher of a small Christian Church. We have about 25 people a Sunday. Communion meditation is shared each week by one of the men in the church. It is my time again and I was looking for something new and refreshing when I found your “I need a Lawyer”. Your response to another requester was “feel free”. So I did not think you would mind if I borrowed one. I have read a couple of your books which I enjoyed. So when I went fishing on the net I found a name I could trust. Thank you much for sharing your meditations and allowing others to share them also. In Christ, Harold Harrison

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