CHRIST THE MEDIATOR
1 It pleased God,1 in his eternal purpose,2 to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only Son, in accordance with the covenant made between them both,3 to be the Mediator between God and the human race; to be prophet, priest, and king; to be the head and savior of his church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world.4 From all eternity he gave to him a people to be his progeny. In time these would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by him.5
2 1 Pe 1:18-20
3 Ps 110:4, Heb 7:21-22
4 1 Ti 2:5, Ac 3:22, Heb 5:5-6, Ps 2:6, Lk 1:31-33, Eph 1:22-23, Eph 5:23, Heb 1:2, Ac 17:31
5 Ro 8:30, Jn 17:6, Is 53:10, 1 Co 1:30
To put his plan for man’s salvation into effect, God chose and predestined our Lord, his only begotten Son to become the mediator between God and man. This was not just the Father’s decision, but was also the desire of the Son’s heart. The work of the Son was comprehensive in scope so that no one image can adequately convey all he did. He came as the Prophet Moses spoke of to reveal God to us in a way no other prophet ever could. He could speak and explain God’s truth in a way that no one else could so that the people were amazed at his teaching (Mt 7:28). He came as our great high priest to offer the perfect sacrifice for sin and make intercession on our behalf before the throne of God. Though he came in the form of a servant, he has been exalted to the highest position as Lord of lords and King of kings. Where one of these three offices is exalted to the neglect of the others, we find a distorted picture of Christ that does not adequately reveal him as Lord and Savior. In relation to the church Christ is the head from which we draw our direction and the Savior in whom we find life. In relation to the world he is the judge to whom the Father has given over all judgment. The work of the Son was determined in eternity as was also the fruit of that work. The Son’s work on earth in bringing about the salvation of those whom he would call, justify and glorify was assured success because of God’s plan for his people. In God’s work for our salvation there is no uncertainty whatsoever.
2 The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, is truly and eternally God. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, of the same substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things he has made.6
The Mediator between God and man is himself divine. The Old Testament frequently speaks of one who is both God and distinguishable from God. The angel of the Lord is both sent by God (Ex 23:23) and speaks as God (Gen 31:11-13). The Messiah is addressed as God in the same place that he is said to be set above all his companions by God (Ps 45:6-7). Isaiah speaks of one who “will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” and that “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (9:6-7). Along with a number of other passages these speak of the deity of the one to be sent by God into the world to save his people.
When we add to this the witness of the New Testament we get an even clearer picture of Christ’s divinity. He was involved with the Father in the creation of the world (Jn 1:3) and continues to support and preserve the world by his power (Heb 1:3). Were the Son to remove for even a moment his protecting hand from this physical universe, it could not survive (Col 1:17). In addition to these, there are also a number of passages in which Jesus is called God (Jn 1:1, 5:18, 20:28, Rom 9:5, Tit 2:13, Heb 1:8-9, Phil 2:5-6, 2 Pt 1:1, 1 Jn 5:20). To these we could add those passages in which the name and attributes and actions of God in the Old Testament are applied to Jesus in the New Testament. This One who is mediator between God and man is in every respect God. Whatever can be said of God in his essential nature can be said of the One who took the nature of man upon himself when he came into the world at Bethlehem.
The testimony of Scripture stands against all who would reduce our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to nothing more than a prophet or miracle worker or most spiritual man who ever lived. Whatever exalted status may be granted to Christ, it falls short of what the Bible says of him if it does not acknowledge him to be the true, eternal God. All efforts to diminish his divine nature (Jehovah’s Witnesses) or make him one among many gods (New Age spiritualism, Mormonism) must be rejected.
When the fullness of time was come,7 he took upon himself human nature, with all its essential properties8 and common infirmities,9 yet without sin.10 He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit came down upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that he was born to a woman from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Abraham and David, in accordance with the Scriptures.11
8 Heb 10:5, Lk 22:44, Heb 2:10, Heb 5:8, 1 Pe 3:18, Jn 19:32-35, Mt 26:36-39, Lk 23:46, Mk 3:5, Mk 10:14, Lk 19:41-44, Lk 10:21, Heb 4:15, Lk 5:16, Lk 2:52, Heb 5:8-9
9 Mt 4:2, Mk 11:12, Jn 19:28, Jn 4:6, Mt 8:24, Heb 5:8, Heb 2:18
10 Is 53:9, Lk 1:35, Jn 8:46, 2 Co 5:21, Heb 4:15, Heb 7:26, Heb 9:14, 1 Pe 2:22, 1 Jn 3:5
11 Ro 1:3-4, Ro 9:5
Whatever can be said of man as to his essential nature can be said of the Son, except that he was not a sinner. He grew in wisdom and stature, he got tired and hungry, he knew what it was like to be tempted to do wrong. He had a mother like we all have and could trace his ancestors back for a thousand years and more. He was not simply God masquerading as a man, like the Greek gods so often did, but was in every respect a man. He could not decide to stop playing man when he became tired of it or when things became dangerous or uncomfortable. He was subject to the same emotions we feel and, in the end, was subject to death just as we are.
So two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, mixing, or confusion. This person is therefore truly God and truly human,12 yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and the human race.13
In one Person the divine and human natures were joined together inseparably, and yet in such a way that they remained distinct. For example, Jesus did not have a spiritual flesh that could not grow weary. When you mix white and black you get gray, a color different from both the colors with which you began. However, when the divine and human natures were joined in Jesus Christ they did not become a third kind of nature, a divine-human hybrid of some sort. Christ lived on earth and now lives in heaven as both true God and true man. He thus serves as the perfect Mediator between the two.
Trying to understand the conjoining of these two natures in one person, the hypostatic union, has given rise to a number of heresies in the church through the centuries. Arius solved this difficult problem by denying the deity of Christ. Though a very popular approach in its day, the church finally rejected this approach at Nicea. Apollinaris taught Jesus had a human body but a divine mind. The church rejected this because a person who did not learn and think and understand like a man could not be considered fully human. Nestorianism (though probably not Nestorius himself) taught that there were two distinct persons in Christ, one human and the other divine. Scripture does not conceive of Jesus as acting in one situation as a divine person and in the next moment as a human person. Whenever Jesus acted, he acted in accordance with both his human and divine natures. This may all seem like unnecessary theological hairsplitting to some, but the existence of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the problems with a high priest who is nothing like us show they are issues we still must wrestle with.
3 The Lord Jesus, his human nature thus united to the divine in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit without limit, so in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell in him, so that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be perfectly qualified to execute the office of a mediator and surety.14
Christ while fully man was also fully God and therefore enjoyed a holiness and experience of the Spirit’s power in a way no other man ever has. The baby born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger was without the sinful nature that inevitably leads us to sin. Each believer is given a manifestation of the Spirit, different gifts, for the common good of the body (1 Cor 12:7-11), but He in whom the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Col 2:9) knew no such parceling out of the Spirit’s power and gifts. Though he lived among men as a man and knew our weaknesses (e.g. hunger, discouragement, uncertainty), he never sinned. He remained his entire life the holy servant of God, unblemished by the stain of sin. We should note that even as the sinless Son of God it was necessary that Jesus, man that he was, be anointed by the Spirit for his work as Mediator.
Christ is therefore the perfect Mediator between God and man because he reveals God in a form we can understand. In this man who walked the earth as we do we can find all the deepest wisdom and knowledge there is concerning God. We do not discover God by meditating on profound mystical concepts, but by looking at Jesus. Also, being untouched by sin he was uniquely qualified to serve as our high priest, and as our sacrifice for sin. There was nothing in him that disqualified him from presenting to the Father what he demanded as the just Judge of creation.
He did not take this office upon himself, but was called to it by his Father, who also put all power and judgment in his hands, and commanded him to execute these.15
Coming as he did in the form of a servant Christ demonstrated for us, even as the God-man, the life of humble submission. He did not take upon himself the work of Mediator, but was chosen and sent by the Father for the work. The extent to which the Father works through the Son in his dealings with humanity reaches even to the final day of history. When man stands before God for judgment, he will be standing before the Son. “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
4 The Lord Jesus undertook this office entirely willingly.16 To discharge it he was subject to the law17 and perfectly fulfilled it. He also underwent the punishment due to us which we should have borne and suffered.18 He was made sin and was accursed for us;19 he endured the extremities of agonizing distress in his soul and painful suffering in his body.
17 Ga 4:4
18 Mt 3:15, Mt 5:17
19 2 Co 5:21, Ga 3:13
The work that would lead him to the cross was not something Jesus undertook reluctantly, but rather he approached it with great joy in his heart for the benefits it would bring to those he loved. His work as Mediator required that he be subject to the law both in life and death. From the time he was born and circumcised on the eighth day, he lived according to the law’s demands. It was his desire as a young boy to be about his Father’s business and as an adult to pay the temple taxes. His righteousness according to the law, even as judged by God, was perfect. His death then was not the punishment due his sins, but the one due ours. He suffered under God’s curse what the law demanded for our sins. He suffered terribly, not only physically, but also from grief and sorrow that brought him to the edge of death in the garden of Gethsemane.
He was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet his body did not decay.20 On the third day he rose from the dead with the same body in which he had suffered,21 with which he also ascended into heaven,22 where he sits at the right hand of his Father making intercession [for his people].23 At the end of the world he will return to judge human beings and angels.24
21 Jn 20:25-27
22 Ac 1:9-11
23 Ro 8:34, Heb 9:24
24 Ac 10:42, Mt 13:40-42, Jud 6
He was buried, but his victory even in death was seen in that his body saw no decay. On the third day he rose from the grave in the same body that he had suffered death on the cross. In that body he ascended to heaven where he remains to this day. Wherever heaven is, if we could ascend there we would find this Jesus in physical form. Those who dismiss the physical as though it were somehow less pleasing to God should remember this fact. As the God-man who has experienced our temptations and sufferings firsthand he knows well how to intercede in our behalf. On the day appointed by the Father he will return to this world to judge both men and angels.
5 The Lord Jesus has fully satisfied the justice of God25 by his perfect obedience and his once-for-all sacrifice26 which he offered up to God through the eternal Spirit.27
Jesus fulfilled God’s demands for justice in two related ways. First, he lived in perfect obedience to the law. The demands of our just and holy Lord have never changed in expecting anything less than this perfection from his people. From the day he began life in this world at Bethlehem to the day his earthly life ended at Calvary Jesus knew no sin, and it is this perfect righteousness that he shares with us through our faith in him. Second, he offered himself up as a sacrifice for our sins. Just as the sins of the offerer were symbolically transferred to the sacrificial animal that the was without blemish which was then slain on the altar, so Christ who was without the stain of sin had the sin of the world laid on him so that he died in our behalf. Without his perfect righteousness he could not have been an acceptable sacrifice. His death was the price God paid for our sins so that they no longer stood as a barrier between him and us. By means of Christ’s substitutionary atonement the Father was able “to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). The blood of Christ on the cross was the purchase price of our sharing in his eternal heavenly inheritance. If this price seems too high or unnecessary for some, it is only because they do not understand God’s absolute hatred of all sin.
He has procured reconciliation,28 and has purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven29 for all those whom the Father has given to him.30
For whom did the work of Christ bring reconciliation and an everlasting inheritance in heaven? Stated another way, For whom did Christ come to give himself as a sacrifice for sin? The teaching of many on this point is that Jesus died for all men, so that all would at least have the possibility of being saved. The teaching of Scripture is consistent though in telling us that he came to offer himself as the sacrifice “for all those given to Him by the Father.” A brief review of several lines of argument, when taken together, will offer strong support to the belief that this is indeed the teaching of Scripture.
First, Scripture often speaks of God’s saving work as being directed towards a select group of people. The new covenant that included forgiveness of sins and a new heart was to be made with the house of Israel and Judah (Jer 31:31). Joseph was told to name the child his wife bore Jesus (“Yahweh saves”) because “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11). God gave up his Son for us all, for the elect against whom no charges can be brought that will end in condemnation (Rom 8:32-33). Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her so she might be holy (Eph 5:25-26). In each of these instances the work of salvation is not said to be for everyone in general, but specifically for Israel, for his people, for the sheep, for the church, for the elect. Even the term elect indicates a distinction in the mind of God between those he chooses and those he does not choose to enjoy the blessings of his salvation.
Second, eternal life is conditioned on belief in Jesus apart from whom there is no salvation (Acts 4:12), and there are many who never even hear the gospel so that they might believe. While the church has a mandate to bring the gospel to all men everywhere, the facts of history cannot be changed: there have been large groups of people to whom, for various reasons, free access to the gospel has been closed. This might seem a matter of pure chance were it not for the fact that the Bible gives evidence of God’s hand in this. It was certainly possible for God to have revealed himself to men in China and India at the same time that he revealed himself to Abraham, but he did not. He chose to reveal himself to Israel in a way he did not for any other nation (Ps 147:19-20). Of all the nations on earth, Israel alone was loved and adopted as sons (Amos 3:2, Rom 9:4). If it is only by the hearing of the word that people can believe and be saved (Rom 10:14), and we know of no other way, then God’s providential revelation of himself to one people and not another is evidence of his electing will in salvation.
Third, Scriptures present the will of the Father in salvation as being directed towards specific individuals. The ones he will glorify are the ones he predestined, called and justified (Rom 8:29-30). Unless we believe that everyone will one day be given final salvation, it is clear the predestining will of the Father was directed only at those who finally enter heaven. He chose and predestined the elect for salvation before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4-5). These and other verses show that it was the Father’s saving will has always been directed towards a specific group of people chosen from among the whole of mankind. If the Father determined to save only the elect, how can the Son who came to do his Father’s will be thought of as giving his life so he could save everyone? It is not possible to conceive of two Persons of the Trinity as having divergent purposes, especially with respect to so important a matter as salvation.
Fourth, a high view of the atoning value of Christ’s life argues that his sacrifice was only for the elect. To say that Jesus died for all men, but that some still die in their sins and pay the penalty for them in hell is to say that his sacrifice did not actually remove the guilt of their sin. This suggests that for some Jesus’ death was not sufficient to turn away the wrath of God nor to secure his blessings for salvation, including faith and repentance. On the other hand, if we hold that Christ’s sacrifice did satisfy the demands of God’s justice in paying the penalty for sin and that it was enough to propitiate his wrath against all those for whom Christ died, then those people are actually saved. Some reject the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement because they think it too narrowly restricts God’s loving purpose in salvation. The fact though is that no matter which side of this issue one takes, the atonement is limited. Those who hold that Christ died only for the elect limit the scope of the atonement, and those who hold that he died for all men limit its power. The latter say Jesus’ death only made salvation possible, while the former say his death actually secured the salvation of all the elect by paying the penalty of their sin and gaining for them every spiritual blessing.
Fifth, and related to the previous argument, a substitutionary view of the atonement favors an atonement limited to the elect God has chosen from among mankind. If Christ died for a man, standing in his place to bear the penalty of his sin, and later God comes back to demand that man pay the price for his sin, then God is punishing the same sin two times. Even human courts recognize the inherent injustice of punishing the same crime twice. This is why come Arminians in trying to be consistent have denied the substitutionary nature of the atonement (Grider, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Arminianism). It is better to hold to the Biblical language of substitution and confess that Jesus was the substitute in his death for the elect alone.
These, and other arguments that could be adduced (Reymond, 673-683), demonstrate that Christ died only for those God chose and predestined for salvation. The fear that this teaching is the death knell for evangelism would be true only if we limited our evangelism to the one form in which we tell a sinner, “Christ died for you.” Though repeated use has made this a popular form for sharing the gospel, it is one that should be abandoned since it is contrary to Biblical doctrine. This does not mean, however, that we should abandon the free offer of the gospel. We can still tell people that all who are spiritually weary and come to Christ will find rest. We can tell anybody we meet that Jesus never turns away any who come to him in faith. And, unlike the consistent Arminian, we can tell all who put their trust in Christ that they will find a salvation they can never lose and never have taken from them. Let us remember that proclaiming the gospel is not about telling people who Christ died for, it is about proclaiming Christ as the all sufficient Savior of sinners.
6 Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet its value, efficacy, and benefits were communicated to the elect in all ages from the beginning of the world.31 This was accomplished through those promises, types, and sacrifices in which he was revealed and represented as the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent’s head,32 and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world,33 for he is the same, yesterday and today and for ever.34
Because salvation comes through faith in the accomplished work of Christ the question is sometimes raised, “How were people saved before Jesus came?” Though Christ’s death on the cross was necessary for our salvation, his life and death were not a series of events that unfolded with any uncertainty as far as God was concerned. Men who lived from Adam to Christ were saved in the same way we are, by God’s grace that comes through Jesus. The difference is that what we look back on as an event in history, they looked forward to as an event yet to transpire. We are privileged to know many things about him, his ministry and its implications that they did not, but they were not left entirely in the dark about the coming Messiah. Through promises like those given to Abraham, types like Israel’s deliverance from Egypt through the Red Sea that painted pictures of our redemption and sacrifices that spoke symbolically of the work of Christ on the cross they knew what Messiah was to be and do. We look back and they looked forward to precisely the same Messiah through whom God’s redemption would be accomplished.
7 In his work of mediation, Christ acts according to both natures, in each nature doing that which is appropriate to itself. Yet, because of the unity of his person, that which is appropriate to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person indicated by the other nature.35
Christ’s work as the Mediator between God and man was possible only because he was both human and divine. Certain aspects of his work are connected with one nature while others are connected with the other. He came as David’s Son, learned obedience and died on the cross for our sins as a man. Because he lived among us as one of us he understands our condition and can sympathize with our weakness as he intercedes on our behalf (Heb 4:15, 7:25). On the other hand, he forgave sins, rendered a sacrifice of infinite value sufficient to pay the price for the sins of all men and is now enthroned far above all “rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:21) in accordance with his divine nature. Though certain aspects of this work are possible because of one or the other of his two natures, these two natures are united in one Person so that sometimes what seems appropriate to one nature is attributed to the other (e.g. the Son of Man descending from heaven, God shedding his blood).
8 To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, he certainly and effectually applies and communicates this redemption,36 making intercession for them.37 He unites them to himself by his Spirit,38 he reveals to them the mystery of salvation in and by the Word,39 he persuades them to believe and obey40 controlling their hearts by his Word and Spirit,41 and he overcomes all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom 42using methods and ways which are perfectly consistent with his wonderful and unsearchable providence.43 All this is by free and absolute grace, without any foreseen condition in them to obtain it.44
37 1 Jn 2:1, Ro 8:34
38 Ro 8:1-2
39 Jn 15:13-15, Jn 17:6, Eph 1:7-9
40 1 Jn 5:20
41 Jn 14:6, Ro 8:9-14, Ro 15:18-19
42 Ps 110:1, 1 Co 15:25-26, Col 2:15
43 Eph 1:9-11
44 1 Jn 3:8, Eph 2:8
The work of Christ did not make salvation a mere possibility for all people, but made it certain beyond possibility of change for all on whose behalf he died. His special work of redemption is for all those given to him by the Father and he provides all that is required to ensure they all come to enjoy his salvation. He gives them his Spirit through whom, by means of the Word, he reveals his plan of salvation for them. Through the work of the Spirit he gives life to those who are spiritually dead so that they are able to believe and obey. This work is not carried out contrary to our nature as he has made us (by turning us into ‘robots’), but enlightens us so that we see the reasonableness of his ways and are persuaded to follow him. Salvation is not given to those who are worthy or those he foresaw would do the right thing and believe in him, but is granted only on the basis of God’s sovereign grace. Neither our anticipated faith or obedience is what makes us acceptable in God’s sight.
The application of eternal redemption to the lives of sinful men will be the subject of a number of the chapters that follow this one. Without going into detail, it is helpful to get an overview of how men come to have the benefits of Christ’s atoning work to their lives. A basic outline of what is involved can be found in Romans 8:29-30 and then fleshed out with other Scripture. Having predetermined in eternity those who would be his, God first calls the elect to himself. Those he calls he regenerates so that with a new heart and mind they can repent and believe. When they turn from sin and place their trust in Christ they are justified and adopted into the family of God. Through the continuing work of the Spirit believers are progressively sanctified and persevere in holiness until he finally brings them home to glory (Reymond, 711). There is a logical order to this that we will see unfold in the chapters that follow.
9 This office of Mediator between God and the human race belongs exclusively to Christ, who is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Church of God. This office may not be transferred from him to any other, either in whole or in part.45
There is no man nor angel fit to serve as the mediator between God and man except Jesus of Nazareth. He alone has all the qualifications required to serve in that office. He does not confer the exercise of any of these offices, even in part, on any other so that either dead saints or living priests or godly preachers may serve as mediators to make us acceptable to God. Whenever an approach to God is offered other than through Jesus, no matter how spiritually uplifting or godly the way may seem, all hope for fellowship with God is lost. No man goes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. Others may point us to Christ, but neither their personal virtue or private insights will bring us one step closer to God. When we leave behind the Christ of Scripture, or even make him of secondary importance, we ruin our only path to fellowship with God.
10 The number and order of offices is essential. Because of our ignorance we need his prophetic office.46 Because of our alienation from God and the imperfection of the best of our service we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us to God as acceptable.47 Because of our antagonism and our utter inability to return to God, and because we need to be rescued and kept from spiritual enemies, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, sustain, deliver, and preserve us for his heavenly kingdom.48
Each aspect of Christ’s threefold office is necessary for our spiritual welfare. The prophet spoke God’s words to man. As prophet he reveals to us the nature of God and his demands on us so that we do not die for lack of knowledge. The priest stood before God for man, to present his offerings that brought atonement. As priest he atones for our sins so that the divide between God and us is bridged and so that our works, even the best of which are imperfect, may be made pleasing to him. As king, the Sovereign Lord he so orders events that those who are his enemies are rescued from their own rebellion and brought into communion with him. He uses his sovereign power to convict us of our sins, to subdue our wills, draw us to him, sustain us through life, deliver and preserve us until the day he returns to take us into his heavenly kingdom. From beginning to end the work of salvation is the work of Christ the Mediator.