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Christ the Mediator

By Rev. James Gracie

This Editorial was published in the Presbyterian Standard, No. 30, April-June 2003.

AFACT which we all must learn is that we cannot approach God unaided. We need a mediator. When we have grasped this fact and discovered that one suited to our needs has been provided our minds will feast upon the glorious truth of Christ the Mediator.

A mediator is a person who reconciles two estranged parties, for "a mediator is not a mediator of one" (Gal.3:20). Amediator is a 'go-between'. Two individuals may have an argument. Two groups of people may be in dispute. Two nations may be at war. The mediator comes between the two factions and tries to settle the conflict. In Scripture the Mediator is one who by His Person and Work establishes, secures and maintains a union between God and men. There is obviously a great distance between God and man. God is the Creator, we are His creatures. He is infinite, we are finite. He is eternal, we had a beginning in time. He is unchangeable, we are subject to constant change. This distance however does not prevent communion between God and men, for these things were true of Adam before the fall, yet he knew and enjoyed God. What prevents communion with God is that He is holy and we are sinful. For this reason Job desired a 'daysman' or 'umpire' who might come between himself and God and "lay his hand upon us both" (Job 9:33).

We learn in the Bible that Jesus Christ is the Mediator who can bring sinners to God. This we are especially taught in those wellknown words, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all..." (1Tim.2:5-6).

The Person of the Mediator

Jesus Christ is the Mediator on account of His personal state. He represents both the divine and human parties because He possesses the nature of both. We often speak of the God-man. By this term we are seeking to describe the result of Christ's Incarnation. Scripture says: "The Word was made flesh" (John 1:14).

At the Incarnation a divine Person, the only begotten Son, added to His divine nature a human nature. He is therefore God and man - one Person with two distinct natures. Christ now has both a divine and a human consciousness and a divine and a human will. The union between the two natures is of such a sort that there is no conversion, composition or confusion between them. Scripture is careful to show us three things regarding the Person of the Mediator: the union of the two natures, the distinction of the two natures, and the unity of the Person. Because of the union of the two natures what are in fact human attributes and actions are sometimes ascribed to Christ's Person designated by a divine title (e.g. Acts 20:28; 1Cor.2:8). Likewise what are actually divine attributes and actions are sometimes ascribed to Christ's Person designated by a human title (e.g. John 3:13; 6:62).

The Work of the Mediator

Mediation is the personal work to which Christ was appointed by God the Father and which He willingly undertook as the representative of His people. He is both their covenant Head and covenant Mediator. As Mediator He was "set up from everlasting" (Prov.8:23). He entered into a covenant of redemption or covenant of peace with God and in time He was sent into the world to fulfil His commission.

The obedience of Christ in life and death took place at a point in time, but its benefits have been applied to God's elect throughout time and its effects are eternal. Adam, Abel, Abraham and all other Old Testament saints were redeemed by Christ's sacrifice. They believed the promise of Genesis 3:15. Christ had not yet died for their sins but He would do. "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb.9:15).

It is the work of Jesus Christ as Mediator to unite two parties who are separated by the great gulf of sin. In so doing Christ serves as our Prophet, Priest and King.

(i) Prophet. A mediator must be an interpreter. Disputes between men often arise because of a misunderstanding. Sometimes there is ignorance on both sides. In this dispute the ignorance is entirely on our part. Sin has blinded our minds to the truth and to the way of salvation. We need one who will teach us God's will. It is a prophet who speaks from God to men.

Christ is our true Prophet. Moses prefigured Him, for the law was "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (Gal.3:19). Of Jesus it is said: "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Heb.8:6). Christ has not only the Word of God but also the Spirit of God to give. He is able to regenerate our hearts. He is able to give the Word of God an entrance, such that we are "illuminated" and come to a saving knowledge of the truth (Heb.10:32).

(ii) Priest. A mediator must be a peacemaker. He seeks to reconcile the two disputing parties on just terms. A price may need to be paid by one side to secure peace. In this dispute the source of the quarrel lies with us. "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom.8:7). God is angry with us. We need one who is able to pacify God by satisfying His righteous demands. A priest acts for men to God.

Christ is our true Priest. The most awesome aspect of His mediatorial work is that He suffered for our sins. Aaron and the other High Priests prefigured Him (Heb.9:6-7). However of Christ it is said: "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place....Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God" (Heb.9:12,14). By His obedience Christ has satisfied God's offended justice and pacified the divine wrath against sin for the elect. He "made peace through the blood of his cross" (Col.1:20). He has freed His people from the guilt and power of sin and removed every obstacle in the way of their reconciliation to God. He gives us a new heart and spirit, desiring peace with God.

A mediator may also need to be an intercessor. To produce peace he may need to take up the case of one party in a dispute and plead it before the other party. A priest not only acts for men to God but also speaks for men to God.

Of Christ the great High Priest in relation to His own people we are told that He "ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb.7:25). He is at the right hand of God. He appears in glory in our nature and in the merit of His own obedience. He asks the Father that the benefits of His cross be applied to His own, beginning with regeneration and the new birth. When we sin as believers we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace, remembering our great High Priest in heaven. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1John 2:1). Notwithstanding our daily failings our reconciliation with God is maintained by Christ's intercession and it is eternally secure in Him.

(iii) King. A mediator must finally be an arbitrator. In many disputes among men when mediation is sought there is an agreement beforehand to abide by whatever the mediator decides. Or if after a resolution a conflict breaks out again, it is the mediator's work to remind the offending party of the terms of the settlement which has been agreed. In this dispute the parties are not equals by any means. We are always the offending party. We need one who will rule over us according to the law of God. A king acts for God to men.

Christ is our true King. David prefigured Him (Psa.89:29-33). God's great purpose in saving His people is that they might be "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom.8:29). Conversion does not end our sinning: every potential to disobey God's law remains in us. Christ by His grace subdues our wills in sanctification to obey God, until we are finally glorified with Him.

Christ in His work of mediation acts according to both of His natures. Rome teaches that He is Mediator only as man. Yet Christ was Mediator before He became man. He revealed the will of God to men, interceded for the church and governed the people of God - all before His incarnation (Acts 7:38; Zech.1:12; Psa.2:6,7,10-12).

The Uniqueness of the Mediator

In the Bible Jesus Christ is revealed as the sole Mediator between God and men. Angels and men cannot mediate for us. We are not to pray to angels or departed saints because this would be gross idolatry. Mere creatures cannot supply our needs or remove the miseries which sin has brought upon us.

Angels cannot mediate between God and men because they do not have the nature of either party. Men cannot mediate between God and men because they have the nature of only one party. Neither angels nor the saints in glory can hear our prayers, for only God is omniscient.

In every way, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Mediator we need. Let us make good use of Him, to the glory of our God.