Sermon 8: The Nature of Christ's Mediation
"As Christ’s mediation by suffering has fully reconciled, so His mediation by intercession will maintain the state of peace between God and us" (John Flavel).
by John Flavel on July 29, 2020
“And one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). This verse informs us of the nature of Christ’s astonishingly glorious work. It is the work of mediation between “God and men,” managed by the sole hand of “the man Christ Jesus.” Here we have a description of Christ the Mediator.
Doctrine: Christ is the true and only Mediator between God and men.
We have come “to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Heb. 12:24). He is “the mediator of the new testament” (Heb. 2:15). I could show you a host of Scriptures that affirm this very thing, but I will focus on four chief points.
The Meaning of Christ’s Mediatorship
The word “Mediator” refers to a middle person—one who interposes between two parties, who are at variance, to make peace. Christ is such a Mediator in respect of His person and office. In respect of His person, He is a Mediator because He has the same nature as God and us—true God and true man. Some call this His substantial mediation. In respect of His office, He is a Mediator because He transacts the business of reconciliation between God and us. Some call this His operative mediation. These do not constitute two kinds of mediation. Because of His substantial mediation, He is fit to stand between God and us, to make peace (His operative mediation).
At times, the word “Mediator” signifies umpire, arbitrator, messenger, interpreter, reconciler, or peacemaker. Christ is the Mediator (the middle person) in all these senses in His work of reconciliation and intercession. He manages this mediation as follows. First, as an umpire (or, arbitrator), Christ lays His hands upon both parties. He lays His hands upon God (so to speak) and says, “Father, will You be at peace with them and receive them into Your favor? If so, You will be fully satisfied for what they have done against You.” And then He lays His hand upon us and says, “Poor sinner, do not be discouraged. You will be justified and saved.” Second, as a messenger (or, ambassador), Christ comes to impart the mind of God to us, and so He presents our desires to God. Third, as a surety (or, pledge), Christ engages to satisfy God by giving Himself on our behalf. Christ is our Mediator by way of satisfaction, coming under our obligation to answer the law. He did this on the cross.
The Implication of Christ’s Mediatorship
Christ is a Mediator between God and us. This has a number of implications. First, it implies that there is a most dreadful breach between God and men. If this were not the case, there would have been no need for a Mediator of reconciliation. There was indeed a sweet amity between God and men at one time, but it was quickly dissolved by sin. The wrath of God was kindled against man (Ps. 5:5), and they are filled with enmity against God (Rom. 1:30). This put an end to all friendly commerce between them.
Second, it implies that God’s justice must be satisfied. The very purpose of Christ’s mediation was to make peace by giving full satisfaction to the party that was wronged. Some people dream of a reconciliation with God that is founded, not upon satisfaction, but upon the absolute mercy, goodness, and freewill of God. But God’s Word never speaks of such a thing. It always speaks of a reconciliation that is worked to us through Christ (Jn. 6:40; Acts 4:12; Eph. 1:4–8). We cannot imagine how God could exercise mercy to the prejudice of His justice, if He were to reconcile us to Himself without full satisfaction. Indeed, mercy moved the heart of God toward us, but it found no way to vent itself for us but through the blood of Christ. God’s justice was fully satisfied, and our misery was fully cured, in Christ alone. “God lost neither the severity of His justice in the goodness of His mercy, nor the goodness of His mercy in the exactness of His severity” (Augustine). For anyone to think that they can reconcile themselves to God by anything but faith in the blood of this Mediator is vanity; moreover, it is destructive to the soul and offensive to the grace and wisdom of God. Peace of conscience can be settled on no other foundation than this: either the penalty must be levied on the delinquent or satisfaction must be made by his surety. Therefore, He who will be made a Mediator of reconciliation between God and man must bring to God a price in His hand, and that price must be adequate to the offence and wrong done to Him.
Third, it implies that Christ’s blood is of infinite value. It was sufficient in itself to stop the course of God’s justice. It rendered Him abundantly satisfied and well pleased, even with those who were formerly His enemies (Col. 1:21–22). Surely, that which can cause the holy God, justly incensed against sinners, to lay aside all His wrath, take an enemy into His bosom, and establish such a peace as can never be broken, is a most excellent and efficacious thing.
Fourth, it implies that Christ’s heart was filled with ardent love for poor sinners. He does not only mediate by way of entreaty, begging for peace, but He mediates in the capacity of a surety by putting Himself under obligation to satisfy our debts. O, how compassionately did His heart work towards us! When He saw the arm of justice lifted up to destroy us, He interposed Himself and received the stroke. Our Mediator, like Jonah, seeing the stormy sea of God’s wrath, ready to swallow us up, cast Himself into the sea to appease the storm.
Fifth, it implies that Christ is fit to undertake this work. The Father called Christ to be the umpire and arbitrator, trusting His honor into His hands. Christ was invested with this office and power virtually, soon after the breach was made by Adam’s fall (Gen. 3:15). From that moment until His incarnation, Christ was a virtual and effectual Mediator. On that account, He is called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Ever since His incarnation, He has been an actual Mediator.
The Validity of Christ’s Mediatorship
How do we know that Christ is the true and only Mediator between God and men? First, He is revealed to us by God. If God revealed Him, we must receive Him. “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:5). There is one God—that is, one supreme essence, the first spring and fountain of blessings. And there is one Lord Jesus Christ—that is, one Mediator “by whom are all things, and we by him.” All things, which come from the Father to us, come through Christ, and all our addresses ascend to the Father through Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is no other name—that is, no other person authorized in the whole world to be our Mediator.
Second, Christ alone is fit for, and capable of, this office. Only the One who has the divine nature and the human nature united in His single person is a fit Mediator to lay His hand upon both God and men. God alone could support the sufferings that were exacted for satisfaction—a mere man would have melted like a moth before the fire.
Third, Christ alone is sufficient to reconcile the world to God by His blood. The virtue of His blood reached back as far as Adam and reaches forward to the end of the world. It will be as fresh, vigorous, and efficacious at the end of the world as it was at the first moment it was shed.
The Capacity of Christ’s Mediatorship
The last thing to be explained is in what capacity Christ executes His mediatory work. We affirm that He performs it as God-man in both natures. Some people deny that Christ acted as Mediator according to His divine nature. They deny that the divine nature exerted its virtue in His active and passive obedience. In so doing, they rob Christ’s mediation of all its efficacy, dignity, and value. As Mediator, did He not have the power to lay down His life and power to take it up again (Jn. 10:17–18)? As Mediator, did He not have all power in heaven and earth to institute ordinances and appoint officers in the church (Matt. 28:18)? As Mediator, did He not have authority to baptize men with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11)? As Mediator, did He not have authority to keep those whom His Father gave Him (Jn. 17:12)? Are these the effects of His mere human nature? Surely, He performs them as God-man. Furthermore, how can He be the object of our faith and adoration, if He is not God-man?
It is dangerous to reject Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. There is no-one else to protect us from everlasting burnings. O, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Who can dwell with devouring fire? Who can endure the everlasting burnings? O, we must take heed of despising or neglecting Christ! Apart from Christ, there is no-one to intercede with God for us. The breach between Him and us can never be healed without Christ. If a person sins against God by despising Christ, who will intreat for him? What hope and remedy remain? Luther said, “I will have nothing to do with an absolute God”—that is, he will have nothing to do with God without a Mediator.
As Christ’s mediation by suffering has fully reconciled, so His mediation by intercession will maintain the state of peace between God and us. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). It is a firm peace, and the Mediator (who made it) is now in heaven to maintain it (Heb. 9:24).
Here it is proper to reflect upon the profound and incomprehensible wisdom of God, who has made an advantage to us, even out of our sin and misery. He has so improved, reduced, and disposed the fall of Adam as to make a singular advantage thereby to advance His offspring to a better state. Adam’s holiness was perfect, and his happiness was great, but neither of them was permanent. But our holiness and happiness (by the Mediator) are. “O, how happily did I fall in Adam, who rose again happier in Christ” (Augustine). The Lord turned a poison into an antidote. The dreadful fall made way for a more blessed and fixed state. Now we are so confirmed and established in Christ, by the favor of God, that there can be no more such fatal breaches between God and His reconciled ones. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!
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