A common and erroneous thought held by many professing Christians today is that the Lord is (presently) engaged in the work of mediation, mediating the New Covenant between God and the Church. They imagine that this New Covenant went into effect during our Lord’s first advent when it is assumed he sealed the New Covenant with Spiritual Israel, with his blood.
Now it is our hope in this particular presentation to find the truth on these matters so as to alleviate the confusion caused by these erroneous assumptions. We will begin our examination by taking a closer look at the Mediator and his purpose.
The Mediator, who, what, where, why, and when?
In this study we hope to find the answer to the following questions,
1) What is a mediator?
2) Why is a mediator necessary?
3) Who are the parties in dispute who require mediation?
4) Who specifically is the Mediator?
5) Where and when does this mediation begin?
What is a mediator, that is to say what specifically is the function and or purpose of a mediator?
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a Mediator as: an individual or agency that intervenes between two parties in dispute in order to bring about an agreement or reconciliation.
Young’s Analytical Concordance defines a Mediator as: a middle man, mediator.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines a Mediator Greek mesitēs Strong’s #3316 as: a go-between, i.e. (simply) an internunciator, or (by implication) a reconciler (intercessor) ambassador or messenger.
Thayer’s Lexicon defines a Mediator as: one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or to form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant; a medium of communication, an arbitrator.
“The term “mediator” (equals middleman, agent of mediation) is nowhere found in Old Testament or Apocrypha (English Versions of the Bible), but the corresponding Greek word mesites, occurs once in Septuagint (Job 9:33 the King James Version, “Neither is there any daysman betwixt us,” where “daysman” stands for Hebrew mokhiach, “arbitrator,” the American Standard Revised Version, the English Revised Version margin “umpire” (see DAYSMAN); Septuagint has ho mesites hemon, “our mediator,” as a paraphrase for Hebrew benenu, “betwixt us“). Even in the New Testament, mesites, “mediator,” occurs only 6 times, namely, Gal 3:19, 20 (of Moses), and 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24 (of Christ).
In Moses we have for the first time a recognized national representative who acted both as God’s spokesman to the people, and the people’s spokesman before God. He alone was allowed to “come near unto Yahweh,” and to him Yahweh spoke “face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend” (Exod 33:11). He went up to God and “reported the words of the people” to Him, as to a sovereign who cannot be approached save by his duly accredited minister (Exod 19:8). We have a striking example of his intercessory mediation in the episode of the golden calf, when he pleaded effectively with God to turn from His wrath (Exod 32:12-14), and even offered to “make atonement for” (kipper, literally, “cover“) their sin by confessing their sin before God, and being willing to be blotted out of God’s book, so that the people might be spared (Exod 32:30-32).” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Page 5388
Intercession is in all stages of thought an essential element in mediation. We have striking examples of it in Genesis 18:22-33; Job 42:8-10.
So in essence a mediator is one who negotiates peace between two parties who are at variance with one another, with the intent of negotiating an agreement or covenant between the two in order to restore and or establish peace, reconciliation between the two.
Having now we hope sufficiently explained our first question what a mediator is let us move on to our second question,
Why is a mediator necessary?
“The need of a Mediator arises out of the fact of sin. Sin interrupts the harmonious relation between God and man. It results in a state of mutual alienation. On the one hand, man is in a state of enmity to God (Rom 5:10; 8:7; Col 1:21). On the other hand, God is moved to righteous wrath in relation to the sinner (Rom 1:18; 5:9; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6). Hence, the needs of a mutual change of attitude, a removal of God’s displeasure against the sinner as well as of the sinner’s hostility to God. God could not restore man to favor by a mere fiat, without some public exhibition of Divine righteousness, and vindication of His character as not indifferent to sin (compare Rom 3:25, 26). Such exhibition demanded a Mediator.”
So then in answer to question three the two parties in dispute (at variance) one with another would be God on one hand and on the other hand “the sons of disobedience” upon whom God’s wrath abides (Eph 5:6). These are the two parties requiring reconciliation the parties in need of a Mediator.
The qualification of a Mediator depends upon His intimate relation to both parties at variance. Our Lord meets both of these qualifications.
Christ’s Relation to Man:
Firstly, He is Himself a man, i.e. not merely “man” generically, but an individual man. The “one mediator between God and men” is “himself the Man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5), “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4), “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3, where the word “likeness” does not make “flesh” unreal, but qualifies “sinful“), i.e. bore to the eye the aspect of an ordinary man; secondly, He bore a particular relation to a section of humanity, the Jews (Rom 1:3; 9:5); thirdly, He bore a universal relation to mankind in general. He was more than an individual among many, like a link in a chain. He was the Second Adam, the archetypal, universal, representative Man, whose actions therefore had significance beyond Himself and were ideally the actions of humanity, just as Adam’s act had, on a lower plane, a significance for the whole race (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cori 15:22,45).
His Relation to God:
Paul very frequently speaks of Christ as the “Son of God,” and that in a unique sense. Moreover, He was the “image of God” (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15), and subsisted originally “in the form of God” (Phil 2:6). He is set alongside with God over against idols (1 Cor 8:5, 6), and is coordinated with God in the benediction (2 Cor 13:14). Clearly Paul sets Him in the Divine sphere over against all that is not God. Yet he assigns Him a certain subordination, and even asserts that His mediatorial kingship will come to an end, that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:24, 28). But this cessation of His function as Mediator of salvation, when its end shall have been attained, cannot affect His Divine dignity, “since the mediatorial sovereignty which is now ceasing was not its cause, but its consequence” (B. Weiss, II, 396).
The Means of mediation, the Death of Christ:
The means of effecting the reconciliation was mainly the death on the cross. Paul emphasizes the mediating value of the death both on its objective (God-ward) side and on its subjective (man-ward) side. First, it is the objective ground of forgiveness and favor with God. On the basis of what Christ has done, God ceases to reckon to men their sins (2 Cor 5:19). Paul’s view of the death of Christ effecting the mediation may be seen by considering some of his most characteristic expressions.
(A) It is an act of reconciliation. This involves a change of attitude, not only in man, but in God, a relinquishing of the Divine wrath without which there can be no restoration of peaceful relations (though this is disputed by many, e.g. Ritschl, Lightfoot, Westcott, Beyschlag), but not a change of nature or of intention, for the Divine wrath is but a mode of the eternal love, and moreover it is the Father Himself who provides the means of reconciliation and undertakes to accomplish it (2 Cor 5:19; compare Col 1:20,21; Eph 2:16).
(B) It is an act of propitiation (Rom 3:25, hilasterion, from hilaskesthai, “to render favorable” or “propitious“). Here is a clear though of a change of attitude on God’s part. He who was not formerly propitious to man was appeased through the death of Christ. Yet the propitiatory means are provided by God Himself, who takes the initiative in the matter (“whom God set forth,” etc.).
(C) It is a ransom. The Mediator “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). The idea of payment of a ransom price is clearly implied in the word “redemption” (Rom 3:24; 1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14, apolutrosis, from lutron, “ransom“). It is not alone the fact of liberation (Westcott, Ritschl), but also the cost of liberation that is referred to. Hence, Christians are said to be “redeemed,” “bought with a price” (Gal 3:13; 4:5; 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; compare 1 Peter 1:18). Yet the metaphor cannot be pressed to yield an answer to the question to whom the ransom was paid. All that can safely be said is that it expresses the tremendous cost of our salvation, namely, the self-surrendered life (“the blood“) of Christ.
NOTE: it is our contention that the ransom is to be paid to justice, applied as satisfaction to the claims of justice. See R 2822
The resurrection and exaltation of Christ are essential to His mediatorial work (1 Cor 15:17). It is not alone that the resurrection “proves that the death of Christ was not the death of a sinner, but the vicarious death of the sinless Mediator of salvation” (B. Weiss, I, 436), but that salvation cannot be realized except through communion with the living, glorified Christ, without which the subjective identity of the believer with Christ by which redemption is personally appropriated would not be possible (Gal 2:20; Rom 6:4,5; Phil 3:10; Col 3:1). The exaltation also makes possible His continuous heavenly intercession on our behalf (Rom 8:34), which is the climax of His mediatorial activities.
At present the merit of Christ sacrifice (represented in the blood of the “bullock”) has only been applied to himself (that is, his body, the Church more specifically the “little flock”), and to his household (the Levites, i.e. the Great Company class) these together composing the spiritual class, “the church of the first born” (Heb 12:23). His intercession work is presently confined only to these and only in respects as an Advocate.
“Therefore he (the High Priest of our profession, a sacrificial priesthood under a “covenant of sacrifice” Psa 50:5) is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he always lives (unlike the typical priests who died) to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25)
Very soon now when the last member of the body of Christ has passed beyond the Vail the blood of the “Lord’s goat” which is for the people (all mankind) will be sprinkled upon the mercy seat making intercession. Then shall the merit be applied to “all the people” (Lev 16:33).
The Man-ward Efficacy of His Mediator-ship:
The effect of Christ’s death on man is described by the words “cleanse,” “sanctify,” “perfect” (Heb 9:14; 10:10,14,29; 13:12), words which have a ritualistic quite as much as an ethical sense, meaning the removal of the sense of guilt, dedication to God, and the securing of the privilege of full fellowship with Him. The ultimate blessing that comes to man through the work of Christ is the privilege of free, unrestricted access to God by the removal of the obstacle of guilt (Heb 4:16; 10:19). I.S.B.E. Pages 5402-5409
Now it might appear that we have already answered our third question concerning, the parties in dispute in need of mediation, but in truth we have but only briefly touched upon the subject here. We believe that this particular point is what is causing most of the confusion, and therefore needs further clarification, which is what we hope to address in our next post.