POSTED - 5/26/2001
A Display of Christ - Part VIII (Of the Nature of Christ's Mediation)
- John Flavel
"And one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." - 1 Tim. 2:5.
Great and long preparations bespeak the solemnity and greatness of the work for which they are designed. A man that had seen the heaps of gold, silver, and brass which David amassed in his time for the building of the temple, might easily conclude before one stone of it was laid, that it would be a magnificent structure. But lo, here is a design of God as far transcending that as the substance doth the shadow. For, indeed, that glorious temple was but the type and figure of Jesus Christ, John, 2:19,21, and a weak adumbration of that living, spiritual temple which he was to build, that the great God might dwell and walk in it. 2 Cor. 6:16. The preparations for that temple were for a few years, but the consultations and preparations for this were from eternity. Prov. 8:31. And as there were preparations for this work before the world began; so it will be a matter of eternal admiration and praise when this world shall be dissolved. What this astonishing glorious work is, this text informs you; it is the work of mediation between God and man; and you have here a description of Jesus the Mediator.
Jesus Christ is the true and only Mediator between God and men.
- He is described by his work or office: a Mediator, a middle person. The word imports a fit and equal person, who comes between two persons that are at variance, to compose the difference and make peace. Such a person is Christ; a day's man, to lay his hand upon both.
- He is described by the singularity of his mediation, one Mediator, and but one. There are many mediators of reconciliation among men, but there is one only Mediator of reconciliation between God and man; and it is as needless and impious to make more mediators than one, as to make more gods than one. "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men."
- He is described by the nature and quality of his person, the man Christ Jesus. He is described by his human nature in this place, not only because in this nature he paid the ransom spoken of in the words immediately following; but especially for the drawing of sinners to him, as one who clothed himself in their own flesh; and, for encouraging the faith of believers, by reminding them that he tenderly regards all their wants and. miseries, and that they may safely trust him with all their concerns, as one that will be for them a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God.
- He is described by his names; by his appellative name, Christ, and his proper name, Jesus. The name Jesus notes his work about which he came; and Christ, the offices to which he was anointed, and in the execution of which he is our Jesus. "In the name Jesus," says Glassius, "the whole Gospel is contained; it is the light, the food, the medicine of the soul." Hence,
"Ye are come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant." Heb. 12:24.
"And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament," &c. Heb. 9:15.
I shall endeavor to show what is the sense of this word mediator; what it implies, as applied to Christ; how it appears that he is the true and only Mediator between God and men; and in what capacity he performed his mediatorial work.
I. What is the sense and import of this word "mediator"?
The true sense and import of it, is a middle person, or one that interposes between two parties at variance, to make peace between them. Christ is such a Mediator, both in respect to his person and office: in respect to his person, he is a Mediator; that is, one that has the same nature both with God and us, true God and true man; and in respect to his office or work, which is to interpose, to transact the business of reconciliation between us and God. His being a middle person, fits and capacitates him to stand in the midst between God and us. This, I say, is the proper sense of the word; though "a mediator", is rendered variously; sometimes an umpire or arbitrator; sometimes a messenger that goes between two persons; sometimes an interpreter, imparting the mind of one to another; some times a reconciler or peace-maker. And in all these senses Christ is the Mediator, the middle person in his mediation of reconciliation or intercession; that is, either in his mediating, by suffering to make peace, as he did on earth; or his continuing and maintaining peace, as he doth in heaven, by meritorious intercession. In both these respects he is the only Mediator. But let us inquire,
II. What it is for Christ to be a Mediator between God and us.
III. How it appears that Jesus Christ is the true and only Mediator between God and men. I reply,
- At the first sight it implies a most dreadful breach between God and men; else no need of a mediator of reconciliation. There was indeed a sweet league of amity once between them, but it was quickly dissolved by sin; the wrath of the Lord was kindled against man, pursuing him to destruction, "Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity." Psa. 5:5. And man was filled with unnatural enmity against his God; "haters of God." Rom. 1:30. This put an end to all friendly intercourse between him and God.
Reader, say not in thy heart, that it cannot be, that one sin, and that seemingly so small, should make such a breach as this, and cause the God of mercy and goodness so to abhor the work of his hands, and that as soon as he had made man; for it was a heinous and aggravated evil. It was upright, perfect man, created in the image of God, that thus sinned: he sinned when his mind was most bright, clear, and apprehensive; his conscience pure and active; his will free, and able to withstand any temptation; his conscience pure and undefiled: he was a public as well as a perfect man, and well knew that the happiness or misery of his numberless offspring was involved in him. The condition he was placed in was exceedingly happy: no necessity or want could arm and edge temptation: he lived amidst all natural and spiritual pleasures and delights, the Lord most delightfully conversing with him; yea, he sinned while as yet his creation-mercy was fresh upon him: and in this sin was most horrible ingratitude; yea, a casting off the yoke of obedience almost as soon as God had put it on.
- It implies a necessity of satisfaction to the justice of God. For the very design and end of this mediation was to make peace, by giving full satisfaction to the party that was wronged. The Photinians, and some others, have dreamed of a reconciliation with God, founded not upon satisfaction, but upon the absolute mercy, goodness, and free-will of God. But, as one has well said, "concerning that absolute goodness and mercy of God, reconciling sinners to himself, there is a deep silence throughout the Scriptures:" and whatever is spoken of it, upon that account, is as it comes to us through Christ. Eph. 1:3-5; Acts, 4:12; John, 6:40. And we cannot imagine, either how God could exercise mercy to the prejudice of his justice, which must be, if we must be reconciled without full satisfaction; or how such a full satisfaction should be made by any other than Christ. Mercy, indeed, moved in the heart of God to wretched man; but from his heart it found no way to vent itself for us, but through the heart-blood of' Jesus Christ; and in him the justice of God was fully satisfied, and the misery of the creature fully cured. And so, as Augustine speaks, "God neither lost the severity of his justice in the goodness of mercy, nor the goodness of his mercy in the exactness of his severity."
But if it had been possible that God could have found out a way to reconcile us without satisfaction, yet it is past doubt now, that he has determined and fixed on this way. And for any now to imagine to reconcile themselves to God by any thing but faith in the blood of this Mediator, is not only most vain in itself, and destructive to the soul, but most derogatory to the wisdom and grace of God. And to such I would say, as Tertullian to Marcion, whom he calls the murderer of truth, "Spare the only hope of the whole world, O thou who destroyest the most necessary glory of our faith!" All that we hope for is but a phantasm without this. Peace of conscience can be rationally settled on no other foundation but this; for God having made a law to govern man, and this law being violated by man, either the penalty must be levied on the delinquent, or satisfaction made by his surety. As well no law, as no penalty for disobedience; and as well no penalty, as no execution. He, therefore, that is to be a mediator of reconciliation between God and man, must pay a price adequate to the offence and wrong; and so did our Mediator.
- Christ being a Mediator of reconciliation and intercession, implies the infinite value of his blood and sufferings, as that which in itself was sufficient to stop the course of God's justice, and render him not only placable, but abundantly satisfied and well pleased, even with those that before were enemies: as Col. 1:21, 22, "And ye that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight." Surely, that which can cause the holy God, justly incensed against sinners, to lay aside all his wrath, and take an enemy into his bosom, and establish such an amity as can never more be broken, and joy over him with singing, as Zeph. 3:17, must be a most excellent and efficacious thing.
- Christ's being a Mediator of reconciliation, implies the ardent tender love and large pity that filled his heart towards poor sinners. For he not only mediates by way of entreaty, going between both, and persuading and begging peace ; but he mediates, as already shown, in the capacity of a surety, by putting himself under an obligation to satisfy our debts. Oh how compassionately did his heart work towards us, that when he saw the arm of justice lifted up to destroy us, he would interpose himself, and receive the stroke, though he knew it would sink him to the grave! Our Mediator, like Jonah, his type, seeing the stormy sea of God's wrath working tempestuously, and ready to swallow us up, cast in himself to appease the storm. I remember how much that noble act of Marcus Curtius is celebrated in the Roman history, who being informed by the oracle, that the great breach made by the earthquake could not be closed except something of worth were cast into it, heated with love to the commonwealth, went and cast in himself. This was looked upon as a bold and brave adventure. But what was this to Christ?
- Christ being a Mediator between God and man, implies, as the fitness of his person, so his authoritative call to undertake it. But having already discussed this more largely, let us proceed to inquire,
IV. The last thing to be explained is, in what capacity he executed his mediatorial work; and we affirm, according to Scripture, that he performs that work as God-man, in both natures. Papists, in denying Christ to act as Mediator, according to his Divine nature, at once despoil the whole mediation of Christ of all its efficacy, dignity, and value, which arise from that nature. They say, the apostle in my text distinguishes the Mediator from God, in saying, "there is one God and one Mediator." We reply, that the same apostle distinguishes Christ from man, in Gal. 1:1, "Not by man, but by Jesus Christ." Doth it thence follow that Christ is not true man? or that, according to his Divine nature only, he called Paul? But what need I stay my reader here? Had not Christ, as Mediator, power to lay down his life, and power to take it again! John, 10:17,18. Had he not, as Mediator, all power in heaven and earth to institute ordinances and appoint offices? Matt. 28:18; to baptize men with the Holy Ghost and fire ? Matt. 3:11; to keep those whom his Father gave him in this world? John, 17:12; to raise up the saints again in the last day? John, 6:54. Are these, with many more I might name, the effects of the mere human nature? Or, were they not performed by him as God-man? And besides, how could he, as Mediator, be the object of our faith and religious adoration, if we are not to respect him as God-man?
- Because he, and no other, is revealed to us by God. And if God reveal him, and no other, we must receive him, and no other as such. Take but two Scriptures at present, that in 1 Cor. 8:5, The heathen have "gods many and lords many," that is, many supreme powers and ultimate objects of their worship: and lest these great gods should be defiled by their immediate and unhallowed approaches to them, they invented heroes, demi-gods, and intermediate powers, as agents, or lord mediators between the gods and them, to convey their prayers to the gods, and the blessings of the gods back again to them: "But unto us," says the apostle, "there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we by him," that is, one supreme essence, the first spring and fountain of blessings, "one Lord., Jesus Christ," that is, one Mediator, "by whom are all things, and we by him." By whom are all things which come from the Father to us, and by whom are all our addresses to the Father. So Acts, 4: 12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." "None other name" that is, no other authority, or rather, no other person authorized under heaven: for heaven is not here opposed to earth, as though there were other intercessors in heaven besides Cbrist: no, no, in heaven and earth God hath given him, and none but him, to be our Mediator. One sun is sufficient for the whole world; and one Mediator for all men in the world. Thus the Scriptures affirm that this is be, and exclude all others.
- Because he, and no other, is fit for, and capable of this office. Who but he that hath the Divine and human nature united in his single person, can be a fit days-man to lay his hand upon both? Who but he that was God, could sustain such sufferings as were, by Divine justice, exacted for satisfaction? Take a person of the greatest spirit, and lay upon him for an hour the sorrows of Christ, when he sweat blood in the garden, or uttered that heart-rending cry upon the cross, and he must melt under it as a moth.
- Because he is alone sufficient to reconcile the world to God by his blood, without accessions from any other. The virtue of his blood reached back as far as Adam, and reaches forward to the end of the world; and will be as fresh, vigorous, and efficacious then, as the first moment it was shed. The sun makes day before it actually rises, and continues day some time after it is set: so doth Christ, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. So that he is the true and only Mediator between God and men: no other is revealed in Scripture, no other is sufficient for it; no other needed beside him.
- It is dangerous to reject Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. Alas! there is no other to interpose and screen thee from the devouring fire, the everlasting burnings! Oh "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" And into his hands you must fall, without an interest in the only Mediator. Which of us can dwell with devouring fire? Who can endure everlasting burnings? Isa. 33: 14. You know how they scorched the green tree, but what would they do in the dry tree? Luke, 23:31. Indeed, if there were another plank to save after the shipwreck, any other way to be reconciled to God, besides Jesus the Mediator, somewhat might be said to excuse this folly; but you are shut up to the faith of Christ, as to your last remedy. Gal. 3:23. Oh take heed of despising, or neglecting Christ! if so, there is none to intercede with God for you: the breach between him and you can never be composed. I remember, here, the words of Eli to his profane sons, who caused men to abhor the offerings of the Lord; "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?" 1 Sam. 2:25. The meaning is, that of common trespasses between men, the civil magistrate takes cognizance and decides the controversy by his authority, so that there is an end of that strife; but if man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat and arbitrate in that case? Eli's sons had despised the Lord's sacrifices, which were sacred types of Christ, and the appointed way that men had then of exercising faith in the Mediator. Now, saith he, if a man thus sin against the Lord, by despising the Saviour shadowed out in that way, who shall entreat for him? what hope, what remedy remains? It was a saying of Luther, .Nolo .Deum absolutum, "I cannot meet an absolute God;" that is, God without a Mediator. Thus the devils have to do with God; but will ye, in whose nature Christ is come, put yourselves into their state, and case? God forbid!
- Hence also be informed, how great an evil it is to join any other mediators, either of reconciliation, or meritorious intercession, with Jesus Christ. Oh, this is a horrid sin, which both pours the greatest contempt upon Christ, and brings the surest and sorest destruction upon the sinner! I am ashamed my pen should write what mine eyes have seen in the writings of papists, ascribing as much, yea, more to the mediation of Mary than to Christ, with no less than blasphemous impudence. How do they stamp their own sordid works with the peculiar dignity and value of Christ's blood; and therein seek to enter at the gate which God hath shut to all the world, because Jesus Christ the Prince entered in thereby. Ezek. 44:2, 3. He entered into heaven in a direct, immediate way, even in his own name, and for his own sake; this gate, saith the Lord, shall be shut to all others; and I wish men would consider it, and fear, lest while they seek entrance into heaven at the wrong door, they for ever shut against themselves the true and only door of happiness.
- If Jesus Christ be the only Mediator of reconciliation between God and men, then reconciled souls should thankfully ascribe all the peace, favors, and comforts they have from God, to their Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever you have had free admission, and sweet entertainment with God in the more public ordinances or private duties of his worship; when you have had his smiles, his seals, and with hearts warmed with comfort, are returning from those duties, say, O my soul, thou mayest thank thy Lord. Jesus Christ for all this! had not he interposed as a Mediator of reconciliation I could never have had access to, or friendly communion with God to all eternity.
Immediately upon Adam's sin, the door of communion. with God was shut: there was no more coming nigh the Lord: not a soul could have any access to him, either in a way of communion in this world, or of enjoyment in that to come. It was Jesus the Mediator that opened that door again, and in him it is that we have boldness, and access with confidence. Eph. 3:12. We can now, come to God "by a new and living way, consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh." Heb. 10:20. The vail had a double use, as Christ's flesh likewise hath; it hid the glory of the holy of holies, and also gave entrance into it. Christ's incarnation so obscures the splendor of the Divine glory and brightness, that we may be able to bear it and converse with it; and it also gives us admission into it. Oh thank your dear Lord Jesus for your present and future heaven! Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!
- If Jesus Christ be the true and only Mediator, both of reconciliation and meritorious intercession between God and men, how safe is the condition and state of believers! Surely, as his mediation, by sufferings, has fully reconciled, so his mediation, by intercession, will everlastingly maintain that state of peace between them and God, and prevent all future breaches. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:1. It is a firm and lasting peace, and the Mediator that made it, is now in heaven to maintain it for ever, "there to appear in the presence of God for us." Heb. 9:24.
- Did Jesus Christ interpose between us and the wrath of God, as. a Mediator of reconciliation ? did he rather choose to receive the stroke upon himself, than to see us ruined by it? How well then doth it become the people of God, in a thankful sense of this grace, to interpose themselves between Jesus Christ and the evils they see likely to fall upon his name and interest in the world! Oh that there were but such a heart in the people of God! I remember it is a saying of Jerome, when he heard the revilings and blasphemings of many against Christ and his precious truths, "Oh that they would turn their weapons from Christ to me, and be satisfied with my blood!" And much to the same sense is that sweet saying of Bernard, "Happy were I, if God would condescend to use me as a shield." And David could say, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee, fell on me." Psa. 69:9. Ten thousand of our names are nothing to Christ's name: his name is a worthy name; and there is no man that gives up his name as a shield to Christ, but shall thereby secure and increase its true honor.
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