In our previous sermon, we discussed the manner by which we are delivered by God from the misery of sin and death. We also slightly discussed the reason why our deliverer and mediator have to be fully God and fully man in order to qualify for the task. This afternoon, we will further expound on this topic, and while doing that, we will be looking at Christ in light of another office which He assumed, the office of the mediator.
In this sermon, we will be looking into the 6th Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism, question-and-answer number 16 to 18, and then next Lord’s Day we will continue with question- and-answer number 19. In this sermon we will discuss 2 sermon points which are as follows:
- A Mediator who is true and righteous man
- A Mediator who is true God
Before we begin, let us got to the Lord in prayer:
Heavenly Father, truly you are the God who is full of grace and compassion for our people. That is why in your infinite love and wisdom, you crafted an amazing plan of redemption to reconcile your people to yourself. And in doing so, you sent us an amazing Savior, your Only Begotten Son, who alone is worthy and qualified to be our deliverer and mediator. Help us understand and appreciate these great truths, and may the knowledge of these precious doctrines propel us into an eternity of gratefulness, obedience, and awe to your Holy name. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
A Mediator who is a True and Righteous Man
Let us read Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 6, question-and-answer number 16:
Question: Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?
Answer: God’s justice demands
that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for sin;
but a sinful human could never pay for others.
Before we dig in to the reason why the mediator must be a true and righteous man, let us discuss first what is the meaning of the office of a mediator. According to Zacarius Ursinus, a mediator in general, signifies one who reconciles two parties that are at variance, by interposing himself and pacifying the offended party by entreaty, satisfaction and giving security that the like offense will not again be committed. To reconcile includes the following:
- To intercede for the offender with the offended;
- To make the satisfaction for the injury done;
- To promise and bring it to pass that the offending party shall not repeat the offense; and
- To bring the parties at variance together.
Without these conditions, no true reconciliation will be reached.
So, as we all can see, the office of mediator carries a very demanding role. Each of the conditions mentioned for the attainment of true reconciliation between God and man may only be fulfilled by a mediator who is both God and man at the same time. For instance, to be able to
intercede between the two varying parties, he must have a common ground with each of them. The mediator cannot just be a man because if that is the case, he won’t be able to relate to God. On the other hand, if the mediator is just God, then it will appear that he cannot relate to mankind although in His Omniscience, He actually can. The same thing goes with the other conditions which we will further discuss later.
To emphasize, the office of a mediator is not only concerned with the satisfaction of the punishment for the offenders who are sought to be delivered, but actually goes beyond that. The office of a mediator is a permanent office which will continue to operate even beyond the glorification of the elect.
Now, going back to the reason why our mediator must be a true man, the Heidelberg Catechism answered that it is because God’s justice demands that since it is human nature which has sinned, then human nature must be the one to pay of the sin. 1 Cor 15:21 says, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” Other creatures or species has no business paying for the sins of mankind. That is why it is foolish to think that the death of the sacrificial animals in the Old Testament actually answered for the sins of the people. Those are mere types and shadows of the deliverance that is to come and must not be taken literally.
Furthermore, since the corruption of sin is found in the human flesh and soul after the fall of mankind, and since then it was passed on to Adam’s posterity, the same corruption must be dealt with in human flesh and soul in order to reverse its effect to mankind. This explains why the Messiah has to suffer both physically and spiritually as a human being. For the sin of humanity to be purged, the purging must be done in actual human flesh and soul.
Lastly, the mediator has to assume the nature of man in order for him to suffer and to die as a human. We all know that it is impossible for God to suffer and die because He is eternally immortal and infinitely powerful. God has to lay aside some of His attributes without actually losing them during incarnation in order to produce the weakness that will make suffering and death possible for Him. Since nothing can make God bleed, he had to enter a state of humiliation so that he can be able to shed blood for the remission of the sin of His people.
The Heidelberg Catechism also explained why it is necessary that our mediator must be a perfectly righteous man. It is because a sinful man cannot pay for the sins of others. The sacrifice for the sins of the world, in order to be acceptable to God, must come from someone who is sinless and without blemish. This requirement was foreshadowed as well in the sacrificial system of Israel wherein only animals without spots, defects or blemish are allowed to be sacrificed to God.
As we have discussed previously, an ordinary person cannot pay for the sins of another because he himself has sins that he needs to atone for. And since a man cannot even fully satisfy the demands of God’s justice by his eternal damnation, all the more it is impossible for him to pay for the sins of another.
A Mediator Who is a True God
Now that we have tackled already why our mediator has to be a true and righteous man, now let’s see why he has to be true God as well. The answer to question number 17 states, “So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.”
As we have discussed in passing last week, the mediator has to be true God because only an absolutely powerful God can withstand the weight of the full force of God’s wrath for the sins
of humanity. We should emphasize that the mediator is not only going to bear the punishment for the sins of a single person, but the mediator will receive God’s punishment for the sins committed and will be committed by all of the elect throughout all generations and from all parts of the world, including those who lived before His incarnation. And he will not only pay for some of their sins or a few of their sins, but for all of their sins from the least to greatest.
Aside from this, although the mediator is not required to suffer eternally from the wrath of God, nevertheless, in the limited time that he has to suffer, he had to receive the equivalent punishment that all the elect would have received in hell for eternity if they were not delivered from the wrath of God. In other words, the weight of the wrath that fell on Jesus on the cross is the punishment, torture and torment that all the elect would suffer in hell forever, compressed in a few hours.
That is why, it is impossible even for the most glorious and powerful seraphim in heaven to survive from the punishment that our mediator has received. Truly, there is absolutely no one who is capable of accomplishing this impossible task except for the Second Person of the Trinity who is both fully man and fully God.
This explains why in the Garden of Gethsemane, the bravest man who walked the face of the earth struggled with an intense fear to the point of sweating drops of blood. On that garden my friends, he was not intimidated by the cross, the nails, the cat of nine tails, or the humiliation and battery that he will receive from the Roman soldiers the next morning. His disciples in the years to come will suffer the same kind of persecution but they will receive it gladly with singing of hymns and praising God. It is illogical to think that the disciples can display that kind of bravery in the face of persecution while their Savior cowers in a dark garden over the expectation of nails, whips and beatings. There must be something more in the suffering of the Savior that is not present in the suffering of His disciples. My friends, what the Mediator feared that night is the cup of the wrath of God which represents the full force of His hatred and wrath against the sins of mankind, and it will be poured out on Jesus without mercy and without holding back.
On that cross, the crushing blow did not come from the soldiers or from Satan and his demons. The crushing blow came from the Father of our dear Lord and Savior. If you will remember, every time Jesus addresses the First Person of the Trinity, whether privately, in the presence of His disciples or even in the presence of His enemies, He always refer to Him as His Father. But on the cross, before our Savior gave up His Spirit, He addressed the First Person of the Trinity as His God when He said, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” The reason for this is because on that cross, the Son became a criminal in the sight of the Father, and the Father became a judge in sight of the Son. On that afternoon, the unthinkable happened, the Father who perfectly loved the Son even before the foundation of the world, has forsaken the Son and treated Him like a criminal.
As I have mentioned a while ago, the office of a mediator is not a temporary but a perpetual office, therefore, the mediator must survive the atonement in order to continue the work of mediation. If the mediator is not true God, he will be totally annihilated in the process of bearing the weight of the compressed eternal wrath of God, and he would never be able to apply the salvation that he earned to its intended recipients. In the end, if the work of the mediator will not be completed and sustained, the great sacrifice of the mediator will be all in vain.
If the mediator will be annihilated in the process of bringing satisfaction to the injury, he wouldn’t be able to apply the benefits of that satisfaction to the people that he seeks to save. Likewise, he will not be able to intercede for them, nor keep them from repeating their offense.
Without an absolutely powerful mediator who can complete the impossible task from beginning to end, no true reconciliation will be achieved for God and mankind.
In question-and-answer number 18, the Heidelberg Catechism revealed to us who is the only qualified mediator to complete this impossible task. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who was given to us to completely deliver us and make us right with God. He is the only one who is powerful enough to bear the weight of God’s eternal punishment for the sins of the elect. Matthew 1:21- 23 says:
She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us. And in Luke 2:11, it was also written, “…to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
At the same time, He is qualified to answer for the sins of mankind because he assumed the nature of man to accomplish this very task. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. And because He is capable of bearing the weight of the wrath of God, He can continue to perform all of the other function of the office of the mediator other than the satisfaction of God’s justice. He is not only capable of reconciling us to God but also of making sure that we will never be estranged from Him again. He is not only capable of saving us from damnation but of also of making sure that we remain saved by preserving us and interceding for us. He is not only capable of earning the merits for our salvation, but he is actually capable of applying these merits to us by sending us the Holy Spirit.
Truly, our Savior is a complete Savior, able and willing to carry out the plan of redemption from beginning to the end. We will only fully appreciate the gloriousness of our salvation if we will understand the impossibility of the task that needs to be accomplished in order to purchase it and the infinite value of the Mediator who accomplished it. May these truths serve as a source of comfort for God’s people.