The Mediator Between God and Men
By: David K. Bernard
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).
The central message of Christmas is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). This message is of utmost importance to every human being, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23).Everyone in this world has sinned and needs the Savior.
Humanity’s Need and God’s Provision
Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, sin has separated the human race from God, for the holy God cannot have fellowship with sin. Separation from God means spiritual death, and the ultimate consequence of human sinfulness is eternal separation from God, also called damnation or the second death. In short, God’s holiness and justice demand that sin be punished by death.
The human race could devise no way to escape from this dreadful destiny. No person could be his own savior or a savior for others, for each person is himself a sinner under the judgment to die for his own sins. Sinful man could not make himself holy, and the holy God could not become sinful, so there was apparently no common ground on which the two estranged parties could meet.
But in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom, God designed a plan of salvation that would satisfy the requirements of His holiness and justice and yet provide a means of redemption for sinful humanity. This plan centers around our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who reunites God and man.
Jesus is the only “mediator between God and man,” and as such, He came to “give his life a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:5-6). He was able to be the unique mediator because He was God manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16; John 1:1,14). Both His humanity and His deity are essential to His mediatorial work. As a true man, He represents the human race to God; and as the one God incarnate He reveals the eternal, invisible God to man.
The Man Christ Jesus
Jesus was the only sinless man who ever lived. Thus He was the only man who did not deserve eternal death for sin, and the only person who could be a substitutionary sacrifice for sinful humanity. Just as Adam was the first representative of the human race, leading us into sin by his disobedience to the plan of God, so Jesus serves as the new representative of the human race, leading us into righteousness by His obedience to the plan of God (Romans 5:19).
When we speak of Jesus as the mediator between God and humanity, we must not think of Him as a second God or a second divine person. The Old Testament emphatically proclaims, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The New Testament does not change this message, for there is no contradiction in the Word of God. Rather, it reiterates the same truth and builds upon it. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). The new revelation of the New Testament is not that there is another God or an additional person in the Godhead. which would contradict the faith and doctrine of the Old Testament saints. Rather, the New Testament reveals the same God of the Old Testament in a greater dimension: His coming in flesh to redeem His fallen creation.
Significantly, I Timothy 2:5 does not say the mediator between God and men is “the second person,” or “God the Son.” or “the eternal Son.” It identifies the mediator as “the man Christ Jesus” (emphasis added). Christ’s role of mediation does not imply a separate divine identity; it simply refers to His genuine, authentic humanity. As God incarnate, Jesus Christ literally unites both deity and humanity in His own person. He Himself is the meeting place of God and man. He becomes the place and means of mediation, not by pointing us to someone else, but by bringing us to Himself, placing us in His body, and filling us with His Spirit.
He is not an agent who leads us into fellowship with another person. “God was in Christ. reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Christ died so “that he might present it to himself [not to someone else] a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). When we see and now Jesus, we actually see and know God the Father, because the Father dwells in Jesus (John 14:7-11).
If there were a second divine person, such a person could not be the required mediator between the holy God and sinful humanity. Only a sinless man could be the mediator, the kinsman redeemer, the sacrifice of atonement, the one to shed blood for the remission of sins.
For the sake of argument, let us imagine that there were two divine persons who were coequal in every way and. in particular, equal in holiness. If a mediator was necessary to bring sinful humanity back into
fellowship with the first person, then a mediator would be necessary to bring sinful humanity back into fellowship with the second person. The second person could not serve as the mediator; being just as holy as the first person, he also would need to find or supply someone else as the mediator! In short, it is not a second divine person who is the mediator; it is “the man Christ Jesus” who is the mediator. And this man is specifically the one man in whom the fullness of God dwells by incarnation (Colossians 2:9).
The Mediator As God Incarnate
The mediator had to be a genuine man, but He also had to be God incarnate, for only God can forgive sin. Only Jehovah is the Savior (Isaiah 45:21-22).
Specifically, the mediator had to be the manifestation of the Father,the Creator, the Lawgiver, the One against whom the human race has sinned from the beginning. If one person wrongs another person, he must confess and apologize to the person he has wronged in order to obtain forgiveness. A third party cannot grant forgiveness and reconciliation. For example, a thief must make restitution to the rightful owner; he cannot give the stolen goods to a third person and secure forgiveness from him. Likewise, as rebellious children we can only go to our heavenly Father to obtain forgiveness and reconciliation. If we look to Jesus as our Savior, we should also acknowledge Him as the revelation of the Father to us. Significantly, Isaiah 63:16 says the LORD (Jehovah) is simultaneously our Father and our Redeemer.
In short, no one else could qualify as the mediator except God Himself coming into this world as a human being. God knew that no one else could be the saving intercessor for the human race, so He provided the means Himself. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation” (Isaiah 59:16).
The Basis of Salvation
The only way for us to be saved from eternal death, then, is to turn to Jesus Christ. In a prayer addressed to the Father, Jesus stated the basis of salvation for all humanity: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
It should not surprise us that Jesus prayed to the Father; in fact, it should surprise us if He had not prayed. Jesus was a real man in every way; as such, He participated fully in every aspect of human experience, enduring hunger, thirst, weariness, and temptation. As a sinless man who served as the new representative of the human race, He exemplified perfect humanity as God intended it to be, including prayer, obedience, and submission to the will of God. He could do no less and be a righteous man. He could do no less and be a role model for us.
The prayers of Christ do not point to an internal division within the Godhead, but they simply attest to His authentic, complete humanity. If the prayers of Christ proved that He was a second divine person, they would also prove what kind of second person He was – not a coequal person, as trinitarianism teaches, but an inferior person who needed help from the first person. In this case, the second person would not truly be God, for by definition God is all powerful and has no need of assistance. Instead of seeing Jesus as a second, inferior divinity, we must simply recognize that He prayed because He was a man. As Hebrews 5:7 says, He prayed “in the days of His flesh.”
In John 17, Jesus prayed as a man to God, addressing the eternal Spirit of God as “Father, “even as He instructed us to do in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. In John 17:3 He identified the twofold basis of our salvation: knowing the one true God and knowing Jesus Christ. By this spiritual knowledge we can inherit eternal life instead of eternal death.
Like I Timothy 2:5, this verse builds upon the Old Testament truth that there is only one God. Jesus identified the Father as “the only true God” and said that knowing Him is vital to our salvation.
But knowing about the one true God is not enough. Many Jews of Christ’s day worshiped the God of the Old Testament but rejected Jesus, and He said they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Believing in the existence of the Creator and Lawgiver is necessary, but this knowledge alone does not reconcile a person to Him. The only means of reconciliation is through Jesus Christ, for He is the mediator that God has provided. We must specifically know Jesus – the manifestation of the one God – as our Savior. Only when we know Him do we truly know the Father (John 8:19).
We must understand that Jesus was sent from God. This phrase does not mean that Jesus was a preexistent second person waiting in heaven for another divine person to send Him down to earth. The word “sent” denotes that the man Jesus originated in the supernatural plan and action of God. He was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the word “sent” reveals that the man Jesus was on a divine assignment and commission. In a similar manner, John 1:6 describes John the Baptist as “a man sent from God,” even though he clearly did not live in heaven prior to his birth. As a human being, as the Son of God, Jesus was sent out into the world from the womb of Mary, empowered by the Holy Spirit and ordained by the plan of God to be our sacrifice of atonement.
John 17:3 says we need to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ.” This phrase does not refer to two distinct persons in a trinity. If there were a trinity of coequal divine persons, then knowledge of each of them would surely be the necessary basis for salvation, yet there is no mention of a third person. If John 17:3 referred to two persons, then the status of the third person would be compromised. How could knowledge of two persons be required for salvation, yet knowledge of the third coequal person be totally unnecessary?
Moreover, if John 17:3 referred to two persons, then only one of them is God. A comparison of verses 1 and 3 shows that Jesus addressed the “Father” as “the only true God.” If Jesus were a different person from the Father, then in this passage He would not be God at all. If “and” in verse 3 distinguishes two persons, then it separates Jesus from God.
That was not the message of either Jesus or John. In John 20:28 Thomas confessed Jesus to be “my Lord and my God.” Jesus commended Thomas for his insight and pronounced a blessing on all those who would believe thesame truth even without having seen Jesus in the flesh as Thomas had. John recognized the immense significance of this incident. He recorded it with approval and used it as the climax of his Gospel, following it with the thesis statement of the book. Elsewhere, in language reminiscent of John 17:3, John wrote that the Son, Jesus Christ, is “the true God, and eternal life” (I John 5:20).
In sum, our salvation is based upon knowing the true God and specifically knowing Jesus Christ as the manifestation of the true God for the purpose of our salvation. We must act in faith upon this knowledge, applying Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to our lives. In other words, we must believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life. “Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” will come upon “them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:8-9).
In the Old Testament, God saved people, on the basis of the future mediatorial work of Christ, but the saints in that era did not have the privilege of seeing His work of redemption fulfilled. They were saved by faith as they obeyed God’s plan for their day, but they did not enjoy the knowledge of the Cross, the experience of water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the fullness of life in the Spirit. They waited eagerly for the implementation of God’s plan but did not live to see it (Hebrews 11:39-40; I Peter 1:10-12).
One of the most patient of Old Testament saints, Job, walked by faith but longed for the opportunity to encounter God more intimately, to have a mediator to bring him into close personal fellowship with God. He lamented, “For he is not a man. as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman [umpire. referee] betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.” (Job 9:32- 33). In great distress he cried out, “O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!” (Job 16:21).
We have that privilege today. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation [sacrifice of atonement] for our sins” (I John 2:1-2). Jesus Christ is the One who intercedes for us today by His sacrifice on the Cross. No only have we been redeemed by His atoning sacrifice, but we live daily by the power of His blood; if we sin, we can receive forgiveness today through His blood.
Jesus Christ is our advocate – the One called alongside to help. He is our mediator – the One who brings us into a proper relationship with God. In Him we meet God as our personal friend, helper, and Savior.
(The above material appeared in the December 1992 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)
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