Click to donate today!
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
For mediation in paganism and in the OT see W. F. Adeney’s article in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) . For mediation in the Gospels see L. Pullan’s article in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels . While no formal discussion of these matters occurs here, one cannot ignore the importance of a full knowledge of the OT teaching and the possible influence of the philosophy and religion of the Graeco-Roman world upon the minds of the apostolic teachers of Christianity. It is easy to go to extremes in either direction. But the study of comparative religion does not dim the glory of Christ. The modern Christian rather claims that all the ‘true light that lighteth every man’ comes from Christ (John 1:9). One can welcome all truth that may be taken up into Christianity (cf. C. Clemen, Primitive Christianity and its Non-Jewish Sources, 1912; H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions, 1913). It is hardly likely, however, that Jesus Himself felt the influence of this non-Jewish teaching. His conception of His own sacrificial death finds its roots in the OT, and appears in the oldest form of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28; see also Mark 10:38, Matthew 26:28). It may be said at once that the central place here given to the atoning death of Christ for the sins of men, emphasized also in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:29; John 3:16; John 12:32, etc.), is just that conception of the relative value of the Cross in the mediatorial work of Christ found in Acts and the rest of the NT. It is embedded in the primitive Christian tradition too deeply to be a mere theological interpretation of the apostles, read back into the thought of Christ (see J. Denney, The Death of Christ, 1902, and Jesus and the Gospel4, 1913, where the writer powerfully argues that Christianity is justified in the mind of Christ). Mediation lies at the heart of all religion which assumes human sin and a righteous God who will forgive the sinner. The consciousness of sin demands a mediator to plead the cause of man with God; hence the existence of the priesthood in all religions worthy of the name. Paganism has its ‘redeemer gods,’ but Christianity is rooted in the OT. The head of the family was first the priest, then the patriarch of the tribe. Then the Aaronic priesthood, and in particular the high priest, exemplified the mediatorial office. There was also prophetic and angelic mediation (Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19). Mediation took the form of intercession, of covenant, or of sacrifice. Christ sums up the whole mediatorial office as prophet, priest, and sacrifice. The term ‘mediator’ (μεσίτης) or ‘middleman’ occurs once of Moses (Galatians 3:19 f.) as the mediator between God and the people in the giving of the Law. The other instances all refer to Christ, ‘the one mediator between God and man’ (1 Timothy 2:5), ‘the mediator of a better covenant’ (Hebrews 8:6), ‘the mediator of a new (καινῆς) covenant’ (Hebrews 9:15; νέας in Hebrews 12:24). In Hebrews 6:17 God ‘interposed with an oath’ (ἐμεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ; here the notion of ‘middleman’ recedes). But the notion of mediation is far more common in the NT than the use of the word μεσίτης would imply. It is indeed regulative of the thought of the entire NT, as can be easily seen.
1. The Acts.-It is the living Christ, active in leading the disciples (Acts 1:1 f.), who meets us in the Acts. He was received up (Acts 1:2), but He will come again (Acts 1:11), and meanwhile His Name has power (Acts 3:6). Jesus is Lord (κύριος, Acts 1:6; Acts 1:21), and is addressed in prayer (Acts 1:24, Acts 7:59) after the Ascension. Peter on the Day of Pentecost boldly interprets Jesus as the Messiah (Acts 2:31) of whose resurrection from the dead they were all witnesses (Acts 2:32). He is at (or by) the right hand of the Father, and is actively engaged in His Messianic work, of which the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is one evidence (Acts 2:33). The death of Jesus is not an obstacle to His Messiahship. Peter does not here formulate a doctrine of the Atonement nor specifically mention the mediatorial work of Jesus, but he calls upon all the house of Israel to understand ‘that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified’ (Acts 2:36). On the strength of the claim that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah as shown by His resurrection, Peter urges repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. This address at Pentecost, as reported by Luke, is the first formal interpretation on the part of the disciples of the significance of the work of Christ. It is too early for the full perspective to be drawn, but at heart the message is the same as we find in the later years. Jesus Christ is central in Christianity. The place of the Cross is recognized, though not fully expounded. The Lordship of Jesus the Messiah is accented as the ground for repentance. Already the reproach of the Cross was felt, and Peter justifies the suffering of Christ as part of God’s purpose as shown in the prophets (Acts 3:18), though not excusing the sin of Christ’s murderers (Acts 3:13). Peter also calls Jesus God’s ‘servant Jesus’ (Acts 3:13), ‘the Holy and Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14), ‘the Prince of life’ (Acts 3:15), a Prophet like unto Moses (Acts 3:22), the fulfilment of the covenant promise to Abraham for the blessing of all the families of earth (Acts 3:25). The nearest statement to the later interpretation of redemption on the basis of the death of Christ comes in Acts 3:18 ff., where he says, ‘Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.’ Here ‘therefore’ points back to Acts 3:18, which presents the necessity of the sufferings of Christ, in particular His death on the cross. The clearness of Peter’s conception of the power of the living Christ appears in Acts 4:10-12, where he claims that the impotent man is made whole in the name of Jesus, and that Jesus is the Stone, rejected by the Jewish builders, but made the Head of the Corner by God in His Kingdom and the only hope of salvation for men everywhere (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-8). Here the mediatorial work of Christ comes out sharply, and it is astonishing to note Peter’s courageous boldness before the Sanhedrin. There is thus no doubt as to the immediate interpretation of the Risen Christ as Lord and Saviour from sin. His death was not of a piece with that of Stephen and James, who died as martyrs. The death of Christ was part of God’s foreseen plan (Acts 2:23), was predicted by the OT prophets (Acts 3:18), was the basis of repentance and forgiveness of sin (Acts 3:19), and, with His resurrection, proved Him to be the sole hope of salvation (Acts 4:10-12).
The absence of the later technical terminology in these early addresses is proof of the substantial correctness of Luke’s report. The reference to Isaiah 53 (‘Servant Jesus’) is natural, and has the essence of Christ’s mediation, though the idea is not worked out. In his address to the household of Cornelius Peter pointedly says: ‘That through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). He is also ‘the Judge of quick and dead’ (Acts 10:42). Peter also says that the Jews ‘shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as’ Gentiles (Acts 15:11). Stephen called Jesus ‘the Righteous One’ (Acts 7:52), and died saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ (Acts 7:59). Immediately on his conversion Saul ‘proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God’ (Acts 9:20). At Antioch in Pisidia St. Paul announces the heart of his message about Jesus: ‘Through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins: and by him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses’ (Acts 13:38 f.). From this position St. Paul never swerved. His collision with the Judaizers (Acts 15) turned on the sufficiency of the work of Christ to save, apart from the Jewish ceremonialism. To the Philippian jailer he preached salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:30 f.). On the Areopagus he set forth the Risen Jesus as the Judge of the world, and urged repentance for that reason (Acts 17:30 f.). At Ephesus he interpreted the preaching of John the Baptist as urging faith in Jesus as the hope of salvation (Acts 19:4). The elders of Ephesus he urged ‘to feed the church of God’ (correct text), ‘which he purchased with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28), where at once the deity of Jesus is asserted and also the atoning nature of His death. Even Festus understood that St. Paul affirmed Jesus to be alive (Acts 25:19). To the Jews in Rome St. Paul spoke ‘concerning Jesus’ (Acts 28:23) and called his message ‘this salvation of God’ (Acts 28:28), which the Gentiles at least will hear. The conception of Jesus as Mediator thus runs all through the Acts from the very beginning.
2. The Pauline Epistles
(a) The First Group (1 and 2 Thess.).-At bottom the same conception of Christ appears here as in the later Epistles. The work of Christ comes out incidentally, but very clearly: ‘For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9 f.). St. Paul’s whole gospel of grace is here set forth though in somewhat general terms-τοῦ ἀποθανόντος περὶ ἡμῶν, though WH [Note: H Westcott-Hort’s Greek Testament.] give ὑπέρ in the margin. These two prepositions (περί and ὑπέρ) differ in etymology (‘around’ and ‘over’), but in the Koine are sometimes used quite in the same resultant sense (Moulton, Grammar of NT Greek, vol. i., ‘Prolegomena,’ 1908, p. 105). There is no getting away from the idea that the death of Christ lies at the root of the obtaining of salvation on our part, though St. Paul does not here explain the relation of Christ’s mediatorial work to our redemption. Another general phrase appears in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 : ‘Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come,’ τὸν ῥυόμενον ἡμᾶς ἐκ, κτλ. Here the historical Jesus is pictured as the present deliverer from the wrath-a complete deliverance (ἐκ). In 2 Thessalonians 2:14 St. Paul says that we realize God’s purpose ‘through our gospel.’ He does not, of course, mean to put mere creed in the place of Christ. Already we find the mystic term ‘in Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). No objective work on the part of Christ or man, no ordinance and no creed, can take the place of vital union with God in Christ, ‘in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
(b) The Second Group (1 and 2 Cor., Gal., Rom.).-We may still follow Lightfoot’s grouping in spite of the doubt about the date of Galatians. Here the material is very rich. In 1 Corinthians 1:30 St. Paul sums up his idea of the mediation of Christ: ‘But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ Thus Christ is shown to be the wisdom of God. St. Paul magnifies ‘the cross of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 1:17). His message is ‘the word of the cross’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). ‘We preach Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). ‘For I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). The death of Christ occupies the central place in St. Paul’s message about salvation. He is aware that the Jews find it a stumbling-block and the Greeks foolishness, but he claims that it is ‘God’s wisdom in a mystery’ (1 Corinthians 2:7), little as the philosophers supposed it to be true. The blood of Christ makes an appeal for holy living. He is our passover sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7), in His name we were washed and justified (1 Corinthians 6:11), we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23), and owe a life of holiness to Christ. It is thus no mere mechanical notion with St. Paul, but a vital union with Christ on the basis of His atoning death on the cross. Christ died ‘for the sake of’ (διά) the weak brother, who for that reason deserves consideration (1 Corinthians 8:11). His death for man has glorified humanity. This intimate bond between the disciple and his Lord, the blood-bond, is set forth by the ordinances of baptism and communion in a far wider sense than was contemplated by the ‘mystery-religions’ and their ‘redeemer-gods’ (1 Corinthians 10:2 ff., (1 Corinthians 10:16-22; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Perhaps by πνευματικόν in 1 Corinthians 10:3 f. St. Paul means ‘supernatural’ (Denney, Death of Christ, p. 134 f.), but he does not teach that the ordinances impart the new life in Christ. They are symbols of the work of Christ made effective in the soul by the Holy Spirit, not the means for procuring the redemptive grace. Jesus Christ, not baptism and not the Lord’s Supper, is the Mediator. St. Paul expressly places baptism on a lower plane than the gospel which he preached (1 Corinthians 1:15-17), which he could not have done if it had per se saving efficacy or was the means of obtaining the benefit of Christ’s mediatorial work. He interprets the Supper as symbolic, picturing ‘the Lord’s death till he come’ (1 Corinthians 11:26), which ye thereby ‘proclaim’ (καταγγέλλετε). The ordinances are thus preachers of the death of Christ for sinners and of the new life in Christ. The cup proclaims ‘the new covenant in my blood,’ as St. Paul quotes from Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:25), and is to be drunk ‘in remembrance of me.’ The worthy celebration of the ordinance consists in discerning the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:29) and not making a mere meal of the emblems. All believers are members of the mystical body of Christ the Head (1 Corinthians 12:12 ff.). St. Paul’s gospel, in short, has as its first word that ‘Christ died for sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). The preposition is ὑπέρ (‘over,’ ‘on behalf of’). This death would have been in vain had He not risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:17). But the resurrection of Christ is guarantee of His power to save, so that ‘in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). So then the Christian, the one in Christ (ὁ ἐν Χριστῷ), is victorious over sin and death ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
In 2 Cor. St. Paul touches the very heart of his message about salvation in Christ. The challenge of the Judaizing sacramentalism called forth this passionate emphasis on the sufficiency of the redemptive and reconciling work of Christ. ‘The sufferings of Christ abound unto us,’ περισσεύει τὰ παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἡμᾶς (2 Corinthians 1:5). Here we have the notion of example rather than of redemption. St. Paul suffers as Jesus did. So as to 2 Corinthians 4:10, ‘always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus. His ‘sufferings are killing him as they killed his Master’ (Denney, Death of Christ, p. 139). See also 2 Corinthians 4:8. The face of Jesus Christ gives the knowledge of God’s glory. But the locus classicus Isaiah 5:14-21, where the mediatorial work of Christ receives formal discussion. St. Paul is willing to be considered ‘beside’ himself (Isaiah 5:13) in this matter (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23). The love which Christ has for St. Paul keeps him in love (συνέχει), holds him intact whatever men think of him. Knowing the love of Christ, he deliberately interprets (κρίνω) His death: ‘One died for all, therefore all died,’ ὅτι εἶς ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν· ἄρα οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον (2 Corinthians 5:14). We need not stop to show that ὑπέρ can be used where the notion of substitution is present. It is common enough in the ostraca and papyri of the Koine (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, Eng. translation , 1911, p. 153). But see also John 11:50, where εἷς ἄνθριοπος ἀποθάνῃ ὑπὲρ τοῦ λαοῦ is explained by καἱ μὴ ὅλον τὸ ἔθνος ἀπόληται. See further Galatians 3:13, to be discussed later. Suffice it to say that in 2 Corinthians 5:14 the ἄρα clause, though parenthetical, clearly means that οἱ πάντες died in the death of Christ and do not have to die in that sense again. Jesus therefore died in their stead. It is not here contended that this notion exhausts the meaning of the death of Christ. St. Paul himself speaks of the mystic crucifixion with Christ (Galatians 2:20). No theory can set forth the wealth of meaning in the death of Christ, but St. Paul here places the notion of substitution to the fore. Love prompted this wonderful gift. God carries on the work of reconciliation (καταλλαγή). This is done ‘through Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:18) and ‘in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). God offers Christ to the world as supreme proof of His love and as the ground of reconciliation. It is all ‘of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:18), and He even made Christ to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). No sin actually touched Christ, but He bore our sins as the sacrifice for sin that we might go free. So then St. Paul bears the message of reconciliation to men as the ambassador of Christ. All that he has said elsewhere is in accord with this central passage. See also 2 Corinthians 8:9, where the voluntary poverty of Christ in place of His pre-existent state of riches in heaven was for our sakes (διά), that we ‘through his poverty (τῇ πτωχείᾳ, instrumental case) might become rich.’ Here the whole earthly life of Christ is brought into view, and not merely His death, as constituting the mediatorial work of the Saviour. Hence 2 Corinthians 9:15, where Jesus is the unspeakable gift, ἐπὶ τῇ ἀνεκδιηγήτῳ αὐτοῦ δωρέᾳ. St. Paul is positive about his conception of Jesus-so much so that he calls the Jesus of the Judaizers ‘another Jesus,’ ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν, and that gospel ‘a different gospel,’ εὐαγγέλιον ἕτερον (2 Corinthians 11:4). Only one historic Jesus in the sense of St. Paul is possible, so that he uses ἄλλον, not ἕτερον.
The aim of Galatians is to show that ‘all Christianity is contained in the Cross; the Cross is the generative principle of everything Christian in the life of man’ (Denney, Death of Christ, p. 152). The mediatorial work of Christ is set over against the legalistic bondage of the Judaizing gospel which St. Paul fiercely denounces as not ‘another’ (ἄλλο) gospel, but a ‘different’ (ἕτερον) gospel (Galatians 1:7), in reality a complete departure from the grace of God in Christ (Galatians 5:4). In Galatians 1:3 f. St. Paul describes ‘our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world.’ Here we have ὑπέρ in the text and περί in the margin of WH [Note: H Westcott-Hort’s Greek Testament.] ’s text before τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν. Justification before God is obtained by faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of the Law (Galatians 2:16). This is the truth of the gospel, the liberty in Christ as opposed to the bondage of the Law (Galatians 2:3-5; Galatians 2:14 f.), the weak and beggarly rudiments of the world (Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9 ff.). The life of faith which St. Paul now lives in Christ, ‘who loved and gave himself up for me’ (ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ), means that Christ has charge of his life, and St. Paul is in a mystic sense crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Christ did an objective work for St. Paul, but it has become effective through the subjective surrender to Christ, even identification with Him. A notable passage Isaiah 3:13, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.’ The meaning is plain enough. He is speaking not simply for Jews, but for all. The curse that came upon Christ is death. By Christ’s death He ‘brought us out from under (ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ) the curse of the law.’ We escape spiritual death because Christ received in Himself the curse of the law for sin, though He Himself had no sin. The prepositions give the same picture. Those who rely on the law are ‘under (ὑπό) a curse.’ Christ steps ‘under’ that curse and ‘over’ (ὑπέρ) us. Thus we are rescued ‘out from under’ (ἐκ) the curse and go free. That is the inevitable teaching of St. Paul in this passage. It presents clearly the notion of substitution. It may be remarked that ἀντί does not itself mean ‘instead’ any more than ὑπέρ does; that is a secondary notion with both prepositions. In the Koine it is quite common with ὑπέρ and is not unknown in the older Greek. In Christ Jesus therefore the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14). Christ is the seed promised to Abraham long before the Law (Galatians 3:16-19). Christ is the schoolmaster, while the Law was merely the paedagogue to bring us to Christ, ‘that we might be justified by faith’ (Galatians 3:24). Through faith in Christ we become sons of God in the full sense of sonship (Galatians 3:28). The very incarnation of Christ, God’s Son, ‘born of a woman, born under the law,’ made it possible for Him to redeem us from the Law and for us to receive the adoption of sons and to have the privilege of sons and heirs and say ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:4-6). Christ, and Christ alone, set us free and called us for freedom (Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13). But liberty is not licence (Galatians 5:24), and the Cross of Christ is the glory of St. Paul (Galatians 6:14).
Romans gives the same interpretation of the work of Christ as we find in Galatians, though with less passion and vehemence. The wrath of God rests upon both Gentile and Jew because of sin, which consists in violation of what conscience tells one is right (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20). The Law brought a keener sense of sin, and all the world comes under the judgment of God. The Gentile is without excuse (Romans 1:20), as is the Jew (Romans 2:1) who is first in privilege and in penalty (Romans 2:9 f.). St. Paul expounds his gospel with care in Romans 3:21-31. The failure of man to obtain righteousness made plain the necessity for a revelation of God’s righteousness, and this is found in the gospel and is mediated through faith in Christ (Romans 1:16 f.). Real righteousness is thus apart from Law (Romans 3:21) and is purely of grace (Romans 3:24). God ‘justifies’ the sinner, declares him righteous (δικαιόω) ‘freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,’ διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (Romans 3:24). The repetition of the article removes all ground for speculation as to St. Paul’s meaning. Christ is thus the Redeemer, the Agent through whom (διά) redemption is secured, and it is a free gift on God’s part, provided the sinner exercises faith in Christ, διὰ πίστεως (Romans 3:25). More exactly St. Paul explains how this redemption is made possible in Christ, that we may obtain the righteousness of God (Romans 3:26), ‘that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.’ On man’s part God requires faith (trust), which involves repentance from sin. This we can understand as proper. But what about the death of Christ as the ground for this free offer of mercy on God’s part? Here we touch the fathomless depths of God’s love and elective grace (Romans 11:33-36). It is all ‘of him, and through him, and unto him’ (ἐξ, διά, εἰς). But St. Paul boldly puts forth the death of Christ as God’s own solution of the problem: ‘whom God set forth, to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood’ (Romans 3:25). The middle voice (προέθετο) accents the will of God in the matter. The word ἱλαστήριον, as Deissmann has conclusively shown from the inscriptions (Bible Studies, Eng. translation , 1901, pp. 124-135), means ‘propitiatory sacrifice,’ neuter adjective as substantive, and is not here used in the sense of ‘cover’ for the mercy-seat. He brands the old view as ‘one of the most popular, most pregnant with results, and most baneful’ of all exegetical errors (p. 124). The phrase ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι makes the meaning clear also. It is a propitiation in the blood of Christ, ‘to show his [God’s] righteousness’ (Romans 3:25). As to how the death of Christ met the requirements of God’s righteousness St. Paul gives us no light. We must let it go at that, save that we see the greatest love in it, in that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:6-8). Indeed, while we were yet enemies to God (Romans 5:10), He showed His love to us by not sparing His own Son (Romans 8:32), so that ‘we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son’ (Romans 5:10). The point here is, not that God needed to be reconciled, though He had to remain just when justifying (Romans 3:26), but that we were reconciled to God. Certainly we can understand to some extent the power of the appeal of the death of Christ for us while we were ungodly sinners, enemies of God. There is far more in the great mystery of Christ’s death than this, but we can at least grasp something of that love for sinners that allowed the sinless Christ to be regarded as sin, and die for sinners, that they might become righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). The great passage in Rom. (Romans 3:21-31) stands beside that in 2 Cor. (Romans 5:14-21), and they concur. The rest of Romans confirms this view. In Romans 4:25 the resurrection of Jesus is associated with His death. If He had not risen, the Death would have been in vain. We enjoy ‘peace with God through (διά) Jesus Christ, through whom (διʼ οὗ) we have had our access (προσαγωγήν, ‘introduction’) by faith into this grace’ (Romans 5:1 f.). The reconciliation is accomplished through Christ (Romans 5:11). We shall obtain final salvation because Christ ever lives (Romans 5:10). In some sense parallel with the relation of Adam to the race, Christ stands at the head of all who are redeemed, as the channel of life and grace (Romans 5:12-21). Christ mediates to the believer more grace than Adam did sin and death (Romans 5:20). But this wealth of grace brings obligation to holy living, not to licence (Romans 6:1, Romans 7:6). St. Paul uses the figures of death to sin as symbolized by baptism, the new slavery to God, and marriage to Christ, to illustrate the permanence of the bond with Christ. Jesus Christ set St. Paul free from the bondage of sin and the Law (Romans 7:25, Romans 8:3). God sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh condemned man’s sin in the flesh of Jesus (Romans 8:3). The absence of the article before ἐν τῇ σαρκί makes this interpretation probable. Christ is not merely the Mediator and Redeemer, but He dwells in the Christian (Romans 8:10). We are in Christ and Christ is in us. We are joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and destined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, the First-born among many brethren (Romans 8:29). More than that, Jesus is now the champion of the elect and makes intercession for us at God’s right hand (Romans 8:34). St. Paul defies the universe to lay a charge against the elect, rescued by the death of Christ and preserved by His unchanging love (Romans 8:33-39). It is God’s plan, and He declares us righteous. St. Paul seems to call Christ God in Romans 9:5. Christ died and came to life again that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9). So St. Paul interprets in Romans the mystery of the ages (Romans 16:25).
(c) The Third Group (Phil., Philem., Col., Eph.).-We shall treat these Epistles in this order, though the position of Philippians is disputed. These are the Epistles of the first Roman imprisonment. The standpoint of Phil. does not differ essentially from that of Gal. and Romans. St. Paul here emphasizes his notion of life with Christ (Philippians 1:21). The incarnation and death of Christ are treated as the supreme example of humility (Philippians 2:5-8). Christ in His pre-incarnate state left a place on an equality with God for the lowliest rank among men and for the shameful death of the Cross. All this brought its consequent exaltation (Philippians 2:9-11), and thus some light is thrown upon the philosophy of the Cross of Christ. St. Paul uses the language of the mystic to express his passionate devotion to Christ and his purpose to realize all that Christ has in store for him (Philippians 3:7-16), ‘that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death’ (Philippians 3:10). The very difficulty of his language shows the wealth of meaning in his conception of his personal relation to Christ. Jesus was Mediator, but in no artificial way; rather He had gripped the whole of St. Paul’s nature. Christ had become the passion of his life (ἐν δέ, Philippians 3:13). Christ is the great reality of life to him, πάντα ἰσχύω ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντί με. Christ brings all good (Philippians 4:19).
There is nothing distinctive in Philem. on the subject, though St. Paul urges Philemon to receive the converted runaway slave as a ‘brother beloved’ ‘in the Lord’ (Philemon 1:16). Thus Christ sets free the slaves of the world.
In Col. and Eph. St. Paul combats the heresies of incipient Gnosticism with perhaps a tinge of the current ‘mystery-religions.’ The horizon is wider than the Roman Empire or even the earth itself. The whole range of the universe of spirit and matter comes into view, so far as the Ancients conceived it (τὰ πάντα). Already in Romans 8:19-22 ‘the whole creation’ is represented as being in some sense involved in sin and redemption. The Gnostic philosophy posited matter as essentially evil, and explained the Creation by the existence of subordinate aeons who came in between God and matter. Christ was conceived as one of these aeons. Thus the Person of Christ is forced to the front, and St. Paul interprets Christ in relation to the universe. He places Him on a par with God in nature (Colossians 1:14), and treats Christ as the Agent and Conserver of the material universe (Colossians 1:15-17). Thus he answers the degrading view of the Gnostics. Besides, Christ is also the Head of the spiritual universe (Colossians 1:18-23), ‘that in all things he might have the pre-eminence’ (Colossians 1:18). As Creator and Head of all things, as the fullness of God (Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9), Christ is able to reconcile unto God all things, καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν (Colossians 1:20). This peace of the universe is made possible by the blood of His Cross (Colossians 1:20). Here the mediatorial work of Christ is lifted to the highest possible plane (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 for an adumbration of this conception). The triumph of the Cross is emphasized further in Colossians 2:14 f. The Docetic Gnostics denied the real humanity of Christ, and so St. Paul mentions ‘blood’ and ‘bodily.’ The Cerinthian Gnostics separated the Christ from Jesus, and so St. Paul identifies them as one ‘Christ Jesus the Lord’ (Colossians 2:6). It is essential for the Christian to hold fast the Head (Colossians 2:19). The ἐμβατεύω of Colossians 2:18 is now known to be used, in an inscription in the sanctuary of Claros, of the initiate ‘entering in’ (cf. The Independent, 1913, p. 376). Some of these initiates in the mystery-religions had apparently dethroned Christ from His place as Head. Christ did not do all His mediatorial work on the Cross. He will keep it up, as we have seen (1 Corinthians 15:25 ff.), till the last enemy is put under His feet, when He shall deliver up the kingdom unto the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). Now He is at the right hand of God, and our life is hid with Christ in God and is doubly safe (Colossians 3:1-3). St. Paul is bold to speak the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3), who is the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2). In Ephesians 1:3 every spiritual blessing is ‘in Christ.’ God chose us ‘in him’ (Ephesians 1:4). We become sons ‘through Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:5). He bestowed His grace ‘in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6). ‘We have our redemption through his blood’ (Ephesians 1:7). God purposed His will ‘in him’ (Ephesians 1:9), ‘to sum up all things in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:10), ‘in whom also we were made a heritage’ (Ephesians 1:11), ‘in whom ye also … were sealed’ (Ephesians 1:13). Christ is Head of the Church, which is His body (Ephesians 1:22; cf. Colossians 1:18). This mystic body of Christ includes both Jew and Gentile, who have been made one in Christ and are drawn together by the blood of Christ, the middle wall of partition being thus broken down and both being united to God and to each other (Ephesians 2:11-14). This ‘one new man’ is the household of God, the holy temple of the Lord (Ephesians 2:15-22). Thus the wisdom of God is shown (Ephesians 3:11) ‘according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Christ is not a mere official Mediator. He is the vital Head of the living body which is growing up to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16). Christ loved His body, the Church (the Kingdom), and gave Himself up for it that in the end it might be without spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27). This mystery is great (Ephesians 5:32) in regard to Christ and the Church. It is the whole mystery of redemptive love.
(d) The Fourth Group (1 Tim., Tit., 2 Tim.).-The Pastoral Epistles, which in the present writer’s opinion may be accepted as genuine, do not contain anything essentially new on this theme. In 1 Timothy 1:15 we read that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ In 1 Timothy 2:5 f. we have the famous passage, ‘one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.’ Here the humanity of Christ is accented in His mediatorial work, and the word μεσίτης is applied directly to Jesus. But His atoning death as ‘ransom for all,’ ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων, is emphasized (note both ἀντί and ὑπέρ, to make plain the substitutionary character of Christ’s death; cf. λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν in Matthew 20:28). In Titus 2:14 the voluntary giving of Christ is presented to redeem us and purify for Himself a people of His own. The reference is to His death. In Titus 3:4 ff. the Pauline teaching of salvation by mercy and faith, not by works, appears, ‘through Jesus Christ our Saviour.’
3. Epistle of James.-There is nothing in this book specifically on the subject, though the mediatorial work of Christ is assumed and implied in several passages. In James 1:1 James terms himself ‘a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’; here the word κύριος is to be noted and also the fact that Christ is placed on a level with God in what may possibly be the earliest document in the NT. Still stronger Isaiah 2:1 : ‘Hold not the faith in our Lord Jesus, the glory’; if we accept the interpretation of Mayor and several other commentators, Christ is here the object of faith and so of worship, and τῆς δόξης is in descriptive apposition. ‘The honourable (καλόν) name which is called upon you’ refers to Christ. There may be a reference to the death of Christ in James 5:6, though this is not certain; but the Second Coming is presented in James 5:7. ‘The Judge standeth before the doors’ (James 5:9). Though the stress in the Epistle is on the ethical side of Christianity, one notes the same doctrinal conception of Christ and His work at the basis of it all. The new birth is mentioned in James 1:18-21.
4. Jude.-There is a positive note in Jude’s Epistle, as the writer describes ‘Our only Master and Lord (τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν), Jesus Christ’ (Judges 1:4). Cf. Judges 1:3, ‘the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints,’ clearly having Jesus as ‘only Master and Lord.’ See also ‘our Lord Jesus Christ’ in Judges 1:17; ‘the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life’ (Judges 1:21), where ‘eternal life’ is posited in ‘the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ In Judges 1:24 f. we are plainly told that we can be set before the presence of God’s glory ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
5. Epistles of Peter.-The genuineness of these Epistles cannot here be discussed, nor their ‘Pauline’ features. They certainly give the same view of Christ’s mediatorial office as we find in St. Paul’s writings. This conception of Christ’s sacrificial death meets us in 1 Peter 1:2, ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (cf. Exodus 24). The new birth comes to pass ‘by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). The readers of the Epistle receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls, ‘through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:9). ‘The sufferings of Christ’ were prophesied beforehand by the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11). Redemption is not with gold, ‘but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:19). Here the point of view of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chs. 9 and 10) is approached. Christ is the Living Stone through whom the living stones in the spiritual house ‘offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God’ (1 Peter 2:5), a clear picture of the mediatorial work of Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18). In 1 Peter 2:21 we are told expressly that ‘Christ also suffered for you (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν), leaving you an example (ὑπολιμπάνων ὑπογραμμόν), that you should follow his steps,’ where the death of Christ is given as an example for us in suffering. But that this is not the sole idea in the atoning death of Christ we need only recall (1 Peter 1:18 f.), not to mention the rest of the sentence in 1 Peter 2:21-24, where we read that Jesus ‘did no sin’ and ‘his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.’ There is an evident reference to Isaiah 53, and the substitutionary character of the death of Christ for sins is clear enough. St. Peter’s own interpretation of ἔπαθεν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν is thus quite pertinent. Hence it is plain what is meant in 1 Peter 3:18 : ‘Because Christ also died (ἀπέθα_
Copyright Statement Bibliography Information
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mediation Mediator'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/m/mediation-mediator.html. 1906-1918.