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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
Introductory.—The title ‘Mediator’ is applied to our Lord in the NT only by St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:5) and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24). In Galatians 3:19-20 St. Paul’s argument implies that there is an important sense in which Christ cannot be fitly called a mediator. Here Moses is described by this title, and the mediator (generic) is sharply distinguished from God. Moses was a person coming between two contracting parties, God and Israel, with the consequence that the law administered by Moses is apparently in opposition to the promises of God which depend upon God only. Obviously Christ is not such a mediator as Moses. He does not come between two contracting parties, for He Himself is the representative human receiver of God’s promise, and the Divine Son through whom we receive that promise. He includes both parties in His own Person, instead of coming between them. He is not the instrument of a contract, but the embodiment of a Divine gift. This passage implies that Christ united God and man, two parties previously at variance, in a wholly unique manner. And the same truth is asserted in the verse which calls Him ‘the one mediator between God and men’ (1 Timothy 2:5). In what sense St. Paul calls Christ a mediator will be shown more fully in § 3.
1. The Synoptic Gospels.—Although these do not employ the title ‘mediator,’ they throughout imply that the teaching, life, and death of Jesus were mediatorial. The familiar old division of His mediatorial functions into those of Prophet, Priest, and King is roughly correct, though it may be better to designate them as those of Prophet, King, and Redeemer. By such a division we are able to find a more natural place for those passages in the Synoptic Gospels which speak of His atoning work, than if we use the word ‘Priest.’ We are also able to do more justice to the truth that He revealed Himself as already the Messiah during ‘the days of his flesh,’ and did not teach that His Messianic Kingdom was only an affair of the future.
(a) The ‘wisdom’ of our Lord impressed His hearers at Nazareth, and when they were offended at the difference which they noted between Him and His humble family, Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house’ (Matthew 13:54-58). Here He seems in some way to claim the office of a prophet. And there are several passages which show that the ordinary people inclined to regard Him as a Prophet. See, fully, under art. Prophet.
(b) He is also King. He claimed to fulfil the Jewish expectation of an ideal King, the Messiah. This cannot be reasonably disputed, in spite of the fact that this claim did not represent all that He was and all that He demanded. The confession of His Messiahship by St. Peter, the dispute between His disciples for places of honour, and especially the desire of the sons of Zebedee to sit on His right hand and His left, cannot be thrown aside as legendary inventions. Nor can we fail to see the Messianic meaning of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His trial and answer to the high priest (Mark 14:62), and the inscription ‘The King of the Jews’ upon the cross. Apart from His Messianic claim, His life and His death become unintelligible, although He used the actual title very seldom, and rather avoided it on account of the political associations which clung to it. See, further, artt. King and Kingdom of God.
(c) Jesus, who is Mediator in revealing God, is also Mediator in redeeming man. He offered to the Father a sacrifice of perfect human obedience which effected a new relation between God and mankind. It was a reparation to God for the disobedience of man.
In dealing with the redemptive work of Christ, we have to consider as of primary importance the place occupied by His death in the theology as well as in the history of the Synoptics. It is frequently asserted or hinted that He did not foresee His death until an advanced period in His ministry, and that, when He found that it was inevitable, He did not attribute to it any power of obtaining the remission of sins. These two theories do not elucidate the Gospels, but simply contradict them. All the accounts of our Lord’s baptism represent Him as hearing the words which declare that He is the Son in whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). He was, therefore, from the first conscious that He fulfilled the Isaianic picture of the Servant of the Lord, who dies as a guilt-offering for the people. In submitting to baptism, He identified Himself with a race that has sinned; in submitting to the subsequent temptation, He identified Himself with a race which suffers when Satan lures it to sin. He also predicted His death early in His ministry. He is the bridegroom who will be taken away in the midst of joy, and His disciples will fast at that day (Mark 2:19-20). Later, He tells how He has to submit to the baptism of His Passion, and feels anguish until it is accomplished. He dreads it; but He desires it, because it is the necessary preliminary of His kindling a sacred fire on earth (Luke 12:49). With these words we must compare the question addressed to the ambitious sons of Zebedee, whether they can drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism (Mark 10:38). The baptism and the cup represent the will of the Father with all the suffering which the doing of that will entailed. What that suffering was the story of Gethsemane tells us. It was there that He, with a final effort of His human will, identified Himself wholly with the Servant ‘wounded for our transgressions.’ But this identification had been outlined long before in the words, ‘Whosoever would be first among you shall be servant of all. For verily the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). This acceptance of death was not a mere example of perfect resignation. He had taught His disciples not to fear those who kill the body (Matthew 10:28), He had assured them that ‘he that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ (Matthew 10:39). But the disciple who loses his life for Christ’s sake does not necessarily win any life except his own, whereas Christ’s death avails ‘for many.’ With this prediction we must connect the words used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Assuming that Christ did institute this sacrament, we may also assume that He who taught His own not to fear those who kill the body, did not mean that when His blood was shed ‘for many’ it was shed to save them from being killed by the Jews or Romans. Whether He did or did not add the words ‘for the remission of sins,’ He must have meant that a new covenant was being made between God and man. His death had some special value in itself, or else the Church would not have continued to show forth the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26). The special value which He attached to His own death is made plain by the account of the Lord’s Supper contained in the Petrine Gospel of St. Mark no less than in the Pauline Gospel of St. Luke. The shedding of Christ’s blood seals a covenant similar to the initial covenant made by Moses between God and the people (Exodus 24:3-8); it consecrates a new people to God. It also fulfils Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant, of which the very foundation was the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:31). And, like the blood of the Paschal lamb, the blood of Jesus saves His people from a destruction that comes from God. With this sacrifice of Jesus His disciples are to hold communion. They appropriate the atonement, and as they appropriate it, it becomes for them a propitiation.
2. Acts of the Apostles and Epp. of St. Peter, St. Jude, and St. James.—The simple teaching about our Lord conveyed in Acts, more especially in chs. 1–12, and in the First Epistle of St. Peter and that of St. Jude and of St. James, justifies us in placing these books in a class by themselves. They represent a theology which in character, if not in date, is primitive, and in close touch with Judaism.
(a) In Acts Jesus is set forth as Prophet, Messiah, Son of God, and Redeemer. From the first He is the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:6; Acts 1:21). And at Pentecost St. Peter proclaims that ‘God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified’ (Acts 2:36). He is the Prophet whom Moses had foretold, and those who will not hearken to Him will be utterly destroyed (Acts 3:22-23). His Messianic lordship is repeatedly preached; He is the Holy and Righteous One, the Prince of life, the Saviour, the Stone or foundation of the true temple, the Stone now exalted to be the Head of the corner (Acts 3:14-15, Acts 5:31, Acts 4:11). He is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), and there is salvation in none other (Acts 4:12). Miracles are regarded as His work, though He is no longer visibly present. He is preparing for the ‘Day of the Lord,’ when the Divine Kingdom will be vindicated, and He has Himself poured out the Holy Ghost to fit the disciples for that day (Acts 2:33). Moreover, is unique Sonship is implied in the expression ‘the Father’ as used in the beginning of the book (Acts 1:4; Acts 1:7, Acts 2:3). Fitly does St. Stephen direct to Him his dying prayer, and Saul declare that He is the Son of God (Acts 9:20). The whole mission and work of Jesus is therefore mediatorial. His death has also an atoning mediatorial worth. Of great importance in Acts is the identification of our Lord with the suffering Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53. Our Lord had so identified Himself, as is shown not only by the quotation in Luke 22:37 but by the whole tenor of His life from the time of His baptism. In Acts a keynote is struck by St. Peter’s words, ‘the God of our fathers hath glorified his Servant Jesus’ (Acts 3:13). When Philip meets the Ethiopian eunuch he finds that he is reading Isaiah 53, and resolves his doubts by explaining that the vicarious sufferer is Jesus. Acts shows plainly that the Christian Church of the most primitive period applied to Jesus this prophecy. ‘Of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass’ (Acts 4:27-28).
These Apostolic words show precisely how the Church regarded the death of Christ. He died, not as any ordinary martyr, but as the Messiah and the atoning Servant. The death was a necessity, not because it was simply inevitable from the surroundings in which Jesus lived and against which He struggled, but because God Himself required it as an indispensable means for the realization of His will for man. It took place by His foreknowledge (Acts 2:23), it was foretold by His prophets (Acts 3:18). Further, it would have been impossible for the Apostles to attribute this meaning to the death of Christ, unless they had been able to point to the empty grave, to assert that the Messiah lives, and that a direct relation can be established between Him and His sinful people. The Servant in Isaiah, though he died, lived again to ‘prolong his days.’ And because they were able to assert positively that Christ had risen, the first Christians were able to make the death of Christ a fundamental thing in their gospel. Repentance, faith, baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit, are the distinctive gifts which flow from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Peter exerts himself to deepen a sense of sin in his hearers by pointing to the cross. They tried to destroy the Saviour, but God thwarted their effort by raising Him from the dead. Their act, so far from accomplishing what they desired, fulfilled God’s counsel. Let them repent while there is time, before Christ returns to judgment (Acts 2:14-21, Acts 3:19-20, Acts 4:10-11, Acts 5:30-31, Acts 10:36-43). God offers forgiveness to those who are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and He offers the bestowal of the Holy Spirit to make a new life possible (Acts 2:38).
If we compare this very early doctrine with that of St. Paul, we see that, simple though it is, it is radically the same. And against all modern attempts to represent St. Paul as the first man who inseparably joined together the thought of Christ’s death, of sin, and of atonement, St. Paul’s own words protest: ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). He affirms that he received it, and his testimony is true.
(b) In First Peter the mediatorial character of Christ’s death is always present to the writer’s mind. The doctrine of this Epistle may possibly have been influenced by that of St. Paul, but it is considerably less developed, and is such as we might well expect from St. Peter. The doctrine with regard to our Lord’s Person is simple. It is taught that He existed before He was born on earth, for He was not only ‘foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world’ (1 Peter 1:20), which might not necessarily imply a personal pre-existence, but His Spirit was in the prophets before the Incarnation (1 Peter 1:11). To Him, as to a Divine Being, glory and dominion are ascribed (1 Peter 5:11). In consequence of His resurrection, baptism ‘saves’ us (1 Peter 3:21). It has an inward power to cleanse the soul in response to the interrogation of a good conscience, because Christ rose and lives.
But it is the Passion of Christ, the ‘precious blood,’ that fills this letter with its peculiar glow. By that blood, ‘as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,’ we were ‘redeemed’ (1 Peter 1:18-19). It is a moral redemption, changing a former ‘manner of life’ into a better type of conduct. His action involved a patient endurance which it is the Christian’s duty to imitate (1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 3:17-18). But it is, nevertheless, an objective external fact before it becomes subjective and inward. Christians are ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:2). The life of obedience involves sprinkling with the blood. As the Israelites were received into a unique relation with God at Sinai by being sprinkled with sacrificial blood, so by the blood shed on Calvary, a new elect race is dedicated to God. It is this blood that has an abiding power to cancel sin. What Christ did in His Passion is clearly stated, ‘His own self bore our sins in his own body upon the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24). The word ‘bear’ means both ‘endure,’ and ‘carry’ a sacrifice to the altar. So Christ both endured the consequences of our sins, and carried them to the cross as if they were His own. He suffered for sins which were not His own, and He did it that we might be ‘healed.’ Again, St. Peter says that Christ ‘suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). He is urging his readers to be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake; he hopes that their conduct may silence opposition, perhaps that it may bring others to God. But all the power to suffer rightly rests on an event now past. It is the solitary death of Christ ‘for sins’ that enables us to go to God and sets us right with God. Like St. Paul and like the author of Hebrews, St. Peter regards the death of Christ as the supreme event which established for mankind a free communion with the Father.
(c) The Epistle of St. Jude and the Second of St. Peter do not add to the doctrine of Christ’s mediation. The lascivious sect against which the former is directed seems to have denied the reality of the Incarnation and of the Lordship of Christ (Judges 1:4), which the writer regards as essential. He mentions the Holy Spirit, God, and our Lord Jesus Christ together (Judges 1:21), and ascribes glory to ‘God our Saviour’ through Jesus Christ. 2 Peter also simply assumes the Divinity and mediatorial work of Christ. The writer describes himself as ‘the bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:1), describes Jesus as ‘Lord and Saviour’ (2 Peter 2:20), speaks of growing ‘in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18), and of entrance into His ‘eternal kingdom’ (2 Peter 1:11).
(d) In the Epistle of St. James little is said, yet much is implied, respecting the Person of Christ. He is ‘Lord’ and ‘the Lord of glory’ (James 2:1). His is the ‘honourable name’ (James 2:7) which was named over Christians in baptism. He is unquestionably regarded as the Mediator of salvation. For the ‘word of truth,’ ‘the implanted word’ (James 1:18; James 1:21), which the Christians have received, has come to them through Christ, and He is called ‘the judge’ who ‘standeth before the doors’ (James 5:8-9). Moreover, the opposition manifested by St. James towards a misuse of Christian freedom is of a kind which implies that he, like the people whom he desired to refute, believed that faith gains blessings from God through Christ. He illustrates the necessity of good works by instances in which ‘works’ can hardly be distinguished from faith, but are its necessary expression. He insists that God requires a good life; but, no less truly than St. Paul, he insists that a living faith is requisite for salvation. There is no developed Christology, but the writer who calls himself a ‘bond-servant of God and of Jesus Christ,’ and is so faithful both to the letter and to the spirit of Christ’s moral teaching, must necessarily have believed that He is the Mediator between God and man.
3. The Pauline Epistles.—(a) St. Paul’s doctrine of the Person of Christ is fundamentally the same in all his Epistles. And his whole teaching concerning the work of Christ is inseparable from the doctrine of His Person. Jesus is the Son of God, who, as such, possesses a superhuman and Divine nature. God is ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 1:3), and the Son shares in the spiritual immaterial nature of the Father. In his earliest Epistles, those to the Thessalonians, Jesus is called ‘the Lord Jesus,’ and each letter closes with the prayer that His ‘grace’ or unmerited kindness may be with His people. It is assumed that Jesus is exalted to heaven, is the Lord ruling the Church, and that He will return to judge the world. In the second group of Epistles—1 and 2 Cor., Gal., Rom. [Note: Roman.] —there is much teaching about our Lord’s Person. He is God’s ‘own Son’ (Romans 8:3), and to Him alone belongs the privilege of being ‘the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). St. Paul applies to Christ passages which in the OT refer to Jehovah (Romans 10:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 10:22), and in Romans 9:5 says that He is ‘over all, God blessed for ever.’ The Son of God is more ancient than all creation, and ‘through him all things were made’ (1 Corinthians 8:6). He existed in heaven before He was ‘sent forth’ on earth, and this coming to earth was for Him the humiliation of exchanging riches for poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). The last two facts are fundamental in the next group of Epistles (Colossians 1:15-17, Philippians 2:5-11).
The third group of Epistles—Phil. [Note: Philistine.] , Col., Eph.—illustrates these doctrines more fully. Philippians 2:5-11 lays special stress upon the self-sacrifice involved in the Son of God taking ‘the form of a servant.’ In heaven He had ‘the form of God,’ but He ‘emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.’ This likeness is elsewhere called ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:3). In Colossians, St. Paul attacks a superstitious theosophy which taught that worship ought to be paid to some intermediate beings who come between God and the world—a theory which implied that God could not come into direct contact with matter. Against this St. Paul insists upon the mediatorial work of the Son of God in both creation and redemption. He declares that the Son is the ‘image’ or adequate counterpart of the Father, and the ‘firstborn of all creation,’ i.e., not the first being created, but, as the context shows, ‘born before all creation’ (Colossians 1:15-16). All things were created in Him, since their existence was conditioned by His thought; by Him, since it was through His power that they came into being; unto Him, since all creation finds in Him the summit of its evolution. All things cohere in Him (Colossians 1:17), and it was God’s purpose that all things should be summed up in Him (Ephesians 1:10). The sum total of God’s attributes dwells in Him bodily (Colossians 2:9). And the Church is an organism without which Christ deigns to regard Himself as incomplete, because without the Church His incarnate life would not continue to be manifested. It is an extension of the Incarnation. It is a body in which Christ Himself lives and works (Ephesians 1:23), the suffering of its members completes His own (Colossians 1:24) by making possible a further application to mankind of His saving power.
The Church therefore exists to promote a certain relation between God and man. That relation is one of union and communion. The new confession which is taught to us by the Spirit of God’s Son is expressed in the words ‘Abba, Father.’ The very Aramaic word used by Jesus in His communion with the Father in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36) is used by St. Paul to describe the Christian’s attitude towards God. The prominence given by St. Paul to the love of God for man, for all men, for sinners, is unceasing. His certainty of God’s love rests on all that Jesus did and does, but the most fundamental proof of it was that Jesus died. By this God commends His love toward us (Romans 5:8). This makes it obvious that God will give us all things (Romans 8:32). And this equally proves the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25). The death of Christ is, therefore, the highest proof of the love of the Father and the love of Jesus for mankind. The mediatorial work of the Son of God is a process involved in the whole relation of His Divine Person to the world. But it was focussed in one great event—His death.
(b) St. Paul’s teaching about the death of Christ is entirely consistent. He teaches that there are two great elements in the process of the individual man’s reconciliation with God. The first is his faith in Christ, who died as a sacrifice on our behalf. The second is that inward, vital, and ethical union with Christ, the ‘life-giving Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:45), involved in our baptism ‘into Christ.’
To suppose that his language about dying as our ‘ransom’ or ‘price’ (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23, 1 Timothy 2:6, Titus 2:14) is inconsistent with our need of identification with Christ, or that the moral identification excludes the need of a sacramental identification, is to create an imaginary false antithesis. Sacrifice, rightly understood, implies communion with the object sacrificed. And sacraments convey the power which is taken and used by that moral choice which is called ‘faith.’ Baptism begins our new supernatural life (Romans 6:4 f.), the Lord’s Supper imparts to us sustenance for that life (1 Corinthians 10:3 f.). In both we enter into union with a Christ who died, and died ‘for us’ and ‘for sins’ (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:14, Galatians 1:4, Romans 8:32, Ephesians 5:25). That death had a special meaning for mankind as a whole, for God the Father, and for Christ Himself.
(i.) The death of Christ effected a reconciliation.—By it we were reconciled to God (Romans 5:9-10, Ephesians 1:7). This is because God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19), and those who were ‘alienated and enemies’ Christ has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death (Colossians 1:22). The action of Christ is identical with the action of God. In Christ living and Christ dying God was present, ‘not reckoning trespasses.’ He came to pardon when He might have punished. The cross, therefore, manifests the love and pity of God. And the reason why the love of Christ specially ‘constraineth us’ is ‘because we thus judge that one died for all (therefore all died); and he died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died, and rose again’ (2 Corinthians 5:14 f.). We feel the constraint of love when we see that Christ died a death which was a substitute for our death. If the Son had not died, we should have been left to experience the death of a sinner who is alienated from God. The work of reconciliation was done by the Father through the Son,—done outside us before it was done in us.
(ii.) The death of Christ removes the wrath of God.—Sinners are exposed to God’s wrath (Romans 1:18; Romans 1:32; Romans 2:3; Romans 5:10; Romans 11:28). This wrath is not vindictiveness, but the attitude of a loving Father towards that which destroys the very life of His children. The wrath of God is removed when, ‘through faith,’ the sinner accepts Jesus as a ‘means of propitiation’ (Romans 3:25). God justifies, acquits as righteous, those who avail themselves of that force which wipes away their sins. In providing this means of propitiation, God did something to counterbalance all His previous forbearance towards sin. He manifested His righteousness, His disposition to treat men according to a perfect moral law. When sin is passed over, righteousness is not manifested. But it was demonstrated when God showed that He could not forgive except at the tremendous cost of sending His Son to be a means of propitiation by His blood. The death of the Son was an oblation and a sacrifice to the Father (Ephesians 5:2), wholly acceptable to the Father on account of the sinlessness and love of the Sufferer; and it is wholly adequate to the needs of the human soul, because it simultaneously removes the sinner’s sin and his fear of the judgment of God.
(iii.) Christ is not regarded by St. Paul as literally punished for the sins of all mankind.—These sins are not transferred to Jesus, for men who do not accept Him as their Saviour have still to answer for their sins. They are still under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). Nor were the sins of those who God foresaw would repent literally transferred to Jesus. In the Hebrew conception of the sin-offering, the offering was ‘most holy,’ which would have been impossible if sin had been transferred to it in any literal manner. At the same time, Christ is said to have been made ‘sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21) and to have been made ‘curse’ for us (Galatians 3:13).
The first passage may mean that Christ was made a sin-offering; the second may mean that Christ in some way fulfilled the type of the scape-goat (Leviticus 16:21), which symbolized the disappearance of the iniquities of the children of Israel. Both these interpretations are somewhat uncertain. What is certain is that in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13 St. Paul means that Christ was treated as a sinner in order that sinners might become righteous; that He chose to die by crucifixion, a death which in Jewish eyes was symbolical of God’s curse; and that in dying He realized God’s curse or condemnation on the sins of the race of which He had chosen to be a member. There is no question of a literal personal punishment of Christ. It was a voluntary entrance on His part into a state in which, by a profound sympathy, He felt our calamity as though it were His.
Our Lord Himself had shown the connexion between His death and the forgiveness of our sins. The primitive Church had believed and experienced the reality of this connexion. And St. Paul, in preaching what he calls ‘the word of the cross’ so fully and vividly, was ‘faithful’ to ‘the much’ which was committed to Him by the risen Christ. He preached, as no other man has done, the Name which means that Christ saves His people from their sins.
4. The Epistle to the Hebrews.—(a) The subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews is ‘the world to come’ (Hebrews 2:5). This world to come already exists and has existed from the Creation. But it is regarded as still to come, because it has not yet been fully realized in time. It is a heavenly spiritual counterpart of this temporal material world in which we live. The material world, and the Jewish system of worship which belongs to this world, are not, in the strictest sense of the word, real. Christianity is the perfect religion, and is superior to Judaism, because its origin, worship, and priesthood belong to the heavenly world of which Judaism is only a shadow. The Revealer of Christianity belongs to the heavenly world. It is on His mediation that the existence both of the material and of the spiritual world depends. He is the ‘effulgence’ or ‘radiance’ of God’s glory, i.e. of God’s nature as shown to things created, and the impress of His essence; ‘upholding all things by the word of his power’ (Hebrews 1:3). The Son, through whom the Father made the worlds, was appointed heir of all things prior to creation. By His almighty word (cf. ‘God said’ in Genesis 1)—a word which is itself an act—He carries the world to its goal. This Son, as essentially Divine, is above the angels, and is the object of their worship (Genesis 1:7). He is above Moses, as the son of a house is superior to a servant, and as the founder of a house is superior to one who is only a part of the edifice itself (Genesis 3:2-3).
(b) But Jesus is especially our sympathetic High Priest ‘who hath passed through the heavens’ (Genesis 4:14). Great stress is laid upon the fact that He endured all that we endure, sin apart. Having taken flesh and blood, and become in all things like His ‘brethren,’ He passed through temptations, shed tears, suffered death. His human prayer to God, offered during His agony, was heard on account of His ‘godly fear.’ He was strengthened to bear His burden, and was made perfect for His saving work by the discipline of His sufferings. He manifests the highest degree both of sympathy and of probation, and is therefore the Representative of man to God. He is able to enter with full sympathy into the lot of ignorant and erring man. He also possesses the other essential qualification of a High Priest, for He was Divinely appointed. He who proclaimed Him to be His Son, declared Him to be a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:5-6). In the reality of His human experience and sympathy, and in the fact of His Divine calling, He resembled the Levitical priests. But He differed from them profoundly. They were sinful: He was sinless. They must offer sacrifices for themselves: His offering was solely for others. They served a temporary sanctuary: He ministers perpetually in heaven. He further differs from them because He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The priesthood of Melchizedek had these two great characteristics: it was especially royal, and it was independent of any genealogy; whereas the priesthood of the Levitical priests was not more royal than that of all the Israelites, and their title to it rested on their descent from Levi. Christ is King as well as Priest; and as His Being had no beginning, the silence of Scripture about the ancestry of Melchizedek assimilates him to Christ. And since Abraham the father of Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek, he acknowledged his inferiority, and compromised the Levitical priests by so doing. Their priesthood is lower than that of Melchizedek, which was an archetype of that of the Son of God (Hebrews 7:1-10).
(c) The sacrifice of Christ had these notes. (i.) It was the expression of the perfect obedience of His will to the will of the Father. No animal sacrifices can take away sins. They rather bring sins to remembrance than purge them away. Bulls and goats cannot give to God a conscious, voluntary, moral sacrifice. This the Son gave; He satisfied the will of God by so doing: ‘When he cometh into the world he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body didst thou prepare for me.… Lo, I am come to do thy will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:5-7). By the offering of Christ’s body, which was prepared by God to make this great sacrifice possible, the will of God was satisfied, and by that will we are ‘sanctified.’—(ii.) It is one, and need not be repeated yearly. Every day the Levitical priests offer sacrifices which cannot cancel sin. In contrast with the ineffectiveness of those sacrifices, offered by priests still standing day by day, Christ offered one sacrifice on the cross, and then the adequacy of His offering was proved by His sitting down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12). His offering is valid for both past and future, and delivers men from ‘the transgressions that were under the first covenant’ (Hebrews 9:15), in addition to giving a new power to those who live after the Incarnation has taken place.—(iii.) It is the basis of a ‘new covenant’ between God and man.
The best commentators differ somewhat with regard to the meaning of Hebrews 9:15-16. But the natural explanation is that since the word διαθήκη meant both covenant or alliance and testament or will, the word is used in both senses, and the author was conscious of no logical difficulty in so using it. He means that God’s people, their sins having been taken away by Christ, are able to enter upon that inheritance, that rest of God, bequeathed to them by Christ, who Himself removed the encumbrance of past sins which barred access to it. But the idea of covenant is more fundamental. The only sacrifice of the Old Covenant which the Jews never repeated was that which established the original relation between God and the Hebrew people (Exodus 24:3-8). This was dedicated with blood. So was the New Covenant, the blood of the Son being ‘the blood of the covenant’ (Hebrews 10:29). And by it the whole region of man’s approach to God, the system of ‘the heavenly things’ themselves, was cleansed from the taint of sin. In Hebrews 10:29 the writer has in mind the words spoken by our Lord in instituting His Supper.
(d) The effect of Christ’s death on man is specially described by the ritual words ‘purify’ (καθαρίζειν), ‘sanctify’ (ἁγιάζειν), and ‘make perfect’ (τελειοῦν). These words do not exactly correspond with the terms of later theology. They are primarily ritual words, though they involve a truly ethical conception as used in this Epistle. They mean to remove the sense of guilt (Hebrews 9:14) or ‘evil conscience,’ to dedicate to God (Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:29, Hebrews 13:12), to bring to that full enjoyment of spiritual privileges which the Levitical priesthood could not effect (Hebrews 7:11). The result of this work done by Christ is our sense of forgiveness and free access to God through Christ (Hebrews 4:16).
(e) The Ascension is the culminating point of the Atonement as offered by Christ to God. As a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, i.e. with an eternal priesthood which belongs to the world to come, Christ offered Himself upon the cross (Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:24-28). But as the Aaronic high priest carried the sacrificial blood on the day of Atonement into the Holy of Holies, so Christ entered heaven ‘through his blood’ having obtained ‘eternal redemption’ (Hebrews 9:12). He now exercises a priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, but at the same time fulfils the type of the Aaronic high priest’s action within the veil. He still remains High Priest and acts as such (Hebrews 6:20). Because He abideth for ever He hath His priesthood unchangeable (Hebrews 7:24). He manifests Himself to God for us (Hebrews 9:24), continuously interceding on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Into all His intercession the value of His offering is put, so that He is ‘the minister of the sanctuary’ above. His work is still of a sacerdotal nature, ‘it is necessary that this high priest also have somewhat to offer’ (Hebrews 8:1-3). The ‘somewhat’ is His blood or life. His blood retains its sacrificial efficacy, pleads to God for pardon, and speaks peace to man.
‘We have an altar’ (Hebrews 13:10). Unlike the Jews, even the Jewish priests, who were unable to partake of the sin-offering offered on the Day of Atonement, Christians may partake of Christ.
The ‘altar’ of which they eat has been variously interpreted as the cross, the altar in heaven, and the Lord’s table. The first seems to be excluded by the fact that according to the writer’s argument the cross corresponds with the place outside the camp where the sin-offering was burnt, not with the altar in the tabernacle. Whether the altar here is the heavenly altar or the Lord’s table (cf. Malachi 1:7; Malachi 1:12, Ezekiel 44:16; Ezekiel 41:22), a reference to the Eucharist is included. And in that rite the pleading of Christ’s death by the Church is joined with the present intercession which He makes in heaven.
The special value of the Epistle to the Hebrews is that it presents to us the mediatorial work of Christ as a work of Divine worship. Without worship, Christianity would be merely a philosophy. And the author satisfies one of the deepest needs of the human soul when he teaches us the relation between Christ and His people in the life of intercession, a life which is for the Christian one of faith and confidence by virtue of all that Jesus did and does. The author also teaches us something of the philosophy of religion. St. Paul’s view of Judaism is wholly true, but it is not the whole truth. And this Epistle, with its peculiar dignity and calm, and a devotion to Christ not less real than that of the Apostle of the Gentiles, gives us a fresh insight into the Divine wisdom which made Judaism ‘a sacred school of the knowledge of God for the world.’
5. The Johannine writings
(a) The Apocalypse.—Whether the Apocalypse be the work of John the Presbyter, or, as the present writer believes, the work of John the Apostle, its doctrine of the mediatorial work of Christ is of high importance. The book is full of the exaltation of Jesus. He is the Messiah, the unique Son of God (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 14:1), the Divine Word (Revelation 19:13). He is the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root and offspring of David (Revelation 5:5, Revelation 22:16). He is the Lord’s Messiah (Revelation 11:15). By His resurrection He has become Ruler of the kings of the earth, many royal diadems are on His head, and He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 1:5, Revelation 19:12, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:16). He has all authority, an authority given Him by God (Revelation 3:21). His terrible might is suggested by the description of His feet, His voice, His eyes, and the sound from His mouth (Revelation 1:14 ff.). With God He shares the throne of heaven (Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:3), with Him He receives ascriptions of praise from the angels and the redeemed (Revelation 5:13, Revelation 7:10). He comes seated on a white cloud, like the figure in Daniel’s vision (Revelation 14:14). He is the Morning Star who brings in the day of grace (Revelation 22:16). The coming of Christ is the coming of God, and when the coming is accomplished God is called He ‘who is and who was,’ and no longer ‘the coming one’ (Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8, Revelation 4:8, cf. Revelation 11:17, Revelation 16:5). He holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18), He is ‘the first and the last, and the living One,’ ‘the Alpha and the Omega’ (Revelation 1:17-18, Revelation 22:13).
From the beginning to the end the book contains deep appreciations of the mediatorial work effected by Christ’s death. (i.) It is a great demonstration of the love of Jesus (Revelation 1:5). (ii.) It is a death which implies that a redeeming work was then accomplished, and that the Christian enjoys a liberty which was won by that death; ‘He loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father’ (Revelation 1:5-6). And in Revelation 5:6-14 the Lamb is praised in the words, ‘Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe and tongue.’ The Lamb is ‘standing, as though it had been slain’; it is not dead, but has the virtue of its death in it. (iii.) The abiding power of the death of Christ is shown in this, that it is the source of moral purity and of moral victory under persecution. Even the virgins who follow the Lamb reach heaven only because Christ ‘purchased’ them (Revelation 14:3-4), And the martyrs slain by persecuting pagan Rome overcame the dragon ‘because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony’ (Revelation 12:11). The blood of the Lamb therefore did something in the past, for it released mankind from sin by the ransom paid to God. And it does something now, for it enables us to live and witness as Christ lived and witnessed. The mediatorial power of the blood of Christ is therefore a power without which the Christian life can be neither begun nor continued.
(b) The Prologue of St. John’s Gospel contains an assertion which is of essential importance for all subsequent Christian theology. The Divine Λόγος, the Word who ‘was God,’ became flesh, and was incarnate as Jesus. This Word is both the expression of God and God expressed. The origin of the title is to be sought mainly in the OT and in Palestinian tradition. But St. John’s use of it was probably partly determined by its common occurrence in Greek philosophy, and more especially in the writings of the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo. His doctrine of the Λόγος is more moral and less metaphysical than that of Philo, more Jewish and less Greek. Philo’s dominant idea is that of the Divine Reason, St. John’s is that of the Divine Word, the manifestation of the Divine will. The Jewish Targums use the phrase Memra or Word for God as manifested in His action on the world, and in Wisdom of Solomon 18:15 the almighty Word of God is described as leaping down from heaven to smite the Egyptians. The term as used by St. John denotes inherence in God, as a thought or conception inheres in the mind—mediatorship between God and the universe of a kind which implies that God Himself comes into touch with the universe—and it requires as its complement the other title ‘only-begotten Son.’ In Philo the Λόγος remains a vague cosmic force, in St. John it is a definite Divine Person who becomes Man. See, further, art. Logos.
(c) Although in the Fourth Gospel the word Λόγος is applied to the Son of God in the Prologue only, the same doctrine pervades the whole book. ‘We beheld his glory’ (John 1:14) is shown to be true by the record which follows. In the Synoptics, Jesus seems to speak most of His own ministry and of men; here He rather speaks of Himself and His relations to the Father. There He frequently distinguishes Himself from His disciples in His relations to the Father; here He takes the same attitude more decisively. He declares Himself the Son of God (John 5:25, John 9:35-37 etc.), the Son in a unique sense (John 3:16; John 3:35, John 5:19-22 etc.). Distinct from all others there exist the Father and the Son (John 3:35-36, John 5:19-22). The Father is the Source of the Son’s being and action (John 5:19; John 5:26). He does works in the Son; the Father and the Son know one another (John 10:15, John 8:55). They love one another (John 5:20, John 14:31, John 15:9); they abide in one another (John 8:29, John 14:10-11). They are one, ἔν (John 10:30, John 17:11; John 17:21-22). As the Father has life in Himself, He has given to the Son life in Himself (John 5:26). So to see or to reject the Son is to see or reject the Father (John 8:19, John 14:9, John 15:21-24). Men must render similar honour to the Father and to the Son (John 5:23). The Son existed before He came into the world: He was before Abraham (John 8:58), He was glorified with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5): He came from heaven and returns to heaven (John 6:62). The Father sent Him into the world (John 3:16) to fulfil a certain mission (John 5:36, John 14:31 etc.), to speak, judge, and act in His Name (John 8:36, John 10:32; John 10:37).
But the chief object for which the Son came was to save the world (John 3:17) and to give it eternal life (John 3:16; John 3:36, John 4:14 etc.). And Jesus is Himself the life (John 14:6), and came that men might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). He is also the light of the world (John 3:19, John 8:12, John 12:46), because He teaches men to know God and His Son, and this knowledge is eternal life (John 17:2-3). Jesus is therefore the Mediator of the life and the light of God for men. How are they to receive it?
We receive eternal life by attaching ourselves to the Person of Jesus Christ. We must believe on Him (John 3:16). We must obey the Son if we are to escape from the wrath of the Father (John 3:36). We must believe His claim or die in our sins (John 8:24). We must abide in Him, as the branches in the vine, and abide in His love as He abides in His Father’s love (John 15:1-10). Other conditions of salvation remind us of our Lord’s teaching in the Synoptics. It is necessary to be born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-7), and to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:52-59).
The last injunction reminds us that the Divine life which is in Jesus becomes available for the Christian by virtue only of His death. It is sometimes held that Jesus is represented in this Gospel as saving men by revealing to them the truth about God, a revelation made in His own Person. But it cannot be said with justice that the mediatorial work of Jesus in this Gospel is only of this prophetic nature. St. John records a great deal about the death of Jesus which implies that the death has a propitiatory character in the Gospel as well as in the First Epistle. In John 1:29 the Baptist describes our Lord as the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world. This must have a sacrificial meaning, for only by sacrifice could a lamb be conceived as taking away sin. In three passages (John 3:14, John 8:28, John 12:32) our Lord speaks of Himself being ‘lifted up.’ Men will look to Him for life as the Israelites looked to the brazen serpent which Moses uplifted in the wilderness. Again, after He has been lifted up by the Jews, they will know that He is the Messiah. Lastly, He says, ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself’; the Cross, followed by the Ascension, will be the means of attracting Gentile as well as Jew. So He is the Good Shepherd, whose very vocation it is to lay down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). His laying it down is wholly voluntary, b
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mediator'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/m/mediator.html. 1906-1918.
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19