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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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one who stands in a middle office or capacity between two differing parties, and has a power of transacting every thing between them, and of reconciling them to each other. Hence a mediator between God and man is one whose office properly is to mediate and transact affairs between them relating to the favour of almighty God, and the duty and happiness of man. No sooner had Adam transgressed the law of God in paradise, and become a sinful creature, than the Almighty was pleased in mercy to appoint a Mediator or Redeemer, who, in due time, should be born into the world, to make an atonement both for his transgression, and for all the sins of men. This is what is justly thought to be implied in the promise, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head;" that is, that there should some time or other be born, of the posterity of Eve, a Redeemer, who, by making satisfaction for the sins of men, and reconciling them to the mercy of almighty God, should by that means bruise the head of that old serpent, the devil, who had beguiled our first parents into sin, and destroy his empire and dominion among men. Thus it became a necessary part of Adam's religion after the fall, as well as that of his posterity after him, to worship God through hope in this Mediator. To keep up the remembrance of it God was pleased, at this time, to appoint sacrifices of expiation or atonement for sin, to be observed through all succeeding generations, till the Redeemer himself should come, who was to make the true and only proper satisfaction and atonement.

The particular manner in which Christ interposed in the redemption of the world, or his office as Mediator between God and man, is thus represented to us in the Scripture. He is the light of the world, John 1; John 8:12; the revealer of the will of God in the most eminent sense. He is a propitiatory sacrifice, Romans 3:25; Romans 5:11; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 2:2; Matthew 26:28; John 1:29; John 1:36; and, as because of his peculiar offering, of a merit transcending all others, he is styled our High Priest. He was also described beforehand in the Old Testament, under the same character of a priest, and an expiatory victim, Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:24; Psalms 110:4 . And whereas it is objected, that all this is merely by way of allusion to the sacrifices of the Mosaic law, the Apostle on the contrary affirms, that "the law was a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things," Hebrews 10:1; and that the "priests that offer gifts according to the law, serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount," Hebrews 8:4-5; that is, the Levitical priesthood was a shadow of the priesthood of Christ; in like manner as the tabernacle made by Moses was according to that showed him in the mount. The priesthood of Christ, and the tabernacle in the mount, were the originals; of the former of which, the Levitical priesthood was a type; and of the latter, the tabernacle made by Moses was a copy. The doctrine of this epistle, then, plainly is, that the legal sacrifices were allusions to the great atonement to be made by the blood of Christ; and not that it was an allusion to those. Nor can any thing be more express or determinate than the following passage: "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin. Wherefore when he [Christ] cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering," that is, of bulls and of goats, "thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. Lo, I

come to do thy will, O God! By which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Hebrews 10:4-5; Hebrews 10:7; Hebrews 10:9-10 . And to add one passage more of the like kind: "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin;" that is, without bearing sin, as he did at his first coming, by being an offering for it; without having our iniquities again laid upon him; without being any more a sin-offering:—"And unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation," Hebrews 9:28 . Nor do the inspired writers at all confine themselves to this manner of speaking concerning the satisfaction of Christ; but declare that there was an efficacy in what he did and suffered for us, additional to and beyond mere instruction and example. This they declare with great variety of expression: that "he suffered for sins, the just for the unjust," 1 Peter 3:18; that "he gave his life a ransom," Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45 : 1 Timothy 2:6; that "we are bought with a price," 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 14:4; 1 Corinthians 6:20; that "he redeemed us with his blood," "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:9; Galatians 3:13; that "he is our advocate, intercessor, and propitiation,"

Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2; that "he was made perfect, through sufferings; and being thus made perfect, he became the author of salvation," Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:16; and that "through death he destroyed him that had the power of death," Hebrews 2:14 . Christ, then, having thus "humbled himself, and become obedient to death, even the death of the cross; God, also, hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name;" hath commanded us to pray in his name; constituted him man's advocate and intercessor; distributes his grace only through him, and in honour of his death; hath given all things into his hands; and hath committed all judgment unto him; "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow," and "that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father," Php_2:8-10; John 3:35; John 5:22-23 .

All the offices of Christ, therefore, arise out of his gracious appointment, and voluntary undertaking, to be "the Mediator between God and man;" between God offended, and man offending; and therefore under the penalty of God's violated law, which denounces death against every transgressor. He is the Prophet who came to teach us the extent and danger of our offences, and the means which God had appointed for their remission. He is "the great High Priest of our profession," who, having "offered himself without spot to God," has entered the holiest to make intercession for us, and to present our prayers and services to God, securing to them acceptance by virtue of his own merits. He is King, ruling over the whole earth, for the maintenance and establishment and enlargement of his church, and for the punishment of those who reject his authority; and he is the final Judge of the quick and the dead, to whom is given the power of distributing the rewards and penalties of eternity. See ATONEMENT and See JESUS CHRIST .

There is an essential connection between the mediation of our Lord and the covenant of grace. ( See COVENANT. ) He is therefore called the Mediator of "a better covenant," and of a "new covenant." The word μεσιτης literally means "a person in the middle," between two parties; and the fitness of there being a Mediator of the covenant of grace arises from this, that the nature of the covenant implies that the two parties were at variance. Those who hold the Socinian principles understand a mediator to mean nothing more than a messenger sent from God to give assurance of forgiveness to his offending creatures. Those who hold the doctrine of the atonement understand, that Jesus is called the Mediator of the new covenant, because he reconciles the two parties, by having appeased the wrath of God which man had deserved, and by subduing that enmity to God by which their hearts were alienated from him. It is plain that this is being a mediator in the strict and proper sense of the word; and there seems to be no reason for resting in a meaning less proper and emphatical. This sense of the term mediator coincides with the meaning of another phrase applied to him, Hebrews 7:22 , where he is called κρειττονος διαθηκης εγγους . If he is a Mediator in the last sense, then he is also εγγους , the sponsor, the surety, of the covenant. He undertook, on the part of the supreme Lawgiver, that the sins of those who repent shall be forgiven; and he fulfilled this undertaking by offering, in their stead, a satisfaction to divine justice. He undertook, on their part, that they should keep the terms of the covenant; and he fulfils this undertaking by the influence of his Spirit upon their hearts.

If a mediator be essential to the covenant of grace, and if all who have been saved from the time of the first transgression were saved by that covenant, it follows that the Mediator of the new covenant acted in that character before he was manifested in the flesh. Hence the importance of that doctrine respecting the person of Christ; that all the communications which the Almighty condescended to hold with the human race were carried on from the beginning by this person; that it is he who spake to the patriarchs, who gave the law by Moses, and who is called in the Old Testament, "the angel of the covenant." These views open to us the full importance of a doctrine which manifestly unites in one faith all who obtain deliverance from that condition; for, according to this doctrine, not only did the virtue of the blood which he shed as a priest extend to the ages past before his manifestation, but all the intimations of the new covenant established in his blood were given by him as the great Prophet, and the blessings of the covenant were applied in every age by the Spirit, which he, as the King of his people, sends forth. The Socinians, who consider Jesus as a mere man, having no existence till he was born of Mary, necessarily reject the doctrine now stated: and the church of Rome, although they admit the divinity of our Saviour, yet, by the system which they hold with regard to the mediation of Christ, agree with the Socinians in throwing out of the dispensations of the grace of God that beautiful and complete unity which arises from their having been conducted by one person. The church of Rome considers Christ as Mediator only in respect of his human nature. As that nature did not exist till he was born of Mary, they do not think it possible that he could exercise the office of Mediator under the Old Testament; and as they admit that a mediator is essential to the covenant of grace, they believe that those who lived under the Old Testament, not enjoying the benefit of his mediation, did not obtain complete remission of sins. They suppose, therefore, that persons in former times who believed in a Saviour that was to come, and who obtained justification with God by this faith, were detained after death in a place of the infernal regions, which received the name of limbus patrum; a kind of prison where they did not endure punishment, but remained without partaking of the joys of heaven, in earnest expectation of the coming of Christ: who, after suffering on the cross, descended to hell that he might set them free. This fanciful system has no other foundation than the slender support which it appears to receive from some obscure passages of Scripture that admit of another interpretation. But if Christ acted as the Mediator of the covenant of grace from the time of the first transgression, this system becomes wholly unnecessary; and we may believe, according to the general strain of Scripture, and what we account the analogy of faith, that all who "died in faith," since the world began, entered immediately after death into that "heavenly country which they desired."

Although the members of the church of Rome adopt the language of Scripture, in which Jesus is styled the Mediator of the new covenant, they differ from all Protestants in acknowledging other mediators; and the use which they make of the doctrine that Christ is Mediator only in his human nature is to justify their admitting those who had no other nature to share that office with him. Saints, martyrs, and especially the Virgin Mary, are called mediatores secundarii, because it is conceived that they hold this character under Christ, and that, by virtue of his mediation, the superfluity of their merits may be applied to procure acceptance with God for our imperfect services. Under this character, supplications and solemn addresses are presented to them; and the mediatores secundarii receive in the church of Rome, not only the honour due to eminent virtue, but a worship and homage which that church wishes to vindicate from the charge of idolatry, by calling it the same kind of inferior and secondary worship which is offered to the man Christ Jesus, who in his human nature acted as Mediator. In opposition to all this, we hold that Jesus Christ was qualified to act as Mediator by the union between his divine and his human nature; that his divine nature gave an infinite value to all that he did, rendering it effectual for the purpose of reconciling us to God, while the condescension by which he approached to man, in taking part of flesh and blood, fulfilled the gracious intention for which a Mediator was appointed; that the introducing any other mediator is unnecessary, derives no warrant from Scripture, and is derogatory to the honour of him who is there called the "one Mediator between God and men;" and that as the union of the divine to the human nature is the foundation of that worship which in Scripture is often paid to the Mediator of the new covenant, this worship does not afford the smallest countenance to the idolatry and will worship of those who ascribe divine honours to any mortal.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Mediator'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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