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Enter the Mediator

15 August 2011 by Neil

Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provides and offers to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promises and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he has appointed them to salvation.

Recall Question 7, which asked “What is God?” The answer was something like God is a Spirit of infinite existence, glory, blessedness and perfection, all-sufficient, eternal, unchanging, too vast and deep to comprehend, consciously everywhere, all powerful, knower of all knowledge, the wisest, the most holy, and the most just....

These are scary descriptions. If we are thinking at all while we read them, then we shiver with terror, because:
  1. God knows us, inside and out. Our actions, our inactions, our thoughts and desires. He knows our worst, and he knows our anaemic best. He knows that we are pustules of concentrated sin.
  2. God is the most holy and just entity that there is, which means that he will punish sin.
  3. God is definitively powerful, able to do what he decides to do.
The wrath of the holy and just God sits on the shoulders of people (Romans 2:4-6). Because of sin, we are at war with the God of the universe from day one. This is a war that we will not win.  We are doomed.  We're lost.

Yet. We didn't give the full answer to Question 7. We left out the end bit, which says that God is the most merciful and most gracious entity that there is, long-suffering and overflowing in goodness and truth. So maybe we're not lost.  But God is holy and just, so yeah, we probably are -- unless we're not. But if we're not all doomed, then God isn't really very just, is he? If we're not all doomed, then God doesn't actually hate sin, he's just a little allergic to it... instead of most holy, he's somewhat holy.  Well then so am I, let's have a debate...

How can God save anybody without being inconsistent with his own nature?  How can God end the war graciously and mercifully without winking at sin?

Enter the Mediator.

A mediator is a go-between, someone in the middle, who can bring warring factions together and reconcile them, an active agent to bring about peace where there was conflict. In another sense, a mediator can be used to ensure that contracts are carried out in accordance with the original intent. (We'll be talking about that sense of the word on another day.)  My employer frequently uses mediators, although only a few of them are any good at it. A successful mediator has to be as knowledgeable as each of the two sides. A successful mediator must be able to identify with both sides, and must have credibility with both sides.

A mediator will not succeed in bringing about reconciliation unless he is able to satisfy the parties. Don't know about you, but if there is a possibility of saving me from the maw of God's eternal wrath, then I'm not fussy.  But I bring nothing to the table but sin, and if the other party is God, then the mediator will need to satisfy God's holiness and justness as well as his mercy and graciousness.  The mediator will need to demonstrate fulfilment of all of God's requirements before peace can be made between God and man.  This seems an insurmountable barrier.

Nonetheless, we do have a Mediator, the God-Man Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), the Peace Offering.  Mediator is only one of his roles.  He was thoroughly righteous and sinless as a man, which established his credibility to mediate for men.  Then, in the biggest surprise of history, he took our punishment upon himself (Hebrews 9:15) and actually became our sin, so that we could take credit for his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  This Mediator intercedes for us with God (Hebrews 7:25), brings our sin to the table, forcefully demonstrates that justice has already been meted out (Romans 5:9) and then presents us cleanly clothed in holy righteousness. Sin and death are defeated.  Peace wins.  The Mediator wins a ransom of many souls.  God is satisfied.

Is God inconsistent?  No way.  God is wondrous.