Excerpted from his book,
A Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism
CONCERNING THE MEDIATOR
The doctrine of the Mediator, which is intimately connected with the glory of God and our comfort, must be carefully considered for the following reasons:
1. That we may acknowledge and magnify the mercy of God, in that he has given his Son to be our Mediator, and to be made a sacrifice for our sins.
2. That we may know God to be just, in as much as he would not, out of his clemency, pardon sin; but was so greatly displeased therewith that he would not remit it, except satisfaction were made by the death of his Son.
3. That we may be assured of eternal life, in having a Mediator who is both willing and able to grant it unto us.
4. Because the doctrine of the Mediator is the foundation, and substance, of the doctrine of the church.
5. On account of heretics, who at all times oppose, with great bitterness, this doctrine; and that, having a proper knowledge of it, we may be able to defend it against all their assaults.
The doctrine of the Mediator seems to belong to the article of justification, because there also the office of the Mediator is explained. But it is one thing to teach what, and what kind of a benefit justification is, and how it is received, which is done when the doctrine of justification is treated of; and it is another thing to show whose benefit it is, and by whom it is bestowed upon us, which properly belongs here.
The principal things to be considered in relation to the Mediator, are the following:
- What a Mediator is:
- Whether we need a Mediator:
- What his office is:
- What kind of a Mediator he ought to be:
- Who he is:
- Whether there can be more than one Mediator:
I. WHAT A MEDIATOR IS
A mediator, in general, signifies one who reconciles two parties that are at variance, by interposing himself and pacifying the offended party, by entreaty, by satisfaction, and giving security that the like offence will not again be committed. A mediator, in the German, is ein schiedmann.
To reconcile includes:
1. To intercede for the offender with the offended.
2. To make satisfaction for the injury done.
3. To promise, and bring it to pass, that the offending party shall not repeat the offence.
4. To bring the parties at variance together. If any of these conditions are wanting, there can be no true reconciliation.
But in special, and as here applied to Christ, a Mediator is a person reconciling God, who is angry with sin, and the human race exposed to eternal death on account of sin, by making satisfaction to divine justice by his death, interceding for the guilty, and applying, at the same time, his merits through faith to them that believe, regenerating them by his Holy Spirit, thus bringing it to pass that they cease from sinning; and finally hearing the groans and prayers of those that call upon him. Or, a Mediator is a peace-maker between God and men, appeasing the anger of God, and restoring men to his favor, by interceding and making satisfaction for their sins, bringing it to pass that God loves men, and men love God, so that a constant and eternal peace or agreement is effected between them.
A middle person, and mediator, are different. The former is the name of the person, the latter the name of the office. Christ is both. He is a middle person, because in him is the nature of each party; he has the nature of God and of man. He is a Mediator, because he reconciles us to God; although he is to a certain extent a middle person, in the same respect in which he is a Mediator; because in him the two extremes, God and man, are joined together.
Addenda. It is sometimes asked, whether Adam had need of a Mediator before the fall? To this, answer may be returned according to the signification which we attach to the term, Mediator. If we mean by it, one through whose mediation, or by whom God bestows his benefits, and communicates himself to us, then Adam, even before his fall, had need of a Mediator, because Christ ever has been the person through whom the Father creates and quickens all things; for “in him was life,” both natural and spiritual, “and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4.) But if we understand by a Mediator, one who performs these and all the other duties which belong to the office, then we reply that Adam did not need a Mediator before the fall. We must observe, however, that the Scriptures do not speak of Christ, as being Mediator before the fall of man.
II. WHETHER WE NEED A MEDIATOR WITH GOD
That we need a Mediator is evident:
1. Because the justice of God does not admit of any reconciliation without a return to his favor. An advocate is, therefore, necessary. Neither can we be reconciled to God except intercession be made in our behalf. An intercessor is, therefore, needed. So, satisfaction is demanded. Hence there must be one to satisfy. Then there must be an application of the benefit, for there is a necessity that it should be received. Hence there must be some one to apply the benefit of redemption. And, finally, without a removal of sin, and the restoration of the image of God in us, we will not cease to sin against God. Hence, we need some one to deliver us from sin, and renew our nature. But of ourselves we are not able to accomplish these things; we cannot appease God, who is angry; we cannot make ourselves acceptable in his sight, &c. We need, therefore, another person to act as Mediator for us, who may perform these things in our behalf.
2. God demanded a Mediator from the party which had committed the offence. As a divine Being, he could not receive satisfaction from himself. His justice made it necessary that the offending party should make satisfaction, or obtain favor through such a Mediator as would be able to satisfy perfectly, and also be most acceptable to God, so as not to be driven from his presence; and who might, by his influence with God, be able easily to reconcile us to him by making satisfaction, entreaty and intercession in our behalf. Such a Mediator, however, we were entirely unable to find from among ourselves; because we were all the children of wrath. There was, therefore, a necessity for some third person to come in as a Mediator, who should be given of God, and who would be very man, and at the same time most acceptable to God.
3. It is necessary that those who would obtain deliverance should make satisfaction to the justice of God, either by themselves, or by another. Those who cannot make this satisfaction of themselves have need of a Mediator. It is required of us now, if we would obtain deliverance from sin, to satisfy the justice of God either by ourselves, or by another. But we are unable to effect this by ourselves. Hence we have need of a Mediator.
Obj. Where there is but one way of making satisfaction, no other is to be sought, or proposed. The law acknowledges but one way, which is, by ourselves. Therefore we must not propose any other; nor must we say, either by ourselves, or by another. Ans. The whole is conceded, as it respects the law: for the law prescribes but one way of making satisfaction, and it is in vain that we look for another. But yet whilst this is true as touching the law, it, nevertheless, does not reject every other way. It does indeed say that satisfaction must be made through ourselves. But it never says, only through ourselves. It does not, therefore, exclude the method of making satisfaction through another. And although God did not express this other method in the law, yet it was comprehended in his secret counsel, and afterwards revealed in the gospel. The law does not, therefore, explain this method, but leaves it to be unfolded by the gospel. Nor is there in this any conflict, or want of agreement between the law and the gospel, inasmuch as the law (as has just been remarked) no where adds the exclusive particle, saying that satisfaction can only be made by ourselves.
4. That we have need of a Mediator with God, may be shown by many other considerations, of which we may mention the following:
i. The chidings and compunctions of conscience.
ii. The punishments of the wicked.
iii. The sacrifices instituted by God, which referred to, and shadowed forth the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
iv. The sacrifices of the heathen and Papists, with which they desired to please God, which had their origin in the feeling, or consciousness of the need of some satisfaction being made in order to our acceptance with God.
III. WHAT THE OFFICE OF THE MEDIATOR IS
It becomes a Mediator to treat with both parties, the offended and offending. It was in this way that Christ performed the office of Mediator, treating with each party.
With God, the offended party, he does these things:
1. He intercedes with the Father for us, and prays that our sin may not be laid to our charge.
2. He offers himself as a satisfaction in our behalf.
3. He makes this satisfaction by dying for us, and enduring a punishment sufficient to meet our case, finite indeed as to time, but infinite in dignity and value.
4. He becomes our surety, that we shall no more offend God by our sins. Without this suretiship intercession finds no place, not even with men, much less with God. 5. He at length effects this promise in us by giving us his Holy Spirit, and everlasting life.
With us, as the offending party, he does these things:
1. He presents himself to us as the messenger of the Father, revealing this, his will, that he should present himself as our Mediator, and that the Father accepts of his satisfaction.
2. He makes this satisfaction, and grants and applies it unto us.
3. He works faith in us, by giving us the Holy Spirit, that we may embrace, and not reject this benefit which is offered unto us; because there can be no reconciliation unless each party consents: “He works in us both to will, and to do.” (Phil. 2:13.)
4. He brings it to pass by the same Spirit that we leave off sinning and commence a new life.
5. He preserves us in this state of reconciliation by faith and new obedience, and defends us against the devil, and all enemies, even against ourselves, lest we fall.
6. Finally, he will raise us up from the dead, and glorify us, that is, he will perfect the salvation begun, and the gifts which we lost in Adam, as well as those which he has merited for us.
All these things Christ does, obtains, and perfects, not only by his merits, but also by his efficacy. He is, therefore, said to be a Mediator, both in merit and efficacy; because he does not only by his sacrifice merit for us, but he also, by virtue of his Spirit, effectually confers upon us his benefits, which consist in righteousness, and eternal life, according to what is said: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” “I give unto them eternal life.” “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given unto the Son to have life in himself.” “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (John 10:15, 28; 5:21, 46.)
There are many benefits comprehended in the office of the Mediator; for God has instituted it for the purpose of bestowing blessings upon the Church. Paul comprehends these blessings very briefly in four general terms, when he says, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who, of God, is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30.)
He is made unto us wisdom,
1. Because he is the matter and subject of the wisdom which we possess. “I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 2:2; 1:24.)
2. Because he is the cause of our wisdom, and that in three ways; because he brought it from the bosom of the Father; instituted, and preserves the ministry of the word, through which he instructs us concerning the will of the Father, and his office as Mediator; and, finally, because he works effectually in the hearts of the elect, so that they assent to the doctrine, and are renewed in the image of God. In a word, Christ is our wisdom, because he is the subject, the author, and the medium. He is our righteousness, that is, our justifier. Our righteousness is in him, as in the subject; and he himself gives this unto us by his merit and efficacy. He is our sanctification, that is, sanctifier; because he regenerates us, and sanctifies us through the Holy Spirit. He is our redemption, that is, redeemer; because he finally delivers us: for the word that is here translated redemption, does not only signify the price, but also the effect and consummation of our redemption.
IV. WHAT KIND OF A MEDIATOR HE OUGHT TO BE
This question is most wisely connected with the foregoing; for since it is manifest, that satisfaction must be made, that it must be made through another, and that it must be with the satisfaction of the Mediator, which has already been described, we must now enquire, What kind of a Mediator is he?
In answer to this question we would reply, that our Mediator must be man, very man, deriving his nature from our race, and retaining it for ever, a perfectly righteous man, and very God. In a word, he must be a person that is theanthropic, having both natures, the divine and human, in the unity of his person, that he may truly be a middle person, and mediator between God and men.
The proofs concerning the person of the Mediator are drawn from his office; for it was necessary that he should be, and possess all that was included in his office. These proofs have been already presented and explained, in the exposition of the 15th, 16th and 17th Questions of the Catechism, to which we refer the reader.
V. WHO THIS MEDIATOR IS, WHO IN ONE PERSON IS BOTH GOD AND MAN
The Mediator has thus far been spoken of as the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as we have shown in the eighteenth question of the Catechism. The sum and substance of what we are to believe in relation to this subject is this, that the Scriptures attribute at the same time these three things to Christ, and to him alone:
1. First, that he is God. “The Word was God.” “All things were made by him.” “The Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” “Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness.” “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” (John 1:1. Acts 20:28. Rom. 1:4. 1 John 5:7.) To these declarations of scripture, we may add those which attribute to Christ divine worship, invocation, hearing of prayer, and such works as are peculiar to God alone. Those passages which attribute to Christ the name of Jehovah, are also in point. (Jer. 23:6. Zach. 2:10. Mal. 3:1.) The same thing may in like manner be said of those declarations of Scripture which refer to Christ, the things spoken of Jehovah in the Old Testament. (Is. 9:6. John 12:40, &c.)
2. That he is very man. The humanity of Christ is proven by those declarations of Scripture which affirm that he was man, the Son of man, the son of David, the son of Abraham, &c. (1 Tim. 2:5. Matt. 1:1; 9:6; 16:13.) Also, those which declare that he was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, that he had a body of flesh, and came in the flesh. (Rom. 1:3. Col. 1:22. 1 John 4:2.) The same thing is also proven by those passages which attribute to Christ things peculiar to man; as, to grow, to eat, to drink, to be ignorant, to be fatigued, to rest, to be circumcised, to be baptized, to weep, to rejoice, &c.
3. That these two natures in Christ constitute one person. Those declarations of Scripture are here in point, which attribute, through the communication of properties, to the person of Christ, those things which are peculiar to the divine, or human nature. “The Word was made flesh.” “He partook of flesh and blood.” “Before Abraham was, I am.” “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the world.” “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” “Who is over all, God blessed for ever.” “Had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (John 1:14. Heb. 2:14. John 8:38. Matt. 28:20. Heb. 1:1, 2. 1 John 4:3. Rom. 9:6. 1 Cor. 2:8.)
VI. WHETHER THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE MEDIATOR
There is but one Mediator between God and man. The reason of this is, because no one but the Son of God can perform the office of Mediator; and as there is only one natural Son of God, there cannot be more than one Mediator.
Obj. 1. But the saints also make intercession for us. Therefore, they are also mediators. Ans. There is a great difference between the intercession of Christ, and that of the saints who live in the world, and make intercession both for themselves, and others, even their persecutors and enemies: for the saints depend upon the merits of Christ in order that their intercessions may avail, whilst Christ depends upon his own merits. And still more, Christ alone offered himself a surety, and satisfier, sanctifying himself for us, that is, presenting himself in our stead before the judgment seat of God, which cannot be said of the saints.
Obj. 2. Where there are many means, there must be more than one Mediator. But there are many means of our salvation. Therefore, there are more mediators than one. Ans. We deny the major proposition; for the means, and Mediator of salvation, are not one and the same thing.