Skip to content

The Mediation of Christ: A One➜Way Street

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.”
(1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV)
Bible words and phrases are routinely tainted by secular usage. Christians hear one thing, the unregenerate hear another. The challenge is to prevent their misunderstanding from altering our understanding. When Christians, for example, hear the word grace, we understand “God’s undeserved love for sinners.” The world conjures up visions of weightless ballerinas and socially polished debutants. When we hear cross of Christ, we think “victory” and “life.” The world hears “injustice” and “death.” We hear Easter and think “resurrection.” The world sees bunnies.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that the biblical concept of “Christ our Mediator” is tainted by the world’s misunderstanding of both mediator and mediation. In the world’s view, a mediator is someone who stands between two parties that are at odds, and whose job it is to come up with some sort of compromise (mediation) that is fair to both sides. Jesus is not that sort of mediator. He does not reach out to both sides (Creator God and fallen man) seeking mutual concessions and compromise. He does not seek to represent the rights of both parties, nor does He view the two parties as peers. Though He does proclaim the goodness of God to man, He does not extol the virtues of man to God. There is nothing to extol. The mediation that Jesus performs is all one-way. He carries nothing from man to God, for man has nothing to offer. He carries only Himself. He Himself is the good that is brought to God the Father on man’s behalf. That’s exactly what Paul was telling Timothy in the passage quoted above: “. . . who gave himself as a ransom for all.” In that way Jesus is not only the Mediator, He Himself is the mediation. He Himself is that which creates peace. What He then carries to fallen, helpless, powerless mankind is God’s declaration of forgiveness.
The Book of Hebrews describes Jesus as “the mediator of a new covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15 ESV) The Old Covenant was neither unfair nor complicated. If Israel would simply obey the will of their Creator God, their God would reward them with peace and prosperity in the land He had given them. The Jews not only broke that covenant, mankind destroyed God’s original salvation plan by our sin, which is what first created both the alienation between God and man, and the need for a Mediator. Since sinful man could do nothing to repair the animosity and division he had created, the Book of Hebrews connects Christ our Mediator to the new covenant. “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15 ESV) That new covenant mirrors Jesus’ one-way mediation in that God Himself provides everything. Fallen man supplies nothing. God the Son carried His sinless life and innocent death to the Father as payment for our sin debt, and God the Father declared the payment complete and the rift mended by raising Jesus from the dead on Easter morning. Jesus Christ is therefore not just a mediator, he is the mediator of a new covenant.
Do not allow that precious phrase (“Christ our Mediator”) to become tainted or misunderstood in your hearing, for it represents purest, sweetest Gospel. No compromise was reached. The debt for our sin had to be paid, and it was. By Jesus. That’s what He delivered to the Father on Good Friday, and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday was God’s declaration that the payment is complete. We have been forgiven and reconciled. Peace has been restored.
Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.