Jesus is God
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself Colossians 1:19-20NKJ
Question 38 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?” It gives the answer, “It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession, and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favour, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.” Last time we examined how God became a man. This week we consider why it was necessary for God to become a man, if the elect would be saved.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm (1033-1103), wrote a book on this question, called Cur Deus Homo? or, as we say it, Why the God man? In the book Anselm addresses whether or not it was necessary for God to become a man in order to redeem His people. Could God have sent a perfect man or an angel to die for us if He had wanted to? Did God choose to send His only-begotten Son to be the Mediator merely because that was the way He decided to do it? Or was it necessary that Jesus and only Jesus, as the divine second person of the Trinity, could Mediate between a holy God and sinful man? Anselm argued for this latter position, and as we see in today’s question, the Westminster divines agreed with him. The answer to today’s question contains the reasons why only God could suffice as our Mediator.
First, it was necessary that the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace be God so that His human nature could bear God’s infinite wrath and still rise from the dead. The penalty for sin is an eternity in Hell because when a human being sins, he offends the infinite majesty and holiness of God. A single sin by a finite being against an infinite being is infinitely offensive. Therefore, if God is to receive the satisfaction He deserves, the sinner’s punishment must be infinite. In the Gospel, Jesus becomes a man to die in the place of sinners in order to take the wrath that they deserve on account of their many sins. But how could the human nature of one man bear the infinite wrath of God due to millions of sinners? Because that one man was united to God, and God is all-powerful and His being is infinite. Thus, Jesus” divine nature sustained His human nature, and kept God’s wrath from utterly consuming Him.
Secondly, the Catechism teaches that since the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace is not only man but is also God, His divine nature is able to “give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession.” What Jesus achieves and suffers in His human nature is given infinite weight before God, on account of the fact that His human nature suffers and obeys while in constant hypostatic union to His divine nature. Were God to so desire, Jesus” good works would be sufficient to establish the righteousness of an infinite number of people, His sufferings could atone for an infinite number of sinners; all because the man who suffers and obeys is also God!
Accordingly, Jesus, as the divine Mediator is able to “satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.” He can do all of these things because He is not merely man, He is also God. An angel in all of its glory and splendor, doing the works of a thousand lifetimes, and suffering forever and ever in Hell, could not finish satisfying God’s justice for one single sin, let alone on behalf of millions of sinners who have infinitely offended an infinite God. Yet Jesus, as the God-man, can exhaustively take all of God’s wrath for His elect in a few hours on the cross. Since our Mediator is not only man but God, He is able to bear infinite wrath and achieve infinite righteousness in one death and in one lifetime and thus guarantee for us an everlasting, as opposed to a temporal, salvation. Finally, only Jesus, as God’s Son, can give us His Spirit. The spirit of an angel is not infinite and cannot be given to all of God’s people. Neither could such a creaturely spirit suffice to defeat all our enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil). But Jesus” Spirit can and He does.
Thanks be to God!