Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus 1Timothy 2:5NKJ
Question 32 of the Larger Catechism asks, “How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?” It gives the answer, “The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth 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 hath appointed them to salvation.” Last time we considered the parties of the Covenant of Grace, this week we look at how the graciousness of that covenant is given to men.
First, we see that God freely provides and offers a Mediator to sinful men. This gift of God’s grace is greater than all the others. Think of it: that a totally righteous God would provide a Mediator for totally depraved and guilty creatures! When Adam rebelled, our race became sinful and loathsome to the God of all goodness, and rightly so. All that we could expect from God was judgment and condemnation. And we could hope for no recourse. We could not even stand before God in order to petition Him for mercy. In the presence of all of His pure love and perfect beauty, we would be utterly consumed on account of our corrupt hearts. God simply decided to provide someone who could stand before Him and represent us before His righteous throne. As the Scripture at the head of this article declares, Jesus Christ is that God ordained Mediator, and there is no other. There is no other who, being a sinless man, can truly represent man to God and, being very God, can adequately represent God to man.
We understand mediation. Oftentimes when two parties disagree a mediator is sent in to reconcile them. By definition the mediator is a third party who can be viewed as impartial and fair. He looks at the demands and grievances of both sides and offers a compromise. Neither side gets entirely what they want, but typically, since neither side can claim to be without any fault or blame in the matter, they usually live with the compromise, and the disharmony is resolved. Most people are willing to sacrifice if they see their opponents are sacrificing also. However, the discord between God and man is of an entirely different nature. God is totally in the right; man is totally in the wrong. Man has nothing to bargain with or to sacrifice, as all that he has (and is) already fully belongs to God. Thus, any compromise would just further aggravate the injustice done to God by man.
When Jesus comes as the Mediator, He does not offer a reduced sentence to sinful man. Nor does He merely beg God to be merciful. Jesus the Son, being in covenant with God the Father, actually establishes peace between God and man. In presenting Himself to God as our sin offering, He completely satisfied God’s wrath and curse on behalf of elect sinners, so that God simply has no more offense from them! The offense has been removed. The debt has been fully paid. Additionally, Jesus earned God’s approval and reward for these same elect sinners by keeping God’s law perfectly. Thus, when Jesus performs His office of Mediator, God and man are truly reconciled. God’s grievance has been fully rectified; His will has been perfectly accomplished. God, the only aggrieved party, gets 100% of what He wanted and what He deserved.
With a view to this reconciliation that Jesus as Mediator would most certainly bring about, God began to offer life and salvation to man from the Garden of Eden on. For man to receive these benefits, God has always required faith in Him alone. Faith is the sole condition of the Covenant of Grace. None will be saved without repentance or good works, but these things come as a result of saving faith. As the Catechism says, it is only by faith that we have an “interest” in Jesus. In the grace of God, faith unites us to Christ so that what He has done is credited to us and vice versa. Some stumble here and see this faith as something that sinful man must—with God’s help to be sure—yet still must muster up from himself. Yet this view is entirely contrary to the Scriptures. Faith itself is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9), just as is repentance (Acts 11:18), and good works (Eph. 2:10). God requires of us what He provides for us, since we, of our own fault, have made ourselves incapable. Accordingly, God gets ALL the glory in salvation, for even what we contribute is, in the end, entirely His gift. Praise God for His gracious salvation!