Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Son of God Became a Man to Save You
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:14-15NKJ
Question 39 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?” It gives the answer, “It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.” Last week we considered why it was necessary that our Mediator be God, this week we examine why He also had to be a man.
This question really gets at the heart of the gospel. In Adam we all sinned against God. Every day, even as believers, we continue to fall short of the glory of God in loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Thus, every day we are guilty of breaking the “greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:38). God is just. He must give to sinful man the punishment he deserves. He must defend and maintain His own perfect honor and integrity which has been assaulted by sinful man. If God were to allow His righteous law to be broken by man with impunity, then his perfect universe would be overthrown by sin. The difficulty of salvation is how can a holy God deliver man from the punishment he deserves without compromising His holiness? The answer to that dilemma is what today’s question is all about. For sinners to be saved and for God’s honor to be maintained, we needed a mediator who was both God and man.
The incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity is not just a wonderful display of the power and love of God, it was absolutely necessary for our salvation. God entered into a covenant of works with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would bring death. Not eating, therefore, would establish life. Furthermore, the reward of the Tree of Life strongly implied a probationary period, after which, Adam, and in him all his descendants, would be confirmed into a blessed life without further possibility of falling into sin. Representing all Mankind, Adam transgressed the Covenant. Immediately, all mankind were inextricably excluded from its blessing and subject to its curse. The Covenant of Works was broken. All it could do henceforth was curse everyone in it.
To satisfy the demands of this Covenant, and maintain His own honor, and save some of these fallen people, God the Father sent God the Son to take upon Himself a true and real human nature. Jesus came as a New Covenant head of an elect body of men. Jesus’ humanity was of the substance of Adam, but was not represented by Adam in the Covenant of Works. Thus, Jesus was a descendant of Adam, but was not fallen in Adam. As a descendant of Adam, Jesus can suffer the punishment that Adam deserved, and render the obedience he forfeited. Jesus could do this only as a man. Only a man can suffer and die, and only a man can render to God the obedience owed by man! Therefore, if God wanted to save man there is no other way He could do it and at the same time ensure that His own honor and dignity were perfectly maintained. This truth is the wonder of our salvation and the glory of what Jesus did for us!
In the words of the Catechism, Jesus truly “advances our nature.” He fulfilled the Covenant of Works, both its curse and its requirement of perfect obedience. By so doing, He merited the reward of the blessed life for everyone He represented. These are the ones Jesus said “My Father has given Me,” (John 17:9, 11-12, 16, 24), who “will believe in Me,” (John 17:20). Just as Jesus suffered and obeyed for us, so He continues to make intercession for us. Because He did and does all these things as a man, we are reassured that God knows are weaknesses, loves us, has adopted us in Christ, and gives us permanent access in boldness to His throne (Heb. 4:16), which is for us, no longer a throne of judgment, but a throne of grace!