Tag Archives: Christ the Mediator

The Supremacy of Christ

 

1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4

In the majestic passage quoted above, the author of Hebrews, under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seeks to establish the supremacy of Christ on the basis of the revelation of God. While most Pauline epistles begin with a greeting of introduction and the establishment of Paul’s apostolic authority, the Author of this epistle begins with the authority of God in revealing Himself first by means of the prophets and “in these last days” by means of His Son. This calls to mind the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-43) where God first sent the prophets, which were killed, and then sent His Son, Whom they also killed.

Having established the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a fuller or greater revelation, that of the Son, in the second part of verse 2 we begin to see in what ways Christ is superior. First, we see that Christ has been appointed heir of all things. This is His Sonship. This is the Father granting inheritance to the Son. We may ask, what is included in this inheritance? The Author here has placed no limits upon this inheritance; it does include all things, namely the universe and all that is in it. Secondly, we see that it is through the Son that God has created the world. In John 1:3 we read, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Paul in his letter to the church at Colossae provides even more detail, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Col. 1:16 So we may conclude with these apostles that it was through Christ and for Christ that all things were made. It was He that was in Genesis forming the universe ex nihilo.

In verse 3, having established the Sonship, eternality, and creatorship of Christ, we begin to see something of an introduction into the nature of Christ. The Divine Author of Hebrews purposes here to introduce the audience, of largely Jewish origin, to the supremacy of Christ as God. He begins by stating, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Here we see first that Christ is declared to be the radiance of the glory of God. Some commentators have described this as the relationship between the sun and the sun’s rays. We may speak of the sun in reference to the visible rays that warm our skin and brighten our path. In this sense, the sun and it’s rays are indistinguishable. Similarly, Christ radiates all that the Father is, namely His glory. “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” John 1:14 Secondly, we see a related phrase that Christ is “the exact imprint of his nature”. This may be understood with the analogy of a ring or signet to a seal. As in past times where a letter or decree was sealed with wax and the ring of a king was impressed upon the wax seal to give it authority so that all would know that this word had come from the king. So it is too with Christ. “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9 Within these two phrases we see the unity between the Son and the Father, but likewise a distinction in their persons. Though distinctly One God, yet uniquely separate in their Persons. “I and the Father are One.” John 10:30

Continuing on in verse 3, which acts as a thesis statement for the book, the Author next asserts the sovereignty of Christ, not only acting as Creator but here described as Sustainer, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Christ as sovereign ruler over His creation upholds the universe by His word. Just as creation was spoken into being (Gen. 1:3), here too it is the Word of God that sustains the universe. This again speaks to the eternality of Christ, “The Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1) and certainly indicates that He has at no time handed the keys of His sovereign rule over creation to another. Meaning that through both His incarnation, as a babe in a manger, and His death in suffering at the hands of man but moreso under the wrath of God, He at all times was upholding the universe by the word of His power. Certainly this must give us reason to pause at the majesty of Christ, “Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied [humbled] Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7.

As though intending to press home the point of Christ’s supremacy even further into the consciences of His listeners, the Author next directs the Jewish mind to the Levitical priesthood with the following statement, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Though merely a preview of the exposition to come regarding Christ as the Great High Priest, this introductory statement is sufficient to see the superior relationship between Christ and the high priest after the order of Levi, set forth under the Old Covenant, and given regulation through much of the book of Leviticus (note the special relationship between Leviticus and Hebrews, particularly as it relates to holiness, i.e. clean vs. profane). Christ made purification for sins as both the Priest and the sacrifice through His penal, substitutionary atonement on the cross, namely His death in the place of sinners suffering the punishment that they deserved. (see Lev. 16) though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Is. 1:18

The posture of Christ is significant here, as seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. This is a position of power and it is a unique activity for a priest, for the work of a priest was never finished under the Old Covenant as he continually made sacrifices. Christ, once again far superior, made the sacrifice once for all (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 9:26; 10:1; 10:10) and sat down, the purification for sins having been accomplished Christ now begins His heavenly session at the Father’s right hand to Mediate a new covenant which is much better than the old (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24). It is here that He makes intercession for believers, acting on their behalf in the presence of the Father. It is here that the Father sees His children through the perfected righteousness of Christ having cleansed their sins and restored the relationship. Christ now lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).

Finally in verse 4, the supremacy of Christ over the angels is introduced and will be expounded upon in the remaining verses of chapter 1, “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” As will be shown by the Author, angels held a special place of reverence in the Jewish world. This can be seen in (Gen. 16; Ex. 3:2; Job 33:23, Matt. 1; Matt. 28:5; Luke 1; 2 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 1:8; Revelation). Angels, as divine ambassadors were believed to even play a role in the given of the Mosaic Law (see Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). So here, the Author makes a special mention of the superiority of Christ over these angelic beings. We should call in mind that Christ created the angels, sovereignly rules the angels, and as has been indicated here, is far superior to the angels.

The second part of this passage serves to magnify the name of Christ as excellent above all others. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow.” How precious is the name of Jesus, the name that He has inherited is far more excellent than man’s, as if that were in question, and far superior to angelic beings who minister in heaven to the Father and Son daily having witnessed the majesty of God first hand. God has called Him Son. (Psalm 2:7) “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-10

“You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31

From these verses in Hebrews Christ is:

  • The Revelation of God
  • The Heir of All Things
  • The Creator of the world
  • The Radiance of God’s Glory
  • The Exact Imprint of His Nature
  • The Sovereign upholding the Universe
  • The Greater High Priest
  • The Greater Davidic King
  • Superior over all heavenly beings

How then can we not worship this Christ who is set forth in the pages of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and placed under magnification in these verses from Hebrews? How then can we fail to truly surrender to Him, knowing that all things are under His rule? How then can we drift from Him, knowing that it is He that is seated at the right hand of the Father? How then can we walk through this life in fear and anxiety, knowing that Christ upholds all things and that He lives to make intercession for the saints?

This is the Christ; the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature; the Messiah, Immanuel, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is worthy of the worship due His name.

How then can we escape if we neglect so great a Savior?

Solus Christus!

 

 

New Covenant Membership

To close up any loose ends from the last post on Christ, The Mediator, Part 2 and also Christ, The Mediator, Part 1 (see Gal. 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 2:5; Heb. 8:6, 9:15, 12:24) the following excerpt is from a paper, “Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology” written by Micah and Samuel Renihan during their studies at Westminster Seminary California.  You can read the paper in its entirety here: http://thelogcollege.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/rb-cov-theo-renihans.pdf

Jesus Christ has been and always will be the federal head of the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant. To be federally united to him you must be 1. promised to him outside of time in the Covenant of Redemption and 2. brought into union with him in time by the Holy Spirit.

The Son was the one elected by the Father to win the redemption of the elect. All of this is accomplished in the New Covenant, which is the historical climax of the Covenant of Grace. To be in the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant, you must be united to Christ, its federal head.15 Since the Covenant of Grace is the retro-active application of the New Covenant, if we posit that Christ is the mediator of the Covenant of Grace, we can only understand the terms of his role as mediator, and our relation to him as such, through the way that he is presented in the New Covenant. That Christ is the mediator of the Covenant of Grace, the New Covenant, no Reformed theologian denies. Thus, in line with New Testament doctrine, the only way to be under Christ’s federal headship is to be united to him by the Holy Spirit. This union finds its roots outside of time as we are chosen in Christ in the Covenant of Redemption and is applied to the elect in time by the Spirit, begun in effectual calling and consummated in the faith of the believer. Apart from saving faith there can be no union with Christ, because the Spirit does not indwell any except the elect, those who have been justified by faith.16 Christ is the one and only federal head of the Covenant of Grace, the New Covenant. Federal headship is never mediate, thus none can enter the Covenant other than those who are directly or immediately under his federal headship by the Holy Spirit.17

Vos says, “However narrowly or widely the boundary of the covenant of grace be drawn, in any case it involves a relationship with Christ, whether external or internal, by which it is tied to the covenant of redemption.”18

He adds:

One is first united to Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, by a mystical union, which finds its conscious recognition in faith. By this union with Christ all that is in Christ is simultaneously given. Faith embraces all this too; it not only grasps the instantaneous justification, but lays hold of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, as his rich and full Messiah.19

Bavinck says:

On the Christian position there can be no doubt that all the benefits of grace have been completely and solely acquired by Christ; hence, they are included in his person and lie prepared for his church in him…And since these benefits are all covenant benefits, were acquired in the way of the covenant, and are distributed in the same covenantal way, there is no participation in those benefits except by communion with the person of Christ, who acquired and applies them as the mediator of the covenant.20

Fairbairn says:

Here, precisely as in the rending of the veil for the ceremonials of Judaism, the exclusive bond for the people was broken at the center: Christ’s very mother and brothers were to have no precedence over others, nor any distinctive position in His kingdom; spiritual relations alone should prevail there, and the one bond of connection with it for all alike, was to be the believing reception of the gospel and obedience to it…So far, therefore, as regards Israel’s typical character, their removed and isolated position is plainly at an end: all tribes and nations are on a footing as to the kingdom of God – members and fellow-citizens if they are believers in Christ, aliens if they are not.21

Fairbairn adds, “And wherever there is found a soul linked in vital union with Christ, there also are found the essential characteristics of Abraham’s seed, and title to Abraham’s inheritance.”22

Rom. 8:9 “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Rom. 10:11-13 “For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all,23 bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””

1 Cor. 12:11-13 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Gal. 3:26-28 “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Eph. 1:22-23 “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”24

Eph. 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

The Covenant of Grace is so called because its blessings are freely given to its members. Those blessings are free because they have been won solely by Christ’s obedience in fulfillment of his commission in the Covenant of Redemption. Thus understood, the Covenant of Grace arises in history in contradistinction to the Covenant of Works. That covenant having been broken, all mankind is born immediately federally united to Adam, under the curse of the law. When man is liberated from this condemnation, his liberation comes through the propitiatory satisfaction of Christ on his behalf and the gracious imputation of Christ’s righteousness to his account, appropriated by faith. In other words, as Genesis 3 shows, the Covenant of Grace is the solution to the curses of the Covenant of Works.

The fact that we see this redemption promised and typified from the fall onward has led reformed theologians to see God’s grace extending into history prior to the incarnation and death of Christ. Where God’s grace extended into the past, it came by way of covenant, wherein Christ’s blood of the New Covenant was retroactively applied to those who believed in the promise, and that retroactivity of the New Covenant was and remains distinct from the Old Covenant. Thus, Christ’s people have always been those who were promised to him by the Father, and it is those people for whom he spilled his blood.

Scripture teaches that Christ brings his own to himself through the work of the Spirit, and that he dwells in his own by the Spirit. Therefore, without the Spirit, none belong to Christ. If you belong to Christ, you are in the Covenant of Grace. If you do not belong to Christ, you are in the Covenant of Works. You cannot be in both.25 If it is possible to be born into the Covenant of Grace through the mediated federal headship of a parent, then, unless regeneration is presumed, one is both in Adam and in Christ at the same time. However, this is impossible. One man sinned and brought death to all mankind; another obeyed and brought life to his people. You are either in Adam or in Christ. 10

To bring this to a conclusion, a right understanding of the membership of the Covenant of Grace is founded on the Covenant of Redemption and the New Covenant. Those who are in the Covenant of Grace are those who were promised to the Son by the Father in the Covenant of Redemption, won by the Son’s life, death, and resurrection, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, uniting them to their federal head, Jesus Christ. Laying claim to Christ and his benefits is a serious matter, and as scripture shows, only those who have saving faith can truly make that claim. There is no external federal relation to Jesus Christ. In terms of membership or qualification, there are no distinctions in the body of Christ, that is, the church. All are sons of God through faith, under one head, indwelt by one Spirit. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). In spite of the false professions, unbelief, and lies of apostates, God knows his own, Christ knows his sheep, and the Spirit of adoption knows the children of God.26 The covenant people of God are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1Pet 2:9). The glorious New Covenant does not look to the Old for its pattern and people but stands on the eternal foundation of the Covenant of Redemption and comes to the elect as a Covenant of Grace, purchased, mediated, and eternally kept by “our great God and savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people” (Titus 2:14).

17 Cf. WLC 65-69.

18 Vos, 252.

19 Vos, 256.

20 Bavinck, 591, emphasis added.

21 Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Prophecy (London: The Banner of Truth, 1964), 261-62.

22 Fairbairn, 270.

23 All italics in Scripture verses are added for emphasis.

24 Cf. Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:18.

25 Cf. Rom. 7:4-6.