Tag Archives: Christ

Christ, The Mediator of the New Covenant Part 2

In a long overdue post on the New Covenant I’d like to look at Hebrews 9:15 and see if it helps round out what has been discussed here in previous posts.

Hebrews 9:15 “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.”

In the last post we looked at the relationship between Christ’s mediatorial work through His death on the cross and the inauguration of the New Covenant (see also Hebrews 8:6-13) and we again see that in the first part of this passage, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant”.  Recall that in the last post on Christ as Mediator we also concluded that membership in the New Covenant was limited to those who have been born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  The evidence of their regeneration is repentance and faith, outwardly displayed in baptism, and continuing with their participation in the Lord’s Supper.  However, we made mention of a particular view that some within the Reformed Baptist tradition hold, namely the inclusion of all the elect in the New Covenant.  Others in this tradition, such as myself, hold to a more narrow view of those included in the New Covenant, i.e. what we’ve previously defined as the regenerate.  But this brings up a couple questions 1) How does God’s election unto salvation relate to the New Covenant benefits given to the regenerate? 2) If Christ’s death inaugurates the New Covenant, on what basis did the OT saints receive eternal life?

First, the question of election and its relation to the New Covenant.  As pointed out above, some have concluded that all the elect are in the New Covenant, but really this confuses the issue and as we’ve seen expressed clearly in Scripture, the New Covenant benefits are reserved for those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit and have shown evidence of this new birth, or regeneration, by the fruits of repentance and faith.  However, note in the passage above the author of Hebrews states that Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance”.  The language of calling here is significant.  This calling, the Greek word kaleo, is familiar in the New Testament.  We see a form of it in 1 Thess. 5:24 as God is the one who calls, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”  Also in 1 Timothy 1:9, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” And again in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  God’s calling is not general, but rather  an effectual call that accomplishes all that it intends, namely the salvation of sinners.  With this understanding of God as the “Caller” our foundation is set to look briefly at another use of calling found in Paul’s letter to the Romans,

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

Again, the emphasis is on God who calls “according to his purpose”, but here we read of some preceding events that must come prior to God’s calling, namely God’s “foreknowledge” and “predestination”, two words which have distinct meaning, but each of which reference God’s election according to grace.  Foreknowledge implies that God in His omniscience knows all things that are to come, literally knowing the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:8-11); while predestination implies that not only does God possess knowledge of future events, but that He has ordained all things that will come through the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).  In practical terms they refer to the plan of God that was made before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-14) and is unfolded in the calling of sinners to salvation.

Why all of this background on a passage from Hebrews discussing the mediatorial work of Christ?  Because, while the view that sees the elect as members of the New Covenant may lead to some confusion, it’s no less true that there is a relationship between God’s electing purposes and Christ’s inauguration of the New Covenant through His death.  Some theologians have sought to reconcile this confusion by describing the electing plan of God, established in Christ before the foundation of the world, as a Covenant of Redemption (see John 6:39, 17:2, 9, 24).  In this way, ALL those who the Father has given the Son, defined in the Covenant of Redemption and called the elect in Scripture, will be called and will be regenerated and will be partakers of the New Covenant, “so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  In his commentary on Hebrews, John Owen writes, “Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the New Covenant can be pretended.” This distinction sets clear the boundaries of New Covenant membership and maintains the integrity of this covenant with those whom have expressed evidence of their relationship to Christ through repentance of their sins and faith in Him.

Which brings us to our second question, of whether the OT saints even go to heaven and if so, then on what basis?  If you’ve followed along up to this point, then a likely question might be what became of those saints of the Old Testament who were under the Old Covenant (Abrahamic, Davidic, and Mosaic) ?  For this answer, we can also look to our passage from Hebrews above where we will find, “since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Christ’s work as Mediator of the New Covenant is not limited to only those who have believed on Him subsequent to His death.  The Old Testament saints had a forward looking faith (see Hebrews 11) in the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the promises, types, and shadows that God had expressed under the Old Covenant.

In Romans 4, we read of Abraham’s faith and the righteousness of Christ that  was imputed to him because of that faith, “Abraham believed God and it was counted [imputed – KJV] to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  This isn’t strictly a New Testament concept because the passage that Romans 4 refers to can be found in Genesis 15:6, where we are told that “he believed the Lord” and God “counted [imputed] it to him as righteousness.”  This righteousness credited, accounted, or better imputed to Abraham was not one that he earned, nor one that was inherent to his nature.  Instead it was, as Martin Luther states, an alien righteousness.  In other words, in the life of Abraham 2000 years before even the birth of Christ, Abraham was imputed with the righteousness of Christ.  Because the death of Christ was the culmination of God’s plan for redemption, there was no uncertainty as to its accomplishment.  Therefore when we read in Hebrews 9:15 that the death of Christ redeemed those who lived under the Old Covenant we can rest assured that it was not through obedience to the law that they received eternal life, but through the precious blood of the Lamb.  Abraham, and those saints who believed, were not redeemed by way of the Old Covenant, but through the New Covenant promised in Genesis 3:15 and reaffirmed throughout the pages of the Old Testament until the inauguration of the New Covenant was made at the specified time (Gal. 4:4) through the death of Christ.  “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forebearance he had passed over former sins.” Rom. 3:25

Any discussion on the afterlife of OT saints often leads to additional questions, but it should be clear on the basis of Romans 3 and 4 that through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His death on the cross, both aspects of Christ’s work as Mediator of the New Covenant, the OT believers are partakers of the same covenant benefits as those of us who believe in Christ today.

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 8: Christ the Mediator

In keeping with our discussion of the new covenant, as we take a parenthetical break from our study of end times, I included the following chapter from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith on the mediation of Christ over the New Covenant, which He inaugurated with His blood (Matt. 26:28).  I hope to follow up with a post discussing this further, particularly several passages from Hebrews.

 

CHAPTER 8

OF CHRIST THE MEDIATOR

Paragraph 1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man;1 the prophet,2 priest,3 and king;4 head and savior of the church,5 the heir of all things,6 and judge of the world;7 unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be His seed and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.8 1 Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19,20 2 Acts 3:22 3 Heb. 5:5,6 4 Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33 5 Eph. 1:22,23 6 Heb. 1:2 7 Acts 17:31 8 Isa. 53:10; John 17:6; Rom. 8:30

Paragraph 2. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it,9 yet without sin;10 being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures;11 so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.12 9 John 1:14; Gal. 4;4 10 Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,16,17, 4:15 11 Matt. 1:22, 23 12 Luke 1:27,31,35; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5

Paragraph 3. The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure,13 having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;14 in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell,15 to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled,16 and full of grace and truth,17 He might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety;18 which office He took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by His Father;19 who also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.20 13 Ps. 45:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34 14 Col. 2:3 15 Col. 1:19 16 Heb. 7:26 17 John 1:14 18 Heb. 7:22 19 Heb. 5:5 20 John 5:22,27; Matt. 28:18; Acts 2;36

Paragraph 4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake,21 which that He might discharge He was made under the law,22 and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have born and suffered,23 being made sin and a curse for us;24 enduring most grievous sorrows in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body;25 was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption:26 on the third day He arose from the dead27 with the same body in which He suffered,28 with which He also ascended into heaven,29 and there sits at the right hand of His Father making intercession,30 and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.31 21 Ps. 40:7,8; Heb. 10:5-10; John 10:18 22 Gal 4:4; Matt. 3:15 23 Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 3:18 24 2 Cor. 5:21 25 Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46 26 Acts 13:37 27 1 Cor. 15:3,4 28 John 20:25,27 29 Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11 30 Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24 31 Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9,10; Acts 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:4

Paragraph 5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God,32 procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto Him.33 32 Heb. 9:14, 10:14; Rom. 3:25,26 33 John 17:2; Heb. 9:15

Paragraph 6. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head;34 and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,35 being the same yesterday, and today and for ever.36 34 1 Cor. 4:10; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet. 1:10, 11 35 Rev. 13:8 36 Heb. 13:8

Paragraph 7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.37 37 John 3:13; Acts 20:28

Paragraph 8. To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them;38 uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them, in and by His Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey,39 governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit,40 and overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom,41 in such manner and ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.42 38 John 6:37, 10:15,16, 17:9; Rom. 5:10 39 John 17:6; Eph. 1:9; 1 John 5:20 40 Rom. 8:9,14 41 Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25,26 42 John 3:8; Eph. 1:8

Paragraph 9. This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from Him to any other.43 43 Tim. 2:5

Paragraph 10. This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of His prophetical office;44 and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need His priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God;45 and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need His kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to His heavenly kingdom.46 44 John 1:18 45 Col. 1:21; Gal. 5:17 46 John 16:8; Ps. 110:3; Luke 1:74,75

 

The Gospel Message

Recently I had the privilege of teaching on the topic of “Evangelism and the Believer”, a subject addressed in chapter 11 of John MacArthur’s discipleship curriculum Fundamentals of the Faith.  Before beginning a discussion on the believer’s rights and responsibilities to share the Gospel, it’s critical to explicitly define the Gospel.  As J. Mack Stiles asserts in his book Marks of the Messenger, we can never assume the Gospel.

I remember being asked “What is the Gospel?” recently in an interview and my first reply was “Based on what definition?”  The reason I responded as such was because so often it seems we are confused with the term Gospel and I knew the question that was being asked was not really, “What is the Gospel?”, but instead “How would you share the ‘Plan of Salvation’ with an unbeliever?”  So where did this confusion over the Gospel come from?  Well, I have a hunch it’s rooted in “decisionism” or an attempt by man to seal a quick decision for Christ through a 5-miunute “Gospel” presentation.  It’s seems we’ve adopted this approach and made it into “Tract-theology” such that no one really needs to think biblically anymore about what the Gospel really is.  All we really need to know are 4-Spiritual Laws or how the bridge between God and man can be built.  Don’t get me wrong, tracts have their place, but they cannot be a substitute for the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, we see a progression of the Gospel, from the Old Testament proclamation of the promise for Good News to the 4 Gospels which proclaim that the Good News has come, to the Epistles which proclaim that the Good News is Jesus Christ.  But what is this Good News?  More specifically, if there is Good News, certainly there must also be bad news; otherwise the Gospel would just be ‘news’.  In other words, what makes it so good? 

This is where I think the helpful little book by Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel, is so beneficial.  Essentially, it summarizes the redemptive narrative found from Genesis to Revelation into 4 useful points, each of which the Bible speaks to exhaustively.  Below, I want to briefly take a look at each point, just loosely using Gilbert’s book as a guide. 

God

Any discussion on the Gospel must have its source in God.  This is true whether in a witnessing situation or just unpacking the realities of the Gospel from Scripture.  To this point Gilbert asks 2 questions” Who made you? and To Whom are you accountable?  The answer to each is God.  So who is God?  Genesis 1 says God is the Creator of the world (1:1) and man (1:26).  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:19-20 that God has revealed Himself, “namely His eternal power and divine nature” through His creation, such that man is without excuse for not knowing Him.  God is not only Creator, but Sustainer of His creation (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3).  He is not hands-off, as deists would like to think, but He is a very personal, interacting, God.  As such, this means His creation, namely man, is accountable to Him (Romans 9:21).

In addition to this “general revelation” of God through creation, God has also provided “special revelation” of Himself by way of Scripture.  1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” God’s character begins with His holiness, as all other attributes by way of this are likewise holy.  In Exodus 34:6-7 we read of God revealing additional attributes of His character to Moses, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.’”  Summarizing the attributes God lists we see that He is:

  • Merciful
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in steadfast love
  • Faithful
  • Forgiving
  • Just

But we’ve encountered a major problem here.  In verse 7 we see the following statement, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”  Which is it?  Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin? Or not clearing the guilty, i.e. punishing the guilty?  It seems this is a paradoxical statement that contradicts itself.  Hang on to that thought; we’ll come back to it in a minute.

Man

Our next point, upon which Gilbert briefly summarizes the Gospel, is Man.  Here, we may ask What is the problem? Or perhaps more directly stated, What’s wrong with the world?  As we saw earlier, God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26) and called His creation good.  However, in Genesis 3, we read of the Fall of Man, the familiar story of the serpent, Satan, deceiving Eve to eat of fruit, which God had forbidden.  Eve, upon eating the fruit, subsequently shares it with her husband Adam.  In Genesis 3:15, we see a summary of man’s fall and a brief preview into our next point, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Because of Adam’s sin, all of his posterity likewise fell with him.  In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  What is the problem or what’s wrong with the world?  You are!  And me too.  All of us are what’s wrong with the world because all of us have sinned.  Think what’s wrong with the world isn’t sin?  Just watch the evening news and you’ll see man’s depraved sinful nature being  put on display.

The second question is Am I in trouble?  If you and I are what’s wrong with the world because of sin and as we learned earlier we are created by God and are accountable to Him, then the obvious answer to the question of ‘are we in trouble’ is a resounding yes!  Sin is a violation of God’s law in act, attitude, or thought and all men have violated God’s law.  His law is the righteous standard by which He judges us and hold’s us accountable.  Romans 3:23 says that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  What is the trouble that we’re in?  Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death….”  The wages of sin, i.e. what you and I have earned as a result of our sin, is death.  Not merely a physical death, but a spiritual death.  Cursed and cast into hell under the wrath of God.  Are we in trouble?  You better believe we are and it has eternal consequences.

Christ

Here we ask, Did God provide a solution to the problem?  In other words, How can what is wrong with the world be made right?  We read of how God did this in that familiar passage from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  In short, God provided the solution to the question, that only He could answer, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.  Could the solution have simply been to destroy everyone and everything and start over?  Yes, but while this would have put the justice of God on display, it would not have put the full character of God on display.  What of His mercy?  His love?  His grace?  You may say, well what about the flood?  God destroyed everything except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.  Yes and while this certainly put His mercy on display  for them, justice was not fully satisfied because the sins of Noah and his family had not been punished, as well those sins “passed over” before and after (Romans 3:25).  The only way to make what is wrong with the world right, the only way that God could declare that He is a God that forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin” while “ by no means clear[ing] the guilty” was through the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The Apostle Paul wonderfully summarizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”  

God’s standard of perfect obedience to His law could only be met in the person of Jesus.  Through His perfectly obedient and sinless life Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.  While God’s justice could only be satisfied through the death of Christ on the cross in the place of guilty sinners.  This allowed God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:26 Which brings us to our final point.

Response

What makes this good news for you?  As we’ve learned, the Gospel is good news.  It’s good news because it saves from the bad news which says every single one of us are guilty sinners deserving of death, hell, and the wrath of God.  This good news is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live among a sinful, rebellious people, to take the punishment of all who have faith in Him, and to reconcile the relationship between the sinner and God through the redemption that is in Christ’s shed blood.  What can you do right now to share in this good news?  Ask God for mercy.  God has commanded that everyone repent, or turn from their sin, and place their faith in Jesus Christ.  Unbeliever, your response is to obey that command, crying out in godly repentance for your sin and then trusting that Christ alone can save you because of who He is and what He has done.  Repent and believe the Gospel.

Believers, the good news of the Gospel didn’t end for you upon your salvation, even though you’re justification was complete.  The good news for you began there.  Because of the Gospel, God calls you to obedience also through worship, holiness, and a life given to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Gospel isn’t a one shot deal, it’s a lifetime of understanding and a daily reflection on the facts that God made you and you are accountable to Him, that you are what’s wrong with the world, but in spite of that God sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and be raised again so that what is wrong could be made right for the one who repents and believes.  Keep repenting and believing the Gospel.