Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator
What are the threefold offices of Christ? What does it mean that Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant? What is Christ's Active and Passive Obedience? Did Christ by His death atone for the sins of all mankind or only for His elect? What is 'limited' in 'Limited Atonement'? What about passages used against Limited Atonement?
§1 It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus
- It pleased God, 1 in His eternal purpose, 2 to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, 3 to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; 4 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. 5
- Isa. 42:1; John 3:16
- 1Pet. 1:19-20
- Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:21-22; Isa. 42:1; 1Pet. 2:4-6
- 1 Tim. 2:5; Acts 3:22; Heb. 5:5-6; Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; Heb. 1:2; Acts 17:31
- Rom. 8:30; John 17:6; Isa. 53:10; Ps. 22:30; 1 Tim. 2:6; Isa. 55:4-5; 1 Cor. 1:30
Christ the Elect
Our Confession states that the Lord Jesus was chosen, called and ordained by God to the office of the mediator. He was chosen by God for this office according to the Covenant of Redemption between them (see chapter 7 on the Covenant of Redemption). We said in chapter 7 that the Covenant of Redemption was the eternal covenant between the Persons of the Trinity, which laid out their roles in the self-glorification of God and the redemption of God’s elect. The Father was to elect a people and give them to the Son. The Son was to redeem the people whom the Father gave to Him. The Spirit was to apply the benefits of Son on their behalf to them and indwell them.
Christ was chosen by the Father from before the foundation of the earth to be the Savior of God’s people. God’s plans had Him as the center. In Ephesians 1:3-6 we read that before the foundation of the world we were chosen and predestined in Christ for salvation, meaning that Christ was already then chosen to be the Savior of God’s elect. He is the only One who can save us. We also read of the Servant Messiah in Isaiah’s prophecies. In Isaiah 42 we read –
Isa. 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
The Servant of the Lord is none other than the Lord Jesus who is prophesied about before He came on the scene. He is the Lord’s chosen and He is in whom God delights (Matt. 3:17; 17:5, etc). We also read of Christ being the chosen of God and in whom God delights in the New Testament Scriptures often with allusion to the Old Testament (John 6:27; 1Pet. 2:4-6). Christ is the prime elect of God, and all the believers have been elected in Him and when they believe they are united with Him.
Christ the Priest and Mediator
Our Lord is not only the prime elect of God, the Son of God, God the Son, the Savior and Awaited One, but He is also the High Priest of God’s people. The task of the priest is to be a mediator between God and man. This was the case in the Old Testament also for example when the people would come with their sacrifices to the Levitical priests, or on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest would intercede and make atonement for the people of Israel (Lev. 16). Christ the Lord is the High Priest and Mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6; 12:24). The priests were to stand between God and man, but the problem with the Levitical priesthood was the fact that the priests themselves were not pure. They themselves were full of weaknesses and sin and they were to stand between sinful man (themselves being sinful) and holy God. That’s problematic.
After the Order of Melchizedek
The Book of Hebrews (which is now my second favorite epistle after Romans) lays great stress, especially in chapter 7, on Melchizedek and his priesthood. Melchizedek comes on the scene in the life of Abraham after the slaughter of the kings in Genesis 14. He comes at once on the scene and the text tells us that “He was priest of God Most High” (Gen. 14:18). Even at that time there were more people who knew God other than the ones we meet in the Bible. Melchizedek was a priest of God the Most High. He comes here on the scene and for centuries we hear nothing about him, until we come to the Messianic Psalm 110:4.
Ps. 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Here, Yahweh promises to David’s Adonai (Lord) that He would be a priest forever. The vague part is, is that His priesthood would not be after the order of Levi and Aaron, as it was the only acceptable form of priesthood under the Law, but “after the order of Melchizedek.” The significance of the Melechizedekian priesthood is in the fact of the various statements about him in the book of Hebrews:
Heb. 7:2-3 and to him [Melchizedek] Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
Heb. 7:5-8 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.
It is not my purpose to give an extensive exegesis of these texts here, but we should notice a few things about this Melchizedek. Let's start with Hebrews 7:2-3. This Melchizedek, at least typologically, points to Christ, if it is not the pre-incarnate Christ Himself! The significance is seen in the meaning of his name and function. His name Melchizedek, which means king of righteousness. It is the Lord Jesus in the New Testament who is the King of God's people. He is the righteous Davidic King whom we adore and await to see fully and visibly reining in the New Earth. Even now He is reigning, but will more manifestly reign when He comes back to usher in the New Heavens and New Earth. Furthermore, this king of righteousness reigned in the city of Salem, which under David became Jerusalem. Salem means peace and thus he was the king of peace. Again resembling and pointing to the Lord Jesus who was prophesied to be the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).
We should likewise not forget that Melchizedek was introduced to us as a priest of the Most High. Not only was He the king of righteousness, king of peace, but he was also a priest of the true God. He was a priestly king, just like the Lord Jesus. This was unheard of under the Mosaic Law and Levitical priesthood. Furthermore, in v. 4 we read of Melchizedek’s lack of genealogy, which was essential to the Levitical priesthood. You had to prove through genealogy that you were a Levite to be able to participate in the priesthood. But concerning the genealogy of Melchizedek we do not read a single syllable in Genesis or anywhere in the Bible, pointing to our Lord’s divine nature, which is without beginning and without end.
Now let us turn to vv. 5-8. Under the Law the people of Israel were to pay tithes to the priests, but the father of the Israelites, Abraham himself, gave tithes to this Melchizedek. Moreover, Melchizedek blessed the one who had the covenant and the promises. It is obvious, the Author of Hebrews reasons, that this shows the superiority of Melchizedek over Abraham. If Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, then he is superior to Levi and his priesthood.
The Necessity of the Melchizedekian Priesthood
But the Author of Hebrews also gives us the answer as to why Christ was not to be a priest after the order of Levi:
Heb. 7:11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?
The Author has just spoken of Melchizedek and of his superiority even over Abraham, but now comes back and deals with the priesthood that his readers are familiar with. The argument is, if the Levitical priesthood was good and through it the people could attain perfection, i.e., righteousness, then why would God speak of the Messiah's priesthood as being according to the order of Melchizedek? Well, the obvious answer is that because the Levitic...