Meditations on the Larger Catechism, pt. 23
The Mediator of the Covenant of Grace
Although the Westminster Assembly did not choose to use the text of the Apostles’ Creed and to exposit its individual articles within its two catechisms, the Larger Catechism still follows the structure of the Creed. Having dealt with the Triune nature of God (Q&A 7–11) and the works of God the Father (Q&A 12–35), the Catechism now deals with the works of God the Son (Q&A 36–56).
In particular, Q&A 36 speaks of the Son of God as The Mediator of the Covenant of Grace.
The Problem to Knowing Him
When question 36 begins by asking, “Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?” it is vital for us to pause and consider the problem of knowing this Mediator. There are so many doctrines, ideas, and theories about the identity of Jesus Christ. It has been so ever since the days of the apostles. When Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy in Ephesus, he instructed Timothy to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:3–4). There were all sorts of doctrines running rampant through Ephesian culture, least of which was the nature of God and how he saves humanity. Again, Paul stated that “certain persons, by swerving from [the goals of his good doctrine], have wandered away into vain discussion” (1 Tim. 1:6).
The problems we face in knowing the truth about the Mediator come in the form of Islam, which says Jesus was born of a virgin but that he was a mere man. It comes in the form of Mormonism, which says Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer as well as a separate divine being. It comes in the form of Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, which outright denies the eternal divinity of the Son. It comes in the form of “prosperity” Christianity, which uses Jesus as a magic incantation for sordid gain.
This is why Paul exhorted Timothy, and all Christians like him, to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience” (1:18–19). Are you a spectator of this war or a soldier in it?
The Proclamation of Knowing Him
Paul also went on to proclaim that we can know this Mediator, saying, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). What does this mean? In calling him a “mediator,” Paul utilizes covenantal language. In covenants there are two parties or sides. In the covenant of grace there is God on the one side, so to speak, and as Q&A 31 already said, there is Christ and in him all the elect on the other side. This describes the covenant in its most pure essence. In terms of its administration, Paul speaks simply to us sinners for our benefit, saying the two parties are God and man. Hence the Catechism says, “The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How can we know God? Through Jesus Christ in the bond of fellowship we call a covenant. In calling him a mediator, this means Jesus Christ represents us as humans before the God who not only has made us, but who invites us into his covenant.
But why does Paul say the mediator between God and man is “the man Christ Jesus?” This is such a fascinating description for our benefit. Paul speaks this way in order to assure and comfort us sinners. How so? First, by calling him “the man Christ Jesus,” he has a point of contact with us who are human. God is the Creator, we are the creatures; God is infinite, we are finite. He is different than us. But we can come to know him through means of a mediator who is like us. Jesus Christ is the one whom, “in the fullness of time became man” (Q&A 36; citing Gal 4:4). Second, by calling him the “one mediator,” we are assured that Jesus Christ knows how to represent us before the “one God.” He can stand between God and us on God’s terms as a perfect man. He knows how to represent us as sinners before a holy God. He knows how to represent us and all of our needs before the God who can meet them all. Third, this also means that he can represent God to us, lowly sinners. How? Because he is also true and eternal God. As the Catechism says, summarizing a plethora of Scripture, he is “the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father” (Q&A 36).
As our divine and human mediator, we have one to stand between God and us who “was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, for ever” (Q&A 36). What a God we have! What a mediator we have!
The Purpose for Knowing Him
Finally, as we meditate on the truth of who our mediator is, this motivates us to meditate on the life we calls us to live. What is the purpose for knowing our mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ?
First, we are called to a life of faith. Paul speaks of faith as the act by which we embrace Jesus Christ to be our mediator, but he also speaks of faith as an ongoing activity of the Christian life. Knowing the Savior savingly means having a “sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).
Second, we are called to a life of love. As Paul says, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart” (1 Tim. 1:5). Love to Christ and love to our neighbors is the result of the cleansing of our hearts by the mediator’s work on our behalf. He loved you so; do you love him? He loves his people so; do you love them?
Third, we are called to a life of perseverance. Are you “holding faith and a good conscience” (1 Tim. 1:19)? Are you continuing to place faith in the mediator? Are you continuing to love him? The Christian who is drawn into covenantal relations with God as Father through the mediator, Jesus Christ, enters a lifelong pilgrimage from one degree of faith to another in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
Pastor, Oceanside United Reformed Church