Meditations on the Larger Catechism, pt. 25
The Necessity of a Divine Mediator
“No offence, but Muslims love Jesus as much as Christians do.” On December 19, 2001, this is how John Casey, a Cambridge scholar, entitled an article in the Telegraph on the issue of Christian and Muslim theology. How could he make such a claim? The the Qu’ran teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin, was sinless, was a prophet, worked miracles, ascended into heaven, and is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Yet there is something missing from that description. There is no crucifixion or resurrection. What else? According to the Qu’ran, Jesus is not divine.
The big question, then, is whether it is necessary that our mediator between God and us be divine? In a word, the answer is yes, for without divinity he could not be our Savior. Why? The Scriptures teach that only God can save: “I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior” (Isa. 43:11). For Jesus Christ to save us from our sins he must be God.
We see this in Q&A 38 of the Larger Catechism, which weaves together a tapestry of biblical doctrines about The Necessity of a Divine Mediator.
To Sustain His Human Nature
The necessity of our mediator being divine is to sustain his human nature: “that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death” (Q&A 38). This means that since every sin against an infinite God must receive an infinite punishment, even if a sinless man like Jesus wholly kept the law his entire life in thought, word, and deed, he would not be able to bear the weight of God’s punishment against the sins of the world. All his life and especially at the end when he carried our cross through the streets and on the cross, Jesus was bearing our sins. This was like having the weight of the world upon him. And on top of that the punishment of God’s justice was added, which was like a final weight to crush anything underneath it. No human, however perfect, is able to bear that weight. Only God can sustain the weight of God’s wrath.
To Give Worth to His Work
Jesus’ divinity is also able to “give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession” (Q&A 38). Even if Jesus obeyed, his obedience would only be a human, creaturely, and therefore finite obedience. An infinite justice needs to be satisfied with an infinite payment. Therefore as divine, Jesus’ obedience, death, and intercession has eternal worth. Because of this, you can trust him to completely and sufficiently satisfy your eternal needs of salvation. As we sing,
“My hope is built on nothing less,
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
To Satisfy God’s Justice
Not only does the divinity of our mediator allow him to sustain the wrath of God and give worth to his self-offering, it also allows him to “satisfy God’s justice” (Q&A 38). An infinite God has an infinite justice towards every sin. This is why in the law the Lord God prescribed all the various the offerings that his people could bring, to cover their sins and to give them hope. But because these were continually offered day after day, year after year, generation after generation, one final sacrifice that had the intrinsic ability to satisfy this justice had to come. And it did in Jesus. Do you realize that without the infinite merit of a divine-man mediator you are still in your sins? This is not just a doctrine; this is what determines your destiny.
To Procure God’s Favor
Another reason our mediator must necessarily be divine is “that he might…procure God’s favor” (Q&A 38). Since only the Lord himself can save, only the Lord can bring us into a state of grace. As Paul says in Romans 8:3–4, what the law could not do God has done by sending his Son. If Jesus is not divine then you can have no assurance that you have had God’s favor earned for you. You will be in perpetual doubt, wondering if it was accomplished, if Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” apply to you.
To Purchase a People
His divinity also means that he was able to “purchase a people” (Q&A 38). Who saved Israel out of Egypt? The Lord certainly used Moses but he was only a means, a minister. The Lord saved them (Ex. 20:2). The prophet Isaiah uses the language of the Exodus to describe how the Lord would save his people again (Isa. 63:7–64:12). Jude mentions that “again,” writing, “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt” (Jude 5). Just before that Jude called Jesus “our only Master and Lord” (Jude 4). Jesus is the assurance to us that we who believe are a part of his people, his church.
To Give the Spirit
He is necessarily divine so that he is able to “give the Spirit to [us]” (Q&A 38). When he was exalted at the right hand of God, as the God-man, he received the Spirit to then send down to his church (Acts 2:33) to do the wonderful work of drawing sinners into the church. As those who trust in our divine Savior, we are filled not with a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of God, who is a Spirit of power, and of love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).
To Conquer Our Enemies
As God, Jesus our mediator is also to “conquer all [our] enemies” (Q&A 38). At his crucifixion he conquered the Devil (John 12:31; Col. 2:15), at his resurrection he conquered death (1 Cor. 15:54–57), and at his ascension he conquered all powers arrayed against us (1 Peter 3:18–22). Without a divine mediator doing this, we would live in fear of death, the Devil, and hell. But as the writer to the Hebrews teaches us, our powerful Savior has destroyed us from the devil, who held the power of death, and freed us from the fear of death in which we lived as slaves (Heb. 2:14–15).
To Bring us to Everlasting Salvation
Finally, our mediator needs to be divine so “that he might…bring [us] to everlasting salvation” (Q&A 38). His divinity has sustained the wrath of God against him because of our sins. His divinity gave infinite value to his work on our behalf. His divinity has satisfied God’s eternal justice against our sins. His divinity has procured God’s favor of us. His divinity has purchased us to be a part of his people. His divinity has given us the Holy Spirit. His divinity has conquered all foes against us. And his divinity makes him able to “save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). Our divine Jesus not only brings us eternal life already in this life, preserves us in that eternal life, and will one day persevere through us to the end and bring us beyond the gates of splendor.
Why is it important for Jesus to be God? Without this being his identity, you would have no Savior.
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
Pastor, Oceanside United Reformed Church