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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:St. Albert Canadian Reformed Church
 St. Albert, Alberta
Title:Knowing and Loving Our Perfect Mediator
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 89:1,3
Hy 8 (after Nicene Creed)
Reading - Job 9; Hebrews 7:23-28
Ps 118:6,7,8
Sermon - Lord s Day 6
Hy 42:1,2,3,6
Hy 25:2,5,6,7
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Dear brothers and sisters, when you need help, whom do you call? "That depends," you say, "on the kind of thing I need help with." If I need help moving my fridge, I will call a couple able-bodied friends. If I need assistance with my poorly-running car, I will call a licensed mechanic. If I need financial advice, I will call my banker. When confronted with a challenge – and when we finally admit we need help – we turn to one who is qualified to assist us: qualified by education or training, qualified by physical strength, or qualified by experience. In times of need, we must turn to one who is able to help.

And such is also the case with our salvation. When we look at Lord’s Day 5, we try to count the high cost of deliverance. We try, for remember the disturbing truth of Ps 49: "The ransom for a life is costly, no [human-provided!] payment is ever enough – that [a man] should live.. forever and not see decay" (vv 8-9). Yes, full payment (eternal punishment and eternal perfection) is needed, and so many payers are excluded. To whom then can we turn for effective help in our deliverance from sin? Who is qualified to save?

In their search for someone able to make the ransom to God, the sons of Korah (in Ps 49) desperately conclude: "No payment is ever enough!" In a similar way Job also became frantic in his longing for a mediator between him and the LORD.

As you know, Job suffered horribly when God allowed Satan to take away his possessions, his family, and his health. But that was only the beginning of Job’s anguish, for soon after, three men who (Job thought) were friends arrive. They barrage Job with their orthodox-sounding, but baseless and comfortless, theology. They do not help Job understand the ways of God, nor even help Job trust in God’s unvarying faithfulness.

And so it’s no surprise to hear Job hunger for someone able to stand up for him in the presence of the mighty God, crave someone able to restore him to fellowship with the LORD. Wracked by the pain of his suffering, and beset with the confusion of his heart, Job cries out, "If only there were someone to arbitrate between us… someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot" (9:33-35).

Job the sinner could not stand before the righteous God without falling to the ground in deathly fear, for none among the sons of men is qualified to turn away the rod of God’s anger. "If only there were someone to arbitrate between us…"

The Catechism too, wrestles with this same age-old question of who can stand between us and God. Notice the tension build: How can we be saved? (Q&A 12); Can we save ourselves? (13); Can a creature save us? (14); What kind of mediator can save us? (15). Almost like an interlude, Answer 15 says we must call on a true and righteous man, and call on true God. But thereafter the tension only continues to mount, for who can find a true and righteous man? And who can discover such a man who is at the same time true God?

Here are the high – from our perspective, impossibly high – qualifications of the mediator whom we must seek. So the Catechism poses it’s last searching question with a bit of rhetorical flair, "But who is that Mediator who at the same time is true God and a true and righteous man?" (Q&A 18). On whom can we call? Where could we even begin to look for help? Well, our search would be hopeless and futile if God himself did not show the way. But our Mediator is here, revealed in "the holy gospel" (Q&A 19) – and He is perfectly qualified!

                            In the gospel God reveals our perfect Mediator:

    1. He is revealed as true and righteous man
    2. He is revealed as true God
    3. He is revealed as Jesus Christ


1. He is revealed as true and righteous man: When speaking of our salvation, we must always begin with the justice of God. According to God’s standards we are declared guilty, so it’s only according to God’s standards we can be declared innocent.

Any human notions of "justice" or "fairness" will not measure up in the courtroom of God. For if something falls beyond our control, we deem it unjust; on the other hand, if something serves our interests, we deem it at once proper and fair. So we would think it acceptable for an animal, even if it took an herd of animals, to die in our place and to atone for our sins – but the heavenly Judge would not be pleased. Or if the issue was forced and our own skin was on the line, we would even think it satisfactory for a fellow human being to die (preferably someone we didn’t know), in order that our precious life might be saved.

And on this point, our fickle notions of fairness would briefly agree with God’s unchanging standard of justice. For God does say that none but man can stand in the place of man: "the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin" (Q&A 16). The first requirement of our Mediator is that He be true man.

What makes a true man? Simply put: A true man is body and soul; he is a physical and spiritual creation of God; he is flesh and spirit. Take away a man’s body and he is only a wandering soul; take away a man’s spirit and he is only a pile of purposeless matter.

Indeed, our Mediator needs to be true man, so that both his body and soul might be punished (Q&A 11), and so that both our body and soul might be saved. This gospel God revealed already in the very beginning, in Gen 3:15. We are very familiar with these words, but notice, our Mediator will be a man, sprung from a woman. God says to Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and [her offspring]; he will crush your head…" Where one man failed, another man would prevail.

Thousands of years later, the LORD again promises the people walking in the darkness of sin a true man to help them, "To us a child is born, to us a son is given" (Is 9:6).

God always promised a man would come to deliver man. And a true man, our Mediator, came. The promised one was conceived and born of a woman (Lk 1:35, 2:7). He went through childhood and onto adulthood, just like other children mature in body and mind, for "[He] grew and became strong… He increased in wisdom and in stature" (Lk 2:40,52).

As a man with a body of flesh and bone (Lk 24:39), just like you and me, our Mediator grew tired (Jn 4:6); He became thirsty (Jn 19:28); He became hungry (Mt 4:2); He weakened under suffering (Lk 23:26), and He even died.

He needed to have a human body, and He did. He needed to have a human soul, and so He did. For He was troubled in spirit (Jn 12:27) and sorrowful (Mt 26:38); He marveled (Mt 8:10) and He wept (Jn 11:35). He even offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears (Heb 5:7) in the anguish of his soul.

In the holy gospel we behold our Mediator: A man from Nazareth, a carpenter’s son, a brother among other siblings – without a doubt fully human. For "since the children [of God] have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death" (Heb 2:14). Just as God had promised, man would die for man.

On first appearance, this is not such a hard teaching to accept. If someone volunteered to take our place on the chopping block, the instinct of self-preservation would override any uncertainty voiced by our conscience. If you dared to stand up for me and my sins, by all means, go ahead! We’d accept anyone’s death instead of our own – but the heavenly Judge would not be pleased. For (and here is that question again) what does God’s justice require? That none but the righteous die for the unrighteous. The second requirement of our Mediator is that He also be a righteous man.

For one who cannot put a stop to his spending ways will never get out of debtor’s prison; far less will he be able to pay for someone else to be let free. A sinner cannot die for a sinner. It is a perfect impossibility, therefore our Mediator must be righteous.

And what makes a righteous man? Simply put: A righteous man is one who conforms in every way to the will of God. As God says in Is 45:19, "I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right." Yet the résumé of every would-be mediator is discarded, for none can truthfully claim, "Have fully kept all of God’s commandments."

None could claim this, except for the Mediator revealed in the holy gospel. The one Isaiah prophesied to be conceived by a virgin was born as man, and yet by the power of the Holy Spirit He could be called holy, free from the stain of Adam’s sin (Lk 1:35). The seed of the woman who would crush the serpent was even tempted by the devil himself for forty long days, yet Satan had to depart from him, defeated (Lk 4:13).

"Which of you convicts me of sin?" our Mediator asked in Jn 8:46, and He received no reply. He could speak a sharp word, or be moved by anger, or act contrary to all moral convention, yet in all this, "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth" (1 Pet 2:22). Even Pilate had to conclude, "I find no basis for a charge against him" (Jn 18:38).

Our Helper was fully a righteous man. Where the priests of the Old Testament had to offer sacrifices first for their own sin, and then for the sins of the people (Lev 9:7), our Mediator may approach God freely, with single-minded dedication to our sinful cause; "Such a high priest meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens" (Heb 7:26). It is emphatically stated: Our Mediator is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, even exalted above the heavens.

Our Mediator is no ordinary man – yet He is a man, so He might be accepted in our place. But there is much more to be said about our Helper, and much more for which to give humble thanks.

2. He is revealed as true God: A true man, we’ve said, has a physical body, with bones and sinews and muscles, all bound together as one cohesive and resilient package. A human can further develop and train this body given him by God, and can even earn the adjective "strong" – strong enough to move a fridge, strong enough to run a marathon, strong enough to survive the toughest boot camp.

Yet "[from] heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind… no king is saved by the size of his army, no warrior escapes by his great strength" (Ps 33:13-16). What is man in the sight of God? "Surely [he is] grass" (Is 40:7)

And a true man, as we’ve said, has a soul or a spirit. According to the Scriptures, a human soul can be restored, refreshed, consoled, strengthened and contented. But according to the Scriptures, a soul can also be broken, contaminated, downcast, crushed, thirsty, deceived and forfeited. Only if our restless souls find rest in God, will they be safe from Satan’s snares and life’s torments.

But what man can guard or fortify or immunize his own soul? The power of positive thinking, yoga, scented candles and chanting may "work" for a couple problem-free months – but then death or illness or temptation will renew their soul-assaults. What is man in the sight of God? "Surely [he is] grass."

Even the strongest man – rock hard in body, and unflinching in soul – even the strongest true and righteous man, remains only a man. A true and righteous man would be allowed to stand up for us and our sin, but he would not be able. And so another requirement of our Mediator is that He be true God.

There are three things our Mediator must do, and only He who is God himself could do even a single one. Notice in Answer 17: "He [must] bear… the burden of God’s wrath; [He must] obtain for us…; and [He must] restore to us righteousness and life." Bear, obtain and restore.

None except a human is permitted to bear God’s wrath for human sin. Yet, as Nahum asks, "Who can withstand [God’s] indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger?" (Nah 1:6). No man is able to pick up the cup of God’s wrath and drain it down, right to the dregs.

Further, our Mediator must obtain, or earn, our deliverance. Again, a mere man cannot do it. For even if man could carry out everything demanded of him by God – keeping the law as best as he could, and accepting punishment for those times he failed – humble man would simply have done what was required.

Think of that lesson in Lk 17, of the servant who did as he was commanded by the master. "Would [the master] say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink’? …Would [the master] thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?" (vv 7-9). So every human being also, when he has done everything he was told to do, should say, ‘I am an unworthy servant; I have only done my duty.’" (cf. v 10). No man can give to God, that God should repay him.

And our Mediator must also restore to us "righteousness and life," the things we dead sinners need so desperately. It is one thing to earn an opportunity in life through hard work and perseverance, it is quite another to use that opportunity to its fullest. Only a Mediator who is God himself can apply the benefits He won to others, for no one but God can change the sinful heart of man.

Yes, one who is man and God is needed, and He has been provided. The divine Mediator was promised already in Gen 3, for the woman’s seed – given that terrible task of crushing the head of Satan – must also be God. How else could it be done? With what other power but God’s power could the serpent be destroyed? He is promised again in Is 9: The child to be born will be a man, but He will be much more, for "He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God!" (v 6).

God always promised that God himself would come to deliver man. And a true God, our Mediator, came, to bear, obtain, and restore! In the power of his divine nature He could bear sin’s punishment; "Behold," He was "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). Only as God could He be made to be sin (2 Cor 5:21), only as God could He become a curse (Gal 3:13), and only as God could He carry our sins in his body on the tree (1 Pet 2:24).

Our Mediator could also obtain God’s favour, for He is not only some righteous man who simply did his duty, He is God himself. He is "our great God and Saviour" (Tit 2:13), He is "God over all, forever praised" (Rom 9:5), He is "my Lord and my God" (Jn 20:28), and as God He is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and honour and glory and blessing (Rev 5:12). Our divine Helper did his work, therefore He will receive his fully-deserved reward from the Father (Is 53:12) – and his reward is a Name (Ph 2:9-10) that bestows life and righteousness on the sons of men.

The reward our Mediator earned in his victory over death, He is also able to give to us. "[Our Mediator] leads us in triumphal procession"! (2 Cor 2:14). As God himself, He opens and then restores our closed and shriveled hearts, in order that we may receive our reward, freely given.

Beloved, rejoice, for our perfect Mediator stood up for us, stood between us sinners and our mighty Creator! As true man, He pointed to us and said "These are my brothers and sisters. Let me die in their place." As righteous man, He pointed to himself and said, "Here I am, I have come… I desire to do your will, O my God" (Ps 40:7-8; cf. Heb 10:5-10). And as God, He was able to do it all – to go to the end of the line (forsaken by God!), and then come all the way back, for us!

"But who is that Mediator who is at the same time true God and a true and righteous man? Our Lord Jesus Christ"! (Q&A 18).

3. He is revealed as Jesus Christ: When the sons of Korah cried in desperation for a redeemer, "No payment is ever enough" (Ps 49:8), this, thankfully was not the last word. They are able to look ahead, in confidence, "But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself" (v 15).

So too, Job’s hunger for an arbitrator, for "someone to remove God’s rod from me" is answered with a beautiful foretaste, a few chapters later. "Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend, as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man, he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend" (16:19-21).

For a mediator many hearts cried in the Old Testament. They cried, but not like those without hope. For the gospel was given already in Paradise; it was affirmed to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; it was prophesied by Isaiah and the prophets; also in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law the human need for a Saviour was clearly seen, and in all that blood the divine Answer was dimly perceived (Q&A 19).

For a mediator the authors of the Catechism, too, cried out: "Who is He? And where shall we find him?" But for those 16th century Christians, and for us 21st century Christians, our longing is mercifully short. The desire of the ages has come (cf. Hag 2:7)! Now there is someone to speak to God on our behalf, there is someone qualified and acceptable to plead our case in court. "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Pet 3:18).

In Jesus Christ, somehow all the qualifications are fulfilled. He fully meets every standard of God’s justice, in a way we cannot fully understand. Somehow a true man, somehow a righteous man, somehow also true God. And somehow this Mediator was also willing to give himself in our place, for us who were his enemies. It cannot be the work of man, it must be the work of God; as Jonah confessed, "Salvation comes from the LORD!" (3:9).

In our deepest hunger and thirst, on whom can we call for help? Jesus Christ. For as our Confession states in Art. 26,"[What] more is needed? Christ Himself says: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me’ (Jn 14:6). Why should we look for another advocate? Let us then not leave Him for another, or even look for another, without ever finding one" (Belgic Confession, art. 26).

In our sin, in our guilt, in our trouble, in our confusion, let us admit: We need help. But thanks be to God, for "our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth," (Ps 124:8), and in the name of his Son, the Saviour of his people.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb 4:16). Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2005, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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