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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The Son of God came to earth as our Mediator
Text:LD 14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2023
Added:2023-07-31
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 6

Psalm 25:1-3

Hymn 24

Hymn 1

Psalm 124

Scripture readings: 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 1 John 4

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 14

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ Jesus,

Reminders are powerful tools in God’s hand to maintain us in the Christian life and to make us grow in it.  Think of what God speaks to us in 2 Peter 1:12-13, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body.”  When Peter wrote this second epistle, he wasn’t bringing a lot of anything new to his readers.  Much of it was a reminder of what he’d taught them previously.  But it was important for them to be reminded.  He went on to say, “And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”  Reminders serve to keep important truths fresh in our minds. 

One of those important truths is the first coming of our Lord Jesus.  In verse 16 of 2 Peter 1, we read, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  This is one of those truths that Peter would always remind his readers about.  This is a truth about which we also regularly receive reminders. 

Each year on December 25, we’re reminded of the incarnation of Jesus Christ our Saviour.  But we also have the regular preaching of our Catechism and as we do that, we come time and again to Lord’s Day 14 which considers article 3 of the Apostles’ Creed, “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.”  This is one of the most important teachings of the faith and so it’s good we’re regularly reminded about it and reflect on it.

This afternoon, we’ll be reminded again of what God’s Word says about the first coming of our Lord.  Perhaps there won’t be anything new, but that’s okay.  I remind you again:  reminders are important!  We’ll consider what the Bible teaches about the coming of our Lord to this earth as our Mediator.  We find that biblical word “mediator” in QA 36.  Before we get into the meat of the sermon, it’s really important that we understand what a mediator is and does.  For you kids, here’s what it means:  a mediator is a go-between.  He goes between two people who are fighting.   Your parents can ask you about that later at home.  So, a mediator is someone who brings together two parties who’ve been fighting.  They were fighting and now they have peace.  In this instance, the two sides are God and fallen man.  Fallen man has been rebelling against God.  God’s wrath has been stirred up by this rebellion.  Someone needs to come and bring God and man back together again.  That someone is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  So the theme of the sermon is:  the Son of God came to earth as our Mediator.  We’ll learn about how he came from God and then also that he came for us. 

In 1 John 4:9-10, we read these powerful words, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  There are a few things we ought to take note of here.  First of all, it was the eternal Son of God who came for us.  The baby who was born in a manger in Bethlehem had a prior existence and life story.  As our Catechism puts it, he “is and remains true and eternal God.”  In other words, before his incarnation he existed in his divine nature.  That’s why Jesus could say to the Jews in John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am!” 

The eternal Son of God had an agreement with the Father to come into this world.  This is sometimes called the covenant of redemption or the counsel of peace.  That’s not to be confused with the covenant of grace which we’ll hear about in a few moments.  This covenant of redemption or counsel of peace is the agreement made between God the Son and God the Father before creation.  We find this covenant mentioned or implied in a number of places in the Bible.  For instance, in several places in John’s gospel, Christ speaks of the commandments given to him by the Father.  The author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 40 which speaks about the Son coming to do the will of his Father.  There are other passages as well which speak about promises given to the Son, his obligations to obedience and the blessings that would follow.    

It’s clear that under this covenant of redemption the Father sent his Son into this world for our salvation.  This idea of sending is clear in 1 John 4:9, “…God sent his only Son into the world.”  The Son was sent and he gladly obeyed without any resistance.  His first coming wasn’t something he did independently, all on his own.  God the Son was sent into this world by God the Father because of his love for us.

As the Son came into this world, he became incarnate.  “Incarnate” simply means he took on our human flesh.  But because he took on both a human body and a human soul, we confess that he “took upon himself true human nature.”  He took that body-soul nature upon himself.  That means he was no ordinary human being.  When we come into the world, we don’t take anything to ourselves.  We’re conceived and born helpless.  The coming of the Son of God was entirely unique.  He was active in it:  notice that he is the active subject of that sentence, “he took upon himself true human nature.”  Philippians 2:7 says it most clearly, “but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”  Our Mediator was actively involved in his incarnation:  it was attentive and deliberate action on his part.  It was part of his active obedience to the will of the Father who sent him.  This is a vitally important point and we’ll come back to it in a few minutes. 

For now, let’s continue by considering how the incarnation of our Saviour took place.  Our Catechism says he did this “from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, through the working of the Holy Spirit.”  Here we have to right away acknowledge that we’re in the realm of mystery.  There’s no clear and easy explanation as to how the eternal Son of God took on a human nature from the flesh and blood of Mary.  Though theologians have different theories, there’s no explicit biblical explanation as to how our Saviour could take on a human nature from Mary and yet remain without sin.  All we know is that this is what the Bible teaches us and in humility we accept what God says in faith. 

What is clear is that the Holy Spirit was involved.  In Luke 1:35, the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…”  Somehow, the Holy Spirit was vitally involved in the conception of Jesus.  His involvement insured that the child to be born would be both man and God, truly divine and truly human, but without sin.  Moreover, we ought also to remember the crucial truth that Mary was a virgin.  In the animal world, there are a number of creatures that are capable of fertilizing themselves, acting as both male and female.  It’s unusual, but it does happen, particularly among fish and reptiles.  But it’s unheard of among human beings.  What happened with Mary was miraculous.  The Holy Spirit, he worked a miracle through his divine power. 

In all of this, we can see how the Triune God was involved in the coming of our Lord Jesus.  The Father sent him.  The Son agreed to go and he did.  The Holy Spirit participated in his conception and guaranteed his sinlessness.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit were working together when our Lord Jesus came to earth as our Mediator.

That leads us naturally to ask why.  What motivated God in all of this?  To answer that, we can go back to what we read from 1 John 4.  The sending of our Lord Jesus is mentioned there in the context of love.  Verse 7 begins that section with a command to love one another.  Why?  Because love comes from God.  And God’s love was supremely demonstrated in what he did with Christ’s incarnation.  The first coming of Jesus Christ was a picture of God’s love for us.  God was motivated by love.  Do we know exactly what that means?  In the world in which we live, love is often confused with all sorts of other things, often in a selfish way.  Think of the expression “making love.”  Fallen humanity has vandalized love and desecrated its meaning.  But from Scripture, we know that the most striking characteristic of love is its willingness to give and sacrifice.  Isn’t that what we see most clearly in the incarnation?  Think of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…”  Love goes hand in hand with giving and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the gift of the eternal Son of God, our Mediator.  He came from God.  He came for us. 

Let’s now look in more detail at what that means and the comfort it gives us. 

There are several places in the Bible that refer to Jesus Christ as our Mediator.  One of those places is found in what we read from 1 Timothy 2.  In verse 5, we read that “…there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”  Notice how Paul draws special attention here to the human nature of Christ, “the man Christ Jesus.”  Obviously, Christ’s human nature is of critical importance for his being a mediator.  Now we might ask why that is.  Why couldn’t we have a mediator who just has a divine nature? 

To answer that, we need to consider more closely what a mediator does.  In biblical terms, a mediator is one who restores a relationship.  In this instance, the relationship being restored is between God and man and we have a special name for this relationship.  We call it the covenant.  The covenant is the relationship between God and man.  So, when we speak about Christ as our mediator, we should be clear that he is the mediator of the covenant of grace.  That’s what Hebrews 12:24 teaches us, calling Jesus “the mediator of the new covenant.”

The covenant of grace needs to have a mediator in order to function properly.  God’s justice demanded that he would eternally be angry with humanity because of their sin.  In that scenario, it would be impossible for God to have any friendly relationship with humanity at all.  And so it was necessary that we have someone who could step in and intervene on our behalf, for us.  We needed someone who wouldn’t only plead with God for us, but also satisfy God’s justice and remove every offence, past, present and future.  With such a mediator, humanity could be restored into fellowship with God.

This mediator needed to be a true man.  Remember from Lord’s Day 6 that the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned has to pay for sin.  Sin needs to be atoned for through suffering and death in body and soul.  The divine nature couldn’t suffer and die, God can’t suffer and die, therefore satisfaction of God’s wrath had to come through a man. 

But at the same time, this mediator also needed to be true God.  One who is only a man would inevitably be destroyed by the immense weight of God’s anger against sin.  And a mere man would never be able to pay the price completely to God for sin.  To restore this covenant fellowship, we needed a mediator who is both true God and true man.  In Jesus Christ, we find a mediator who has the right qualifications for the job.

Not only is he true God and true man, he was and is also completely innocent and perfectly holy.  This was also one of the qualifications needed for the mediator of the covenant of grace.  One who was himself a sinner would never be able to pay for others.  The Lamb of God who hung on the cross had to be perfectly innocent of himself. 

His sinless perfection also encourages us.  Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In that passage, we’re told that it’s comforting to know that we have someone in heaven who understands us.  He knows because he is one of us.  He has lived here on this earth.  But the good news is that the comfort goes even further.  Verse 16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Having a perfect Mediator who shares our human nature and has a divine nature means that we can go to God with faith, fully trusting that he will give us mercy and grace when we most need it. 

Loved ones, I want to show you how that truth works in two different ways.  Both of those ways will encourage and comfort you.  We confess from the Bible that we’re conceived and born in sin.  Like it or not, the Bible tells us and we know from experience that we remain sinners until the day of our natural death or until Christ returns.  However, the good news is that when we trust in the Mediator of the covenant, Jesus Christ the Righteous, we’re declared right with God.  We call that justification.  Though we remain sinners in practice, we’re declared righteous in principle.  That means that should we die or should our Lord Jesus return, we’re guaranteed a place in God’s presence.  We’re righteous in God’s sight.  Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, guarantees it.  He does that through his suffering and death, but also through his complete innocence and perfect holiness.  Reformed theologians have described that as the active obedience of Christ.  His active obedience, his complete sinlessness is credited to us, imputed to us.  When we believe in this Saviour, all the innocence and holiness of Christ covers us and God no longer sees our sin in which we were conceived and born.  The curse of sin is removed.  Here we see the awe-inspiring grace of God at work and we’re filled with praise! 

But the good news gets better in that the grace of God doesn’t stop at our justification, as if we get in fellowship with God by grace, but then we have to stay in by our good works.  Christ is the Mediator of the covenant, not only in our justification, but also in our sanctification, the process by which we grow in holiness.  Sometimes people seem to think Christ is good for the beginning of the Christian life, but then it’s up to us to power through the rest of the way.  God does his part and now we have to do ours.  However, loved ones, it is a covenant of grace.  Christ is our mediator, not only at the beginning of our Christian life (justification), but also through all the struggles with sin that follow afterwards (sanctification). 

The key teaching here is our union with Christ through faith and the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  We’re united to Christ and so his obedience throughout his life, his holiness, becomes ours not only in principle, but also increasingly in practice.  It’s so important for us to understand:  Sanctification is first of all the work of Christ.  Lord’s Day 32 captures this biblical way of thinking when it answers the question of why we must do good works by saying that “Christ having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit to be his image…”  Notice that the question is about us, but the answer is about what Christ does!  Sure, it results in also us doing something, but the focus is first on Christ and what he does!  The Mediator of the covenant not only works on God’s side of the covenant, but also on ours.  Now that’s a perfect Mediator and a great Saviour, a Saviour we can and will worship.

For each and every one of us, this is the Saviour we’re called to believe in.  Rejecting his call means covenant breaking and disfellowship, living distant from God, living at enmity with God.  Believing in Jesus Christ simply means embracing the mediator of the covenant, the only one who can bring us near to God, who can bring us into God’s family.   He is the eternal Son of God who became one of us so he could save us.  He is the Mediator of the covenant of grace who reveals to us God’s love and compassion for undeserving sinners.  Believe in him and though you die, yet you will live.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Gracious God in heaven,

How we’re filled with praise for you again this afternoon!  Who is like you, our great God?  Again you’ve shown us your love and compassion in Jesus Christ our Lord.  We thank you that in your love, you sent him into this world.  Lord Jesus, we praise you for taking on our human nature.  We praise you as the sinless one, the one who with his perfect innocence and holiness covers our sin in which we were conceived and born, the sin which continues to be so pervasive in our lives.  We praise you as the mediator of the covenant of grace.  Lord Jesus, we thank you that your perfect obedience is given to us so that we can not only be right with the Father, but also walk in holiness in increasing measures.  And Holy Spirit, we praise you that you worked the holy conception of our Lord Jesus.  We praise you for bringing all his benefits to bear in our lives.  Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we praise you as the God of our salvation.  Help us ever more to embrace Christ the Saviour.  We pray that each one of us here this afternoon would truly believe in Jesus the Mediator.  O Father, please help us with your Holy Spirit to that end. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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