Q&A: Jesus as Covenant Mediator

Jesus as Covenant Mediator

What does Jesus do as the mediator of the covenant of grace?

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Answer

Jesus' role as the mediator of the covenant of grace is really surprising. I would say first of all that the Lord Jesus is priest and sacrifice that initiates the covenant of grace, or the new covenant, if you will. What I mean by that is in Old Testament times new covenants were initiated by an act of sacrifice. You see that in Genesis 15 where Abraham divides the carcasses of five different animals as the Abrahamic covenant is announced. You see it in Exodus 24 where, with the covenant of the law, Moses takes the sacrificial blood, sprinkles on the altar and on the people and says, "Behold the blood of the covenant." New covenants were initiated in Bible times by an act of sacrifice. That's why in Hebrew the phrase "make a covenant" is literally "cut a covenant." Making a covenant required the cutting or the slaughter of a sacrificial animal. And at the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus in the Gospels explained that his sacrificial death had significance at two levels. Yes, it was an atoning sacrifice in which he suffered the wrath of the holy God for our sins in our place so that we could escape it, but he also described his death as a covenant-initiating sacrifice. His blood initiated the new covenant, he says in Matthew and Luke very clearly. So, his death is that sacrifice that brings about the new covenant era. So, Jesus is on the one hand the priest offering the sacrifice, and yet surprisingly, he is the sacrifice himself. Also as mediator of the new covenant, he, like Moses for the old covenant, proclaims the teaching, what we might call the covenant ethic. I believe he did that in the Sermon on the Mount. He describes his disciples as those who are pure in heart. They are those who have been transformed from the inside out in the power of the new covenant. And he goes on to elaborate on the righteousness that exudes from this transformed heart that God has brought about. The new covenant has a couple of elements. One is forgiveness of sin, but the other is radical transformation, and Jesus has a ministry that relates to both: his covenant-initiating sacrifice and his proclamation of the truths of the new covenant as well.

Answer by Dr. Charles L. Quarles

Dr. Charles L. Quarles is professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeaster Baptist Theological Seminary.