RPM, Volume 16, Number 4, January 19 to January 25, 2014

Covenant Theology

Distinctive Features The Absolute Necessity of a Mediator

Sermon Number Four

By Jim Bordwine, Th.D.

Westminster Presbyterian Church
411 Chkalov Dr, Vancouver WA 98683

Introduction

Lately, I have been speaking about the distinctive features of Covenant Theology as a system of Bible interpretation and application. The first distinctive feature of this system, which corresponds to the doctrine emphasized in the Scriptures, is the Sovereignty of God. In our examination of God's sovereignty, I explained that this topic refers to fact that God possess absolute power and is free of external influences; consequently, God's His will is unrestricted.

I also emphasized that this doctrine of God's sovereignty has several significant implications. For example: if God is sovereign, then the world in which we live can be rightly studied and understood only in relation to its Creator; if God is sovereign, then the Word of this Creator must be infallible and inerrant; and, if God is sovereign, then His will is the single determining factor for the course of history, both generally and individually.

The second distinctive feature of Covenant Theology, again corresponding to the emphasis found in the Bible, was Dependence of the Creature. In that sermon, I stressed that man had a beginning and is, therefore, dependent upon God for his existence. Man will be related to God as creature to Creator forever.

I noted that man is unique in all of God's creation and only man is made in God's image and only man has been given the privilege and responsibility of subduing and ruling over God's creation. And, since man is a created being, I said that his relation to the rest of creation is properly defined only by the Creator. Therefore, man is dependent upon God to know his purpose.

We now need to ask and answer this question: Where does this information leave us as a race? On the one hand, we have an all-powerful Creator who disposes of His creation as He wills. On the other hand, we have man, created in the image of God and assigned the task of ruling over God's creation, but now existing in a corrupted state. When Adam disobeyed God, the Creator-creature relationship was disrupted; every part of creation was affected and thrown out of place by man's transgression. I ask again, therefore, where does this leave us?

Scripture presents only one solution to fallen man's dilemma, one response to the division that exists between God, the Creator and man, the sinner. The conclusion is that there is a need for a Mediator, someone to bring about man's reconciliation to his Creator so that man could be and do what God originally intended.

Without such a Mediator, the breach between God and man could not be repaired. The sovereign Creator is also holy; He is righteous in His person and ways. The fallen creature, by contrast, is unholy; he is unrighteous in his person and ways. As the Bible says, God provided the needed Mediator in His own Son, Jesus Christ.

3. The Absolute Necessity of a Mediator

The necessity of a Mediator between God and fallen man appeared immediately following Adam's transgression in Eden. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden by their Creator. They were given an assignment to exercise dominion over the earth. God provided for all their needs.

As a symbol of the Creator-creature relationship, God commanded Adam not to eat from a particular tree; and He solemnly warned him: "...From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:16, 17)

As we know, Adam did not obey the voice of the Lord and did eat from the forbidden tree. In His remarks to the serpent, following Adam's sin, God said: "...Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. " (Gen. 3:14, 15)

God promises a struggle between the seed of Satan and the seed of the woman that will result in the eventual destruction of Satan. History is the continuing revelation of this conflict. God's decree regarding a Mediator who would save His people and defeat Satan is unfolding as years and centuries come and go. We understand that the One alluded to by God is, of course, Jesus Christ, the offspring of Eve.

Later revelation from God portrays a complete victory of the Mediator over Satan. In the book of First John, for example, we read: "...The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8) The book of Hebrews contains the declaration that Jesus Christ rendered Satan "powerless."

Such Scriptural examples could be multiplied, but I want to mention only one more, which is Rom. 16:20. In this verse, Paul says: "And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet..." This indicates that Christ is, indeed, the One suggested by Gen. 3:15; further, it shows that the people of God share in the glorious triumph of Christ. They do this as they live and preach the gospel of restoration; this is a message to the whole world saying that God has kept the promise made in the hearing of Adam, Eve and the serpent.

Christ's work on the cross was the destruction of Satan and his kingdom; at the same time, it was the conquest of the people of God, a conquest that even now is being witnessed as the kingdom of Christ expands to encompass the kingdoms of this world. From the very beginning of time, therefore, we see the necessity of a Mediator; and, from the beginning of time, we have the sure promise of God that such a Mediator would come and restore fallen man so that he might again live in harmony with his Creator. From Genesis through Revelation, the fulfillment of God's promise is recorded.

There is a passage that sets the necessity and work of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, against the background of man's fall in Eden. This passage is, perhaps, one of the clearest explanations of the necessity of a Mediator. I am referring to Rom. 5:12 ff. In the context, Paul has taught that all men, Jew and Gentile, are sinners. He has written about the depraved state of fallen man. Just before our passage, the apostle has been speaking about the doctrine of justification by faith.

After making the statement that we are justified by faith and have, therefore, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul explains that believers are saved from the wrath of God through Him. It is at this point that Paul explains the relationship between Adam and Christ. By contrasting the legacies of the two, he shows the necessity of a Mediator.

The apostle says that sin entered this world through one man, Adam, and with sin came death (Rom. 5:12). This is just what God warned: "...from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:17) Adam did not heed God's command and that was sin; and that sin disrupted the relationship between the Creator and man and that disruption meant certain death. Adam's rebellion against the Creator was a declaration of independence from the Creator-creature relationship. The result, however, was that Adam cut himself off from the Creator and he began to die.

Because Adam was the father of the human race and because he was, by God's appointment, the representative for all his posterity, the consequences of Adam's actions affected the whole human race. From the time of the fall, every human being has been conceived in sin; that is, every human being has inherited a corruption of the soul from our father Adam. This is what Paul means when he says: "...so death spread to all men, because all sinned..." Adam was our head and the consequences of his actions involved us.

And so, the apostle continues, even before God gave His law and revealed the nature of sin, the result of Adam's sin, which is death, "reigned." (cf. vv. 13, 14) Death began stalking the human race from the moment Adam determined that he would taste of that forbidden fruit. The presence of death in this world signals that something is not right; something has disrupted God's orderly creation. The death that gripped Adam and his descendants was not physical death only.

It also was spiritual death, which was the termination of Adam's communion with God. Adam could no longer enjoy fellowship with God; in fact, Adam could not even remain in the presence of God. Adam was banished from Eden to symbolize the destruction that had taken place. Man left the Garden under condemnation.

Paul writes that by the transgression of one the many died; and because one sinned, judgment came resulting in the condemnation of all; and death reigned over all because of the transgression of one. This is what happened to man, the creature made in God's image. Adam found himself standing outside the Garden, forbidden to enter and resume fellowship with God. Stained by sin, man could not approach his holy Creator. There was no hope for fallen man except the coming of a Mediator; this Figure had to be able to remake what had been destroyed.

Everything that Paul says in this passage underscores the necessity of a Mediator. Man had no hope, no way of returning to Eden. The whole human race was plunged into a state of sin and misery, a state in which man was helpless. Something had to be done for man, not by man. And this is the key thought that has become so confused and misleading in our sinful deliberations. Fallen man assumes that he must do something; he does not assume something must be done for him.

The gospel explains that God has done something for man and He did not leave man by himself to attempt a repair. This is what God was promising in Gen. 3:15. God provided a Second Adam. As a Mediator, this Second Adam came and brought life for Adam's death; He brought justification for Adam's condemnation. Adam's transgression meant the condemnation of all, but the one act of righteousness by Jesus Christ resulted in justification of life to all (v. 18). The one man's disobedience made us all sinners, liable to the wrath of a holy God; but another Man's obedience resulted in the many being made righteous (v. 19). Sin reigned in death, Paul concludes, but grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (v. 20).

Without the Mediator, Jesus Christ, you would have to remove much of what Paul says in this passage. You would be left with his thorough and frightening indictment of fallen man, but you would not have his encouraging words about God's gift of salvation. Without a Mediator, fallen man would have perished eternally. Without Jesus Christ, death would still be reigning and man would still be subject to that horrible master. Without our Savior, the human race would yet be in the unbearable darkness of condemnation.

Paul teaches, therefore, that Adam, as the head of the human race, sinned against God and brought condemnation upon us all. God, in His great mercy, sent His own Son as the Head of a new humanity to reclaim and restore what was lost in Adam. If this is true, there are several implications to be faced. First, no one comes into this world untouched by Adam's transgression; every human being bears the guilt of our father's sin in the Garden of Eden; this guilt is known as original sin and from this original sin comes every sin we, ourselves, commit in this life. This is why David said, "In sin my mother conceived me." (Psa. 51:5); it is why Paul says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23); and it is why Jesus said, "You must be born again." (John 3:7)

Second, there is nothing that man can do to restore himself before God; this makes a Mediator absolutely necessary. This is why Paul says, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." (Rom. 3:10, 11); this is why, in another place, Paul writes, "You were dead in your trespasses and sins..." (Eph. 2:1); and this is why Jesus said, "No man can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him." (John 6:44)

Third, there is one and only one Mediator promised, identified and accepted by God; that Mediator is His own Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Bible says, "There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5); and John writes, "Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

Fourth, if a son of Adam is to become a son of God, he must come through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. This is the message we find repeated in the Bible. Consequently, Paul says that we are justified as a gift of God's grace through the redemption, which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24); and, later in the same epistle, "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1). To these statements, John added, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are." (1 John 3:1)

Covenant Theology, as a system of interpreting and applying the Bible, maintains these implications throughout the system. Consequently, whether we discuss evangelism, raising children, worshiping God, fulfilling our vocation or some other subject, the absolute necessity of a Mediator, with all of its ramifications, is always in the background. This great Biblical truth about our need of a Mediator is constantly influencing the conclusions we reach in all these areas and is constantly influencing the manner in which we seek to do our duty before the Lord in all these areas.

The important issues I've just mentioned are not considered by themselves, but only in relation to what the Bible tells us about the human condition and God's provision of salvation. This is why Covenant Theology is recognized as a logical, well-ordered system of Biblical interpretation; it maintains the connections between the many doctrines of the Bible and the important questions we all face in life.

Other approaches to the Bible see a multitude of teachings that have no unifying element except that they are found in the same book. This means that each of those doctrines is then applied apart from the others and this leads to all kinds of incomplete, and even destructive, beliefs among Christians.

Application

In the application, I want to offer a brief remark or two about Gen. 3:15. The verse says: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." As we read this verse, recorded so early in our existence as a race, we cannot help but see that God's promise of a struggle between two parties is a description of the entire span of history. As the centuries come and go, there is one monumental confrontation taking place; it is a confrontation between good and evil or, to be more precise, between Christ and anti-Christ.

This spiritual war rages on and is manifested in various smaller and less extensive local skirmishes?like a country's struggle to survive moral chaos or your personal battle with temptation. My point is, history, whether measured by centuries, decades, years, months or days, cannot be separated from the promise and purpose of God stated so plainly in Gen. 3:15.

Several things can happen when we lose sight of this truth. For example, confusion about the nature and direction of history is bound to exist if we forget the teaching of Gen. 3:15. Or, we might find ourselves unable to comprehend the purpose for our own lives if we ignore Gen. 3:15. This verse explains what is going on in the world today; without it and all that it implies, which is the subject of the rest of the Bible, we are left without explanations, without hope.

Without Gen. 3:15, we find ourselves moving swiftly into relativism; morality is established by public opinion and has no fixed point of reference. If history has no meaning, if history is nothing but a series of random episodes that bear no logical relationship to one another, then nothing has meaning. Man's only purpose then becomes his own satisfaction. This phenomenon can be observed right now.

As a system of studying the Bible, Covenant Theology sees the truth of Gen. 3:15, that is, the truth of the gospel of God's grace, governing all of history. Each day, year, decade, century and millennium is part of what God predicted. If this is true, then, of course, there are several useful implications. For example, Gen. 3:15 assures us that history does have purpose; it does make sense and it will have a point of termination.

This verse also clearly distinguishes between the godly and the ungodly; there is no such thing as spiritual neutrality. In a sense, history is the "sorting out" process whereby the elect of God are identified and prepared for heaven, while the non-elect are likewise identified and confirmed in their wickedness.

The content and placement of Gen. 3:15 gives hope. God leaves no doubt regarding the outcome of this struggle between Christ and anti-Christ. Satan surely will be defeated?Satan surely has been defeated; there can be no other conclusion to history because God has spoken. Remember our last two sermons: the Sovereignty of God and the Dependence of the Creature. It is a sovereign God who made this promise in Gen. 3:15. Can it be interrupted or prevented from fulfillment? No, because God is sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise.

After that, I spoke about our dependence on our Creator. If we are unable to deliver ourselves from condemnation, but a sovereign God promises to save us, should we count on that promise? Yes, of course! Today's topic, the necessity of a Mediator is proof that the promise a sovereign God made to a helpless and completely dependent race of human beings, is being fulfilled.

Let me add that Gen. 3:15 prevents aimlessness in life. Why are you here? You are here to take part in the great spiritual war indicated by God. You are here to take your place in the ranks of Christ's army; you are here to take up the weapon of His gospel and destroy every lofty thing raised up against Him (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5). This is our purpose as individuals, as families, and as a congregation.

Salvation is personal, yes, and it brings us freedom from condemnation and death; but there are also cosmic aspects to our salvation. God is saving a whole race, not just a few scattered individuals. God is overcoming, banishing, destroying, obliterating Satan and his forces. He's not simply weakening the empire of evil. There will come a day in which the redeemed will constitute a saved humanity. We will stand with our Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

And, of course, Gen. 3:15 is at the heart of my main subject today, which is the necessity of a Mediator. The promise made by God in that verse depends upon the "enmity" that would stand between the godly and the ungodly. How necessary is Christ the Mediator, therefore? History depends upon His existence; history is the record of His triumph over the crafty serpent who misled our first parents. Christ is not an "addition" to history or even a dominant figure in history; Christ is history. History is the account of the Mediator's work.

History has three segments: the period before the Incarnation, during which the Mediator was anticipated and His work predicted; the period of the Incarnation, during which the essential work of Christ, that is, the atonement, was accomplished, and the foundation was laid for a world-wide, visible organization that would broadcast news of that atonement to all people; and the period after the Incarnation, during which Christ is reigning and putting all His enemies under His feet in preparation for that great day when His kingdom will be handed over to God the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24 ff.).

You have to wonder how many Christians look at life this way. It's obvious that unbelievers don't think this way?just look at the many opinions they offer regarding the nature and purpose of history. But, sadly, many of us have been deceived into thinking that there is "regular" history and then there is Church history, as though the latter takes place within the bounds of the former. This is an unbiblical notion. History is a unified whole; it is, as I've stated, the record of God's fulfillment of the promise made in Gen. 3:15.

If more believers would start ordering their lives according the sure promise of Gen. 3:15, we would see extraordinary changes in the moral climate of our land and in the influence of the Church. As it stands now, however, the Church, by and large, is offering no challenge to the pagan concept of history and, therefore, is conceding the battle to the enemy. Unless this changes, it will remain for a future generation of Christians to take up the promise of Gen. 3:15 and correct the world's misunderstanding.

At this very moment, you are in one of two camps�"the camp of the King and Mediator, or the camp of His foe, the devil. Everyone is involved at some level in this conflict�"every adult, every married couple, every family, every child, every home, and every church. The most important question that could ever be asked of a person is this: To which camp do you belong?

Let me speak first to those who are unsure. Understand that you are not neutral; if you are not for Christ, then you are against Him. And if you are not in His camp, your future is dark. You will live out your days and die in your sins. And then you will know the end of all those condemned by a holy God. But God welcomes any who flee this camp of doom. You know what God has given to us in Christ Jesus. You know Jesus gave Himself to die in the place of sinners so that they would never have to face God's judgment. This is a gift provided by God to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't delay. You are serving a defeated leader.

To those who know for a fact that you are secure in the camp of Jesus Christ, let me say that you must understand that we are at war. In first Cor. 9, Paul compares his service as an apostle to being a soldier in an army. In Phil. 2 and in the book of Philemon, he refers to fellow-workers as soldiers. In 2 Tim. 2, the apostle exhorts young Timothy to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. And, of course, in that well-known passage found in Eph. 6, Paul describes the armor of the Christian and it is armor designed for warfare! We do not live in a time of peace, Christian. We live in a time of raging battle.

You need to embrace the attitude, the determination, and the vision of a soldier. A good soldier is tough, a good soldier doesn't give up, and a soldier fixes his eyes on victory. Get busy and do your duty. Pray that God will establish in your heart the urgency of the hour so that you will make use of every day to overcome all aspects of wickedness in your life and home, and make use of all the time God has given you to prepare the next generation of soldiers who will follow us and keep taking territory from the enemy.

Let the banner of the Slain Lamb fly proudly over your abode. Under no circumstance surrender that flag and teach your children to defend it to the point of death. It is much better to die on the battlefield as a soldier of Jesus Christ, than to live out a life that does nothing to put the enemy to flight.

Prayer

Hymn for Communion

Conclusion (preparation for the Lord's Supper)

The Lord's Supper is testimony to us that God kept the promise made in Gen. 3:15. This sacrament portrays the once-for-all triumph of our Savior over Satan. It speaks to us of our release from the bondage of sin and of our part in all the blessings of redemption. This sacrament says that Jesus Christ, as the Second Adam, remained faithful in His covenant testing and, therefore, won for all of His people, forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.

The elements that we are about to receive represent the body and blood of the Savior. Their consumption symbolizes our dependence upon Christ for life and perseverance. As we partake of these elements together, our unity as a body, as a body with one Head, is emphasized.

As you receive these elements, give thanks to God for the fulfillment of that promise He made so long ago in the Garden. Give thanks for the certainty that His promise brings to life. And examine your life to see whether you are participating as you should in the manifestation of this promise by presenting yourself as a living sacrifice, fit for God's use.

Matthew 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
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