Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man? For this question we, perhaps, had been looking for some time. We probably grew impatient with the Catechism as it discussed the hopelessness of our condition, the impossibility of salvation on our part, and the question of a possible Mediator, the necessity of His being true and eternal God and real righteous man in one person. And all the while we were left groping in the darkness of our sin and misery. Yet, we saw how essential it is for the maintenance of the true doctrine concerning our salvation that these matters be emphasized, and not lightly passed over. For, on the one hand, it must be clearly and fully understood, before we can even begin to speak of a Savior and salvation, that with us the matter is strictly without hope. In no sense can we accomplish our own salvation, or any part of it. And, on the other hand, we must see sharply and clearly that no other Mediator than the Christ of the Scriptures can possibly help us, so that to falsify this Christ, to adulterate the truth concerning Him as revealed to us in the holy gospel, is to shut out all possibility of salvation. The questions the Heidelberg Catechism thus far discussed may appear abstract and academic, they are, nevertheless, intensely practical, questions of life and death. However, now it has been clearly demonstrated and firmly established that we need just such a Mediator, who is both God and man, and that, too, a righteous man, the Catechism all of a sudden unveils before our longing eyes the complete figure of a real and only Mediator of God and man, in all the fullness of His glory and blessings of salvation! For in answer to the question: “Who then is that Mediator?” it declares: “Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption’.”
In this procedure of the Catechism, according to which it now places us at once before the Christ in all His fullness and significance, before it explains Him in the details of His blessedness, there is an underlying truth to which we may well call attention. It is this, that faith receives and embraces Christ Himself, before it can possibly appropriate any of the blessings of salvation, yea, even before it fully understands the significance of His Person and work. Christ Himself is the fullness of our salvation. It is Himself we receive. Himself He imparts to us through faith by His Spirit. We do not receive Him piecemeal, bit by bit; we do not receive the blessings of salvation one by one until gradually we have appropriated the whole Christ and all His benefits: we receive Him! Into Him we are engrafted by a true faith. Members of His body we do become, both legally and organically by that same faith. And when thus we have become His possession, one plant with Him, we possess Him in all His fullness. We say “Our Lord Jesus Christ!” And that is our salvation. We may grow in the knowledge of Him through the Holy Scriptures. And growing in knowledge we may attain to a fuller understanding of the confession expressed in the words: our Lord Jesus Christ. But although we may, and actually do, thus grow in grace and in the enjoyment of the liberty we have in Christ, from the very first moment of our being grafted into Him, our faith lays hold on Him, on the whole of Him. To say “our Lord Jesus Christ,” is, indeed, to be saved! To say that Jesus is Lord, our Lord, is to possess Him, all at once, in all the fullness of His grace! For that reason the method followed by the Catechism is quite correct, It will explain all the implications of the answer it here gives in future chapters. But here it confronts the faith of the Christian with the full Christ, in order that from the depths of our misery we may at once rise to the heights of complete salvation by appropriating Him, and confessing in spiritual joy: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ!”
To expound this answer in all its implications this is not the place. It would mean to explain all the details of the doctrine concerning our salvation. And this is to be done in succeeding chapters. Here we must be satisfied with the main features of this Christ as they are drawn before the eyes of our faith by the Catechism in a few bold strokes. The answer here given is literally taken from: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” The general meaning of this text is plain: Christ is our all, our complete redemption. There is a question, however, as to the relation between the various concepts occurring in the text: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption. The question is especially whether wisdom is to be regarded as the main concept, so that the other three: righteousness, sanctification, redemption, are explanations of this one term. The Revised Version suggests this meaning in a marginal note that would translate the text thus: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And there is something in favor of this interpretation. For, first of all, in the context the apostle had emphasized this notion of wisdom, in fact, it may be said to be the main theme of the chapter from verse eighteen to the end. The wisdom of the world is contrasted with the wisdom of God in the “foolishness” of preaching. “God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world. For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through (its) wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” vss. 20, 21. Moreover, this wisdom of God is power, power to save, which seems to favor the idea that in vs. 30 also wisdom is looked upon as a power of righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, “Seeing that the Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” vss. 22-25. And the order in the original of verse 30 seems to favor somewhat the translation as suggested by the marginal note of the Revised Version. However, these arguments are not conclusive. In fact, if the apostle had meant to give the last three terms as explanations of the term sophia, wisdom, he could, and in all probability would have expressed himself more clearly and precisely. However, in the original the terms righteousness and sanctification are certainly more closely connected with each other than with either wisdom or redemption. And, therefore, we would favor the translation: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, also both righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”
One more remark we must make about the relative ’position and value of the various terms in the text. It cannot but draw our attention that the word redemption stands at the end of the series. However, in the work of salvation redemption is not last, but first Christ is first our redemption, and because He is our redemption He is our wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification. For redemption is the purchasing free of one that is in bondage, the effecting of one’s release by paying the price, the ransom. Now, it is clear from all Scripture that this is first, and basic for all the other blessings of grace. Redemption presupposes that we are guilty, and that we are legally in the bondage of sin and death. We have no right to be delivered from that bondage. We are legally shut up in the prison of the lie, of unrighteousness and corruption. If, then, we are to be liberated, the price, the ransom must be paid for us. Before we even can have the right to become partakers of wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, we must be redeemed. This price of our redemption was paid for us by Christ on the accursed tree, where He bore the punishment of our sin in most perfect obedience to the Father. And because of this, on the basis of this, He is also become our wisdom, our righteousness, and our sanctification. That the word redemption has the last place in the series of terms, therefore, is not because it is actually last, but because it has the emphasis. Christ is become our wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, because He is our redemption.
A more beautiful passage of Scripture the Heidelberg Catechism could not very well ha e selected for its present purpose than the text from first Corinthians. For, as we have stated, it is the purpose of our instructor to place before us all at once the fullness of the Christ in all the riches of His salvation. And for this the text from Corinthians is eminently fit. For notice that the text does not state merely what Jesus did for us, or still does for us, nor even what He gives unto us, but what He is to us. He is made or become unto us wisdom, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. He is all this for us. The Christ of the Scriptures, the Son of God come into the flesh, born of a virgin, Who sojourned among us and revealed the Father unto us, Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified on Golgotha, buried in the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, was raised on the third day, ascended into the highest heavens from the Mount of Olives, and was exalted by the mighty power of God on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, far above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named both in this world and in the world to come,—that Christ ‘is unto us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. O, indeed, He merited this all for us by His work of perfect obedience; He revealed it all to us both personally and through the prophets and apostles; He gives all this to us, making us partakers of it all through the Spirit that was given unto Him and that was poured out into the Church. But even this does not fully explain what is expressed in the text: He was made, He became unto us wisdom, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. He is our all! To lay hold on Him by faith is to appropriate wisdom, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. To see ourselves by faith in Him, is to see ourselves filled with wisdom, perfectly liberated from the bondage of sin, righteous and holy. To know Him is to know the wisdom of God; to trust in Him is to be righteous, and holy, and free. To possess Him is to possess salvation, righteousness, and eternal life and glory!
And the terms employed here do, indeed, express a fullness of salvation. Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Mediator we need, and beyond Him we need none other. For we are guilty, and to blot out our guilt by complete satisfaction of the justice of God is absolutely required in order to be restored to the favor of God. And this we could never do in ourselves. We need, therefore, one that is our redemption. And this is our Lord Jesus Christ, who was delivered for our transgressions, and raised for our justification. To believe in Him is to be liberated from the dominion of sin according to God’s own justice. But redemption is not enough. We are actually in the prison of sin, dead through trespasses, and we must be delivered. We are blind, and our mind is in darkness. We are slaves of the lie, in bondage to the foolishness of spiritual ignorance. We grope in darkness, we hate the good, we hold the truth under in unrighteousness. And moreover, we exist in a world in which the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, and from the testimony of that wrath there is no escape. There is no way out. No philosophy of man can help us. “The world by its wisdom knew not God.” But Christ is our wisdom! Not only did He reveal the Father unto us, and did He make known the full counsel of salvation, but He Himself, in His Person and work, is the wisdom of God; and by His Spirit and grace through faith He is our wisdom. He is the light in our darkness, the solution of all mysteries, the way out of sin and death into the light of life! He is our righteousness and sanctification. In the judgment of God we stand condemned in ourselves, both because of our original and our actual sins. But Christ is our righteousness, and, therefore, our eternal life. For in Him there is a righteousness that far transcends the righteousness of the first Adam before the fall. He Himself, the Christ of the Scriptures, is that righteousness that is worthiness of glory and immortality. And in ourselves we are dead in sin, polluted and defiled, hating God and hating one another, seeking the things of the flesh rather than the things that are above. But Christ is our sanctification, our complete purification, and our consecration to the living God. No, indeed, if the instructor of our Catechism purposed to bring before us all at once the image or revelation of the full Christ in all His glory and power of salvation, it could not do better than quote this significant passage from First Corinthians.
We must note, too, that in this answer of the Heidelberg Catechism it is emphasized that this Mediator is all of God. In fact, this is one of the main thoughts in the text as it is found in Corinthians. O, indeed, it is our salvation that is accomplished through this “Lord Jesus Christ.” But even that salvation is not the chief purpose of this Mediator and His revelation. On the contrary, the wisdom of the world must be made foolish, and the power of the world must be put to naught. It must be revealed that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. And, therefore, “God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to naught the things that are.” vss. 27-28. For no flesh may ever glory before God, but he that glorieth must glory in the Lord. Hence, this Mediator is made unto us all that He is from God. He is Mediator, indeed, but not one whom we interposed between God and ourselves, or whom we appointed or requested or even desired and sought that He might act in our behalf with the Most High. He mediates in our behalf, but not as a third party that places himself between two contending parties in order to reconcile them. He is from God! There is nothing in Him that is to be attributed to us. God’s Mediator is He, made of God and wholly commissioned by God in order to accomplish the things of God, even in behalf of us.
For notice that He became, or was made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, and that this is all from God. He became all this unto us by a wonder of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and according to His eternal good pleasure. For it was determined from before the foundation of the world that the Son should be the revelation of all the fullness of God, the first born of every creature, and the first begotten of the dead. And to Him was given the Church, for we are chosen in Him (), that He might redeem that Church unto Himself and to God, and through the deep way of death might justify, and purify, and glorify that Church; in order that the fullness of God’s glory, dwelling in Him, might be revealed in manifold reflections of grace and beauty through the millions upon millions of the members of His body. And thus He was, from before the foundation of the world, made wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, and that, too, unto us that that are chosen in Him. And all this was realized in time. From God He became or was made the fullness of salvation, righteousness, and eternal life. He became all this from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross of Golgotha, and through the death of the cross into the highest glory of his position at the right hand of the Most High. And all this was the work of God. The incarnation of the Word, the work of Jesus’ ministry, the death of the Son of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, His ascension into heaven and His exaltation far above all principalities and powers,—all this belongs to His becoming or being made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. Not until He travelled the way from the incarnation through death to glory is “Our Lord Jesus Christ’’ perfected, completed, fully made, as the revelation of the God of our salvation. And not until this glorious Lord has received the Spirit of promise, and poured out that Spirit into the Church, is He become salvation unto us. And all this is of God, of the triune God. Of The Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, are all the works of God, both in creation and in redemption. And of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, i.e. of the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, are the incarnation, and the ministry, the death and resurrection, the ascension and the exaltation, and the outpouring of the Spirit, of “our Lord Jesus Christ.’’ And so it is all of God, even also that we are in Him. For “of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.’’ He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!