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Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” 

I Timothy 2:5

Such is the gospel proclamation of salvation to all who believe.

It is the only way of salvation.

There is one Mediator, one Savior.

There is one God, who alone determines the who and the how of salvation.

We have received grace to see ourselves as we stand before the great and holy God, who is perfectly righteous in all His judgments. None can escape the punishment of His wrath against sin. He will have His justice satisfied.

We understand the impossibility of making that satisfaction ourselves. Far from making even a single payment toward the decrease of the debt we have incurred toward God, we daily increase our debt.

And should we turn to any other mere creature to make payment for us, we shall find that God will not punish any other creature for the sin which you and I have committed.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4).

Further, no mere creature can possibly sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against our sin. As our sins brought an offense against the infinite majesty and holiness of God, they incurred an infinite measure of His wrath. That wrath is a consuming fire!

But the gospel which we proclaim reveals something incomparably wonderful!

God Himself has provided a way out for us who are hopelessly lost in sin and death. That way out is a Substitute who alone is able to make satisfaction for us. He is the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

The Man

The Mediator must be true man.

That means that He must be like us, flesh and blood, with a real human body. It means that in the body our Mediator must live in contact with the same world in which you and I live. He must face the same temptations, being tempted in all things like as we are, as we read in Hebrews 4:15.

He must also have a real human soul, for the soul and body of man are one and inseparable. In His thinking and willing, in His entire being, He must be a man like we are men.

Why is that necessary?

In the first place, the One who is to save us must fulfill the very law of God which we could not keep.

God created man in His own image and gave him life within a certain sphere. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

Just as the fish has life in the sphere of the water, and dies as soon as it jumps or is taken out of that sphere, you and I have life within the sphere of obedience to God’s law.

And the fact that we did not keep God’s law does not cause God to change. He is the unchangeable One. He will never retract His law. Therefore, the Mediator must also be One who bears the same human nature, whose life is to live within the sphere of God’s law, obeying God with body and soul.

In the second place, the Mediator must be a man as we are men because God, pointing to the forbidden tree, said to Adam, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The Just One requires that the human nature which has sinned shall either make satisfaction in full, and so be restored to favor, or else that the sinner be made to bear the consequences of his sin both now and forever.

Man, human nature, sinned and contracted the debt. Man must now pay that debt in order to satisfy God’s justice. There is no alternative.

When you understand that, then you can also understand the joy of the church as expressed in the song of rejoicing (Is. 9:6), “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”

This child that must be born, this Son of man, brings great joy to all those who look for Him, because He is the fulfillment of that which was promised the church in the Old Testament. Israel was shown that her Redeemer must also be the kinsman of His people.

In Leviticus 25 we read in the law which was the schoolmaster to lead God’s people to Christ, that one who had become a poverty stricken servant could be redeemed by his kinsman. When Naomi said to Ruth concerning Boaz in Ruth 2:20, “This man is near of kin to us, one of our next kinsman,” she was pointing to a picture of the wonder of our redemption in Christ Jesus.

We who are redeemed must be able to look to our Mediator and say, “He is our flesh and blood, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.”

Finally, our Mediator must be very man in order that He might serve as our High Priest and our sacrifice. The Book of Hebrews has much to say about Christ as our High Priest and sacrifice. The One who is our Mediator must be very man, like unto us in all things, sin excepted. He must be true man, in order that He may be the fulfillment of the typical priesthood of old, “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way” (Heb. 5:1,2), and who may offer up the sacrifice of His body once for all.

The one Mediator between God and man is the man Christ Jesus.

The Righteous Man

But it is not enough merely to say that the Mediator must be a man. He must also be a perfectly righteous man.

He must be a man; but He must be a man without guilt — without original guilt and without actual guilt.

Original guilt is that which is imputed to us from Adam. Actual guilt is that guilt which we pile up day after day with our own sins.

Guilt is imputed to every man from Adam on. But the Man who will serve as our Mediator must be a man without guilt.

It stands to reason. Can one who is already bankrupt himself pay the debt for someone else?

All mankind has sinned in Adam our head and father. We have seen that truth from Romans 5 and other passages. One who is himself a sinner cannot possibly appear before God to satisfy for others.

Our Mediator must be indeed the Righteous Branch, prophesied by Jeremiah; a man, but a perfectly righteous man.

How then can we be saved?

Where shall we find such a man?

God Himself must provide that Mediator.

God Himself must become flesh!

Very God

Our Mediator, the only Mediator, is Jehovah-salvation.

His name is Jesus.

He is very God.

For one thing, that is the only possibility of Him serving as our Mediator. Our Mediator must not inherit the guilt of Adam. He must not come under the imputation of Adam’s guilt. He must be righteous, perfectly righteous.

We must remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine person. If Christ were a human person, He could not escape the imputation of Adam’s guilt.

Guilt is imputed to the person — not to the nature, but to the person. And if the guilt of Adam should be imputed to Christ, He could not save us. But Christ is a divine person.

He is God, God in the flesh, Immanuel.

No other Christ can save us.

Christ did not inherit our guilt. He did not.

He took it upon Himself.

Christ did not merely come forth from the human race, as we do.

Our Lord Jesus Christ entered the human race. The human and divine natures were united in the one person of Christ Jesus, as He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary.

That our Mediator is very God is also necessary if He is to sustain the eternal and infinite burden of God’s wrath against us.

How terrible is that wrath of God!

We really have little conception of that wrath. We can sing with Moses in Psalm 90, “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath.” But even when we sing that from the heart, that song is evidence of the truth that we have experienced God’s mercy.

We cannot conceive of the wrath which our Mediator had to bear.

It was God’s infinite wrath.

If we had to bear that wrath of God, we would be crushed in a moment, as a moth underfoot. Or, to use a biblical expression, we would be consumed as stubble in the fire.

Some years back, in a conversation I had with an impenitent sinner who had sunk into the deep mire of sin, that individual made the comment, “I think I have come near the bottom.” To my sorrow, the statement was not made in sorrow of repentance, but as a simple statement of fact from a hard heart.

I said, “If only you were saying that while seeing your situation through spiritual eyes of faith, eyes enlightened by the living Spirit of Christ through the Word. For then you would see that what you think is bottom has been nothing compared to the infinite and eternal wrath of the living God. Oh, that you would see your sin for what it is.”

That wrath of God is what you and I would also face, except that the one Mediator is God in the flesh.

One more thing. Our Mediator must be God, in order to merit for us and apply to us the everlasting life of fellowship with the blessed covenant God.

He must obtain our righteousness.

He must obtain that kingly robe, that white robe of righteousness which must cover every man, woman, and child of His entire elect family.

He must clothe us in such a way that God declares of us in time as well as in eternity, “I see no sin in my Jacob, and no iniquity in my Israel.”

But the only way in which that Mediator can so clothe us is by living a perfectly holy life in all obedience to the law of the holy and righteous God, loving Him perfectly with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Do you see how absolutely impossible this task is for a mere man?

He must live sinlessly in this wicked world which is full of deceit. A sinless life must characterize our Mediator.

He must indeed be very God.

He must also defeat the powers of this world.

We confess of the Christ that He obtained the victory. But we don’t see that complete victory yet. We live in the valley of the shadow of death, afflicted, tempted on every side, and moving steadily closer to death.

Our Mediator must defeat the powers of Satan and the sting of death.

And accomplishing that victory, He must apply the salvation which He has merited. He must apply it to our lives and consciousness, that God might receive the praise and glory that is due to Him. The Christ must mold us as His workmanship, as those who show forth the praise of our Redeemer.

For this work our Mediator must be very God.

We must believe in Him, put our trust in Him, rely upon Him for time and eternity. We must pray through Him, love and praise and glorify and thank God through Him.

We cannot do this, if He is a mere man.

God and man in unity of divine Person — He is the one Mediator who gave Himself a ransom for us and all His own.

And as we must see: Apart from Him there is no salvation.