Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 8 Art. 4 – Our Mediator
This office the Lord Jesus most willingly undertook, and in order to discharge its obligations he was born under the law and perfectly fulfilled it. He endured most grievous torments in his soul and most painful sufferings in his body; he was crucified, died, and was buried; he remained under the power of death, yet his body did not undergo decay; and he arose from the dead on the third day with the same body in which he had suffered. In this body he ascended into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of his Father, making intercession, and he shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the age.
Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
When there is a labour dispute between workers and their employees in a large business, like a corporation, it is common to make use of mediators to resolve the stand off. They go between the bosses and the workers and try and work out a deal that ends the impasse. And not just anyone can be a mediator. I couldn’t walk up and offer to do the job. You need to have special skills and be an official mediator to that type of work.
Well, our Westminster article is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ in the office of mediator. Earlier in the service we read from Romans 5. And we read there that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” The very first verse of that chapter tells us that as believers “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Human beings in their natural state are enemies of God and there is hostility and conflict and separation between them and God. And this is because we begin life with a sinful nature. And this is not a problem that we can fix ourselves because we actually increase our guilt every day. But as we saw last time, before the creation of the world, the three persons of the Trinity agreed on a plan to save sinners. And that plan included the Lord Jesus Christ becoming the mediator between God and man.
So today we look at this passage here in Philippians where PAUL REVIEWS THE WORK OF OUR MAGNIFICENT MEDIATOR. And we do this as part of our Advent series in the weeks leading up to Christmas wanting to focus on who the Lord Jesus is and what He came to do as a call to faith and praise and joyful obedience and hope. And again, some of what we say might be well-known for some of us. But it will be new for others of us also. The point is that it is in the Bible and it is true! So just two major points – The HUMILIATION of our Magnificent Mediator and the EXALTATION of our Magnificent Mediator.
I. And we begin with the HUMILIATION of our Magnificent Mediator.
A. In v6, Paul introduces the work that the Lord Jesus did on behalf of the elect by revealing Jesus’ willingness to leave behind His position of glory and honour in heaven. There the Lord Jesus enjoyed perfect communion with His Father and received the worship of the angels and they eagerly did His bidding. But He freely and willingly gave that up in order to go to earth and do the work of salvation that began with HIS CONCEPTION AND BIRTH IN BETHLEHEM. And that is what we read about in v7 where we are told that He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
1. So let’s think about that for a moment: All human life begins with an embryo in a womb. And so it was with the time of the Lord Jesus on earth. He who ‘invented and designed’ or created DNA now took to Himself a nature made up of DNA. He who was eternal God now had to follow ordinary patterns of sleep and waking, eating and getting hungry, needing to stretch when He had a sore muscle or a crick in His neck. I’ve used this description many times in sermons before but He who dwelt in the sinless perfection of heaven now had to breath in air that stunk of sin. But to be a suitable mediator for us human beings, He had to be, as it says in Hebrews 2, “like His brothers in every respect.”
2. One commentator tried to illustrate Jesus taking a human nature to Himself with the picture of a Shepherd becoming a lamb or a rich king becoming a beggar or a doctor becoming a patient. And you may recognize in those illustrations aspects of how the Lord Jesus referred to Himself during His time on earth but none of these really come close to just how much of a stooping down it was for the eternal Son of God to take to Himself a human nature.
B. But it was not sufficient that He just have a human nature. More was needed from Him for Him to be our magnificent mediator. Verse 8 continues, “Being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And here the focus is on His OBEDIENCE, which includes the whole of His life but also and especially His death. Let’s note a few examples of how this is set before us in the Gospels:
1. Luke’s Gospel tells us that eight days after the Lord Jesus was born He was circumcised according to the law.
2. And the very next verse says this, “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [J&M] brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord … and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord.”
3. And later, at the start of His public ministry, He was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. And do you remember John’s words when Jesus asked to be baptized? He said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
4. And I wonder if you boys and girls remember the account of Jesus and the temple tax? We read about in Matthew 17. “The collectors of the … tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”” And a little later, Jesus explained to Peter that as the King of Israel He really deserved to receive tribute rather than to pay it. But He said to Peter, “Not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
Jesus, at all times and in every way, was subject to the whole ceremonial law – sacrifices, ritual cleansings, feasts, the whole package! The one who the ceremonial law pointed to became subject to all of it!
5. But He was also the author of the moral law, as summarized in 10 Commandments. But He kept the moral law perfectly also. One example is the time when the Lord Jesus was ‘lost’ in Jerusalem. His parents found Him and asked what He was doing?! And He told them He had to be about His Father’s business. But they wanted Him to come with them. 5th Commandment – “You shall honour your Father and Mother.” And He did.
6. I mentioned this verse last time but it is just as appropriate today: GALATIANS 4:4-5, “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Anyone who would seek to mediate between man and God must be perfectly obedient. And the Lord Jesus was.
C. Well, thus far we have described what is commonly called the ACTIVE obedience of the Lord Jesus – everything He actively did in order to obey the law of God. But now we come to what is commonly referred to as His PASSIVE obedience. And this consists of what v8 refers to as “the point of death, even death on a cross.” And what is in view here is THE TOTALITY OF EVERYTHING THAT JESUS WILLINGLY SUFFERED AND ENDURED AT CALVARY.
1. For there the physical pain He suffered combined with the spiritual distress to wring from Him those agonized words that He cried from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Perfect fellowship with His Father replaced by the crushing pain of God’s eternal wrath.
2. But the reason He so willingly suffered those physical and spiritual torments comes out in these words from Isaiah 53, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows … He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.”
II. So all of this is what we mean when we talk about His HUMILIATION. And this humiliation was necessary for Him to be our Magnificent Mediator. Earlier in the service though, we read this about the Promised Messiah from ISAIAH 9, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” And none of that sounds like humiliation does it! It sounds much more like EXALTATION. Well, this is what we consider next as we continue with vv9-11: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
A. Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried.” That’s what we read in our Westminster Article. But IS THAT THE END OF THE STORY? Does the story of Jesus end in the grave, boys and girls? No! As one hymnwriter put it: “Death could not keep its prey.” And another hymnwriter speaking from the perspective of the empty tomb said, “Death and I could not contain Him, for the throne of life He shares.” Isn’t that beautiful?
1. Those of us who have been to a FUNERAL know that there is no way that the person who died will walk into our house a in a few days time have raised themselves from the dead. We human beings might be clever, but resurrection is not something we can do. But Jesus rose from the dead. And while He was raised by the Father the Bible is also very clear that He raised Himself from the dead. Listen to what He said in John 10:17-18, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
2. And the reason Jesus was able to do this was because while He had a fully human nature, He also had a DIVINE nature. And so, as we read in 1 Cor. 15, “He was raised on the third day [and He appeared to the disciples and ] to more than five hundred brothers at one time.” And that, my friends, is conclusive proof that Jesus rose from the dead!
B. And soon after that, while He was with His disciples, Luke 24 tells us this: “He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” Jesus’ time on earth was concluded. Now He would live and reign in heaven. And He still, today, lives and reigns in heaven. God has indeed “highly exalted Him.”
1. In Acts 7:56, we read the vision of Stephen who said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
2. In the Book of Revelation, we read of John’s visions of the Lord Jesus in heaven:
a. Revelation 1:12-16, “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
b. Revelation 5, “I saw a lam standing, as though it had been slain … the four creatures and the twenty-four elder fell down before the lamb … and they sang a new song … Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive … honor and glory and blessing!”
c. And in Revelation 22, Jesus Himself says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.”
A few moments ago I read out the description of the Lord Jesus ascending into heaven. Well, Acts 1 tells us that while the disciples were looking up into the sky, two men stood by them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
He came to be the mediator between God and man. He came to be the person and to do the work that was needed to make it possible for us to have peace with God.
And so Brothers and Sisters, young people and boys and girls, as we go through this Christmas Season, let us sing of the baby, born in lowly circumstances, and wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, “with no crib for a bed.” But never let us forget that at that very moment on a hillside in the same region a host of heavenly angels appeared to some shepherds, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with who He is pleased.” Christmas – Humil & Exalt!
And that is why we have already sung of the Lord Jesus with these words, “Born thy people to deliver; born a child and yet a king.” And that is why we will shortly sing, “Branch of royal David’s stem in your birth at Bethlehem … God revealed at Jordan’s stream, prophet, priest and king supreme … God revealed in valiant fight, conquering the devil’s might; sins forgiven, sickness healed, life restored and God revealed … Sun and moon shall darkened be, stars shall fall, the heavens flee; Christ will then like lightning shine, all will see the glorious sign; all will then the trumpet hear, all will see the Judge appear.”
Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus is your magnificent mediator? Do you have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Because one day He will come back to this earth to judge everyone. And it will be a terrible day for all those who have not bowed their knee and confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But it will be a day of peace and joy for all those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour. Amen!