The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: M

Previous Index Next

Mediatorship of Christ

The Greek "mesites", or mediator, is derived from "mesos", in the middle. Hence "mesites" means one who finds himself between two bodies or parties.

In classical Greek "mesites" was a legal term with the meaning of the neutral place between two parties in conflict, occupied by the arbitrator who seeks to judge and settle. This may be compared with 1Co 6:5: 'Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between one and another of his brothers?' In legal terminology "mesites" had a wide range of meanings: he could be the conciliator or arbitrator in cases that had not yet come before a court of law, so as to prevent this happening; he could be the administrator or trustee for something in dispute; he was also the witness to legal business that had been settled with the responsibility of guaranteeing that the decision would be carried out. He could be a pawnbroker and sometimes a guarantor, who guarantees the liabilities of another with his own property; he could even be a negotiator, appointed by one side to establish a link with the other side and so negotiate appropriate terms (eg, in a peace treaty) (NIDNTT).

There is no single term for a mediator in OT. It was not really a question of arbitrating between the two parties, but of listening to accusation and defense and restoring the infringed law by dealing with the guilty party -- unless of course the accusation was rejected. Thus the relationship between the parties was restored. In Israel there was no civil code which would function by upholding a golden mean between conflicting interests. There was only divine law, which bound together the members of the people as fellow-men. Hence there could hardly be any real difference between an arbitrator and an official judge in Israel. Where the term appears in relation to the Jews, it means something quite different from the concept in the Gr world. The priest and prophet were mediators between God and his people, though never in the role of a neutral third party. Two mediators stand out in Israel's history. One comes at the beginning and the other is prophetic. Moses mediated salvation at the Red Sea (Exo 14:15-18). He was the mediator of the covenant at Sinai (Exo 24:4-8) and as such of the law and of revelation (Exo 33:7-11). These thoughts occur again in the prophetic picture of the awaited Servant of Yahweh (Son of God) in Isaiah. He is the bearer of God's revelation (Isa 42:1-4). God makes him the bearer of salvation to the nations (Isa 49:1-6). He bears the sin of men and blots out that sin [or perhaps more precisely, provides a basis by which those sins may be forgiven] by his suffering (Isa 52:13--53:12).

The verb form of "mediator" occurs only once in the NT: "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath" (Heb 6:17); here it has God as its subject. The noun occurs only 6 times. (a) As applied to Christ, "mesites" is qualified by "diathekes", signifying a covenant (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), or by "between God and men" (1Ti 2:5). (b) It also refers to the one who once mediated the Law of Moses -- Moses himself (Gal 3:19,20).

In the letter to the Hebrews, "mesites" has a somewhat different meaning. Here we are concerned with the surety for our attaining the promised kingdom. The promise which underlies this surety is expressed in the new covenant (diatheke). In Heb this always denotes the right instituted by God through Christ for liberation from death and sin. "Mesites", like "diatheke", has a legal function, and describes the one who procures and guarantees that right. On the one hand, this right is secured by the promise given (Heb 8:6) and, on the other hand, it is the presupposition of the fulfillment of the promise (Heb 9:15), which in any case was guaranteed by God with an oath (Heb 6:17). Strictly speaking, in Heb, then, "mesites" does not mean "mediator" or "go-between", but rather the one who "guarantees" the promises of God. This is closely akin to the concept of the covenant-victim -- the one whose sacrificial death provides a seal or guarantee of God's covenant (Mat 26:27,28; Heb 9:15-17; 13:20).

Since the Heb passages present the "mesites" as more of a "guarantor" than a "go-between", there remains only one passage in the NT where Jesus Christ is explicitly called a mediator between God and man (1Ti 2:5). The fuller context of this passage is as follows: "God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men -- the testimony given in its proper time" (1Ti 2:3-6). So, even in this passage, the concept of 'go-between' (as in prayer) seems subordinate to the concept of salvation (the "ransom") developed and implemented through Christ the means or 'medium' of God. For it is a plain teaching of the NT that salvation is only through the means of Jesus Christ: Gal 3:12-19; 2Co 5:14-19; Act 4:12; Joh 3:36; 14:6; 1Co 3:11; 1Jo 5:11,12; etc.

In summary, it may be said that the "mediation" of Christ for men is much more than as a 'go-between', and much more than as a 'conduit' for prayers. Rather, Christ is the "total package" -- the absolute and perfect representative of God, in whom is developed and revealed the fullness of God's eternal plan to be glorified in the salvation of men and women. In that sense, Christ is THE "mediator" between God and man in his life and death and resurrection and coming again -- as well as (but certainly not restricted to) his current role whilst sitting at the right hand of the Father.

Previous Index Next