THE MEDIATING LAMB: VII
The Lamb is the bridge between God and man. The Lamb is “God’s Olive Branch” that is offered to man. Only, “God’s Olive Branch” has conditions, which the Lamb mediates to the offenders and to the transgressors for God’s acceptance. The atonement does not take in effect until the guilty party complies and accepts the Lamb’s conditions. Therefore, the conditions of acceptance qualify the sinner for atonement. The atonement sets the sinner free from his obligation to pay for his or her crime. Revelation, chapter five, has the scene in heaven where the Lamb is the only “One” who can accept the charges of which man is being accused of.
And I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by the blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:1-14).
The apostle Paul understood the mediating role of Christ and the atoned or the redeemed followers and the community. It is not just the Lamb who has to mediate a redemptive role, but also the members of Christ’s followers must put that redemptive role into practice each day of their lives.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (I Timothy 2:1-7).
Paul explained Christ’s mediating role to the Roman believers in Romans chapter five. Translators of the Greek text insist that the words “katelllagemen, or katallagentes, or katallagen” mean “reconciliation.” Here is the problem; for man has nothing to give to God that would or possibly could bring about reconciliation. The wages for his sins require the death penalty (Romans 6:23). The lamb did not die for God, but for man to secure a pardon and atonement by paying with his life for a life to obtain forgiveness and reconciliation. It was in that sense that the Romans understood Paul in the Greek text and so should we.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation (Romans 5:1-11).
Another early Christian writer who understood Paul was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, he left us these words:
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Hence even the first covenant was not ratified without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:15-22).
Jesus confirmed His mediating role at his last Passover meal with his disciples. We follow the Markan account:
And when it was evening he came with his twelve. And as they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to the, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread in the same dish with me. For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for man. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:17-25).
At that same meal, Jesus indicated that He had to do what was predetermined, and what was written about Him. This agrees with Revelation 13:8, that the decision for the Lamb to die was in place before the world was created. Way back in time, the Son of God had taken it upon Himself to protect his own from the onslaught of the beast.
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 13:5-8).
By the time of Isaiah the prophet, the kingdom of Israel was being terminated and Judea was not offering any hope. In the midst of hopelessness, the Holy Spirit showed Isaiah a vision of the mediating Messiah that was so real, as if he lived through it himself:
Behold my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men—so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hid their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every on to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was not deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
All the above means that the Lamb and the Servant of redemption has satisfied God’s demands, necessary to grant man a pardon for his transgressions. That pardon is a gift from a gracious God to a repentant sinner, who believes in Jesus the Christ through whom the pardon takes effect. God the Father has handed over the redemption of man to the Son:
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:21-24).
The individual who professes Christ, but continues to live in sin does not honor the Son, nor do we if we exempt individuals from contributing to their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4).
The newness of life in Paul, is the new birth in the Gospel of John 3:3-8, and the birth is made available by Christ who became the propitiation (the Lamb), by expiating or atoning for man’s guilt. It is a gift of God in Christ the Mediator, that man must believe is possible and that it is available. His faith does not make him righteous, but ready to accept God’s gift of salvation. And then, with the assistance of the Law, man begins to live as a redeemed person in the kingdom of God. In Romans 10:4, the Greek word “telos” does not mean that Christ has ended the need for the Law, but as in Matthew 5:17-18, Christ has fulfilled the Law’s purpose. The Law, whether it is written on a Gentiles heart or a Meish tablet, reminds man that he needs a Savior. Faith without the Law being its handles becomes useless (James 2:14-2). Paul, to whom the Law was holy and good, would never abandon the Law:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good (Romans 7:7-12).
With this in mind, let us examine the controversial Romans 3:21-31. Please note the reason why man is justified — rather accepted on mere faith, or declared acceptable as a redeemed or ransomed individual. Also, note the role the Law plays in making the individual fit for the kingdom of God. Note especially the “Mediating Role of Christ”:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his passed over former sins; it was to prove as the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised because of their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Romans 3:21-31).
The redeemed person belongs to God because of the price the Son of God has paid; and for that reason no one has a greater claim than Christ:
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (I Corinthians 6:19-20):
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:27-30).