Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator

arbitation1

  1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the Covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.  (Isaiah 42:1; 1 Peter 1:19, 20; Acts 3:22; Hebrews 5:5, 6; Psalms 2:6; Luke 1:33; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Hebrews 1:2; Acts 17:31; Isaiah 53:10; John 17:6; Romans 8:30)

We now come to an especially important chapter for it is about the nature and work of Christ—the mediator.  What is a mediator? A mediator is “one who intervenes between two parties, especially for the purpose of effecting reconciliation; one who brings about (a peace, a treaty) or settles (a dispute) by mediation.”[1]  God has a legal case against man since he failed to abide by the terms of the covenant of works; Christ effectively mediates for peace on behalf of his elect in that legal case.  Thus this chapter addresses the characteristics of this mediator and what he did to settle the law suit between God and man.  This particular paragraph begins by discussing eternal matters.  As so the entire chapter begins with the Father’s eternal purpose and ordination of the Son to this office, and ends with Christ’s fulfillment of his office as the exalted mediator in bringing his elect into the heavenly kingdom.

The Confession begins with first things first: It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son.  God the Father chose and ordained the Lord Jesus to be this mediator because it pleased him.  Further, he did so according to his eternal purpose.  We see in Scripture this eternal purpose to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus:  “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Pt. 1:20).  God the Father chose the Son.  “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 ESV). That the Father chose the Lord Jesus for this office implies two things: one, it shows that God the Father, the offended party, as it were, took the initiating steps to reconcile his elect.  Two, it shows that the Lord Jesus did not usurp this role, but was chosen by the Father, the first person of the Trinity to fill this office.  As well, God the Father ordained the Lord Jesus to this office.  This does not seem to speak of “foreordination,” but rather ordination.  To ordain someone to an office is to give them the authority to exercise or execute that office.  Thus Jesus was fully authorized to carry out the office for which he was chosen.  Jesus often explained that the Father had chosen and ordained him to this office of mediator.  For example, “For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36b ESV; see also Jn. 6:44; 6:57; 8:18; 12:49; 16:27; 18:11; 20:21).

This chosen and ordained one is the Father’s only begotten Son. You may recall that we spoke about this in chapter 2, Of the Holy Trinity, paragraph 3 where it spoke of the fact that “the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.” That is reiterated here in short-hand, and again reflects the Scripture and the ecumenical creeds which speak of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. Berkhof states: “The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is suggested by the Biblical representation of the first and second persons of the Trinity as standing in the relation of Father and Son to each other.  Not only do the names “Father and “Son” suggest the generation of the latter by the former, but the Son is repeatedly called “the only-begotten” John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; Heb. 11:17; 1 John 4:9.”[2] The orthodox creeds carefully delineate that the Son is begotten of the Father, and that he is 1) eternally begotten, and 2) he is not made or created, and 3) the Son is of the same substance as the Father, being equal in glory, majesty and co-eternal. “Begotten” cannot be understood in mere human terms. It expresses in human language a mystery which we cannot fully grasp. For more discussion please refer to the commentary in chapter 2, paragraph 3. To be an effective mediator between God and man, the mediator must be 1) qualified for the office, 2) chosen by the Father, and 3) ordained by the Father. The only begotten of the Father is all of these.

The Confession states: according to the Covenant made between them both.  The Father’s choice and ordination of his only Son to the office of mediator was in accordance with the covenant of redemption—an agreement between the Father and Son to redeem man.  We discussed this covenant previously in chapter 7, paragraph 3.  There is a close connection with the Father’s choosing and ordaining his Son and this covenantal agreement.  The Confession then adds that the choosing, ordaining, and agreement between them was that Christ would be the mediator between God and man.  The wording of the Confession here reflects the language of Scripture: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 KJV).

The Confession now proceeds to describe the qualifications of this office, and begins with the three offices that Jesus assumes of prophet, priest and king.  The role of mediator is seen in the light of these Old Testament offices—offices that Christ fills in the New Covenant.  R.C. Sproul affirms:

“Prophets, priests, and kings functioned as mediators in the Old Testament, yet Paul says that there is only one Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). Paul, of course, is not repudiating what was done in former days. Instead, he is speaking of a mediator in the ultimate sense. Only one Mediator is both truly God and truly man. Only one Mediator has a divine nature and a human nature. Only the God-man participates in both deity and humanity, and in that regard Christ is utterly unique. Only one Mediator has the ability, ultimately, to effect the ultimate goal of mediation, our redemption and reconciliation. That was beyond the ability of Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Aaron, Levi, or any other prophet or priest. The work of ultimate redemption could not be mediated by David, Hezekiah, or any of the other kings. It could not even be accomplished by Moses, the mediator of the law. He was not the one who brought about reconciliation by his own person and work.”[3]

We will just briefly introduce these offices, as paragraph 10 will go into greater detail.   God had promised to send a prophet in Deuteronomy: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18:15 ESV). Peter confirms that Christ was the promised prophet in his sermon in Acts 3.  We come into the sermon at verse 22: “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days” (Acts 3:22-24 ESV).  Thus is not artificial that we see Christ filling the office of a prophet.

How do we know that Christ took on the office of a priest?   Scripture declares: “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6  as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:5-6 ESV).  Here the author of Hebrews shows us that Christ did not appoint himself as a priest, rather the Father did, and he uses two supporting Old Testament passages.  Later in Hebrews, we read: “but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25 ESV).

What evidence do we have in Scripture that Christ fills the office of king?  The Messianic Psalm declares: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6 ESV).  As well, we see in Luke: “and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33 ESV).  Jesus himself said he was a king: “Jesus answered him [Pilate], “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36a ESV).  These are just a few passages that could be cited.

As we continue through the mediator’s qualifications, it is clear that this mediator is given all he needs to affect peace.  Louis Berkhof states: “Christ is the Mediator in more than one sense.  He intervenes between God and man, not merely to sue for peace and to persuade to it, but as armed with plenipotentiary power, to do all that is necessary to establish peace.[4]  Consider Berkhof’s use of the word “plentipotentiary.”  This word originates from the Latin words, plenus (“full”) and potens (“power”).  As a noun, it refers to a person who has full power.  Often the word is used in connection with a diplomat who is fully authorized by his or her government.  As an adjective, it refers to that which gives “full power.”

Christ’s plenipotentiary power as mediator is seen in the following ways: 1) Christ is the head and saviour of the church.  By the word “head” it is meant that he is the fount, founder and leader over the Church.  The Scripture states: For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church , his body, and is himself its Savior(Eph. 5:23 ESV).  2) The Confession states that Christ, as mediator, is the heir of all things.  The Bible tells us, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb. 1:2 ESV).  3) The Confession states that Christ is the judge of the world.  In Acts 10:40-43, we see: “but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (ESV).  Christ the mediator is also the judge of the world.  For those who have a low view of Jesus, it might come as shock to discover he is not only the Savior of the world, but the judge of it.

 

The Confession states: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed.  Let’s fill in all the pronouns with their antecedents: unto whom [Jesus], he [Father] did from all eternity, give a people to be his [Jesus’] seed.  In the covenant agreement between the Father and Son, the Father gave to Jesus the elect as an inheritance—a reward if you will.  We see this in Psalm 2: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalms 2:8 ESV).  The word seed is used metaphorically to refer to the elect as his offspring or his own children.   Isaiah states: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).  Also, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (John 17:6 ESV).  Thus in Christ’s purchase of the elect, Christ receives the elect as his inheritance from the Father; they are in that sense his offspring.

The Confession states that Jesus’ seed or offspring is to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.  This statement moves us from the realm of eternity—when the choosing and appointing of Christ and the covenant of redemption took place—to the time when he will redeem the elect.  God will execute his plan to redeem his elect, and apply redemption to them in the order stated (i.e. “called, justified, sanctified, and glorified”).  First, the Father will send Christ to purchase redemption, and then he will call them, justify them, sanctify them, and glorify them.  Here the process by which the elect will be redeemed by Christ is briefly introduced and outlined.  The phrase called, justified, sanctified, and glorified echoes Scripture: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified(Romans 8:30 ESV).  The order of salvation (also known in Latin as ordo salutis) will slowly unfold as we proceed, beginning in chapter 10.  This portion will simply serve to foreshadow what is coming.  We will not discuss the order of each aspect of salvation here.

arbitation1

  1. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him, who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man. (John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14, 16, 17; Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 2:5)

There are three primary topics covered in this paragraph: 1) the deity of Christ, 2) the humanity of Christ, and 3) the relationship of these two natures to each other in the one person of Christ.  The Confession’s treatment of these theological matters is based upon Scripture, of course, but it also accounts for their theological history in the ecumenical councils and creeds of the early church period.[5] The Confession is in this way mindful of the prior formulation of sound words from church history.  R.C. Sproul states: “The Reformation built on the truths that had been confessed in the early ecumenical councils, such as Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and others.  The Reformers did not jettison that body of historic Christian doctrine.”[6]  The framers of the Confession were mindful of the important Christological creeds that preceded them.  Carl Trueman speaking of the classical Protestant confessions indicates that “God had provided them with a church which had a history, and that history was helpful in understanding what Scripture taught.”[7] Thus, the prior early church creeds are not just present in the Confession as a matter of record, but they are genuinely useful in understanding what Scripture says on these matters.

Since the 1689 Confession uses a great deal of historic creedal wording, particularly in this paragraph, it will helpful for use to survey the heresies and the creeds which refuted them, and we will do that using the following outline: 1) the heresy relevant to the specific 1689 confessional wording, 2) the church council which met to deal with the particular heresy, 3) the creedal formulation from the council related to the heresy, and, 4) the citation of the specific wording in the 1689 confession which corresponds to the creed and the heresy it refutes.  The outline will not be rigid, but will follow this general flow of thought.  We will go through this outline for each topic: Christ’s deity, humanity, and the relationship of the two natures in one person, and then the relevant commentary for the 1689 Confession will be given after each of these three topics.  Keep in mind that summarizing these heresies, councils and corresponding creeds requires simplification.  In doing so, there is always the risk that such simplification risks minimizing the topic to the point of inaccuracy.  While the summaries hopefully reflect the issues well, the reader should not assume that they then fully grasp the topics.  In order to understand these complex matters will require further reading and study of your own.[8]

Post-Apostolic Church

When the apostles all died, the churches still retained their teaching—primarily through their inspired writings (i.e. Gospels, Acts and letters).  These writings were hand copied, and distributed throughout the regions of the early church.  The church considered these writings to be authoritative, and in a fairly short time all these inspired writings were placed together into one body called the New Testament.  But, both the Old and New Testaments are not arranged topically by doctrine, as if the Bible were a theological dictionary, a systematic theology, or a confession of faith.  The early church could not simply look up under the heading “Christ’s deity” and read in the Bible a comprehensive theological treatise of the entire topic.  As a result, the early church went through a period of theological discussion and development. It sought to understand the whole counsel of God in matters such as Christ’s deity, humanity, or the relationship of these natures in one the person.  Such theological discussion would be heightened as heretical doctrine was put forward.  These heresies required that the church not merely reject them, but put forth definite statements affirming what the Bible in fact does teach.  Such statements could only be effective by a consensus among the churches; thus the need for church councils.  These affirmative statements written and adopted by a council—typically called creeds (from the Latin word credo, meaning “I believe”)—then became the standard for Christian doctrine for the next generations.[9]

To this very day the ecumenical creeds, that is, the creeds issued from the ecumenical councils, still remain the standard for Christian doctrine, or orthodoxy.  Orthodoxy is an important concept.  Baker’s Dictionary of Theology states that the word orthodoxy is “the English equivalent of Greek orthodoxia (from orthos, “right,” and doxa, “opinion”), meaning right belief, as opposed to heresy or heterodoxy….  The word expresses the idea that certain statements accurately embody the revealed truth-content of Christianity, and are therefore in their own nature normative for the universal church.”[10]  Thus, if we were to use this in a sentence, we might say, “The doctrine of Christ’s deity is the orthodox position of the entire Christian church, and anyone who does not hold to that orthodoxy is considered outside of the Christian church.”  It will be important to grasp this terminology as we proceed because it will be used regularly throughout paragraph 2.

Another important concept is that of theological or doctrinal development.  Some believers are uncomfortable with these terms; that is understandable.  But by theological development, we do not mean that the theology of the Bible evolved or changed, or that the church made up theology; rather, we mean the process by which the church came to understand the objective meaning of inspired biblical text, and how best to articulate it.  James White states that “over the years Christian men and women have thought upon the revelation of God, and under the influence of the Spirit of God they have gained insight into the truths contained in Scripture.  This is the proper development of doctrine.”[11]  White adds, “Therefore, real development of Christian doctrine is simply the ever-increasing understanding of the Word of God.”[12] God did not leave early church as an orphan to fend for herself.  The Father sent the Spirit of Christ to guide, instruct and empower her, and in the early church foundations were laid for future generations.

Aside from the early church’s doctrinal conclusions of the Trinity, the primary issue of theological discussion, development and articulation related to Christology (i.e. the study of Christ).  Christology mainly focused on three issues as has already been pointed out: the deity of Christ, his humanity and the relationship of these two natures to each other in the one person of Christ.   We can roughly divide these into three stages of historical development.  First, there was the matter of Christ’s full humanity.  As early as the New Testament period some denied that Christ had a physical body.  This controversy continued until about A.D. 250 when the church finally defeated that Gnostic heresy called Docetism.  Having resolved that matter, theological discussion and controversy moved towards the issue of Christ’s deity.  This occurred around A.D. 320 to roughly 370, in the Arian Controversy.  Once that issue was resolved, the third area of doctrinal development came in the area of the incarnation, and the relationship of the two natures in one person of Christ.  These were addressed from about A.D. 375 to 700.  Again, paragraph 2 of the Confession reflects these three areas of historical theology.[13]  The Confession begins with the topic of Christ’s deity, then the humanity of Christ, and lastly, the two natures in one person. The Confession addresses these areas by theological priority, not by historical chronology. I will, of course, handle these three areas in the same order as the Confession.

  

Christ’s Deity and the Arian Heresy

 Arius was a presbyter from Libya who took the unbiblical position, as stated by Dr. Nick neddham, that “there is difference between the Father and Son which makes the latter secondary.  Arius maintained that God the Father is alone eternal, that Christ was created out of nothing as the first and greatest of all creatures, and that he in turn created the universe….  Yet because the power and honor delegated to him, he was to be looked upon as God and was to be worshipped.  Most of the Arians held that the Holy Spirit was the first and greatest of the creatures called into existence by the Son.”[14] This Arian heresy arose about A.D. 320 and touched not only upon Christ’s deity, but by implication attacked the very nature of the Trinity.  In A.D. 321, a council of one hundred Libyan and Egyptian bishops excommunicated Arius, but the controversy continued to spread to other regions, and before long it had pitted church against church, and political region against political region throughout the empire.

The Emperor Constantine intervened to maintain stability in the empire, and called for an ecumenical council.  The council met in A.D. 325 in Nicaea (in modern day Turkey on the eastern shore of Lake Iznik).[15]  The discussion focused upon Christ’s deity and his relationship with the Father, with a particular focus upon the Greek word, homoousion, which means “of one substance.”[16]  Dr. Nick Needham states: “The term [homoousion] derives from the Greek word ousia, which could be variously translated ‘nature, being, essence, substance.’  It refers to the innermost reality of a thing.  Father and Son, the Council was saying, share the same innermost reality—whatever the Father is in the depth of His being, the Son is the same.”[17]  This was a word for which the Arians could not accept for it meant that Christ is  fully divine.  Several creedal documents were put forward by the various parties involved, including an Arian creed.  Hosius of Cordova put forward a statement which nearly all the bishops (up to 318) accepted with slight modification.  The Greek creed, known as the Creed of Nicea, was issued in A.D. 325,[18] and it used that Greek word homoousion,[19] to clearly articulate that Christ was “of one substance with the Father.”[20]

The 325 Creed written in Nicaea condemned Arianism with these words:

  • “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance [homoousion] of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance [homoousion] with the Father, through Whom all things came into being.”

The Arian Controversy did not end at Nicaea; it would take at least another fifty years before the church saw a significant decline of Arianism, but work of addressing the error had begun, striking a serious blow to the damnable Arian heresy.

The 1689 Confession, reflecting the 325 Creed of Nicaea states in paragraph 2: The Son of God…being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him, who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made.”  In light of the Arian heresy, the 325 Council of Nicaea, we can better appreciate the phraseology of the 1689 Confession.  And with this creedal background in mind, we will now move to the commentary of the first section of paragraph 2 dealing with Christ’s deity.

The Confession states: The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity.  This portion reiterates chapter 2, paragraph 3, and touches on the first phrase in this chapter dealing with the phrase “only begotten of the Father.” We will not again address those issues here regarding the eternal generation of the Son, other than to say that being the “second” person of the Trinity does not imply inferiority, as the next phrase to follow states.

The phrase being very and eternal God is the first in a series of phrases that declare Jesus’ divinity, and this first item immediately corrects any notion that being the second person in the Trinity implies inequality or inferiority.  Jesus is very [God].[21] The word “very here is used as an adjective to describe the noun “God,” and it means “true.” [22] The word “very” in this sense is rarely used today, except to cite older English translations of the Bible.[23] But the use of the adjective “very” explains that the Son of God is “truly, actually or genuinely God.”  He is not like God, compared to God, or a mere reflection of God, but is very God.  As well, he is eternal God.  Scriptures state: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God” 3 (John 1:1-2 ESV).  For Jesus to be in the beginning with God is to say that Jesus is eternal.  As well, Paul wrote: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17 NASB).  As the Father is eternal God, so his Son is also eternal God.

Jesus is the brightness of the Father’s glory.  The wording is taken directly from Hebrews 1:3: “Who being the brightness of his [the Father’s] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (KJV bracket’s mine). The ESV, states: “He is the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV).  Matthew Henry says of this biblical text: “The person of the Son is the glory of the Father, shining forth with a truly divine splendor.  Jesus Christ in his person is God manifest in the flesh.”[24]  Christ’s glory is the exact same glory as the Father’s; it is the same brightness.  This confessional phrase is not found in the Westminster Confession or the Savoy Declaration; it comes from the 1646 London Baptist Confession.[25] The 325 Creed of Nicaea similarly states that Jesus is “Light from Light.”[26]

The Confession continues: the Son of God is of one substance and equal with him.  Again, this reflects the 325 Creed of Nicaea and their use of the word homoousion “of one substance” which the Arians strongly disliked.  Homoousion was used later in the expanded A.D. 381 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (a.k.a. Nicene Creed).  You may recall that the phrase “of one substance” was also used in chapter 2, paragraph 3 related to the Trinity.  There the Confession states: “In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity.”  There the focus is upon “of one substance” in relation to each member of the Godhead.  In other words, the essence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the same.  And so in this paragraph, the Father and Son are of the same essence, or substance, thus equally divine.  The Confession then rejects Arianism, and affirms the orthodox position along with the ancient creeds that Christ is of one substance with the Father.

The Confession continues to affirm Christ’s deity when it states that it is the Son who made the world.  If you read the Confession too quickly here you are liable to think that the pronoun “who” refers back to the Father since the very last pronoun “him” refers to the Father. We must read this phrase in its overall context to avoid that mistake, and when we do that, we see the “who” does not refer back to the “him” pronoun of the Father, but back to the Son of God subject in this long list of Christ’s divine attributes.  Since the Confession is nearly citing both the 325 Creed of Nicaea or the 381 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that same mistake could be made with those creeds.  So with that potential misunderstanding out of the way, it is clear that it is the Son made the world, that being the case, it is evidence that he is “of one substance and equal with the Father.”  The creeds and the Confession simply reflect Scripture.  For example, Hebrews 1:2: “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (ESV).   If one would argue that the Hebrews passage leaves some ambiguity, certainly Colossians 1:16 does not: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (ESV).

Not only did the Son make the world, but he upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made.  This statement is also not found in the Westminster Confession or the Savoy Declaration, but comes from the 1646 London Baptist Confession.  This certainly reflects Scripture: “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17 ESV). This addresses the Son of God’s divinity, for only deity can uphold all things and governeth all things he hath made. When we studied chapter 5, Of the Providence of God, we learned that God by his providence is upholding and governing all things he has made.  Thus we see here the divine Son is very much at the center of providence.

 

Christ’s Humanity and Docetism

Early in the life of the church the doctrine of Christ’s full humanity was challenged.  A heresy arose which denied that Jesus came in the flesh, indicating that he only appeared to be in the flesh, thus making his body something akin to a phantom.  This thinking likely came from Gnostic presuppositions that the body was evil, and therefore Christ who was not evil could not have a physical body.  This heresy may be behind the Apostle John’s declaration: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2 ESV).  This Gnostic heresy is called Docetism.  It was held in its various forms by Cerinthus (A.D. 85) and Marcion in the middle of the second century.  It was opposed in the post-apostolic period by the church fathers Ignatius, Irenaeus and Tertullian.  For example, in Ignatius’ “Letter to the Smyrnaeans” he said: “Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved.  And He suffered truly, even as also certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians].” [28]  This is before the first ecumenical council; therefore, we have no specific ecclesiastical creed.  We do have the Apostle’s Creed[29] which certainly affirms the historical nature of Jesus, and that Jesus had a physical body, but there is no clear emphasis specifically against Docetism in it. Regardless, we have strong Scriptural opposition, some passages like the one above, apparently directly oppose Docetism.

The 1689 Confession affirms that Christ was fully human and had a physical body, indicating that the Son of God…“did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures.”  The Confession seems to directly oppose Docetism, but is also simply affirming the words of Scripture using near exact citation in places from the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament.  This historical background will assist us as we now move to the commentary for this portion of paragraph 2 dealing with Christ’s humanity.

Up to this point, paragraph 2 is one long introductory sentence, saying in essence: The Son of God is divine.  But as this introductory sentence ends, it transitions from speaking of Christ divinity to his humanity by use of the word “did.” Thus we have: “The Son of God…did…take upon him man’s nature.”  The point is that the Son of God having existed eternally as divine—as the Word (Logos)—now in time does something remarkable.  What does he do?  The Confession states the Son of God, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature.  So, first notice that the eternality of the Son is now brought into relation with time— the fullness of time.  In other words, the time that had been eternally ordained by God had come to its fruition or ripeness, and God sent his Son in time, to earth, to redeem his elect.  If we were to view an hour glass, the sands of time filling the lower portion of the hour glass, we would say that the time was full (i.e. the fullness of time).   Scripture declares: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4 ESV).  Secondly, notice another contrast: the Son of God, being very eternal God—to our utter shock—takes upon him man’s nature.  Did we read that right?  We did.  We are shocked, appalled, amazed and full of wonder at the incarnation.  It is shocking because the difference between the immortal God and mortal man is a very great distance indeed.  Talk about condescension; this is it!

Up to this point in the Confession we learned that God decreed to save the elect, and that the Father and the Son covenanted together to redeem the elect, and we even learned that God would send the seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head, and that God would offer another covenant, the covenant of grace (the gospel) by which the elect would be saved. But we could never have imagined that all this entailed the divine Son taking upon himself man’s nature.  In the words of the hymn: “God is man, man to deliver; his dear Son now is one with our blood forever.”[30]  Of all high and lofty doctrine, the incarnation is the pinnacle of wonder, mystery and awe; we can hardly grasp it.

What is meant by taking on “man’s nature?”  First, let’s define the term “nature.”  Berkhof defines it this way: “The term ‘nature’ denotes the sum-total of all essential qualities of a thing, that which makes it what it is.  A nature is a substance possessed in common, with all the essential qualities of such substance.”[31]  Thus, to take on a human nature specifically means—in the words of the Confession—that the Son took on: all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof.  The Son of God took upon himself a full human nature—a nature that in every way was human in its properties (attributes or characteristics) and infirmities.  It is a human nature with a reasonable soul that has a spirit and a mind which reasons, has free-will, and emotions.  Further, his human nature had a body which suffered thirst, hunger, exhaustion, pain, death and ultimately resurrection.  Christians today tend to focus more upon Christ’s deity than his humanity, and while this is understandable to an extent, we should not forget that his humanity is just as necessary as his divinity to be an effective Mediator.   If we have not taken the time to really grasp Christ’s full humanity, the humanity passages throughout Scripture tend to minimally impact us. They are not the exciting miraculous passages that catch our eye, yet if we recall who it is that took upon human nature, the wonder of it is perhaps more amazing than Jesus’ display of divine power.

While he was fully human that nature was yet without sin.  For Christ to be without sin is of inestimable importance.  If Jesus was sinful, his human nature could not have been united to the divine nature in the one person of Christ.  If he were a sinful human, he could not have been a spotless Lamb to atone for sin.  But, he was indeed the spotless Lamb of God; the only person qualified to be that perfect, sinless sacrifice—the perfect mediator.  Hebrews directly states of Christ’s sinless nature: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15 ESV).

Christ’s conception is very much related to his sinlessness. The Confession states that the Son of God was: conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  In this world of modern science, we understand the process of conception and human development in remarkable ways not understood at the time of the New Testament times or at the time of the Confession.  But ultimately all we need to understand is that the means by which the virgin became pregnant was by the Holy Spirit.  This conception was by the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her.  This wording is directly from Scripture:But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:20 KJV).  Also, “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35  And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35 KJV).  Scripture is clear that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Scripture also makes clear, Joseph did not know her (have sexual relations with her) until after Jesus was born (Matt. 1:25).  Mary was not, however, a perpetual virgin, as evidenced by Jesus’ physical brothers and sisters (Matt. 2:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31); these children were not conceived by the Holy Spirit.  We tend to focus upon the amazing miracle of the virgin birth, but let’s retain remember the purpose, at least in part, of this miracle: 1) It was a sign pointing to the Messiah (Is. 7:14).  2) It was the means of his incarnation.

Moving then from Christ’s conception, the Confession addresses Jesus’ ancestry or genealogy: and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures.  This section is not found in the Westminster Confession or the Savoy Declaration, but appears to be adapted from the 1646 London Confession.  It reflects several Scriptural passages, for example: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4 KJV).  And, “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests” (Heb. 7:14 ESV).  Also, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” Matthew 1:1 (ESV).  By adding this to the 1689 Confession, the framers have enriched it.  These are the highlights of Jesus’ lineage, a reminder of Jesus’ human context and its connection to a long human history.  But more than that it reminds us that the Messianic line traces from Eve, the first to receive the promise that her offspring would bring the Savior (Gen. 3:15), to the promise that Abraham’s offspring would bring blessing to the world by a Savior (Gen. 12:7; Gal. 3:16), and then the promise to David that his offspring would forever reign (2 Sam. 7:12) pointing towards the Messiah.  This lineage is also in itself a prophetic sign that Jesus is the long expected one, and along those lines the Confession indicates this was all according to the Scriptures.  By conception and genealogy, the Confession shows that Jesus was the Promised One—all of these things are, of course, critical to his qualification as mediator between God and man.

Relationship of the Two Natures

Once the early church had articulated the orthodoxy of Christ’s human and divine nature, the church then turned to issues regarding the relationship of the two natures in the person of Christ, matters which the 325 Creed of Nicaea and the 381 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (Nicene Creed) did not specifically address.  These issues came to a head, as if often the case by heresy put forward in that period of early church theological discussion.  These heresies providentially served to assist the church in formulating and refuting an accurate scriptural theology of Christ and his two natures.

Apollinarian Heresy

In A.D. 362, Apollinaris, a native of Alexandria became the bishop of Laodicea (located in Syria).  He brought forward his view of the relationship of the two natures.  “Put simply,” Carl Trueman states, “Apollinaris was rightly concerned to defend the full consubstantiality[32] of the Logos with the Father.  He did this so radically that he argued that, in the incarnation, the Logos replaced the human soul of Christ.  It was a clever resolution to a tricky problem thrown up by Nicene theology: if the Logos is a divine person and unites with human nature, how does one avoid having two persons simply occupying the same space?  And if you have two persons in the incarnation, then there really is no incarnation: the divine has not truly united with the human and there can be no salvation.  The problem with Apollinaris’ solution, of course, is that on his account Jesus Christ is not really fully human: after all, humans have souls; and if Christ lacks one, then he is not fully human.”[33]  In looking at Scripture, Apollinaris saw that Jesus took on flesh, but nowhere did it say he took on a human soul,[34] and so Apollinaris presumed the soul must come from Christ’s divinity (Logos).[35]

The First Council of Constantinople of A.D. 381 addressed several matters,[36] one of which was the condemnation of Apollinarianism.  While the council adopted a creed which we refer to as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, it did not contain a doctrinal statement refuting Apollinarianism.  In addition to the creed, the Constantinopolitan council put to writing a series of Canons, one which specifically condemned Apollinarianism with these words: “The Faith of the Three Hundred and Eighteen Fathers assembled at Nice in Bithynia shall not be set aside, but shall remain firm. And every heresy shall be anathematized, particularly that of the Eunomians or [Anomæans, the Arians or] Eudoxians, and that of the Semi-Arians or Pneumatomachi, and that of the Sabellians, and that of the Marcellians, and that of the Photinians, and that of the Apollinarians.”[37]  The 381 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is essentially an expansion of that 325 creed (See Appendix for the 325 and 381 Creeds).

In A.D. 451, the Council of Chalcedon provided a doctrinal statement against Apollinarianism in what is known as the Chalcedonian Creed (a.k.a. Chalcedon Definition).  I cite it here and underline the pertinent wording regarding Apollinarianism (though it overlaps into other areas):

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential]with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us (See Appendix).[38]

Consubstantial and coessential are other English words used to translate the Greek word homoousion (“of the same substance”). It seems we keep coming back to that all important Greek word homoousion.  When used of the Father and Son, it means they are “of the same substance.”  When used of the human nature of Christ, it means that his human nature is “of the same substance” as our human nature (yet without sin).  Since Apollinarianism diminishes Christ’s humanity by denying it has a human soul, the Chalcedonian Creed directly opposes Apollinarianism by affirming Christ has a human reasonable soul.

The 1689 Confession shows opposition to Apollinarianism using the following wording:  “so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.” This 1689 Confession wording follows a portion of the 451 Chalcedonian Creed very nearly word for word.  We will not move onto the commentary of the Confession yet, because the next two heresies are also addressed by the same section of the Confession we just cited.

Nestorian Heresy

Nestorius was a monk who became a presbyter in Antioch, and later in A.D. 428 became the patriarch of Constantinople.  He was a man zealous for orthodoxy.  He took issue with the phrase, “mother of God” (from the Greek word theotokos which literally means “God bearer”).[39]  Theotokos had become an oft used catch-phrase among Christians, including the early church fathers such as Origen, Alexander of Alexandria, Athanasius and Basil.  Nestorius felt this phrase gave undue exultation to Mary,[40] a tendency which had begun at that time.  However, this phrase was also used by many to indirectly affirm Christ’s deity and incarnation.[41]  To those it meant that Mary gave birth to the incarnate God-man.  Nestorius’ critique of the phrase placed him under the suspicion of rejecting orthodoxy,[42] and this may explain why his name came to be associated with this heresy.  It is unclear whether its origin is actually from Nestorius’; nonetheless, the heresy bears his name.  What was this heresy?  Allison states of Nestorianism that there are two principle tenets: “The first was the view that Jesus Christ is composed of two distinct and independent persons who work in conjunction with each other.  The second was that a true union of divine and human would have involved God in change and suffering, which is impossible.  It would also have made it impossible for Jesus Christ as a man to experience true human existence.  Cyril responded to this Nestorian position by affirming that in the incarnation, while retaining their respective characteristics, “the two natures being brought together in a true union, there is of both one Christ and one Son.”[43]

Behind Nestorianism is, in part, its inability to conceive of Christ’s human nature without a personality.  Orthodoxy indicates that the two natures exist within the one person of Christ, therefore, the one personality must come from the eternal Son, or Logos, not from the human nature.  The Logos did not take on a human person, but a human nature.  This distinction between nature (defined a few paragraph back) and person is extremely important in this matter.  Berkhof defines person for us: “The term ‘person’ denotes a complete substance endowed with reason, and, consequently, a responsible subject of its own actions.  Personality is not an essential and integral part of a nature, but is, as it were, the terminus to which it tends.  A person is a nature with something added, namely, independent subsistence, individuality.  Now the Logos assumed a human nature that was not personalized, that did not exist by itself.”[44]  We think of John 1:1: in the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was God.  The Logos was a subsistence; that is, a Person.  He had personality; he was not a force or energy.  We also think of Jesus’ words: “before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58).  The eternal Son of God has always been a Person, the second person of the Triune Godhead.  This Logos with personality does not change, and thus in taking on human nature the Logos did not dispose of his personality and take on a human personality; the Logos did not take on a human person, but a human nature.  This is one of the more difficult issues as we work our way through the relationship of the two natures in the one person.  But it is an important aspect for us to grasp if we want to maintain the orthodox position: two natures in one person.[45]

Nestorianism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 which formally adopted Cyril of Alexandria’s writing against Nestorius—a series of 12 somewhat lengthy anathemas against Nestorianism.  While the council was in session—issuing 12 anathemas—Nestorius had refused to attend it because members of his party were delayed.  Thus, the Nestorian party refused to acknowledge the official 12 anathemas—not having been present.  Two years later, in A.D. 433, the Nestorian party offered a creed which sought some middle-ground; it was called the Union Creed.  The Union Creed represented a more moderate Nestorianism, but ultimately, twenty years later, in A.D. 451, the Council of Chalcedon met and endorsed only the 12 anathemas (excluding the Union Creed), and adopted doctrinal language against Nestorianism: “one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures…inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son” (See Appendix for full creed). The 1689 Confessional wording against the Nestorian states: “so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person.[46] The 1689 Confession reflects the Chalcedon Definition, nearly word for word. Again, we will not provide a 1689 Confession commentary here, because that section includes wording which refutes one last heresy we need to address.

Monophysitism or Eutychianism Heresy

Eutyches was a head monk in Constantinople who took a polar opposite to Nestorianism.  Sproul helpfully states: “The Eutychian or Monophysite heresy confused or blended the two natures, and the Nestorian heresy divided the two natures.”[47] Allison states: “According to one interpretation of his view [Eutyches’], the divine nature so absorbed the human nature of Christ that essentially the one nature was divine.  On another interpretation, the one nature was a fusion or hybrid of the divine and human natures, a “divinehuman” nature, so to speak.  In either case, the church objected, insisting that after the incarnation Jesus Christ had two complete natures that maintained their respective properties—the divine nature with its attributes of deity, and the human nature with its attributes of humanity.”[48]

The 451 Council of Chalcedon had condemned Nestorianism, but it also framed doctrinal language against Eutychianism.  R.C. Sproul states, of the 451 Council of Chalcedon: “Chalcedon established the boundaries beyond which we dare not tread in our speculations, lest we plunge ourselves into serious heresy.  If we move away from Chalcedon in either direction (exaggerating either the divinity or the humanity of Christ at the expense of the other), we will fall into heresy.”[49] The Chalcedon Definition against Eutychianism stated: “one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly,[50] unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably” (See Appendix for Creed). The 1689 Confessional wording against Eutychianism is stated this way: “two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.” Again, the 1689 Confession reflects here the Chalcedon Definition.[51]

Another important creed is the Athanasian Creed written sometime between A.D. 381 and 429.  It was written in Latin, and its author is not Athanasius even though it bears his name.  This creed was not a result of a church council, but nonetheless, reflects the important theological developments during the early church period, and contains wording relevant to the Christological heresies and the orthodox creeds.  The Westminster Assembly divines would have been very much aware of this creed, and it may have contributed to the wording in the last third of paragraph 2.[52]  Here is a portion of the creed: “Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.  One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.  For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ” (See Appendix for Creed).

There were other areas of theological controversy addressed by the early church, but since we are confining our comments to those which directly bear on the confessional wording of the Confession in paragraph 2, we will have to leave those other important issues at this juncture.  As we conclude our tour of the heresies, the various early church councils, and their creedal formulations, it now remains for us to provide and actual commentary on the last section of paragraph 2.  Having provided a context for the Confessional wording, the Confession wording will hopefully be more comprehendible.

The Confession states, so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person.  The Confession previously explained Christ’s divinity and his humanity, and here it states of these natures that they are each whole and perfect.  Regarding the wholeness of each nature, there is no aspect of the human nature or divine nature that is missing—all is present and accounted for in each nature.  Whereas “whole” refers to the quantitative aspect of the nature, “perfect” has to do with the qualitative aspect.  “Perfect” means that each nature is qualitatively without blemish.   These two whole and perfect natures are distinct.  These two natures would not remain either whole or perfect if they were not distinct.  If the human nature merged into the divine nature, the divine nature would no longer be truly divine, or alternatively, if the divine nature merged into the human nature, it would no longer be truly human.  Any merging or mixing of the two natures compromises the integrity of each nature, and thus they must remain distinct.

John Calvin said there are two basic tendencies in the handling of the relationship of the two natures:  One is to mingle the two natures and the other is to tear them apart.[53] Nestorianism so separated the two natures that they became essentially two persons. Eutychianism so mingled the nature they essentially became one nature.  So while the two natures are distinct, they are inseparably joined together, not to each other, but are joined inseparably in one person.  This formula allows us to avoid the heresy of overemphasizing the distinctiveness of the two natures to the point of Nestorianism.  And we avoid the heresy of overemphasizing their unity leading to Eutychianism.  Rather we understand their distinctness—while seeing the unity of the nature in the one person.  The distinct natures work together in perfect harmony in the unity they find in the person of Christ.  The creeds of the early church and the Confession are invaluable guides to maintaining this position of orthodoxy.

The Confession continues by stating that these two distinct natures—inseparably joined in one person—are: without conversion, composition, or confusion.[54]  These words address those two erroneous tendencies Calvin spoke of: the tearing apart or the mingling of the natures together.  These three words link together to form a chain-link fence or boundary for which we must not cross lest we enter into the territory of heresy.  Conversion in the Oxford English Dictionary means a “change in character, nature, form or function.”  For the two natures to be without conversion, means that these two natures are always the same; one nature does not change or convert into another nature. The divine nature does not become in any part human, and the human nature does not in any part become divine.  Composition in the Oxford English Dictionary means: “The action of putting together or combining; the fact of being put together or combined; combination (of things as parts or elements as a whole).[55]  Thus the two natures are without composition, or without parts of one nature being added to the other.  For the two natures to be without confusion means the two natures are not mixed together.

In Charles Hodge’s, Systematic Theology, he has a section entitled: “There is no Transfer of the Attributes of one Nature to the Other”, There he states the following:

  • “…in relation to the person of Christ… no attribute of the one nature is transferred to the other… There are those, however, who admit that the two natures in Christ are not mixed or confounded, who yet maintain that the attributes of the one are transferred to the other. But the properties or attributes of a substance constitute its essence, so that if they be removed or if others of a different nature be added to them, the substance itself is changed. If you take rationality from mind it ceases to be mind. If you add rationality to matter it ceases to be matter. If you make that extended which in itself is incapable of extension, the identity of the thing is lost. If therefore infinity be conferred on the finite, it ceases to be finite. If divine attributes be conferred on man, he ceases to be man; and if human attributes be transferred to God, he ceases to be God. The Scriptures teach that the human nature of Christ remained in its integrity after the incarnation; and that the divine nature remained divine. The Bible never requires us to receive as true anything which the constitution of our nature given to us by God himself, forces us to believe to be false or impossible.”[56]

 Hodge’s helpful summary shows the importance of not crossing those orthodox boundaries.

The Confession began the third section of paragraph 2 with the words: “so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.” Immediately following those words is states: which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ.  Again, the word “very” in front of the word God and Man means Christ is entirely or fully human and entirely or fully divine.  The average Evangelical can recite that “Jesus is fully God and fully man” with creed-like clarity, and that is important, but to say so without also understanding the relationship of these two natures to each other, and in the one person, is to have proceeded no further in one’s theological development than the 381 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.  It is critical that any such “fully God and fully man” creedal understanding, also incorporate “yet one Christ;” without that addition the Evangelical is making an incomplete and immature theological statement.  Of course, any such succinct statement, even with that addition, is meaningless if one does not understand the significance of it within the context that the entirety of paragraph 2 provides.  This very God and very man in one Christ is the only mediator between God and man. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5 ESV). This one Christ is the God-man who alone can properly mediate between God and man.

This paragraph has been long and arduous.  It has shown the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the proper orthodox position of these two natures to each other in the one person, and done so in the context of the church’s historical development and formulation.  It may be one of the richest paragraphs in the Confession being historically and theologically loaded with truth—difficult truth: the incarnation.  But having put in the hard work of grasping this paragraph will go a long way towards building essential foundations regarding our knowledge of the person of Christ—the perfect and only Mediator who effectively mediates between God and man.  These truths are essential to the following paragraphs of chapter 8, since the Confession builds precept upon precept.  There is an added appendix which provides the early church creeds we have touched on, and a summary of the heresies, their time periods, the council and creeds which addressed them in the form of a time-line.  That summary is just that; use it as a general guide, not as a sole source of understanding the heresies or their time periods.

 

arbitation1

  1. The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety; which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who also put all power and judgement in his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same. (Psalms 45:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 1:19; Hebrews 7:26; John 1:14; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 5:5; John 5:22, 27; Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:36)

The 1689 Confession states: The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son.  This first portion of paragraph 3, reminds us that the human nature united to the divine in the one person brought about an exaltation of the human nature.  Of this paragraph Hodge states that this union was “to exalt the human nature of Christ to a degree of dignity and honor greatly beyond that attained by any other creature,” and “to fill it with a perfection of intellectual and moral excellence beyond that attained by any other creature.”[57]  This portion shows us the setting for this exaltation of human nature: the eternal Son of God taking on this human nature.  With that setting in place, the remaining portion of this paragraph will look at specific ways the human nature was “exalted.”  The exaltation of Christ’s human nature in no way extends the human nature beyond the “essential properties, thereof.”  The human nature is still hungry, thirsty, and weary.  The reason the exultation occurs is because it is united to the divine nature in the person of the Son; the emphasis being on the uniting of natures in the person of the Son, not in the uniting of the human nature to the divine nature.  If that were the reason for the exultation it would mean a transference of properties from the divine nature to the human nature.  But that is not the case; rather it is by means of the divine person taking on a human nature.  We now move to the ways the human nature was exulted, in the words above by Hodge, “to a degree of dignity and honor greatly beyond that attained by any other creature.”

 

The Lord Jesus, in his human nature united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure.  The Confession states that the human nature of Christ was sanctified, or set apart by the Holy Spirit. The human nature was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  The word “anointed” reminds us of the word Messiah, which means “anointed one.”  When a king was anointed with oil, it symbolized the empowerment to carry out the office.  This anointing was above measure, in other words, it was beyond the ability to measure.  Or, simply put, it was more than enough to equip Christ’s human nature to carry out its task.  What do the Scriptures say of Christ’s annointing? “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Psalms 45:7 ESV).  And, “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure(John 3:34 ESV).  And,The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1 ESV). The divine nature certainly did not need to be anointed by the Spirit, thus we understand it was his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit—being united to the divine nature in the person of the Son.

This setting apart and empowerment by the Spirit of Christ’s human nature explains the ability of his human nature to endure such severe afflictions.  Scripture shows us the severity of his affliction in passages such as this: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7 ESV).  And, “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me’” (Matthew 26:38 ESV).  Jesus was not speaking merely metaphorically when he said his soul was “to the point of death;” the weight of the atonement had begun to fall upon him even there, and as we know from Luke 22:44 this agony was so severe he began to sweat drops of blood.  Christ’s human nature was taxed beyond the ability of typical human nature to endure.  We see in Luke that angels came to strengthen his human nature. “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43 ESV).  The human nature and body can only endure so much.  The fact that his human nature was able to endure as it did is the result of its exultation; an exultation of the human nature being united to the divine in the one person. Again the Spirit anointed Christ’s human nature, there is no transference of Christ’s divine nature properties to the human nature.  This exultation of the human nature should not to be confused with Christ’s exultation in the resurrection and ascension.

 

The Son was anointed above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell.  The Confession is referencing Scripture: “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3 KJV).  All wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, and come from Christ—these are treasures indeed.  Further, the Confession is reflecting Scripture from Colossians 1:19-20:  “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Col. 1:19 KJV).  Again the human nature is brought to a high level of dignity and exaltation in these things.

The Confession continues: to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety.  These exalted qualities of the human nature of Christ are to the end, (i.e. for a purpose).  That purpose is not stated immediately, but delayed by first stating that the human nature of Christ is holy, harmless, undefiled and full of grace and truth.  These are wondrous attributes which demonstrate the exalted human nature of Christ.  But again, these are for an end.  What is that? It is that…he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a mediator and surety).  Christ was endowed with plenipotentiary power to execute the office as a mediator.  We might keep in mind that the divine nature of the Logos did not need to be thoroughly furnished; he is the self-sufficient eternal Son.  Thus, it is the human nature which needed to be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of mediator.

As stated earlier, a mediator as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “one who intervenes between two parties, especially for the purpose of effecting reconciliation.”  God has a legal case against mankind for breaking his covenant, and Christ mediates for peace in that dispute on behalf of his elect.  The phrase “office of a” is intended to carry over not just to “mediator,” but also to the word “surety,” and thus we have a grammatical ellipsis.  We can read it this way: the office of…a surety.  What is meant?  To be a surety, the Oxford English Dictionary indicates, is to be “a person who undertakes some specific responsibility on behalf of another who remains primarily liable; one who makes himself liable for the default or miscarriage of another, or for the performance of some act on his part (e.g. payment of a debt; appearance in court for trial, etc.).   We see Christ’s office of surety or guarantor in Hebrews 7:2, “This makes Jesus the guarantor [surety] of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22 ESV, brackets mine). Christ’s office regarding the New Covenant is that of surety or guarantor.  We are again reminded by this legal terminology that Christ’s office rests squarely in a covenantal-legal context.  The Lord Jesus Christ is both God and man in one Christ, and thus he is not only fully equipped to mediate the suit that God has against mankind, but he provides the payment for which we are liable, and thus Christ effectively settles the lawsuit.

The Confession continues: which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father.  We can assume that the Confession intends by “which office” to refer to both the offices that were just mentioned: a mediator and surety.  But the fact that it uses the singular form “office” shows us that these two offices are probably viewed as one in the same office.  This office was not obtained by Christ of his own initiative, but he was called to it by the Father.  Scripture says: “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you“( Heb. 5:5 ESV).  Though the Son willingly and freely took on the appointment and calling, it is important to note that the Father appointed the Son to this office.  We must never forget that the Father, the offended party, sent his Son to redeem his elect.  What amazing love this is that while we were still sinners Christ was sent to die for our sin.

Further, it was the Father who also put all power and judgement in his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.  This is again a reiteration of the point made in paragraph 1 (i.e. “judge of the world”), but it is appropriate to mention again since it is inextricably connected with the last points of this paragraph (i.e. being thoroughly furnished and called to his office by the Father). Scripture states:  “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22 ESV). “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27 ESV).  “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18 ESV).  Jesus clearly understood his calling and appointment by the Father.  Peter said, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36 ESV).  We have seen in this paragraph that the human nature’s union with the divine in the person of the Son exalts the human nature with a special dignity—for the purpose that Christ be thoroughly equipped to execute the office of mediator and judge.

 

arbitation1

  1. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world. (Psalms 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10:5-10; John 10:18; Gal 4:4; Matthew 3:15; Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 26:37, 38; Luke 22:44; Matthew 27:46; Acts 13:37; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; John 20:25, 27; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24; Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9, 10; Acts 1:11; 2 Peter 2:4)

Chapter 8, paragraph 1 addressed the Father’s eternal purpose in choosing, ordaining and appointing Christ as mediator—Christ agreeing in covenant with the Father, and Christ’s reward of the elect.  In paragraph 2 and 3 we learned of Christ’s nature and authority to fulfill his office of mediator.  In paragraph 4, we now see Christ powerfully and effectively executing this office in his state of humiliation and exaltation.  This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake.  Prior to this statement, we read in paragraph 1 of the Father’s call and appointment of his Son as mediator, according to the covenant made between them.  Now we see the Lord Jesus most willingly undertaking this office.  The willingness is evident in Christ now carrying out that covenant agreement, and doing so, not out of obligation, but most willingly.  We see this willingness in a Messianic Psalm: “Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:7-8 ESV).  Jesus himself said: “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. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:18 ESV).  Further, we see in Hebrews 12:2: “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (ESV). Christ undertook this office not only most willingly, but joyfully. 

 

He most willingly undertook the office in order that he might discharge it (carry it out to completion).  To discharge his office there are various things Christ has to do.  The rest of the paragraph will address those things which consist of discharges carried out: 1) in his state of humiliation prior to the resurrection, 2) those being carried out in this present age, and 3) those to be carried out at the end of the age.

First, we begin by looking at Christ ministry prior to his death.  In order to carry out or discharge this first task Christ had to be made under the law.  As mentioned above, this reflects Galatians 4:4: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (KJV).  Calvin said of Galatians 4:4: “Christ the Son of God, who might have claimed to be exempt from every kind of subjection, became subject to the law.”[58]  We might ask, what law, or what aspect of the law might Paul be referring to?  Calvin says, “But Paul speaks of the law with all its appendages.”[59] We understand that Christ was under all aspects of the law: the universal moral law written on the hearts of all mankind, the moral law written on the two stone tablets, the judicial or civil law, and the ceremonial law.  Again, the office of mediator is set within a legal framework.[60]   The Confession is simply acknowledging that Christ subjected himself under the whole law.  The ramifications of that are significant.

In order for Christ to accomplish redemption for his people (i.e. to discharge the office of mediator), he was made subject to the law.  He was made subject to it in two ways.  First, he did perfectly fulfill it.  In chapter 7, we discussed the covenant of works—a covenant that required perfect obedience.  Adam and his race utterly failed to keep the law, in thought, word and deed.  But here we see that Jesus kept the law perfectly, in thought, word and deed.  Christ kept not merely the letter of the law externally, but he fulfilled it from the heart, and did so according to the heart and substance of the law.  Scripture states: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 ESV).  Thus Christ’s perfect obedience was in place of our disobedience— a substitutionary obedience.  In justification, the elect person receives—by the instrument of faith—Christ’s righteousness (his perfect obedience) credited to his or her account.  Justification will be addressed in detail in chapter 11; there we will further discuss Christ’s perfect obedience (i.e. active obedience) to the law as it relates to justification (1689 11:1). The second way he was subject to the law was by his passive obedience(also referred to later in 1689 11:1).  Christ’s passive obedience refers to the penal (punitive or punishment) aspect of the law,; Christ received the penal aspect of the law from God as if he had broken it.  The Confession addressing that passive obedience states: and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered being made sin and a curse for us. We deserve God’s just wrath—the punishment due us for breaking God’s law.  We should have received it, but Christ suffered that punishment in our place as our substitute. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we read: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV). Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13 ESV). A.A. Hodge states: “All his earthly career was in one aspect suffering, in another aspect obedience.  As suffering, it was vicarious endurance of the penalty of sin.  As obedience it was the discharge of the stead and on behalf of his people of that condition upon which their eternal inheritance is suspended.  The two were never separated in fact.  They are only the two legal aspects presented by the same life of suffering obedience.”[61]

The Confession continues by clarifying precisely how he suffered: enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body.  Christ’s sorrows in his soul and the sufferings in his body occurred to him because he became a curse for us. Christ redeems both soul and body, and thus it was necessary that he suffer in his own soul and body.  Calvin says that to view the atonement only in a bodily sense, is to think that Christ died only to save the body.[62]  In these “sorrows in soul and painful sufferings in his body,” Christ discharges the passive obedience aspect of his office of mediator.

Did Christ suffer in his divine or human nature, or both?  You may recall, from chapter 2, paragraph 1, that discussion on the impassibility of God (i.e. “without…passions”).  There we briefly discussed the impassibility of God, and how that relates to Christ’s suffering.  The doctrine of God’s impassibility teaches that God does not undergo emotive change or suffer, and biblical passages that seem to indicate emotive change in God are using figurative language called anthropopathism.  The problem is that if Christ’s divine nature suffered, it would imply that Christ’s divine nature was acted upon by something external which brought about a change in that nature—a change from non-suffering to suffering.  But, it is impossible for Christ’s divine nature to change since the eternal Logos is immutable.[63]  Thus we understand that Christ suffered only in his human nature.  Retaining all we learned in paragraph 2, it is not tearing asunder the unity of the person of Christ to deny that his divine nature suffered; rather it acknowledges the distinction of the natures, without denying their unity in the one person of Christ.  It was in Christ’s human soul he suffered most grievous sorrow, and it is a given that Christ’s bodily suffering was only in his human nature since the divine nature does not a body, being invisible and pure spirit—the Logos being of one substance with the Father.  One can see how difficult it can be to maintain the proper orthodox fences in the area of Christ’s incarnation.  We have to be able to hold in place multiple aspects of truth at the same time, and keep them all in their proper proportion.

Christ discharged the passive obedience aspect of his office as mediator in that he was crucified, and died.  This clause explains those aspects of Christ’s “sorrows of the soul and painful suffering in the body” that relate specifically to the cross and his subsequent death.  First, Jesus was crucified.  The cross was not simply the means of execution that was “coincidently” used during Christ’s time by the Roman Empire; it was the decreed method of atonement by the Father (Is. 53).  It was not that that Jesus merely had to die, but it was also the way he had to die—as if to illustrate the seriousness of sin and the extent of God’s wrath poured out on Christ.  Every pain Christ received for every second, and every drop of the precious blood of the Lamb was the Father exacting justice from Christ for each and every sin of his elect.  But the crucifixion is the suffering we could observe; it does not account for the suffering in his soul that we could not see.  We may see a reflection of that soul-suffering in Jesus words: “Why have you forsaken me?” For the Son to be forsaken of the Father—due to his becoming sin who knew no sin—surely must have been the most difficult part of Christ’s suffering.  Secondly, as a result of the crucifixion, Jesus died.  It was Christ’s physical body that suffered and died on the cross.  It is important that we recognize Christ actually died.  Christ suffered in soul and body, but it was also required that Christ die in our place to satisfy God’s perfect justice—a life for a life.  And, without Christ’s death there would be no hope of a resurrection.  Scripture declares: “For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Christ] has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21 ESV, brackets mine).

After Christ’s death, he remained in the state on the dead.[64]  This seems to correspond with the phrase in the Apostle’s Creed, “he descended into hell.”[65]  That was at least the view of the Westminster Larger Catechism from which the 1689 Confession likely borrowed the phrase “remained in the state of the dead.”[66]  The state of the dead means the situation, location, and condition of the body and soul at death. There are a multitude of views about what Jesus was doing during this “state of the dead,” while his body remained in the tomb, but to discuss those views would take us beyond our scope.  The Confession simply states that after Christ’s death he remained in the state of the dead. Of Christ, after death, Hodge states that he was in the “unseen world of the spirits.”[67]  That is a safe statement.  In the end, the Confession makes a rather general statement, and does not expressly say anything beyond that, and given the various positions out there, one wonders whether Scripture itself says anything explicit beyond this.[68]

The Confession indicates, citing Scripture, yet [his body] saw no corruption.   Scripture says, For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalms 16:10 ESV).  This is a typological prophecy of Christ’s resurrection.[69] And in Acts, we see this prophecy spoken of in the past tense:  “but he whom God raised up did not see corruption” (Acts 13:37 ESV).  The term corruption refers to the decaying process of Christ’s body.  The point is that Christ’s death was not permanent, and in fact, his body was not dead hardly long enough to undergo decay before it was raised.  In contrast, David’s body decayed at death and eventually turned to dust because he was not resurrected.  Christ’s body did not decay and turn to dust for it was raised three days before undergoing decay.  Based on Mary’s statement regarding Lazarus’ body, it may have been commonly understood that on the fourth day a corpse began to decay as evidenced by the odor: “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39 ESV).  Scientifically speaking, the body begins to decay internally after twenty-four hours, and after 72 hours the outward parts of a body begin to decay[70].  It probably strains the text insist that Christ’s body was supernaturally preserved from any decay whatsoever.  The text is not likely making a literal, scientific statement about decomposition; rather it is a way of saying that Christ’s body will not remain dead long before it will be resurrected.  In the end, the Confession is indicating—as does the biblical text—that while Christ died, yet he would be soon raised as prophesied.

 

Thus far, paragraph 4 has addressed Christ’s state of humiliation, which is defined by the Baptist Catechism as: “his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.”[71]  The Confession now moves to what is referred to as Christ’s state of exaltation, defined in the Baptist Catechism as: “his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.[72]  Christ’s state of exultation begins with Christ’s resurrection.  The Confession states: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered.  The New Testament Gospels make it quite clear that Christ was raised from the dead, citing the evidence and witness to this fact.  Paul states that the resurrection is so essential to Christianity that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”  Paul goes on: “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.   But then Paul declares: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:14-22 ESV).  On the third day Christ’s same body was raised.[73]Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe’” (John 20:27 ESV).  We recognize that Christ’s raised body was the same body that suffered and died, but that is not to deny that Christ’s raised body was not at all changed.

After Christ was raised and appeared to many and taught is disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:1-3), Christ also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession.  As the Gospel tells us:So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19 ESV; See also Acts 1:9-11).  We must keep in mind here the physical aspect of Christ’s raised body.  When he physically ascended, he went into physical clouds which physically obscured the onlooker’s view as Christ continued to physically ascend until his arrival at the right-hand of the Father.  We understand that there is a spiritual dimension to Christ’s ascension, but sometimes the physical dimension is lost on us.  This is important because what did the angels tell the disciples? “And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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” (Acts 1:10-11 ESV). Jesus will be returning physically, albeit in his glorified state (Rev. 19:11-16).  Christ still has a human body, albeit glorified, and continually will retain a human body and nature into eternity—a most remarkable and almost incomprehensible truth (Rm. 9:5; Heb. 7:24-25; Rev. 1:12-16; Rev. 5:6-8; Rev. 22:16).[74]

That Christ ascended to the right-hand of the Father means that the Father highly exalted Christ.  Christ reigns on the throne with the Father.  There is no higher honor that could be bestowed upon a Man.  This is Messiah, descendent of David, reigning not on the earthly throne in Jerusalem, but on high with the Father.  Christ in his exalted state still remains the mediator, the prophet, priest and king.  Notice his nearness to the Father; he is at his right-hand  making intercession for the saints—his brethren.  The Father exalted Christ to this lofty position, and placed him close at his side.  Christ—the God-man—as our representative sits exalted and within ear shot of the Father as our mediator and advocate. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:24 ESV).  “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34 ESV).  Can we grasp such wonderful things?  Only with the eyes of faith can we apprehend these glorious truths.

The Confession continues: and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.  Christ is not only our brother, our representative, and our prophet, priest, and king, but he is the judge of all mankind.  Not only does Christ represent us before the Father, but the Father has given all judgment to Christ.  The Bible says: “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42 ESV; see also Rom.14:9-10; Acts 1:1; 2 Pt.2:4).  The saint of the Lord receives great comfort from his high and lofty exultation of Christ, but even we who have received mercy ought to be mindful that he is the impartial judge of all the world and he will return to execute impartial judgment (Rm. 2:1-11).  Christ will judge not only mankind, but angels as well.  On that day only the elect angels, men and women will receive glory and honor—the rest will receive wrath and fury (Rom. 2:8). The elect receive glory and honor only based on the merits of their mediator who has procured peace with God on their behalf.  Those who receive mercy in Christ will forever sing the wonders of his grace and mercy.  The reprobate will receive only what they deserve—forever weeping and gnashing their teeth under the heavy hand of God’s judgement (Luke 13:28).

 

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  1. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the Justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him. (Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:14; Romans 3:25, 26; John 17:2; Hebrews 9:15)

 

In the previous paragraph, we learned how Christ executed the office of mediator.   Now the Confession speaks of the result of that work.  The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself… hath fully satisfied the Justice of God.  We already discussed these two aspects of Christ’s work briefly in paragraph 4, under the clause:  “the Lord Jesus …was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us.”  The Confession’s use of “by,” in our current paragraph tells us what was accomplished “by” Christ’s work two-fold work.  These two aspects go hand-in-hand together; both together “hath satisfied the justice of God.” We want to be careful to not over emphasize one part of the work over the other, for without them both the justice of God would not be fully satisfied that God forgiven our negative debt of sin, and credit our account positively as righteous in his sight—only for the righteousness of Christ received by faith.[75]  He lived a life we could not live, and paid a debt we could not pay.”

The Confession adds two points regarding the perfect obedience and sacrifice.  First, the Lord Jesus accomplished this work through the eternal Spirit.  This a direct quote from Scripture: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14 KJV)? The Spirit of God enabled and strengthened Christ’s human nature so that it could endure the fierce wrath of God.  And secondly, the Confession states that this sacrifice was once offered up unto God.  The Confession, again, is referencing Scripture: “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10b KJV), and “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14 KJV). The word once does not speak of the past, as in “once upon a time,” but it speaks of the efficacy of the atonement.  It was offered one time, and one time fully satisfied the justice of God.  This “once” offering is in contrast to the continual sacrifice of bulls and goats of the Old Testament, which could never remove sin (Heb. 10:4). This one-time sacrifice was offered up unto God.  This was not a sacrifice to appease Satan, but atonement unto God to satisfy his just wrath against the sin of the elect.

The Confession is also opposing Roman Church doctrine at this point.  Their catechism states: “In the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of the offering is different.’”[76]  While the Roman Church does elsewhere acknowledge the distinction between Christ’s once historical sacrifice on the cross,[77] yet practically any sacrifice at all in the Eucharist is to deny the once for all sufficiency of Christ’s historic sacrifice.  Further, the Roman Church’s catechism indicates that Christ’s offering on the cross and the Eucharist through the priests differ only in the manner (method) of sacrifice.  In other words, a sacrifice occurred on the cross and also each time in the Eucharist.  Thus the Roman Church, in reality, views the cross as inadequate both “for sin to atone,” and the once for all justification of sinners.  We will talk more about the inadequate view of the Roman Church regarding justification in chapter 11.

We now come to the effect of Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice.  These are listed as a series of related points.  First, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice, Christ hath fully satisfied the Justice of God.  These satisfied the Father’s justice; Christ’s work was received as the full and final payment for our debt of sin.  Christ’s purchase of redemption was not a symbolic gesture, or merely illustrative of his great love for mankind.  It showed love, true, but it was so much more than an object lesson. The payment for redemption was not partial—the Father mercifully accepting his work as a token or down payment.  No, it satisfied God’s justice completely; it perfectly and entirely fulfilled the requirements of God’s justice.  There is no remaining unpaid balance; Christ’s death actually and literally paid the debt in full for those it was designed and applied.  The satisfaction of divine justice by atonement is referred to as propitiation.  John Murray states: “Propitiation places in the focus of attention the wrath of God and the divine provision for the removal of that wrath.”[78]  Scripture states: “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:24b-25a ESV).

Secondly, by Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice which satisfied God’s divine justice, he procured reconciliation. The reality that God’s wrath was satisfied has the direct result of actually procuring reconciliation.  Procurement means “an actual obtaining of something.” We sometimes refer to Christ’s work as a definite atonement, for it actually accomplishes what it sets out to do—save the elect.   Reconciliation was procured by Christ’s work, but it still must be applied before one receives the benefits of it.  Some take this procured reconciliation to mean that even before the elect were born, and even before they exercise faith, they are already reconciled and justified before God.  This is referred to as the doctrine of eternal justification. This is an unbiblical view, and it confuses the difference between redemption accomplished (procured) and redemption applied.  Until the elect person is effectually called, given faith, and they exercise it, they remain unsaved and unjustified.  On the polar opposite, Arminian theology denies Christ’s work actually procured salvation, making the atonement one of non-procurement until one first exercises faith. This position tends to shift the accomplishment of redemption—even if slight—from Christ’s work to the one who exercises faith.  The Confession takes a position which does not fall prey to either of these two unbiblical positions.  Hodge states of this portion of the Confession: “Christ did not die simply to remove legal obstructions to their salvation—but that he died with the design and effect of actually securing their salvation and of endowing them gratuitously with an inalienable title to heaven.”[79]  Redemption is accomplished for the elect, and make no mistake it will be unfailingly applied to them through effectual calling, in God’s good time.  It is effectual because it unfailingly brings about a change in the called sinner’s nature by which they then gladly embrace Christ in the gospel without resistance; but we are getting ahead of ourselves (See chapter 10).

Thirdly, by Christ’s work he purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him. Christ purchased for the elect an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.  And again, this purchase is actual procurement not a pending transaction.  He purchased it; it is paid for; it is procured; it is as sure as his own work.  The inheritance is in the kingdom of heaven.  It was paid by Christ for all those whom the Father gave to him.  Here we see explicitly stated that the heavenly inheritance is purchased for a particular people, not each and every person in the world—only for those throughout the world who the Father gave to Christ.  The word “those” is of course, none other than the elect whom the Father chose to be in Christ from the foundation of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV).  The entire paragraph explains the doctrine of limited atonement—the ‘L’ in the Calvinistic acrostic TULIP.  Letham states: “The section also includes a clear commitment to particular redemption.  The Lord Jesus purchased reconciliation and an everlasting inheritance for all those whom the Father had given to him—neither for all people without exception, nor for all people provisionally, as the Arminians held.”[80] As we move to the next paragraph we will see how this redemption—both accomplished and procured—is applied to the elect in all ages, including those before Christ’s redemption was accomplished.

 

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  1. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the World, in and by those promises, Types, and Sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the Seed of the Woman, which should bruise the Serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.  (1 Corinthians 4:10; Hebrews 4:2; 1 Peter 1:10, 11; Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 13:8)

The Confession having then established the procurement of redemption, it now addresses how Christ’s redemption had been applied to the elect person in their time—a time which before the incarnation.    Thus the Confession states: Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the World.  A.A. Hodge explains of this paragraph: “That although this perfect satisfaction was rendered in his obedience and suffering only subsequent to his incarnation, yet the full benefits thereof had been applied to each of the elect severally in their successive generations by the Holy Ghost, through the varying forms of truth to them made known.”[81]  Let’s define some terms.  Virtue means “the value, worth and quality of a thing.”  The word efficacy, which we have already made use of means: “to be effective.”  And, Communicated mean “transmitted, given or applied.” Communication is not used here in the sense of conducting information from one person to another.  Rather, it the transmission of redemption to the elect.  The period prior to the incarnation would include the intertestamental period and the Old Testament period.  These were saved at that time by the value and effectiveness of the atonement which was transmitted or applied to them.

The Confession explains the means by which Christ’s redemption was revealed and received by the elect prior to his incarnation was in and by those promises, Types, and Sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the Seed of the Woman, which should bruise the Serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.  We have here three categories: promises, types and sacrifices.  These promises began with the promise that Eve’s descendant would crush the serpent (Gen. 3:15).  As we may recall from chapter 7, paragraph 3:  “This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament.”  The promise was revealed to Adam and from that point forward, by farther steps, greater clarity came until the full revelation when Christ came to earth.   As time continued, God continued to give more promises, and to put before his people types and sacrifices which pointed to that one promised of Eve’s offspring.  These promises, types and sacrifices were shadowy, but nonetheless pointed to Christ and his work of redemption.  Their faith resting on the promised one was a faith that received the benefits of Christ’s work even before it was completed.  The New Testament reminds us Christ’s presence in the Old Testament; we may recall that Christ was present with Children of Israel: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4b ESV).  And in Hebrews we are told: “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:2 ESV).  And of the prophets, we are told: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:10-11 ESV).  Thus, Christ was present in the Old Testament and was spoken of by promise and revelation, leading the prophets to search carefully as to who and when this promised one would come.

The Confession states: the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.  Christ was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8),[82] in that even before Christ purchased redemption it was applied to all the elect even from the beginning—Adam, Eve, Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, and many other elect named and unnamed from Genesis to the incarnation.  The Confession cites as its proof-text the Hebrews passage which tells us this Lamb is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

 

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  1. Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. (John 3:13; Acts 20:28 )

The first point to consider in this paragraph is that Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures. We previously discussed that both natures are required to effectively mediate peace between God and man, and the Confession confirms that indeed both natures are at work in redemption by each nature doing that which is proper to itself. This statement shows not only that the two natures are at work in his mediation, but maintains the integrity of each, since each nature does that which is consistent with its essence or nature. For example, Christ in his human nature was tired and slept in the boat while the sea raged around him and the disciples, but by his divine nature Christ calmed the sea. Each nature does that which is proper (i.e. consistent with) its attributes. This is done without any transference of properties to the other nature. As cited earlier, Charles Hodge states: “If divine attributes be conferred on man, he ceases to be man; and if human attributes be transferred to God, he ceases to be God.” [83] The Confession is essentially reiterating the distinction of the nature while showing the unity in the one person, and then applying that specifically to his work of mediation.

Certain Scriptural passages may seem to challenge the Confession in this regard. For example, Acts 20:28: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (28 ESV). The passage seems to imply that God’s blood, specifically Christ’s divine nature, shed blood, and yet how can that be since God cannot suffer or shed blood (the divine nature is invisible and a pure spirit without a body or passions). How do we resolve this seeming incongruity between the Confession (i.e. each nature acts according to its nature) and Scripture (i.e. the divine nature appears to have blood and die)? The Confession answers this by indicating: that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature by reason of the unity of the person. What is meant?

R. C. Sproul helpfully states:

  • “In these texts, we see references to God’s blood and God’s death. But this does not mean that the divine nature perished on the cross. Since there is a perfect unity between the human nature and the divine nature, anything that can be attributed to either nature can be attributed to the person. We can say that Jesus was God (see John 20:28) without deifying his human nature—without saying he had divine feet or divine hands. As a matter of convenient theological shorthand, the Bible frequently speaks of the person when only one nature is involved.” [84]

Further, Letham states that the Confession here “is devoted to the communication idiomatum, the communication of idioms. This classically recognized that since the Son had taken human nature into union, there were things said of him that might apply specifically to his humanity. In these cases, such human features—hunger, thirst, weariness and the like—are predicable of his person, just as are his divine characteristics.” [85] Thus the Confession indicates this is not an actual transference of properties from one nature to another, but rather it is a manner of speaking in Scripture—the use of idiom.

Wayne Grudem helpfully states: “Thus Jesus can say, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). He does not say, ‘Before Abraham was, my divine nature existed,’ because he is free to talk about anything done by his divine nature alone or his human nature alone as something he did.” Grudem then adds: “In the human sphere, this is certainly true of our conversation as well. If I type a letter, even though my feet and toes had nothing to do with typing the letter, I do not tell people, ‘My fingers types a letter and my toes had nothing to do with it’ (though that is true). Rather, I tell people, ‘I typed a letter.’ That is true because anything that is done by one part of me is done by me.” We can perhaps picture this idiomatic usage in the following graphic:

graphic 7

To be clear, this graphic does not represent transference of properties, but the use of the idiom.  The human nature can be spoken of as God, and the divine nature as human, because they both exist in the one person, the God-man.  Many mistakes have been made by the failure to let the inspired biblical language function as language naturally does.  In the end, this paragraph helps us to recognize the use of idiom in Scripture, so that we are not unduly shaken from an orthodox position by misunderstanding and misinterpreting Scripture.

 

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  1. To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them; uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it. (John 6:37;John 10:15, 16;John 17:9; Romans 5:10; John 17:6; Ephesians 1:9; 1 John 5:20; Romans 8:9, 14; Psalms 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26; John 3:8; Ephesians 1:8)

Having already shown that Christ purchased redemption specifically for the elect, the Confession now advances that point: to all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.  Letham states that this “is an emphatic affirmation of effective redemption.  Christ’s mediation achieves what God intends it to achieve.  For all those for whom it is intended—the elect—Christ has purchased and will communicate redemption.”[88] The redemption accomplished by Christ is also effectively applied.  We could compare it to a person who first procures a gift for someone in particular, and then secondly gives it to that person.  But while this accomplished and applied distinction is important to note in redemption, it is just as important to see their absolute connection: without fail the redemption accomplished (i.e. paid and procured) for the elect will also be certainly (i.e. definitely or reliably) and effectually (i.e. successfully or actually) applied and communicated (i.e. given and transmitted)” to the elect.  We see this effective application of redemption in many passages, such as: “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37a ESV).   And, “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” (Romans 5:10 ESV).  A.A. Hodge states: “Since God’s purposes are all eternal and immutable, the Father and the Son will to apply it now precisely to those whom they had designed to apply it when Christ hung upon the cross, and they willed to apply it then precisely to those whom they had designed to apply it from eternity.”[89]  

The Confession now indicates how redemption is effectively applied: making intercession for them; uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace.  We will handle each phrase one at a time, but will not go into great detail because each of these will be handled later in greater detail.

Christ applies redemption by making intercession for them. Sproul states: “He actually intercedes on our behalf so that his rescue effort will be efficacious.”[90]  For example: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9 (ESV).  Notice Christ does not intercede for the world, that is, each and every person on earth, but only for his elect in the world (i.e. those whom the Father has given to him).  Intercession is not simply his prayers, but his acting according to the office of mediator. But, when Christ prays to the Father his prayers will always be answered, and so prayer is effective intercession before the Father.

 

Christ’s redemption is applied by uniting them to himself by his Spirit.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit who applies redemption to the elect.[91]  One of the wondrous acts of the Holy Spirit is his uniting us to Christ.  John Murray states: “Nothing is more central or basic than union or communion with Christ.”[92] Murray indicates that union with Christ “can be readily seen if we remember that brief expression which is so common in the New Testament, namely, “in Christ.”  It is that which is meant by “in Christ” that we have in mind when we speak of “union with Christ.”[93]

Redemption is applied by Christ’s revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation.  In Christ’s office as prophet, he reveals God’s will for our salvation in and by his Word.  His “Word” here refers to the gospel: the mystery of salvation. This “mystery” is spoken of throughout the New Testament.  Paul speaks of the gospel as “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” (Colossians 1:26 ESV).  And, Paul said he was called to preach the gospel “and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9 ESV).

 

Further, redemption is by Christ communicated or applied by persuading them to believe and obey. Here we see that by the gospel, the Spirit so effectively works in the elect so as to persuade them to believe and obey the gospel call.  This is speaking of effectual grace (i.e. effectual calling).  As we have previously mentioned effectual calling is spoken of in passages of Scripture like Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (ESV).  Predestination infallibly leads to effectual calling; effective calling infallibly leads to justification; justification leads to glorification.

Next is the governing office of Christ’s kingship in redemption on behalf of the elect by his governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom.[94]  Notice how he governs them: by his Word and the Spirit.  We will observe this further elaborated in paragraph 10 regarding Christ’s office of king.  The elect are not only saved from God’s wrath, but Christ as their king vanquishes the enemies of their salvation: the world, our flesh and the devil.  Many of our enemies are also Christ’s enemies.  We see in Psalm 110:1: “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (ESV).  Or in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feetThe last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  We need a conqueror triumphant who has himself overcome the world, sin, and death itself.  “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14a ESV).

He will carry out his overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.  In other words he does this by his most consonant (i.e. in agreement or harmony) with his wonderful and unsearchable (i.e. incomprehensible) dispensation (i.e. in his time).  Here we see a reference to God’s most holy and wise providence in Christ’s care for his people.  All that has proceeded here occurs by God’s wondrous, incomprehensible ways and according to God’s time.

God’s work in these ways is all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.  God’s application of redemption is by God’s free and absolute grace at his sole initiation.  It is done without pre-existing conditions in us, or action by us. We will speak more of this in chapter 10, Of Effectual Calling.  For now we need to simply understand that God’s means of saving us is by his sovereign initiation, not ours.  God so works in us—prior to any condition in us—that we will freely come to him by faith.  He procures redemption, and then procures us—based on his sovereign free grace.

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  1. This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other. (1 Timothy 2:5)

 Paragraph 9 is not present in the Westminster Confession or the Savoy Declaration.  The 1689 Confession adopted it from the 1646 First London Baptist Confession.  This paragraph is strategically placed before paragraph 10 which will speak detail about Christ’s offices of prophet, priest and king. The Confession states: This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ.  Scripture says: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5 ESV). There is only one, the passage tells us, thus all others are excluded.  The office of mediator could be performed by no other than Christ.  No one else was called by the Father, appointed by the Father, and no one else is qualified.

As the sole mediator, he is also the only prophet, priest, and king of the church of God.  Since there is no other, Christ’s office may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other.  The Roman Catholic Church seeks to transfer Christ’s offices in part or in whole to others.  We see this in the Roman Church’s belief that the pope is the Vicar or Pastor of Christ on earth.  We see it in the view that Mary is an advocate between God and man, and in the encouragement to offer prayers to her instead of through Christ alone.  Further, we their belief that “the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of the Holy Orders, acts in persona Christ Capitus [i.e. “in the person of Christ the head].[95]  We could go on, but I think the point is made.  Thus the Confession explicitly denies the transfer of any part or the whole of Christ’s office to another.

 

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  1. This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office; and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God; and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. (John 1:18; Colossians 1:21; Galatians 5:17; John 16:8; Psalms 110:3; Luke 1:74, 75)

Paragraph 10 is not present in the Westminster Confession, which contains only eight paragraphs.  The wording comes from the 1646 First London Baptist Confession, as was the case for paragraph 9.  The Confession now moves into a rather detailed explanation regarding the offices of prophet, priest, and king.  The Confession states that: this number and order of offices is necessary.  The number of the offices is three, and each one is necessary (not one can be omitted).  Why are all three necessary?  The remainder of paragraph will answer that question.  The order is also necessary, meaning, the ordinal numbers: first, prophet; second, priest; and third, king.  Why?  Again, the rest of paragraph 10 will give us the answer.

First, we shall look at Christ’s office of prophet.  Of this office, the Confession states: for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office.  We are ignorant of the way of salvation unless Christ our Prophet reveals it to us in his gospel.[96]  We need this office to be first (by ordinal number) because without it we would not know who the appointed one is to whom we should look for salvation.  In light of our ignorance, we need Christ the Prophet to come to us with the gospel.  Of this office, the Puritan Thomas Watson said: “If Alexander [the great] thought himself so much abliged to Aristotle for the philosophic instruction he received from him, oh, how are we obliged to Jesus Christ, this great Prophet, for opening to us the eternal purposes of his love, and revealing to us the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven!”[97]  Scripture tells us: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).  Christ is the prophet from the Father who speaks only what the Father tells him: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49 ESV).  Christ thus comes to us as the prophet from the Father to tell us God’s will for our salvation through the gospel.

Second is the office of priest.  Of this office the Confession states: and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God.  We are at enmity with God.  Scripture says: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7 ESV; see Col. 1:21-22).  If we are to be reconciled to God we need a priest who can intercede or mediate for us.  Watson states: “There needed to be a priest to be an umpire, to mediate between the guilty creature and a holy God.”[98]  Our works fall infinitely short of the required standard of perfect obedience.  Thus, without Christ as our priest to reconcile us to God and to make us acceptable to God, we have no hope of redemption.  Christ reconciles by” 1) his perfect obedience and offering himself as a sacrifice to satisfy divine judgment, and 2) making continual intercession for us.[99]  Watson helpfully shows us that Christ our high priest intercedes for us in three ways: 1) he present his merits before the Father on our behalf; 2) Christ our surety resolves all debts and indictments brought against us; and 3) Christ calls for our acquittal before the Father.[100] Christ first tells us God’s will for our salvation as Prophet, and secondly, he acts to reconcile us to God as our high priest.

The third office is that of king.  The Confession states of this office: and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom.  We are averse to return to God.  Averse means that we are strongly opposed to something.  We are not only averse to return to God, but we are utterly unable to return to God. This brings us back to chapter 6, paragraph 3 and 4.  When we consider our plight, it is clear that we need to be rescued. Further, we require security from our spiritual adversaries.  As a result, Christ our king rescues us and provides ongoing security for us in the following ways: He convinces us of our estate of sin and treachery against his kingdom.  “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8 ESV). Christ our king subdues us.  Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14 ESV). He draws us: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44 ESV).  He upholds us: “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me(Ps. 63:8 ESV).  He delivers us: “The oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear” (Luke 1:73-74 ESV). He preserves us: “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life” (Ps. 121:7 ESV). “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day (John 6:39 ESV.) And by all these actions, Christ our king will bring us to his heavenly kingdom. 

 Thomas Watson states:

  • “How came Christ to be king? Not by usurpation, but legally.  He holds his crown by immediate tenure from heaven.  God the Father has decreed him to be king.  ‘I have set my king upon my holy hill: I will declare the decree.’ (Psa ii 6,7).  God anointed him and sealed him to his regal office.  ‘Him hath God the Father sealed.’ (John vi 27).  God has set the crown upon his head.[101]  

Again, Watson declares:

  • “Let those admire God’s free grace who were once under the power and tyranny of Satan, and now of slaves Christ has made them to become the subjects of his kingdom.  Christ did not need subjects, he has legions of angels ministering to him; but in his love he has honored you to make you his subjects.  Oh, how long it ere Christ could prevail with you to come under his banner!  How much opposition did he meet with ere you would wear this prince’s colors!  At last omnipotent grace overcame you.  When Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, an angel came and beat off his chains, Acts xii:7; so, when thou wast sleeping in the devil’s arms, Christ by his Spirit smote thy heart, and caused the chains of sin to fall off, and made thee a subject of his kingdom.  Oh, admire the free grace! Thou who art a subject of Christ, and art sure to reign with him for ever!”[102]

 

First need Christ the prophet to tell us God’s will for our salvation; secondly, we need his priestly intercession to effect reconciliation on our behalf, and thirdly, we need Christ our king to rescue and secure us to his eternal heavenly kingdom. The Confession has shown us why we need all three offices (the number), and why these offices are in this order. These offices are exercised by Christ, both in his state of humiliation and exultation.  Along these lines Richard Sibbes states: “Oh it is a sweet meditation, beloved, to think that our flesh is now in heaven, at the right hand of God; and that flesh that was born of the virgin, that was laid in the manger, that went up and down doing good, that was made a curse for us and humbled to death, and lay under the bondage of death three days; that this flesh is now glorious in heaven, that this person is Lord over the living and the dead. It is an excellent book to study this. Beloved, study Christ in the state of humiliation and exaltation.”[103]

We now come to the end of chapter 8, Of Christ the Mediator. We have covered ten very full paragraphs.  The entire chapter has provided us with rich and important doctrine indispensable for salvation and a growing faith.  We have feasted on the glories of our mediator, prophet, priest, and king. Our minds may be weary; we have covered a substantial amount of weighty theological and doctrinal material, but our souls are greatly enriched for we have fed on our Lord Jesus Christ, the bread of life.  There is a sense in which we have reached the pinnacle chapter of the Confession in our study of Christ and his work.  From this point forward the Confession will focus upon each aspect of redemption applied to us (i.e. ordo solutis) in chapters 9-18; then chapter 19 to 30 will cover topics of related to Christian living and institutions, and chapters 31 and 32 will deal with last things (eschatology).

 ————————-

Footnotes (See below the Footnotes for the Appendix)

 [1] The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 93.

[3] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006),  235.

[4] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 282.

[5] The ecumenical creeds are those issued by the early ecumenical (i.e. church) councils.  Seven councils met from A.D. 325 to 787.  We will touch upon many of these councils and creeds as we proceed.

[6] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 240.

[7] Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2012), 130.

[8] I like what Thomas Arnold said: “Real knowledge, like everything else of value, is not obtained easily.  It must be worked for, studied for, thought for, and, more than all, must be prayed for.” Cited in Handbook of Grammar & Composition, Fourth Edition (Pensacola, Fl.: A Beka Books, 2001), 179.

[9] The succeeding generations owe a great debt of gratitude to the early church for contending against the heresies, gathering together in ecumenical councils, and formulating the creeds.  One of the great benefits of councils, and particularly the enduring creeds is that the church need not reinvent the wheel, so to speak, allowing the church to proceed forward in clarifying other areas of theological importance.

[10] Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 389-90.

[11] James R. White, The Roman Catholic Controversy: Catholics & Protestants—Do the Differences Really Matter? (Minneapolis, Mn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), 82.

[12] Ibid., 83.

[13] Trueman states: “Historical theology, the genealogy of doctrinal discussion and formulation, is thus an important part of Christian education and should be part of every pastor’s and elder’s background.  It should be a central part of the teaching ministry in all churches.”  Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2012), 102.

[14] Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 63.

[15] This meeting is the first of seven important ecumenical councils which would meet over the next 450 years, and is called the First Council of Nicaea (a.k.a. Nicaea I), because a second council also in Nicaea was held in 787 (i.e. Second Council of Nicaea (a.k.a. Nicaea II).

[16] Dr. Nick Needham, “The Definition of Orthodoxy.” Tabletalk (April 2006): 8-11.

[17] Ibid., 10.

[18] The A.D. 325 Creed of Nicaea is not to be confused with the more oft used and slightly expanded Nicene Creed of A.D. 381 (better named for clarity sake the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381).

[19] According to Carl Trueman, the introduction of the Greek word homoousion “of the same substance” by Nicaea I in its Creed of Nicaea proved especially important later when that word became a focal point of theological discussion at the Council of Constantinople in 381. Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2012), 93.

[20] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils, 2nd series, vol. 14 (1900; reprinted, Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 3.  See also Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity A.D. 311-600 (1910; reprinted, Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 667-69.

[21] The bracket is my insertion of the implied word “God.” The words “very” and “eternal” are adjectives which describe the noun “God.”

[22] The English word, in this usage, comes from the Latin word verus, meaning “true.”

[23] See note in The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[24] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (1960; reprinted, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House), 1910.

[25] The 1646 London Baptist Confession states: “the brightness of his glory,” the exact wording from the King James Version, whereas the 1689 confession replaces the pronoun “his” with “the Father’s” presumably for clarity sake.

[26] The Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, an expansion of the 325 Creed of Nicaea, retained this same “light from light” wording.  Both the 325 and 381 Creeds were written in Greek and Latin, and you may note that some translations use the word “from” (i.e. light from light) instead of the word “of” (i.e. Light of Light) This is merely a English translation preference.

[27] Edward D. Morris, Theology of The Westminster Symbols: A Commentary Historical, Doctrinal, Practical (Columbus, Oh.: The Champlin Press, 1900), 168.

[28] Ante-Nicene Fathers: Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1, (1885; reprinted, Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 87.

[29] The Apostle’s Creed, originally written in Greek, dated from as early as A.D. 200 was not written by the apostles.

[30] Trinity Hymnal (Philadelphia: Great Commissions Publishing, 1961), Hymn 150.

[31] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 322.

[32] Consubstantiality, meaning, “the Father and the Son are of the same substance (i.e. homoousion).”

[33] Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2012), 98.

[34] In regards to the soul, it applies particularly the spirit and mind of the human nature.

[35] In Apollinarianism, the divine nature suffers no loss in attributes, per se, but the human nature is not whole, lacking a human spirit and mind (soul) attained from the divine nature.  See Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity, vol. iii (Eerdmans), 709-710.

[36] Another matter had also arisen earlier in the 325 Nicaea Council called the Pneumatomachian (a.k.a. Semi-Arianism) Controversy which denied the deity of the Holy Spirit, but since that controversy was not the primary aim of that council, it was left in the peripheral, and the 325 Creed of Nicea simply said:   “We believe… in the Holy Spirit.”  It would be the next ecumenical council of Constantinople in A.D. 381 that included an affirmation of the deity of the Holy Spirit. See Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, edited by Philip Schaff and revised by Donald S. Schaff, 6th ed., vol. I, The History of Creeds (1931; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983-2007), 618-32.

[37] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils, 2nd series, vol. 14 (1900; reprinted, Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 3.  See also Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity A.D. 311-600 (1910; reprinted, Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 172.

[38] Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, edited by Philip Schaff and revised by Donald S. Schaff, 6th ed., vol. II, The Greek and Latin Creeds (1931; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983-2007), 62.

[39] Of Nestorius, Gregg Allison states: “Uncomfortable with affirming theotokos without also affirming that Mary was anthropotokos—“man-bearing”—or, better still, christotokos—“Christ-bearing”—Nesotrius found himself in trouble.  On the on hand, to deny Mary as theotokos would fly in the face of a traditional church belief.  On the other hand, Nestorius could not allow that God had a mother, that God was conceived and nurtured in a womb for nine months, that God was born, or that God suffered and died.”  Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Historical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 374.

[40] Cairns indicates that Nestorianism “made Christ out to be a man whom, in Siamese twin fashion, the divine and human natures were combined in a mechanical union of natures.  Christ was in effect only a perfect man who was morally linked to deity.  He was a God-bearer rather than a God-man.” Earle Edwin Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries 2nd revised edition (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 136. .

[41] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity A.D. 311-600 (1910; reprinted, Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 718.

[42] “The word theotokos was the watchword of the orthodox party in the Nestorian controversy, as the term homoousion had been in the Arian; and opposition to this word meant denial of the mystery of the incarnation, or of the true union of divine and human natures in Christ.” Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity A.D. 311-600 (1910; reprinted, Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 718.

[43] Citation of Cyrus from Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Historical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 374. See also Allison’s footnote 58.

[44] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 321.

[45] See Louis Berkhof’s discussion on this.  Ibid. 312-22.

[47] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 244.

[48] Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Historical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 375. Bracket mine.

[49] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 243.

[50] That is, without mixture.

[52] See Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2012), 102-3.  The 1689 Confession follows the exact wording of the Westminster Confession here.

[53] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. XX, editor, John T. McNeill (Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1960), Book 1, Chapter XIV, “How the Two Natures and the Mediator Make One Person.”

[54] The word “without” placed in front of “conversion,” is an ellipsis for the following two words, and thus without goes before each word: without conversion, [without] composition, and [without] confusion.

[55] The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

Of the two usages provided from the 1600’s, sense number one (cited above) appears the best choice.

[56] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. I, Theology (1873; reprint, Peabody, Ms.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 390.

[57] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 143.

[58] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, translated from the original Latin, and collated with the author’s French version, edited by Rev. William Pringle: 500th Anniversary Edition, vol. XXI (reprinted, Baker Book House, 2009), 118-19.

[59] Ibid., 119.

[60] It is inadequate to take the rather passé view that Christ came merely to be an example and to show us his love.  Those who reduce Christ’s work to a mere demonstration of example and love, while refusing to speak of it as work of obedience to the law and a substitutionary atonement, are extricating the work of Christ from its legal and penal framework.  To do so is to leave the gospel far behind, and turn Christ’s work into a mere demonstration, rather than an actual procurement of redemption.

[61] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 146.

[62] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. XX, editor, John T. McNeill (Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1960), Book 2, Chapter XVI, 515-6.

[63] The act of the Logos in taking on human nature is not a change of the divine nature.

[64] This phrase in the Confession deviates from the Westminster Confession and the Savoy Declaration which both state: “remained under the power of death.”  Interestingly, the phrase in the Westminster Confession and Savoy is also present in the Larger Catechism (50) from which the 1689 Confession seems to have borrowed “remained in the state of the dead.”  This may indicate that the 1689 Confession is not actually deviating from Westminster Theology; it simply chose a different phrase closely related to the meaning of the Westminster Confession wording.

[65] See Westminster Larger Catechism 50: “Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.”

[66] Ibid.

[67] A.A. Hodge states: “In the Creed commonly called the Apostle’s Creed, and adopted by all the Churches, this last stage of the humiliation of Christ is expressed by the phrase, “He descended into hell” (Hades, the invisible world).  This means precisely what our Confession affirms, that while the body of Jesus remained buried in the sepulcher his soul remained temporarily divorced from it in the unseen world of spirits.” Hodge acknowledges that there are various opinions as to precisely what that phrase means in the Apostle’s Creed. A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 146.

[68] See Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 340-3.

[69] Psalm 16:10 has an immediate context of David’s hope in the Lord that God will not abandon him, and it foreshadows a fuller fulfillment in the greater David, and in that sense it is both typological and prophetic.  David is a typological figure of Christ, and through that typological lens we see Ps. 16:10 as a prophecy of Christ’s resurrection.  For discussion regarding the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament as related to typology and prophecy, see Patrick Fairbairn’s, A Hermeneutical Manual Introducing the Exegetical Study of the New Testament. This has been reprinted under the title, Opening Scripture (1858; reprinted, Birmingham, Al., Solid Ground Christian Books, 2004), 357-460.

[70] These time tables are approximate since, of course, the environment of a corpse: moisture, temperature, and so forth, are major factors in decomposition time frames.

[71] See Baptist Catechism 30. See The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[72] Baptist Catechism 31: “Q. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation? A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.”  The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[73] While Christ’s same body was raised, and in some sense changed and glorified after the resurrection (e.g. he appears and disappears; he was unrecognizable at some points and recognizable at others), yet it remained his same body; after his resurrection he had scars, and was recognized and physically embraced.

[74] Baptist Catechism 24: “Q. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect? A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ; who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was and continueth to be God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever.”  The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[75] See Baptist Catechism 36: “Q. What is justification? A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”  The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[76] Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York, Ny.: Doubleday, 1995), No. 1367, pg. 381 [italics original]. See the Roman Church’s 1551 Council of Trent, Canons 1, 2, and 8.  See also James White’s, The Roman Catholic Controversy (Minneapolis, Mn., Bethany Book House, 1996), 161-180.  See Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1545.

[77] Catechism 1545: “The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church.  The same is true of the ministerial priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood: “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York, Ny.: Doubleday, 1995), 1545, page 430.

[78] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955), 33.

[79] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 151.

[80] Robert Letham, The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2009), 240.

[81] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 149.

[82] The KJV was cited here:  “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 (KJV).   Interestingly, the ESV reads differently: “and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8 ESV).

[83] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Volume II, Anthropology (Peabody, Mass., Hendrickson Publishers), pg. 390

[84] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 270.

[85] Robert Letham, The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2009), 241. See also Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (1985; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995), 72-4.

[86] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, Great Britain: Inter-Varsity Press and Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 561.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Robert Letham, The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2009), 241.

[89] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 155.

[90] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 275.

[91] Baptist Catechism 32: “Q. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

  1. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.” The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[92] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955), 161.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Baptist Catechism 29: “Q. How doth Christ execute the office of king? A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling, and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”  The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[95] Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York, Ny.: Doubleday, 1995), 1548, page 431.  The catechism cites as support Thomas Aquinas who said: “Now by reason of the sacerdotal [related to mediation of a priest] consecration which he [the priest] has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself ([i.e.] virtute ac persona ipsius Christ )”.  Bracket mine.

[96] Baptist Catechism 27 indicates: “Christ executeth the office of prophet in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.” The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[97] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 172.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Baptist Catechism 28: “Christ executeth the office of priest in his once offering up himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.”  The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, Carlisle, Pn.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010).

[100] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 179-80.

[101] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 187.

[102] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 191.

[103] Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), Christ’s Exaltation Purchased by Humiliation, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 5:346.  Cited in Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), Kindle location 13868.

 arbitation1 

Chapter 8 Appendix

 Apostle’s Creed

  • The resurrection of the body:
  • The forgiveness of sins:
  • I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
  • I believe in the Holy Ghost:
  • From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
  • He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
  • The third day he rose again from the dead:
  • Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
  • Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
  • And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
  • I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
  • And the life everlasting. Amen.

 —————-

325 Creed of Nicaea

  • We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten,
  • that is, from the substance of the Father,
  • God from God,
  • light from light,
  • true God from true God,
  • begotten not made,
  • of one substance with the Father,
  • through Whom all things came into being,
  • things in heaven and things on earth,
  • Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down,
  • and became incarnate
  • and became man,
  • and suffered,
  • and rose again on the third day,
  • and ascended to the heavens,
  • and will come to judge the living and dead,
  • And in the Holy Spirit.
  • But as for those who say, There was when He was not,
  • and, Before being born He was not,
  • and that He came into existence out of nothing,
  • or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance,
  • or created,
  • or is subject to alteration or change
  • – these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.

———-

381 NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

————

Athanasian Creed

  1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
  2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
  3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
  4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
  5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
  6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
  7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
  8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
  9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
  10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
  11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
  12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
  13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
  14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
  15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
  16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
  17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
  18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
  19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
  20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
  21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
  22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
  23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
  24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
  25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
  26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
  27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
  28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
  29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
  31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
  32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
  33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
  34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
  35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
  36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
  37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
  38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
  39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
  40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
  41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
  42. and shall give account of their own works.
  43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
  44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

———

 

Chalcedon Definition, Creed 451

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The Creed is preceded in the acts of the Council by an express confirmation of the Nicene Creed in both forms, ‘the Creed of the three hundred and eighteen holy Fathers of Nicæa,’ and ‘the Creed of the hundred and fifty holy Fathers who were assembled at Constantinople.’ The Fathers of Chalcedon declare that ‘this wise and saving Creed [of Nicæa] would be sufficient for the full acknowledgment and confirmation of the true religion; for it teaches completely the perfect doctrine concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and fully explains the Incarnation of the Lord to those who receive it faithfully.’ The addition of a new Creed is justified by the subsequent Christological heresies (Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism). After stating it, the Synod solemnly prohibits, on pain of deposisition and excommunication, the setting forth of any other Creed for those ‘who are desirous of turning to the acknowledgment of the truth from Heathenism and Judaism.

The Seven Church Councils

  1. The First Council of Nicaea, 325
  2. The First Council of Constantinople, 381
  3. The First Council of Ephesus, 431
  4. The Council of Chalcedon, 451
  5. The Second Council of Constantinople, 553
  6. The Third Council of Constantinople, 680-681
  7. The Second Council of Nicaea, 787

Summary of Heresies, Time-line, and Church Councils

Creeds and Heresy Time line

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2 Responses to Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator

  1. raynard thompson says:

    Hello. First let me say thank you for your diligence in putting like this together. And thank God for His gracious Providence in giving it to us. As I have just found this, I think, about a week ago I pray God’s gracious guidance as you work on doctrine 8. Thanks again.

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