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Jesus our Mediator, Surety, and Kinsman-Redeemer (Lesson 10.5)

2. The TASK of JESUS: What did Christ come to do?

A) Jesus came to be our MEDIATOR: In the book of Hebrews we're told that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant (12:24). But what exactly does that mean? Well, the best way to understand the function of mediator in the new covenant is to understand that same function in the old covenant. In Galatians 3:19, we're told that the old covenant also had a mediator; and it was Moses. This passage also helps us understand the first function of a mediator, for it says that it was “in the hand” of Moses that God gave His people the Law. In other words, when God gave His people the Law—it was only in and through Moses. We remember the story: God came to all Israel at Sinai, but it was too much for them to bear. They trembled, and stood at a distance, and said to Moses: “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19). And so, Moses stood between God and Israel; God spoke to Moses, and Moses declared His Word them (Deuteronomy 5:5). What we see is that a mediator REPRESENTS GOD to the people. Like Israel, we can't bear to hear or see God face to face outside of a mediator. He's too holy. Most of us would never want to come face to face with a lion in the wild—it's far too dangerous. But we take our children to see them at the zoo, because there's all the difference in the world between seeing a lion face to face, directly; and seeing that same lion through the safety of a protective, middle glass window. John 1:18 tells us: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” This is who Jesus is for us in the new covenant. Outside the agency of a mediator, we're undone. It's only in and through Christ that we can safely behold the Living God face to face.1

As the mediator of the old covenant, Moses represented God to the people. But that wasn't the only thing he did. He came before the people on behalf of God—but he also came before God on behalf of the people. We often find Moses up on the mountain, pleading with God to turn from His anger and forgive the sins of His people. At one point, Moses even says: “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32). What this tells us is that a mediator doesn't just represent God to the people; he also RECONCILES THE PEOPLE to God. He stands in the gap on behalf of sinners. Or, perhaps more accurately, he stands in the middle—between God and sinners—offering up his own body as a shield to take the blow that's due for sin. This is the truth that Paul seems to be emphasizing about Christ our Mediator when he writes in 1 Timothy 2:4-5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. . .” Apart from a mediator, there can be no peace with God; for by nature we're at war with Him. We need someone to stand in the gap on our behalf; and this is exactly what Christ has come to do for us as mediator of the new covenant. Jesus is in every way “in the middle” between God and man; for He himself is, in one person, the God-man. No mere man could ever stand as a mediator before God; nor could God draw near to man outside the agency of a mediator. But like Jacob's ladder, Christ reaches both heaven and earth. It's in Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, that a way has been opened for sinners to be reconciled to God.2

B) Jesus came to be our SURETY: We saw that one of the primary tasks of Christ as our mediator is to reconcile a sinful people to God. But how does Jesus do this? Well, if the last section teaches us about what Christ came to do; here we learn how it is He would do it. Jesus came as our mediator to reconcile us to God. But it's in becoming our Surety that He accomplishes this task. There's only one passage in the New Testament that speaks of Christ as our surety. Hebrews 7:22 says: “so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee [or surety] of a better covenant.” But though this word is just used once in the entire New Testament, it has a rich heritage in the Old Testament Scriptures. When Jacob was afraid to send Benjamin along with his other sons to go back to Egypt to purchase grain, it was Judah who stepped forward and said: “Send the lad with me and we will arise and go. . .I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you may require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.” (Genesis 43:8-9). What was Judah saying? He was taking it upon himself to do anything and everything that was needed in order to bring Benjamin safely back home to his father. From that moment on, Benjamin's well-being was Judah's responsibility. Benjamin's safe return was entirely dependent on his older brother. Judah was single-handedly taking upon himself complete responsibility for bringing Benjamin safely back home. And friends, this is exactly what Jesus does for us as Surety of the new covenant. Just like Judah, He's bound himself to us in such a way that whatever is needed for our salvation is now required of Him.3

Often, when someone becomes surety for another, it has to do with taking on a debt. And this aspect also helps to further clarify what Jesus has undertaken for us in the new covenant. Proverbs uses the same word that Judah had used in warning of the dangers of becoming a surety for a stranger's debts (22:26); for when you do so, you're pledging to pay that debt yourself. And in Philemon, when Paul writes with his own hand that he will repay any debts that Onesimus had owed, he was becoming his surety (v19). In the new covenant, Jesus has bound himself as our surety to do whatever is required for our salvation; and in pledging himself to do this, He's taken on himself the sole responsibility of making payment for two debts we could never pay ourselves: 1) Jesus became surety for our DEBT OF PUNISHMENT. There was a debt of blood that was owed to God, on account of our sins. But when Christ became our surety, that debt was charged to His account. And this is, indeed, the reason it was necessary for Him to make such a payment at the cross. The reason that our debts were being so strictly required of Him, was that our debts had been, in fact, legally transferred to Him. Indeed, the payment of blood was demanded of Christ because He himself had become our Surety. 2) Jesus became surety for our DEBT OF OBEDIENCE. In Galatians 5:3, Paul tells us that we are debtors to the whole Law. For indeed, the Law requires dying as the penalty for sin, but it also requires doing as the condition for life. Because of our sin, there was now an added debt of passive obedience—but the Law has always bound its hearers to a personal, perfect and perpetual active obedience. If Christ had paid the debt of our punishment but not the debt of our obedience, He would have left us in the same condition as Adam in the garden before the fall: Our sin would be removed, but our condition would be perilous! He would have given us a second chance—but in no way brought us safely home. Praise God that as our surety,Christ didn't just pay the debt for our sins, but He paid the debt for our obedience. In the new covenant, Jesus didn't just make salvation possible again—He made it certain.4

C) Jesus came to be our KINSMAN-REDEEMER: In the Old Testament, if someone among God's people had become destitute and weren't able to help themselves, there was provision in the Law for a close relative to stand in their place and act on their behalf. In the original Hebrew, this person was called a Goel; which properly signifies kinsman-redeemer. Sometimes, this word is simply translated “kinsman” or “relative”, such as in Ruth 2:20, where Naomi reveals to Ruth that Boaz is one of their “closest relatives.” Other times, this same word is translated “redeemer”, such as in Job 19:25, where Job declares, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives. . .” A Goel was a kinsman; and a Goel was a redeemer; indeed, a Goel was a kinsman who redeems. And in Old Testament Israel, there were primarily three ways that a kinsman-redeemer acted on behalf of his brother: 1) If anyone became so poor that he had to sell the land of his inheritance, his kinsman would REDEEM it; that is, he would purchase it and return it back to him (Leviticus 25:25). 2) If anyone became so impoverished that, it would seem, after he had already sold away his inheritance, he was then forced to sell himself away as a slave into the hand foreigners; then his kinsman would RANSOM him; that is, he would buy him back from bondage, restoring his freedom (Leviticus 25:47-49). 3) If two brothers lived together, and one of them died without having a son, then the wife of the deceased was to be given to the husband's brother (or the nearest kinsman). It was the kinsman's responsibility to then RAISE UP a son for the deceased brother, to establish for him a name and preserve his covenant line (Deuteronomy 25:5-7).

Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer in the new covenant. He looked down from heaven, and saw that we were destitute. Adam's sin had plunged us into ruin, and we were unable to help ourselves. And so, Christ himself came into the world as our kinsman-redeemer, to do for us what we were powerless to do for ourselves: “I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me” (Isaiah 63:5). No other could help, for all of us alike are under the same bondage. Only God could redeem; for only He is able to pay such a price. And yet, only man could redeem, for our redeemer must be a near kinsman. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law. . .” (Galatians4:4-5). Jesus came as our kinsman and He has redeemed us at the cost of His own blood (1 Peter 1:18ff). 1) Christ has REDEEMED OUR LOST INHERITANCE. Our father Adam had in his possession the inheritance of eternal life, but he sold it away for a bite of forbidden fruit. And when he did so, we were left destitute. But Christ has come into the world as our kinsman-redeemer, to purchase back for us the inheritance that Adam had lost (1 Peter 1:4). 2) Christ has RANSOMED US FROM SLAVERY. For just as Adam sold away our inheritance—he also sold us into bondage. When he sinned and became the slave of sin, we too were sold into bondage together with him as his children. So that, by nature, we have become the slaves of sin. But Christ has come into the world as our kinsman-redeemer, to pay the price of our ransom, in order to “set us free” (Galatians 5:1). 3) Christ has RAISED UP FRUITFULNESS for God. When Adam sinned, and spiritually died, there was a pervasive infertility that swept across the entire human race, so that we were left desolate and barren. But Christ has now come as our kinsman-redeemer, taking us as His own bride; so that, joined with Him, we might yet bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4).5

1 As Roberts says: “Israel extremely terrified by God's immediate voice and presence, could not endure it, but desired Moses to pass between God and them, and God approved their desires, and so the Law was ordained in the hand of a mediator; [IE,] Moses. In which Mediatory office Moses typified Christ the true Mediator. . .” (Francis Roberts, Mystery and Marrow, p782). And again: “[L]apsed sinners cannot endure a covenant fellowship with the Great, the dreadful, the holy and righteous God, immediately, without a Mediator. This is evident in Israel; for, when God immediately by his own voice promulged and uttered his covenant out of the midst of the fire on Mount Sinai, Israel trembled and fled back afar off, being unable to endure that which was commanded, and fearing that they should be consumed by that great fire. And therefore they desire Moses to speak from God unto them. . .They could not bear God's manifesting his Covenant to them immediately by himself alone. But mediately, by a Mediator.” (Roberts, p806). Lastly, Roberts notes: “Israel's extreme fear and terror, by reason of God's mighty voice and dreadful promulgation of His Law, so that they removed and stood afar off; and being unable to hear the voice of God any more immediately, they desired that God would speak to them by a Mediator. . .Thus [the people] are brought to see the necessity of a Mediator between God and them, and pitch upon Moses for that Mediator. Hence, the sinful creature is not able to approach to God, or to converse with God immediately, without the intervention of a Mediator. The distance and disparity between God and sinners is so infinite. God is holiness and purity in the highest; sinners are mere lumps of impurity. They are as chaff or stubble; but God, without a Mediator, is to them a consuming fire.” (pp910-911).

2 On the mediator reconciling man to God, Boston says, “The breach between God and man was greater than to be done away by a mere inter-messenger, who traveling between parties at variance, reconciles them with bare words. There could be no covenant of peace between God and sinners, without reparation. . .done to the honor of God through sin. . .Now, the effect of this was, that [Christ] was constituted. . .official mediator, or mediator in respect of office, between God and man: 1 Timothy 2:5-6,'There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all'. . .The two families of heaven and earth being at war, there could be no peace between them, but through a mediator.” (p39). Roberts writes: “A true, fit and sufficient Mediator was necessary under the New Covenant. True; that is, more than typical; fit, that is, equally middle between God and man; sufficient; that is, being every way able to reconcile God and man. Moses under the Old Covenant was Mediator; but neither true, fit, nor sufficient. Not true, but typical; being herein a dark type and figure of Christ. Not fit, but very unfit; being no equally middle person, but a mere man, nearer to man than to God. Not sufficient, but very insufficient; being utterly unable to reconcile God and the people, yea himself needing reconcilement to God by a higher Mediator.” (p1566). Roberts also notes that all the promises in Scripture “are either promises of a Mediator, or promises in and through a Mediator; in whom all the promises of God are yea, and Amen.” (p1567). On the Mediator needing to be both God and man, Roberts says: “Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant. . .The Greek word in all these places [of Scripture] does most properly signify, a mediator; or, a middler (that I may so express it) because he is, both a middle person, and a middle officer between God and man, to reconcile and reunite God and man. . .[Jesus Christ] is the only middle person between God and man, being in one person God-man. And he is the Middle Officer, intervening, or interposing, or coming between God and man by office, satisfying God's justice to the full for man's sins by his obedience to the death, and continually interceding for his elect; to whom he reveals and effectually applies this his satisfaction, intercession, [and] redemption. . .for their actual reconciliation unto God. Hence (as one observes) 'Jesus Christ as a true Mediator. . . suffered in the middle of the world, that is, at Jerusalem. . .He was crucified in the midst between the two thieves; [and] He died in the air on the cross, in the midst between heaven and earth'. . .Thus Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and man; middle in person, and middle in office. Yea Jesus Christ is Mediator of the New Covenant, and that more peculiarly and eminently than of any other covenant. Moses was a typical mediator under the Old Covenant; he went between God and Israel, he typed out Christ the only true Mediator (1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 13:8; Galatians 3:19). But Christ is the true Mediator of the New Covenant, the better Covenant most eminently and singularly. . . ” (pp1589-90). And Boston notes, “the Son of God was constituted substantial Mediator, or Mediator in respect of nature, between God and man. Being from eternity God equal with