Q 16. Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?
A 16. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for sin; but a sinful human could never pay for others.
Q 17. Why must the mediator also be true God?
A 17. So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.
Q 18. Then who is this mediator—true God and at the same time a true and righteous human?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given to us to completely deliver us and make us right with God.
Q 19. How do you come to know this?
A 19. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law, and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.
I love words; they have such power and ability to create meaning. “Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.” This quote, from the movie V for Vendetta (a silent favorite of mine), articulates well what I think about words. In the Lord’s Day 6, there are a number of words, churchy type theological words, that no longer take up residence in our Christian vocabulary, that do well in helping us to understand the reality of the Gospel, the reality of the cross, and are alluded to here in the Heidelberger.
Expiation – “Christ’s death removed our sin and guilt”
Redemption – “Christ’s death ransomed us from the curse of the law and the punishment and power of sin”
Reconciliation – “Christ’s death restored our relationship with God”
Propitiation – “Christ’s death appeased or placated the wrath of God”
These terms make up the fundamental biblical aspects of the cross. They describe the good news, or Gospel, about Jesus that in Him and through Him our sins are forgiven, we are freed from the law, our relationship with God is once again made right and we can stand before God the Father in full confidence, knowing we have been made clean and righteous. All of this often falls under the use of the word Atonement.
Atonement – reparation for (making up for, repairing) an offense or injury, satisfaction of law and punishment
Again, this is the Gospel, the very core of what it means to be a Christian. The Gospel itself does not summon us to “live a better life” or show us “what we can do for God,” it doesn’t talk about cultural transformation or even relevance. The Gospel is simply the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead on the third day. The Gospel is the truth that we do not have to work for our own salvation because it was accomplished for us in Jesus Christ and that, through faith, we receive the total, complete, and eternal forgiveness for our sins.
What the Gospel, or “atonement theory” describes is the act through which Jesus Christ takes on the curse of God, is the subject of the full wrath of God, and receives the complete punishment of God on the cross in place of each and every human being. This was done because, though humanity was created in God’s image to live in relationship with God, the infection of sin left us without hope and the ability to save ourselves. We were, as the book of Ephesians says, “by nature, objects of wrath.” That wrath was the wrath of God against sin which Jesus took on.
The good news that is the Gospel is that, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, righteousness is imputed to us. Here, I think two more words ought to be defined well for us:
Righteousness – “the state of being right in God’s sight and in line with the attributes of God’s law, holiness, justice, morality, etc.”
Imputed – “attributed to, caused, represented as being done, assigned to, ascribed to”
This is the core of who we are. There is nothing more important in Christian theology that this!! People try to water it down (not really sure why) or alter it in different ways, but the reality is still the same for us. The Gospel is the good news of divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution for the sake of us. This happens through Christ, both completely divine and completely human, who is our mediator, our Savior, our Lord.