Having considered Christ's preparatory work, His earthly mission, we wish now to consider His office and work as mediator between God and men. Christ sought no additional honor because of His message to men and suffering on their account. On the contrary, He prayed: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." But while He sought no additional glory, He found additional work. The office He now fills existed not till He ascended to the Father from an empty grave. He descended into the dominion of death and robbed it of its power. He dragged the captor captive, and gave gifts unto men. Ascending, as a conquering king, His angelic retinue raise the exultant shout: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." "Who is this King of glory?" the guardian hosts shout back. "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." Again, the gates of the eternal city are shaken with the shout: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in."
Christ was coronated King of kings and Lord of lords. He began at once His work of mediation. Through the Holy Spirit, sent as His advocate, He convicts men of sin, and brings them into harmony and union with God. His mediatorship involves a work of reconciliation. This is His fundamental work. The old theology was that Christ labors to reconcile God to men. Indeed, the world is not yet as free from the thought as the truth and the honor of God demand. Whatever may be true of the atonement, one thing is certain, it grew out of the love of God. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Any theory, therefore, that does not harmonize with this is false. God already loves the world. He loves sinners, even, who are not penitent. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. How dishonoring to God, then, to represent Him as unwilling to save agonizing sinners; so that the protracted prayers of the church are necessary, and often unavailing! Paul says that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. The world had transgressed, had gone away from God, and Christ's mission as mediator, is to bring it back in agreement and submission to the divine will.
The importance of the mediatorial office of Christ is very improperly apprehended. The necessity of a mediator between us and God can never be fully realized in this life. This belongs to that association of deep and profound mysteries emanating from the mind of God, that angels intently desire to look into. We are permitted to see only the surface in this life. But we know enough about the general character of His work, to know, that it has a value far above the world's comprehension.
When one stands as our intercessor we are favored in proportion to his standing with the other party. When one seeks a favor at the hands of the chief executive of the nation, if he has no standing of his own, all depends on the standing of his advocate. If the one interceding for him stands high in the president's favor, and has great influence with him, his request is favorably considered on account of his advocate. When we consider the standing of the Son with the Father; that through Him the Father has sought the reconciliation of the world; that He is the "brightness, the Father's glory, and the express image of his person;" we have perfect confidence that His pleadings will prevail. But when the Father "so loved the world as to give his Son to die for it;" when He so loves sinners that His great loving heart goes out in yearnings for their salvation, why should His loving, struggling children need an intercessor with Him at all? This has been one of the questions of the ages. Theories more curious than satisfactory have been promulgated concerning it by the different schools of theology. We shall not presume to answer it, beyond the simple suggestion that this was the special work for which the divine Logos that was in the beginning with God, had to qualify Himself by special education. Hence it is a matter not of difference between the love and goodness of the Father and that of the Son, but of qualification by experience in the trials, temptations and weaknesses of the flesh. The consideration of this fact would have saved the world from much vain speculation.
When Paul argues the importance of a mediator, it is not on the ground that the Son loves us more than the Father, but on the ground that He knows us by experience. "For we have not a high priest that can not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace." The fact that our high priest, or intercessor, was "tempted in all points, like as we are," is the reason why we may approach a throne of grace with boldness. This boldness is simply a profound confidence based upon the humanity of our mediator.
When we approach a throne of grace, conscious of sin and imperfection, how little can we trust ourselves. We realize that we come empty-handed before God. With the poet, each can sing:
"Nothing in my hands I bring,
We can plead no merit of our own. We have no legal claim on the store-house of God's boundless mercy and love. But we remember that we have a Friend; that this Friend has suffered the same trials and temptations; that He knows by bitter experience just how we feel; that He deeply sympathizes with us, and that He loves us with a devotion and faithfulness beyond human experience or expression. Remembering this, how can we feel otherwise than confident that an already loving Father will hear our petitions in harmony with His will, and bless us as His believing children? The efficacy of prayer, therefore, grows out of the mediatorship of Jesus, and the confidence in prayer grows out of our appreciation of the mediator and of His work. Hence a light appreciation of the mediatorial work of Jesus leads to a prayerless life.
Jesus Himself taught that there is no way of approach to the Father except through Him. "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." No man can approach God in his own name. God does not look upon men in their own personality. He looks upon them only through their mediator; and what He sees to commend, is seen and commended only through, and on account of, their mediator. In other words, God sees the mediator only, not them. Hence the man that does not accept the mediator cuts himself off from God. He rejects the only way of approach to God. He prevents God's considering his case; for God considers us only through the mediator. It is this fact, that God considers the mediator through whom the petition is made, rather than the petitioner, that gives significance to the fact that our prayers are to be in the name of Jesus Christ; and that we ask that our petitions be granted for "Christ's sake." At a throne of grace we present the name of our intercessor. We ask in his name, not our own. We present Him, not ourselves. We hide ourselves behind Him, put Him in our place, and ask what God will do for Him. He authorizes us to thus use His name, and the blessings bestowed are just to the extent that that name prevails with God. Should Vanderbilt grant you the legal right to use his name to the full extent of your desire in presentation of checks, etc.; with his pledge to redeem all paper bearing his signature in your hand, his whole fortune would be pledged to meet the demands of your drafts upon him. Bankrupt financially, as you are spiritually, you present your check for a large amount and it would be rejected. But add to that the name of Vanderbilt, and your check is honored. You draw the money not in your name, but in his. The bank sees not you, but him. Now, just as you would thus present the name of Vanderbilt, with full assurance of your request being granted to the extent of his fortune, you to-day present the name of Jesus at the court of heaven, and a heaven honors that name; its resources are pledged to meet your petition. The name of Jesus, therefore, when thus presented, means to us all that it signifies in the government of God. To the extent that His name is honored are heavenly blessings secured to us.
In the light of these sublime truths, we see the significance of the Saviour's requirement that henceforth all prayer should be offered in His name. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive." What is called the Lord's Prayer, is not in His name, because His mediatorship had not then been established. But now it would be sinful to repeat that prayer, as thousands do, and omit to offer it in the name of Christ. The custom of Masons, and other secret orders, of having a form of religion that ignores Christ, that does not recognize His mediatorship and that is not offered in His name, is supremely wicked. It is a gross perversion of the religion of Jesus. And how Christian men, even preachers of the gospel, can find it in their hearts to acquiesce in such a thing, is to us a profound puzzle. The institution that has no place for my Master has no place for me.
The only way of approach to God is through Christ as our mediator; and the mediatorial office of Christ is in the church, not in the world. Hence, as God can be glorified only through Christ, He can be glorified only through the church. Paul, recognizing this, says: "Unto God be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."