Have you ever had to use a mediator before? Or maybe that word is foreign to you. A mediator is a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement. It is a go-between. It is a diplomat of sorts. It is a connection point that allows you to get to a final destination or desire. So let me ask again, have you ever had to use a mediator before?
Actually, we use them all of the time. For instance, we use mediators when we elect a president or other government official to represent the wishes of a group of people. If you have ever had to hire a lawyer to represent you in a legal situation, that is an example of a mediator. Or if you have ever been on the phone with someone and they ask you to relay a message to someone else in the room, you are acting as a mediator. I think you get the point; a go-between.
In the kingdom of God, we also have this principle of a mediator. Although it looked different in the Old Testament than it does in the New Testament, the idea was that because of the conflict between sinful man and the holiness of God there was a great need for a mediator between God and mankind. For example:
“5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you……’ ”” Exodus 33:5 (NASB95)
In the Old Testament, Moses was not only the leader of the Israelites as they traveled through the land of Canaan on their way to the Promised Land, but he was also called to be the representative and mediator of the people before God.
“19 “Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God,” Exodus 18:19 (NASB95)
In a similar way, Moses’ brother Aaron, was called to mediate between God’s people and God. Aaron was of the tribe of Levi, who were corporately called to be priests, but Aaron and his descendants were called to be a special division among the priests, specifically called the High Priest. There was only one High Priest and it was required that he be from the tribe of Levi of the bloodline of Aaron. God was very specific about the credentials and qualifications regarding the High Priest because of the responsibility of this ministry. He was the spiritual mediator between God and humans. It was his responsibility to offer the proper sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people so they would be acceptable to God. That’s a pretty high calling!
Fast forward to the New Testament. Romans and Hebrews points out to us that because of the inadequacy of the Law because of the weakness of our sinful flesh, there necessitated the need for something better. The profile of a High Priest of the lineage of Aaron was only a temporary solution serving as a shadow of something (or rather Someone) who would be the perfect and permanent solution to the rift between sinful man and a holy God. The substance of the shadow is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of a better ministry and a perfect High Priest forever. God Himself has become our mediator!
“28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:28 (NASB95)
What an incredible truth! No longer do we have to find a weak, fleshly High Priest who is of the tribe of Levi of the bloodline of Aaron to represent us before Almighty God. No longer is this priest required to offer the proper sacrifice at the right time before we can have fellowship with our God. We can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find help in our times of need through the blood and ministry of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has passed through the heavenlies. Not only is this a great relief, but Hebrews points out that this perfect High Priest is a much better priest because He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses for He was tempted in all ways as we are but yet He remained sinless, a claim which a merely human priest cannot make.
While it is not my point here to make all of the connections between the Old Testament High Priest, which was a shadow of the substance of our High Priest Jesus under the new Covenant (you can read Leviticus and Hebrews for more of that), I do want to say this is really great news and a really great privilege!
“5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5 (NASB95)
Unfortunately, as fallen creatures, we have a tendency to take our privileges for granted and squander them. I think there is a danger of this happening among believers in the category of “mediator.” We have one Mediator, who is Christ the Lord, but sometimes, if we aren’t careful, we set other people and things in that position. Here are some categories in which we should be aware of this danger.
Bible Commentaries and Christian Books
I love to read. I always have. I can remember the day as a little boy when my mom took me to the library for the first time. I have a suspicion that the flood of emotions I experienced on that day is a small taste of what heaven is going to be like! It was a great day! I even remember the first book I checked out that day, a book on dinosaurs, of course. As an adult Christian, my love for books and reading has only increased. My office is lined with books. In fact, I recently had to build a new book shelf to accommodate all of these books and I am finding that as soon as our winter weather breaks, I will probably need to be in my woodshop again to build another set of book cases because there is still not enough space for them all. Mostly, I purchase books that are biblical reference books such as commentaries, historical literature, greek and hebrew resources, archaeology, dictionaries, and works of deceased church leaders such as the Puritans and early church fathers. Very rarely do I buy a book that is a trending best seller, instead choosing those books that have passed the test of time and are directly relevant and beneficial to my bible study.
While I appreciate all of my library, the category of books that holds the prime spot of my heart and is the apple of my eye is my collection of bibles. At last count, I believe there are 45 bibles in my collection, several of which I have open as I am writing this. I have them in all shapes and sizes, in different translations and languages, in hardcover and softcover; I even have the world’s smallest bible that was given to me a couple years ago that sits on my shelf. The reason that I say that my bible collection holds the dearest place in my heart is because it is God’s word given directly to me! There is no need for a mediator for me to hear from God. He speaks directly to me through His scriptures.
Now, the trouble with being a lover of books and reading, is all of the peripheral books about the bible that are available, including those that are in my library that can be a distraction. The problem is that if I am not careful, those good commentaries about the bible become a bad mediator between me and God’s word. Nothing can sufficiently replace His word in its ability to transform our lives through the truth He reveals to us through it. I have some really good commentaries that I spend time in checking and double-checking what I believe the Spirit is revealing to me in His word, but those commentaries and books are a poor substitute for His holy, inerrant, inspired, authoritative word. So let’s be careful not to allow those good books to replace the best book. We do not need a mediator for God’s word.
I need to be careful with this one. I stirred up a bit of controversy a few years ago concerning this topic, and the last thing I want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings. First, let me be clear, I love praise and worship! I love making a joyful sound unto the Lord. I love singing to Him a new song. I love the passion that is inspired by a skillful worship team with a pure heart for the Lord. I love being involved with worship teams. What I don’t love is someone standing in my way of praise and worship. What I mean is this, is it really necessary for us to have a team of go-betweens when it comes to praising God? Is it really necessary for us to have a group of musicians lead us into the presence of God when that ability has already been given to us personally? Is it really that imperative for us to have someone show us what worship looks like so that we can imitate it? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we get rid of our musicians and worship teams in our churches, but once again, I am simply trying to raise awareness concerning the danger of setting up mediators between us and God, including mediators in our worship.
I appreciate having a community of believers that encourage me when I am having a bad week. Sometimes we need that group of people to come along side us and say, “Hey, let’s go up to the mountain of God and worship His ways!” I get that. I need that. But what I don’t need is for me to depend on a group of people to be a go-between for my praise to God. We have access, through the blood of the Lamb, to come boldly to the throne and personally offer our worship to the One True God at anytime we please. Worship teams are great, but if they take the place of Christ, then something is wrong. I understand this is probably a touchy subject for some reading this as it seems we have unfortunately become so dependent on others for our inspiration to enter into praise. Instead, I believe God desires to directly inspire our hearts to worship through His Son, Jesus Christ. Here is a test – when was the last time you praised God without a song being played or a worship leader leading you? What is it that inspires your praise and worship – is it Christ?
As followers of Christ we are called to be a community that carries one another’s burdens. One way that we can do this is through prayer. Prayer comes in many forms and styles. We have corporate prayer, we have personal prayer; we have loud prayer, we have silent prayer; we have prayer in tongues, we have prayer in intelligible speech, and so on. But once again, there is a danger of establishing unhealthy mediators in the context of prayer. While we are called to pray for one another, and while it is a great blessing to have someone lift up your cares and needs before the Lord for you, it is not necessary to have someone else do it for you. We can go directly to the Lord of the universe personally with our simple prayers.
I remember a testimony several years ago of a woman who was having health issues. One day she was at home with no one around when some of the symptoms of her condition hit her rather hard. She says she remembers thinking, “I wish someone were here to pray for me.” Then she felt the Lord nudge her to pray for herself. As she prayed, the Lord’s healing touch comforted her. Now, that seems like a no brainer. Of course we can pray for ourselves! But for her it was a revelation of sorts.
The point is simply this – we have a direct line to the One who loves to hear from us and answer our petitions offered up to Him. If we have a concern, we can cast it on Him. If we have sin, we can confess it to Him. If we have joy, we can express it to Him. We don’t have to rely on a human mediator to have a conversation with God, we are given the privilege of going directly to God ourselves through Jesus Christ.
So these are three areas of our Christian lives that I believe need to be watched with a careful eye. What this really boils down to is taking full advantage of the personal intimate relationship with God that is available to us. Jesus Christ has fulfilled our need for a mediator and bridged the gap between us and God through His blood. May we never attempt to replace Christ with poor substitutes thereby rejecting Him, and crucifying to ourselves the Son of God, and putting Him to open shame.