The suretyship of Christ in His office as Mediator
Christ is our Surety because He transfers our obligations and debts to Himself, leaving us free from them. Those who preach that Christ was not imputed with our sin and did not pay a ransom for sinners’ debts, leave the sinner with his obligations, guilt and debts. He is forgiven, but still guilty, as if Christ had never unburdened him. Nowadays, we hear that Christ brings us pardon but not freedom from guilt, so we must constantly mortify ourselves through the moral law, to put into practice what Christ has gained for us in theory. The entire Mosaic law could neither save nor sanctify a sinner, so how can a cut-down version of it work such miracles? Christ’s Mediatorial Office is to present us guiltless before the Father. Christ does not perform a mere half-work in us, leaving us to do the rest. He whom Christ saves is saved to the uttermost and stands spotless before God. Where nothing is owed, there is no debt and no guilt.
Sadly, many evangelicals believe the Roman Catholic limbus patrummyth whereby Old Testament believers were detained until Christ set them free after His Resurrection. Also, the myth that all O. T. glorified saints were still under their fallen obligations until Christ paid the price of their sins. Christ had obligated Himself to redeem all saints in Eternity, not after they were born. John Reisinger claims that Old Testament believers had their ‘hope realised’ only after Christ came in time. There was a suspended salvation for OT saints which turned into real, empirical salvation at Pentecost. However, the nature of the Church has always been faith in Christ and not rational trust in Christ by sight. There is no saving difference between Abraham’s faith and Paul’s. Indeed, the Scriptures call Abraham the father of the faithful. ‘Hope realised’ will be the lot of the entire Body of Christ on the Resurrection Morning. Hebrews commends the faith of the fathers in times past and, before listing their names, tells us that, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (11:1).
The Old Testament saints were thus conscious of the suretyship they had in Christ and prayed and pleaded for the application of such benefits to them and thus received and enjoyed these benefits. (Job 19:25; Psalm 119:122; Isaiah. 38:14.) Gill comments:
“From this suretyship of Christ arose both the imputation of sin to Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness to his people; this is the ground and foundation of both, and on which the priestly office of Christ stands, and in virtue of which it is exercised, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Heb. 7:20-22.”
What Christ engaged to do as a surety
Using the example of Paul and Onesimus, Gill says Christ “engaged to pay the debts of his people, and satisfy for the wrong and injury done by them.” Concerning Onesimus, Paul said to Philemon, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on my account; I Paul hath written it with my own hand, I will repay it,” Philemon 18,19. The debt Christ paid for His Bride, the Church, is two-fold:
1. Christ paid the debt of obedience to the law of God
Christ summed up His task by saying, ‘Lo, I come . . . to do thy will O God’ (Heb. 10:7-9), teaching that the old shadowy sacrifices are done away that the law might be fulfilled and established in Himself. Thus Christ was incarnated under the law to yield obedience to the law so that those for whom He took upon himself this dreadful burden could receive His righteousness.
2. Christ paid the debt of punishment for sin
Christ paid the debt of punishment incurred through the failure of man’s obedience which is the curse of the law, the penalty of death. Gill concludes, “by paying both these debts, the whole righteousness of the law is fulfilled in his people, considered in him their head and Surety.” Sin, Gill stresses, ‘deserves and requires punishment in body and soul, being transgressions of the righteous law of God.’ The legal and spiritual deadness of a sinner reveals the deceit of the common-grace, free-offer, duty-faith gospellers. They accuse us of not believing in human responsibility or accountability. If man were totally dead in trespasses and sins, they say, God cannot hold him responsible. Dead men cannot shoulder responsibilities. Man must be sufficiently alive to recognise his own defects. They believe in the probation, second chance, theory of Joseph Bellamy, copied slavishly by Andrew Fuller. For them, the true and final fall is when man rejects Christ. He is a probationer and potential Christian until then.
Man’s damnation does not arise from any present rejection of Christ but from his fall in Adam which was so utterly foreign to God’s character and will that God pronounced the only penalty possible on man – death. All men, because of their fallen nature are hell-bound when left to their own agency. Because man was responsible for his God-denying actions, God struck him down. Thus it is totally impossible for natural man to accept Christ. Thus Gill’s doctrine of man’s responsibility goes far deeper than the watered-down doctrine of responsibility preached by such as Phil R. Johnson, Malcolm Watts and John Murray based on their low view of the fall, the gospel and the Trinity and their high view of man. To argue that man is merely fallen in his morals but not in his basic natural capacities is to argue that man is not fallen at all. He has, to use their word for sin, merely a ‘moral defect’ which only needs an effort of the will to set it right. Fuller’s slogan that man ‘can if he only wills’ is a mockery of the fall, man’s condemnation and redemption.
Though the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life. God’s gift of grace would not be a gift of grace if there were any agency in man that could assist God in His giving. Sadly, modern critics of the faith of our fathers do not base their gospel on saving grace but on what they call ‘common grace’ or ‘natural theology’ and ‘Natural Law’. Can this movement be called ‘Christian’?
Christ, our Surety brings all the elect safe to glory
Judah pledged his suretyship for Benjamin by saying to Israel, ‘I will be surety for him, of my hand shalt thou require him; if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever,’ Gen. 43:9. So Jesus presents His Church to the Father, saying ‘Lo, I, and the children which God hath given me’, Heb. 2:13. The work Christ covenanted to do was to bring back Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel, (Isaiah 49:5,6) and to recover and ransom lost sheep. The entire initiative of the sinner’s surety is a covenant action within the Godhead in eternity. Salvation is not a time-phenomenon, aided by the initiative or agency of man. It is not a general offer to be accepted or rejected at will. God has a fixed and definite number of adopted children, all of them His beloved Benjamins. Christ has pledged Himself to keep them safe for ever. None can remove them from the Father’s love as they are eternally safe in the surety of Christ Jesus Himself. Thus, those evangelists who speak of salvation as being a provision of God, rendered efficacious by man’s agency, are preaching a false gospel.
Christ’s Mediatorship is also in the form of a testatorship
1. The covenant of grace is in the form of a testament, founded on the absolute and sovereign will of God. Drawn up because of God’s loving desire to call a people as joint heirs with Christ who was chosen as their Testator.
2. The testament contains several legacies. Those given by the Father to His Son, Christ, as his portion and inheritance, and those legacies of grace and glory given to those chosen as joint-heirs with Christ.
3. God disposes in His testament only that which is His own to dispose. He alone has the sovereign right to do with his blessings as He will.
4. This testament is very ancient. It is called ‘new’, not because it was newly made but because it was newly revealed, published and declared from time to time as a ‘better covenant’ than that with Adam. Actually, this testament was made in eternity (2 Tim. 1:9) and is thus not time-bound, though it is time-applied.
5. This testament is unalterable. It is a yea and amen testament.
6. The testament is sealed, though not by circumcision, baptism and the Lord’s Supper which some teach are the seals of the covenant of grace. The seals are the Holy Spirit of God who witnesses to the covenant, and the blood of Christ which ratifies and confirms it, Zech. 9:11; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 13:20.
7. A testament needs witnesses. God swore by Himself because there was none greater. There were no fit human witnesses, but 1 John 5:7 nevertheless teaches there are three who bear witness to it in eternity, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit.
8. The covenant of grace or new testament is registered in Scripture, the public notaries being the prophets and apostles.
Re-stipulation impossible from man’s side
Inheritors named in a human will cannot alter it. Likewise, no man can alter what God has decreed. The new covenant is a covenant of promise of what surely shall come to pass. Thus, the legacies are solely owing to the good will of the testator. Salvation is not of law or human claims on it, but of promise. Here our modern duty-faith movement makes a mockery of the covenant of grace as they claim that God expects every sinner to do his duty and believe savingly in God. Salvation is not of duty but of promise, that is, of grace, Rom. 4:14; Gal. 3:18.
Christ is the Mediating Testator of the Covenant of Grace
Heb. 9:15-17 teaches:
“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.”
All power is given unto Christ who is God blessed for ever and all things own their being to Him who is the Creator of all. Christ thus disposes of His inheritance as He sees fit by His divine right. The Covenant’s promises point to the vicarious work of Christ who made His soul an offering for sin and poured out His blood in death, Isaiah 53:10-12. As Christ is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, His Testatorship works both backwards and forwards in time, securing all God’s elect from condemnation and reconciling them to God.
Man receives nothing in the covenant of grace without Christ’s counsel and consent. All that Christ has for man can only be given by Christ making his soul an offering for sin and pouring out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53:10-12). This was planned from eternity when the Covenant was concluded, so the Bible can truly speak of Christ as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. All that is the Father’s was given the Son in eternity and all that was the Son’s was given the elect by a testament. Thus Christ, when facing death, could tell His followers, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.”
Christ’s death is necessary to put His will in force
The ruling regarding the enforcement of wills is clear. The testator himself must die before it is effective. Unlike human wills, however, which are only of benefit to contemporaries or people to come, Gill says concerning Christ’s Testament:
‘such is the virtue and efficacy of it, that it reaches backward to the beginning of the world, as before observed: wherefore the Old Testament saints not only received the promise of eternal inheritance, but enjoyed it before the death of Christ, though in virtue of it, for they are said to inherit the promises, that is the things promised, Heb. 9. 15, and 6. 12; but the death of Christ was necessary to confirm the covenant or testament, that the legatees might appear to have a legal right to what was bequeathed to them, law and justice being satisfied thereby; so that no caveat could be put in against them, and no obstruction be made to their claim of legacies, and their enjoyment of them; and no danger of this will being ever set aside.’
Summing up and conclusion
Christ was appointed from eternity as the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and man. His office was not merely to reveal the Father’s mind as Moses but to reconcile sinners to God. Here Christ by virtue of His two perfect natures represents both sides perfectly. We gain unity with the Father through our unity with the Son. This unity is kept upright by the intercession and advocacy of Christ. Nothing that man can do can alter or enhance this work of Christ’s so those who speak of man’s agency in salvation speak of a nonentity. Christ’s mediation as the Son of God entailed his redeeming us from the curse of the law by putting Himself under the law and fulfilling it to the last jot and tittle. Theories of mediation whereby Christ is seen as carrying out a token obedience to the law where quality is shown rather than quantity, always being above the law and not placing Himself under it, is not the gospel of Christ’s Mediatorship. Christ could only redeem us by suffering the full curse of the law. He could only redeem us by fulfilling all the law in His Person. As Mediator, Christ mediates only for the elect of all ages for whom He died. He is the Mediator of the Old Testament saints as He is of the New. There was never a time when Christ was not Mediator. Christ’s Mediatorship is fully successful and is for eternity. He never mediates in vain.
This is because Christ has given Himself as the elect’s surety, guaranteeing freedom from punishment, guilt and condemnation for all eternity. In this surety, Christ guarantees to pay the debts of His people to the law and to the punishment for sin and to preserve them safe for ever in glory. Again, the initiative to be our surety is entirely Christ’s and man’s agency plays no part.
Christ’s Mediatorship also includes His Testatorship. All the blessings in Christ appertaining to the Covenant of Grace are the eternal legacy of the saints. This bequest can only come into being through the death of the Testator. Christ offered up His life so that redemption, justification and glorification, which He alone can give, could be inherited by His Bride, the Church. And all the people said – Amen.
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