The Spirit of the Lord, §7: The Mediation of Christ

At this point in our reflections on Immanuel, we will begin to discuss the relation between christology and ecclesiology. One of the central concerns of this essay is the interconnection between Jesus Christ, deus nobiscum, and the church of Jesus Christ, the community of those who confess, “God is with us,” the people of God set apart as a “royal priesthood” and a “holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9). We must define the church in light of Christ’s reconciling work of mediation which we discussed earlier. On the basis of the ground covered thus far, the church is the communion of saints who are simul iustus et peccator—simultaneously righteous and sinful—the people whom God liberated from death in the death of Christ in order that they might live in the dialectical tension between the No and the Yes, between freedom-from and freedom-for, between liberation and obedience. The church is the community of pilgrims on the way from being “set free from sin” to becoming “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18), from new humanity to new creation, from completion to consummation, from incarnation to parousia. All of this was accomplished in the unique and unrepeatable reconciling work of Christ who established us as the ecclesial community and commissioned us to bear witness to the messianic mission of God (missio Dei) in the world. We are thus sanctified by the Spirit for the glorious responsibility of being faithful witnesses to the gracious and liberative reign of God. We are redeemed from the pit that we might declare redemption to others in the name of Jesus Christ. We are set apart as a communio of shalom so that we might proclaim the euangelion of shalom.

The mission of the ecclesial community follows exclusively from the mediatory mission of Jesus Christ. The mediation of Christ includes not only his passive obedience in his passion, death, and resurrection, but also his active obedience in his life of faithful witness and ministry to others. Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Mediator between God and humanity, fulfilled in himself—in our place and on our behalf—the perfect obedience to which we are all called (active) as well as the obedience unto death to which he alone as the Son of God was called (passive). The mediation of Christ thus fulfills both what is universally ordained for all people in accordance with God’s decree that we are to be holy as God is holy and what is particularly and exclusively ordained for Christ alone in accordance with the decree that “in him . . . God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” (Col. 1:19-20). Moreover, by accomplishing the work of righteous obedience to which we are called, he fulfilled the mission of mediation for which Israel was set apart by God.

Since Jesus as the one true mediator accomplished in himself what Israel as the chosen recipients of Torah could not—namely, the perfect obedience to God and the reconciliation of the world—the elect community is now free to carry on the task of proclamation under the aegis of God’s liberating grace. The mediation of Christ means that the task of mediation is complete and finalized for eternity. Humanity no longer needs a mediator; we already have one. Humanity no longer needs to seek salvation; we are already have a savior. Humanity no longer needs to search for ways of achieving peace, “for he is our peace” (Eph. 2:14)—in Jesus Christ, peace has already been achieved. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us” (26:12; NRSV). Or as the King James version puts it, “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.”

The ambiguity regarding “for us” or “in us” only enhances the theological profundity of this passage. Interestingly enough, it also reflects the ambiguity of the Latin Vulgate: omnia enim opera nostra operatus es nobis; “nobis” can be either dative or ablative and, without a preposition, can mean either “for us” or “in us.”

“For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,” who stood in our place and on our behalf (1 Tim. 2:5). In the incarnation, God took on our condition to its very depths; in Christ, God assumed the full extent of our sinful humanity in order to bring us new life without restriction (Heb. 2:14-15). Thus, before we were even born, we were already there in Christ: “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). As a result, his life—the fullness of life embodied in the incarnate, crucified, and risen Messiah—has become our life. What he accomplished in this world, he accomplished as us—for our lives are truly hidden in Christ. Christ’s faith is our faith, his baptism our baptism, his death our death, his resurrection our resurrection. Our being has its center in Jesus of Nazareth: our life finds its definition in his death; our death finds its definition in his life. Moreover, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the triune God works in us even now, conforming us into the image of the Son, the imago Christi, sanctifying us for a life of faithful witness to the gospel. Thus, we can say: before the creation of the cosmos, God the Father ordained peace for us—a sharing in shalom, a participation in the way of life—because “God our Savior … desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4); God then accomplished this missio pacis in Jesus Christ, of whom we confess by faith, “he is our peace” (Eph. 2:14); and even now God works through the Spirit to consummate the peace that arrived with the incarnation (cf. Lk. 1:78-79, 2:14), was actualized in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and awaits fulfillment in the eschatological parousia (cf. Rev. 21:1-7). The peace which Jesus Christ ordained for us in the covenant of grace he then brought to completion in his mission of reconciliation, liberating us for a life of harmony with God and others: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (Jn. 14:27); “therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).