Question 16. Why must he be very man, and also perfectly righteous?
Answer: Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned, should likewise make satisfaction for sin; (a) and one, who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others. (b)
We have established if we are to be rescued from the just wrath of God we need someone else to do the rescuing since we only increase God’s anger with us daily because of our sin nature and our sins. We have established that the rescuer is also called a “mediator” since He represents both God to us and us to God. We have seen that the mediator we need must be more then a mere creature since a mere creature could not endure the just penalty of God for sin. In other words were our mediator only a mere creature there would be more penalty left to endure after the mere creature had expired and so our rescue would fail. We have seen that the mediator must be man without sin, yet also God. Now we are looking at why the mediator, who will be our rescuer from God’s wrath, must have those qualities.
The catechism, following Scripture, teaches us that our rescuer mediator must be very man (i.e. – thoroughly man) because as it is man who sinned the representative for man (mediator) must be man as well. Scripture teaches that God is just and in being just God requires skin for skin. Man has done the sinning. Man must pay the penalty. Scripture teaches that as all mankind fell in Adam so all of God’s new mankind is restored in the second Adam who reversed Adam’s fall by withstanding the death penalty for sin (Romans 5:12-21).
Scripture is repeatedly clear on this point,
“Hebrews.2:14– Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Note here that we are clearly taught that Jesus Christ was thoroughly man and that as our mediator, and in our place, he bore the penalty of death for our deliverance.
1 Pet.3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Note again the clarity of Scripture. Christ, as very man, was the one who stood in our place and received upon Himself, as our representative, our punishment.
Isa.53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isa.53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Isa.53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isa.53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Isa.53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Clearly the Catechism is correct in telling us that our mediator must be thoroughly man. Of course the implication of this is that Jesus Christ had all the characteristics associated with man. He grew tired. He wept. He was attracted to women. He developed blisters. As a baby he had to be diapered. He grew frustrated. He knew anger. He was thoroughly man.
However, the Catechism gives a qualifier. Our mediator must not only be thoroughly and completely man, sharing our human nature, but He must also be man without sin. If we are to be rescued from God’s just wrath the man doing the rescuing must neither have a sin nature nor must he have ever sinned. As the Catechism says, our rescuer mediator must be completely righteous. The reason is straightforward. Since sin requires the death penalty (“the soul that sinneth shall surely die”) the one who pays for other men’s penalty must not have any sin of His own since if he had His own sin, He would have to die to pay for His sin and could not be a substitute death for others.
The reality that Christ had no sin is taught in Hebrews,
4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
And again a few chapters later,
Heb.7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Heb.7:27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
We should probably point out here that another word for “mediator,” is “Priest.” In the Old Testament the Priests were those who represented God to the people and the people to God. They were the mediators, who by their work in the Sacrificial system rescued God’s people from God’s just wrath. The Hebrews 7 passage reveals Christ’s perfection in as much as He had no need to offer up sacrifice for His own sins. He had no sins that against which God could ever be angry.
As we end here, let us emphasize again the legal nature of Christianity. The rescue Christ brings to His people is a rescue concerned with satisfying God’s justice against sin. The Father had a writ against sin and if He did not punish sin He would have been unjust and so could not have been God. The reason we take some time to point this out is that modern Christianity wants to talk of the Christian faith in terms of “relationship,” and there is some truth to that (though far less than what it is given in the current church). Before we can talk about “having a relationship with God” (whatever that means in the concrete) we must first talk about the issue of justice. Christianity is a religion that is concerned about justice and God’s grace, that creates a relationship between God and man, only comes to us because God’s justice has been satisfied. Christians who can not talk about the Christian faith in terms of judicial categories are, at best, very weak Christians.
God’s justice demanded that sinners pay for sin. God’s justice demanded that if we were going to have a mediator He must be perfect man and very God. God’s justice accepted Christ’s death as our own. God’s justice, having been satisfied God can pardon (another term from the courtroom) man and free him from his condemnation (another courtroom term).