The need for either a mediator (ie priest) or a sacrifice in any religious community shows that sin exists there. Previous to the introduction of sin into the world there was need for neither priest nor sacrifice, for as long as Adam and Eve continued obedient to God’s laws they were able to speak to God (in this case manifested in angels) without fear or shame. As soon as they transgressed God’s law they were no longer able to hold up their heads “as those whose consciences were void of offence toward God”. So we read in Genesis 3:8 -
“They hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden”
They had placed a barrier between themselves and God, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), because God cannot look upon sin. Here, we see the need for someone to stand in the breach and make intercession for Adam and Eve with their Creator.
FAR REACHING EFFECTS
Now the sin of our first parents had another result which did not end with them - it brought upon their descendants the same punishment as on themselves - ie death. Because of the principle embodied in the law of hereditary descent, “like produces like”, so sinful parents could only have children who were like them, possessing a nature defiled by sin who, if subjected to temptation, would yield to the lusts of the flesh: and so the stream of human life was polluted at its source (see Romans 5:12-18).
Sin was the cause of death and somehow sin must be removed, or covered over, if man was to be saved from the utter extinction of death. God was the one who had been disobeyed - he only had the right to dictate the conditions on which he would forgive sin and remove its consequences. God’s conditions were a means of rebinding that which had been broken - ie the harmony between the Creator and his creatures. We usually call this process ‘religion’ which comes from the Latin “re-ligere”, meaning “to rebind something severed”. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness but this was not God’s way and he substituted their fig leaves with “coats of skins” (Genesis 3:21). For this purpose, an animal was killed and blood shed, foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
This incident provides a much needed lesson - it is utterly useless for man to patch together garments of his own choice to cover or remove his guilt. No system of religion can give a garment of salvation except the one which God himself has provided. There is no such thing as every man gaining salvation IN HIS OWN WAY. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (of sin)” (Hebrews 9:22). There is only one way back to God and that is HIS WAY.
THE HISTORY OF MEDIATION
Whilst the family of mankind was small in the earth, the head of each household acted as the family’s priest, or mediator to offer sacrifices according to God’s instruction. But after the flood, when men again began to multiply, God chose the family of Abraham, the children of Israel, in order to instruct mankind in the matter of their salvation. Under the Mosaic law which God gave to Moses for the children of Israel, sacrifices were offered by Aaron, the God appointed High Priest, with more elaborate ceremonials and surroundings than in previous ages. However, these sacrifices could only cover or hide the sins of those Israelites for whom they were offered, for the time being. They were shadow prophecies or types of the coming saviour, Christ, the son of God, who would offer himself as the perfect sacrifice to God, thus acknowledging that God was righteous and just to condemn sinful human flesh to extinction - there is no good thing in human flesh worth perpetuating (see Romans 3:9-12).
But Christ never sinned, though “tempted in all points like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). He was therefore the perfect sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. For this reason God was able to raise him from the dead for it was not possible that a truly righteous man should be held in the grave, because death is the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). This was God’s remedy to heal the breach between God and man resulting from man’s sin - for Jesus has become the true mediator between God and those who desire to approach God on his terms.
CHRIST THE ONE MEDIATOR
We have seen the need for a mediator - someone acceptable and sinless to stand between God and sinful man. God has provided that perfectly sinless one who alone is fit to plead our cause and stand before God to ask forgiveness for our sins -
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)
The churches, generally, teach that Christ is a mediator or High Priest for all men. But the apostle Paul does not say this really in this verse, though at first sight this may appear to be the case. Consider for example, Romans 8:34 where Paul says that Christ is at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Now the “us” in this verse refers to Paul himself and the believers to whom he wrote. In verse 27 of the same chapter, he says that Christ “maketh intercession FOR THE SAINTS”. Thus the mediatorship of God’s Son is limited to those who have obeyed the conditions God has laid down in his word (see our leaflet “The saints - who are they?). We have to “put on” Christ in baptism - to be covered by his righteousness. As Adam was covered by the skins of the animal, so those who are baptised into Christ have been covered by the Lamb of God (see Galatians 3:27).