mercredi 13 décembre 2017

Still Fighting for the Word "One" Mediator?

Image result for one mediator between god and manSome section of the Christian Church gets savagely attacked because they seem to use the word, 'mediator' in an apparently loosed fashion which tend to give the impression that the text "one mediator between God and men" might not be taken seriously with all its strictness. The detractors readily point-out and correctly for that matter to what St. Paul said to his protégé,
"There is one God. There is also one mediator between God and human beings—a human, the Messiah Jesus." - 1 Timothy 2:5 ISV
You can't get a clearer text than that. And yet, overwhelming number of believers in the Church over the centuries have regarded this very same verse in a widely different interpretative framework. 

Here is two examples from this very same verse which are widely accepted within the orthodox Christian community (1 Timothy 2:5):

(a) "There is one God", meaning that God was indeed One but that His Oneness is Trinitarian (3 persons in one God) and not Unitarian.
(b) "a human, the Messiah Jesus", meaning that Jesus was indeed truly man. However, His humanity did not preclude that He was also more than just a man, more than a carpenter. He is equally one of the person of the trinitarian Godhead, meaning the Messiah is divine. This is known among theologians as the "hypostatic union" of Christ.

So the same Church pointed out and still points out that none of the points (a) and (b) above weakens the expressions, 'one God' or 'the Messiah is a man'. Since point (a) and (b) are true given other corroborative biblical texts, what about this third expression of the verse, "there is one mediator between God and Men"? Could it be that there could also be a wider interpretative framework within sacred Scriptures to understand it? This is what I will attempt to answer. However, before I do that I'd like to take you into a small voyage of discovery which is much overdue for this long awaited conversation.

I/ ONLY ONE TEACHER

Jesus warned His disciples when He said, "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' because you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers." - Matthews 23:8

To understand the prohibition, one has to understand what the word, Rabbi, means. The Strong Greek/Hebrew dictionary explain the word as such: "Rhabbi (of Hebrew origin) means, my master. An official title of honor: Master or Rabbi."

It is therefore unmistakable that Jesus Christ taught that there is only one Teacher for His disciples and hence no one should call himself a teacher among themselves. You can't get a clearer text than this. Jesus Christ was to be regarded as the only Teacher among the believers.

And yet ...

We read in the New Testament Bible these astonishing texts in light of Jesus admonishment above,
 "And God set some in the church, firstly, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers, then works of power, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, kinds of languages." - 1 Corinthians 12:28  
"That is why God says, "When he went up to the highest place he led captives into captivity and gave gifts to people ... And it is he who gifted some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers," - Ephesians 4:8, 11 
"And in Antioch some among the existing church were prophets and teachers. (such as Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch) and Saul." - Act 13:1  
Clearly, despite the fact that there is only one Teacher (Rabbi) as written in Matthew, the New Testament Bible also equally affirmed that, (i) God set some believers to be teachers (1Co12:28), (ii) Jesus gifted some believers to be teachers (Eph4:11) and (iii) the Holy Spirit spoke to teachers in the Church of Antioch (Act13:1). How can we explain this obvious departure of the scripture teaching about there being "only one Teacher"? We can explain this when we remember that in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ is bringing a teaching that was in departure from what other teachers of his time were teaching. In one such occasion, the common people noticed the difference of teachings and reacted,
"The people were utterly amazed at his teaching, because he was teaching them like one with authority and not like their scribes." - Mark 1:22  
Jesus teaching was different from what other Rabbi/teachers of the time taught. Therefore acknowledging that one was a teacher also meant that the teacher brought his own set of teachings. For this reason, Jesus prohibited that there should be any other head teacher/Rabbi among His disciples for none had the right to bring a different set of teaching than what He, himself brought. Hence to say that there is "only one Teacher" also implied that there was only 'one particular faith being taught' which was different from other faiths or doctrines/teachings other teachers were teaching at the time. St. Paul recognized as much,
"There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism" - Ephesians 4:5   
To ensure that His teaching, doctrines and faith remained, the Lord Jesus informed His disciples that He will be sending His Holy Spirit so as to preserve one teachings under One Teacher. His Spirit will not teach them anything outside of what He taught them. Hence, the Spirit of Truth preserved Jesus as the supreme teacher with only one school of thought.
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you." - John 14:26   
"Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own accord, but will speak whatever he hears and will declare to you the things that are to come." John 16:13  
The first reason the Lord Jesus was so adamant about there being no other Teacher/Rabbi among His disciples, was to deter the temptation to teach new and different things in the Church from what He had taught, and in so doing removing the possibilities of having competing teachings within the Church as if there were more than one Rabbi/head Teacher within the Church. The second reason was to ascertain that His teaching prevails within the Church because of the divine origin of His teaching. Jesus had received what He was teaching from God the Father Himself.
"because I have not spoken on my own authority. Instead, the Father who sent me has himself commanded me what to say and how to speak. And I know that what He commands brings eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me." - John 12:49-50 
In this sense, even though in the Church we have teachers, these teachers are not head Teachers/Rabbi in the sense of bringing a new line of teaching, a new set of doctrines or a new spiritual paradigm. No! Believers who are called teachers are only called so as an extension of Jesus own teaching ministry. They bring no new faith, nor no new doctrines. They only repeat and teach what the Lord Jesus had taught and commended and nothing else. Nothing different from what He taught. We therefore see that it is not new teaching being produced within the Church but rather it is the same teaching from the only head Teacher the Church knows, namely Jesus Christ. All we do as small teachers is to pass on what He had already taught.
"Dear friends, although I was eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write to you and urge you to continue your vigorous defense of the faith that was passed down to the saints once and for all." - Jude 1:3
In this sense, we understand that there is only one Teacher/Rabbi, Jesus Christ, and all of us who are commissioned to teach are called to pass down what the Lord has taught once and for all. We aren't Rabbi bring our own new teachings or different gospels. Understood in that sense, we understand that there is no conflict between the statement, "only one Teacher" talking about Jesus Christ and the statements, "God set teachers", talking about believers who simply carry out the only teaching of the only Teacher that matters, namely the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, the New Testament speaks of only one Rabbi (head Teacher) and only one teachings which has to be carried out by small teachers under that the leadership of the Head Teacher. Let's remember the last word of Jesus Christ, the only one true Teacher of the Church,
"Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time." - Matthew 28:20  
II/ ONE SHEPHERD (ONE PASTOR) 

Image result for shepherdJesus Christ made sure that there would be no confusion about who is the Shepherd and who are the sheep. He said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep ... I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, ... I have other sheep that don't belong to this fold. I must lead these also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock and one shepherd." - John 10:11,14,16

The English word, "Shepherd" in the Greek New Testament comes from the word, "Poimēn" which is translated by the Strong Greek/Hebrew Dictionary as: Pastor.

The text therefore point out that there is truly one Pastor or Shepherd who is Jesus Christ. Other texts also speak of Jesus as THE Shepherd and not as A shepherd. His uniqueness as Shepherd is continuously emphasized in the New Testament Bible. This also is linked to another word synonymous for shepherds/ pastors which is overseers.
"For you were as sheep going astray, but now you are turned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." - 1 Peter 2:25 
You can't get a clearer text than this, one shepherd/ one Pastor. No room for maneuvering to make Jesus Christ one of the Shepherd. He did not leave that option open to us. One flock of sheep and one Pastor, that's it!

And yet ...

Believers are also called Pastors (shepherds, overseers) in the same New Testament. Here is an example,
"And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers," - Ephesians 4:11   
If we understood the biblical logic used above about the only 'One Teacher', then we will have no trouble understanding the logic of 'One Pastor' in this section. The teaching remains that there is no competing authorities for the sheep, for the pastorate represents authority and leadership. For the believers, there can never be two or more competing spiritual leadership. It is either Jesus Christ leadership or Mammon authority. 
"No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." - Matthew 6:24   
It is either Jesus Christ authority under which we submit or it is demonic authority.
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot dine with the Lord and dine with demons" - 1 Corinthians 10:21  
It is either Jesus Christ spiritual leadership we are under or it is the World. It is either Jesus teaching authority or it is human understanding we have submitted to. 
"Demas loved this world too much. That is why he left me. ..." - 2 Timothy 4:10   
"Stop loving the world and the things that are in the world. If anyone persists in loving the world, the Father's love is not in him." - 1 John 2:15   
The contrast could continue ad nauseam. The message is clear. There is no competing with God nor His Son, Jesus Christ. Either Jesus Christ shepherd us or someone else shepherd us and hence showing that we might not be of Jesus' sheep. The language is as clearly cut as the one were read about Jesus Christ being the only Teacher. Since there is no middle way, this gets quite perplexing since the New Testament recognizes the presence of other Pastors or Overseers? The answer to this is given to us by St. Peter in his epistle,
"I exhort the elders who are among you, I being also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God among you, taking the oversight ... over those allotted to you by God, and when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory." - 1 Peter 5:1-3, 5
Jesus Christ who is the One Shepherd of John 10 has established other 'sheep', the elder sheep to be precise, to oversee and feed the flock of God on His behalf. The text still point out that the flock is still called the 'flock of God' recognizing that the sheep did not leave Him to belong to another Shepherd. God is still their Shepherd, only this time He is providing His Shepherding through other vessels (i.e the Elders). This means that the Elders' authority are supposed to be the natural extension of Jesus Christ own authority and nothing else. We see this particular understanding among the Believers in the Galatia Church,
"My sickness was a burden to you, but you did not stop showing me respect or make me leave. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God. You accepted me as if I were Jesus Christ himself!" - Galatians 4:14  
This demonstrates that believers understood that they have no other Chief Shepherd but the Lord Jesus Christ. And when God sent believers with the gifts of being Pastors toward the Christian believers, the Believers did not looked at the human vessels as being a different or another spiritual Authority, but they saw Jesus Christ Himself through them, for believers have no other Chief Shepherd. All Christian Elders (Priests) we may have as pastors, are simply believers chosen by God to extend His own Pastorate in favor of the believers by protecting them from wolves, by feeding them and caring for them as Jesus Christ Himself would have done (even dying for the sheep).

Jesus Christ will remain uniquely qualified as the Shepherd of believers just like He remains the only Teacher and source of spiritual teachings and doctrines.
"Now may the God of peace (who brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant)" - Hebrew 13:20  
III/ ONLY ONE HOLY ONE 

We have the same biblical logic being expressed here as above, "Lord, who won't fear and praise your name? For you alone are holy, and all the nations will come and worship you because your judgments have been revealed."- Revelation 15:4
"There is no one holy like the LORD, indeed there is no one besides you, there is no rock like our God." - 1 Samuel 2:2  
You can't make this verse more clearer than it has been formulated. God alone is holy. No one is Holy like the Lord. You read this in the Old Testament, you read this also in the New Testament.

And yet ...

The New Testament Bible speaks of Saints numerous times. The word, "Saint" means "Holy". The Greek word translated as saints in the Scripture is the word, "Hagios" which means both Holy and Saint.
"Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren that are with me salute you." - Philippians 4:21   
The scripture also makes references to God's calling to believers as being holiness. It goes so far as to request believers to become holy just as God Himself is Holy.
"but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." - 1 Peter 1:15-16
The tension between God being the only one Holy and believers being also Holy is easily resolved once we realize that the same logic applies as it was used earlier with the "only one Teacher" and the "only one Shepherd". Just like believers who received the gift of teaching or the gift of pastorate, Holiness is also given to believers as an extension of God's own Holiness. It is not a different holiness. In the New Testament teaching, The Holy God is Spirit (John 4:24). Since He alone is Holy, God has made believers part of Himself. And by doing so, His Holiness becomes our Holiness by our union with Him. There is not Holiness outside of God, for only God is Holy. 
"And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God ... But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." - 1 Corinthians 6:11,17  
St. Paul is simply clarifying the fact that our sanctification (the process to make us Holy) is done in the Spirit of God. And since by believing Jesus teachings, we join ourselves with the Lord, we become therefore 'one spirit' with the Lord. And since the Spirit of the Lord is Holy, we therefore become Holy as well as part of our union with a Holy God and not apart from God. Hence it can truly be said that only God is Holy, and all form of Holiness believers might display doesn't contradict that statement but simply recognizes the mechanism God used to make us partake on His own Holiness.

IV/ ONE MEDIATOR

This is the text that launched this whole discussion, "There is one God. There is also one mediator between God and human beings—a human, the Messiah Jesus." - 1 Timothy 2:5

The English word, "Mediator" comes from the Greek word, "Mesitēs" which is translated from the Strong's Greek/Hebrew Dictionary as: "a go between, which means, a) an internunciator: someone who speaks on behalf of someone else, or (b) a reconciler: someone who tries to bring peace (intercessor): - a mediator."

Clearly the text says unambiguously that Jesus Christ is the one mediator/ internunciator / reconciler / intercessor between men and God. You can't make this text more emphatic than it has already been made.
"Therefore, because [Jesus] always lives to intercede for them, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him. We need such a high priest—one who is holy, innocent, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens."- Hebrews 7:25-26  
"Who is the one to condemn? It is the Messiah Jesus who is interceding on our behalf. He died, and more importantly, has been raised and is seated at the right hand of God." - Romans 8:34  
Summary: Jesus Christ is the one mediator between men and God (1Tim2:5), the intercessor between God and them [the human race] (Heb7:25) and the one interceding before God on our behalf [the believers] (Rom8:34).

And yet ...

Believers in the same chapter in which Jesus is presented as the only mediator are also requested to be mediators by offering intercessions to all men which as we saw above from the Greek definition is a synonym of mediation.
"First of all, then, I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men," - 1 Timothy 2:1  
So how is Jesus mediation and intercession different from human intercession? What type of Mediation Jesus did that made Him uniquely qualified that excludes all other form of mediation? If we can't answer this, we then have a conflict between these two biblical statements, namely Jesus is the one mediator between God and men and Believers are also called to make intercessions/mediation for all men before God. Let's remember that intercession, reconciler and internunciator are synonymous with mediation (Mesitēs) in the Strong Greek/Hebrew Dictionary.

Put simply, Jesus Christ mediation is unique for it is a mediation made at the cost of His own life. It is a mediation of a new covenant between Men and God. It is a mediation that reconcile a lost humanity with a loving God.
"and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." - Hebrew 12:24  
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new covenant, so that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, those who are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." - Hebrews 9:15  
There is no new covenant outside of the covenant established by the blood of Jesus Christ. Hence, there can never be another Mediator, or another reconciler (someone who bring reconciliation) between God and Men. Only Jesus Christ uniquely qualifies. And that is where we find the open doors for the believers to express his intercessions and mediation (reconciler) in favor of all men.
"All of this comes from God, who has reconciled us to himself through the Messiah and has given us the ministry of reconciliation," - 2 Corinthians 5:18 
"for through the Messiah, God was reconciling the world to himself by not counting their sins against them. He has committed his message of reconciliation to us." - 2 Corinthians 5:19   
This is how we have become ourselves small mediators. The mediation is not done under our own authority for we have no authority to reconcile the World with God. Our experience of mediation, intercession, reconciliation that we perform is a logical extension of Jesus Christ own Mediation. Believers as part of the mystic body of Christ are a natural extension of Jesus Christ own Mediation to a broken world.

Coming back to my initial contention, when believers of a certain Christian community says that so and so is a mediator or a mediatrix, it is not in defiance of the 'One Mediator between God and Man' but it is an acknowledgement that Christ Mediation is shared with Believers to bring about the reconciliation between God and Man through the blood of the New Covenant, the Blood of Jesus Christ.

V/ FINAL REMINDER: DIVINE TRANSFER 

The lessons to be drawn from this study; namely (a) the only Teacher, (b) The only Shepherd/Pastor, (c) The only one to be Holy and (d) the One Mediator; is that God so loved the World that He gave His Only begotten Son to change unrepentant men into sanctified believers capable of experiencing the divine attributes according to God's calling for them and according to the measure of faith given to each believers. Thus, what was only known to be of God become also experienced by extension to believers. Only Christ is the teacher, the shepherd, the mediator and because we are united to Him, we received divine gifts to also teach, shepherd and mediate in His name and not apart of His name and authority. There is a transference of divine nature to believers which allows God's Kingdom to advance in fulfilling God's agenda on earth through mere and blessed humans.
"Through these He has given us His precious and wonderful promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, seeing that you have escaped the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires." - 2 Peter 1:4 

3 commentaires:

  1. Beautiful work and very Biblical, but as a Catholic, I wonder why the Church authority you see isn't explained more precisely? Mat 16:18 "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Jim. As for your question on Church authority based on Mat 16, I might one day also write a post on that since I have discussed it often in social media. Thanks again for your comment.

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