Ever since the fall of humanity, sinners have been unable to approach God without going through a mediator. Scripture reveals this truth in many ways, particularly in establishing the old covenant priesthood. As we have seen, only those who held the priestly vocation could enter into the holiest parts of the tabernacle where God made His presence manifest (Lev. 16; Num. 3:5–10).
However, Scripture also recognizes that these old covenant mediators were ultimately insufficient. Under the old covenant administration, there was a succession of mediators. When one died, another would replace him, bringing an end to the former priest’s work of mediation (Heb. 7:23). The old covenant mediators also had to offer sacrifices for their own transgressions (v. 27), which meant that they were unable to finally deal with the problem of sin. Even the sacrifices they offered were not ultimately effectual: “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin” (10:4). Animal sacrifices did not offer true atonement, but they were the means God appointed that allowed Him to pass over the sins of Israel out of gracious forbearance, knowing that those sins would one day be dealt with by the atonement and mediation of Christ (Rom. 3:25).
As the Apostle Paul tells us in today’s passage, there is only One who truly fulfills the vocation of mediator between God and human beings, and that is “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). In stressing our Lord’s humanity, Paul is not denying His deity, for Paul elsewhere affirms that Jesus is truly God (Phil. 2:5–11). Instead, as John Calvin comments, Paul stresses the humanity of Christ in today’s passage as a reminder that Jesus shares in our humanity so that we can be joined to Him and thus stand before God. Moreover, it must be noted that to be an effective mediator, Christ must be truly God and truly man. A mediator is a go-between who can represent the interests of both parties. As God, Christ brings divine justice and mercy to bear on our relationship to our Creator, and as man, Christ brings the perfect human obedience we need to be reconciled to God.
By dying as the sinless sacrifice for all who put their faith in Him, Christ provides for the forgiveness of sin without God’s forsaking His just judgment against sin. This mediatorial sacrifice is offered for all kinds of people, not all people without distinction, as Calvin comments. Christ is the only mediator available to us whether we are rich or poor, male or female, king or servant.