Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
~ Isaiah 44:6
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
~ Hebrews 7:25
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
~ John 1:14
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
~ Isaiah 53:6
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
~ 1 John 4:10
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
~ 2 Thessalonians 1:10
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
~ Romans 5:6
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
~ Romans 9:6
A Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:5-6, by John Calvin.
1 Timothy, Chap. ii. verses 5 and 6.
5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6. Who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time.
At all times and seasons, the world hath been so far from God, that all people have deserved banishment from his kingdom. Thus we see, in the time of the law, he chose a certain people, and gathered them to himself; leaving the rest of the world in confusion. Although men were so separated from God, yet do they all naturally belong to him; and as he made them all, so doth he govern and maintain them by his virtue and goodness. Therefore, when we see men going to destruction, God not having been so gracious as to join them with us in the faith of the gospel, we must pity them, and endeavour to bring them into the right way.
St. Paul saith, For there is one God: as if he had said, God hath made all mankind, and hath them under his protection; therefore it cannot be but that there is some brotherhood existing between us. It is true, that those who do not agree with us in faith, are at a great distance from us; yet the order of nature showeth us that we must not utterly cast them off, but take all the pains we can to bring them again to the unity of the body; because they are, as it were, cut off. When we see men thus scattered, well may we be astonished, when we reflect that we are all of the selfsame nature; the image of God was imprinted in them, as well as in us. Moreover, that which should have been the strongest band to hold us together, hath caused the division, and made us enemies; namely, the service of God, the religion of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, when we see poor unbelievers wander and go astray from the way of salvation, we must have pity upon them, and do all we can to reclaim them; keeping in remembrance the words of the apostle; there is one God: St. Paul addeth, and one mediator between God and men. Whereby he giveth us to understand, that our Lord Jesus Christ came not to reconcile a few individuals only, to God the Father, but to extend his grace over all the world. We see setforth through the whole scripture, that he suffered not for the sins which were committed in Judea only, but for those which were committed throughout the world.
The office of our Lord Jesus Christ was to make an atonement for the sins of the world; and to be a mediator between God and men. Having taken upon him our flesh, and so far abased himself as to become man, we should submit ourselves to him, in all his requirements. Our Lord Jesus Christ was made like unto us, and suffered death, that he might become an advocate and mediator between God and us, and open a way whereby we may come to God. Those who do not endeavour to bring their neighbours and unbelievers to the way of salvation, plainly show that they make no account of God’s honour, and that they try to diminish the mighty power of his empire, and set him bounds, that he may not rule and govern all the world: they likewise darken the virtue and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and lessen the dignity given him by the Father.
The apostle, in his epistle to the Hebrews, saith, chap. ii. 17, 18. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” If a man know not what adversity meaneth, he hath no compassion on those that suffer; but being drunk with pleasure, thinketh poverty to be nothing. Our Lord Jesus Christ was partaker of all our miseries, and tasted all our afflictions; sin only excepted. And why so? To the end, that when we come to him, he may be ready to help us; having tasted our afflictions in his own person, he entreateth God to have pity upon us.
When he appeareth as mediator, we have nothing to fear: we may come with uplifted hands, calling upon God our heavenly Father, doubting not but that he will receive us as his children, through the merits of his Son, and make us feel the fruit of our adoption: so that we may come familiarly to him, laying open our necessities, and making known the grief which tormenteth us, that we may be relieved therefrom. The papists endeavour to prove that the Saints are our patrons, and that they make intercession for us; alleging that we are not worthy to appear before God. But if this be the case, of what use is the office of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is mediator, and man?
Let us notice what is contained in the law: when God commanded the people to pray to him, he forth with showed them in what manner they should perform this service; which was this: the people were to stand afar off in the court of the temple; neither the king nor any other one, except the priest, was allowed to approach the sanctuary; for he was the figure of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the reason why he was clothed in new garments, and was consecrated and dedicated to God. The high priest, entering into the sanctuary, carried with him the blood of the sacrifice which he had offered; by which we may understand, that no man can find favour with God, only by virtue of the sacrifice which is offered in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, God hath shown by this solemn ceremony, that we could not call upon him, unless there were an advocate to make intercession for the whole body of the church; and that this intercession must be grounded upon a sacrifice offered. This is the reason why St. Paul, after he had spoken of the intercession of Jesus Christ, addeth, Who gave himself a ransom for all. For these things cannot be separated one from the other; the death and passion of the Son of God, and that he is our mediator, to the end that we may have access in his name to God the Father.
Hath not Jesus Christ appeared to show the truth, the substance, and the perfection of the figures of the law? and yet Satan striveth to darken our minds, that we may not perceive this mediator that was given. We see in the beginning of the gospel that there were many hereticks, who believed the angels to be advocates. St. Paul, speaking of such, saith, Col. ii. 18. “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” St. Paul giveth such honour to Jesus Christ, that all other intercessours and advocates must give way, and he be received as the only Saviour.
For forty years past, a man might as soon have heard Mahomet called the Saviour of the world, as the Son of God named as a mediator and advocate among the papists. And at this day, if any of us call Jesus Christ a mediator and advocate, they will immediately commence quarrelling with us, wishing to know whether we mean that Christ is the only advocate, or that the Saints are advocates likewise. If we endeavour to maintain the dignity of the Son of God, they are displeased with us: let us therefore be armed with the doctrine of the apostle, which teacheth us that we cannot come nigh to God, only through the mediation of Jesus Christ.
The papists are so impudent, and past shame, (I mean their doctors,) that when they wish to prove the matter which they have forged against the pure doctrine of the gospel, they say, “it is true that there is a mediator, but he is not the only one: for when we call a man one, it is not understood that he only is in the world, and none else!” But is not that which St. Paul saith in this place, that there is one mediator, as true as that where he saith, there is one God? It is the just vengeance of God, seeing they have endeavoured to take away the office of mediatorship, that they should be brought into shame and ignominy: because they have dishonoured the Son of God, the Lord of glory; him to whom the Father commandeth both great and small to do homage; before whom all knees must bow, and in whose person we must worship the majesty of our God.
The papists acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the only mediator of redemption; that it is he alone that redeemed the world: but as touching intercession, that he is not alone, that the Saints who are dead have this office as well as he. The apostle saith, that we were redeemed by the blood of the Son of God, therefore we must pray for all the world; for there is one mediator that hath opened the way whereby we may come to God. Jesus Christ is not only called mediator because he hath made reconciliation by his death, but because he appeareth now before the majesty of God, that we through him may be heard; as St. Paul showeth in the 8th chapter to the Romans: Jesus Christ hath therefore redeemed us by his death and passion, and now maketh intercession for us before God.
When we are exhorted to pray one for another, it is not diminishing the office of our Lord Jesus Christ, but that through his means we may all be made one together. When a man prayeth for himself, he ought also to include in his prayers the whole body of the church; that we may not separate that which God hath joined together. The doctrine of the gospel must be our rule and guide: doth that lead us to departed Saints? doth it appoint them for our patrons and advocates? No, no: there is not a syllable in holy writ that maketh mention of it. It is true, that while we live in this world, there ought to be mutual charity between us, and everyone ought to pray for his neighbours; but if I do anything more than the scripture directeth me, I go astray.
In the law it was said, that the people should not come near the sanctuary, but should tarry in the court; and that no man should enter into it, but him that offered the sacrifice. Even so let us consider our own unworthiness; knowing that we are not only earthly creatures, but that we are full of sin, having become polluted and unclean in Adam; therefore we can bring nothing to recommend us to God, because we are not worthy to open our mouths before him: let us then acknowledge our disease, that we may come to the remedy. And what is this remedy? It is to have our Lord Jesus Christ for our High Priest; he who shed his blood, and gave himself a ransom for all. Therefore, let us not doubt but that God is now merciful to us, seeing Christ hath reconciled us to him, by virtue of his death and passion.
As the High Priest bore the names of the children of Israel upon his shoulders, and had before him a tablet which contained twelve precious stones, signifying the twelve tribes of Israel, even so Jesus Christ bore our sins and iniquities upon the cross, and now beareth us, as it were, in his heart: this is the foundation upon which we stand.
Therefore, let us not doubt but that we shall find favour with God, if we come to him in the name of this mediator. We must not devise advocates and patrons after our own notions, but content ourselves with the simplicity of holy writ. Jesus Christ is called the mediator, not only because he maketh intercession for us at present, but because he suffered for the sins of the world.
Therefore, let us learn to glorify God, and thank him with all humbleness, because it hath pleased him to draw us out of the abominations of the papists, that we may be stirred up to walk in fear and carefulness. Seeing it hath pleased God to give us such an advocate and mediator as his own Son, let us not be afraid to come and present ourselves before him, and call upon him in all our necessities: not that each one must do so privately, for himself alone, but let us all pray to God for the whole body of the church, and for all mankind.
When we pray to God, our prayers must be sanctified and consecrated by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have no need of the sprinkling of the pope’s holy water; but the price of which St. Paul speaketh, must make satisfaction for us before God. We may rest assured that God will not cast away the sacrifice, whereby he hath become reconciled to us, but will be content therewith. When we pray, if we do not ground ourselves upon the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must needs be in doubt and perplexity; and thus all our prayers will be vain and unprofitable. The scripture informeth us, that if we do not pray in faith, we shall not be profited thereby.
Who gave himself a ransom for all: when the apostle speaketh thus of our Lord Jesus Christ, he abaseth whatsoever men might presume upon, relative to their own satisfactions, as they term them. This is a point well worthy of note: for the world hath abused itself at all times, by endeavouring to please God with trifles. Behold the heathens! they were sensible that they could not call upon God unless they had some mediator: they therefore had their intercessours, by which they devised a thousand ways to find favour with God. The papists endeavoured to please him by washing and purifying themselves; which was but an apish imitation of that which God had appointed the fathers: where he made use of these corruptible elements, to draw them to Jesus Christ. When they came to the temple of Jerusalem, the water was ready, even at the entrance, that every one might purify himself, and thus come near the majesty of God: but this remedy was not in the water, which was a corruptible element, but it was a figure of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us abuse ourselves no more, by thinking that we can purchase God’s favour by any ceremony or trifle of our own; for we should have been cast off and utterly condemned, had it not been for the atonement made by the blood of Jesus Christ. Here our whole trust lieth, and by this we are assured that our sins are absolved. The papists say that original sin is forgiven us in baptism: and if there should be a Jew or Heathen baptised at the age of twenty, thirty, or forty years, the sins which he had committed during his life, would then be forgiven him: but if after we are baptised, we fall, and commit sin, we must not expect to find grace and pardon unless we bring some recompense.
The papists are constrained to confess that they cannot thoroughly recompense God as they ought, and that it is impossible for men to make payment to him in all things: therefore they add another supply; which is, the blood of martyrs, and the keys of the church; (the power given to priests.) Thus they destroy the ransom which was made for us by the death and suffering of our Lord Jesus, trusting in their own performances and works of supererogation; and if there be any thing wanting, the blood of martyrs, and the keys of the church, fill up the account. Behold what horrible blasphemy doth St. Paul speak here of a ransom that was made for little children only, and for those that are not baptized? Nay, on the contrary, he comprehendeth all faults which make us guilty before God; for the way is open whereby we may come to him by prayer, and find mercy. The ransom of which St. Paul speaketh, reacheth to all our sins; we must therefore have recourse to it from day to day, and place all our confidence therein. It is not only in this place that holy writ directeth us to the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the shedding of his blood for the absolution of our sins, but this doctrine is common throughout the scripture.
Let us understand the necessity of a redeemer, and that by the price of his blood we are reconciled to God the Father, and have free access to him by prayer. St. Paul having shown us that the grace which was purchased by the Son of God, was common to all mankind, and that it was not confined to the Jews only, it might be asked, why God chose one certain people for his inheritance? why it was his pleasure that the Jews only should call upon him? why he shut up his promises among them? why he gave them figures, and exercised them with an expectation of this great redeemer that was promised? It is true, that from the creation of the world, God always reserved for himself some people: yea, and when he made his covenant with Abraham, he shut out the Heathen from the hope of salvation; although for a time it pleased him to use a special grace toward the Jews, yet this doth not prevent his calling all mankind at present: for it pleaseth him to make the Heathen and the Gentile partakers of it, and to have his church extend throughout the world, and to bring them to the fold, who were afar off. Thus we have the meaning of the apostle.
We may here notice, that it would have been of little use to us, for Jesus Christ to have made the atonement, unless we were certified of this benefit, and were told that God had called us to enter into possession of this salvation, and to enjoy the blessings which had been purchased for us. For example, behold the Turks, who cast away the grace which was purchased for all the world by Jesus Christ; the Jews do so likewise; and the papists, although they do it not so openly, show it in effect: all of whom are as much shut out, and banished from the redemption which was purchased for us, as if Jesus Christ had never come into the world. And why so? Because they have not this witness; that Jesus Christ is their redeemer. Although they have some little taste, yet they always remain starved; and if they hear the word redeemer mentioned, it bringeth no comfort to them; neither do they receive any benefit from what is contained in the gospel.
Thus we perceive that those who are not partakers of the blessings purchased by our Lord Jesus Christ, receive not the witness. Before Jesus Christ came into the world, the Gentiles were not only unbelievers, but God had blinded their eyes; insomuch that it seemed as if Christ came only for one certain people. Yea, one would have thought, in the time of the law, that God had not spread forth the know ledge of his truth over all the world, but had given it to a particular people, whom he held for his church.
St. Paul informeth us, that it pleased God to give his law to the fathers, and set them apart from the rest of the world: he testified his good will toward Israel, and not to other nations; as it is said, Psalms lxxiv. 20. “Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.” Moses likewise saith, Deut. xxxii. 9. “For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” We see therefore that God chose for himself a particular people: namely, the stock of Abraham; setting others aside as strangers. This is true, saith St. Paul, but it is now necessary that this knowledge should be spread over all the world; to wit, That God is the Father and Saviour of the Gentiles, as well as the Jews.
We may therefore perceive that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ would be unprofitable to us, unless it were witnessed by the gospel. For it is faith that putteth us in possession of this salvation. This is a very profitable doctrine: for it is acknowledged that the greatest benefits that can be bestowed upon man in this world, is to be partaker of the salvation purchased by Jesus Christ; however, there are but few that take the right way to obtain it. For we see how the gospel is despised, and how men stop their ears against the voice which God hath ordered to be proclaimed throughout the world!
We see but few now-a-days that become reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ; for they deprive themselves of this witness: others cast it away, or at least, profit so little by it, that Jesus Christ dwelleth not in them by faith, to make them partakers of his blessings. St. Paul saith, 1 Cor. i. 30. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” that being grafted into him, we may have part and portion in all his riches; and that whatsoever he hath, may be ours. Seeing he was once pleased to become our brother, we must not doubt, but that in taking upon him our poor and wretched state, he hath made an exchange with us, that we may become rich through his grace.
It is certain that God hath always borne witness of himself; yea, even to the Heathens. Although they had neither law nor prophets, he hath declared himself to them sufficiently, to leave them without excuse. If there were nothing but the order of nature, (as St. Paul maketh mention, Acts xiv.) it would be sufficient to convince infidels of their unthankfulness to God, who formed them, and hath nourished them through life. For it is said in the xix Psalm, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work: although they speak not, yet they set forth his goodness in such a manner, that we ought to be convinced without any other instructor. Behold the book of nature! written with letters plain enough to make known to us that we ought to glorify God!
But this witness was too dark for the rudeness and weakness of men: it was therefore necessary that God should reveal himself in another manner, which was far greater; which he hath done by means of the gospel. The law and the prophets were as a lamp to lighten the Jews, but they belonged to but one people. But this grace is bestowed generally upon all the nations of the earth. Therefore, it is not without cause that St. Paul saith, this witness was to be testified in due time.
In another place, we see how marvellously he setteth forth this great secret, which God had kept from the beginning of the world, but had now revealed by the preaching of the gospel; insomuch, saith he, that the angels marvel at it: to see those who were separated from God, who seemed to be cut off and banished from salvation, now taken for his children, to be members of Jesus Christ, and of the fellowship and company of angels. This was a wonderful secret, and enough to astonish all creatures! St. Paul saith, Gal. iv. 4 and 5. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Wherein it pleased him to make known to the world, that which was before unknown to the fathers.
For he saith, Eph. ii. 12, 13, 14, 15. “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now, in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometime were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Thus, the discord which was between the Jews and Gentiles was abolished.
Jesus Christ hath not only proclaimed the glad tidings, but hath sent forth his apostles and ministers to preach and publish peace to the world: to assemble the Jews, who were nigh by reason of the covenant, and by the solemn pledge made to their fathers, but who still needed a reconciliation through Jesus Christ the redeemer.
These glad tidings were afterwards directed to those who were afar off; even to the poor Gentiles: they also received the message of salvation, and the peace of God; being assured that God so loved them, that he forgave all their sins. Thus the partition wall was broken down, and the ceremonies destroyed, whereby God had made a difference between the Jews and the Gentiles. And why so? Because this salvation belongeth to all the world without exception.
We therefore have this doctrine made clear; namely, that it was requisite for our Lord Jesus Christ to make an atonement for our sins; and that by his death he hath purchased our redemption. We must therefore come to the testimony set forth in the gospel, that we may enjoy the blessings contained therein. We must not say that God is changeable, because it pleased him to hide the witness of his gospel from the Gentiles for a season, and afterwards to have it preached throughout the world, for this he had determined in the counsel of his own will. Let us therefore be convinced that it is our duty to worship and reverence him with all humbleness, for this is the greatest wisdom we can possess.
We must not be too curious in seeking vain and unprofitable questions: for God, who knoweth what we are able to bear, hath made known that which is proper for us to understand: let us therefore learn in his school, and nowhere else. Isaiah speaketh of an acceptable time, chap. xlix. 8. He calleth it an acceptable time, when the message of salvation is carried throughout all the world. Seeing then that God hath displayed his goodness, and showeth that he chose a particular time to call us to salvation, let us not on our part be stiff-necked, and show our corrupt hearts, and say all is not well, for this churlishness will prevent our coming to God; but let us heartily content and rest ourselves upon the grace offered, that there may be a sweet union between God and us; and that we may acknowledge it to be a fit time, because the Lord hath chosen it.
If things do not go according to our own minds, we must not find fault, and say, God should have done otherwise, but let us restrain ourselves, and show implicit obedience to his divine will; let us be ruled by his counsel, and remember that it is not for us to appoint a time when he shall do what is to be done: this mastership and office of commanding is not in our hands, but belongs to God alone. When the gospel is called a witness, it is to assure us that God is kind and favourable toward us; but if we doubt, after having this assurance of his good will, and stand wavering, and show ourselves rebellious against him, we cannot do him a greater dishonour. Let us remember that whenever the gospel is preached to us, God beareth us witness of his goodness.
Moreover, although they that speak to us be mortal men, yet let us consider in what situation God hath placed them; he hath made them his witnesses. When a man is sworn as a notary in any place, all the writings which he receiveth must be taken for true and authentical: if magistrates, who have so little authority, can do this, and the order be good and allowable in a commonwealth, how much more ought we, when God sendeth his witnesses to proclaim the gospel, to receive the message of salvation which they bring. If we do not, the honour of God is shamefully abused. Let us learn therefore to be more obedient than we have been in times past, and attend more strictly to the doctrine of the gospel.
If St. Paul was driven to fight against the pride and malice of men in his time, what is to be done now? for we see that ungodliness overfloweth, and the papists endeavour to abolish the remembrance of God’s truth from the world. But we need not go so far; many among ourselves are profane, and tread the word of God, as it were, under foot: yea, and live in defiance of it. We see men who call themselves Christians, and wish to be taken for such, yet they will not be governed by the word of God, but scorn and scoff at the doctrine of the gospel; I would to God these things were not so common among us.
If these scoffers come to hear a sermon once a month, it is to ascertain whether we speak according to their own fancy or not: if not, they immediately begin to murmur; and to say, all is nought; you would make us believe that we do not our duty! But let us mark well the words of St. Paul, where he protesteth that he is God’s witness, and showeth. that all who rebel against the gospel, and will not submit themselves to it, must not think that they have to deal with men, but with God; for the work is his. Let us therefore beware that we submit ourselves to God, and bow down our necks to his obedience; and so honour and magnify his glorious name, that he may acknowledge us as his children; that we may, all the days of our life, call upon him as our Father, and our Saviour!