A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume Two

Chapter 8

The Mediatorial Work in its Process



            Permanent Foundation of the Redeeming Work

Between the Person of Christ and the Finished Work of Redemption we must interpose the process of the Mediatorial Ministry. The New Testament is a history of the Redeemer's mission, delivered partly in facts and partly in commentary on those facts. It sets out with the Incarnation as the basis of the whole; pursues the progress of the Christ through His Two Estates of humiliation and exaltation; describes His assumption of His Mediatorial Work, and His accomplishment of the functions of its three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. After considering these topics in their order, it will be well to close with a review of our doctrine on the unity of the Person of Christ in all His estates and offices and work, as exhibited in the variety of names assigned to Him in Scripture and theology. This will prepare for the doctrine of the Atonement

There is no method of studying the theology of redemption at once so interesting and so effectual as that which connects it with the successive stages of our Lord's history. This does not, however, demand the presentation of what is commonly called THE LIFE OF JESUS. Modern literature abounds with attempts to depict the Life which is above every life: a career which was spent under conditions that must needs render the attempt abortive. But to these we may apply the ancient apostrophe in another sense: Who shall declare His generation? 1 and the words of the Apostle also that the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 2 Only the Holy Ghost is or should be the Recorder of that history. And He has given it in its own unapproachable and undefiled perfection as it hath pleased Him. It is true that the effort to exhibit the Holy Character has been made in some works of edification which have preserved the spirit of reverence, aiming to portray the Redeemer as at once a Savior and an example. But often it has been the unbeliever who has undertaken the task; and the replies which he has originated under the same title have sometimes fallen into the errors against which they protest. Yet there is an historical review of the Saviour's career which may be made the basis of the entire system of evangelical theology. The life of our Lord was the manifestation of His Person and of His work, as begun below and continued above; and, remembering that the Acts and the Epistles and the Apocalypse supplement the Gospels, even as the Old Testament is their preface, we shall pursue our study of the Mediatorial Ministry in strict connection with the stages and processes of the Lord's history on earth and in heaven, before and at and after the Fullness of Time

1 Isa. 53:8; 2 1 Cor. 2:11


The mystery of the Incarnation occupies its own solitary place in theology. It has been seen that in the fullness of time the Eternal Son assumed human nature, conceived by the Holy Ghost; that the mystery is revealed as a fact, and denned by a variety of expressions which leave it a mystery still: no theories availing to explain it. We have now to do with its relation to the entire work of Christ, a relation which is fundamental, and of such a character as to make it the basis of all other acts, and co-ordinate with none: this truth, however, needing to be carefully stated and guarded. The Incarnation, as the foundation of our Lord's redeeming ministry, with all its offices, is everlasting and unchangeable, common therefore to the two estates of humiliation and exaltation


I is the infinite condescension of the Son of God and the glory of man that the union of the two natures in Christ is permanent. He became man once for all: our manhood is a vesture which He will not fold and lay aside. IMMANUEL is His name for ever. This being so, it is scarcely right to speak of our Lord's alliance with our race as part of His mediatorial humiliation: were it such, His humiliation would never terminate. It is true that the effect of His condescension will never cease. He will be one with mankind to all eternity: as it were expressly to declare this, to keep it in the minds of His people and prevent misconception, that one profound saying was placed on record: then shall the Son also Himself be subjected to Him that did subject. 1 His union with us, which is the same thing as His kingdom or His tabernacle with us, shall have no end. We know Him only as Immanuel. Every reference, or nearly every reference, to His pre-existent state connects Him with man as man's predestined Head. Certainly every one of our Lord's own allusions does this. Let His last word stand for all: the glory which I had with Thee before the world was; 2 where the I of Him who prays, addressing the Father and not man, is the Incarnate I, transferred as it were and carried up into eternity. It is true that the exinanition, or self-emptying, which St. Paul attributes to the Son while as yet in the form of God, 3 preceded the incarnation in the Divine counsel. But that surrender of the manifestation of His glory was only a purpose until the actual descent; and must not be included in the Messianic humiliation that followed upon earth. The estates of humiliation and exaltation belong to the Incarnate Person as He is the Christ, and in the world of human affairs. As the Eternal Son, in the bosom of the Father, 4 He could not be abased, though He might be emptied of His glory. There is a distinction between the acts of Divine condescension and the acts of Divine-human humiliation: found in fashion as a man, 5 the Lord might humble Himself; but not before. It belongs to the freedom of the Divine Being that He can, in a certain sense, limit Himself if He will: for instance, the Triune God becomes the Author of a universe that existed not before His will added it to His self-manifestation; and He condescends to specific relations with the creature, though Himself the Absolute God. But in this condescension there is no humiliation. So also, though the analogy is imperfect, One Person in the Godhead, by Whom were all things created, 6 might condescend and has condescended to unite Himself with His creature

Hence His assumption of our human NATURE as such is not of the essence of His humiliation: it was His literal assumption of the FLESH in the miraculous conception that added the element of self-abasement

1 1 Cor. 15:28; 2 John 17:5; 3 Phil. 2:6; 4 John 1:18; 5 Phil. 2:8; 6 Col. 1:16


The Incarnation is not so much one of the stages or acts of the Redeemer's history as the necessary basis of all. By incarnation is here meant, not the literal taking of our flesh, but that union with our nature to which the Scripture does not give a name. The truth on this subject also may be stated in two propositions. The assumption of our manhood by a Divine Person was the accomplishment of the purpose of salvation; it was also the means in order to that salvation. These two are inseparable

1. When the Son of God became man the human race was declared to be a saved race

The ancient predictions concerning His advent into the flesh always announced His coming as that of a Redeemer and Deliverer who had already saved the world in purpose and in effect. The first Gospel declared that the Seed of the woman should bruise the Serpent's head. The entire strain of the Psalms and Prophecies predicts the coming of One Whose coming was deliverance: so the great Fulfillment says, He hath visited and redeemed His people.1 The most distinct and emphatic prophecy of the birth of Jesus unites in one sentence unto us a Child is born and His name shall be called The Mighty God, The Prince of Peace. 2 The first New-Testament name of Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. 3 The song of the angels heralds a Savior whose advent is the pledge of an accomplished salvation. To say all in one word, the incarnation of Christ is never regarded as one stage in a work that is to be wrought, however true that may in a certain sense be. Certainly there is no hint of any uncertainty or contingency in the issue: thus it must be 4 reigns over all the mission which He who voluntarily came in the flesh undertook

1 Luke 1:68; 2 Isa. 9:6; 3 Mat. 1:23; 4 Mat. 26:54

2. But the other proposition is no less true: the Incarnation was a means to an end

Though the early announcements dwell rather on the accomplishment of the Divine purpose in the gift of His Son, we find as the history of Christ proceeds more and more distinct intimations that the Savior entered the body prepared for Him in order to achieve the reconciliation by an atoning death. He who was the Mediator in His incarnate Person, exhibiting in Himself the union of God and mankind, must also be the Mediator in His sacrificial work, effecting or realizing that ideal union. The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. 1 Hence, when we reach the Epistles we find that the Incarnation is always closely connected with an atoning design: not indeed generally as one stage towards the Atonement, but as essentially connected with it. JESUS is not the perfect Savior until He becomes CHRIST

When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. 2 Our Lord is our Representative; 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 nullify him that had the power of death. 3 This passage with its entire context impressively shows that the Incarnation was the way to the cross. Three terms are used, each of great importance. It was to abolish death, by taking his power from its representative and lord, that is, the devil. This, however, required that He should take our flesh in order that He might taste death for every man, 4 and thus deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage: 5 this deliverance being accomplished by His sacrifice of reconciliation, as the words apallaxee and enochoi sufficiently prove. Only as man could He be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to make expiation for the sins of the people, eis to hilaskesthai. In order to accomplish these results—the destruction of death, the reconciliation of offenders subject to death, and the propitiation required in order to both—He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham: 6 He taketh to Himself, epilambanetai, not angels, but men; mankind, however, being viewed here as the saved church of humanity, or the blessed with faithful Abraham, 7 and the seed of Abraham My friend. 8 But it was that He might taste of death uper pantos

1 Mat. 20:28; 2 Gal. 4:4; 3 Heb. 2:14; 4 Heb. 2:9; 5 Heb. 2:15,17; 6 Heb. 2:16; 7 Gal. 3:9; 8 Isa. 41:8

3. A careful attention to the language of Scripture will help us to avoid some prevalent errors: that of those, on the one hand, who regard our Saviour's assumption of the flesh as His first step in an experiment for human salvation, translating the cry at the end It is decided instead of It is finished; 1 and that of such, on the other, as make the Incarnation itself the bestowment of salvation on mankind, the death of the Savior being needed chiefly for its moral influence as an example; and, lastly, of many who, on Sacramental principles, give the Incarnation of our Lord an undue preponderance, and regard the extension of that Incarnation in the life of believers as the essence—as the fountain and process and end—of the Christian life. These errors are only alluded to here: they will meet us again

1 John 19:30


The Scriptural references to the Incarnation are comparatively few; but they refer to it as a mystery which had more than any other been hidden from the mind of man. In the Old Testament it is the subject of dim and mysterious prophecy which only the Fulfillment has explained. In the New Testament it is historically recorded by two of the Evangelists; and, their record being presupposed, it is then theologically stated in a considerable variety of phrases which may be profitably studied and classified. As these, however, have been considered under the Person of Christ, it will be sufficient to refer to them only in a very general way

I. The Incarnation of the Son of God, the supreme fact in human history, bringing the Eternal Generation into a human birth in time, was an event which the Spirit of prophecy never revealed until it took place. There is no one word in the Old Testament which plainly declared that God would become Man. On the other hand, there is no event recorded in the New Testament that is more expressly and variously announced as the accomplishment of ancient oracles

1. This paradox is partly solved by an examination of the predictions themselves which foreannounce the coming of a Divine Seed born NOT OF THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD.1 Only the fullness of the time2 therefore the fullness of time because this was its great secret—declared why it was said, not of the seed of Adam but of the seed of Eve, It shall bruise thy head; 3 and now we know that the Incarnation was the first accent of prophecy

Many later predictions spoke of the Seed of Abraham and of David; but the New Testament explains that the line of Abraham and David furnished only the human mother of our Lord. Isaiah, who sheds so clear a light on the earthly end of the Messiah, sheds a light equally clear on His earthly beginning: Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 4 This oracle also veiled its own meaning. A certain ambiguity in the term almaah has always been wrested by the Jews to the suppression of the truth, as by Kimchi: " non est virgo sed puella. Puella vero haec uxor prophetae, vel uxor Achazi, quod probabilius videtur." It was never charged against the enemies of Christ that they misunderstood this and some other passages: such as, Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, 5 and the testimony of the Servant of the Lord to Himself, the Lord hath called Me from, the womb; from the bowels of My mother hath He made mention of My name. 6 But these are all with the utmost exactness explained in the New Testament of the Incarnation of the Son of God

1 John 1:13; 2 Gal. 3:13; 3 Gen. 3:15; 4 Isa. 7:14; 5 Isa. 9:6; 6 Isa. 49:1

2. Another solution may be found in the fact that the ancient revelation was pervaded by a certain presentiment of the appearance of God in human form. The early Theophanies, or manifestations of the Supreme, were in the likeness of men. The Angel of Jehovah, or the Angel of the Face, had, so to speak, the form of the Son of man. The general anthropomorphic style of the Old Testament was a perpetual indirect prophecy of the Incarnation. The same Jehovah who constantly interdicted the formation of any image of Himself — ye saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice 1 nevertheless commanded His people to seek His face. 2 The WISDOM of the Proverbs is so described as to suggest the coming revelation of a Personal Representative of the Godhead dwelling by more than a mere Divine influence with the sons of men.3 The supreme SERVANT OF JEHOVAH in Isaiah is all but declared to be Jehovah in human form. It is certain that the later Judaism did, in a confused manner, grope its way towards this truth; misinterpreting these hints and the symbols with which they were connected. Not to dwell upon this, the Christian reader of the Old Testament—and only to the Christian reader does it yield its true teaching—feels everywhere that time is laboring with a secret that is ready to be revealed: IMMANUEL, 4 GOD WITH US. This, however, must not be carried too far. When the Dayspring arose the world was not prepared to comprehend it. St. Paul furnishes his testimony in a remarkable passage which looks both ways. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of [Jesus] Christ.5 This is the Face or Divine Presence which shines everywhere by anticipation in the Old Testament; but its revelation in the New is, as it were, light arising in darkness

1 Deu. 4:12; 2 Psa. 105:4; 3 Pro. 8:31; 4 Mat. 1:23; 5 2 Cor. 4:6

3. There are some passages in Scripture which suggest the question how far the uncorrected traditions of men, perverting the original promise, expected an incarnate God as the Desire of all nations, 1 or that the gods might come down to us in the likeness of men. 2 It cannot be doubted that no thought is more universal in mythology than that of the union of Divinity with humanity: whether by the apotheosis of man, ascending to the fellowship of the gods; or by the descent of Divine beings to earth. The science of Comparative Theology is able to adduce evidence from all parts of the world, and from every age, that a dim presentiment of the Incarnation has existed among men; but, generally speaking, strangely blended with the notion of metempsychosis and transmigration

Among the Egyptians animals, rather than man, were the medium. The mythology of the Hindus exhibits a boundless variety of incarnations or avatars: one of which, that of Krishna, represents the Deity as man bruising the head of a serpent, while the serpent bites his heel. Buddhism was based upon a Pantheistic evolution of the Infinite in the finite the object of which was to destroy sacrificial religion, and lead the spirit back to its original abyss. Lamaism in Tibet added the idea of hereditary incarnations. The classical metamorphoses exhibited the notion in its most degraded form, though the name given to Jupiter. Zeus katabatoos, maintains the truth that underlay the perversion. Scandinavian mythology has its many variations on the same thought. And so also have the American religions, especially that of Mexico, which contains unmistakable traditions of an incarnation of the highest god through a human mother. The thoughtful study of all these, and numberless other, fantasies of heathenism, will force upon the mind a conviction that the original promise of the Seed of the woman had been diffused among all nations, responding to the profound instinct of mankind longing for communion with a personal God, but left to its unregulated groping until the fullness of the time

1 Hag. 2:7; 2 Acts 14:11

II. The Incarnation as an accomplished fact was in due time committed to record by two chosen writers, St. Matthew and St. Luke, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, collected and made permanent the sacred tradition of the first disciples: the one representing the Jews, the other the Gentiles

1. The narrative itself is the most wonderful in human annals. It is given in two forms: by St. Matthew, less as an historical account than as an exhibition of the fulfillment of prophecy; by St. Luke, as an avowed narrative of the fundamental event in human redemption. The most searching criticism is constrained to admit that the chapters of the Incarnation have precisely the same authority as the rest of the books in which they appear. No history in Scripture is more clear and explicit than that which narrates the miraculous advent of the Son of God as the Divinely-begotten Son of a human mother

Superficial objections may be raised against the narratives themselves, especially as compared with each other; but, to those who believe in the Incarnation first, and who believe secondly in the superintendence of the Spirit over the preservation of its record, those objection vanish. St. Matthew begins with the Abrahamic and Davidic descent of the Messiah; and then describes His birth and infant history as the fulfillment of five distinct Old-Testament prophecies, omitting much that a mere chronicler would have inserted. He gives the, public registry of the Davidic descent of Joseph, son of David, 1 s privileges being inherited by Jesus, concerning Whose birth of Mary, however, the language suddenly changes: ton andra Marias ez ees agennbotho toosous, IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US. St. Luke adopts a new and evangelical method of his own in giving the genealogy. He traces it upward through Heli, the father of Mary, through all generations of men to God Himself: we must read his words, being a son (as was supposed, of Joseph) of Heli; 2 e son being the grandson, through Mary. St. Luke makes Mary the centre, and the Incarnation is for all the world, that of the Seed of the woman. St. Matthew makes Joseph the centre, and the Incarnation is that of the Son of David, the Christ. The details of the harmony need not here be entered into. Suffice that the two records may be woven into one continuous history of the supernatural advent, conception and birth of the Son of God in humanity. And this history records an event which, in its essential character, had never entered into the mind of man

1 Mat. 1:20; 2 Luke 3:23

2. It is remarkable that after this most full and explicit narrative, the mystery of the miraculous conception by which God became incarnate is never once alluded to. But it is always presupposed, and in such a variety of ways as to confirm the truth of the record which the subsequent silence of the New Testament is supposed to contradict. In fact, the decorum of Scripture treats this supreme Miracle with a reticent dignity that gives a law to us: proofs are abundant of the death and of the resurrection and even of the Divinity of the Redeemer, but His generation in the flesh of man is left to the vindication of God

Direct evidences we are forbidden to seek for; the indirect abound everywhere in the Gospels themselves. For with God nothing shall be impossible: 1 this one word should be a sufficient answer to all possible preliminary objections that sense or reason may urge

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart: 2 this sentence sheds light upon much that follows. The blessed Mother of our Lord was the human custodian of the mystery, nor did she depart until the light of Pentecost confirmed her witness; though a veil, which we must not penetrate, falls upon her communications. It was part of our Lord's lowliness to bear the reproach which sprang from the paradox of His human birth: His cross began from His conception, and His mother bore it with Him, the sword piercing her soul also from the beginning as well as at the end. 3 This reproach He has endured at the hands of both Gentiles and Jews to this day; but reverence forbids our further examination of it. Once more, the silence of our Lord and His disciples as to the fact may be explained on the general principle that the Divinity of the Redeemer was to be independently demonstrated, and that again would demonstrate His Divine birth

Lastly, the supreme evidence of the Human Conception was reserved until it was perfected in the resurrection, with which birth from the dead St. Paul connects the ancient word: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee! 4 The Person and the Work of the Incarnate Son were both consummated then: He was at length perfectly raised up and begotten in our nature. Meanwhile, whatever His disciples knew, Jesus Himself always spoke and acted as One who made of a woman 5 knew that God was His only Father: evidence of which abounds from His first testimony to Himself, Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business? 6 down to the end, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father!7

1 Luke 1:37; 2 Luke 2:19; 3 Luke 2:35; 4 Acts 13:33; 5 Gal. 4:4; 6 Luke 2:49; 7 John 14:9

3. The Fact of the Incarnation is throughout the later Scriptures referred to in a variety of ways: always as the basis of the entire Mediatorial economy. The classification which is theologically most useful is perhaps that which views it in relation to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity respectively

(1.) The Father, or, what is in the New Testament the same, God, is connected with the miraculous entrance of the Son into human nature only in a general manner. He is said to have sent forth His Son, 1 born of a woman and in the likeness of sinful flesh; 2 and, especially, to have raised up His Son 3 among men. This day have I begotten Thee 4 refers to the incarnation only as it is perfected in the resurrection: the raising up of the advent and the raising up from the dead thus encircle the whole historical manifestation of the Son of Man Who is [the Lord] from heaven.5

1 Gal. 4:4; 2 Rom. 8:3; 3 Acts 3:26; 4 Acts 3:33; 5 1 Cor. 15:47

(2.) The relation of the Son Himself to His Incarnation is carefully to be studied. It was His voluntary act. He condescended to be made flesh, but only as God who dwelt among us: 1 these sayings must be blended, as mutually qualifying each other. He came into the flesh and He came in flesh: 2 these also have their several shades of meaning. He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham and took part of the same flesh and blood of which the children are partakers: 3 these also are mutually complementary. It must be noted that in this series of counterparts the active and the passive side of the Son's assumption and submission are made emphatic. As to the latter He says, a body hast Thou prepared Me;4 as to the former, I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will, 5 and Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, 0 God. 6

1 John 1:14; 2 1 John 4:3; 3 Heb. 2:14,16; 4 Heb. 10:5; 5 John 6:38; 6 Heb. 10:7

(3.) That Body was prepared by the Third Person of the Trinity whose relations to this mystery of godliness is theologically the most important. The Son sent of the Father, and voluntarily coming to His own new nature, is yet CONCEIVED OF THE HOLY GHOST. Into the subordinate question which here arises, as to the relation between the Son's assumption and the Spirit's preparation of the Humanity, we dare not enter at large. A few suggestions only may be reverently made. The human nature of our Lord must be separate, from sinners: 1 in the Christian economy the Third Person is the Sanctifier; He hallowed the flesh into which our Lord entered, and also so sanctified the Virgin Mother as to make her meet for her high function. Again, the act of the Holy Ghost demonstrated that the Redeemer became literally Man among men, and did not bring from heaven His pre-existing humanity, as many affirm that He did. Once more, the Spirit's relation to the new manhood laid the basis of the Redeemer's subordination. In the unsearchable mystery of our Lord's Person, while His human nature is His own, and one with His Divinity, it is also a human nature which is to be led of the Spirit through all its processes to the end. Hence, lastly, the Holy Ghost has a specific relation to His humanity as it is received on behalf of the race with which He is allied. The Spirit of the Son, out of Whose fullness we all receive, is the Holy Ghost Who created and dwells in His human nature from the beginning; and is the sacred link between us and our Head, even as He is the sacred bond between us all and the Father. These are interior subtitles of the Redemptional economy of the Triune God which none who would understand the Scriptures may despise, though none can find them out unto perfection

1 Heb. 7:26