“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . .” ITim 2:5
So much of our lives are mediated by mediums, mediators and media, for example you are reading this article on an electronic medium, a digital device. It started when I typed my thoughts into my word processor; I then transferred the article onto another digital medium, my web site; this website, is supported or “hosted” by a company called SiteGround; and you likely discovered this site and this article through a mediated “link” on a social-media site called, Facebook. In short, just to publish and read this piece, there were at least a half a dozen mediums at work in order for this communication to happen.
So when the author of the above verse tells us, that there is not 12 or 5, or 2, but 1 and only “one mediator between God and man”, he is saying something very radical for his day, as well as ours. For, everyone knows that there can’t be just “one” mediator mediating all of God’s reality to the whole world – such an arrangement would simply be undemocratic! But let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, that Paul was correct in his statement about Christ being the one and only “mediator” between God and man. If that were the case, at least three things would be true:
1) by having access to God through his appointed mediator, we could rest assured that we are getting it from a credible source, which also means we no longer have to concern ourselves with every preacher or guru, claiming to have the “secret formula” for connecting us to divine life; 2) Christianity would simply be the name used to describe a message and an experience uniquely centered upon and exclusively mediated by the man, Jesus Christ; 3) the first move away from the Christian faith would occur by introducing additional mediators to mediate the Mediator, either between God and Jesus or between Jesus and Man.
So, if Christ is the authorized agent for patching the world into God’s heavenly agenda, what do we make of Christ’s “apostles” or of the institution that became the “church”? Well, concerning “apostles”, these are Christ’s servants or “ministers,” who in their service to God and his people, become neither mediators between humanity and Christ, nor substitutes, standing in for an absent Christ. And in their role as emissaries, these “apostles” never cease being “brothers” in their relationship to the church (“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.” Mat 23:8). Therefore, whenever we ascribe to a man or an institution, consciously or unconsciously, the role of mediator, we have drifted from Christ-centered faith and are now in the realm of religious ideology and idolatry.
Furthermore, as God’s one and only “mediator”, Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to rescue us from the modern “bar-ditch” of ‘religious versus secular.’ On one side of the “road” there is the religious “ditch” called, “blind faith”, and on the other side of the road, there is the secular “ditch” that calls for ideological obedience to the observable appearance of things. God’s one and only mediator topples the “bar-ditch” by bringing the presence of God and his divine rule right into our earthly, ‘here and now’ reality. “The time has come,” ‘(Christ) said.’ “The kingdom of God has come near” (Mk 1:15).
Paul would later describe this in-breaking of God’s kingdom rule as, “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed . . .” (Col. 1:28). And just what exactly was the revelation of this age-old mystery? Well, thankfully it was not another mystery in the form of “hidden knowledge”, nor was it a new ethical program or an economic theory, and it wasn’t a scientific break-through. But as Marshall McLuhan famously wrote in, Understanding Media, “the medium is the message.” In other words, God’s medium ‘is’ God’s revelation and God’s revelation ‘is’ God’s medium, Jesus Christ.
So if Jesus Christ is God’s appointed mediator and messenger, what is our response to this divine encounter? Now if we answer, “faith”, we must remember that faith does not initiate anything, nor does it manipulate or coerce a reluctant deity. But as Luther says, “faith is an open hand” to another’s offer. Through Jesus Christ, his appointed mediator, God has made himself uniquely present and available, ‘right here in our midst.’ We must also keep in mind that God’s commitment to be ‘with us’ and ‘for us’ originates within the chambers of his own eternal counsel, and not with our desires or our efforts. Therefore, in the face of this divine revelation and encounter, there is nothing for us to say or do. As Bonhoeffer says, “Teaching about Christ begins in silence.”
Now because our personal encounter with God is initiated, established and mediated by none other than God himself, we might be tempted to believe that life in Christ lies outside of the apostolic tradition. But as the apostle Paul warns regarding this ancient tradition of ours, we are the ‘new kids on the block’, and therefore, we must “not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Ro.11:18). Furthermore, the apostolic tradition is a certain kind of tradition, one that is Christ-centered and Christ-mediated as opposed to a humanly devised philosophy or ideology.
The “church”, therefore, is simply the name given to those carrying on the apostolic tradition through their participation in a Christ-centered and Spirit empowered community. As the “head of the church,” Christ not only mediates our relationship to God, but to one another, so that a Christ-centered and Christ-mediated community is one that is not only orthodox, but non-hierarchical, indigenous and non-compulsory. To quote Bonhoeffer again,
“Christian community means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together).