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Calvin on Christ our Mediator as both God and Man

2 March, 2009

john_calvin_2_in_library_1-708209In the 1550s a man named Stancaro began a controversy in Poland by claiming that Christ is only our mediator according to his human nature, and in no way according to his divine nature. Calvin responded, arguing that Christ is not the only mediator between God and humanity with respect to his human nature only, but in both natures he is our mediator — fully God and fully man without separation or confusion, the whole undivided person of Jesus Christ is the only and all-sufficient Mediator. Here’s an excerpt:

‘[Stancaro’s] arguments deny that Christ can be said to be mediator according to the divine nature, thus he would be inferior to the Father. But we maintain, first, that the name of mediator suits Christ, not only by the fact that he put on flesh, or that he took on the office reconciling the human race to God, but from the beginning of creation he already truly was mediator, for he always was the head of the Church, had primacy over the angels, and was the firstborn of every creature (Eph 1:22; Col 1:15, 2:10)….These elements admirably fit one with the other: that the only begotten Son of God was the same God and of the same essence with the Father, and nevertheless, he was the mid-point (medium) between God and creatures, so that the life which was otherwise hidden in God would flow from him.

We add, then, that although he was predestined by God after man’s alienation to restore the lost human race to life by expiating sin, nevertheless, in the role of mediator he is no less head of the angels than of men. This can be seen from the first chapter of Colossians which is by no means appropriate to human nautre alone. It thus becomes clear that whoever denies that Christ is mediator, with regard to his divinity, takes the angels away from under his command, and detracts from his supreme majesty, before which every knee should bend in heaven and on earth (Phil 2:10). Even if that sublime name had been given him in that flesh in which he had emptied himself, there is no doubt that Paul means the whole person, because if the glory and power proper to the one God resided in him as belonging to him, with regard to his human nature alone, then that saying of Isaiah would destroy it, “I live,” says Yahweh, “my glory I give to no other” (Is 42:8). Nor could the power of supreme judgment be transferred to human nature, without God despoiling himself of his rights.

It was, however, especially fitting that God, revealed in the flesh in the one person of Christ according to both natures, be and be considered to be the judge of the world. From no other source should we seek a more certain or solid proof of this matter than from the office of mediator. In accordance with this decree, he descended from the Father and took on this office so that he might have life in himself as the Father (John 5:26). We should not inquire into this any further; besides, it is abundantly clear to all that this power cannot properly be attributed to human nature. Now, how can one who stands lower than the angelic order fulfill the role of mediator? This has to be said of his human nature as well.

This is how the apostle reasons in the matter: for Christ to be our brother, he had to be partaker of our flesh and blood (Heb 2:17); likewise, in turn, it must be set down that he was endowed with the same divinity as the Father in order to be our director and guide to the Father, which properly pertains to the office of mediator. Similarly, he could not fulfill other aspects of the office unless by his divine power: it was not within man’s capability to overcome death and the devil, nor could man alone win righteousness, give life, or grant all the benefits which we receive from him….’

  1. 6 March, 2009 10:31 am

    Where is this excerpt taken from?

  2. creedorchaos permalink*
    6 March, 2009 12:26 pm

    I knew I forgot something — Joseph Tylenda, “Christ the Mediator: Calvin versus Stancaro,” Calvin Theological Journal 8 (1973), 5-16. See also Tylenda’s “The Controversy on Christ the Mediator: Calvin’s Second Reply to Stancaro,” in the subsequent number of CTJ.


    • 6 March, 2009 7:34 pm

      Thanks. It is interesting how much the Reformers dealt with the doctrine of Christ. It was such a huge issue during the Reformation. Much of the Lord’s Supper debate was actually more about Christology than the doctrine of the sacraments. We seem to miss that today.

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