We continue our 2017 series examining each of the articles of the Belgic Confession, one of Faith Church’s confessions of faith.
One of my fondest memories of college is when our college President would conclude chapel services with us singing a cappella the song, “Christ is All I Need.” I remember trying to recreate this moment when I was teaching youth Sunday School while in college; it just wasn’t the same, as there was just something about the voices of 3,000ish students, faculty, and staff singing together in unison in the middle of the day: “Christ is all I need. Christ is all I need. He’s all I need. He was crucified. For me he died. He’s all I need” that a handful of middle school kids couldn’t replicate!
In many ways, this truth that Christ is all we need is the summary of Article 26 of the Belgic Confession, a lengthy chapter that is often labeled as being “On the Intercession of Christ” (I did find some irony in that the topic of the intercession of Jesus for us is discussed with so many words when it is not a topic that is often discussed directly in the church, though as we look at the words of it, we should see that the ideas and implications are not foreign to us). In talking about the fact that Jesus is our intercessor or mediator, however the article really highlights that he alone is our mediator and the one that allows us to come into the presence of God even though we are sinful, and that we should not look to anyone else for this. In many ways, it is the perfect way to conclude the middle portion of the Belgic Confession, which looks at our sinfulness and how we are saved through Jesus Christ; article 27 will then begin the next section that explains truths about the church that Jesus has formed through his life, death, and resurrection.
This article begins by recounting for us the truths of articles 18 and 19 that describe the importance of Jesus being fully God and fully man by showing how Jesus’s divine and human natures united so that humans might be able to have a relationship with the holy God, as Jesus is the mediator (the one who stands between two parties, bringing them back into relationship): “We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, ‘Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1),who therefore was made human, uniting together the divine and human natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine Majesty.” This work of Jesus was not just one option that allows us to have access to God, as the confession goes on to say, “Otherwise we would have no access.” Jesus is our mediator and our only hope and we should not be afraid of him or look to another mediator: “But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for another one, according to our fancy.”
As the confession notes, we should not be afraid or look for another because of his great love for us, shown in his work, as well as his power. The confession first focuses on his love, noting that by becoming human and dying for his enemies, Jesus shows a love like no other: “For neither in heaven nor among the creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ does. Although he was ‘in the form of God,’ Christ nevertheless ‘emptied himself, taking ‘human form’ and ‘the form of a slave’ for us (Philippians 2:6-8); and he made himself ‘like his brothers and sisters in every respect’ (Hebrews 2:17). Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though ‘we were his enemies’ (Romans 5:10).” No one can ever love you more than Jesus! He is our mediator because of his love.
But he is not a person who loves us but is unable to help us, as the article continues by focusing on his power that shows that God will listen to him, that he truly has the authority to bring us to God: “And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 1:3) and who has ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ (Matthew 28:18)’? And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son?” Jesus comes as our mediator because of his love for us, and his place as the eternal Son of God means that he is effective in his mediation for us, that he truly can mediate between God and us. Who else could?
These truths should rule out viewing anyone else as our mediators or intercessors. Now, I realize that these might not be words you often use, but we often have our faith rest on the faith of others, whether saints who have gone before us (our grandmas or Christians from long ago) or even current followers of Jesus. This might happen when we ask our friends or our pastor to pray for us or guide us rather than going directly to Jesus ourselves in prayer. Now, there is nothing wrong with getting guidance from others or asking for prayers from others, but this cannot be a substitute for going to Jesus ourselves; these requests for prayers and guidance should come alongside of our personal prayers and seeking to get guidance from Jesus. According to the confession, having others function as our mediators or trusting in their help to bring us before God rather than going to God in prayer is both dishonoring to them and to Jesus: “So, the practice of honoring the saints as intercessors in fact dishonors them because of its misplaced faith. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.”
We must not trust them, nor must we think that we are unworthy of coming to God, as that is an affront to Jesus and his work: “We should not plead here that we are unworthy—for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith. Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish fear—or rather, this unbelief—he says to us that Jesus Christ was made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, that ‘he might be a merciful and faithful high priest’ to purify the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17). For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).” We should go to Jesus and not to others.
The confession that has some quotations from the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews (a book that talks a lot about Jesus as our priest and his work as this priest, which shows that he is better than any other priest we might look for) that encourages us to live into this truth as Jesus as our mediator and intercessor: “And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, ‘Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted, as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace, to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:14-16). The same apostle says that we ‘have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus.’ ‘Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith….’ (Hebrews 10:19, 22) Likewise, Christ ‘holds his priesthood permanently….Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 7:24-25).”
The practical implication is that we should not look elsewhere for the ability to come to God, as Jesus is our ultimate and only mediator, which is how the article concludes: “What more do we need? For Christ himself declares: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). Why should we seek another intercessor? Since it has pleased God to give us the Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave him for another—or rather seek, without ever finding. For, when giving Christ to us, God knew well that we were sinners. Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly Father through Christ, our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s Prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in his name.”
We should be assured that in Jesus, we are brought back to God; when we have faith in him and pray in his name, we know that God hears us. We can ask for prayers from others and do need the help of others when it comes to following Jesus in our lives, but we cannot depend on others as the basis for our relationship with God; that comes only through Christ. He is all we need for the thing that we need the most – to be made right with God and have a relationship with our creator.
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