Questions From Readers
□ Is Jesus the Mediator only for spirit-anointed Christians or for all mankind, since 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 speaks of him as the “mediator” who “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all”?
The Bible contains both basic teachings and deep truths, which are solid food for study. One such study involves Jesus Christ’s role as Mediator. The apostle Paul wrote: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all—this is what is to be witnessed to at its own particular times.”—1 Timothy 2:5, 6.
To grasp what Paul is saying, we must first appreciate that the Bible sets out two destinies for faithful humans: (1) perfect life on a restored earthly paradise and (2) life in heaven for Christ’s “little flock,” numbering 144,000. (Luke 12:32; Revelation 5:10; 14:1-3) Christendom teaches that all good people go to heaven, which unscriptural position has colored the general view, so that Jesus is considered a go-between for all such people. What, though, does the Bible indicate?
The Greek word me·siʹtes, used for “mediator,” means ‘one who finds himself between two bodies or parties.’ It was a ‘many-sided technical term of Hellenistic legal language.’ Professor Albrecht Oepke (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) says that me·siʹtes was “one of the most varied technical terms in the vocabulary of Hellen[istic] law.”
But why does the Bible use a legal term for Jesus’ mediatory role? As background, consider what Paul wrote about God’s Law given to Israel assembled before Mount Sinai: “It was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.” (Galatians 3:19, 20) That mediator was Moses. He was the intermediary agent between Jehovah and the fleshly nation of Israel. An agent for what? For establishing a covenant, or legal contract, between God and the nation.*
Does this mean that there is a specific legal sense involved in Jesus’ role as Mediator? Yes. Note Paul’s comment at Hebrews 8:6. After speaking about the tabernacle and other typical representations under the Law covenant, he wrote: “Jesus has obtained a more excellent public service, so that he is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant, which has been legally established upon better promises.” The “better covenant” was the new covenant, which replaced the covenant mediated by Moses. (Hebrews 8:7-13) The new covenant was “legally established.” It laid the basis for some of Christ’s followers, beginning with the apostles, to gain “entry into the holy place,” heaven itself.—Hebrews 9:24; 10:16-19.
There are other indications too of the legal nature of Jesus’ role as Mediator of the “new covenant.” Commenting on God’s promise at Psalm 110:4, Paul wrote: “To that extent also Jesus has become the one given in pledge [enʹgy·os] of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7:22) This is the only Biblical use of the word enʹgy·os. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says: “The engyos guaranteed that a legal obligation would be carried out.” So Jesus as Mediator of the new covenant serves as a legal pledge that “a better hope” would be realized.—Hebrews 7:19.
Elsewhere Paul uses yet another word having a legal sense, ar·ra·bonʹ, translated “token.” The same dictionary says: “The Gk. word arrabōn . . . is a legal concept from the language of business and trade.” Note how Paul used this legal term: “He who has anointed us is God. He has also put his seal upon us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) Both other occurrences of ar·ra·bonʹ also deal with God’s anointing of Christians with spirit, bringing them an ‘everlasting reward or inheritance in the heavens’ as spirit sons of God.—2 Corinthians 5:1, 5; Ephesians 1:13, 14; see Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures.
Clearly, then, the new covenant is not a loose arrangement open to all mankind. It is a carefully arranged legal provision involving God and anointed Christians.
This should help us to understand 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. Here the reference to “mediator” was made after the five other occurrences of the word in letters written earlier. Hence, Timothy would have understood Jesus’ mediatorship to be His legal role connected with the new covenant. The Pastoral Epistles, by Dibelius and Conzelmann, acknowledges that at 1 Timothy 2:5 ‘the term “mediator” has a legal significance,’ and “although in this passage, in contrast to Heb 8:6, the [covenant] is not mentioned, one must nevertheless presuppose the meaning ‘mediator of the covenant,’ as the context shows.” Professor Oepke observes that 1 Timothy 2:5 presents Jesus as “the attorney and negotiator.”
A modern-day illustration may help to clarify this, especially if you are not a spirit-anointed Christian. Think of a legal case in which an attorney is involved. His role may be not so much that of a lawyer arguing for justice as that of one who is mediating or bringing about a legal contract acceptable to and beneficial to two parties. Of course, you are not in that legal case, so in that sense he is not serving as your attorney. Yet he may be your very close friend who in other ways gives you valuable help.
Sometimes an attorney’s work produces results that benefit many others. So it is with Jesus’ legal accomplishments as Mediator of the new covenant. It produces what the Law covenant did not, a heavenly “kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9) Thereafter anointed Christians in the Kingdom will work with Jesus from heaven to bring a blessing to “all nations of the earth.”—Genesis 22:18.
The people of all nations who have the hope of everlasting life on earth benefit even now from Jesus’ services. Though he is not their legal Mediator, for they are not in the new covenant, he is their means of approaching Jehovah. Christ said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) All who will gain life on earth must direct their prayers to Jehovah through Jesus. (John 14:13, 23, 24) Jesus also serves as a compassionate High Priest who is able to apply in their behalf the benefits of his sacrifice, allowing them to gain forgiveness and eventual salvation.—Acts 4:12; Hebrews 4:15.
Consequently, 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 is not using “mediator” in the broad sense common in many languages. It is not saying that Jesus is a mediator between God and all mankind. Rather, it refers to Christ as legal Mediator (or, “attorney”) of the new covenant, this being the restricted way in which the Bible uses the term. Jesus is also a corresponding ransom for all in that covenant, both Jews and Gentiles, who will receive immortal life in heaven. The apostle John referred to these at 1 John 2:2. But he indicated that others too will receive the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice: “He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”
Those of ‘the whole world’ are all who will gain eternal life in a restored earthly paradise. Millions of such approved servants of God now have that earthly hope. They view Jesus as their High Priest and King through whom they can daily gain approach to Jehovah. They rely on Jesus’ ransom, which is available to them, just as it will be to men such as Abraham, David, and John the Baptizer when these are resurrected. (Matthew 20:28) Thus, Christ’s sacrifice will lead to everlasting life for all obedient mankind.
A discussion of covenants appears in The Watchtower of February 1, 1989, pages 10-20.
[Picture on page 31]
Here at Mount Sinai, Moses served as mediator of the Law covenant
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.