1 Timothy 2:5–6

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”

We have established that our Savior’s virginal conception freed Him of the sin with which all of Adam’s fallen children are born (Luke 1:26–38). Furthermore, we have seen that His entering history through Adam’s line (by way of Mary) means that He possesses our true humanity, sympathizes with our condition, and can help us in our temptations (3:23–38; Heb. 2:16–18). Yet these are not all the benefits that attend the incarnation. The Son of God’s incarnation — His assumption of a true human nature — also qualifies Him to be our Mediator.

Question and answer 36 of the Heidelberg Catechism tell us as much, and 1 Timothy 2:5–6 is a key text on the mediatorial work of Christ. Let us first remember that a mediator’s job is to secure peace between two warring parties. God hates evildoers and evildoers hate God (Ps. 5:5; Rom. 3:9–18). But Jesus purchased our justification and secured peace between God and His people on the cross (Rom. 5:1–11). He represented His people, and in Him we stood fully exposed to the Father’s righteous wrath against us and our sin. Jesus also represented the Father, showing His great love by dying for His elect. After all, while God hates impenitent sinners, He loves His people and adopts children for Himself out of Adam’s fallen race.

Jesus does not act as Mediator for everyone who has ever lived. In today’s passage, Paul says that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5–6), but contextually the word all refers to all kinds of people, not all people without distinction. The Apostle calls us to pray for all people (v. 1), but he surely cannot mean that we must pray for everyone who has ever lived, for our finitude makes us incapable of doing that. By mentioning kings and leaders in verse 2, he reveals that he has all kinds of people in mind. When we pray for all people, we are to pray not only for those in low positions but also for those who have great authority. John Calvin comments, “The universal term all must always be referred to classes of men, and not to persons; as if he had said, that not only Jews, but Gentiles also, not only persons of humble rank, but princes also, were redeemed by the death of Christ.”

Our Savior mediates only between God and His people. He died to save His sheep alone, guaranteeing our eternal salvation (John 10:11; Heb. 7:23–25).

Coram Deo

Some people may protest that it does not seem fair for Jesus to have died only for the sins of some and not for the sins of all. If we find ourselves thinking this way, then we need to take a long, hard look at what we think the Lord owes us. The truth of the matter is that God does not owe anyone grace; in fact, the only thing He owes us is wrath. We need to be thankful that Jesus died for even one human being and not demand that He atone for all.

For Further Study