by Mark Seagoe
There have been only a few times recorded where the LORD smote people down. We think of Korah Dathan and Abiram when they rose up against Moses Uzza when he touched the Ark. When we see this kind of awful punishment we must understand that there is something in this which God is trying to relay to us that He is passionate about. Let us look at briefly at the scene with Nadab and Abihu.
1 And Nadab and Abihu the sons of Aaron took either of them his censer and put fire therein and put incense thereon and offered strange fire before the LORD which he commanded them not.
2 And there went out fire from the LORD and devoured them and they died before the LORD. (KJV)
Half the sons of Aaron were smote down in an instant because they offered strange incense to the LORD. The burning of the incense was commanded to be after a certain method from which they were not to deviate (Exod 30:1-9). The incense was itself holy and it’s mixture was not to be altered (Exod 30:34-38).
Prayer like incense is sweet to God if offered correctly. It rises up to Him and is pleasurable to Him. Prayer like incense can also be offered in ‘strange’ fashion or in a manner unseemly to God. Something to think about is this that God smote down half of the sons of Aaron for offering strange incense. Will he look more graciously upon us if we offer strange prayer? Isn’t prayer then something to be studied? Something to be careful about?
One of the most important subjects concerning prayer is the role that Jesus performs in our prayers. Jesus has many roles in our lives King High Priest Testator Surety Mediator Intercessor. These last two Mediator and Intercessor both have to do with prayer. The conclusion made by this study determines to show without any doubt that mediation and intercession are not the same thing.
After being told by so many brethren that these two words convey the same meaning I was quite intrigued to stumble
upon the differences in my study of prayer. Reading from I Tim 2:1-5 we can immediately make out the differences:
There are many intercessors. In fact all the brethren are encouraged to make intercession for others. There is however only one mediator. Whereas Jesus is the main intercessor he is the only mediator between God and man.
The rest of this article will deal with intercession and mediation in the New Testament to reveal their differences.
Intercession – 1793 entugchano (en-toong-khan’-o); from 1722 and 5177; to chance upon i.e. (by implication) confer with; by extension to entreat (in favor or against); in KJV rendered as – deal with make intercession.
Since the meaning of intercession is to chance upon to confer with to entreat and gives the idea of drawing near
to someone one may infer that if someone is making intercession to God it must be done in prayer. This seems to be the idea found in most references in the New Testament referring to intercession.
Jesus’ priestly role of intercessor takes place at the alter of incense. Intercession is found to be a continued process not occurring only once: Heb 7:25. The incense was to be burned on the alter of incense continually by the High Priest. Exod 30:1 27-28.
It just so happens that Christ fulfills both role of mediator and role of intercessor. The latter both through his spirit in our “groanings which cannot be uttered ” and his personal effort. Rom 8:27 34 Heb 7:25. It is made plain in the passage in Hebrews that without intercession of Christ we could not be saved.
Intercession has no subject upon which it acts. It is made for or against someone to someone who has power over them. Mediation however does have a subject upon which it acts. The subject of mediation is a covenant. Jesus is said to be the mediator of the new covenant. Jesus is never referred to as the intercessor of the new covenant nor do we read about the blood of the intercession. Indeed from the sense that we get from doing our bible readings we may already have gotten a feeling that there is a difference between mediation and intercession. We know that Jesus plays many roles. He is multi-faceted. This is just one more thing that makes him so wonderful so excellent that he is not just a King not just a High Priest not just a mediator not just an intercessor not just the door not just the veil not just the rock not just the light not just the lamb he is everything wrapped into one. He is God’s word. The Old Testament is full of “Thus saith the LORD ” but in the New Testament God says “this is my beloved son hear ye him.” After that point Jesus does the talking. We sometimes fail to see that Jesus doesn’t just take up one position in the scriptures he takes up EVERY position EVERY role he fulfills EVERY thing.
Whereas mediation always bears a good connotation and is implemented with good intentions the word for intercession is not always used in a positive manner. There are two references in the New Testament in which the word entugchano is used in a negative sense. (Acts 25:24Rom 11:2).
Mediator – 3316 mesites (mes-ee’-tace); from 3319; a go-between i.e. (simply) an internunciator or (by implication) a reconciler (intercessor); in KJV rendered as – mediator.
The other role that Jesus performs that has to do with our prayer is the role of mediation.
Intercession the entreaties the pleadings the meetings with God continue on and on. But our prayers would not be acceptable before God in the first place except for the covenant relationship brought about by Christ’s mediation. But once the mediation has been performed and the covenant has been negotiated the work of mediation is finished. We can’t expect Jesus to mediate another covenant with his blood. This is not to say that God does not hear the prayers of the unbaptized but rather that those under this covenant are in an extremely privileged position and may approach the mercy seat or throne of grace with boldness.
Whereas the symbol for prayer and intercession is incense the symbol for mediation is the sprinkling of blood. That which Jesus has mediated is the covenant. A covenant is a promise.
If we have been baptized Jesus has brought us to God and has thus already fulfilled his role of being our mediator (of the new covenant) in our life. He has brought us to God into a covenant relationship. The use of the ‘mediator’ in Heb 8:6 aligns itself with the use of the word ‘surety’ in Heb 7:22 implying that Jesus is also a guarantor of the New Covenant. This word ‘surety’ is given by Strong’s as eng’- oo-os pledged (as if articulated by a member) i.e. a bondsman. So there is a strong sense of something that involves a pledge. The new covenant is coined ‘the word of the oath’ in Heb 7:28. The very meaning of the word ‘covenant’ is implication enough. Mediation involves a pledge.
When we see the act of mediation that Moses performed in Exodus 24 we see in vs. 7 the pledge of the people: “All that the LORD has said we will do and be obedient.” This good confession of their faith was followed by the sprinkling of the blood of that covenant upon themselves. In this act Moses was the Mediator of the old covenant. Notice that the pledge the oath the promise was given not by God but by the people “All that the LORD has said we will do and be obedient.”
We also see the type of this act when we follow the ritual of the day of atonement in the sprinkling of blood by the high priest (Lev 16). We see that although Aaron was to keep the lamps burning constantly (figurative of letting the light shine before all men ie. Preaching) and he was to keep the incense burning perpetually upon the golden altar of incense (figurative of prayer to God) the ritual involving the day of atonement was performed only once a year and thus good argument could be made that this is because the act of sprinkling the blood of the covenant in the mediation occurred only once.
Jesus’ priestly role as a mediator takes place in the Most Holy into which as on the day of atonement only the High Priest could go to offer sacrifice one day of the year and no other people were allowed in the tabernacle while the High Priest was offering. The blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar. Lev 16:2 15-19 34. The atonement of the mercy seat and tabernacle were said to be “because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel AND because of the TRANSGRESSIONS in all their SINS.”
Found in Hebrews 8:12 under the New Covenant God says “for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” This role of Jesus involves forgiveness & reconciliation. It also involves sacrifice. This role is found to be an act that occurred one time Heb 7:27. “Who needeth not daily as those high priests to offer up sacrifice first for his own sins and then for the people’s: for this he did once when he offered up himself.”
In the worldly definition of ‘mediate’ it is usually used in as a legal term referring to the act that an indifferent individual performs in bringing a dispute to an end in an attempt to avoid a costly trial. It should be remembered however that God is not trying to seek damages. Rather he wants us to be saved. To this end he gave his only son.
Mediation may be better thought of as negotiation a deal has been made. A good example may be that of a teenager wishing to purchase a car. The bank does not want to loan him the money because he has not sufficient funds nor means of guarantee that payments will be made. Therefore the bank requires that the teenager produce a co-signer which usually ends up being one of the parents. Jesus has co- signed for us pledging to help us pay in a situation where we were not be able to come up with sufficient funds for the transaction. It is his blood which is paying for our entrance into life eternal.
When we pray in his name let us keep these things in remembrance. Let us also remember that we must still keep up with our payments.