The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 3-4

“The Lord Jesus, in his human nature was thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure (Ps. 45:7; Jn. 3:34); having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell (Col. 1:19); to the end, that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 7:26), he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety (Acts 10:38; Heb. 7:22; 12:24). Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father (Heb. 5:4-5); who put all power and judgment into his hand and gave commandment to execute the same (Mt. 28:18; Jn. 5:22, 27; Acts 2:36).” Here the fathers wanted to make clear that Jesus was victorious in his work not by being somehow empowered by his divine nature, but rather, that he was anointed for his threefold office by the Spirit’s power without measure.

“Christians have long recognized that before his tormentors could begin their dirty work, Jesus had already discovered in a garden the agonizing pangs of the penalty reserved for sinners (Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44). John Calvin called this Christ’s ‘descent into hell’, borrowing a phrase in the Apostle’s Creed to make his point. It was on the cross that Jesus finally cried out in anguish, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46).”1It would appear that the fathers understood his being ordained and appointed as his “commandment to do the same.” “It was necessary that he be given divine orders to fulfill the task (Heb. 5:1; Lk. 4:18). The Old Testament persons anointed of God to hold messianic offices by way of anticipation were supernaturally endowed for their work by a special operation of the Holy Spirit distinct from such operations as he may have performed for (or in) them personally (see I Sam. 10:1,6, compared with I Sam. 28:18:16, Judges 14:6, 16:20).”2

“Jesus was the guarantor of the covenant, the covenant discussed in the previous chapter. And he knew what the cost of serving as a guarantor would be, for he knew that we are perpetual breakers. Christ could be the ‘mediator’ of a ‘new covenant’ that speaks ‘ as Hebrews 12 says , only if he also ‘became the guarantor [or surety] of that covenant’ as Hebrews 7 says (Heb. 12:24; 7:22). Yet in his grace and mercy Jesus accepted that office. Incredibly, he considered it an honour to do so. No man takes this honour, this glory to himself – he awaits the call of God, as Hebrews 5 explains (Heb. 5:4,5). And that call came. Our Lord was ‘called by his Father’ to be our mediator, and the Father gave him all that he needed for his task. Of course he gave him the Holy Spirit beyond all measure, for his work was appallingly arduous and his suffering would be great. Our mediator is one who was given all power (Mt. 28:18), and to him is committed all judgment (John 5:22,27).”3

“It was Christ’s loving eagerness that the author of the letter to the Hebrews noted as he reflected on the meaning of Psalm 40. He points out that just after the psalmist dismissed the sufficiency of temple sacrifices and offerings in verse 6, a person suddenly appears in verses 8-9 who says that he is coming, that he would delight to do God’s will and obey God’s law. Who else could this be but Christ himself? He would serve as the true intermediary, and he would keep God’s law (compare Psa. 40:6-9 with Heb. 10:5-12) and becomes obedient ‘to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). So it was that when God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, this Son was born ‘under the law’ (Gal. 4:4).”4It should be noted, that the author to the Hebrews sees the Son’s fulfillment of the whole of the law, including brining to fulfillment of the sacrificial system, that the latter would then be changed to the simplicity of the new covenant ceremonies, and the former kept to continue.

“This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake (Ps. 40:7-8; Jn. 10:18; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 10:5-10); which he might discharge, he was made under the law (Gal. 4:4), and did perfectly fulfill it (Mt. 3:15; 5:17); endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul (Mt. 26:37-38; 27:46; Lk. 22:44), and most painful sufferings in his body (Mt. 26-27); was crucified, and died (Phil. 2:8); was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption (Acts 2:23-24, 27; 13:37; Rom. 6:9). On the third day he arose from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-5), with the same body in which he suffered (Jn. 20:25-27); with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father (Mk. 6:19), making intercession (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24); and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world (Mt. 13:40-42; Acts 1:11; 10:42; Rom. 14:9-10; II Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).” In the single ‘office’ of a mediator and surety, the Son fulfills the three anointed offices.

“By living a righteous life, that is, by keeping the whole law, he earned a righteousness that could be imputed to us who have none.”5This we call his active obedience, only in comparison to his passion. However, it must not be forgotten that in his passion he actively gave of himself. His life was not in this sense taken from him. The shorter catechism, immediately following the treatment of Christ’s office as King, then moves on at Q & A 27 to teach of his humiliation, consisting “in his being born, and that in a low condition (Lk. 2:7), made under the law (Gal 4:4), undergoing the miseries of this life (Is. 53:3), the wrath of God (Mt. 27:46), and the cursed death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time (I Cor. 15:4).” In the same way the Confession begins first with Christ’s humiliation, and then goes on to his exaltation. It is thus half way through section 4 that we come to his exaltation.

“It can be unhesitatingly said that Christ at all times performed his preaching, worked his miracles, and yielded perfect obedience, in entire dependence upon the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). Thus he said, “I can do nothing of myself” (John 8:28). His constant praying evidences his entire dependence upon God.” This being the case with the Christ, how much more do we need prayer. “It is equally true and important that he was possessed of a divine nature. Thus he was, in and of himself, able to lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:17). Endowment by the Holy Spirit as to his human nature could not have given him this divine authority and power.”6Shaw gives quite a full and valuable ‘Exposition’ of section 4 (147-154), as does Hodge of both 3 and 4 (143-148). Suffice it to stress that unlike many other Reformed confessions, old and new, here in the latter part of the 4thsection we find the biblical stress on the ascension.

1. Van Dixhoorn (117)

2. Williamson, (76)

3. Van Dixhoorn, (115)

4. Ibid., (116-117)

5. Clark, (97)

6. Williamson, (76)

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