So why did the Son of God have to become man, and live and die here on earth? The answer: so that He could serve as a mediator between God and man.
But why would we need a mediator? Because the human race has become estranged from God and has incurred His wrath. God is absolutely holy and free from sin of any kind. We, on the other hand, are sunk in sin and rebellion, led captive by our self-centered feelings and desires. We routinely do what God has told us not to do, and we fail to do what He has told us to do. This has resulted in a profound state of alienation between God and us.
But remarkably, God did not leave things in this state of affairs. Even though He has every right to be angry with us, He “desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4; NKJV). We are sinners, but we are still God’s creatures made in His image. The solution? “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus . . .” (v. 5).
A mediator is someone who comes between two estranged parties and tries to reconcile them. In particular, if one party has offended the other the mediator goes to the offended party and pleads on behalf of the one who has caused the offense.
In our case Jesus is our mediator. We have offended God; God is angry with us. Jesus became one of us so that He could act as our representative before God the Father.
But granted that Christ is our mediator, our representative; what could He possibly say to the Father? We are patently guilty. But what our text says next is most extraordinary. He “gave Himself a ransom for all . . .” (v. 6). A ransom is a price paid to secure the release of a prisoner or slave. In our case the ransom secures our release from the debt we owe God as a result of our sin. To reconcile us to the Father Christ had to present some sort of offering or sacrifice. But what could possibly be adequate? What could possibly atone for all of our sins?
What Jesus did was nothing less than astonishing: He “gave Himself” – He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins. This perfectly satisfied God’s justice and turned away His wrath. And Christ did this at the cost of His own death on a cross.
What does all of this mean for us personally? We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith . . .” (Rom. 3:24,25). To be “justified,” in this context, means to be declared righteous in the sight of God. And “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Because of what Christ has done on our behalf it is possible to have our sins forgiven, to have peace with God, and to know Him personally as our loving Father and not as our condemning Judge. And this is not because we are naturally good people – far from it – but because Christ came to be our Savior from our sins. To receive that salvation we must personally repent of our sins and put our trust in Christ as our Savior. We are “justified by faith.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the meaning of Christmas!