by Jerry Shugart
IV. The Mediator of a New Diatheke
"Therefore, He is the mediator of a new testament (diatheke), so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (diatheke)" (Heb.9:15).
New Testament or New Covenant?
At Hebrews 9:15 the promise which is in regard to the "New Diatheke" is about an "inheritance," and under a Last Will and Testament it is the "heirs" who receive this inheritance.
In his commentary on Hebrews 9:15 Elliott E. Johnson writes that "In Hebrews, the heirs of the will and testament are 'those who are called'" (Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant, ed. Mike Stallard [Schaumburg, Illinois: Regular Baptist Books, 212], 227).
That is in accordance with the Scriptures which declares that one becomes a heir by the Lord Jesus' Last Will and Testament, the gospel:
"That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph.3:6).
Also, Hebrews 9:15 refers to "those who are called" and it is the unsaved who are called by the gospel:
"Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor.2:14).
In his commentary on Hebrews 9:15-22 Matthew Henry wrote that "In these verses the apostle considers the gospel under the notion of a will or testament, the new or last will and testament of Christ..." (Matthew Henry, Commentary on Hebrews 9:15-22)
We can also see that it is a Last Will and Testament which is in view at Hebrews 9:15 because the verses which follow cannot be speaking of anything other than a will:
"For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a testament is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives" (Heb.9:16-17).
Johnson writes that "The word 'diatheke' normally has the sense of a covenant. However, in 9:16 and 17, 'diatheke' comes into existence only after the death of the testator. Covenants exist when the parties are alive. Last will and testaments come into existence and function with the death of the testator. 'Diatheke' in this context has the sense of will and testament" (Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant, 227).
Mediator of the New Testament
First, let us look at this verse which speaks of the "mediator" of the Mosaic Diatheke, the Law:
"Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (Gal.3:19).
In Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible we read the following:
"Moses is the mediator here meant, who stood between God and the people of Israel; not to make peace between them, but to show the word of God from him to them, and this at their own request; see Deuteronomy 5:5, and in his hand the tables of the law were, when he came down from the mount, and was a typical mediator of Christ" [emphasis added] (John Gill, Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible, Commentary at Galatians 3:19).
According to John Gill the role of Moses as a "mediator" was in regard to showing the Israelites the word of God. And Gill also says that Moses' role served as a "type" of the Lord Jesus' role as the Mediator of the New Diatheke which is in force today.
The Greek word translated "mediator" is mesites, and one of the meanings of that word is "an arbitrator, one who is the medium of communication between two parties, a mid-party, Gal. 3:19, 20; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24" (Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament).
Thayer defines the word as "a medium of communication, arbitrator...used of Moses, as one who brought the commands of God to the people of Israel and acted as a mediator with God on behalf of the people" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
When we compare what we read at Acts 3:22-23 with Deuteronomy 18:15-19 we know that in the following verse the Lord Jesus is the Prophet:
"I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him" (Deut.18:18).
The Lord Jesus said, "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak" (Jn.12:48-50).
When the Lord Jesus walked the earth He served as a medium of communication between the Father and the people. It was then when He began to reveal truths which are essential to the gospel:
"Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life" (Jn.5:24).
The Lord's words there are in regard to the internal inheritance spoken of here:
"Therefore, He is the mediator of a new testament, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Heb.9:15).
The Lord also revealed this truth concerning His death:
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mt.20:28).
During his ministry Paul received communications from the Lord Jesus in regard to His Last Will and Testament, the gospel. Here we read the following about how he received the gospel from the Lord Jesus in heaven:
"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal.1:11-12).
We also read Paul's words here which speak of further revelations which He received from the Lord Jesus:
"It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord...And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Cor.12:1,7).
Therefore, it is in the sense of being a medium of communication that the Lord Jesus is described as being a Mediator of the New Testament.
John Chrysostom sums up the Lord Jesus' role as a Mediator, saying "How did He become Mediator? He brought words from Him and brought them to us, conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto" (Schaff, Philip, ed., Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistle to the Hebrews by St. Chrysostom; Homily XVI [Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library], 736).