As Prophet, Christ fully revealed God to us; as Priest, Christ reconciled us to God through his sacrifice; and as King, Christ ruled over his church through his word and Spirit. As members of Christ, we share in his offices. We receive the full potency of ministry as prophets, priests and kings.
By Rev. Lance Filio
Our minds are naturally drawn to building connections between objects we see in a particular context. According to science, our eyes make visual connections to everything we see and even though the gap does not particular exist, our minds will simply fill them in. This is how basically optical illusions are achieved and I’ve seen a lot them on the internet. One simple example I saw this morning was a sentence written without a few letters in some of its words. I was able to read them completely because my mind automatically filled in the missing parts. Our preaching for this afternoon is just like one of those exercises. This informs us of the connection between Christ and the Christian. It talks about the vital union that exists between the office of Christ as a mediator and Christian who are his members. The catechism on Lord’s Day 12 explains such connection so that we as a church will be able to also make such connection. And in order to do, we have two topics to discuss: (1) The threefold office of Christ; and (2) The calling of Christians.
The Threefold Office of Christ
Question 31: Why is He called “Christ,” that is, Anointed?
Answer: Because He is ordained of God the Father, and anointed
with the Holy Spirit, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,
who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God
concerning our redemption, and our only High Priest,
who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us,
and ever lives to make intercession for us with the
Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word
and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the
redemption obtained for us.
The question asks for the meaning of the title Christ. Some often mistake that the first name of the Son of God is Jesus while his last name is Christ which makes the full name of Jesus Christ. However, Jesus is a proper name while Christ is the title. Jesus, as explained already from the previous questions prior to this, means Savior or in Hebrew was similar to Joshua which means “Jehovah saves”. On the hand, Christ, which is our topic for this catechism, is the Hebrew equivalent of the title Messiah which means Anointed.
But what does it mean? According to our answer, it means that to be anointed is to be ordained by God for a particular task which are a prophet, priest, and king. The Old Testament was filled with examples of men being called in the ministry of either a prophet, priest or king and was anointed with oil in their head. One popular example of which was the prophet Samuel’s anointing of David in 1 Samuel 16. Samuel, looking for the man Yahweh desired to raise as the king to replace Saul, went to see the family of David. And when God finally led Samuel to David, he anointed his head with oil.
“So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David…” (1 Samuel 16:13)
The anointing of oil was the sign of the Spirit being poured out to David in order for him to perform his appointed task. This was to be the king God’s people. He was ordained before God to that he may lead Israel on God’s behalf. So how and when did Jesus receive his ordination and anointing?
Because Christ was the Son of God, unlike his Old Testament counterparts who only received an appointed as types pointing to Christ, his ordination comes from his Father and his anointing comes directly from the Holy Spirit. This was historically confirmed to us in Scripture when Jesus read through Isaiah 61 declaring them fulfilled in his person and office.
Here was the account from Luke 4:
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. (Luke 4:16-18)
So Jesus like his predecessors was ordained by his Father and directly anointed by the Holy Spirit but how does differ from all of them? He differed by quantity, quality, and even degree or capacity. Jesus had the fullness of the Spirit in him. The apostle John attested to us such reality when he wrote: “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.” Due to such capacity, Jesus himself performed all the offices which the Old Testament types pointed to. He is the true and final Prophet, Priest and King. This is the office of the mediator where the official title Christ performs. But what are these particular tasks Jesus Christ has done?
Let me give you the list given by the author of our catechism, Zacharias Ursinus, in his commentary:
1. Prophet – “…the prophetical office of Christ consists of three parts: To reveal the will of the Father; to institute a ministry, and to teach internally, or effectually through the ministry. These three things Christ has performed from the very commencement of the church and will perform even to the end of the world, and that by his authority, power and efficacy.”
2. Priest – “..four principal parts of the priestly office of Christ: 1. To teach men, and that in a different manner from all others, who are called to act as priests; for he does not merely speak to the ear by his word, but effectually inclines the heart by his Holy Spirit. 2. To offer himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world. 3. To make continual intercession and prayer for us to the Father, that he may receive us into his favor on account of his intercession and will, and on account of the perpetual efficacy of his sacrifice; and to have the promise of being heard in reference to those things which he asks. 4. To apply his sacrifice unto those for whom he intercedes, which is to receive into favor those that believe, and to bring it to pass that the Father may receive them, and that faith may be wrought in their hearts, by which the merits of Christ may be made over to them, so that they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit unto everlasting life.
3. King – “The kingly office of Christ is, therefore: 1. To rule the church by his word and Spirit, which he does in such a manner that he does not only show us what he would have accomplished in us but also so inclines and affects the heart by his Spirit, that we are led to do the same. 2. He preserves and defends us against our enemies, both external and internal, which he does by protecting us by his almighty power, arming us against our foes, that we may by his Spirit, be furnished with every weapon necessary for resisting and overcoming them. 3. To bestow upon his church gifts and glory; and finally, to liberate her from all evils; to control and overcome all his enemies by his power, and at length, having fully subdued them, to cast them into inconceivable misery and wretchedness.
In summary, as a prophet Christ fully revealed God to us; as a priest, Christ reconciled us to God through his sacrifice; and as a king, Christ ruled over his church through his word and Spirit.
The Calling of Christians
What then in our connection to Christ’s anointing? What does it mean to have Christ as our mediator? What does this mean to have Christ as our prophet, priest, and king?
Question 32: But why are you called a Christian?
Answer: Because by faith I am a member of Christ, and thus a
partaker of His anointing; in order that I also may confess
His name; may present myself a living sacrifice of
thankfulness to Him; and may with free conscience fight
against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter, in
eternity, reign with Him over all creatures
Our identity as Christians is connected to Jesus in his official title as Christ. Therefore, our connection with him lies in his mediatorial office. We share in his anointing. Visually we can imagine the connection between Christ as our head and us Christians as his body going back to David when he was anointed in his head with oil. The oil will naturally drip through from head to the body. Christ’s anointing as our head naturally flows through us his body. As members of Christ, we share his office. We receive the full potency of ministry as prophet priest and king.
As our prophet, we heartily receive his revelation and confess his name before God and men. As our priest, we gratefully receive the merit of his sacrifice and in gratitude offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. As our king, we boldly receive his rule over us in his word and Spirit and confidently fight against sin and participate in our worldly calling to serve others.
Clearly, none of the benefits we receive from God which does not come from the mediatorial office of Christ. He alone has achieved everything God has required and we as members of Christ simply receive them from his person and office. Also, our connection with Christ does not have any human hierarchical structure. Instead, individual Christians who are the elect of God when they believed becomes organically connected to Christ. it is an indissoluble union according to Zacharias Ursinus. We received all the benefits directly from Christ.
In our participation in all of Christ’s gifts as prophet, priest, and king, while individually we can perform them towards all men, we are particularly called to share the gifts as office-bearers in the church. Men in the ministry, particularly those who are able, are called to serve the capacity of pastors, elders, and deacons. The exhortation from Paul can be applied here when he wrote to the Galatians: “Therefore, as we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10). So aside from the general calling that comes with the office of Christ where can be applied to all men in general, some men are called to the special office to serve his church.
So this is our connection to Christ as Christians. We are sharers of Christ’s anointing. But how did we come into such a relationship with him? In the end Zacharias Ursinus wrote in his commentary: “… because we are through faith engrafted into Christ as members to the head, that we may be continually sustained, governed and quickened by him; and because he makes us prophets, priests and kings unto God and his Father, by making us partakers of his anointing. This is truly an unspeakable dignity conferred upon Christians.” And also in this indicative we can see right here these imperatives: “for since we are all prophets and teachers of God, we ought continually to celebrate and praise him; since we are priests, we ought to offer ourselves wholly to God, as living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving; and since we are kings it becomes us to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil, that we may reign with Christ.” That is the law and gospel for us as we end the Lord’s Day this afternoon. May the Lord continue to bless his people.