International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
CHRIST, OFFICES OF
General Titles of our Lord
I. CHRIST'S MEDIATION EXPRESSED IN THE SPECIFIC OFFICES
Historical Review of the Theory
II. THE THREEFOLD OFFICE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Failure of the Offices to Secure Their Desired Ends
III. THE PROPHET
The Forecast of the True Prophet
IV. CHRIST THE PROPHET
1. Christ's Manner of Teaching
2. Christ as Prophet in His Church
V. THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST
1. Judaic Priesthood
2. Sacrificial Relations of Christ in the Gospels
3. Christ's Ethical Teaching Affected by Sacrificial Ideas
4. Mutual Confirmations of the Synoptics
5. The Dual Outgrowth of Sacrifice, the Victim and Sacrificer
6. Christ's Priesthood in the Apostolic Ministry and Epistles
7. The Crowning Testimony of the Epistle to the Hebrews
8. Christ's Relation to Sin Expressed in Sacrificial Terms
VI. CHRIST'S KINGLY OFFICE
The Breakdown of the Secular Monarchy
VII. THE MESSIANIC BASIS OF THE THREEFOLD OFFICE OF THE LORD
General Titles of our Lord:
This term has been used by theologians to describe the various characters of our Lord's redemptive work. Many appellative and metaphorical titles are found in Scripture for Christ, designative of His Divine and human natures and His work: God (John 20:28); Lord (Matthew 22:43, 14); Word (John 1:1, 14); Son of God (Matthew 3:17 Luke 1:35 Colossians 1:15 1 John 5:20); Firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18); Beginning of the Creation of God (Revelation 3:14); Image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4); Express Image of His Person (Hebrews 1:3 the King James Version); Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 22:13); Son of Man (Matthew 8:20 John 1:51 Acts 7:56); Son of David (Matthew 9:27; Matthew 21:9); Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47); Captain of Salvation (Hebrews 2:10 margin); Saviour (Luke 2:11 John 4:42 Acts 5:31); Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20 Titus 2:14); Author and Perfecter of Faith (Hebrews 12:2); Light of the World (John 8:12); Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36); Creator of all things (John 1:3, 10); Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5); Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15 Luke 24:19); Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14); King (Luke 1:33 Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16); Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6). These and many others express the mediatorial office of the Lord. As mediator, He stands between God and Man, revealing the Father to man, and expressing the true relation of man to God. The term (Greek mesites), moreover, signifies messenger, interpreter, advocate, surety or pledge in Galatians 3:19, 20, where a covenant is declared to be assured by the hand of one who intervenes. Thus the covenant is confirmed and fulfilled by Him who secures that its stipulations should be carried out, and harmony is restored where before there had been difference and separation (1 Timothy 2:5 Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24). Thus is expressed the purpose of God to redeem mankind by mediation.
I. Christ's Mediation Expressed in the Specific Offices.
In presenting a systematic idea of this Redemptive Work of Christ by Mediation, Christian thought gave to it a harmonious character by choosing the most general and familiar titles of the Lord as the most inclusive categories expressive of the mode of Redemption. These were prophetic, priestly and regal.
Historical Review of the Theory:
The first trace of this division is found in Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, I, 3, and his Demonstratio Evangelica, IV, 15. It was accepted very largely in the Greek church, and continues to be used by Russian ecclesiastical writers. The Roman church has not so generally followed it, though it is found in the writings of many Roman theologians. The earlier reformers, especially Lutheran, ignored it. But Gerhard employed it and the Lutheran theologians followed his example, although some of these repudiated it, as Ernesti, Doderlein and Knapp. Calvin employed the division in his Institutes, II, 15. It was incorporated in the Heidelberg Catechism and has been adopted by most theologians of the Reformed church and by English and American divines. In Germany most theological writers, such as De Wette, Schleiermacher, Tholuck, Nitzsch, Ebrard, adopt it, affirming it as expressive of the essential quality of the work of redemption, and the most complete presentment of its contents. The justification of this position is found in the important place occupied in the progress of revelation by those to whom were entrusted the duties of teaching and leading men in relation to God in the offices of priest, prophet and king. Even the modern development of Christian thought which extends the view of Divine dealing with man over the entire race and its religious history, not excluding those who would find in the most recent conditions of the world's life the outworking of the will of God in the purposes of human salvation, cannot discover any better form of expressing Christ's relation to man than in terms of the prophetic, the priestly and the governmental offices. The prophet is the instrument of teaching: the priest expresses the ethical relation of man to God; while the king furnishes the typical form of that exercise of sovereign authority and Providential direction which concerns the practical life of the race.
II. The Threefold Office in the Old Testament.
From the close relation which Jesus in both His person and work bore to the Old Testament dispensation, it is natural to turn to the preparatory history of the early Scriptures for the first notes of these mediatorial offices. That the development of the Jewish people and system ever moved toward Christ as an end and fulfillment is universally acknowledged. The vague and indeterminate conditions of both the religious and national life of Israel manifest a definite movement toward a clearer apprehension of man's relationship to God. Nothing is more clear in Israel's history than the gradual evolution of official service both of church and state, as expressed in the persons and duties of the prophet, the priest and the king. The early patriarch contained in himself the threefold dignity, and discharged the threefold duty. As the family became tribal, and the tribe national, these duties were divided. The order of the household was lost for a while in the chaos of the larger and less homogeneous society. The domestic altar was multiplied in many "high places." Professional interpreters of more or less religious value began to be seers, and here and there, prophets. The leadership of the people was occasional, ephemeral and uncertain. But the men of Divine calling appeared from time to time; the foundation work of Moses was built on; the regular order of the worship of Yahweh, notwithstanding many lapses, steadily prevailed. Samuel gave dignity to his post as judge, and he again beheld the open vision of the Lord; he offered the appointed sacrifices; he established the kingly office; and although he was not permitted to see the family of David on the throne, like Moses he beheld afar off the promised land of a Divinely appointed kingdom. With the accession of the Davidic house, the three orders of God's service were completely developed. The king was seated on the throne, the priest was ministering at the one altar of the nation, the prophet with the Divine message was ever at hand to teach, to guide and to rebuke.
The Failure of the Offices to Secure Their Desired Ends:
Notwithstanding this growth of the special institutions-prophet, priest and king-the religious and national condition was by no means satisfactory. The kingdom was divided; external foes threatened the existence of the nation; idolatry was not extinguished, and the prophets who were true to Yahweh were compelled to warn and rebuke the sins of the rulers and the people, and even to testify against the priests for their unfaithfulness to the truth and purity of the religion which they professed. The best hopes of Israel and the Divine promises seem thus to be contradicted by the constant failure of the people to realize their best ideals. Hence, slowly arose a vague expectation of reform. The idea of the better condition which was coming grew ever more distinct, and settled down at length to Israel's Messianic hope, expressed in various forms, finally converging to the looking for of one who should in some mysterious way gather into himself the ideas which belonged especially to the three great offices.
III. The Prophet.
In this article we are concerned only with the offices as they tend to their fulfillment in Christ. For the more general treatment of each office, reference must be made to the special articles.
The Forecast of the True Prophet:
The first appearance of the idea of the special prophet of Yahweh is in Deuteronomy 18:15. Moses had been sent by the people to hear the Lord's words on their behalf (Exodus 20:19 Deuteronomy 5:27); and this incident in the later passage of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is connected with the promise of a prophet, while at the same time reference is made to the general fact of prophecy and the conditions of its validity and acceptance. Here we find the germ of the expectation of the Prophet, which occupied so large a place in the mind of Israel. In the act of the people sending Moses to receive the word, and Yahweh's promise to send a prophet whom they would accept, we see also the suggestion of a distinction between the first dispensation and the latter. The Divine promise was to the effect that what was given by Moses God would consummate in a prophetic revelation through a person. The conception of this personality is found in the second part of Isaiah (40-66). Isaiah's mission was vain, Isaiah 49:4, but the coming one shall prevail, 49-53 (passim). But the success of this servant of Yahweh was not to be only as a prophet, but by taking on himself the penalty of sin (Isaiah 53:5), and by being made an offering for sin; and as Mighty Victor triumphing over all foes (Isaiah 53:10-12), the dignities of whose kingship are set forth in various parts of the prophetic writings. Thus the general effect of the course of the earlier revelation may be summed up in this prophetic ministry with which has been combined a priestly and a royal character. It was an ever-advancing manifestation of the nature and will of God, delivered by inspired men who spake at sundry times and in divers manners, but whose message was perfected and extended by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1), who thus became the Prophet of the Lord.
IV. Christ the Prophet.
Christ's ministry illustrates the prophetic office in the most extensive and exalted sense of the term. He was designed and appointed by the Father (Isaiah 61:1, 2; compare Luke 4:16-21 Matthew 17:5). In 1 Corinthians 1:30, Christ is declared to be made to us wisdom. His intimate knowledge of God (John 1:18 Matthew 11:27 John 16:15), the qualities of His teaching dependent upon His nature, both Divine and human (John 3:34); His authority (John 1:9, 17, 18 Luke 4:18-21); His knowledge of God (Mark 12:29 John 4:24 Matthew 11:25 John 17:11, 25 Matthew 18:35)-these all peculiarly fitted Christ to be the Revealer of God. Besides His doctrine of God, His ministry included the truth concerning Himself, His nature, claims, mission, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and the religious life of man. He taught as none other the foundation of religion, the facts on which it was based, the essence of Divine service, the nature of sin, the grace of God, the means of atonement, the laws of the kingdom of God and the future state. By the acknowledgment of even those who have denied His Divine nature and redemptive work, He has been recognized as the Supreme Moral Teacher of the world. His claim to be the Prophet is seen in that He is the source of the ever-extending revelation of the eternal. His own words and works He declared were only part of the fuller knowledge which would be furnished by the system which He established (Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34 John 12:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:12, 13, 14).
1. Christ's Manner of Teaching:
How remarkable was His method of teaching! Parable, proverb, absolute affirmation, suggestion, allusion to simple objects, practical life-these all made His teaching powerful, easily understood, living; sometimes His action was His word-and all with a commanding dignity and gracious winsomeness, that was felt by His hearers and has ever been recognized (Matthew 7:29). So perfect and exalted was the teaching of Jesus that many have supposed that revelation ceased with Him, and the immediate followers whom He especially inspired to be His witnesses and interpreters. Certainly in Him the prophetic ministry culminated.
2. Christ as Prophet in His Church:
An important aspect of Christ's prophetic office is that of His relation to the church as the source, through the instrumentality of His Spirit, of ever-enlarging knowledge of Divine truth which it has been able to gain. This is the real significance of the claim which some churches make to be the custodians and interpreters of the tradition of faith, with which has also gone theory of development-not as a human act but as a ministration of the Lord through His Spirit, which is granted to the church. Even those who hold that all Divine truth is to be found in the sacred Scriptures have yet maintained that God has much truth still to bring out of His word by the leading and direction of the Spirit of Jesus. The Scripture itself declares that Christ was the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9). He Himself promised that the Spirit which He would give would guide His followers into all truth (John 16:13). The apostles claimed to receive their teaching and direction of the church from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23). The testimony of Jesus is definitely declared to be the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). Indeed, all the apostolic writings in almost every line affirm that what they teach is received from the Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Lord.
V. The Priesthood of Christ.
1. Judaic Priesthood:
For the history of the development of the priesthood of Israel on which our Lord's High-Priesthood is ideally based, reference must be made to the article especially dealing of with that subject. The bearings of that institution upon the work of Jesus as Redeemer alone fall under this section. Judaism like all religions developed an extensive system priestly service. As the moral sense of the people enlarged and became more distinct, the original simplicity of sacrifice, especially as a commensal act, in which the unity of the celebrants with each other and with God was expressed, was expanded into acts regularly performed by officials, in which worship, thanksgiving, covenant and priestly expiation and atonement were clearly and definitely expressed. The progress of sacrifice may be seen in the history of the Old Testament from Cain and Abel's (Genesis 4:3, 4), Noah's (Genesis 8:20), Abraham's covenant (Genesis 15:9-18), etc., to the elaborate services of the Mosaic ritual set forth in Lev, the full development of which is found only in the later days of Israel. When Christ appeared, the entire sacerdotal system had become incorporated in the mind, customs and language of the people. They had learned more or less distinctly the truth of man's relation to God in its natural character, and especially in that aspect where man by his sin had separated himself from God and laid himself open to the penalty of law. The conception of priesthood had thus grown in the consciousness of Israel, as the necessary instrument of mediation between man and God. Priestly acts were performed on behalf of the worshipper. The priest was to secure for man the Divine favor. This could only be gained by an act of expiation. Something must be done in order to set forth the sin of man, his acknowledgment of guilt, the satisfaction of the law, and the assurance of the Divine forgiveness, the restored favor of God and finally the unity of man and God.
2. Sacrificial Relations of Christ in the Gospels:
That the work of Christ partook of the nature of priestly service is already indicated by references in the Gospels themselves. He was called "Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Salvation from sin, in the habit of thought at which the Jew had arrived, must have expressed itself most clearly in the symbolic signification of the sacrifices in the temple. Thus in the very name which our Lord received His priesthood is suggested. The frankincense of the Magi's offering is not without its mystical meaning (Matthew 2:11). Some may find in the Baptist's words, "baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Matthew 3:11), a suggestion of priestly action, for the understanding of John's declaration must be found in the conventional ideas of the Jewish thought of the period, determined as they undoubtedly were by the history of priestly service in the past and the fully developed ritual of the temple. The baptizing of the proselyte was not necessarily a priestly act, as indeed we cannot be certain that the baptism was always necessary at the introduction of a proselyte into the Jewish church. But the association of circumcision with the initiation of the proselyte certainly introduced the priest, and the sprinkling of the congregation by the priest was a familiar part of his official duties. It is quite probable therefore that John's use of the expression carried with it something of the sacerdotal idea.
3. Christ's Ethical Teaching Affected by Sacrificial Ideas:
The spirit of our Lord's teaching, as seen in the Sermon on the Mount, etc., as it reflects the thought of the Galilean ministry, may be regarded as prophetic rather than priestly. Still the end of the teaching was righteousness, and it was impossible for a Jew to conceive of the securing of righteousness without some reference to priestly administration and influence. The contrast of the effect of Christ's teaching with that of the scribes (Matthew 7:29) keeps us in the vicinity of the law as applied through the sacerdotal service of which the scribes were the interpreters and teachers, and surely therefore a hint of our Lord's relation to priesthood may have found its way into the minds of His immediate hearers. He was careful to recognize the authority of the priest (Matthew 8:4). The doctrine of sacrifice emerges somewhat more distinctly in the reference to the cross, which our Lord associates with the thought of finding life by losing it (Matthew 16:24, 25), and when the taking up the cross is interpreted by following Christ, and this hint is soon followed by Christ's distinct reference to His coming sufferings (Matthew 17:9, 12), more definitely referred to in Matthew 17:22, 23. Now the object of the work of the Lord takes clearer form. The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11 the American Revised Version, margin). As the time of the catastrophe drew nearer, the Lord became still more distinct in His references to His coming death (Matthew 20:18, 19), and at length declares that "the Son of man came. to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). our Lord's quotations (Matthew 21:42; Matthew 23:39) concerning the rejected "corner stone," and the Blessed One "that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 118:22, 26), are drawn from a psalm filled with the spirit of the priestly service of the temple, and in their reference to Himself again illustrate the ever-increasing recognition of His priesthood. He also uses the official term "Christ" (Messiah, the anointed one) more frequently (Matthew 24:5, 23, 14). On the eve of the betrayal and trial the crucifixion is clearly foretold (Matthew 26:2); and the death (Matthew 26:12). The full significance of the death is asserted at the institution of the Lord's Supper. The bread is "my body," the wine is "my blood of the new covenant," and it is declared to be "poured out for many unto remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28 margin).
4. Mutual Confirmations of the Synoptics:
A similar succession of ideas of our Lord's priestly work may be found in the other gospels (see Mark 1:8, 44; Mark 8:29; see below on the significance of the term Christ; Mark 8:31, 34; Mark 9:9, 10). The inability of the disciples to understand the life that was to follow death here is indicated-the truth of the gospel of death and resurrection so closely bound up with the conception of sacrifice, where the blood is the life which given becomes the condition of the new union with God, being thus revealed by Christ as the initial doctrine to be continuously enlarged (Mark 9:31; Mark 10:21, 33, 14, 45; 11:09; 12:10; 13:21, 22; 14:8, 22-25, 61, 62). In Luke the priestly "atmosphere" is introduced in the earliest part of the narrative, the history of Zacharias and Elisabeth giving emphasis to the setting of John's own mission (Luke 1). The name Jesus (Luke 1:31); the special relation of the new kingdom to sin, necessarily connected with sacrifice in the mind of a priest, found in Zacharias' psalm (Luke 1:77, 78); the subtle suggestion of the Suffering One in the "also" of Luke 2:35 the King James Version (the American Standard Revised Version omits) shows that the third Gospel is quite in line with the two other Synoptics (see also Luke 3:3; Luke 5:14). The claim to forgive sins must have suggested the sacrificial symbol of remission (Luke 5:24; Luke 9:23; Luke 13:35; Luke 14:27; Luke 18:31; Luke 20:14; Luke 22:19, 20; 24:7, 26, 46, 47). In the Fourth Gospel, we have the word of the Baptist, "Behold, the Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 36), where Christ's relation to sin is distinctly expressed (see LAMB OF GOD)-the baptism in the Spirit (John 1:33). It is highly probable that the apostle John was the "other" of the two disciples, (John 1:40) and, having heard the Baptist's words, is the only evangelist who records them, thus introducing from his personal knowledge the sacrificial idea earlier into his history than the Synoptics. Christ declares that He will give His life for the life of the world (John 6:51). The entire passage (John 6:47-65) is suffused with the conception of "life for life," one of the elements constituting the conception of the sacrificial act. In John 8:28 (compare John 3:14; John 12:32) Christ predicts His crucifixion. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:15). In John 10:17, 18, Christ claims the power to lay down His life and to take it again. He is the sacrifice and the Sacrificer.
5. The Dual Outgrowth of Sacrifice, the Victim and Sacrificer:
Here appears for the first time the double relation of Christ to the sacrificial idea, worked out in the later thought of the church into the full significance of our Lord's priestly office. In John 11:25, 26 Christ is the source of life, and life after death. It is hardly possible that this conception should not have, even if remotely suggested, some reference to the significance of sacrifice; for in the sacrifices the Divine claim for the blood, as specially to be set apart as the Divine portion, was ever present. God ever claimed the blood as His; for to Him the life was forfeited by sin. And moreover He alone possesses life and gives it. Of that forfeit and that Divine sovereignty of life, sacrifice is the expression. This is fully realized and made actual in Christ's life and death for man, in which man shares by His unity with Christ. Man at once receives the penalty of sin in dying with Christ, and rises again into the new life which our Lord opened, and of which He is the ceaseless energy and power through the spirit of God. The emergence of this idea is illustrated by the evangelist in the sayings of Caiaphas, where as the high priest of the nation he gives, though unconsciously, a significant expression to the truth that it was "expedient" that Jesus `should die for the nation and for the children of God everywhere scattered' (John 11:47-52). Here the symbolic significance of sacrifice is practically realized: death in the place of another and the giving of life to those for whom the sacrifice was offered. The vitalizing power of Christ's death is asserted in the discourse following the visit of the Greeks (John 12:24-33). The idea of life from the dying seed is associated with the conception of the power of attraction and union by the cross. The natural law of life through death is thus in harmony with the gift of life through sacrifice involving death. That sacrifice may be found much more widely than merely in death, is shown by the law of service illustrated in the washing of the disciples' feet (13:14-17); and this is declared to spring out of love (John 15:13). For the priestly ideas of our Lord's prayer (John 17) see INTERCESSION; INTERCESSION OF CHRIST; PRAYERS OF CHRIST.
6. Christ's Priesthood in the Apostolic Ministry and Epistles:
Christ's priestly office finds illustration in the Acts of the Apostles, in the apostolic declaration of Christ's Messianic office, not only Lord, but also Christ the Anointed One (Acts 2:36). Peter's reference to the stone which completed the temple, the service of which was essentially sacrificial, as the Symbol of Christ, the Crown of that Spiritual Temple (Acts 4:11); Philip's application of the passage in Isaiah of the sheep led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7, 8) to our Lord (Acts 8:32, 35); Peter's discourse to Cornelius, culminating in the remission of sins through Christ (Acts 10:43)-all indicates the steady growth in the apostolic ministry of the conception of our Lord's priestly office. The idea takes its most distinct form in Paul's sermon at Antioch (Acts 13:38, 39).
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OFFICES OF CHRIST
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