Children’s Catechism on the Three Offices of Christ
I’m reworking an old sermon to preach next Sunday at the Champaign Chinese Christian Church. There is a section on the three offices of Christ that I wanted to expand a bit so I went searching for some historic confessional statements on the doctrine. Below is what I found. I think it’s worthy of extended meditation. Below that, and less worthy of meditation, is an excerpt from my sermon.
Q. 64. What offices has Christ?
A. Christ has three offices.
Q. 65. What are they?
A. The offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king.
Q. 66. How is Christ a prophet?
A. Because he teaches us the will of God.
Q. 67. How is Christ a priest?
A. Because he died for our sins and pleads with God for us.
Q. 68. How is Christ a king?
A. Because he rules over us and defends us.
Q. 69. Why do you need Christ as a prophet?
A. Because I am ignorant.
Q. 70. Why do you need Christ as a priest?
A. Because I am guilty.
Q. 71. Why do you need Christ as a king?
A. Because I am weak and helpless.
John 1:19-21 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
Three denials: He’s not the Christ, not Elijah, and not the Prophet. Let’s take them one at a time. First, John is not the Christ. We don’t use the phrase “the Christ” much anymore. We usually say “Jesus Christ” and as a result many people think of Christ as his last name and the meaning of the word is lost. The word Christ is from the Greek word meaning Messiah, and both words mean “anointed one”.
We don’t anoint people much anymore either so that too requires some more explanation. In the Old Testament, God told prophets like Samuel to go and anoint men like David with oil and this indicated that they were set apart by God for kingly office. So when we say that Jesus is the Christ, we mean primarily that he is the King of kings, he is the promised Son of David who will reign forever.
But there was another class of people who were anointed in the Old Testament and that was the priests. Under the law, no one man could hold both offices. But there was a prophecy in Psalm 110 that indicated that one day there would come a king who would also be declared by God to be a priest forever. Jesus the Christ is anointed as both our king and our Great High Priest and the book of Hebrews is devoted to unpacking this theme. As our Great High Priest Jesus has reconciled us to God by the once for all sacrifice of himself on the cross. We can draw near confidently to God now because the blood of Jesus Christ has been shed to atone for our sins.
Generally speaking, prophets were not anointed in the Old Testament, but there is one exception. Elisha was anointed by Elijah to be prophet in his place. I think that’s fascinating given what we learned a few weeks ago about how Elisha’s ministry foreshadowed Jesus’ ministry. And in a prophecy that Jesus quotes in the synagogue and declares to be about him, Isaiah wrote, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Anointed to preach, we see there the prophetic ministry of Jesus. So when we call Jesus the Christ we mean that he is our prophet, priest and king.