Preach, The Seed,
(2023-01-22)

Introduction:

Well, here we are then!

We finished Romans last week … we made it! — But What to talk about now?

A few weeks before Christmas, I mentioned what is known as the ‘threefold office of Christ” and hinted that I would do a miniseries on it. I am going to look at this next. This is a ‘thematic’ rather than Biblical series in the sense I am studying these as a theme and not a specific text. But I am still looking at what the Bible teaches on this. After we’re done, I will look at the book of Ruth.

So, what, exactly, IS the threefold office of Christ?

The foundation for this is our understanding of Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, both of which mean ‘God’s anointed one’. Messiah is the Hebrew word for anointed, and Christ is the Greek one. When we call Jesus ‘Christ’, it is EXACTLY the same as calling Him ‘Messiah’. Anointing had a purpose in Bible times, so what exactly was Jesus anointed for/to? That is the subject of the next three weeks.

In Israel, there were three different roles people were anointed to. Often with the use of oil:

King

For example, David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16, and Solomon’s in 1 Kings 1.

1 Samuel 16:1,2 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” Then there’s an aside about Samuel’s response. (Which, incidentally, is very similar to Ananias in Acts 9) ‘I’ll die if I do this’, which God seems to ignore: But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” 

1 Kings 1:34 “There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’”.

In May, this will happen in the UK as King Charles is anointed as part of his coronation. Elizabeth was anointed in 1953, and it was seen as so important and significant it happened behind a screen and wasn’t transmitted like the rest of the coronation. (It will be interesting to see if Charles’ anointing will be private too).

Priest

In Exodus 28:41, God instructs Moses to anoint Aaron and his sons to the priesthood: “After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests”. In Exodus 29:7, Moses is to “take the anointing oil and anoint him (Aaron) by pouring it on his head”. This is alluded to in Psalm 133 which says unity is like the oil running down on Aaron’s beard.

When people are ordained to the ministry, they are still anointed with oil. Even in the free church (or at least some). I was anointed to the ministry in 1997, and I remember the top of the anointing jar fell off, and the entire contents poured on my head! It poured down my beard (or it would have done if I’d had a beard!), onto my clothing (it ruined them as I recall), but I was well and truly anointed!

Prophet

Elijah, for example, is told by God in 1 Kings 19:16 to “anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet”. I am not aware of any modern church or denomination which anoints prophets in this way, though there may be some.

Isaiah 61:1 describes an anointing (almost certainly spiritual and not physical) to proclaim the word of the Lord. This is the passage which Jesus reads in Luke 4, and declares fulfilled in Him. He is clearly describing himself here as a prophet.

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Historically, theologians have understood that Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the ‘anointed’ one, perfectly fulfils each of these three functions. AND it has been customary to categorise the ‘work’ of Christ (i.e. what he does) into these three categories or ‘offices’. If you read John Calvin’s institutes, you will find a great deal of attention has been devoted to them.

  1. Prophet – (this week) who speaks God’s words to the people. Christ revealed (and reveals) God to the people then and now, and he speaks God’s words to us. In fact, he is ‘ο λογος’ the very word of God (John 1:1).
  2. Priest – (next week) represents God before the people and represents the people before God. The priest stands in the gap. In the Jewish system, he offered sacrifices, prayers, and praise to God on behalf of the people. Christ doesn’t just offer a sacrifice for the people; he is himself the sacrifice that is offered.
  3. King – (the week after) ruled over the people as God’s representative. Christ rules now over his church and the universe as well. The time will come when all things will bow at his feet.

I love searching for patterns, and I like the three words ‘revealing’, ‘reconciling’ and ‘ruling’. As prophet, Christ reveals to us what God is like and what he thinks. As priest his function is to reconcile us to God, and as king it is to rule his people.

It is important at the start to state that this series is not intended to be a definitive and complete description of everything that Christ is and does. It is intended for us to understand just three aspects of his life and ministry. In Matthew 16, Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the son of man is?” What do the disciples answer? “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. Yet, the people were clearly wrong because Jesus then goes on to ask: “who do you say that I am?”, and on Peter’s confession, Jesus says “blessed are you, and on this rock I will build my church.” We are not looking at the person of Jesus (i.e. who He is), but at His function (i.e. what He does). What we believe about Jesus is indispensable to our salvation.

This week we’ll tackle the office of prophet. Jesus IS the anointed prophet of God.

What do we mean when we talk of Jesus the prophet?

Prophets were, supremely, God’s ‘spokes—people’. They hear the word of God and proclaim it to the people. Hebrews 1:1–2 tells us that, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”. So Jesus, in speaking to us is a prophet. BUT: Jesus is not just A prophet, He is THE prophet. The prophet described in Deuteronomy 18:15-18: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The Jews were expecting a prophet to come among them. During the inter-testamental period, God had been silent. With the arrival of Jesus, There was an in-breaking of the Spirit’s work, quite visible in prophecy.

In John 1:19-28, we read an exchange between John the Baptist and the Jewish leaders:

“Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptise if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
“I baptise with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptising”
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In v21, where JtB is asked “are you the prophet?” the questioners are referring to the prophet in Deuteronomy. Many of His contemporaries thought that Jesus was the prophet spoken of by Moses:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14)

Peter also identifies Him specifically as that prophet after the healing of the beggar at the Gate of the temple:

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’” (Acts 3:19-23)

We also read in various other places in the gospels of people’s perception of Christ as a prophet. … These are just a few people who saw Jesus as a prophet:

  1. The people of Nain after the widow’s son is raised from the dead. (Luke 7:16).
  2. The man born blind – in front of the Pharisees (John 9:17).
  3. The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:19).
  4. The crowds after the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:14).
  5. The crowds at the “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:11).
  6. Two of His own disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:19)

This establishes the Biblical evidence for seeing Jesus as a prophet.

What does the prophet do?

A prophet is one who speaks for or speaks before God. He (or she) speaks out God’s word to the people, he reveals God’s heart. Though we must also note that prophetic people, and the revealing of who God is and what he thinks, isn’t necessarily verbal:

  1. Jeremiah buys a field
  2. Hosea forgives an unfaithful wife
  3. Ezekiel lies on his side and besieges a model of Jerusalem.

The prophet reveals what God is thinking, his heart and fundamentally what he is like.

Jesus is uniquely suited to do this: He is pre-existent with the Father, He came from the father, His place in the Trinity makes Him the perfect prophet. In fact, whilst He was on the earth, Jesus uniquely revealed God in a way no other prophet could:

  1. John 1:1 “In the beginning” (cf. Genesis 1:1, “in the beginning”) “was the word” (“God said” is creation by the word).
  2. John 8:58 “Before Abraham was I am” (Spoken to the Pharisees).
  3. John 1:18 “He who has seen me has seen the father” (to Philip).
  4. John 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven – the Son of man” i.e. me. (to Nicodemus).
  5. Matthew 11:27 – Jesus is the one who reveals the father.

Prophets spoke out God’s words of condemnation and Judgement to an unfaithful people (Amos slams the surrounding nations), but they also spoke of good news and salvation for a faithful people: Isaiah talks of prophets bringing good news. Isaiah 40:9 and 52:7 for example.

Reading the Gospels, we can see that Jesus certainly fulfilled that function. He, like Amos, pronounced a message of judgement (Matthew 11:24ff), and he denounced injustice, and false piety (Matthew 23).

But Jesus also pronounced messages of hope and comfort, Luke 4 records Him pronouncing the proclamation of Jubilee from Isaiah, in Luke 7, he blesses, and supremely in the beatitudes he pronounces blessings. The kingdom itself is described in terms that are good news: a treasure, a pearl of great price.

The historic Jesus clearly fulfilled the role of the prophet.

BUT WHAT ABOUT TODAY???

We believe that Jesus, being God has not changed, He is still a prophet today. How then does he proclaim God’s word to the people? How does He reveal the father to the world?

Through the church.

Today, in a very real way, we Christians (the body of Christ) have a great privilege and a considerable responsibility: to be a prophetic people. We show, or rather, we SHOULD show what Christ (& therefore what God) is like to the world!

  1. Ephesians 1:22-23 clearly describes the church as His body. We, the church, are the body of Christ.
  2. 1 Corinthians 12:27 illustrates that we are also individually a part of the body, and have a responsibility to it.

It is a preach for another time to develop all that being the body of Christ involves, but in a nutshell, we are to do Christ’s work here on earth. Matthew 28:18-20 (the great commission) confirms this. John 14:12 says that if we have faith in him, we will do what he has been doing (in fact, it says we will do greater things!) The work of Christ, if it is to be done at all on the earth today, will be done by the church.

Therefore, we must show the world what God is like. We must be a prophetic people and REVEAL God. Our services, our fellowship, should be powerful and should touch people because God can be seen. This is not because the worship is good, or the preacher is good, but because as we meet and play our part in making the body of Christ work, God is revealed: both to one another and also to the world that looks on.

We should then consider this: “Does our church, our meetings draw people’s attention to us, or to God? Is God truly revealed in our fellowship here: in our midst?”

We believe and often say that when two or three are gathered, then Christ is in our midst. So, when two or three are gathered, can an onlooker see Him? I frequently think not, not when we’re moaning or gossiping.

The term Christian has been defined as meaning “Christ—like one”. How Christ—like are we? Individually? Corporately? Are we concerned with the things that concerned Christ?

Do we prefer

  • THINGS, or PEOPLE?
  • STRUCTURES, or RELATIONSHIPS?

Christ was interested in things, not in people, his church should be as well. We should also be a relational people, not structural. Clearly, we cannot do this in our own strength: we need help. The great commission promises that if we do his bidding, He will remain with us, John 14:26 says the Holy Spirit he leaves us will remind us of what he has said, and will “teach us all things”. John 16:13 says the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. Note how John describes ‘all truth’: He will take what is Christ’s and make it known to us.

If individually, and as a church, we are serious, and we really want Christ to reveal himself through and in us, we must rely on him and his Holy Spirit. Are you trying to be a “Good Christian” (whatever that means) in your own strength? Or are you relying on Christ? We need to recommit to Christ, we need a “we can’t do it without you” kind of attitude.

Ask for people to respond to Christ, to put him again as boss and centre in their lives so that they can be more effective in the task of revealing God to a needy and hurting world.