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Christ, Offices of

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(as Prophet, Priest, and King).

I. Origin and History of this Division. Eusebius, in his Church History (i, b), and also in his Demonstratio Evangelica (4:15), is the first who appears to have considered the mediatorial work of Christ as consisting in the three offices. The division became common in the Greek Church, and it is still usual in the Russian Church. In the Latin Church it has not passed so generally into use, although Bellarmin and many others allow it. Luther, Melanchthon, and the other early Lutheran theologians do not use the distinction. It was introduced into Lutheran theology by Gerhard (q.v.) in his Loci Theologicae was admitted by Spener into his Catechism, and remained prevalent among Lutheran theologians until the time of Ernesti, who wrote against it under the title De oficio Christi triplici, and was followed by Zacharia, Doderlein, Knapp, and others (see Knapp, Theology, § 107). In the Reformed Church it was adopted by Calvin (Inst. 2:15), was admitted into the Heidelberg Catechism, and was generally followed by the dogmatic writers of the Reformed churches, both on the Continent and in England. The modern theology of Germany (as the works of De Wette, Schleiermacher, Thoeluck, Nitzsch, Liebner, Ebrard, etc.) generally adhere to it, regarding it as an essential, and not merely accidental and formal division of the mediatorial work, as the only one which exhausts it. It is used by many of the best English theologians. We give here a modification of Ebrard's article on the topic in Herzog's Real-Encyklopadie, 6:607 sq.

II. Biblical View. - The prophecies of the O.T. designate the Redeemer as the perfect and model prophet, as the servant of God to whom the attributes of prophecy, priesthood, and royalty alike belong; as the kingly seed of David, or the second, perfect David; and finally as the priest-king. He, moreover, in spirit, calls himself, in the Gospels, "prophet," and "son of David." In the Epistle to the Hebrews he is represented as the only true and eternal high-priest. This threefold aspect of his mission is united in the conception of the Anointed or Messiah; for as Elisha was by Elijah anointed a prophet (1 Kings 19:16), so was the promised "servant of God" to be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord; and as the kings of Israel were anointed (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 1:13; 1 Kings 19:15, etc.), so was Christ anointed king of righteousness (Hebrews 1:8-9). And as it was ordained by the law that the high priest should be anointed to his office (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:7; Exodus 30:30; Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 7:36), so Christ was made high-priest "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16). The conception of the Messiah or Anointed thus divides itself into the three aspects of prophet, priest, and king.

The first prophecy bearing on the subject is in Deuteronomy 18:15. The people, afraid of hearing the commandments of God, sent up Moses to hear them (Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:27). The Lord "heard" the people (Deuteronomy 5:28), and promised (as they had sent up Moses to hear Him) that He would send them a prophet whom they could and should hear. The God who revealed his law in the midst of thunder and lightning, so that the people durst not approach him, would afterwards approach the people through a prophet. On Mount Sinai the people had to send Moses up to God, and God promised, in the future, to send down a prophet to the people. Thus the difference between the Law and the Gospel is sketched in its dawning outline.

The latter part of Isaiah (chapters 40-66) is related, though not in the most direct way, to the prophecy in Deuteronomy. In Isaiah, not "the prophet," but the "servant of God," is the predominant conception. Isaiah "labors in vain" (Isaiah 49:4); a coming servant of God, however, will accomplish both Isaiah's task in Israel and the mission of the people of Israel to the Gentiles together and perfectly (Isaiah 49:6); and this because he is more than a prophet; because he takes upon himself the penalty of our sins (Isaiah 53:5)- מוּסִר שְׁלוֹמֵנוּ, "the chastisement of our peace," i.e. the punishment whose fulfillment secures our exemption. He brings a sin- offering, אָשָׁם (Isaiah 53:10). The prophecy does not merely indicate that the prophet's mission should entail death on the servant of God, as was the case with Paul (Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 1:11), but that he should die as an expiatory sacrifice. And in Isaiah 49:7, he appears as "King of kings," for "kings and princes" are to bow down before him.

Thus we find in Deuteronomy 5:18 apromise of the "prophet," and in Isaiah 49-53 a promise of "a servant of God," of whom prophetic preaching, priestly self-offering, and crowning with kingly power are predicated. But regal dominion is not merely assigned to the future Redeemer as the predicate, or as the issue of his destiny, but, on the contrary, the very root of the Messianic prophecies lies in the promise of "one of the seed of David," whose "throne should endure forever." Redemption from future servitude was promised to the seed of Abraham (Genesis 15). Through Moses, Joshua, and David, this promise, in its outward and material sense, was gradually fulfilled. It was for this reason that David determined to build a temple to the Lord, that the "Eternal might dwell with his people." But such a union of God, "who is a spirit," with a material place and edifice, did not agree with the divine plan of salvation (compare John 4:23-24). Israel was to acknowledge that the temporal redemption, obtained through David, was not yet the true redemption, but a mere faint foreshadowing thereof. This was indicated by the prophecy in the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel, in which it was shown that not David himself, but David's seed after his death, was to build the Lord a house, and that the Lord would assure the throne of his kingdom forever. Even here no mention is made of an individual, but merely of a successor of David (2 Samuel 7:12-15). David at the same time understood that his sinful race was not fit to build the Lord a temple, and to rule on his eternal throne, as he said, "Thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. Anzd is this the manner of manm, O Lord God? (2 Samuel 7:19; comp. 1 Chronicles 17:17). The allusion in Psalms 2:6-7, to this prediction is unmistakable, and Psalms 110 is a poetic explanation of the passage 2 Samuel 7:19. So Christ himself (Matthew 22:42) explains it.

Solomon also was aware that the prediction of Nathan would not have its final fulfillment in his material temple (1 Kings 8:26-27). After the death of Solomon, prophecy pointed more and more directly towards a certain, particular, future descendant of David, entirely distinct from his then existing posterity (comp. Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6, with Isaiah 10:21). From the chastised house of David, the fallen trunk, a fresh branch was to spring (Isaiah 11:1), and to rule over the nations through a reign of peace and righteousness. Yet that he was not to be an ordinary earthly king, nor a Levitical priest, but a king-priest according to the order of Melchizedek, had already been shown in Psalms 110:4, and is more fully developed in Zechariah 6:12-13, with distinct reference to 2 Samuel 7, Psalms 110, and Isaiah 11:2. The Manifestation in N.T. The carnal Israel awaited a worldly, earthly Messiah, who should establish a worldly kingdom. "The Prophet" ( προφήτης, John 6:14) appeared to them to be distinct fron the Messiah, a sort of precursor of the latter (comp. Mark 8:27, and John 1:21); but the faithful, enlightened by the spirit of God, thought otherwise. To them had Jesus already been announced by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; comp. with Matthew 12:18, Luke 3:4) as the "servant of God" promised by Isaiah, in whom the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices should be united; and the Lord himself appears in these three aspects in his life, his passion, and his death.

When he goes about teaching that the "kingdom of God" has come, and confirming his words by miracles, he does a prophet's work, and therefore the people themselves recognize him as the "prophet" (Luke 7:16; Luke 9:8; John 4:19; John 7:40). But he not only spoke as a prophet, but he was and is The Prophet, the revealer of the Father in the absolute sense. The key to this perception is given us in the passage Hebrews 1:1 : "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son," etc., i.e. he has manifested the fullness of his essence and of his will in a personal revelation in Him who from all eternity has been the one God and consubstantial with the Father. Therefore he is in John 1:1, called the Word, in whom God ἐν ἀρχῇ expressed his essence to himself (πρὸς τὸν θεόν ), "by whom all things were made; without whom was not any thing made that was made; in whom was life; and the life was the light of men." Christ, as the Word become man, is then no longer a prophet merely in word and action, but is one in his very essence. His whole being and essence is the revelation of the Father (John 14:9).

The Epistle to the Hebrews represents Christ as a priest, nay, even as the eternal high-priest (Hebrews 7). He is the eternal high-priest because of his having offered the only eternally valid sacrifice, the final sacrifice which renders all others henceforth superfluous himself. His being in other parts of the Scriptures considered more as the hostia (victim) than as the priest, is merely a formal, not a material difference. Christ, on the one hand, absolutely satisfied the demands of God's law upon man (namely, to be sinless, holy, and filled with the love of God), and thus rendered the obedientia activa which we do not render; and, on the other hand, he assumed the penalty which the law inflicted on the sinner, "Thou shalt die the death," on himself; he who owed nothing suffering for those who are debtors. (See ATONEMENT); (See OBEDIENCE).

He thus, by substitution, took upon himself our debt and its penalty, and became an expiatory offering for us. For the fundamental principle of all offerings for sin under the old dispensation was this very substitution of one to suffer death for another; who could have been the mediating priest between Christ and the Father? He himself, the sinless, holy, the λόγος —προφήτης, who had ever been with the Father, was the priest who, in eternal high-priestly purity, gave himself as an offering. His actions and his sufferings cannot be divided. He did not make an offering of himself suddenly, ex abrupto, with no connection with his previous life. On the contrary, his priestly, holy life brought him to his death. Thus was his offering a priestly one.

From the death of Christ the crown of thorns is inseparable. So from the crown of thorns the crown of kingly dignity and power is inseparable. When, in the days of his humiliation, he was recognized and proclaimed as the promised "Son of David," the expected "Messiah-king," he accepted the title (Matthew 9:27; Matthew 18:30; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 21:9). But the fulfillment of his kingly mission took place in a manner entirely opposite to that which the people had expected. His kingly mission culminated at the very moment when he declared unto Pilate that he was king, and thereupon received the crown of thorns (John 18:37; John 19:2, comp. with John 18:12-15 and John 18:21). Here the kingly office became closely connected with the priestly. As a reward for this royal abnegation he was crowned with the crown of glory (Hebrews 2:9; Philippians 2:9-10), became head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22), and Lord over all (Ephesians 1:21). And all who come to him by faith are given to him as his own (John 17:6), and he claims for them a share in his glory (John 17:22; John 17:24; John 17:26). The Christian Church is thus fully justified in considering the prayer in John 17 as a true high-priestly prayer of the priestly king and kingly priest (Psalms 110:4) for his people, and not merely as the intercession of a prophet for his disciples.

Finally, redemption by Christ is best understood under this threefold aspect of his entire work. He who in his own person was the revelation of God, the λόγος of God to man, has by word and action, and by his advent, revealed to man, in his state of error, ignorance, and sin, the law of God to man, and the mercy of God to the sinner. He who in his own person was the son of man, clothed with priestly holiness, and making of himself a pure offering unto God, has, as a member of a race which is subject to the consequences of sin, preserved his holiness under circumstances which caused the curse of human sin to fall on the head of him, the sinless, and has thereby submitted himself to the judgment of God in our stead, i.e. has given himself as an expiatory offering. He who in his own person was the kingly chief of mankind, has, in order as priest to sacrifice himself, foregone this kingly power and worn the crown of thorns, but thereby has attained the crown of glory, the dominion over the Church he has redeemed, in which and for which he now reigns over heaven and earth.

We find, in all the N.T. account, that in Christ's teachings he was not exclusively a prophet, in his passion he was not exclusively a high-priest, nor was he a king only after his resurrection. On the contrary, the three offices cannot be thus mechanically set off from each other. The Scripture certainly ascribes to Christ a munus propheticum immediatum (direct prophetical office) only during his visible life in the state of humiliation (viz. a prophetia personae, by which his whole being was in itself a revelation of God, and a prophetia oficii, in words and doctrines). But it teaches also that, as Prophet and Revealer, the exalted Christ continues to operate (munus propheticum mediatum, mediate prophetic office) by his Word, which he gave once for all, as well as by his Spirit, through which he continues to enlighten the hearts of believers. In the munus sacerdotale (priestly office) we distinguish (scripturally) the once-offered oblation from the yet continuing intercession; and in the former, the obedientia and satisfactio activa, the offering of a holy life, from the obedientia and satisfactio passiva, the assumption of the undeserved expiatory suffering. Finally, the Scripture teaches that Christ, in his state of humiliation, was already king (rex fuit, or rex natus erat), as in John 18:37. He disclaims only the "exercise" of kingly power, not the fact. We distinguish also the inherent regal glory and power of Christ from his exercise of them the dignitas regia from the officium and in the latter also we distinguish the regnum gratiae, the governing of his people by his spirit, from the regnum gloriae, the dominion over all. here is, in fact, no concrete point in the existence and activity of Christ, whether in the state of humiliation or of glorification, in which the three offices are not found constantly connected. Thus Christ remains in all respects, inseparably, the Revealer of the Father to man, the Intercessor for. man with God, and the Chief and King of his people. See Knapp, Christian Theology, § 107; Nitzsch, System der christlichen Lehre, § 132; Herzog, Real-Encyklopä die, 6:607; Pye Smith, First Lines of Clristian Theology, Luke 5, ch. 4, § 2.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Christ, Offices of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/christ-offices-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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