Prophet, Priest and King

One of the greatest gifts to the Christian understanding of the work of Christ is the great Reformer John Calvin’s exposition of the threefold office of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus is the center of the Bible and should be the center of our lives.The centrality of Christ is the foundation of the Protestant faith. Christ Alone, one of the Five Solas of the Reformation is very important to believe and understand. Martin Luther said that Jesus Christ is the “center and circumference of the Bible”—meaning that who He is and what He did in His death and resurrection is the fundamental content of Scripture. Ulrich Zwingli said, “Christ is the Head of all believers who are His body and without Him the body is dead.”

We urgently need to hear and hold to solus Christus in our day of pluralistic theology. Many people today question the belief that salvation is only by faith in Christ. As Carl Braaten says, they “are returning to a form of the old bankrupt nineteenth-century Christological approach of Protestant liberalism and calling it ‘new,’ when it is actually scarcely more than a shallow Jesusology.” The end result is that today, many people—as H. R. Niebuhr famously said of liberalism—proclaim and worship “a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Augustine in his 5th century book Harmony of the Gospels viewed the variations in the gospel accounts in terms of the different focuses of the authors on Jesus: Matthew on royalty, Mark on humanity, Luke on priesthood and John on divinity.

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, also called the Second London Baptist Confession, was written by Particular Baptists, who held to a Calvinistic Soteriology in England to give a formal expression of their Christian faith from a Baptist perspective. This confession, like the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) and the Savoy Declaration (1658), was written by Puritans who were concerned that their particular church organisation reflect what they perceived to be Biblical teaching. The Philadelphia Confession was a modification of the Second London Confession which added an allowance for singing of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs in the Lord’s Supper and made optional the laying on of hands in baptism. The Confession of Faith taught the typical Protestant view of the time that the Pope is antichrist.

26.4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession Chapter 8 Christ the Mediator, section 9)speaks of Christ in this way:This office of Mediator between God and the human race belongs exclusively to Christ, who is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Church of God. This office may not be transferred from him to any other, either in whole or in part.

After 1830, the New Hampshire Confession became increasingly popular among Baptists in the North. It was an intentional modification of the Philadelphia Confession. In 1845, when the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, every delegate came from a church or association that had adopted the Philadelphia Confession or an abstract of the document. When the Abstract of Principles was drafted in 1858, it was an abstract of the 1689 Confession, though clearly in the same moderate vein as the New Hampshire Confession. It really wasn’t until the Baptist Faith and Message (1925) that you had a major non-Arminian Baptist confession in America that did not have the 1689 Confession in the immediate background; the BF&M was a modification of the New Hampshire Confession. Published in 1925 then modified in 1963 then again in 2000.

Catechism a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians.

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)The Council of Trent had just finished its work with its conclusions and decrees against the Protestant faith.One of the aims of the catechism was to counteract the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as well as Anabaptists. The Heidelberg interprets the title “Christ” in terms of the threefold office, in Lord’s Day 12, Question and Answer 31:

Q. Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?

A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who perfectly reveals to us

the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance; our only high priest

who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father; and our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a catechism written in 1646 and 1647 by the Westminster Assembly, a synod of English and Scottish theologians and laymen intended to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland. The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains the role of Christ as redeemer in terms of the threefold office:

Q. 23: What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?

Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Q. 24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?

Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Q. 25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

Q.26: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Jesus not only qualifies overseers in the church, but provides the job description as well. Two key passages in Scripture offer specific guidance for overseers in the church.

The Apostle Peter writes to the overseers of the early church:
1 Peter 5:2–3(ESV)Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul addresses the overseers of the church at Ephesus: Acts 20:28 (ESV)Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Jesus is the good shepherd, He puts overseers in place to protect and care for his flock. God promises great reward for those who fulfill this task faithfully: 1 Peter 5:4(ESV) “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory”.

Jesus is the perfect chief prophet, high priest, and King of kings, and as image-bearers of God and disciples of Christ, each of us will reflect aspects of his character in different ways. He provides the church with men and women who can lead, and their specific abilities will usually tend toward prophet, priest, or king, as a primary ability. They will also have a secondary. It is best to have a Prophet lead pastor with a complimentary Priest as an Associate pastor.

Of course, all leaders in the church must perform bits and pieces of each area, depending on the situation. In general, however, each leader will be stronger in a particular area, and a team of overseers in a church is most effective when they complement one another in the roles of prophet, priest, and king to fulfill the Great Commission:

1.To a prophet goes the work of proclaiming the news of
the kingdom, so that more people can receive it and be baptized. He is the primary leader, the main Bible preacher, and the visionary. If a church has just one paid employee, it’s the prophet. He is in the Thinking realm of teaching, part of the Head. A prophet of God is someone who reveals God, speaks for God, and communicates to people the truths that God wants them to know.
Undoubtedly, Jesus did this when he came to do the will of the Father (Luke 22:42(ESV)42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
 to reveal the Father (Matthew 11:27(ESV)27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
to speak the things of the Father.
John 8:28(ESV)28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.;
John 12:49(ESV)49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

2.To a priest goes the work of caring for the people of the kingdom, making disciples, and teaching the family of God how to enjoy new life in Jesus. The priest is a counselor,a midweek class teacher, or a small group leader. A church typically has more than one priest, usually serving as unpaid volunteers.He is in the Affective realm, feeling and caring, part of the Heart. The priests were the ones in the Old Testament who offered sacrifices to God in order to cleanse of sin. Ultimately, all such priests were representations of Jesus who is the True Priest who offered himself as a sacrifice
Ephesians 5:2(ESV)2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.; Hebrews 9:26-27(ESV)26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Hebrews 10:12(ESV)12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
by which he cleanses us of our sin (1 John 1:7(ESV)7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.. But, Jesus is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:20(ESV)“Where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”.   Hebrews 9:11 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation.” As a priest, Jesus is our mediator between God and ourselves,1 Timothy 2:5(ESV)5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,.

3.To a king goes the work of managing the kingdom, wisely stewarding the resources God has provided so that the church can grow until eventually the good news reaches all nations. The king administrates all or some of church business and operations. At a small church, the king is probably a volunteer, while a larger church might employ multiple staff to cover kingly functions. He is in the Behavioral, the doing realm, part of the Hands. A king is someone who has authority to rule and reign over a group of people. Jesus is just such a king. He is called the King of the Jews by the Magi (Matthew 2:2(ESV)2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”, and Jesus accepts that title in Matthew 27:11(ESV), “Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say.’” Matthew 21:5 speaks of Jesus and says, “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey.” Remember, Jesus is King in that he rules and judges.Revelation 19:11(ESV) “And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” The armies follow him (Revelation 19:14(ESV)14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.

A church doesn’t exist without someone preaching the Word of God. Indeed, the book of Acts shows that the church was born when Jesus’ disciples started preaching.

By definition, the church is a bunch of sinners who recognize their need for a Savior. When a large group of broken people gathers together, the counseling caseload and discipleship needs are obvious and rather urgent.

Unfortunately, it’s usually not until the church reaches a crisis point before anyone starts looking around for a king—like when the budget is shot, the staff is bloated, the new building needs a fundraiser, or the lead pastor is burning out.

Thanks to Mark Driscoll ministries, Ligonier, the 1689, Westminster and the Heidelberg Catechisms for the resources.

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