Last week we looked into the work of Christ in His two stages of humiliation and exaltation. Seeing His work in that manner is very helpful indeed, but within these two stages there is another thing for us to see, namely the threefold office of Christ.
It is summarized clearly in the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q23, which asks and answers as follows: ‘Q: What offices does Christ execute as our Redeemer? A: Christ, as our Redeemer, executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in His humiliation and exaltation.’ So see how joined along with the explanation of His humiliation and exaltation, is the description of Jesus, our Redeemer, executing three offices in His work: prophet, priest, and king.
Not all theologians throughout Church history have believed in these three offices, while others of them see these offices in a kind of chronological order, as if Jesus was functioning as Prophet during His earthly ministry, functioning as Priest in His sacrifice, and now functions as King on the throne. First of all, I disagree with such reasoning, and believe that Jesus functions in all three offices throughout his humiliation and exaltation. Secondly, I also want to make clear that these three offices are united in the one Person of Christ, and because of this it can sometimes be difficult to draw sharp lines between these three offices because in the redemptive work of Christ His whole Person is on display. Thirdly, we must conclude that if the fall didn’t happen man would function in these three roles now, but due to the fall God now executes these offices through His Son.
Today, we’ll begin with Jesus as Prophet, and Lord wiling in the next two weeks we’ll cover Jesus as Priest and King.
The Prophetic Office
I should state a few things in general about the office of prophet if we’re to understand Christ as our Prophet. Prophets were special. They are referred to in Scripture as the mouthpiece, the herald, the messengers, and the watchman of God. Created by God, called by God, and commissioned by God to declare God’s Word to God’s people, no matter the cost. A prophet was one who had the very word of God on their lips, and because of having the word of God on their lips the words of the prophet were just as authoritative as if the divine voice of God uttered audibly from heaven.
They were not responsible for the results of such preaching, they were charged to faithfully proclaim what God had made known to them, that’s it. That may seem straight forward enough to you, but often their preaching caused quite a stir in God’s people, which made being a faithful prophet a difficult calling because the message they were given by God was not always favorable.
When we think of the prophets we think of Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, Amos, etc., all the way up to the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist. It was their duty and delight to proclaim the Word of God to God’s people. You can imagine that due to the nature of this calling, some prophets were quite famous, and because of this there were many who claimed to be a prophet that weren’t. So part of the test of a true prophet, was the truthfulness of their words. If they proclaimed their own words or their own ideas that in time proved false, all the people would know they were false prophets, and by consequence all the people would know who the true prophets are as well.
So we find in Hebrews 1:1, ‘Long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.’
Part of the preaching of prophets was to proclaim to the people that one day the greatest Prophet would come. In this manner Moses says in Deut. 18:15 and following, ‘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…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. And whoever will not listen to My words that He shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.’
In context, this refers to Moses’ successor Joshua, but ultimately this points forward to Jesus Christ, who is a Prophet with a capital P. John Calvin comments on this saying, ‘God, by providing His people with an unbroken line of prophets, never left them without useful doctrine sufficient for salvation, yet the minds of the pious had always been imbued with the conviction that they were to hope for the full light of understanding only at the coming of the Messiah.’ So we read earlier in Hebrews 1:1 that God spoke to our fathers through the prophets, and if we continue on we read in Hebrews 1:2, ‘…but in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son…’
So the office of prophet is a speaking office, through which God gives His Word to His people, which culminated in God sending His very Word (His Son) to His people.