Christ Our Prophet, Priest and King by Jack Kettler
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)
When we talk about Christ holding the office of prophet, priest, and king in the New Covenant administration, we inevitably have to look back to the Old Covenant administration to see how the God’s people in the past looked forward to the Messianic hope that was developing along three lines, which ultimately was completed with the Son of David, the Messiah holing all three prophetic offices.
Believers in the Old Covenant looked forward to a prophet like Moses, a perfect high priest, and a coming king to rule over Israel forever.
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose of glorifying God in how we live.
Definitions from two sources:
Threefold offices of Christ:
Christ’s mediatorial work through which he accomplishes salvation seen as his fulfilling the duties of the offices of prophet, priest and king. *
Offices of Christ:
Jesus also occupies three main offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. In other words, Jesus functions and/or has functioned in these offices. **
These Messianic offices were anticipated in the Old Covenant:
The Messianic Prophet is seen in: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
The Messianic Priest is seen in: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
The Messianic King is seen in: “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:6)
Scriptural passages that support the Threefold offices of Christ:
From Scripture, Christ as a Prophet:
“A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:22-23)
From the Pulpit Commentary on Acts 3:22-23:
Verse 22. – Moses indeed said for Moses truly said unto the fathers, A.V. and T.R.; the Lord God for the Lord your God, A.V. and T.R.; from among for of, A.V.; to him shall ye hearken for him shall ye hear, A V.; speak for say, A.V. Moses indeed said. Peter now verifies his assertion about the prophets in the previous verse by quoting from Moses, and referring to Samuel and those that came after. A prophet, etc. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 18:15-18. That this was understood by the Jews to relate to some one great prophet who had not yet come, appears from the question “Art thou that prophet?” (John 1:21), and from the saying of the Jews after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14; John 7:40). St. Peter here teaches that that prophet was none other than Christ himself, who was like unto Moses in the fullness of the revelation given unto him, in his being a Mediator between God and the people, in being the Author of a new law – the law of faith and love, in building a new tabernacle for God to inhabit, even the Church in which he will dwell for ever and ever (see Hebrews 1:1, 2).
Verse 23. – Shall be for come to pass, A.V.; shall not hearken to for will not hear, A.V.; utterly destroyed for destroyed, A.V. Utterly destroyed. The Greek ἐξολοθρεύω οξξυρσ frequently in the LXX. for the Hebrew phrase,” cut off from his people” (Genesis 17:14); but in Deuteronomy 18:19, the phrase is quite different, “I will require it of him.” St. Peter here gives the sense, not the ipsissima verba, and thereby marks the extreme gravity of the sin of unbelief (see John 3:18). (1)
From Scripture, Christ as a Priest:
“Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:13)
From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Zechariah 6:13:
Even he shall build: the promise is repeated to settle the Jews in the assured expectation of the thing.
The temple of the Lord; your material temple as type, and the spiritual temple as antitype.
He shall bear the glory of both kingly office and priestly, the glory of both those crowns shall abide on him, the only person worthy of it.
He shall sit; which speaks both his royal magnificence and the perpetuity of it.
And rule; though he shall have many attendants and officers, yet he shall rule, give laws, distribute rewards, and punish offenders.
Upon his throne; his by birth, by donation, by purchase, and by conquest, his most undoubtedly by best right.
He shall be a priest; the great High Priest, to offer the great sacrifice to God, to make reconciliation, to intercede for his people: this is that meant by the crowns set on thy head, O Joshua.
The counsel of peace shall be between them both; the peace made for God’s people shall rest upon these two, the kingly and priestly office of Christ: by his priestly office he shall make their peace with God, by his kingly office he shall deliver them from spiritual enemies; by priestly operation he shall expiate our sin, by the power of his kingly office he shall extirpate sin; as Priest he makes, as King maintains, peace; purchase as a Priest, protect as a King. (2)
“Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 6:20)
From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Hebrews 6:20:
- The absence of the Greek article requires Alford’s translation, “Where. As forerunner for us (that is, in our behalf), entered Jesus” [and is now: this last clause is implied in the ‘where’ of the Greek, which implies being IN a place: ‘whither’ is understood to ‘entered,’ taken out of ‘where’; whither Jesus entered, and where He is now]. The “for us” implies that it was not for Himself, as God, He needed to enter there, but as our High Priest, representing and introducing us, His followers, opening the way to us, by His intercession with the Father, as the Aaronic high priest entered the Holiest Place once a year to make propitiation for the people. The first-fruits of our nature are ascended, and so the rest is sanctified. Christ’s ascension is our promotion: and whither the glory of the Head has preceded, thither the hope of the body, too, is called. We ought to keep festal day, since Christ has taken up and set in the heavens the first-fruit of our lump, that is, the human flesh [Chrysostom]. As John Baptist was Christ’s forerunner on earth, so Christ is ours in heaven. (3)
From Scripture, Christ as a King:
“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:6)
“Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.” (John 12:15)
“Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:15)
From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on 1 Timothy 6:15:
Which in his times he shall show – Which God will reveal at such times as he shall deem best. It is implied here that the time is unknown to people; see the notes on Acts 1:7.
Who is the blessed and only Potentate – God, who is the ruler over all. The word used here – δυνάστης dunastēs – means one who is “mighty” Luke 1:22, then a prince or ruler; compare Acts 8:27. It is applied here to God as the mighty ruler over the universe.
The King of kings – Who claims dominion over all the kings of the earth. In Revelation 7:14, the same appellation is applied to the Lord Jesus, ascribing to him universal dominion.
Lord of lords – The idea here is, that all the sovereigns of the earth are under his sway; that none of them can prevent the accomplishment of his purposes; and that he can direct the winding up of human affairs when he pleases. (4)
The next entry is a good survey on the topic of the threefold offices of Christ.
From The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge:
JESUS CHRIST, THREEFOLD OFFICE OF: A phrase connoting the functions of Christ as prophet, priest, and king.
From the earliest times Jesus has been recognized as the representative of a twofold and yet unitary theocratic function, as king and priest. The spiritual kingdom of the Messiah has its foundation in the sacrifice of his life (Matt. xvi. 16-25, xx. 25-28). This thought may be traced from the second century to the time of the Reformation. But as early as Eusebius a threefold office is ascribed to Christ that of prophet, priest, and king, and this is traceable to Jewish sources. The view of a threefold office, however, did not suppress the tradition of a twofold office, although the three designations of Christ were always used separately. Among the medieval theologians, Thomas Aquinas approaches closely the conception of Eusebius since he speaks of legislator, sacerdos, and rex, but with him this is merely a mechanical division, and Thomas makes no further use of the threefold scheme. The Evangelical doctrine followed in the beginning the tradition of a twofold office (cf. the works of Luther and the older Evangelical catechisms). Calvin added the prophetic office as a third function, and his conception of the doctrine of Christ’s work became the basis for its treatment in Reformed theology and soon also in Lutheran theology. As prophet the Messiah brings the full light of intelligence and thus becomes the fulness and consummation of all revelations. As king of a spiritual and eternal kingdom he not only brings his people external and passing aid, but equips them especially with the gifts for eternal life and guards them against their enemies. As priest Christ secures to his people by his atonement and vicarious suffering the blessing that God deals with them not as judge, but as gracious father. In accordance with these principles Calvin emphasized the truth that communion with God is found in Christ’s living personality and in life communion with that personality. In the Heidelberg Catechism (Questions 31 and 32) the thought of Calvin received a finished form and found a large circulation. The orthodox followers of Calvin, however, attempted both to explain the full content of the Messianic person from three points of view, and to analyze the act of salvation in its historical development according to the threefold scheme, thus not easily escaping the mistaken assumption that Christ had become first prophet, then priest, and finally king. It became the custom to deprive Christ of his royal function in the state of humiliation and of the prophetical function in the state of exaltation. Against this mechanical tendency, Cocceius opened new and fruitful points of view by returning to the living material of the Bible. The usual order of the offices of Christ seemed to him justified in so far as the dignity of Christ rose in the growing mind of the people, from the state of a prophet to that of a king. But in reality, be states, Christ’s priesthood must be put in the first place, since even before time he mediated between his Father and the people; then follow the royal and prophetic offices. The first office is that through which Christ acquires his people; the second that through which he keeps them; and the third that through which he leads them to the knowledge and love of the king. This double consideration would have resulted in an organic and simultaneous union of the offices in the living personality, even if Cocceius had not expressly added that the entire mediatorial act lasted until the end of days.
The Roman catechism also teaches the threefold office of Christ.
In Lutheran Theology.
In Lutheran theology the doctrine was adopted only at a late period. Melanchthon had not left to the school of theology which followed him a uniform system as Calvin had left for Reformed orthodoxy. The interest in the individual reception of justification drew attention from an all-sided objective observation of Christ and his gifts. There was even a tendency to reduce the twofold office of Christ to a single function. According to Melanchthon and Hesshusen, Christ is before everything priest; even as king he exercises essentially priestly functions. Selnecker seems to have been the first who used the formula of a threefold office, but his exposition is governed also by the priesthood of Christ, to which the two other offices are related like introduction and conclusion. Others again, like Gerhard, tried to identify the priestly and prophetical offices. Hemming and Nicohlus Hunnius taught that the office of the king was supreme and that it comprehended the other two functions. Everywhere the same concentration upon one point is found. In the meantime, however, Hafenreffer and especially Gerhard had directed their attention to the idea of a threefold office as advocated by Eusebius and Calvin. Gerhard not only used the new expression, but tried to prove that only the sum of the three offices offers the fulness of Christ’s benevolent gifts. In the regnum potentiae he found a specific function for the royal office. Since the middle of the seventeenth century, after the old Melanchthonian scheme of dogmatics had been replaced by an objective and historical arrangement of the material, there was room for a coherent representation of the work of Christ, which was systematized according to the threefold office. There was a reaction of the old Lutheran sentiment in 1773 when Ernesti criticized the reigning doctrine because he could not see why the clear and sufficient designation of the work of Christ as satisfaction should be obscured by metaphorical phrases. Moreover, he was of the opinion that the different offices were not clearly separated from each other, so that one title might justly cover all of them. Other dogmaticians after him raised similar objections on the ground that neither the prophetical nor the royal office stands upon equal footing with the priestly office, but that both point to the atonement which is included in it. But the majority of recent dogmaticians adhere to the scheme of a threefold office. Schleiermacher took the lead in this tendency by attempting the successful proof that the three offices in their indissoluble union completely define and circumscribe the character of redemption as accomplished by Christ. With the exclusion of the prophetic office, he holds, the clear consciousness of the believer would be superseded by a magical mediation of salvation. Without the royal office, there would be lacking the relation of the individual believer to a community. Finally, the absence of the priestly office would rob foundation of Christ of its religious content.
Interpretation and Significance of the Doctrine.
The doctrine of Christ’s threefold office represents the redeemer as the fulfiller of all Old-Testament prophecies and thus of all needs of the human being. Everything that Israel expected of its future salvation had concentrated itself more and more in the hope of the Messiah, “the anointed of God” (John i. 41, iv. 25). He was thought of as the king who was to restore the glory of David’s kingdom. In the course of time the prophet, who as successor of Moses was never to be wanting among God’s people (Deut. xviii. 15), became identical with the Messiah (John vi.14-15). The third office is reflected in the picture of the Mesaiah in Isa. liii. God’s people can feel themselves secure only when all conflict of the theocratic offices is excluded by unity and every blessing of salvation is to be found in one single person (Heb. vii. 23 sqq.). There was a longing especially for the solution of the frequent historical conflict between kingdom and priesthood (I Sam. ii. 35; Zech. vi. 12 sqq.). A priest-king after the manner of Melchizedek was hoped for (Ps. cx. 4). All these elements were combined in the idea of the Messiah who was to possess the spirit of God in many-sided fulness and as the power of a comprehensive redeeming activity (Isa. xi. 1 sqq., lxi. 1 sqq.; cf. Luke iv. 18 sqq.; John iii. 34). The anointing with the spirit mentioned in these passages has the significance of the anointing of kings, priests, and to a certain extent also of prophets in so far as they were endowed with the charismata. By confessing Jesus as Christ, the Christian congregation expresses that it finds in him the performer of all activities which secure salvation to the people of God. Jesus is king (Matt. xxi. 5, xxvii. 11), prophet (Matt. xxi. 11; Luke vii. 16), and high priest (Heb. ii. 17, iii. 1). The scheme of the threefold office permits of arranging the Biblical material in its original connection, as it belongs to a complete representation of the person of Christ. Its systematic value becomes evident only from the proof that for the fulfilment of the Messianic activity there is necessary nothing more and nothing less than the functions designated by it. The three offices of prophet, priest, and king correspond to the needs of the moral education of man and of his connection with human society and the surrounding world. If the activity of Christ on earth were restricted to atonement, it would not be possible to speak of the perfection of the human being in connection with Christ. It is a matter of course that in every moment of his earthly and heavenly activity Christ exercises at one and the same time all his offices. Socinianism claims for the entire activity of Christ on earth only the prophetical office in order to reserve the other functions as faint ornaments’ for the state of exaltation (Racovian Catechism, 191 sqq., 456 sqq.). The permanent union and simultaneous exercise of the three functions do not exclude, however, a fixed aim, namely, the kingdom. To this as the organizing purpose of the whole points before everything the Biblical basis of the formula, the starting-point and essential content of the Messianic office is royal dominion over and for God’s people, the peculiar modification of which is described by the other titles.
(E. F. KARL MILLER.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY: For history of the doctrine consult: H. L. J. Heppe, Dogmatik des deutschen Protestantismus im 16. Jahrhundert, pp, 209 sQq. 222 sqq. Gotha 1857 idem, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, Elberfeld, 1861; A. Schweizer, Glaubenslehre der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, vol, ii., Zurich, 1847 H. Schmid, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, Frankfort, 1876: A.
Ritsehl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Vershnung, i. 520 sqq. iii. 394 sq., Bonn, 1882-83, Eng. transl., of vol. i., Edinburgh, 1872. For exposition of the doctrine consult the literature under DOGMA, DOGMATICS; WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY. (5)
The value of this next section utilizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism along with scriptural proofs will be seen immediately. The Shorter Catechism is designed for teenagers and young adults in Reformed Churches. The catechism teaching method uses questions and answers. The questions and answers function as a powerful memorization technique.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Of Christ’s Offices:
Question 23 – What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
Answer 23.) 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. (1)
(1) Acts 3:21-22; Hebrews 12:25; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Hebrews 5:5-7, 7:25; Psalm 2:6; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 21:5; Psalm 2:8-11;
Question 24 – How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Answer 24.) Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (1)
(1) John 1:18; 1 Peter 1:10-12; John 15:15, 20:31;
Question 25 – How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Answer 25.) Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice,(1) and reconcile us to God,(2) and in making continual intercession for us.(3)
(1) Hebrews 9:14, 28;
(2) Hebrews 2:17;
(3) Hebrews 7:24-25;
Question 26 – How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Answer 26.) Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, (1) in ruling (2) and defending us, (3) and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (4)
(1) Acts 15:14-16;
(2) Isaiah 33:22;
(3) Isaiah 32:1-2;
(4) 1 Corinthians 15:25; Psalm 110:1-7;
The Threefold Office of Christ by R. C. Sproul:
“One of the great contributions to a Christian understanding of the work of Christ is John Calvin’s exposition of the threefold office of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.1 As the prophet of God par excellence, Jesus was both the object and subject of prophecy. His person and His work are the focal point of Old Testament prophecy, yet He Himself was a prophet. In Jesus’ own prophetic statements, the kingdom of God and His role within the coming kingdom are major themes. A principal activity of a prophet was to declare the Word of God. Jesus not only declared the Word of God, He is Himself the Word of God. Jesus was the supreme Prophet of God, being God’s Word in the flesh.
The Old Testament prophet was a kind of mediator between God and the people of Israel. He spoke to the people on behalf of God. The priest spoke to God on behalf of the people. Jesus also fulfilled the role of the great High Priest. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices regularly, but Jesus offered a sacrifice of everlasting value once for all time. Jesus’ offering to the Father was the sacrifice of Himself. He was both the offering and the offerer.
Whereas in the Old Testament the mediating offices of prophet, priest, and king were held by separate individuals, all three offices are held supremely in the one person of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Psalm 110. He is the one who is both David’s descendant and David’s Lord. He is the Priest who is also the King. The Lamb who is slain is also the Lion of Judah. To gain a full understanding of the work of Christ we must not
- Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:425-429.
View Him merely as a prophet, or as a priest, or as a king. All three offices are perfectly fulfilled in Him.
- Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and was Himself a prophet.
- Jesus was both Priest and sacrifice. As Priest, He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin.
- Jesus is the anointed King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
Biblical passages for reflection:
Hebrews 5:5-6” (6)
“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)
In this passage from Revelation, we see all three offices of Christ. Let’s consider John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on this passage:
“And from Jesus Christ, Who, though the second Person in the Trinity, is mentioned last, because many things were to be said of him; and who is described in all his offices: in his prophetic office,
the faithful witness; as he is of his Father, of his mind and will, with respect to doctrine and worship; of his truth and faithfulness in his promises; and of his love, grace, and mercy, to his chosen; and of himself, of his true deity, proper sonship, and perfect equality with the Father; of his Messiahship, and of salvation through his obedience, sufferings, and death; and of all truth in general, to which he has bore a faithful testimony [prophetic office] several ways, in his ministry, by his miracles, at his death, and by the shedding of his blood to seal it; by his Spirit since, and by the ministers of his word: he is described in his priestly office be
the first begotten of the dead: being the first that rose from the dead by his own power, and to an immortal life; for though some few were raised before him, yet not by themselves, nor to live for ever, but to die again. Moreover, he is the firstfruits of the resurrection, the pledge and earnest of it, as well as the efficient cause and exemplar of it. This character supposes that he died, as he did, for the sins of his people; and that he rose again from the dead, as he did, for their justification; and that he rose first as their head and representative, and opened the way of life for them. And he is described in his kingly office, for it follows,
and the Prince of the kings of the earth: which is not to be understood figuratively of the saints, who have power over sin, Satan, and the world, through the efficacious grace of Christ, and of whom he is Prince or King; but literally of the kings and princes of this world, over whom Christ is King and Lord, who receive their crowns and kingdoms from him, and rule by him, and are accountable to him, as they one day must be. Next follows a doxology, or an ascription of glory to him,
unto him that hath loved us; his own, his people, his church, his chosen, and who are given him by his Father; these he has loved with an everlasting and unchangeable love, with a love of complacency and delight, which passes knowledge, and will never end: and which he has shown in espousing their persons, undertaking their cause, assuming their nature, and in nothing more than in giving himself for them as a propitiatory sacrifice, or in dying and shedding his precious blood for them, as is next expressed:
and washed us from our sins in his own blood; [priestly office] which shows that these persons were loved before washed; they were not first washed, and then loved, but first loved, and then washed. Love was the cause of washing, and not washing the cause of love; hence it appears that they were in themselves filthy, and unclean through sin; and that they could not cleanse themselves by anything they could do; and that such was the love of Christ to them, that he shed his precious blood for them, which is a fountain opened, to wash in for sin, and which cleanses from all sin. This is to be understood, not of the sanctification of their natures, which is the work of the Spirit, but of atonement for their sins, and justification from them by the blood of Christ, whereby they are so removed, that they are all fair, and without spot. It is afterwards said, that these same persons are made priests; and it may be observed, that the priests were always washed, before they performed their service, as such (n). The Alexandrian copy and the Syriac and Arabic versions read, “and hath loosed us from our sins in”, or “by his blood”; that is, from the guilt of them, which was bound upon them.” (7)
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
- D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Acts, Vol. 18, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 95.
- Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), pp. 999-1000.
- Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1413.
- Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1 Timothy, p. 3942.
- Philip Schaff, Editor, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI: (Christian Classic Ethereal Library PDF), pp. 174-176.
- C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christians Faith, (Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), p. 85-86.
- John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Revelation, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 10-11.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/
** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics
And at: https://carm.org/