Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Effectual Call of God

Q. 31: What is effectual calling?
Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (WSC)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has already stated that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ by working faith in us. It goes on in this question to explain how the Spirit works faith in us in our effectual calling. Effectual calling is distinguished from ineffectual calling. Ineffectual calling is where the free call of the gospel is proclaimed without producing an effect. Effectual calling is the call of God through the gospel which produces a change in the person such that the person chooses to receive what is freely offered. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit which he uses to pierce the soul and heart of man (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). In effectual calling, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, the imperishable seed by which we are born again (1 Cor. 1:18, Rom. 1:16, 1 Peter 1:23).

In our effectual calling, the Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Christ. In the end, we choose to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior with a free will and convinced mind. But we do this as a consequence of the Spirit’s work. He works upon our minds and our wills. Both need to be renewed for us to receive Christ.

The Holy Spirit works on our minds by convincing us of the truth about our fallen estate (sin and misery) and enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, thereby persuading us to embrace Christ. He pricks our hearts with a true sense of our sin and misery and builds them up with an understanding of the gospel. Apart from the Spirit, we tend to minimize our fallen condition and trust in false hopes. In our fallen condition we suppress the truth and are spiritually blind to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4, 1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 1:18). But with the Spirit of the Lord, we are freed of this blindness and with an unveiled face behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:14-18). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Holy Spirit works on our wills by renewing them, enabling us to embrace Christ. Apart from the Spirit, our wills are corrupt, in rebellion against God, but this is changed when the Spirit comes to dwell in us (Rom. 8:7-9). The Spirit gives us a new heart and a new spirit, so that we begin to be disposed unto faith and obedience (Ezek. 36:26-27). All those and only those whom God draws in this way will freely come to Christ (John 6:44). Notice that God does not destroy man’s will, but renews it. Having a strong will is bad when it is opposed to God, but not when it is aligned with his will. In his work of redemption, God does not create people with broken wills, grudgingly doing the inevitable, but people who offer themselves to Christ freely, who force their way into the kingdom of God, and who run in the way of his commandments (Luke 16:16, Ps. 110:3, 119:32).

Monday, September 6, 2021

Abortion, Feminism, and the Creation Order

The point of anti-abortion laws is the same as existing laws against murder. The pro-life position argues that abortion is murder, the unjust taking of innocent human life.

This is why many of the objections to anti-abortion laws make no sense to someone who is pro-life. For example, exceptions for rape and incest do not make sense. Rape and incest should be punished, but they do not justify the killing of an innocent party.

This is not a "war against women." The focus of anti-abortion laws and the pro-life position is on the life of the unborn child. Its goal is not to punish or suppress women - in fact, the pro-life movement has resulted in many charitable efforts to help pregnant women and their children in difficult circumstances.

With that said, egalitarian feminism is waging a war, with unborn children as casualties. This is not true of all feminists - some have opposed abortion, pointing to other solutions such as birth control, adoption, and accommodations in the work place. But a certain type of feminism believes that women need access to abortion to eliminate the difference between men and women and preserve individual autonomy. With its individualist and egalitarian principles, it comes into conflict with nature (that is, the way things are designed to work).

In general, we naturally desire sex, which naturally leads to pregnancy, which naturally leads to distinctions between men and women and their abilities. Fathers and mothers have natural obligations to their children, just as those children will have reciprocal obligations to their parents. All this naturally leads to traditional marriage as the best arrangement for these factors, all of this being designed by God, including marriage.

The conservative and biblical approach is to strengthen marriage and the family (Ex. 20:12-14, 1 Cor. 7:2, 1 Tim. 5:4, 8-16). This includes passing laws such as those that limit divorce (Matt. 19:3-9), hold men accountable for premarital sex (Ex. 22:16-17), and punish rapists (Deut. 22:25-27). It also involves extended family and other institutions stepping in when the family breaks down (1 Tim. 5:3-10, Deut. 14:29, Ruth 1-4). Its approach is to exhort people to fulfill their natural obligations through custom, education, and law. But the modern theory that affirms a woman’s right to kill her unborn child for the sake of autonomy and equality ultimately denies that such obligations exist, which is a big problem. Like Cain, they distance themselves from the victim and disown their responsibility. "Am I my child's keeper?" As Carl Trueman puts it,
“Abortion is simply one way in which a fictional notion of what it means to be human is reflected in our culture and enabled by law. In denying the obligation of the mother and father to the child, legal abortion denies not simply the personhood of the child in the womb, but also the humanity of the mother and the father.” 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Union with Christ

Q. 30: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
Answer: The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. (WSC

As noted in my last post on the catechism, the redemption Christ purchased must be applied to us for us to benefit from it. This application is done by his Holy Spirit. In this question, the point is that he applies this redemption to us by uniting us to Christ. Redemption is not handed over to us apart from Christ, but through union with Christ. We receive life from Christ the way body parts receive life from the head - by being connected to him. The Spirit creates this bond and through this bond conveys what is Christ’s to us. The Bible compares our union with Christ - our being “in” Christ - to the union of body parts to the head, branches to a vine, and a wife to a husband (1 Cor. 6:15-17, 12:12-13, Eph. 5:22-33, John 15:1-11).

This union we have with Christ is legal and living. This union is legal (or forensic) in that he is accounted our representative head, whereby our sin is imputed to him (and thereby atoned for) and his righteousness is imputed to us. This union is also living (or mystical) in that we receive life and holiness from Christ, being renewed by him and conformed to his likeness. An analogy for this twofold union can be found in marriage, which is both a legal and living union. 

As this question points out, the Spirit creates this union by working faith in us. Our union with Christ can be thought of as a double bond of two cords, one from both directions: the Spirit going from Christ to us, and Spirit-produced faith from us to Christ. By faith, we receive Christ and all his benefits. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). The Spirit works this faith in us in our effectual calling, the topic of the next catechism question.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Hupomoné - Steadfastness, Perseverance, Endurance

Recently I searched for "steadfastness" on YouTube, and most of the results were from Muslims and Mormons. The few Christian results were about how God is steadfast. When I searched for "perseverance" on YouTube, the top results were mostly about the NASA rover by that name, but also included a motivational video and two Ted talks. The results were similar for "endurance." On the other hand, when I searched for "peace," about half the top results were from Christian sources.

While this was not a scientific study, it seemed to confirm my impression that modern Christian culture tends to emphasize passive experience more than active exertion. Evangelicals appreciate the comforting words of preservation but can feel uneasy with exhorting words to persevere, perhaps as an overreaction against moralism. 

But the Bible speaks of steadfastness, perseverance, and endurance as virtues which Christians ought to develop and practice. In fact, all three of these words are translations of the same Greek word, hupomoné (ὑπομονή), which refers to “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance” (BDAG). The verb form, ὑπομένω, means “to maintain a belief or course of action in the face of opposition, stand one’s ground, hold out, endure” (BDAG). The noun form occurs 32 times in the New Testament (see here) and the verb form occurs 17 times (see here). In all these occurrences, the word refers to the endurance of believers, except for three occasions where it describes Christ's endurance. Two of these occur in Hebrews 12 where Christ's endurance is presented as an example for us, that we also might "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). 

On the one hand, perseverance is a gift of God given to his elect. All who are chosen by God and who come to true faith in Christ will endure in it to the end by his grace (Col. 1:11, Phil. 1:6, John 6:37-40, John 10:28-29). On the other hand, it is also something which we do, using the means he has given. 

Steadfastness in the faith is required of all believers. Jesus said that "the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22, 24:13). In contrast to those who fall away, are led astray, or deny Christ, those who will be saved will endure to the end. The author of Hebrews exhorted the church, "you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised" (10:36). When Paul described our salvation, he qualified his statement by saying, "if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (1:23). 

Steadfastness is a virtue which all believers should develop. Hupomoné was traditionally discussed in discussions of the virtues in connection with courage and self-control. Aristotle contrasted the man of endurance with the soft man who is easily overcome by pain and difficulty (Ethics, 7.7). James 5:11 points to Job as an example of this virtue: “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” Paul told Timothy to pursue hupomoné (1 Tim. 6:11). The Apostle Peter listed hupomoné as a quality believers should adopt and practice. 

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness ... For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ... if you practice these qualities you will never fall." (2 Peter 1:5–6, 8, 10b).

We develop steadfastness as we practice it in our lives, root ourselves deeply in the word of God (Ps. 1), and make use of the means of grace in the fellowship of the saints (Heb. 10:23-25, Eph. 4:11-16). Without steadfastness, we are unstable. The unstable man will be driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6, Eph. 4:11-16, 2 Peter 3:16). Even when this instability does not lead to eternal judgment, it can cause serious trouble in a believer’s life and witness. 

In Romans 5:3 and James 1:3, hupomoné is described as a quality produced in a person by trials. This is why James can say, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (1:2), not because trials are good or enjoyable, but because "the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (1:3). James' words are not understandable unless one prizes steadfastness. This is why both James and Paul go on to extoll the blessing of steadfastness, how it undergirds the Christian life, making it habitual and lasting. “…endurance produces character…” (Rom. 5:4). “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Redemption Applied

Q. 29: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? 
Answer: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit. (WSC)

In the work of redemption, we move from the election of the Father, to the purchase of redemption by Christ, to the application of redemption by the Spirit. As 1 Peter 1:2 says, we are saved according to the “foreknowledge of the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” The blood of Christ and its benefits are applied to us by the Spirit. 

Of course, each person of the Trinity is involved in each work. Titus 3 mentions all of them when it says that the Father saved us by the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). 

The Spirit brings life from Christ to us, regenerating and renewing us, being as it were a conduit that connects us to Christ and his benefits. Without this union with Christ, all of Christ's work avails us nothing. As John Calvin explains,
“so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings.” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.1)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Christ's Exaltation and Our Exaltation

Q. 28: Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? 
Answer: Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day. (WSC)

“Therefore God has highly exalted him…” (Phil. 2:9). While the Son had dwelt from eternity in heavenly glory as God, yet for our sake he humbled himself in his incarnation, mortal life, suffering, and death. In this way he purchased redemption for us. As a result, he was highly exalted by the Father and given all authority in heaven and on earth. He had not lost his divine authority, but he received it in his office as the redeemer. Having overcome sin and death, he rose in power and glory.

Notice a subtle change from the last catechism question to this question, from “Wherein did … consist?” to “Wherein consisteth…?” Christ is currently in his estate of exaltation. The catechism notes four parts to his exaltation: (1) his resurrection from the dead on the third day, (2) his ascension into heaven, (3) his session at the right hand of the Father, and (4) his coming to judge the world at the last day.

Christ’s sitting at his Father’s right hand is referred to as his “session,” since that word refers to a council or ruler sitting to conduct their business, as when we say “the court is in session.” Christ sits, not because he is tired, but because he is enthroned and ruling, having completed the work of purchasing redemption.

Consider how in each of these elements of his exaltation, Jesus does the work as our head for our good. His resurrection was for our justification, quickening in grace, and bodily resurrection (Rom. 4:24-25, Eph. 2:5-6, 1 Cor. 15). Jesus ascended into heaven to receive gifts for us, so as to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us (Acts 2:33, Eph. 4:7-11). He also ascended to raise us up with him to the heavenly places, so that at death our souls ascend there to be with him (Eph. 2:6, Phil. 1:23). Jesus is presently enthroned at the right hand of the Father, and from this position of power he gathers and sanctifies his church, subdues its enemies, and equips his ministers and people with gifts and graces (Ps. 110:1, Eph. 1:20-23, 4:10-16). There he also makes continual intercession for us, securing our access to our Father and his acceptance of our persons and services (Rom. 8:34). Jesus shall come again in judgement for the redemption of our bodies from corruption and for our acquittal and vindication. He will come to give us our inheritance and reward in the new heavens and new earth, making us perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul in union with God to all eternity (Rom. 8:23, 1 Cor. 15:22-23, Matt. 25:31-46). Through faith in Christ, these benefits of his exaltation are ours.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:12)

For more on Christ’s estates of humiliation and exaltation, you can read questions 46-56 of the Larger Catechism at this link.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

How Christ Humbled Himself for Us

Q. 27: Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist?
Answer: Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time. (WSC)

The eternal Son of God humbled himself for his people's salvation. As Philippians 2:1-11 says, though he was God, equal with the Father, yet he became a servant, in humility counting others more significant than himself. He looked not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others.

As the catechism has already explained and as Philippians 2 recounts, his estate of humiliation began when he took on human nature, being conceived in Mary’s womb and born of her. And not only did the one by whom all things were created become man, but he was born into a relatively poor family. He had a manger for his cradle. He was an exile in Egypt as an infant. He grew up in an obscure little town as the son of a carpenter (Luke 2, Matt. 2). In addition, he submitted to the regulations of the Mosaic law such as circumcision as one of his people (Gal. 4:4, Luke 2:21-27).

While Jesus never sinned, yet he experienced the misery of our fallen estate. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). He bore our sins and received our punishment, undergoing the wrath of God and the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross (Is. 53). We see his experience of God’s wrath particularly as he approached his death in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) and on the cross itself (Matt. 27:46). Yet in both places he continued to call on his Father and submit to his will, entrusting his spirit and his vindication to his Father. Then, after Jesus died, his lifeless body was laid in the tomb and he continued in the state of the dead and under the dominion of death for a time (Rom. 6:9, Acts 2:24-27).

It is important to remember that Jesus undertook this work out of love for us and in willingly submission to his Father who sent him in love for us (Eph. 5:2, John 6:38). And while Jesus humbled himself during this time, yet this work was in fact a triumph. The cross - the epitome of shame and defeat - was actually the instrument by which our debt of sin was canceled and by which demonic powers were disarmed and put to shame (Col. 2:14-15). And it was because Jesus humbled himself in this way that he was consequently exalted in supreme glory as Lord and Savior (Phil. 2:9-11).

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Jesus the King

Q. 26: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Answer: 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. (WSC)

While Jesus has an eternal dominion over all as God, he also has received a mediatorial dominion over all as our Redeemer, to the end that he might save, lead, and protect God’s elect and thereby restore God’s reign over a fallen world (Matt. 28:18).

By nature, the world is under the kingdom of Satan and the judgment of God. But by grace, people are brought into the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God and of His Christ (Col. 1:13-14). Jesus binds the strong man and plunders his house, drawing people into his kingdom (Matt. 12:25-29).

The kingdom of Israel under King David and his heirs was the manifestation of this kingdom in the Old Testament. God chose this people and provided them with a king to deliver them and give them peace and rest (2 Sam. 7:8-11, Ps. 78:70-72). He promised to raise up David’s offspring to succeed him and to establish his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:12-16, Ps. 72, 89:1-37).

Yet, as David’s descendants acted corruptly, the kingdom fell. The prophets explained to the people that this was temporary. God would remember his covenant with David and raise up his heir and restore his kingdom and make it greater than ever before (Is. 9:6-7, 11:1-10, Ezek. 34:23-24, Micah 5:2-4). The king would return to Israel and shepherd God’s people and extend his reign to the ends of the earth. This would be the Christ, God’s anointed, who would deliver his people and establish heaven’s reign on earth. As the fulfillment of this prophecy, Jesus came as the Son of David, the promised king (Luke 1:31-33).

Psalm 110 serves as a good summary of his kingship. Jesus was enthroned as king when he ascended to his Father’s right hand on the basis of his victorious work of redemption (Ps. 110:1). He now rules in the midst of his enemies, making his enemies his footstool (110:1-2). First, he does this by subduing the hearts of his people in conversion by his word and Spirit, so that they “offer themselves freely on the day of [his] power” (110:3). He rules his people internally by his grace and externally by his word, discipline, and officers. He rewards their obedience, corrects them for their sins, and orders all things for their good. Second, he does this by restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. He “will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses” (110:5-6). As Psalm 2 describes the choice, we must either submit to the king and take refuge in him or suffer his wrath and perish (Ps. 2:12). He wields this power even now as he extends his kingdom. For example, he overthrew Jerusalem for its persistent persecution of him and his disciples. But one day he will return in glory to judge the world, bringing all of this work to perfect completion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Jesus the Priest

Q. 25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Answer: 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. (WSC)

As the catechism has already said, Jesus became our redeemer to deliver us from our estate of sin and misery. The position of redeemer (the larger catechism uses the term “mediator” to refer to the same position) has three aspects. As our redeemer he executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king.

The book of Hebrews explains a great deal about the priesthood of Jesus. It describes how he is a merciful high priest, able to sympathize with our weakness, having been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 2:17, 4:15). It teaches that he is a priest of the order of Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem who received a tithe from Abraham and was a type of Christ (Heb. 7, Ps. 110:4). In contrast to the Levitical priests, who were “many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Heb. 7:23-24). He continues even now to make intercession for those who draw near to God through him (Heb. 7:25). Hebrews also explains how Jesus secured an eternal redemption by his once-for-all offering of himself as a sacrifice without blemish to God (Heb. 9:12, 14). “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” (Hebrews 9:26).

By his death, Jesus satisfied divine justice and reconciled us to God. His sacrifice of himself was a “propitiation” for our sins (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10), which is to say that it appeased the just wrath of God and incurred God's favor by atoning for our sins. It is the grounds for our forgiveness, the debt of sin having been paid by Christ. It is the basis for Christ's intercession for us before the Father, so that our persons and service is accepted by him. This is not to say that Jesus and the Father were at cross-purposes. The Father had sent the Son because of his love for us for this very purpose, that God and sinners be reconciled. As John Murray has said, “The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Jesus the Prophet

Q. 24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Answer: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (WSC)

I think it is safe to say that Moses was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. The concluding postscript of Deuteronomy says that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt…” (Deut. 34:10-11). Yet, Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15-16 that the Lord would raise up a prophet like Moses for his people, to mediate between them and the Lord.

When people began to observe Jesus’ teaching and miracles, they realized that he was this great prophet, the Prophet. The Gospel of John makes this clear by noting that John the Baptist denied that he was the Prophet (John 1:21-27), while the people correctly realized that Jesus was the Prophet (John 6:14, 7:40). Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 in Acts 3:22 as referring to Jesus.

Both John and the writer of Hebrews pointed out that Jesus surpassed the other prophets by being God himself, the eternal Word, the only-begotten Son of the Father (John 1:1-3, 14-18, Hebrew 1:1-3, 3:1-6). Jesus makes his Father known perfectly and completely because he is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). And as the Redeemer who accomplished redemption, Jesus proclaimed the final and permanent administration of the covenant of grace. Therefore Jesus is the final word. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2a). This is why Scripture was completed and revelation ceased once his word given through the apostles was written down (Heb. 2:3-4).

Jesus exercised this prophetic ministry during his time on earth as he preached the gospel, taught his disciples, told parables, pronounced blessings and woes, foretold future events, taught through symbolic actions, and did miracles, signs, and wonders. Yet, his earthly ministry was not the only time he executed the office of a prophet. He also revealed God’s will by his Spirit through the prophets and through his apostles whom he commissioned (1 Peter 1:11, John 14:25-26, 15:26-27). The prophets and apostles are the foundation and he is the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). In addition, Jesus continues to exercise this office as he disciples us through Scripture and enlightens our minds by his Spirit to understand it (1 Cor. 2:12-16).

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Prophet, Priest, and King

Q. 23: What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
Answer: 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. (WSC)

The eternal Son of God became our redeemer to deliver us out of an estate of sin and misery unto an estate of salvation and glory. He became the mediator between God and sinful man. He is not our redeemer and mediator by nature, but by grace. As our redeemer, he fulfills the duties of a prophet, a priest, and a king. In the Old Testament, people were appointed to these offices by anointing (by the Spirit and/or with a ceremony using oil), and so Jesus is called the "Christ," which in Greek means the "anointed one" (as does the Hebrew word "Messiah.") He fulfilled the duties of these offices in his life on earth and he has continued to fulfill them in heaven.

God laid down the pattern for these offices in the work of the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel in the Old Testament. The prophets like Moses, Elisha, and Jeremiah delivered God’s word to his people, often did miracles which demonstrated God’s power and mercy, and interceded for the people. The priests like Aaron, Zadok, and Ezra received God’s word from the prophets and taught it, maintained the worship and holiness of God, offered the various sacrifices of the people to reconcile them to God, and interceded for the people. The kings like David, Asa, and Jehoshaphat received God’s word from the priests and enforced it, guided the people by it, delivered the people from their enemies, gave them peace in the land, and interceded for the people. Sometimes these offices overlapped. Melchizedek was both a priest and king, Ezekiel was both a priest and a prophet, and David was primarily known as a king but was also a prophet (Acts 2:30).

Yet, all these men were themselves in need of salvation and all of them died. Their insufficiency pointed forward to one who would come and fulfill these tasks for God’s people and accomplish an eternal redemption. It was necessary that God himself come to fulfill these tasks. In fact, when Jesus was born, it had been hundreds of years since a prophet had prophesied and even longer since the last Davidic king had reigned. This increased all the more the sense of expectation among the people as they looked forward to the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies. Scripture prophesied that a man would come who would be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-16), a king from the line of David (Is. 9:6-7), and a priest who would make atonement by his own death and who would make intercession for his people (Is. 53).