By Rev. James Petigru Boyce
THE OFFICES OF CHRIST.
THREE offices are ascribed by the Scriptures to Christ--those of prophet, priest and king.
This word is to be taken in its wider sense of inspired teacher.
It is frequently confined, in common language, to one who foretells future events. But it literally means one who speaks for his God, and denotes a divine teacher merely. Thus Moses is spoken of as a prophet, and Christ was foretold as a prophet who should he like unto Moses.
It is in connection with this that the term Logos, or Word, applied to Christ in the 1st chapter of John is appropriate.
With the office of teacher, Christ united, as was common with the prophets, the prediction of future events and the working of miracles. But the office of teacher was his special work as prophet.
This work is discharged in the following ways:
1. In the personal revelations which he made, before the days of his incarnation, to our first parents, to the patriarchs and to others of their day, to Moses and the people of God in the wilderness, and to various others, as Manoah, the children in the furnace, etc. These were made in appearances of human form, in the burning bush, in the pillar of cloud and fire, in the Shechinah, etc., etc.
2. In the inspired revelations which he made through holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The Old Testament Scriptures are composed of a portion of these.
3. While on earth in his incarnation.
(1) Personally as, (a) he set forth by his own acts the divine attributes, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity of existence, etc., and (b) as he exhibited God's love for man, his hatred of sin, and his love of holiness and righteousness in the work of man's salvation.
(2) By his instructions, as he taught (a) in words to his disciples and others what he exhibited in his person as to the matters above stated, and (b) the truths relative to the kingdom he was to establish, its nature, its subjects, the relations they should bear to each other, to him and the Father, and their future destiny and glory as well as the condition and fate of those who should reject him.
4. By the instructions he gave through his apostles and other inspired men after his ascension.
5. By the revelation of himself in the lives and character of his true disciples in all ages.
6. By the instructions given through his preached word in all ages.
7. By the revelations of glory he shall make to the church of first-born ones in the world to come.
8. By the revelation which through these, he shall make of the glory of God to the universe of created intelligences.
The office of "Priest" is one of divine appointment. That of Christ corresponds to that of the High Priest under the Mosaic economy, and is foreshadowed by it. The Epistle to the Hebrews sets this forth very plainly and explicitly. The priesthood of Christ, however, varies from that of the High Priest in several particulars. Christ's priesthood is perpetual, is in one person, without predecessor or successor, making one offering, once for all; an offering actually not symbolically effective, deriving value not from appointment alone, but from its nature also. In this case, also, the victim is the same person as the High Priest. Consequently Christ's office as priest is to be contemplated in the twofold aspect of priest and victim.
1. As Priest, he offers up the sacrifice, laying it upon the altar of oblation, and through it appeasing the wrath of God, making reconciliation between God and man, and securing, in its proper presentation, the removal of guilt and punishment from man.
As Priest he also intercedes with God for pardon or justification or other blessings for all for whom he died, in all the respects in which his death is available for each.
The first of these priestly offices was discharged upon earth, the second is discharging in heaven. It does not cease with his life on earth, but he is represented as continuing as an ever-living High Priest to make intercession for us, Heb. 7:23-25; sitting down at the right hand of' God, Acts 2:33-36; Heb. 8:1; 9:12-21. (See the law as to the Jewish High Priest entering in once every year in Heb. 9:27; also in the law laid down in Ex. 30:10; Lev. 16:2, 11, 12, 15, 34; see also Heb. 7:27; 10:10. 1 Pet. 3:18, confines it to their sufferings and does not include the offering.) It is not for the purpose of offering the sacrifice that he is there, Heb. 9:24, 25; but to make intercession for those for whom the sacrifice has already been offered, Heb. 10:11, 12, 14-18. These passages show it was such an offering as actually sanctified (v. 10), and purified (v. 14) them that are sanctified.
While we are not to suppose that he is engaged in actual spoken prayer before God, we are also not to understand by this a mere influence of his sacrifice continued without further activity on his part, but some real activity corresponding fully to the essence of prayer and petition, to which is due all the blessings to which his people attain.
This intercession is made for his people, Luke 22:32, John 14:16; 17:9, 15, 20, 24; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 4:14-16. The passages in Isaiah 53:12 and Luke 23:34 have been adduced as indicating intercession which avails in some respect for all men. But such benefits are not the result of intercessory prayer, nor of Christ's atoning work conferring general benefits; but they come from the necessary co-existence of the persons thus benefited with those to whom the resulting benefits of the atoning work belong.
2. Christ as the victim.
(1) His qualifications.
(a) His sinlessness; for this position he needed to be pure, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and one in whom there was no sin. He must be a spotless Lamb.
(b) His humanity; that he might be of common nature with those for whom he died, and that he might be capable of suffering, and of such suffering as man may endure.
(c) His divinity; that his successful Prosecution of the work might be assured, and that his offering might have merit sufficient to ransom those for whom he died.
(d) His federal relation; that he might he a proper substitute for sinners, not any securing righteousness by obedience, but bearing and removing their guilt by making satisfaction for it.
(2) The offering. Thus qualified he was offered up as a victim; his body to the suffering which culminated in his death on the cross, and his soul to the anguish due to the realized presence of imputed sin, to the wrath endured from God, and to the separation from God's favor while bearing that wrath.
Christ announced to his disciples just before his ascension, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." Math 28:18. Peter at Pentecost declared, "that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified;" Acts 2:36.
Constant references had been previously made to his kingdom. It was not simply spoken of as the kingdom of God, and kingdom of heaven, but as closely connected with Christ. Luke 22:29, 30; 23:42; John 18:37.
1. Christ as the God-man is Mediatorial king.
As Son of God he had the right of rule over the universe. Of this he emptied himself and became man, that he might become Mediator and do the work of salvation. Having become man he died on the cross. On this account he has been exalted, so "that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, * * * and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father." Phil. 2:6-11. Compare Acts 2:22-36, especially verse 36. "God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." Also 1 Cor. 15:24-26.
2. Christ reigns over his spiritual kingdom, securing the final result of the establishment of that kingdom in the persons of all his people when he shall "present the church to himself, a glorious church." Eph. 5:27.
3. He reigns over his visible churches on earth through the laws he has given, through the Spirit by which he dwells in them, and by his providences, overruling, controlling, and accomplishing all his purposes.
4. The rules over this world as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, causing all things to work together for his ends.
5. He rules over the universe. His sway is not limited to earth.
6. His Mediatorial reign is not confined to human subjects, but extends also to angelic. The angels of heaven are his attendants and his messengers.
7. He even rules over Satan and his evil angels. Their exercise of power for evil is permitted only for a time. Even during that time it is controlled by Christ; so that it is limited by his will, and is, therefore, truly subjected to him.