Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
In I Peter 2:9, the apostle writes to the church: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Hence, you are a people that shall be prophets, priests, and kings unto God.
The only possibility for that is that God ordains and sends His own Officebearer to reconcile us unto Himself. That Officebearer of God is Christ. And that Christ of God is JESUS, Jesus for us, Jesus in us, and Jesus through us.
We now turn to Scripture and consider the name Christ from the viewpoint of its significance for us, for our salvation.
Our Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 12 nicely summarizes Scripture’s teaching concerning this name of our Savior, when it tells us that the name Christ signifies that Jesus is our chief Prophet, who reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption. Furthermore, the name Christ signifies that Jesus is our High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also that He is our eternal King, who governs us, and defends and preserves us in that salvation He has obtained for us.
The Scriptures emphasize the importance of the confession that Jesus is the Christ. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (I John 5:1a). To Simon Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:16-18).
To say “I believe in Christ” implies not only that I believe there is a Christ, but that I believe in the Christ of God for me. And more: I believe that I partake of His anointing!
The question Jesus asked of His disciples comes also to you and to me today: “Whom say ye that I am?”
The Anointed of God
The name “Christ,” which in Hebrew is “Messiah,” means “the Anointed.”
We have seen that Jesus, or Jehovah-salvation, is His personal name, which He received of God by means of the angel even before His conception in the womb of the virgin Mary. “Jesus” is the personal name which teaches us who He is. “Christ,” on the other hand, is the Mediator’s official name, His title, which teaches us what He is, namely, the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of God.
The name Christ speaks of the Servant of Jehovah, as He is officially called, ordained and qualified to be the Officebearer of God, the Mediator and Head of the covenant.
It was only gradually during His earthly ministry that Jesus became known as the Christ. Gradually He became known as the Christ to His disciples—not right at first. Gradually He became known as Christ to others, to His disciples in general, and even to such as the Samaritan woman. And finally, in the strength of faith, they confessed that JESUS is the CHRIST. That was the strength of their faith, even though at that time they did not understand everything that that name implied.
From their earthly viewpoint, before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they did not understand what the calling and office of the Messiah was. But they confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ of God. And the Lord said, Upon that confession I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Without that confession there can be no church.
For that same reason the enemies of Jesus hated Him, not so much because He was called Jesus, but because Jesus is the Christ. When Jesus claimed to be the Christ, they hated Him. When, finally, the high priest asked the Lord whether He was the Christ, the Son of God, and Jesus answered in the affirmative, they cried out, Crucify Him! They did not want a Christ like that.
And so it is today.
Christ is the Anointed sent from God. That is the fundamental significance of His name. When we say that Christ was the Anointed, we mean that Christ, according to Scripture, is the One who occupies the central position in the kingdom of God.
Old Testament Anointing
In Old Testament times, when a chosen one was called to an important office He was anointed. Thus Scripture mentions anointing to the office of prophet, priest, and king.
At God’s command, Elijah had to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his place. In Exodus 30:30, we read the charge God gave to Moses: “And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” We read often of kings being anointed to their office. That anointing showed, in the first place, that the man who was anointed was ordained by God to his office.
Anointing had so great significance that David dared not to raise his hand against Saul, even after David himself had been anointed in Saul’s place. He would wait for God to remove Saul from the throne, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing that he is the anointed of the Lord.”
When the oil was poured upon the head of him who had been chosen by God to serve as an officebearer in God’s kingdom, that man received the seal of ordination. The officebearer did not occupy that position in the kingdom of God independently. He received that position. He received the place and the authority and the power from God, and as the anointed he remains forever under God. The anointed one is always a servant. God is supreme.
In the second place, that anointing signified that the anointed one is also qualified. One that is servant in the kingdom of God cannot stand alone. He cannot possibly have the power from himself to exercise that office. Therefore, the essence of the anointing was that by that ceremony God pointed out that the man so anointed had been called and qualified to function in that particular office to which he was anointed.
That is the significance of the oil in anointing. Oil, as you know, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. That is evident from many passages. That is seen in the vision of the candlestick in Zechariah 4. That same is indicated in Isaiah 61:1, where the word of the prophet is this: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek,” and so on.
As the oil was poured out in a generous amount, so the Holy Spirit would rest upon the anointed one to qualify him for the office to which he was ordained.
Now Christ is the Anointed One.
There were many anointed ones in the Old Testament. There were many who partook of Christ’s anointing. You ask, How is that possible, when Christ had not even come yet? All those kings and prophets and priests, all those anointed ones in the old dispensation were simply figures. They all were dependent upon Him that was to come in the fullness of time. If the Christ, if the Anointed One, did not come, there could have been no anointed ones in the Old Testament. They were all types, figures of Him that was to come. And as such they partook of His anointing. That also is evident from many passages in God’s Word. Let me point out only a couple.
Psalm 89 speaks of the anointing of David. “I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (Ps. 89:20-26).
That is David, oh yes. But centrally that is Christ. Read on (vv. 27-29): “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.” That is Christ!
Such is also the case in the text to which I have already referred, Isaiah 61:1. That is the prophet Isaiah, yes. But that is centrally the Christ, as is evident in Luke 4, when Jesus sat down and said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Isaiah speaks as in Christ. Christ speaks in Isaiah 61.
That is true of all Scripture.
Christ the Fulfillment
Christ is the Anointed One, the Servant of Jehovah, the Prophet, the Priest, the King.
Christ is the Anointed One. He was ordained by God to His office and qualified by the Holy Spirit to function in His office.
All His authority came from God alone. It was because Christ was ordained that He had authority to speak and to teach. It was because Christ was ordained and qualified by God that He had authority to sacrifice. It was because Christ was ordained and qualified, anointed by God, that He had the authority to rule over all things.
And He was anointed from eternity and without measure. The anointing of officebearers in the Old Testament was only a shadow of the anointing of Christ in eternity. However generously the Holy Spirit was given to a man, no matter how freely flowed the oil, as even down the beard of Aaron and all the way down his skirts according to Psalm 133, there was always a limit. The full horn or vial was soon emptied and the flowing stopped.
But Christ was anointed with more than mere oil. His anointing could not be limited by the cessation of the flow of oil. He received the Spirit without measure. So David could say in Psalm 45, as quoted by the writer to the Hebrews, “Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Thus Christ is the Servant of the Father, the Triune God, to complete the work of salvation, to build God’s eternal house, realizing God’s covenant by saving the elect chosen in Him from eternity.
Jesus, God in the flesh, our salvation, became the Servant of the Lord, to preach, to sacrifice, to reign forever.
Truly the salvation of His people lies immovable and sure, above all the attacks of God’s enemies which rage below. The work of God is placed in the hands of Him whose work cannot fail.
He is Jesus, the Christ, precious to all you who believe.