Q. 31. Why is he called Christ, that is anointed?
A. Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in (the enjoyment of) that salvation, he has purchased for us.
Q. 32. But why art thou called a Christian?
A. Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of his anointing; so that I may confess his name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him: and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life: and afterwards reign with him eternally over all creatures.
The above text of this twelfth Lord’s Day does not offer a very correct rendering of the original German. Instead of the perfect tense: has fully revealed the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption,” the German uses the present: “der uns den heimlichen Rath und Willen Gottea von unseren Erlosung vollkommen offenbaret.” The words that are placed in parentheses, “the enjoyment of,” do not occur in the original, and should be eliminated, especially because they certainly do not improve the sense. And instead of “he has purchased for us,” it is more in harmony with the original to translate “he has obtained for us.” In question and answer 32 the adjective “good” should be eliminated before “conscience,” for the German simply reads: “mit freiem Gewissen”; and instead of “Satan” the original has Teufel, the devil.
In this Lord’s Day the Catechism explains the significance of the name Christ, and treats of the offices of the Savior. We may notice that, quite in harmony with the general character of the Heidelberger, and, more particularly, with this second part which treats of our redemption, our instructor considers the name Christ, and the offices of the Lord, only from the viewpoint of their significance for us and our salvation. The name Christ signifies that Jesus is our chief Prophet, who reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; that He is our only High Priest, who redeemed us and intercedes for us; and that He is our eternal King, who governs us, and defends and preserves us to the end. Yet, an exposition of the soteriological aspect of the work of Christ as God’s Anointed, as His officebearer in the world, hardly exhausts the meaning of the name Christ. For that name has a far wider, a universal significance. It signifies that Jesus is the Firstborn of every creature, by Whom and unto Whom all things in heaven and on earth are created, Who is from all eternity ordained to be the Head over all things, God’s official Representative in all the visible universe in the new creation, the Heir of the world, and that, too, as the Firstborn of the dead, and as the Head of the Church, the glorious Lord of lords and King of kings for ever! It is only in the very last part of the thirty second question that the Catechism refers to this eternal and universal aspect of Christ as God’s officebearer in the words: “and afterwards reign with Him eternally over all creatures.”
Strongly the Scriptures emphasize the importance of the confession that Jesus is the Christ. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,”. The faith that the historical Jesus, Who was born in Bethlehem, walked among us, suffered and died on Calvary, is the Christ, is here presented as a sure proof that one is born of God. Without being reborn it is impossible to believe that Jesus is the Christ. The disciples, by mouth of Peter, confess ^hat Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And the Lord replies that flesh and blood did not reveal this unto Peter, but His Father who is in heaven. And upon the rock of this truth Christ will build His Church.. When the bread seeking multitude in Capernaum have become offended in Jesus, and He turns to His twelve disciples with the question: “Will ye also go away?” they answer, once more through Simon Peter: “Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” . The Samaritan woman reports to the men of Sychar that she has met the Christ; and after Jesus had taught two days in that city the men of Sychar themselves believed “that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” . Gradually, during Jesus’ public ministry, as He taught and performed His marvelous works, it became the urgent and pressing question whether He were indeed the Christ. And there were many that believed He was. On the other hand, the more it became evident that Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Christ, the more the carnal Jews and their leaders hated, opposed, and persecuted Him. And it was, no doubt, because, on the one hand, the Jews refused to acknowledge Him as such, that they finally conspired to kill Him. They looked for a Christ, but for one altogether different from this Jesus of Nazareth. And it was ultimately because of His confession under oath that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, that the Sanhedrin declared Him worthy of death. And when the apostles have been endowed with the power of the Spirit, they preach: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
In a sense, the whole epistle to the Hebrews may be said to be a treatise on the theme that Jesus is the Christ, the High Priest, to be sure, but then according to the order of Melchisedec, the glorious royal Priest. He is appointed heir of all things.; and He has obtained a more excellent name than the angels, ; to Him it was said: “Thy throne, O God is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, ever thy Cod, h anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy fellows.” . His excellency above the angels is evident from the Word of God to Him: “Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” ; in Him is fulfilled the testimony of the eighth psalm: “What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet,” . He it is that is set over the whole house of God, and that was counted worthy of more honor than Moses, as the builder is worthy of greater honor than the building, . And from God He received this honor, for he “glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” . All that was prefigured in Melchisedec, the priest of the most high God, king of righteousness, king of peace, without beginning or end of days, a priest continually and for ever, is fulfilled in Christ, chapter 7. And He is not entered into holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us, . And after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, He sat down at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool, . He is, indeed, the one that was promised all through the old dispensation, the expected One, the Messiah, and all the shadows are completely fulfilled in Him. Jesus is the Christ.
The name Christ is the same as the Old Testament name Messiah even as Jesus is the New Testament form of Jehoshua. It signifies the Anointed. It is, therefore, a title rather than a name, indicative of His official dignity rather than of His person and nature. In the old dispensation there were many anointed ones, types and shadows of Him that was to come. Those that were called to hold office in the kingdom of God as it existed in the old dispensation among Israel were anointed. Holy anointing oil, specially prepared for that purpose, was poured out over the head of the one that was called by God to function officially in the kingdom of God, as prophet, priest, or king. This ceremony of anointing had symbolical meaning. The oil used for anointing, fragrant and glittering, was symbol of the Holy Spirit. This is evident from several passages of Holy Writ. It is the meaning of the oil in the seven lamps of the golden candlestick that stood in the holy place of the tabernacle and the temple. The seven armed lamp was, no doubt, a symbol of the people of God as the light of the world, shining before the face of God, called out of darkness into His marvelous light, to declare His praises and reflect His glorious virtues. But the lamps were in themselves nothing. Without the oil they could not burn, and had no light. And thus the people were reminded that without the grace of Goa’s Spirit they were not, and could not be the people of God.
This is evident, too, from the wonderful vision recorded in. The prophet beholds a golden candlestick, with a bowl containing oil above it, and pipes leading from the bowl to the seven lamps of the candlestick. The idea is, evidently, that the lamps are constantly supplied with oil from the bowl through the seven pipes’ that lead to each of the lamps. And the angel interprets the vision to the wondering prophet in the words: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Without entering into a detailed explanation of this vision, it will be evident that the oil in the bowl constantly flowing into the seven lamps is symbol of the Holy Spirit by Whom alone the House of God, the true spiritual temple of the Most High can be built and maintained. And the same applies to the oil that was used for anointing. The holy ointment was fragrant and shining, a picture of life and light, and as such a symbol of the Holy Spirit. That this is, indeed, the meaning which Scripture attributes to the holy oil of anointing is plain from , where the gift of the Spirit is directly connected with the idea of anointing: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tiding unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
And even as the anointing oil was symbol of the Holy Spirit, so the ceremony of anointing was designed to express that the anointed one received the Spirit of God to qualify him for a certain office. Two ideas, therefore, were expressed or implied in the act of anointing, viz. those of ordination or appointment unto a certain office, and of qualification for that office. That Jesus is the Christ signifies, therefore, that He is God’s officebearer, ordained and qualified by God Himself to function in behalf of God’s covenant and kingdom in the world. As the Catechism reminds us, He is called Christ, that is anointed, “because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost,” to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed, i.e. He is officially ordained and qualified for the “things pertaining to God.” And as all the officebearers of the old dispensation were but types and shadows of Him that was to come and all officebearers of the new dispensation are but reflections of Him, and function through Him, He is the Anointed par excellence, the “Son over his own house,” the High Priest, the Prophet of all prophets, the Lord of lords, the King of kings.
Two questions arise here. First of all: what is the idea of an office, and what is an officebearer? And, secondly: what is the office unto which Christ was ordained and qualified?
As to the first question, we may remark that the office is essentially one, not three. We may, indeed, distinguish the one office into the three aspects of it that are denoted by the terms prophet, priest and king, but these may never be separated. They are not three separate offices, but rather three different aspects or functions of the one office. There is one fundamental thought in them all, one idea lies at the basis of all three. And this fundamental notion may briefly be expressed by saying that by office is meant the position of servant-king in relation to God. We might also express the same idea by describing an officebearer as the official representative of the invisible God in the visible world. More fully defined, by office is meant the position in which man is authorized and qualified to function in the name of God and in His behalf in God’s covenant and kingdom, to serve Him and to rule under Him. There are, therefore, two sides to the office. With relation to God the officebearer is servant. He may not act upon his own authority, and according to the imagination of his own heart. Nor does he function in his own behalf. On the contrary, he is a servant of the living God. In relation to God he is clothed with humility, prostrates himself in the dust, and always asks: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” It is his calling to know the will of God, to love thatwill, and to have his delight in performing it. He must love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his soul, and with all his strength. He is the servant of Jehovah. Rut, on the other hand, with relation to the creaturely sphere in which he functions, the kingdom of God in the visible world, the officebearer is king. He is clothed with authority and power to represent the sovereign God in the world. All creatures must serve him, in order that he may serve his God.
Thus the first man Adam was God’s officebearer in the earthly creation. In the covenant-relation he was God’s friend-servant, and as such dominion was given him over all the earthly creation. He was king under God. For this position he was ordained and qualified. For he was created after the image of God, in true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. He knew his Creator in love, had his delight in doing the will of God, and consecrated himself and all things to the Lord of all. And he was placed at the head of the earthly creation. All creatures served him, that he might serve his God.
And in this he was the image of Him that was to come. However, he was no more than His image. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so far is Christ, the last Adam, exalted above the first Adam. We must not proceed from the idea that Christ’s office consisted merely in this that, after Adam is fallen into sin, and with him the whole creation is made to bear the curse, He redeems His own, and delivers them from sin and death, in order to restore the original relationship and the first, state of rectitude in Paradise. It is certainly true that this work of redemption and deliverance belongs to His work as God’s Anointed. He is, indeed, our chief Prophet to make known unto us, who are by nature in darkness, the whole secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption. As our only High Priest, He does intercede for us with the Father after He has obtained redemption for us by His perfect sacrifice on the accursed tree. And as our eternal King, He fought the battle for me against sin and death and all the powers of darkness, and gained the complete victory over them; and He preserves us unto the salvation He obtained for us. Rut this is not the whole of His work as God’s Officebearer. If this were true, His work as God’s Anointed would be finished, and He would cease to function in His office, as soon as the work of redemption were completed. Rut we know that this is not the truth. The Word of God emphasizes everywhere that Christ’s office is without end, that His dominion is an everlasting dominion, that He must reign for ever, that He is Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. The last Adam does not appear simply as a Restorer of what the first Adam spoiled and destroyed by his disobedience. He is not ordained simply to repair the damage done by the powers of darkness. Nor dare we present the matter as if Christ were so to speak an afterthought of God, occasioned merely by the fact that sin came into the world. It is to be feared that some such conception is in the minds of many. Adam is the real and original officebearer of God, according to this view. And God’s original purpose surely was that he should be the head of all His works, and that under him creation should normally develop to its highest possible state of glory. Rut sin entered. The first officebearer became unfaithful. And now God ordains Christ, His Son in the flesh, to take the place of the first Adam, and to restore righteousness and peace and lead all things to that perfection which Adam failed to attain.
Instead of all such erroneous notions, we must proceed from the correct and Scriptural viewpoint, that in His eternal counsel God decreed to unite all things in Christ, and to make Him the Head over all things, not only in the earth, but also in heaven. The last Adam in history is the first in God’s counsel. He is not an afterthought. He does not occupy the second place. He is strictly first. For God purposed in His eternal good pleasure to reveal and glorify Himself in the realization of His everlasting kingdom and covenant, not in the first Adam, but in Christ, the firstborn of every creature, and that, too, as the first begotten of the dead, and, therefore, in the way of sin and grace. In the new creation, the new heavens and the new earth, in which the tabernacle of God shall be with men for ever and in heavenly beauty and glory, the covenant of God’s friendship shall be perfected, God’s House shall be finished, and
His kingdom shall be established, Christ shall everlastingly be the Head over all, the visible representative of the invisible God, the glorious Servant King, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings. King over all, He shall subject Himself unto the Father, that God may be all in all. Even angels and principalities shall for ever be subject unto Him. And in this glorious reign the Church shall participate. Such is the glorious office unto which Christ is anointed from before the foundation of the world.