Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 12

Question 31. Why is He called Christ, that is, anointed?

Answer. 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.

Question 32. But why art thou called a Christian?

Answer. Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of His anointing; that so 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.

Today we use the names “Jesus” and “Christ” alongside each other and interchangeably as though it has always been that way. But this is not the case. That our Savior went by the name Jesus was of no significance to those who knew Him as a child and a young man. But one day when He stood up in their synagogue and said, “I am the Christ,” they were highly offended, to the point that they tried to kill him (Luke 4:16-29).

The Savior’s Title

The name Christ is from the Greek title Christos, which means “The Anointed One.” The Old Testament equivalent is the word “Messiah.” After Andrew had met Jesus, he came to his brother Simon Peter and said, “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (John 1:41). Whereas “Jesus” was the personal name of the Savior, “Christ” is His official name, His title. It describes the task given to Him by God’s appointment.

All throughout the Old Testament, the important ritual of anointing was used when a new priest, prophet, or king was appointed. The ritual of anointing was symbolic of God’s giving His Spirit to the one who was anointed (I Sam. 10:1, 9, 16:13-14). When a person is anointed of God, he receives the right and the abilityto function in a special office. The Spirit marks that person out for his work, and the Spirit qualifies him to do that work. Similar rituals today include the laying on of hands and the oath of office.

All the anointings of the Old Testament looked ahead to the coming Messiah. In Psalm 2 we read of “the Lord and his anointed” (Ps. 2:2), who is later called “the Son” (Ps. 2:7, 12), and that it is by God’s decree that He is appointed to be King in Zion (Ps. 2:6-7). Psalm 45:7, addressed as praise to the groom who is Christ, says, “God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” What God had eternally decreed and prophesied during the Old Testament took place when Jesus, after being baptized by John, heard a voice from heaven, and received the Spirit in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16-17). After this, Jesus had the right and ability to begin His public ministry.

Three Offices

Christ, God’s anointed, has three offices to perform: the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. These were the three main offices instituted by God in the Old Testament. During the Old Testament, there was no one man that occupied all three of these offices, and in fact only one man, Melchizedek, that held both the office of priest and king. That’s because these three offices cover everything that Jesus came to do for us as our Savior, a saving work that no one else could accomplish. The three offices teach us that He is a complete Savior, that all we need for salvation is to be found in Him alone.

When we think of the work of a prophet, we should not think merely of someone who speaks about the future, but of one who speaks God’s Word. The catechism says that Christ has “fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption.” He does this as our “chief Prophet,” that is, without Him there would be no revelation of redemption. He is Prophet, not just in the words He spoke, but in His very person and work as Savior (John 1:14, 18). In this work He does not merely show us the way to the Father, but He becomes, through the cross, the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Today, He still functions as Prophet through the office of the ministry of the Word, which is an ongoing revelation from God concerning our redemption (Rom. 1:16-17).

The office of priest in the Old Testament included three important tasks, which were all brought together on the Great Day of Atonement. At this annual feast, the high priest would 1) make a sacrifice for the people, 2) burn incense in the most holy place, and 3) come out and raise his arms and speak a blessing over God’s people. These are the same three things that Christ has done, and continues to do, for us as our Priest. In His death, by the one-time sacrifice of His body, He has paid the price of our redemption (Heb. 7:27, 9:26-28). Today He continues in heaven as our eternal Priest, making intercession for us (Heb. 7:25, 9:24), so that we may continually receive His Spirit and blessing (John 14:16).

A king is one who is appointed by God to rule. As king, he is given authority, and has much power at his disposal. We do not wait for Jesus to become king, in some future earthly kingdom, but Jesus rules today as a universal King, with dominion over all things (Eph. 1:20-22Heb. 1:8-9). In the cross, Jesus fought and won the battle against our enemy Satan, and so today, because Satan has no rights over us, Jesus uses His Word and Spirit to break the remaining power of sin, and to keep us in the faith (John 17:14-17).

The three offices of Christ teach us that Jesus’ saving work is particular in its scope, that is, that Jesus was not appointed by God to be the Savior of every man, but that He came by God’s appointment to redeem only His elect. As Prophet, though the gospel of Christ is proclaimed to all the world, Christ communicates His Word effectually only to the elect (Matt. 22:14Acts 13:48). As Priest, Christ did not die for, nor does He pray for and bless, all men (John 10:11, 17:9). As King, though His sovereign rule extends over all things in heaven and earth, He rules all things for the sake of His church (Eph. 1:22), and the powerful rule of His grace that overcomes sin extends only to the hearts of His elect (Eph. 2:1-10Col. 3:7-8).

Christians: Partakers of Christ’s Anointing

You call yourself a Christian. What does that mean? In our day it is a title that has been devalued. Many people go under the name “Christian” who are not Christian at all. It has become the title for the religion of the Western countries. But what does it really mean to be a Christian?

First, it means that I am joined to Christ by faith. This comes as a result of the work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit in me. It is a work of grace. I don’t receive a new heart because I first believed in Jesus, but the Holy Spirit creates a new heart in me, and the result is that I believe (John 3:8). This regeneration causes me to trust completely in Christ for salvation, and to follow Him willingly as a disciple. The first disciples were called “Christians” by unbelievers because they observed in them a total commitment to Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). They were ready even to die for Him, and they counted this a privilege (I Pet. 4:16).

Second, being a Christian means that God has anointed me to hold an office. He gives me, as a believer, the right and the ability to serve as a prophet, a priest, and a king of the Christian faith. This means that, as Christians, you and I have a job to do. God has commissioned us. We are not merely accountants, truck drivers, painters, building contractors, doctors, nurses, lawyers, students, homemakers, or whatever our occupation is, but we are officebearers. Our life in this world is not simply one of eating, drinking, working, sleeping, aging, relaxing, and in the end dying. Rather, “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20), so that whatever I do, I do it for the Lord, praising Him in it and by it. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I am a representative of Christ, a prophet, priest, and king of His, in this world. My life has a purpose.

What does that life look like?

As a prophet, I am one who understands that the Great Commission is also my commission. I know God’s Word, and I confess His name before the world. My speech is seasoned with the Word of God. Think of what that meant for the prophets in the Old Testament. Because they were filled with the Word of God to overflowing (that’s what it means to be a prophet), they were hunted (as Elijah), persecuted (as Jeremiah), and killed. All because they were ready to speak God’s Word. Is your speech seasoned with the Word of God? A Christian’s speech will be.

As a priest, I will present my entire self a “living sacrifice” of thanksgiving to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). In a world where every man lives for himself, we will burn as candles to give glory to God. We have been saved to serve. Just as Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life, so the priests of God will live in this world. This will include the priestly act of intercession. Praying for others is one of the most selfless expressions of Christian living.

As a king, I will live like a soldier under the King of kings. This means that I have all the power and weaponry of the King at my disposal. There are enemies—the devil, the world, and my sinful self—and they will fight to take me down, but I as a Christian, with the Word of God as my sword, will watch and fight. And victory is in view, for hereafter we will live and reign with Him forever.

The anointing that we receive comes to expression especially when we are with other believers. As prophets we encourage and exhort one another from Scripture. As priests we serve one another in the body of Christ. As kings we fight together against our common enemy. And all together we recognize the importance of these offices in the body, by submitting ourselves today to the “prophets, priests, and kings” that Christ has appointed in the church in the special offices of “minister, deacons, and elders.” They especially are called to serve the body.

Questions for Discussion

1. What does the name “Christ” mean?

2. What does Jesus say about Himself in Luke 18-21, and why did this make the people of Galilee so angry?

3. What did God teach through the special offices of the Old Testament?

4. What is a prophet? What can we learn from the Old Testament about this office?

5. How is Christ our Prophet? Where does Christ function as Prophet today?

6. What is the Christian’s duty as a prophet?

7. What is a priest? What does the Old Testament teach us about the function of a priest?

8. What does Jesus do for us as our Priest? How does He function as our Priest today?

9. What is a king’s main task? What does Christ do as our King?

10. Who are the enemies of the kingdom of Christ? How do we fight against them?

11. How do the three offices of Christ reflect that God’s grace is particular?

12. What is a Christian, and do you live/look like a Christian?

13. How can I use my “office” as prophet, priest, and king for the advantage of others?