Threefold office

Last updated
Stained glass window of Christ the King, Tipperary, Ireland Toomyvara St. Joseph's Church Window Tu Rex Gloriae Christe by William Earley 1933 2010 09 08.jpg
Stained glass window of Christ the King, Tipperary, Ireland

The threefold office (Latin : munus triplex) of Jesus Christ is a Christian doctrine based upon the teachings of the Old Testament of which Christians hold different views. It was described by Eusebius and more fully developed by John Calvin.

Contents

The doctrine states that Jesus Christ performed three functions (or "offices") in his earthly ministry – those of prophet (Deuteronomy 18:14-22), priest (Psalm 110:1-4), and king (Psalm 2)

In the Old Testament, the appointment of someone to any of these three positions could be sanctioned by anointing him by pouring oil over his head. Thus the term messiah, meaning "anointed one", is associated with the concept of the threefold office. While the office of king is that most frequently with the Messiah, the role of Jesus as priest, which involves intercession before God, is also prominent in the New Testament, being most fully explained in chapters 7 to 10 of the Book of Hebrews.

The three offices

Eusebius worked out this threefold classification, writing: "And we have been told also that certain of the prophets themselves became, by the act of anointing, Christs in type, so that all these have reference to the true Christ, the divinely inspired and heavenly Word, who is the only high priest of all, and the only King of every creature, and the Father’s only supreme prophet of prophets." [1] During the Reformation this concept played a substantial role in scholastic Lutheran Christology and in the christology of Reformed theologians such as John Calvin [2] as well as that of John Wesley. [3]

The entry in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology claims that Christian theologians view all the other roles of Christ as falling under one of these three distinctions. [4]

Prophet

Christ is the mouthpiece of God as the Prophet, speaking and teaching the Word of God, [5] infinitely greater than all prophets, who spoke for God and interpreted the will of God. [6] The Old Testament prophet brought God’s message to the people. Christ, as the Word (John 1:1-18)/Logos is the Source of revelation. Accordingly, Jesus Christ never used the messenger formula, which linked the prophet’s words to God in the prophetic phrase, Thus says the Lord. [7] Christ, being of the same nature, [8] provides a definitive and true exposition of God.

The Word/Logos is Light. As the true Light (John 1:1-18), Jesus Christ exclusively enlightens humankind in the office of Prophet. Jesus affirmed his Divine identity and ultimate authority, revealing God to humanity, continuing His work into the future as the Light (Revelation 22:3).

  1. John 17:4 "I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."
  2. John 14:24 "These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
  3. Acts 2:22 "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, A man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know."
  4. Mark 6:4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
  5. Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Priest

Icon of "Christ the Great High Priest", vested as a bishop, on a bishop's cathedra, blessing as a priest Icon of Christ, Sergey Radonezhsky and Evfimy of Suzdal.jpg
Icon of "Christ the Great High Priest", vested as a bishop, on a bishop's cathedra, blessing as a priest

Christ, whom believers draw near to in confidence, offered Himself as the sacrifice for humanity as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). Old Testament priests declared the will of God, gave the covenant of blessing, and directed the processing of sacrifices. [9] The priest represented humankind before God. While humankind took the office of priesthood in their weakness, Jesus holds the position with an indestructible power that overcomes the weakness of humanity as described throughout the book of Hebrews. [10] As High Priest, Christ became one with humanity in human weakness, offered prayers to God, chose obedience through suffering, and sympathized with the struggles of humanity.

The atoning death of Christ is at the heart of His work as High Priest. Metaphors are used to describe His death on the cross, such as, "Christ, the Lamb of God, shed His blood on the cross as the sin offering for humankind." Christ made one sin offering as High Priest in contrast to the Old Testament priests, who continually offered sacrifices on behalf of humanity. Because of the work of Christ on the cross, humanity has the opportunity to have a living relationship with God. Conversely, the individuals that deny the work of God are described as dead in sin, without God and without hope. In traditional Christianity (the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican Church, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Churches), it is believed that a priest, having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the laying on of hands, shares the one priesthood of Christ, and thus it is only priests who can offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

King

Christ, exalted High Priest, mediates the sin that estranges humankind from the fellowship of God. In turn, He has full rights to reign over the church and world as King. Christ sits at the right hand of God, crowned in glory as "King of kings and Lord of lords". [11] "God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church." [12]

Reformed and Presbyterian traditions

The Heidelberg Catechism interprets the title "Christ" in terms of the threefold office, in Lord's Day 12, Question and Answer 31:

Q. Why is he called "Christ," meaning "anointed"?

A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father

and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be
our chief prophet and teacher
who perfectly reveals to us
the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance;
our only high priest
who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body,
and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;
and our eternal king
who governs us by his Word and Spirit,
and who guards us and keeps us
in the freedom he has won for us.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains the role of Christ as redeemer in terms of the threefold office:

Q. 23: What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?

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.

Q. 24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?

Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Q. 25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

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.

Q.26: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

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.

Lutheranism

(a) The prophetical office (munus, or officium propheticum) includes teaching and the miracles of Christ.

(b) The priestly office (munus sacerdotale) consists of the satisfaction made for the sins of the world by the death on the cross, and in the continued intercession of the exalted Savior for his people (redemptio et intercessio sacerdotalis).

(c) The kingly office (munus regium), whereby Christ founded his kingdom, defends his church against all enemies, and rules all things in heaven and on earth. The old divines distinguish between the reign of nature (regnum naturae sive potentiae), which embraces all things; the reign of grace (regnum gratiae), which relates to the church militant on earth; and the reign of glory (regnum gloriae), which belongs to the church triumphant in heaven.

The theologians who followed Luther and Melanchthon down to the middle of the seventeenth century treat Christ's saving work under the two heads of king and priest. Calvin, in the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), did the same, and it was not till the third edition (1559) and the Genevan Catechism that he fully presented the three offices. This convenient threefold division of the office of Christ was used by the theologians of both confessions during the seventeenth century. Ernesti opposed it, but Schleiermacher restored it.[ citation needed ]

Roman Catholicism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet, and king." [13]

In his 5th century Gospel harmony book Harmony of the Gospels Saint Augustine viewed the variations in the gospel accounts in terms of the different focuses of the authors on Jesus: Matthew on royalty, Mark on humanity, Luke on priesthood and John on divinity. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Christ</i> (title) A title meaning anointed

The concept of the Christ in Christianity originated from the concept of the messiah in Judaism. Christians believe that Jesus is the messiah foretold in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Although the conceptions of the messiah in each religion are similar, for the most part they are distinct from one another due to the split of early Christianity and Judaism in the 1st century.

Christology Study of Jesus Christ in Christian theology

In Christianity, Christology, translated literally from Greek as "the study of Christ", is a branch of theology that concerns Jesus. Different denominations have different opinions on questions like whether Jesus was human, divine, or both, and as a messiah what his role would be in the freeing of the Jewish people from foreign rulers or in the prophesied Kingdom of God, and in the salvation from what would otherwise be the consequences of sin.

Epistle to the Hebrews Book of the Bible

The Epistle to the Hebrews, or Letter to the Hebrews, or in the Greek manuscripts, simply To the Hebrews is one of the books of the New Testament.

Messiah Saviour or liberator of a group of people, most commonly in the Abrahamic religions

In Abrahamic religions, a messiah or messias is a saviour or liberator of a group of people. The concepts of mashiach, messianism, and of a Messianic Age originated in Judaism, and in the Hebrew Bible; a mashiach (messiah) is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil. Messiahs were not exclusively Jewish: the Book of Isaiah refers to Cyrus the Great, king of the Achaemenid Empire, as a messiah for his decree to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple.

Resurrection of Jesus Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion

The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis, is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary as first of the dead, starting his exalted life as Christ and Lord. In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. For Christians, his resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's second coming. For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by spirit, as described by Paul and the Gospels, that led to the establishment of Christianity.

Messiah in Judaism A savior and liberator of the Jewish people.

The Messiah in Judaism is a savior and liberator figure in Jewish eschatology, who is believed to be the future redeemer of the Jewish people. The concept of messianism originated in Judaism, and in the Hebrew Bible a messiah is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil. However, messiahs were not exclusively Jewish, as the Hebrew Bible refers to Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, as a messiah for his decree to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple.

Westminster Confession of Faith Presbyterian creedal statement

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the "subordinate standard" of doctrine in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

Jesus in Christianity Jesus in Christianity

In Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God and in many mainstream Christian denominations he is God the Son, the second Person in the Trinity. He is believed to be the Jewish messiah who is prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, which is called the Old Testament in Christianity. It is believed that through his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, God offered humans salvation and eternal life, that Jesus died to atone for sin to make humanity right with God.

Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament Designations for Jesus used in the New Testament

Two names and a variety of titles are used to refer to Jesus in the New Testament. In Christianity, the two names Jesus and Emmanuel that refer to Jesus in the New Testament have salvific attributes. After the crucifixion of Jesus the early Church did not simply repeat his messages, but focused on him, proclaimed him, and tried to understand and explain his message. One element of the process of understanding and proclaiming Jesus was the attribution of titles to him. Some of the titles that were gradually used in the early Church and then appeared in the New Testament were adopted from the Jewish context of the age, while others were selected to refer to, and underscore the message, mission and teachings of Jesus. In time, some of these titles gathered significant Christological significance.

Substitutionary atonement Doctrine in Christianity

Substitutionary atonement, also called vicarious atonement, is the idea that Jesus died "for us," as propagated by the classic and objective paradigms of atonement in Christianity, which regard Jesus as dying as a substitute for others, 'instead of' them.

Sacerdotalism, as discussed here, is the belief in some Christian churches that priests are meant to be mediators between God and humankind. The understanding of this mediation has undergone development over time and especially with the advent of modern historical and biblical studies, as has the understanding of whether Christian sacrifice is meant to impact God or to draw our attention to God working in us.

Eucharist in the Catholic Church

Eucharist here refers to Holy Communion or the Body and Blood of Christ, which is consumed during the Catholic Mass or Eucharistic Celebration. "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood, ... a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'" As such, Eucharist is "an action of thanksgiving to God" derived from "the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God's works: creation, redemption, and sanctification."

In persona Christi is a Latin phrase meaning "in the person of Christ", an important concept in Roman Catholicism and, in varying degrees, to other Christian traditions. A priest is In persona Christi, because he acts as Christ and as God. An extended term, In persona Christi capitis, “in the person of Christ the head,” was introduced in by the bishops of the Vatican Council II in the Decree on the Ministry and Live of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, December 7, 1965.

The New Testament frequently cites Jewish scripture to support the claim of the Early Christians that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah, but only a handful of these citations are actual predictions in their original contexts. The majority of these quotations and references are taken from the Book of Isaiah, but they range over the entire corpus of Jewish writings. Orthodox Jews do not regard any of these as having been fulfilled by Jesus, and in some cases do not regard them as messianic prophecies at all. Old Testament prophecies about Jesus are either not thought to be prophecies by critical scholars or do not explicitly refer to the Messiah. According to Jesus Seminar fellow Robert Miller, historical criticism is unable to argue for the fulfillment of prophecy or that Jesus was indeed the Messiah because he fulfilled messianic prophecies—as historical criticism has no way to "construct such an argument" within that academic method.

Scholastic Lutheran Christology Lutheran theology of Jesus Christ

Scholastic Lutheran Christology is the orthodox Lutheran theology of Jesus Christ, developed using the methodology of Lutheran scholasticism.

Catholic theology Study of the doctrines of the Catholic Church

Catholic theology is the understanding of Catholic doctrine or teachings, and results from the studies of theologians. It is based on canonical scripture, and sacred tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. This article serves as an introduction to various topics in Catholic theology, with links to where fuller coverage is found.

Session of Christ

The Christian doctrine of the Session of Christ or heavenly session says that Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven—the word "session" is an archaic noun meaning "sitting". Although the word formerly meant "the act of sitting down", its meaning is somewhat broader in current English usage, and is used to refer to a sitting for various reasons, such as a teaching session, or a court or council being in session. The New Testament also depicts Jesus as standing and walking in Heaven, but the Session of Christ has special theological significance because of its connection to the role of Christ as King. The Session of Christ is one of the doctrines specifically mentioned in the Apostles' Creed, where "sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty" immediately follows the statement of the Ascension.

Christian theology Study of Christian belief and practice

Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:

Intercession of Christ continuing intercession of Jesus after leaving the Earth

Intercession of Christ is the Christian belief in the continued intercession of Jesus and his advocacy on behalf of humanity, even after he left the earth.

Son of God (Christianity) Christian term

The terms "son of God" and "son of the LORD" are found in several passages of the Old Testament. In Christianity, the title Son of God refers to the status of Jesus as the divine son of God the Father.

References

  1. Hist. eccl. 1.3.8, in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (New York, 1890), 1:86.
  2. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.15
  3. H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology Chapter 22 [resource online] (Nampa, Idaho: 1993-2005, accessed 3 June 2006); available from http://wesley.nnu.edu/holiness_tradition/wiley/wiley-2-22.htm
  4. Reymond, R. L. (2001). "Offices of Christ". In Elwell, Walter A. (ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. p. 858.
  5. Letham 1993, p. 143
  6. Brown 1986, p. 1107
  7. LaSor 1996, p. 221-230
  8. Rogers1998, p. 175
  9. Matthews 1993, p.187-198
  10. see Hebrews 2::17, 3:1, 4:14, 4:1-16, 5:1; 6:20; 7:1, 8:3, 9:1-10:39, and 13:11.
  11. Rev 19:16 (NRSV).
  12. Eph 1:20–23 (NRSV).
  13. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 436, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1994 ISBN   0-89870-482-0
  14. Christology, Controversy and Community by David G. Horrell and Christopher M. Tuckett (8 Aug 2000) ISBN   9004116796 pages 37-40