Are Believers Prophets, Priests, And Kings And In What Ways?

31. Why is He called Christ, that is Anointed?

Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.

32. But why are you called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ and thus a partaker of His anointing, in order that I also may confess His Name, may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him, and that with a free conscience I may fight against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures (Heidelberg Catechism [1563]).

The folks at Desiring God have triggered much Sturm und Drang, on Twitter, this morning over an article calling men to be prophets, priests, and kings in their homes. The article lacks some important qualifications and, thus, some In reaction, some are denying that Christians are prophets, priests, and kings. Let us start over and see if we cannot get this right.

Prophet, Priest, and King in Scripture

Even before the fall, God the Son installed the federal head of all humanity and his wife, Adam and Eve, to be king and queen, over creation: “…Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26; ESV). Adam was, as Mr Murray reminded us, God’s vice gerent (not vice-regent). A vice gerent is one who exercises “delegated power on behalf of a sovereign ruler” (Oxford American Dictionary). Adam was to speak God’s Word, especially in the coming conflict with the Evil One. God established Eden as a kind of holy temple, to be kept pure in the worship-service of God. When the Evil One encroached, he was to defend the temple against Satan. As king, beyond the creational dominion (given to both of them), he was especially to exercise his royal office in defeating the great Enemy of our souls. He was meant to take a sword and lop off the serpent’s head. We know how he failed. That Eve was a queen is an inference. Kings have queens. The command to exercise dominion, in creation, as a matter of nature, was given to “them.” That is not to say that there was not a creational order, as a matter of administration (not ontology), there was. This is part of what is behind the hubbub. Readers are reading between the lines of the DGM piece, and seeing in it an assertion of patriarchalism, rather than mere administrative headship.

In the period of types and shadows, our Lord instituted three special offices in his theocratic state: prophet (Deut 18:15–22), priest (Lev 8), and king (1 Sam 8:10–22). These offices, of course, were types and shadows of the coming Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who come with a “threefold office:” prophet (Mark 6:4), priest (Heb 4:14), and king (John 18:37). It is he who has revealed free salvation for sinners by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), in Christ alone. It is he who revealed the terms of the covenant of works to Adam (Gen 2:17; 3:8–19), who, from Sinai, republished God’s  moral will (Ex 20), and who paraphrased that law after he was incarnate (Matt 22:37–40). He not only announced the Word but he is the Word incarnate (John 1:1–3, 14). He revealed the Father (John 14:9). There is no other way to the Father except through Christ, the Word (John 14:6). As the ascended King Jesus, the greater-than-David (Acts 2), the greater-than-Solomon (Matt 12:42), rules the nations with a rod of iron (Ps 2; Acts 4:25, 26). Establishing these truths, especially Jesus’ priesthood, is a major burden of the book of Hebrews as the pastor sought to persuade his Jewish-Christian congregation from going back to the types and shadows. We Christians need no Levitical priest any longer (not even during some imagined future earthly millennial period). Jesus is our High Priest. His Melchizedekian priesthood is superior to that of the Levites (Heb 5:5–10; 6:20). All those blood-shedding Levites needed atonement for their own sins and they all died but Jesus, our High Melchizedekian priest, has the power of an indestructible life (Heb 7:16).

We Are Not Christ But We Are Christians

One of the problems in the DGM essay is that it does not clearly distinguish between Christ the prophet, priest, and king and our participation, by grace alone, through faith alone, by virtue of our union with Christ in that threefold office. Jesus is the Messiah. We are Christians. We are anointed by the Spirit because we are in Christ by the Spirit, through faith. Part of our vocation as Christians is to exercise a threefold office. We too, confess God’s Word (Matt 10:32; Rom 10:9). We offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). We exercise our kingship by resisting Satan (James 4:7).

Notice how the catechism speaks. It does not distinguish between males and females in the exercise of the threefold office (munus triplex). All believers are, in Christ, by grace alone, through faith alone, prophets, priests, and kings. Christ is our intercessor. A Dad has an important function to serve his family by leading them, by setting an example, by speaking God’s Word to his family, by praying for his family, and by serving as the administrative head of the house, but he is not the Messiah. He is not the priest. He is not a mediator. Indeed, it would not be proper to think of any mere mortal as a mediator between God and man: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). The Reformed theologians (in this regard I think especially of Ursinus) were very helpful here by reminding us frequently that we need no Roman priest. Neither do we need a Baptist or Presbyterian priest. It is, after all, possible to fall again into the very error of the pre-Reformation church (e.g., two stages of salvation and a doctrine of final justification through faith and works). Jesus is our high priest. The Father hears our prayers because of the merits of Christ on our behalf.

The threefold office of the believer is a wonderful gift of grace. It is how we conduct our pilgrimage in the world. Husbands and fathers should exercise that threefold office, but so should wives, mothers, and singles. All Christians, married and single, are called to confess God’s Word, to pray, offer ourselves to God, out of gratitude for the grace of God in Christ, and, by the grace of God, out of gratitude, in union with the risen and glorified Messiah, to fight against sin, the flesh, and the devil. We do so knowing that the Prophet has confessed for us, the Lamb of God has made the offering, and that King Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and sheol.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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