Johnson: How The Apostles Applied The Scriptures

Apostolic application displays the texture of renewal in the image of God. We will also be helped in relating any text to the Scripture’s central purpose as we sensitize ourselves to the categories of truth (knowledge), authority (righteousness) and relationship (holiness)—themes that sum up the pre-fall perfections of Adam and Eve, as originally created in the image of God. These categories quite comprehensively capture the dimensions of human life that were damaged by sin and therefore provide a more textured matrix as we seek to discern a text’s Fallen Condition Focus, both in its original historical context and in its relevance to twenty-first century hearers who encounter the same spiritual challenges, though often in quite different garb. As Paul points out, these mark the contours of the divine image into which we are to be renewed by the grace of Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Related to these themes are the mediatorial roles and offices that God ordained to reestablish rightness in these dimensions: truth (prophet), authority (king), relationship (priest). These theocratic officers who served Israel during the age of promise serve as windows on the redemptive and renewing mission of Jesus, the final Prophet, King, and Priest. The Heidelberg Catechism also wisely invokes the distinctive roles associated with these offices to map out the calling of every believer by virtue of our union with Christ. After explaining Jesus’ title “Christ” in terms of his having been anointed “to be our chief prophet . . . our only high priest . . . and our eternal king,” the Catechism asks, “But why are you called a Christian?” and answers, “Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.” The parallelism of the answers signals that the same threefold anointed office preeminently received by Jesus is received derivatively by those who trust Jesus through our union with him. We are prophets called to confess his name, priests who offer ourselves in worship, and kings who war against evil now in expectation of rule with Christ hereafter.

Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 267–268.


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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