Shorter Catechism Qs. 23 & 24
Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. 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?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.
Deut 18:15; Acts 3:19–22; Heb 1:1–2
In the Old Testament three different kinds of people were appointed by God to shepherd God’s people. First were the prophets. A large part of the Old Testament, of course, is made up of the various ministries of the prophets. Some of the well-known prophets include Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others. These prophets ministered to God’s people by declaring God’s word to them.
Secondly, the priests were appointed to shepherd God’s people. Aaron was the high priest and the entire tribe of Levi was a tribe of priests. The duties of the priests were varied and many, but they centered around offering sacrifices to God for, and on behalf of, God’s people. They were also the worship leaders of the covenant community.
Thirdly, there were the kings. The Old Testament, of course, is littered with ungodly kings and their sins. But the best of them, for example David and Hezekiah when they were following the Lord whole-heartedly, were courageous leaders of God’s people who administered justice and protected God’s people from her enemies. Under their godly leadership the nation enjoyed peace and rest.
This is not to suggest that the Lord only ever used these three-types of people. There are men and women, who, being none of these things, nevertheless served the Lord faithfully and are our spiritual heroes. We can think of, for example, people like Caleb, Ruth and Boaz, Esther, the midwives who spared the lives of the Hebrew children, and many other countless men and women who now enjoy their glorious rest in heaven.
Yet the three offices of prophet, priest, and king stand out because they were indicating what the Messiah will be for his people. That is why the Reformed theology understands Christ as fulfilling the three-fold offices of prophet, priest, and king. In this lesson we are focusing on Jesus Christ as the prophet. Lord willing, we will consider his priesthood and kingship soon.
Jesus Christ is the greatest prophet in the Bible. Even the greatest prophets of the Bible were sinners. Yes, they spoke faithfully and accurately of all that the Lord commanded them to speak. Sometimes they spoke words of blessing to God’s people. Often they spoke words of threat and curse against covenant breakers. Indeed, what set the true prophets apart from the false prophets was the prophets’ proclamations against the sins of the people. Not surprisingly, while false prophets who spoke “peace, peace” were loved, the true prophets were often hated and rejected.
But the prophet’s calling is indeed to say, “Thus says the Lord” and then faithfully and accurately declare the word of God. Thus the ministry of the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the ministry of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and the exact imprint of God’s nature (Heb 1:3). Jesus revealed God to man most accurately and faithfully, for when he revealed God to man, he was revealing himself. Thus Jesus’ revelation of God’s will and character has a clarity unmatched by the prophets who came before him.
Thus the coming of Jesus Christ caps the ministry of the prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophetic ministry of the Old Testament. He declared judgment and salvation, and for it, he was rejected, too. The difference, of course, is that the prophets who came before him spoke of another, while Jesus speaks of himself. There is thus a finality in Christ’s ministry as the prophet who cannot now be surpassed. In the past God spoke through the prophets, and but now he has spoken through his Son (Heb 1:1–2). There will not be greater prophets than Jesus, and since Jesus’ prophetic ministry is definitive and clear, no further prophetic ministry can add to his ministry. For if anyone seeks a prophet after Christ, it is to answer Jesus’s words “It is finished” with “No, I don’t think so Jesus.” And we do not wish to be wiser than God.