Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 12
Lord's Day 12
Why is He called Christ,
that is, Anointed?
Because He has been ordained by 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;
our only High Priest,
who by the one sacrifice of His body
has redeemed us,
and who continually intercedes for us
before the Father;
and our eternal King,
who governs us by His Word and Spirit,
and who defends and preserves us
in the redemption obtained for us.
Why are you called a Christian?
Because I am a member of Christ by faith
and thus share in His anointing,
so that I may
as prophet confess His Name,
as priest present myself
a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,
and as king fight with a free and good
conscience against sin and the devil
in this life,
and hereafter reign with Him eternally
over all creatures.
Q. & A. 31 Christ
- The Greek word, Christ (in Hebr., Messiah [Jn 1:42]), means anointed. Anointing was very important in the OT as a symbol or sign of the appointment and qualification of office bearers. As distinguished from an occupation (such as carpenter, or clerk) which one chooses oneself, an office (such as king, or priest) is a task imposed by God. Just as today a king is crowned at his coronation as a sign that his kingly office is committed to him, so also in the OT kings were anointed (Saul by Samuel, 1 Sam 10:1; cf. 16:13), as were prophets (Elisha, 1 Kings 19:16), and priests (Lev 8:12; 21:10-15). Such an anointing, therefore, signified their Appointment (ordination) in the first place. Second, it also signified their Preparation (qualification): In the East the anointing oil, made with aromatic herbs, was used to re-equip a person, who had become fatigued by the oppressive climate, for his task. Thus, God the Lord guaranteed to a person who was appointed to a specific task, which was sealed by his anointing, that he himself would prepare him for his task. The anointing oil was a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
- God had created man in accordance with his image, so that he was invested with the three-fold office of prophet, priest and king. But man became a servant of Satan through sin. That meant that man's call to office remained, but his qualification was lost. In order that man might faithfully fulfil his office, Jesus, The Christ, became The office bearer.
- He was Ordained (i.e., appointed) to this office by the Father. He says of himself that he was sent by the Father (Jn 17:3, 8, 18, etc.) And Scripture says in 1 Jn 4:14:". . . the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world."
This ordination or appointment is from eternity. For when Prov 8:23 says: “Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth,” it refers to his appointment in God's counsel (cf. 1 Pet 1:20: “destined before the foundation of the world”).
Christ's Qualification or Preparation for the three-fold office that he had to fulfil as Mediator was an historical occurrence. As part of this preparation he received human nature and was equipped with everything necessary for the fulfilment of his office. Thus, he was not anointed with oil, but with the Holy Spirit himself. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35) and at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove (Lk 3:22).
- He was anointed as prophet, priest and king. We can say this, because:
1. he was announced as such in the OT: as prophet in Deut 18:18; as priest in Ps 110:4; and as king in 2 Sam 7:12-13;
2. he was called thus in the NT: prophet in Acts 3:22; priest in Heb 5:10; and king in Jn 12:15; and
3. he had to fulfil the three-fold original office of man in order to be a true Saviour, i.e., in order to restore man to his three-fold office (in other words, because he is Mediator of the covenant).
- The function of a prophet is to proclaim (state) God's Word (whether by reference to the past, present, or future). The function of a priest is to dedicate himself to God in love. The function of a king is to govern in obedience to God.
- In this three-fold office, Christ not only had to do what Adam had refused to do, but he also had to suffer the punishment for Adam's three-fold failure to fulfil the office (active and passive obedience). He performed his three-fold office as Mediator Before (during the OT), During (when he walked the earth), and After (in his exaltation) his time on earth. He suffered the punishment for our neglect during his time in the flesh. In what follows we shall constantly refer to these three time periods.
- . He is Prophet and Teacher in order to reveal God counsel and will concerning our redemption (God's plan of redemption) completely to us. He is able to do that because he knows the Father completely (Mt 11:27), since the Father revealed himself to him. Christ performed this prophetic office before his humiliation (i.e. during the OT) by the patriarchs and prophets. He performed it in his humiliation, when, by his words and works, he made the Father known (gave an exegesis, Jn 1:18) to us; and when he also suffered the punishment for the abandonment by us of our prophetic office, since he was not believed, but mocked as prophet. And he performs it in his exaltation in which the Spirit, given by him to his church, guides the church into all the truth (Jn 16:13).
He is High Priest. Before his humiliation he performed his priestly office by prefiguring himself in the priests of Israel. In his humiliation he performed the office by sanctifying the Father in love; bearing the punishment for our violation of the priestly office by giving himself as an atoning sacrifice; and by praying for and blessing those who are his. In his exaltation he performs the office by appearing before the Father as our intercessor and advocate (1 Jn 2:1; Rom 8:34; Jn 17:24); and by blessing us.
He is King. As such, in the OT he protected and ruled his people by the patriarchs, judges and kings of Israel. In his humiliation he governed all creatures obediently and bore our punishment, in that he was rejected and held up to ridicule as king. In his exaltation he protects and rules his people by his Spirit and Word and governs all creatures.
- We tend to speak separately of each of the three offices. But Christ always fulfilled all three together in all his words and deeds. Thus, for example, his miracles are prophetic (revealing God's salvation), priestly (blessing with his redemption) and kingly (ruling over creation). In Adam the three offices were also conjoined. He did not have three offices, but one three-fold office. Only during the time that Israel existed as a nation was this unity broken. It was rare for anyone to hold more than one office.
- It behooves us to honour Christ in this three-fold office, by letting him teach us as our highest Prophet, by trusting in his one priestly sacrifice, and by submitting ourselves willingly to his royal dominion.
B. Cross References
- Art. 21 of the BC states:
We believe that Jesus Christ was confirmed by an oath to be a High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.
(See Heb 7).
- Which name in the OT compares to the name, “Christ”? What does it mean? Which two matters did anointing signify in the OT? What is an office?
- Who were anointed in the OT dispensation? Give an example of each. Of whom was the anointing oil a symbol? Why was it so apt as a symbol of that person?
- Who was first appointed to an office? What was his office? Are we still bound to this office? Are we still qualified for it?
- When was Christ ordained? When was he qualified? What did this qualification entail? Was he anointed with oil? If not, what was he anointed with?
- Why can we say that Christ was prophet, priest and king? What is the task of a prophet, a priest, and a king?
- What did Christ have to do in the three-fold office in addition to what Adam did? When did he do this?
- What does Christ do as prophet, as priest, and as king? State how he performed each office before, during and after his humiliation.
- Did Christ perform each office separately? If not, how did he perform them? Demonstrate this by reference to miracles.
- How must we honour Christ in his three-fold office?
Q. & A. 32 You Have Been Anointed by the Holy One
- The believers were first called “Christians” (followers of Christ) in Antioch (Acts 11:26). This name was probably intended as a term of abuse originally, but it became an honorific, because people realized, correctly, that this name expressed the fact that they were partakers of Christ's anointing, i.e., that they were partakers of the Holy Spirit.
- We are members of Christ by faith (cf. LD 7, Ans. 20), i.e., members of his body. That is how we are partakers of his anointing and bear the “office of all believers.” Scripture calls all believers “saints.” This means that they hold an office, viz., to dedicate themselves to God. They can, indeed, be unfaithful to their office (i.e., be Christians in name only), but that does not mean that they no longer hold the office. Scripture clearly states, in 1 Jn 2:27: ''. . . the anointing which you received from him abides in you."
The anointing is the heritage of the people of the covenant.
- This anointing, which is accompanied not only by the appointment to, but also by the qualification for the office, has in view the three-fold office:
A. As prophet the member of the covenant must confess Christ's name (i.e., his revelation, his entire work), and must accept it in faith and make it known in word and walk of life.
B. As priest he must offer himself as a living sacrifice to Christ (i.e., as thank (peace) offering; Christ himself is the sole guilt offering!):
i. positively: by presenting his body “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” as his “spiritual worship,” i.e., his deliberate worship and dedication (Rom 12:1); and
ii. negatively: by not becoming conformed to the world (i.e., to maintain the same lifestyle as that maintained by the world), but by changing (undergoing a metamorphosis, adopting another lifestyle) through a renewal of his mind (in accordance with an inner renewal of life) (Rom 12:2).
C. As king he must, with a free (i.e. delivered of the curse and fear of the law) and good (i.e., sincere in his desire to serve God) conscience:
i. fight against sin and the devil (and all other enemies) in this life; and
ii. reign with Christ eternally over all creatures after this life.
- Our communion with Christ becomes a living communion in which the office bearer can faithfully perform his office. Thus, we are prophets only by believing in Christ as prophet; we are priests only by accepting his sacrifice; we are kings only by submitting ourselves to him. This office is given to each member of the covenant.
- Because of sin, the performance of the office of all believers is often deficient. That is why Christ also gave the special offices of the covenant to his congregation. He gave apostles as well as prophets, evangelists as well as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4:11). Paul distinguishes two types of special office:
A. Offices which only existed during the first period of the Christian church, when the Bible was not yet complete. These were:
i. apostles: the 12 appointed by Christ as such, as witnesses during the entire time of his sojourn on earth; they had a foundational office: the task of the apostles was to be the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20);
ii. prophets: (e.g., Agabus [Acts 11:28; 21:10; cf. 1 Cor 14]) had the task of teaching the believers who had already been gathered and to build them up; and
iii. evangelists: (e.g., Philip [Acts 21:8]) assisted the apostles in their missionary work.
B. Offices which Christ gave to the church for the duration of this dispensation. These are:
i. pastors and teachers: these are the same as the elders “who labour in preaching in teaching” (1 Tim 5:17); they are our “teaching elders,” or ministers; their task is to administer the word (and the sacraments) of the covenant;
ii. elders: these are the elders who rule (1 Tim 5:17) and who have supervision over the congregation in which they have been appointed as overseers by the Holy Spirit; their task is to care for the congregation (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Pet 5:2-3), and administer the discipline (threat) of the covenant; and
iii. deacons: these care for those in need (Acts 6:1-6); their task, therefore, is to administer the communion of the covenant.
Christ gave these special offices “to equip the saints for the work of ministry,” i.e., in order to activate and stimulate the “saints,” or members of the covenant, or holders of the office of all believers, who fail to perform their office properly because of sin, so that they might perform it as faithfully as the angels in heaven (see Eph 4:12).
Not all believers can hold the special offices. Paul says in 1 Cor 14:34: “the women should keep silence in the churches.”
B. Cross References
- We pray for the faithful performance of the three-fold office in the Prayer of Thanksgiving in the Forms for the Baptism of Infants and of Adults.
- Art. 28 of the BC speaks about the office of all believers.
- Some people believe that the office of evangelist is also a continuing office intended specifically for the propagation of the gospel. They do not regard it as belonging to the office of ministers of the Word who are ordained (or installed) as missionaries.
- All forms of hierarchy, especially the Roman distinction between the clergy and the laity.
- The Anabaptist avoidance of the world.
- Where were the believers first called “Christians”? What does this name denote?
- In what way do we, therefore, partake in the anointing of Christ?
- Was this anointing promised to us?
- Which three offices does a Christian hold? What is his task in each office?
- How only can he perform the offices?
- What assistance does God give to the general office?
- Which are the special offices? What is the task of each?
- To what end were the special offices given?
- Can everyone hold a special office?