Dear Church Family,
Continuing in our Sunday school lessons in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), this past Sunday we covered questions 43-45. Here is a brief review.
WLC 42 speaks of how the Son of God, as our Mediator, is called “Christ” because He was anointed and set apart to execute the three offices of prophet, priest, and king of his Church – and how He fulfills these three offices in His two estates of humiliation and exaltation. These are the topics that we now come to in the Catechism in the following questions:
WLC 43-45 – Christ’s Offices of Prophet, Priest, and King of His Church
WLC 46-50 – The humiliation of Christ
WLC 51-56 – The exaltation of Christ
WLC 43 How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and word, and in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.
In popular parlance, a prophet is one who foretells the future; however, in Scripture, a prophet is one who reveals the will of God. When it comes to Christ’s prophetic office, we may tend to think of it as being limited to His time on earth. Yet, Christ executes the office of a prophet “in all ages.” So, it is more helpful to think of the three epochs in which Christ executes the office of a prophet.
First, we may think of Christ’s prophetic office in the Old Covenant, before His incarnation. According to the New Testament, the Spirit of Christ was within the prophets of the old covenant, predicting the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Second, we may think of Christ’s prophetic office in the time of His earthly ministry. As the final prophet sent in the last days (Hebrews 1:1-2), Jesus made known all things that He heard from the Father (John 15:15).
Third, and finally, we may think of Christ’s prophet office after His ascension, in the new covenant. Jesus promised to send the Spirit of truth to His Disciples in order to guide them into all truth; the Holy Spirit would inspire them to write what we have come to call the New Testament. And, Christ gave to His church certain foundational offices (apostles and prophets) and continuing offices (evangelists, pastors, and teachers) as gifts to His Church: to equip the saints and to build up the body of Christ to grow in faith and knowledge.
This last point regarding our present experience and life in the new covenant is instructive. It helps us to see that we, as new covenant believers, wish to benefit from Christ’s office as a prophet – to hear from Him and learn from Him – then we ought to attend to the means that He was given us. Christ has given us His holy and inspired written Word – the Scriptures. And, Christ has given us pastors and teachers in the Church as gifts to build us up in faith and knowledge. We would be wise to attend to His Word and His Church.
WLC 44 How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them.
There are two main ways in which Christ executes the office of a priest. One aspect with regard to His completed work as our priest; the other aspect with regard to His continuing work as our priest. In His completed work, Christ offered Himself a sacrifice to God for the sins of His people (Hebrews 2:17; 9:27-28). In His continuing work, Christ makes intercession for His people before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25). Just as Christ send the Holy Spirit to be with us as our Advocate (John 14:15, 26; 15:26; 16:7), Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father in heaven (1 John 2:1-2).
WLC 45 How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.
Christ executes His kingly office in three main areas; these areas are designated in this question and answer as three distinct groups of people: (1) “a people” – the visible church; (2) “the elect” – the invisible church; (3) “the rest” – the world. Later in the WLC, the visible church is defined as those who profess the true religion and their children (WLC 62); the invisible church is defined as “the whole number of the elect” (WLC 64). Just so, here we similar language: a people whom Christ visible governs (the visible church) and the elect (the invisible church). The last group (“the rest”) refers of course to the world (those who know not God and obey not the gospel).
(1) “a people” – the Visible Church
So, as Christ exercises His kingly office in the visible church, He does so by first calling them to Himself. In the new covenant, the gospel message goes forth into the world and calls both Jew and Gentile to be one people (Acts 15:13-18; Ephesians 2:11-22). Then, as a called people, Christ governs His visible church by giving them leaders and officers (Ephesians 4:11-13; Hebrews 13:17). And, He gives to His Church laws and censures. One example of a law or censure is the three-fold process which Christ gave for dealing with sin in His Church (Matthew 18:15-20).
(2) “the elect” – The Invisible Church
Christ exercises His kingly office in the invisible church through several beneficial actions. He conquers all of His and their enemies and gives them eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:22-27). He disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). He orders all things for His own glory and their good (Romans 8:28-29), and preserves and protects them (Philippians 1:6). Indeed, there is nothing that is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
(3) “the rest” – the World
We will sometimes speak of the distinction between God’s common grace (the temporal, this-worldly, goodness which He shows to all mankind, Matthew 5:44-45) and God’s special grace (the all-encompassing, eternal, love which He bestows upon His people, Ephesians 1:4-5). However, when speaking of Christ’s kingly office as the one Mediator between God and man, there is no common grace for the world. There is only vengeance. To those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, they “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
When we come to place our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is important that we are careful trust in the whole Christ. He is our prophet, priest, and king. As such, as we follow Christ, we learn to submit to Him in these offices. As our prophet, we listen and believe all that Christ teaches us by His Word and Spirit. AS our priest, we trust in His sacrifice for our sins. And, as our king, we obey all His holy commands.
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch