************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 31-32 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 24, 2010
Q & A 31-32
"I Believe in Christ"
Doctor Bosman, Reverend Godfrey, President Obama, Prime Minister Harper, Prime Minister Putin, Christ Jesus. What do these six names have in common? Everyone of the names has a title in front of it. Which means that "Christ" is the title for Jesus even as "President" is the title for Obama.
The title "Christ" is not the only title for Jesus in the New Testament. But it is the most popular – used 531 times. Next in frequency of the titles ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament is "Lord." This title is striking because in the Greek Old Testament this same word is used to translate the primary name and title of God. That the title used for God is also used for Jesus is evidence of our Savior's divinity. In calling Jesus "Lord," the New Testament identifies Jesus with Yahweh and is saying that Jesus, like God, is absolutely sovereign and has absolute power.
Of all the titles for Jesus found in the New Testament, the one used most often by Jesus Himself is "Son of Man." It is doubtful that this title says anything about the humanity of Jesus. Rather, it is used repeatedly throughout the Old Testament to refer to Ezekiel the prophet. So, by His use of the term Jesus is revealing Himself as a prophet. Especially, though, Jesus identifies Himself with the glorious Son of Man to be found in Daniel Who is set over all the earth in power and glory.
As we continue our study of the Apostles' Creed we want to look at "Christ" as the title of Jesus. Now, remember, when we are looking at this we are also looking at the Gospel and at the content of true faith.
I Christ Means Anointed
A As I already said, "Christ" is a title for Jesus; it is not His last name. Even though our English translations of the Greek New Testament usually refer to "Jesus Christ," a more proper use of the title is "Jesus the Christ" or "Christ Jesus." Still, it is not inappropriate to say "Jesus Christ" or to refer to our Lord simply as "Christ."
Last time, if you remember, we said the name "Joshua" is the Old Testament equivalent to the name "Jesus"; both mean "Savior." In the same way, "Messiah" is the Old Testament equivalent for "Christ"; both mean "Anointed One."
Technically speaking, before Jesus was born, any prophet, priest, or king anointed by God for a certain task could be called "christ" or "messiah." The Bible even applies the title to Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia – because God appointed him to conquer Babylon and free the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland (Is 45:1). But in Jesus the title finds its greatest fulfilment. It is He Who especially is "the Christ." As Peter says in his great confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).
B In the Old Testament, anointing was normally done with olive oil. From ancient times, prophets, priests, and kings were ceremonially anointed as a sign of official appointment to office. Who can forget the story of the prophet Samuel anointing the shepherd boy, David, as king in Saul's place (1 Sam 16)? Or, who can forget the story of Elijah anointing Elisha as prophet in his place (1 Ki 19)? And, remember how David refused to harm King Saul because of the anointing the king had received (1 Sam. 24:6)?
Furthermore, the anointing also symbolized equipment for service. When David was anointed as king, for instance, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power (1 Sam 16:13). The same thing happened at Saul's anointing as king (1 Sam 10:10).
C Jesus is "the Christ," "the Messiah," "the Anointed One." He was anointed not with oil but with the Spirit. We read about that anointing in Luke 3. You all know the story:
(Lk 3:21-22) When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened (22) and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Now, follow me on this, the very next verse tells us something very important:
(Lk 3:23) Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.Notice when Jesus begins His ministry? After His anointing with the Spirit. Like David, like Elisha, like Aaron, Jesus begins His ministry only after He has been anointed for office.
Now, what was the first thing that happened in Jesus' ministry? Listen to what Luke tells us:
(Lk 4:1-2) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, (2) where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.He was anointed by the Spirit as the Christ, the Messiah, and the devil tempts Him. Why? Because the devil knows Who Jesus is. The devil knows Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. So the devil tempts Jesus to forsake His anointing.
I want you to notice the next thing that happens. Scripture tells us that "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Lk 4:14). Again, think His anointing. He goes to His hometown of Nazareth and on the Sabbath He went into the synagogue. It was the practice in Synagogue worship to read a portion of the Old Testament Scriptures each week. The scroll was handed to Jesus to do the weekly reading. By the providence of God, the week Jesus was there it was time to read from Isaiah 61. Listen to what Jesus reads:
(Lk 4:18-19) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).
Notice what Jesus was claiming? Jesus was claiming that He is anointed, that He is the Christ, that He is the Messiah.
D Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. As I already mentioned, this is part of the Gospel, this is part of the content of true faith. In other words, this is something we must believe. With the church of all ages, this is something we must confess. Listen to what John says about this:
(1 Jn 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ...And, do you remember what Jesus said to Peter after his confession of Jesus as the Christ?
(Mt 16:17) "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."
II Christ's Three-Fold Office
A I already said that from ancient times it was prophets, priests, and kings who were anointed to office. It should not surprise us, then, that Jesus was anointed to these three offices: our chief prophet and teacher, our only high priest, our eternal king. Notice, the offices of Christ are related to us and our salvation: He is our prophet, priest, and king.
First of all, Jesus – as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One – is our chief prophet and teacher.
What is a prophet? In popular language, a prophet is someone who predicts the future. In Biblical language, a prophet is someone who speaks the Word of the Lord; meaning that Rev Godfrey and myself are prophets when we preach the Word of God.
Moses was the first prophet for or to the children of Israel. Over and over again he said, "This is what the Lord says ..." (Ex 4:22; 7:17; 8:1; 8:20; 11:4). Upon his impending death Israel was concerned that the voice of prophecy was going to be stilled and would disappear from among the people. So, Moses – as prophet – gave a concerned Israel a promise about a future prophet:
(Deut 18:15) The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.God was faithful to this promise. Many prophets followed Moses: Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and others too. However, it is in Jesus that this finds its greatest fulfilment.
According to the Catechism, Jesus is our chief prophet and teacher. Meaning He is not our only prophet and teacher. We do have other prophets and teachers: ministers, elders, Bible Study leaders, Catechism and Sunday School teachers, parents. But Jesus is our chief prophet and teacher.
What does He do as chief prophet and teacher? Says the Catechism, He "perfectly reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance." He taught that He was the way, the truth, and the life. He taught that He must suffer many things, that he must be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the law, that he must be killed, and that after three days He must rise again (Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:32). Jesus taught that all of this must happen. It is a divine must. It is part of God's eternal plan for our salvation.
What is the response to Jesus as prophet? When the people in His hometown of Nazareth first heard Jesus preach, they could not accept Him as prophet. In fact, they were furious when they heard Him. "They got up," says Scripture, "drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff" (Lk 4:23ff). And, when the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard Jesus, they "began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching" (Mk 11:18).
Don't we still have the same reaction to Jesus as prophet and teacher today? People today are still furious that Jesus claims to be the only way. People today cannot accept that all other religions and all other paths are rejected. They rightly discern that this teaching means that both Jesus and His true church are intolerant.
B Jesus' second office – as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One – is our only high priest.
For the Old Testament people of God, there were many high priests: from Aaron onwards, the high priest was the oldest son of the last high priest. For the New Testament people of God we confess there is only one high priest.
The high priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices on the altar for their own sins as well as for the sins of the people. Being sinless and holy, Jesus needed to offer no sacrifice for Himself.
The high priests of the Old Testament made offerings of roast beef and burnt lamb. Jesus, our only high priests, is both the priest and the sacrifice, the offerer and the offering. As our only high priest, Jesus offered Himself.
The high priests of the Old Testament had to offer continual sacrifices for the sins of the people. Jesus, our only high priest, offered Himself once, never to be repeated, good for all time. According to the Catechism, He has "set us free by the one sacrifice of his body."
The high priests of the Old Testament presented the needs of the people before God in prayer. As only high priest, Jesus "continually pleads our cause with the Father."
C Jesus' third office – as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One – is our eternal king.
How brief is the reign of most earthly rulers. Members of Congress serve only two years before they need to be re-elected. U.S. Senators get to serve six year terms. The President can serve only two terms of four years each. The longest serving monarch today is King Rama IX of Thailand who has served since 1946. The longest serving national leader today is Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya who has served since 1969. By way of contrast, we believe Jesus to be our eternal king. His reign has no beginning and no end. He rules forever.
When Jesus first appeared on the scene – claiming to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One – the people became quite excited (think of Palm Sunday). They thought He would set up an earthly kingdom and would reestablish the glory of David and Solomon. They could not understand a Christ without an earthly kingdom. They could not understand a Christ Who governs by His Word and Spirit. They could not understand a Christ Who wore a crown of thorns instead of a crown of gold. So they yelled, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
III Christians Anointed: Prophets, Priests, and Kings
Believers share in Jesus' title. Jesus is "the Christ" and they are called "Christians." Why? Because, like Christ, they are anointed. With the Spirit.
Notice our first office as those who share in Christ's anointing. We are prophets who "confess His name." We confess the name of Jesus with the church and before men. Of course, it does no good to talk it if you don't also walk it.
Second, as those who share in Christ's anointing we are also called to be priests. We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices of thanks. We are to be living for Jesus.
Third, as those who share in Christ's anointing we are also called to be kings. That is, we are fight against sin and the devil in this life and reign with Christ in the life to come.
I believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. He has been ordained by God and anointed with the Spirit to be our Prophet, Priest, and King.
Yet, as Scripture makes clear, the work of Christ is quite paradoxical in nature. Yes, he is our chief prophet and teacher. But His message went largely unheeded and His final prophecies were made while hanging from a tree.
Is He our only high priest? Absolutely! But notice how He set us free: "by the sacrifice of his body."
He is our eternal king. But He is also the lowliest of servants Who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28).
Christ is the Prophet Who was rejected by His own hometown, the Priest Who was wounded for our transgressions, and the King Who was first a servant and was then crucified.
"I believe ... in Jesus Christ ..." says true faith, believing faith. If that is your confession, then Jesus is your chief prophet and teacher – and you listen to His words of life. If that is your confession, then Jesus is your only high priest, your Savior from sin, your Intercessor in heaven – and you praise Him and thank Him and give yourself to Him. If that is your confession, then Jesus is your eternal king – the Lord and Master of all Your life.
Do you believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One?
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