One of the great contributions to a Christian understanding of the work of Christ is John Calvin's exposition of the threefold office of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.1 As the prophet of God par excellence, Jesus was both the object and subject of prophecy. His person and His work are the focal point of Old Testament prophecy, yet He Himself was a prophet. In Jesus' own prophetic statements, the kingdom of God and His role within the coming kingdom are major themes. A principal activity of a prophet was to declare the Word of God. Jesus not only declared the Word of God, He is Himself the Word of God. Jesus was the supreme Prophet of God, being God's Word in the flesh.
The Old Testament prophet was a kind of mediator between God and the people of Israel. He spoke to the people on behalf of God. The priest spoke to God on behalf of the people. Jesus also fulfilled the role of the great High Priest. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices regularly, but Jesus offered a sacrifice of everlasting value once for all time. Jesus' offering to the Father was the sacrifice of Himself. He was both the offering and the offerer.
Whereas in the Old Testament the mediating offices of prophet, priest, and king were held by separate individuals, all three offices are held supremely in the one person of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Psalm 110. He is the one who is both David's descendant and David's Lord. He is the Priest who is also the King. The Lamb who is slain is also the Lion of Judah. To gain a full understanding of the work of Christ we must not
1. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:425-429.
view Him merely as a prophet, or as a priest, or as a king. All three offices are perfectly fulfilled in Him.
1. Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and was Himself a prophet.
2. Jesus was both Priest and sacrifice. As Priest, He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin.
3. Jesus is the anointed King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
Biblical passages for reflection:
Essential Truths of the Christians Faith, by R. C. Sproul