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TEXT: Deuteronomy 18:15-16, Psalm 110:4, Zechariah 9:9, John 1:45
SUBJECT: Midland Confession #11: Offices of Christ
This afternoon, with God's blessing, we will get back to our study of the Midland Confession of Faith. In 1655 a fellowship of English Reformed Baptists published the document and it has stood the test of time. While other Confessions are more detailed or more widely received, it's hard to name one better than this. I thank the Lord that we adopted it as a fair summary of our own faith and priorities back in the 1980's, and that, for all our defects of mind and will, we have preached and defended it for the better part of thirty years.
Though the Confession covers several important doctrines, most of it is spent on the Doctrines of Grace, explaining what God has done to save us from our sin and misery.
What has He done? In the first place, He chose us for salvation. Secondly, He called us to salvation, at the same time, enabling us to believe the Gospel, and be justified, now He sanctifies us in His Church, and finally He perfects and glorifies us at the Second Coming of Christ.
All of these things are necessary for our salvation, and we do ourselves a disservice when we ignore them for the sake of 'peace and unity'. But as important as Election, Effectual Calling, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification are, the most vital thing God ever did to save us is to send Jesus Christ. First, into the world, then to the Cross, and finally, to Heaven where He continues His Saving Work on our behalf.
The Confession introduced our Savior in Article 7, reminding us that He (a) assumed a human nature, (b) lived a sinless, perfect life, and (c) went to the cross in our place.
Now, in Articles 9 and 11, it tells us about His offices. His general Office of Messiah (Article 11) and His particular Offices of Prophet, Priest, and King (Article 9). Personally, I wish they had reversed the Articles, so I'm going to do it for them.
Who is Jesus?
Article 11 says He's the Messiah--
We believe that Jesus of Nazareth, of whom the Scriptures of the Old Testament prophesied, is the true Messiah and Savior of men...
...He died on the cross, was buried, and rose again in the same body in which He suffered, and ascended to the Right Hand of the Majesty on High, and appears in the Presence of God to make intercession for us.
The word Messiah is taken from the Old Testament and 2nd Temple Judaism, and means The Anointed of the Lord. Though there was only one Messiah, three kinds of men were anointed with sacred oil. They were the Priests of Israel, the prophets, and most of all, the Kings. Though no one understood whether or how all three anointings would come together in One Man, that's what they hoped for, and in Jesus Christ, it's what they got! Article 9 puts it this way--
We believe that Christ is the only true King, Priest, and Prophet of the Church.
What is a Prophet? The word means, 'a spokesman'. In Exodus, 7:1, for example, God commands Moses to go back to Egypt and deliver his people from their slavery. Moses. Moses wants them delivered, of course, but he wants someone else to do it. Who? Someone, unlike himself, without a speech impediment.
This makes the Lord mad, but instead of dragging him back to Egypt by the scruff of the neck, He compromises with Moses, promising him Divine power to do the work he was called to, and letting his brother, Aaron do all the talking. It says--
Behold, I have made you a god to Pharaoh and Aaron shall be your prophet.
A prophet is a spokesman. What he says does not come out of his own head, but someone else's. Sometimes that 'someone else' is a false god. We read of the prophets of Baal, for example, and false prophets who speak in the name of the Lord, but get their message only from themselves.
Most of the time, of course, the prophet in the Bible is God's prophet, a man (or sometimes, a woman) who gets a word from God and passes it along to others. Jeremiah, for example describes the Word of God burning in his heart until he had to say it out loud. The messages were often unpleasant and sure to provoke the people, and so they're frequently called, the burden of the Lord. A weight the prophets had to bear and unload on the people.
In the Old Testament, there are two sorts of prophets, written and unwritten. Isaiah and Ezekiel were of the former class, with Elijah and Elisha being the best known of the latter. Some prophets had a single message to deliver; others, you might say, made a career of prophesying. All the true prophets spoke the Word of God and not one of them ever prophesied a word unworthy of Him.
Of all the great prophets in the Old Testament, one name stands out above the rest, Moses. The man who finished Deuteronomy for him pays tribute to his greatness in the last three verses of that book.
Moses, the Bible says, was the meekest man on earth, but while not taking himself too seriously, he knew his unique calling. Other prophets would call Israel back to the Law, but--
The law came by Moses.
The difference between him and other prophets is like the difference between a great movie director and the critics who review his movie. All Jews respect Moses, and he deserves it. He was that great.
But he didn't see himself as having the last word on all things. In Deuteronomy 18:15, he saw another prophet appearing in Israel every bit his equal--and a little more--
The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me from among your midst.
Muslims say 'the prophet' is Muhammad, but Christians, taking our Lord's own cue, know it refers to Jesus alone. The New Testament quotes the verse and that settles it. Jesus is the New Moses, and on the Mount of Transfiguration, God's own voice affirms Him as greater than Moses. While Peter wanted to build booths for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, the cloud of glory descended and out of it spoke the voice of God--
This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!
What was said on the mountain is everywhere confirmed in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Hebrews where Moses is compared to a rich man's butler, while Jesus is compared to his son. In other words, as great as Moses was, there's no comparison!
As the Spokesman of God, everything Jesus said was true. Of course, they doesn't distinguish Him from the other prophets, for they also spoke the truth. What's the difference between their work? Its fullness and its depth. Jesus did not merely expound the Law, He added to it and what needed to be changed because of the changing situation, He changed--and without blushing.
To what the policeman said of Jesus, we can only add our hearty Amen--
Never has a man spoken as this Man speaks.
As our Confession says, Jesus is the only Prophet of the Church. If you're taking this all in, you've spotted a problem. It seems to say that only the red letters in your Bible govern the church. In other words, it seems to demote the Old Testament along with the writings of Paul, Peter, John and the others who wrote the New Testament. Does it?
No. It does not demote the New Testament, because it was written by (or with the supervision of) an Apostle, who only wrote what Jesus said. The special gift of the Holy Spirit to them enabled them to remember what He said and to properly apply it to their own settings. The writings of Peter, Paul and the others are the Word of Christ.
The Old Testament is a bit trickier to explain, but here goes. After the coming of Christ, the Old Testament cannot be read as it was before Jesus came. It now has to be read in light of Christ and the New Revelation He brought to the world.
This is the fatal flaw of Dispensationalism, with its renewal of Israel, rebuilding of the Temple, re-establishment of the sacrifices, and so on. It reads the Old Testament as though Christ hadn't come! But He has come and this reinterprets the Old Testament--and I might add--truly interprets it.
By giving us His Word and gifting men to understand, preach and teach it, Jesus exercises the Office of Prophet as much now in Heaven as He did when He taught the disciples by the seashore. Our Lord once said--
Call no man on earth 'teacher', for you have one teacher, Christ.
This does not mean that I or any other preacher is infallible, of course we all make mistakes! But what it does mean is this: When we speak the Word of God truly, whether you like it or not, whether you like us or not, to disobey the preacher is to disobey Jesus Christ.
This is the Prophetic Office of Jesus Christ. Now I must hurry on.
Jesus is also our Priest, or to say it more accurately, He is our High Priest. What's a priest and how does his office differ from a prophet's. Let me say: there is some overlap. Priests, like prophets, were supposed to teach the Word of God. But as important as this way, it was not their chief calling.
If prophets spoke for God to the people, priests spoke for the people to God. This speaking for the people consisted of two parts. Firstly, they brought the people's sacrifices to the Lord, implying thankfulness, a confession of sin, and a plea for mercy. Secondly, after offering the sacrifices, the prayed for the people, asking the Lord to accept the offerings and be merciful to the people who brought them. Priests did other things, but these were the main things.
What they did in their own small ways, Jesus did in a big way! The writer of Hebrews devotes a big chunk of his book comparing and contrasting Jesus to the priests of Israel.
Both stood between God and man; both brought sacrifices, both prayed, both blessed, and so on, but everything Jesus did was infinitely better than what the priests of Israel did.
Why? Because of the dignity of His person, but most of all, because the quality of His sacrifice! They laid bulls, goats, sheep, turtle doves and pigeons on the altar of God, while Jesus laid Himself there, suffering the wrath of God in the place of the people who deserved it. He did this on the Cross.
Even there, He prayed for the sinners who were cursing Him and blessed the dying man next to Him, but after He rose from the dead and ascended to God's Right Hand, His intercession for us got serious! The man who prayed for us for a few years on earth, has now prayed for us for 2,000 years in Heaven, and He won't stop, not ever. As long as we're in need of God's favor, Jesus will pray for it--and get it!
This means the sacrifices we offer to God now are not propitiatory. In other words, they don't cover our sins in any way. What the now are is Thank offerings!
As for the Lord's Supper? Over against what Rome calls an re-offering of Jesus on the cross for our sins, it is, in fact, a wonderful reminder of His once-for-all offering, an offering so full that we need no other! The Lord's Supper is not our gift to God, but God's gift to us.
Finally, Jesus is a King. This was the Church's first and most important Confession of Faith. Long before the Ecumenical Creeds were published, Christians affirmed their faith in Christ (and risked their lives) by saying--
Jesus is Lord.
His Lordship is over both the Church and over the world, and though not everyone acknowledges at the moment, and no one lives consistently with it, He is the King and the Second Coming will only confirm what has been true from the start. He is--
The blessed and only potentate,
the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
Because the Lord is our King, we can trust Him to provide everything we need and protect us from all of His and our enemies. Sometimes He delivers us from our enemies, sometimes He gives us the grace to endure their persecution, but one way or the other, we are secure in Him and have the victory because--
He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
HIS OFFICES AND OUR NEEDS
The offices of Jesus Christ are not random things. They are exactly what we need. By nature we are ignorant, sinful, and needy and defenseless. Jesus the Prophet dispels our ignorance; Jesus the Priest atones for our sins; Jesus the King provides and protects us. In a word, we are--
Complete in Him.
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