In John 1, Jesus is presented to us with a number of different names or titles. He is given the names Word, the Son, the Lamb of God, and several others, all of which help us better understand the nature of His mission. Indeed, the New Testament calls Jesus by many names, and the more we know about these names, the more we know about our Savior. We will now take a break from our study of John’s gospel in order to study some of these names and what they tell us about Jesus. Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series The Names of Jesus will guide us.
The first name of Jesus we will consider is the name applied to Him more frequently than any other—Christ. So frequently does the title Christ appear that it can be easy to think that it is one of Jesus’ personal names, that His legal name was Jesus Christ just as the legal name of the first U.S. president was George Washington. However, although the New Testament often uses the name Christ as a stand-in for the name Jesus, the name Christ is really the title of an office. “Christ” is simply the English translation of the Greek word christos, which is itself the translation of the Hebrew term mashiach or “Messiah,” which means “anointed one.”
In one sense, the Bible identifies many individuals as anointed ones. Every prophet, priest, and king in Scripture is a “christ” in the sense of being anointed with oil and set apart for an office, for prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed for their ministries (see, for example, Ex. 29:9; 2 Sam. 5:1–3; 1 Kings 19). But over the course of the history of Israel, the people came to expect a final Anointed One who would be the ultimate fulfillment of the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices. The Old Testament prophets, for instance, looked forward to the day when the monarchy would be restored to Israel and a righteous, anointed King would sit on the throne in Jerusalem once more (Amos 9:11–15). They foresaw the arrival of the King of Israel who would preach good news to the poor, release those in bondage, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and usher in God’s judgment upon His enemies (Isa. 61:1–4).
Because prophets and priests were anointed as well as kings, the title Christ or Anointed One cannot be limited to the kingly role but also indicates that the final Christ would be a prophet and a priest as well. The New Testament fleshes this out, revealing Jesus as our true Prophet, Priest, and King (Heb. 1:1–4).
When we refer to Jesus as the Christ, we are saying that He is our all-sufficient Prophet, Priest, and King. We trust in Him alone because He speaks God’s Word to us perfectly, provides final atonement for our sin, and leads us in righteousness against all His and our enemies. Yet, we remain prone to trust in lesser persons, so let us confess our failures to trust in Jesus alone and seek to rest in His grace and in Him only for all things.