The Threefold Office of Christ
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (vv. 1–2).- Hebrews 1:1–4
Scripture often reveals the identity and work of the individuals it describes by enumerating specific titles for these persons. This is particularly true when it comes to Jesus. Among the most important titles for our Lord is Christ, which appears in all the major creeds and confessions of the church. Biblically speaking, the title Christ means “anointed one,” and it has a threefold significance in Scripture, as the Heidelberg Catechism explains (Q&A 31).
Under the old covenant, men who were set apart to fulfill one of three specific offices were anointed with oil to signify their ordination to that role. First, the priests who offered sacrifices and interceded with God on behalf of the Israelites were anointed with oil (Ex. 30:30; Ps. 133:2). Second, the kings who led God’s people in battle against their foes and ruled according to the Mosaic law were also anointed with oil (1 Sam. 10:1; 16:13). Finally, the prophets were anointed with oil when they were chosen to deliver the Word of God to the people (1 Kings 19:16).
The connection between the anointing given to old covenant prophets, priests, and kings and the meaning of the title Christ as “anointed one” explains why Reformed thinkers commonly emphasize Jesus’ threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. Moreover, the New Testament often describes Jesus in terms of these offices. As the incarnate Word of God, Jesus is far better than any prophet who came before Him because He is the fullest revelation of God to humanity (John 1:1–18). Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin, making His priestly work effectual for salvation (Heb. 10:1–18). He is also the Lord of glory — the divine King of creation and ultimate expression of what kingly rule should be (1 Cor. 2:8).
Today’s passage describes Christ’s threefold office. In these last days, Jesus is the Prophet of God, the Son through whom our Creator speaks in the Apostolic words of the New Testament (Heb. 1:1–2). Jesus is the final Priest of God because He made a final sacrifice for sin and, having finished His work, sat down, never to offer sacrifices again (vv. 3–4). Finally, Jesus is the King par excellence, for as King He has created a kingdom, inherited a universal reign as His Father’s heir, and rules creation from God’s right hand (vv. 1–4).
Christ Jesus is worthy of our highest allegiance because of all that He does for us. As our Prophet, He guides us in the paths of righteousness through His Word. As our Priest, He guarantees the salvation of those who trust Him through His atonement and intercession. As our King, He leads us to final victory over sin, Satan, and death. Let us worship our Lord and Savior, for He has provided all that we will ever need.
Passages for Further Study