Why We Need a Prophet, Priest, and King

I recently finished preaching a three-part sermon series on Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King. While researching for these sermons, I came across this helpful paragraph in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics.

He had to be a prophet to know and disclose the truth of God; a priest, to devote himself to God and, in our place, to offer himself up to God; a king, to govern and protect us according to God’s will. To teach, to reconcile, to lead; to instruct, to acquire, and to apply salvation; wisdom, righteousness, and redemption, truth, love, and power—all three are essential to the completeness of our salvation.

Bavinck’s explanation provided the springboard for this three-fold schema I used when preaching:

  • My view of God is distorted, so I need a PROPHET.
  • My relationship with God is disrupted, so I need a PRIEST.
  • Our world is disordered, so we need a KING.

Closer to Bavinck’s wording, here’s another way to think about it:

  • TRUTH. I need someone with truth. As Prophet, Jesus tells me the truth about God, myself, and the way to God.
  • LOVE. I need someone with love. The truth he tells me is that God is holy, and I am sinful. As Priest, Jesus stands in my place before God—taking my punishment, and presenting me as righteous.
  • POWER. I need someone with power. As King, he has the power to make everything as it should be.

In the Old Testament, these roles of prophet, priest, and king were so important that they required the special help of God’s Spirit. Since oil was a symbol of God’s Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13; Luke 4:18), a leader would pour oil over the head of the one who was being commissioned as a prophet, priest or king,  who would then be called an anointed one (see Psalm 105:15; Exodus 30:30; 1 Samuel 16:13; 24:6).

The English words “Messiah” and “Christ” come from the Hebrew and Greek words meaning “anointed one.” So when the writers of the New Testament refer to Jesus as the Christ they are saying that he is the ultimate Spirit-anointed one—the Prophet, Priest, and King, all wrapped up in one divine person (see Acts 10:38; 1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 16:13).

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