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Of Christ's Offices - by Thomas Boston (1676-1732)

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The work of Christ seen in His threefold offices – prophet, priest and king.

Thomas Boston (1676-1732): Scottish Presbyterian minister and scholar. Author of Human Nature in Its Fourfold State (1720), Notes to the Marrow of Modern Divinity (1726), and many other treatises and sermons. Born in Duns, Berwickshire. This sermon taken from: The Complete Works of Thomas Boston, vol. 1.

“Even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a Priest upon his throne” — Zech. 6:13.

I come now to speak of the offices which Christ executes as our Redeemer, from the text now read.

In the 11th verse of this chapter, there is a typical action crowning Joshua the high priest with two crowns, which is applied and explained in the following verses as re p resenting Christ in his offices, who has on his head many crowns. In the 12th verse, there is a prophecy of the incarnation of Christ, under the metaphor of a branch, as sprung from the family of David, and making but a mean appearance in the world, “as a root out of a dry ground.” In the verse where our text lies, we have the offices which he was to execute as our Redeemer; which are three.

1. The office of a Prophet; He shall build the temple of the Lord; that is, his own church, whereof the temple was a type, by the word of the gospel, which it is his work to promulgate as a Prophet. For the church is “built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone,” and the revealer of those truths which the prophets and apostles taught.

2. The office of a Priest; namely to expiate the sins of his people to purchase peace for them, and to manage their cause with God.

3. That of a King; for he has a throne, which denotes his kingly office. He is a Priest upon his throne, denoting the reward of his sufferings, and the high dignity he is advanced to in consequence of his humiliation and satisfactory sufferings. And he is represented as sitting on his throne, not a King in name only, or an inactive monarch, but exercising acts of jurisdiction and government. In him all the glory of these offices is to meet: and these offices he shall hold and exercise in spite of all opposition: He shall sit and rule upon his throne.

The text affords foundation for the following doctrine, viz.

Doctrine: “Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a Prophet, of a Priest, and of a King, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.”

In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall shew,

I. The verity of these offices in Christ.
II. The necessity of his exercising them as our Redeemer.
III. When he did exercise these offices.
IV. Lastly, Deduce some inferences.

I. I am to shew the verity or reality of these offices in Christ. I say then, that Christ as our Redeemer is actually invested with these offices; he is truly a Prophet, a Priest, and a King; and also that he executes them, that is, performs the functions of, or what belongs to these offices. This clearly appears,

A. From plain scripture testimony, (1.) To his having or being possessed of these offices. — He is a Prophet, that Prophet foretold by Moses, who was to be heard in all things that he should say; and of whom it is said, “That every soul that would not hear him, should be destroyed from among the people,” (Act 3:22, 23), which passage is applied to Jesus Christ by the apostle Peter, and can agree to none but him, who teacheth as never man taught, even with authority and power. — He is a Priest. So he is expressly called, (Heb 5:6). “Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec”; and in several other places of that epistle, where the reality, nature, and end of his priesthood are largely described. — He is a King. “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6). “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Psalm 110:2). He has all the ensigns of royal authority. The ceremony of inauguration or anointing to his office, Psalm. 2:6. Heb “I have anointed my King upon my holy hill of Zion;” a crown, (Psalm. 21:3); a sword, (Psalm, 45:3); a scepter, (Psalm 65:6); subjects, (Luke 1:33; John 1:49). (2.) The scriptures bear witness to his executing these offices. Hence he says himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). He is the way to life and happiness by his death; the truth in his word, the sum and substance of all revealed truth; and the life in his Spirit, quickening and preserving his people by his power. He “of God is made unto his people wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption:” wisdom as a Prophet, righteousness as a Priest, and sanctification and redemption as a King.

B. We learn this also from his name Christ, or Messiah, which signifies the anointed One. I told you in a former discourse, that three sorts of persons used to be anointed under the law, viz. Prophets, (1 Kings 19:16); priests, as Aaron, (Exo. 29:7); and kings, as David and others. But all these offices meet in Christ, who was anointed for the execution of them. Hence he says himself (Isaiah 61:1), “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” He is anointed to preach good tidings unto the meek, as a Prophet; to bind up the broken-hearted, as a Priest; and to proclaim liberty, as a King. He was not anointed with material oil, as the prophets, priests, and kings, under the Old Testament dispensation were, but with the oil of the Spirit; “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me (says he), because the Lord hath anointed me.” And God is said to have “anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows,” (Psalm 45:7). Now, this unction signified, (1.) His being set apart to the Mediatory work, and to these offices: the Father “sanctified him, and sent him into the world,” (John 10:36). (2.) His being fully furnished with gifts and qualifications suitable to these offices, in respect of his human nature, to which the Spirit was given, not by measure (Isa. 11:1, 2, &c.), but in fullness, not of sufficiency only, but abundance, not the fullness of a vessel, but of a fountain, in order to communicate liberally unto his people, (John 1:16). He was solemnly inaugurated to these offices at his baptism (Matt. 3:17); at his transfiguration (Matt. 17:5); and at his exaltation, (Acts 2:36). And he was as solemnly called to these offices (Heb. 5:4, 5): “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron: so also, Christ glorified not himself, to be made an high Priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.”

II. Let us next consider the necessity of his exercising these offices. Christ’s incarnation and taking on him the work of our redemption was entirely voluntary, without the least shadow of coaction and compulsion; but seeing he was pleased out of his great kindness to us, to become our Redeemer, it was necessary for our salvation that he should execute all these three offices. This will be clear, if we,

A. Consider our misery by sin, ignorance, guilt, and bondage. We were ignorant of the way of returning to God again; and therefore Christ as our Prophet must teach us. We durst not look him in the face; being covered with guilt? and therefore Christ as a Priest must make atonement, and remove our guilt. We were in bondage to sin and Satan, and could not return to God, nor recover ourselves out of our thralldom; therefore Christ as a King delivers us, brings us back again, leading captivity captive. As a Prophet he gives light to the blind, as a Priest he brings merit, and as a King power.

B. Consider the salvation which the elect were to be made partakers of. It behoved to be revealed unto them, seeing of themselves they could never discover it, being quite blind and ignorant; and therefore our Redeemer became a Prophet to reveal the things that concern our salvation unto us, and instruct us therein. It behoved to be purchased for sinners, who, being weak and unfit for any spiritual work, could never purchase it for themselves: therefore he became a Priest to purchase life and eternal redemption for us. It behoved to be applied by the power of his Spirit; for as sinners could not purchase salvation, far less could they apply it to themselves: therefore Christ became a King. The slaves could never have raised their ransom, nor known it after it was paid, far less before; and they were unwilling to come out of their bondage. And therefore it behoved our Redeemer to be invested with these three offices.

C. Consider Christ as Mediator of the covenant, who behoved to deal with both parties, in order to bring them together. God was offended with our sin and guilt; and therefore for us he behoved [was necessary] to be a Priest, to satisfy law and justice, and intercede for our pardon. We knew not what was in agitation between the Father and the Son; and therefore he behoved [was necessary] to be a revealer of that grace, and merciful contrivance. We were unwilling to deal with God; therefore he behoved, [was necessary] as a King, to bring us to submit and yield to his government. The benefits of the covenant he behoved [was necessary] to purchase, reveal, and administer.

D. Consider the work of conversion. The soul must be enlightened, by the conviction of the Prophet, to see its misery, and the suitableness of the remedy: upon the sight of its misery, the soul would despair, were not the blood of the Priest to sprinkle the conscience; and the will would never yield, if it felt not the power of his conquering sword.

E. Consider our daily necessities. Are we not every day in the dark about something? What should become of us, if we had not the great Prophet to go to for instruction and direction? We are every day contracting new guilt: what would be our ease, if there were not a lasting merit and an abiding Advocate? Are we not always needing protection against our enemies? how then should we break through the armies of hell, if our King were not on our head, to subdue them under us?

F. Lastly, Consider the promises, which are the stay and staff of the Christian’s life, without which they could never bear up. Christ’s offices are the source and spring of all these. How precious are the promises of illumination, guidance, direction, &c. to the blind and those who know not the way? These flow from Christ’s prophetical office. “Behold, (says Jehovah), I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people” (Isa. 55:4). How precious are promises of peace, pardon, and re conciliation, to those who are disquieted with fears, with guilt and sin? These flow from his Priestly office. And the promises of protection and deliverance to captives flow from his Kingly office: All the promises are the purchase of the blood of Christ; and they are all yea and amen in him, and flow from and through him.

III. I come now to shew, when Christ did execute these offices. As he was the Redeemer of the church in all ages, so did he execute these offices in all ages of the church. In the Old Testament he was the great Prophet of the church; for it is said (John 1:18), “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” He brought the glad tidings of salvation unto sinners in all the discoveries thereof from the first gospel-promise until his manifestation in the flesh. And he not only reveals the things concerning salvation unto men, but teaches them, and gives men an understanding to apprehend and know them. He was a Prophet unto the church in the wilderness: Hence it is said (Exo 23:20), “Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice.” And we read, that “by the Spirit he went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19); that is, unto the sinners in the old world, by the ministry of Noah, who, not repenting, were then, at the time the apostle wrote, in the prison of hell. He was also their Priest, interceding, on the ground of his future sufferings, for his people. Of this we have a remarkable instance (Zech. 1:12), “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?” And he was their King, the Captain of the Lord’s host, who led and conducted them, delivered them, from the Egyptian bondage, guided them through the howling wilderness, placed them in Canaan, instituted their whole religious worship and service, &c.

But more especially Christ executed these offices after his incarnation, and that in his twofold estate of humiliation and exaltation. These are his two estates, of which the apostle speaks (Phil. 2:8, 9), “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.”

He was a prophet while on earth, and still is revealing by his Word and Spirit the will of God for the salvation of his people. The whole doctrine of the Bible was taught by him; and it is by him that all saving knowledge is communicated to this day, and will be to the end of time.

He was, a Priest in his state of humiliation, as well as he is in his state of exaltation. He offered his sacrifice on the earth, and therefore was a Priest there. Hence saith the apostle (Eph. 5:2), “Christ . . . hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.” Nor did he ascend into heaven, till by his sacrifice he had “purged away our sins” (Heb. 1:3). And he continues an interceding Priest for ever (Heb. 7:25).

He was also a King in his state of humiliation. He was born a King (Matt. 2:2); went into Jerusalem as a King, in accomplishment of an ancient prophecy concerning him (Matt. 21:5); owned himself to be a King before Pilate (Matt. 27:11). It was the Lord of glory that was crucified (1 Cor. 2:8). And he is now exalted to his throne, and is styled, “King of kings, and Lord of lords,” and will reign till all his enemies be made his footstool, and all his subjects be brought home to glory.

Here it may be observed, that these three offices, which Christ executes, are not to be divided, especially when they are executed in a way that is effectual for the salvation of the subjects thereof. He may indeed objectively reveal the will of God, and give laws to his church, as a Prophet, without giving them the unction whereby those who are savingly taught of God know all things necessary to salvation: and he may execute his regal office, as a Judge, in inflicting heavy judgments and calamities on his enemies, without subduing them to that obedience and subjection to him which is the privilege of real believers. Yet it is a certain truth, that wherever he executes one of these offices in a saving way, he executes them all. In this respect, though the offices are distinct, yet they are not divided. For whosoever is taught by him as a Prophet, so as to be made wise unto salvation, is redeemed unto God by his blood as a Priest, and is subdued by his power as a King, and made a willing subject to him: and all whose sins are expiated by him as a Priest, shall, in his own time, be savingly taught by him as a Prophet, and made his willing subjects as a King, in the day of his power.

A few inferences shall shut up this subject.

A. How great and how glorious is our Lord Jesus Christ, who was meet to bear all these offices at once, and exercise them at once, so as one does not mar or clash with another! He is glorious indeed in whom all the glory scattered amongst the typical persons is perfectly concentered. If it was an honor to Melchizedec, to be both a priest and a king, and David to be both a king and a prophet; how much more glorious is it for our divine Mediator to be a Prophet, a Priest, and a King, really possessed of these offices, and exercising them in their full extent, in a more efficacious manner than any person that was ever invested with any of them on earth!

B. Let this commend Christ unto you as a full and a suitable Saviour. There is no case a poor sinner can be in, but he will find the remedy of it in these offices of Christ. Art thou, O sinner, under spiritual darkness and ignorance? There is knowledge and instruction to be had from him. He is the light of the world and can give thee an understanding to know him that is true, he can give thee the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. Art thou under guilt and condemnation, laden with sin that is like to sink thee to hell? There is righteousness in him as a Priest to remove thy guilt. He is the atonement and propitiation for sin. He saves from sin and wrath. Art thou a slave to sin and Satan? He is a King, who came to destroy the works of the devil: he can break the dominion of sin in thee, knock off thy fetters, and subdue all thy spiritual enemies.

C. Ye cannot take Christ, as a Redeemer, if ye take him not in all his offices. He offers himself to sinners no other way. And what God has joined together let no man put asunder. Many pretend to take Christ as a Saviour to save them from hell and wrath, who do not hearken to him as a Prophet to teach them the saving knowledge of God, nor submit to his laws and commandments. How many call Christ their Lord, and yet do not the things that he saith? O the folly of the world, that reject Christ’s teaching, saying, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways! O the stupidity of those who despise Christ as a Priest, and think to recommend themselves to the divine favor by their own works of righteousness, which they substitute in the room of his righteousness! O the madness of those who contemn Christ as a King, refusing to submit to his royal authority, and who spurn at his laws and government! And how foolish are the princes of the earth that will not suffer Christ to reign freely in their dominions, but encroach on his authority, and make laws opposite to and inconsistent with his!

D. Do ye receive Christ in all his offices, giving up yourselves to be taught by him as a Prophet, in all things relating to your salvation, renouncing your own knowledge and wisdom; to be justified by his righteousness, and washed in his blood, renouncing all your own righteousness, as filthy rags, saying, “in the Lord alone have I righteousness, and counting all things but loss and dung, that ye may win Christ, and be found, in him, not having your own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God by faith”; and to be guided and conducted, ruled and governed by him as your Sovereign Lord and King, yielding a hearty and cheerful obedience to all his laws and commandments, and saying, “Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”

E. Employ this mighty Redeemer in all the offices wherewith he is invested, and which as Mediator he exercises for the benefit of the ruined race of mankind. Ye have absolute need of him in all these offices. Ye are witless and foolish, and stand in need of his wisdom to guide and direct you; and ye are ignorant both of yourselves and of God, and so require saving knowledge and instruction. Ye are guilty and condemned sinners, nay, daily offenders, and so stand in need of pardon, nay, of continual pardons. Ye are weak, and have no strength to combat your spiritual adversaries, and so require the exertion of his mighty power as King of kings to cause you stand against your adversaries. If you knew yourselves, and were exercised to godliness, you would see the absolute necessity of all Christ’s offices for your salvation, and would every day bless God for such a complete and all-sufficient Redeemer. O make use of him daily in all his glorious offices, and honor him by putting employment in his hand, as your Prophet, Priest, and King.

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