Christ, the Prophet, High Priest and King


The disputes in the Anglican Communion and Church of Scotland over homosexual sex have been conducted largely in the ethical realm. I’ll characture and oversimplify for the sake of illustration. One side asks; “is homosexual sex right or wrong?” Answer; “the bible says it’s wrong.” The other side asks; “does love not trump the law?” Answer; “love covers a multitude of sins.” These arguments will never converge so those involved in the dispute will always talk past, and ignore, each other.

If ethics is the wrong realm in which to discuss this issue, then where should we go to reach agreement? I’ve found Ebenezer Erskine’s sermon, The Faith of God’s Elect, a helpful place to go. In it he shows how ethics can never be removed from the person, work and offices of Christ and, therefore, how he relates to us in salvation. Christ has a threefold office; prophet, high priest and king. His prophetic office means his word is true. As king he has all authority by the same word. As priest, he pays for sins, including all sexual sin, by his sacrifice on the cross made once for all who trust in him.

The following diagram and extract from Erskine’s sermon help identify where we fall short of saving faith. Christ must not be divided if we are to be saved.

Prophet priest king 1

This is what Erskine writes:

Secondly, Christ is offered wholly, an undivided Christ is offered, and thus also he must be received. There are some who, in their professed and pretended way of believing, do as it were halve and divide Christ.

Some do so far receive him as a prophet, that they submit to the teaching of his word, and thereby come to acquire a great deal of speculative knowledge in the things of God ; but, being unacquainted with the teaching of his Spirit, they never come to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. And hence it comes that they never flee to him as a propitiation, or submit unto his authority as a King and a Lawgiver: for the execution of the prophetical office, paves the way for his reception both as a Priest and King.

Some again professedly receive Christ as a Priest, to save them from hell and the curse ; but, by continuing in their ignorance under a gospel-revelation, and walking according to the course of this world, and not according to the laws of Christ, they do evidently reject him, both as a Prophet and King.

Others again, and I fear too many in our day, do professedly receive Christ as a King and Lawgiver, to the prejudice of his priestly office, while they imagine, by their obedience to his law, particularly the new gospel-law of faith and repentance (as some call it), to purchase a title to salvation ; by which means they either totally exclude the righteousness of Christ, or mingle in their own acts of faith and repentance with the righteousness of Christ, in the affair of acceptance and justification before God: in both which cases, “Christ can profit them nothing; they are fallen from grace,” as the apostle expressly declares, Gal. v. 2, 4.

Thus, I say, many pretended believers halve and divide the offices of Christ. But “is Christ divided?” No; a whole, an entire and undivided, Christ must be received, or no Christ at all; there is nothing of Christ that a believing soul can want.

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3 Responses to Christ, the Prophet, High Priest and King

  1. James Oakley says:

    Very helpful.

    Love the Venn Diagrams on this blog, Neil. (By the way, what software do you use to create them?)

    The particularly illuminating overlap is “liberal” in Prophet / HP. To value the word of Christ, to recognise the need for grace, and yet not to want him as ruler.

    We probably need to add that, much as with God’s simplicity, the only ground that really exists is (i) the centre of the diagram, (ii) right outside. That’s to say, “theological speculator” is what you get when you try to receive Christ as prophet but not as king or HP. However, in truth, this is not possible. The only kind of prophet we have in Christ is a kingly, high-priestly prophet, so to receive him as prophet but not to receive him as king / HP is actually not to receive him as a prophet at all.

    Enough of my rambling. Have a good day – I’d better get back to preparing for Trinity Sunday…

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi James, thanks for your encouragement. One of the gifts of dyslexia, as I understand it, it thinking in patterns and pictures. The Venn diagram is what I see in my head when I read things like Erskine.

    I use Open Office presentation (Powerpoint) to draw the diagrams. I then cut and paste the diagram into Acrosoft photo studio, where I save them as .jpg, which can then be uploaded.

    Go well with your preparation. I’m doing all age “The King, the Snake and the Promise” on the fall.

  3. neilrobbie says:

    Hi James, I’ve had time to reflect on the Venn diagram in light of your comments and have changed the HP/King box to “idolatrous moralist”.

    I had it as “saved but simple faith” thinking that Christ as priest saves and calls us to obey the law. The box probably better describes someone who worships images of Christ and keeps his law but, because there is no word to enlighten, that person can never really know why Christ died.

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