Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – How is Christ prophet, priest, and king?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In this chapter on The Offices of Christ, Wayne Grudem reviews the major offices of Jesus Christ – that of prophet, priest, and king. These distinct offices were occupied by humans before the coming of Jesus and foreshadowed Jesus’ work. Ultimately, Christ fulfilled these three offices in a way imperfect people could never fulfill them.

Christ as Prophet

The first office Christ fulfilled is that of prophet. A prophet spoke God’s words to the people. Beginning with Moses, God delivered several messages to his people through prophets and many of their words are preserved in holy Scripture. But the ultimate fulfillment would be revealed in Jesus. Moses spoke of Jesus when he said:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18)

Jesus fulfilled the role of the greatest prophet in the New Testament. The woman at the well called Jesus a “prophet” (John 4:19) and the people in Nain said “a great prophet has arisen among us” (Luke 7:16). It is interesting to note that in the epistles Jesus’ role of prophet is less pronounced. This may suggest that Jesus supersedes any prophet that came before or will arise after him.

Christ as Priest

The second office Christ fulfilled is that of priest. In the Old Testament, the priests were appointed by God to offer sacrifices. This act sanctified the people and made them acceptable to come into God’s presence. Jesus fulfilled the office of priest in three ways:

One way Jesus fulfilled the office of priest, is when Jesus offered a perfect sacrifice for sin. Hebrews 10:4 tells us “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Since the Old Covenant sacrificial system couldn’t remove sins completely, Jesus “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). In that way, Jesus fulfilled the need for a perfect sacrifice.    

The second way Jesus fulfilled the office of priest, is when Jesus continually brings us near to God. In the Old Testament, priests specialized in bringing people to God. In the same way, Jesus brings us near to God. The author of Hebrews tells us “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20). 

The third way Jesus fulfills the office of priest is how he continually prays for us. Again Hebrews tells us, “he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25b). And again Jesus serves as mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). We are not alone in our struggles in life as Christians. Jesus, our great priest, prays for us (Hebrews 10:21). 

Christ as King

The third office Christ fulfilled is that of king. In the Old Testament, the king ruled over the nation of Israel. Just as Jesus did not fulfill the role of prophet and priest in the same way as the original prophets and priests, so also Jesus now rules as a different, but better king.

  • Jesus announced his kingdom at the beginning of his ministry, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17)
  • Jesus refused an earthly kingship: “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15)
  • Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36).
  • Jesus has become the king over every king since “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).  

Application: Christians as Prophets, Priests, and Kings

In conclusion, Jesus was the highest prophet, the greatest priest, and the king of kings. But he has also given his people a similar role in his kingdom both now and in the hereafter. Christians act prophetically as we proclaim the gospel. We act as priests, offering spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5). And we look forward to reigning with Jesus as subordinate kings (Revelation 3:21). Indeed, God has granted believers a special place in his kingdom both now and forever.   

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Special Terms

  • intercession
  • king
  • priest
  • prophet

Resources: Wayne Grudem

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