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Names in the Bible teach us something about the person named. The Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham because he would not only be father but “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5). He changed Jacob’s name (“deceiver”) to Israel (“prince with God”) because he wrestled with God and men and “prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). God also names Himself because He alone can tell us who He is and what He like. He is El Shaddai (“God Almighty”), who required Abraham’s faith and obedience and who would fulfill His covenant promises (Gen. 17:1). He is Yahweh, who is self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable and who is able to keep His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 3:3, 14–15).

Similarly, Jesus’ names teach us about His role and office as Mediator. Westminster Larger Catechism questions 41–45 teach that Jesus came as the Christ to save His people from their sins by exercising His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. These truths help fill out our picture of who Jesus is and why we should trust in Him for our salvation.

Why Was Our Mediator Called Jesus?1

Jesus’ name teaches us about His mission. Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” This name is the Greek equivalent to the Old Testament name Joshua. The angel told Joseph concerning Mary’s child, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). While Joshua brought the people of Israel into the promised land, he could not bring them into God’s eternal rest (Heb. 4:6–9). Jesus is the true Joshua who rested from the work that God gave Him to do at His resurrection just as God rested from His original work of creation (Heb. 4:10). “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Heb. 4:11). We do this by trusting in Jesus to save us from our sins.

Why Was Our Mediator Called Christ?2

Christ means “anointed one.” Christ is not Jesus’ last name; it is His title as the only Mediator between God and man. Office describes function. Our Mediator is called Christ because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Hannah prayed, “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam. 2:10). David would not attack Saul because he was the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6; 26:9). David became the Lord’s anointed after Saul died (Ps. 89:20), and God promised that a king would sit on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:4–17; Ps. 132:12). God anointed such men with the Holy Spirit in order to equip them for their offices. The Spirit departed from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14) when he sinned, and David prayed that the Lord would not take away His Spirit when he sinned (Ps. 51:11). The psalmist predicted that the Messiah would be anointed “with the oil of gladness” beyond His companions (Ps. 45:7). The Spirit came upon Christ at His baptism, equipping Him to exercise His public office as Mediator (Matt. 3:16). The Latin Vulgate translation of the Old Testament consistently and helpfully translates Messiah or “anointed one” as Christ, showing how many “christs” anticipated the coming of “the Christ.” The Old Testament, prophets (1 Chron. 16:22), priests (Ex. 28:41), and kings (1 Sam. 16:13) were anointed to fulfill their public offices. When God anointed Jesus with the Spirit, He gave Him the authority and the ability to be Prophet, Priest, and King, in His humiliation and in His exaltation. Jesus is both the eternal Son, who gives the Spirit, and the incarnate Son, who receives and depends on the Spirit.

How Does Our Mediator Execute His Threefold Office?

Christ exercises His office as Mediator in a threefold way, as Prophet, Priest, and King. We need to rely on each aspect of His mediatorial office for our salvation.

God also names Himself because He alone can tell us who He is and what He is like.

First, we must trust Christ as our Prophet.3 Christ reveals to the church “the whole will of God” for their salvation. Westminster Larger Catechism questions 34–35 show how He did this in all ages of the world by administering the covenant of grace. While the Spirit of Christ spoke by the prophets (1 Peter 1:11), the Son has now come and spoken to us in person (Heb. 1:1–2). He reveals God to us by who He is as well as by what He said (John 1:18). As the Word of God, He is the express image of the Father’s nature (Heb. 1:3), and He reveals the Father’s character and will in word and deed (John 8:38; 12:49; 10:37–38).

His miracles revealed who is His and how He saves sinners (Mark 2:1–12; John 9). His works showed the divine authority behind His words (John 10:37–38; 14:11). God bore witness to Christ by speaking through His Apostles as well: “By signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4).

This relates to the sufficiency of Scripture. The Word of God through Christ and His Apostles was “the final word.”4 The Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation in Christ and to make us complete, fully furnished for every good work (2 Tim. 3:15–17). We do not need further revelation from God or testifying miraculous gifts until the day that Christ returns in glory. He continues to exercise His office as Prophet in His church by His Spirit and Word (Isa. 59:20–21). The Spirit works through the Word to bring about our new birth (James 1:18), and we hear His voice preeminently in preaching (Rom. 10:14–17; Eph. 2:17). The Word and Spirit of Christ are enough for us.

As the Word of God, He is the express image of the Father’s nature, and He reveals the Father’s character and will in word and deed.

Second, we must trust Christ as our Priest.5 The catechism virtually summarizes Christ’s work as Priest from the book of Hebrews, including several verbal allusions to parts of that book. He shed His blood and offered Himself “through the eternal Spirit” as a sacrifice “without spot to God,” to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14, 28; 10:12). He made “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17) because He became their reconciliation by turning away God’s wrath from their sins (Rom. 3:25). He also “always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). As Priest, Christ offered Himself as sacrifice to God, He reconciles God and human beings, and He intercedes for His people to apply His benefits to them.

Christ’s work as Priest is “for His people.” He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:15). While He is the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14), He did not die in the place of all men. He was born to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). He lived for His people (Rom. 5:19). He suffered to “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He rose for His people (Rom. 6:5–11). He intercedes for His people, and He does not pray for the world (John 17:9). He will come again to receive us to Himself (John 14:3). All these things are particular to the elect and not general to all people. Viewing His death universally creates a schism in Christ’s work. Moreover, applying Christ’s death to all people without exception divides the Trinity. The Father chose some to salvation, and the Spirit changes some so that they might be saved through Christ. If Christ died for all men, then it would appear that He was outvoted in the Trinity. We must trust in Christ as Priest to bring us into fellowship with a united Trinity and to fulfill God’s unified plan of salvation.

Third, we must trust Christ as our King.6 As King, Christ calls the elect to salvation, He governs His church, He gives all saving graces to His elect, and He takes vengeance on His enemies. The first item comes later in the catechism under “effectual calling.” The Son creates “a willing people” by His power (Ps. 110:3) to follow Him. The Father draws sinners to Christ (John 6:44), subduing them to submit to this King by His Word and Spirit. Christ’s work as King also relates to His visible government of the church through “officers, laws, and censures.” Later questions on the church explore this more fully, as does the second petition in the Lord’s Prayer. The important point is that if we would submit to Christ as King, then we must belong to His church, in which and through the ministry of which He saves His people. Christ gives all saving grace as well. Promising rewards for our obedience as well as correcting our sins are benefits of the gospel. Our King can also preserve us through all temptation and suffering. He can and He will restrain and conquer both His enemies and ours, ruling until He puts all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 10:13). As King, He has both the power and the wisdom to order all things for His glory and our good. This is why all things work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). Our King works all things for our everlasting salvation in glory (Rom. 8:29–30). Yet this King will also take vengeance on those who neither know God nor obey the gospel (Ps. 2:8–9; 2 Thess. 1:8–9).

Our King works all things for our everlasting salvation in glory.

Christ’s offices as Prophet, Priest, and King overlap and inform one another in His single office as Mediator. The same Mediator reveals God’s will to save us, accomplishes salvation for us, and can make sure that we receive salvation and persevere to the end. We need the whole Christ, resting wholly on all of His offices, in order to be saved wholly from our sins.

Conclusion

Names matter in the Bible. Why are we called Christians (Acts 11:26)? We are Christians because we are united to and saved by the Christ. We should not be ashamed to suffer as Christians because we glorify God in fellowship with the suffering Savior (1 Peter 4:16). We need all of Christ’s offices in order for Jesus to save His people from their sins. Because Jesus did all that He did for us, we are “prophets” in Christ (Num. 11:29; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17) in that we know and declare the will of God for salvation. We are “a royal priesthood and a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10), who offer spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:5). Finally, we shall reign with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12), even sitting with Him on His throne of judgment (Rev. 3:21).

 
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on Christ as Mediator. Previous post.

  1. “Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins” (Westminster Larger Catechism 41). ↩︎
  2. “Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation” (WLC 42). ↩︎
  3. “Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and Word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning our salvation” (WLC 43). ↩︎
  4. O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth, 1993). ↩︎
  5. “Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them” (WLC 44). ↩︎
  6. “Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God and obey not the gospel” (WLC 45). ↩︎

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