Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Jesus is the Christ
Jesus Christ our Lord, who was … declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Question 42 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Why was our Mediator called Christ?” It gives the answer, “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.” Last week we saw that our Mediator was called “Jesus” because He saves His people from their sins. This week we consider the significance of the title “Christ.”
When the Son of God became a man, God sent His angel to announce that His name would be “Jesus.” Since people did not have surnames (last names) in those days, they were often further identified by some given title or descriptor. Thus, among the disciples we find “James the son of Zebedee,” “Matthew the tax collector,” “James the son of Alphaeus,” “Simon the Canaanite,” and “Judas Iscariot” (which is not a last name but means “man of Karioth”). We can think of many others from the New Testament without too much trouble: “Joseph of Arimathea,” “Mary Magdalene” (of Magdala), “Mary the mother of James and Joses,” “Mary the Wife of Clopas,” “John the brother of James,” “James the brother of John,” “Simon Bar-Jonah,” “Alexander the coppersmith,” etc. Likewise, the Gospels record how people regularly identified Jesus with such monikers as: “Jesus of Nazareth,” “Jesus son of David,” and “Jesus the son of Joseph,” to name a few. These types of names were in accord with the common practice of further identifying individuals according to their lineage, or home. However, Jesus also had titles that were not in any way personal names, but were designations identifying Him as having fulfilled certain prophecies of Scripture. Among these titles were “Son of God,” “Son of Man,” “Lord,” and “Christ.”
The title “Christ” is the Greek word Christos, which translated the Hebrew word, Messiah, which simply means “anointed one.” Throughout the Old Testament, the leaders of God’s people were anointed by the command of God, in order to set them apart to a particular ministry. Prophets (1 Kings 19:16), Priests (Exod. 30:30), and Kings (1 Sam. 16:13) were regularly anointed. Anointing was most often done by sprinkling or pouring oil on the head (Exod. 29:7). In addition to persons, every object used in the worship of God was anointed and thereby set apart as holy to the Lord (Exod. 30:25-29). The anointing itself was symbolic of the Holy Spirit gifting, setting apart, and empowering the called man with the ability and blessing to perform his ministry. Thus: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward,” (1 Sam. 16:13); and “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound,” (Isa. 61:1). It was particularly the king of Israel who was the LORD’s anointed (1 Sam. 12, 16, 24, 26).
Throughout their history, Israel’s hope became more and more centered upon an ultimate Messiah figure who would conquer all their enemies and bring in everlasting peace and prosperity (Dan. 9:24-26, with John 1:41, 4:25). Over five hundred times, the New Testament identifies Jesus as that ultimate Messiah. “Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31). He was truly anointed with the Holy Ghost, not just in some limited way like Samson, David, Elijah, or Aaron, but beyond anyone else (Psa. 45:7). And so Jesus is the ultimate prophet, priest, and king who was merely foreshadowed by Moses, Aaron, and David. Jesus gave us the full message of God, performed the final sacrifice, and conquered all of our enemies forever. There are no more Messiahs or Christs to come ever again. Christ has finished their work. He accomplished their goals. He did these things in weakness as a man (His humiliation), and He continues to rule and reign at God’s right hand as the ascended Christ (His exaltation). He will forever be our Lord, Savior, and Christ!