Q 31. Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?
A 31. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance; our only high priest who has delivered us by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father; and our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.
Q 32. But why are you called a Christian?
A 32. Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a free conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.
When we talk about Jesus we often refer to Him as “Jesus Christ” as if Christ was His last name. We would possibly presume, without much thought, that Jesus is the son of Joseph and Mary Christ. That is, however, far from the truth. The word “Christ” is actually a title; in fact, for the Jews, it is THE title. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Claiming someone as the Christ in the time that Jesus lived, or anytime in the history of the people of Israel, meant that you indeed were claiming that person as God’s Savior. This claim, if found to be false by the religious leaders, was also punishable by death.
With that in mind, the profession of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” takes on a much greater and more personal meaning for Him. Not only did he catch on to something that everyone else in that group hadn’t quite gotten yet, but He willingly put His life on the line to confess His faith in Jesus.
But the title of “Christ” is not just something given by humans, it also means anointed. Anointing is a conferring of title and status, the giving of identity and it can only be done by one with authority. In the case of Jesus, only God can truly confer the status that Jesus holds as “God’s Savior,” or the “Messiah.” Jesus is ordained by God and anointed with the Holy Spirit, something that we see most vividly in Jesus’ baptism:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus’ anointing does more than grant Him a title, though, it also carries with it the fulfillment of Old Testament offices in Scripture. These offices are also God-ordained positions within the people of Israel which Jesus fulfills in His life and ministry. They are known as the offices of prophet, priest, and king.
Prophet: The Old Testament prophet is one that fulfills the will of God among the people and in the world while also making God known to the people. Prophets were often known as the mouthpiece of God, bringing the Word of the Lord, and sometimes the warning of the Lord, to the Israelites. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the fulfillment of God’s will to bring about salvation, redemption, and restoration to the whole world. More than that, though, Jesus is the divine Word of God, making God known in the world, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and also, at times, warning of the coming judgment for those who do not follow God.
Priest: The Old Testament priest was one of mediation. Priests represented the people before God in worship and in sacrifice and also represented God to the people in conferring forgiveness and instruction for the restitution of sins. They performed the sacrificial rites and oversaw the religious cult (formal actions and activity of worship). Jesus, in Scripture, is called the “Great High Priest,” and is Himself the end of the formal priestly tradition. He is the ultimate mediator between humanity and God, being seated at God’s right hand, praying and perfecting our prayers before God. Most of all, Jesus is the mediator because He is the sacrifice for our sins and through Him, we are forgiven and made right in God’s eyes. Because of Him, we can once again have a relationship with God.
King: The Old Testament King was one of both governance and protection. Kings were anointed and given power by God to govern the people of God with the goal of following God’s law and even expanding the Kingdom (though this didn’t work well often). God also charged the Kings with the protection of His people. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is over all of creation and God has placed all things under His feet. Jesus, being God, is the creator and sustainer of all things as well, sharing in the Father’s role of governance and provision for the entire universe. Scripture also tells us that Jesus watches of God’s people, the Church, keeping them in good times and in bad.
As Christians, we share in Christ’s anointing as adopted sons and daughters of God. This means that we carry on these roles in the world today as well. We are called to work God’s will in the world and make God known through preaching the Gospel and sharing God’s loe for all people. We are called to represent God in the world and to be “living sacrifices” of thanksgiving for all that He has done for us. Scripture says that we will also reign with Christ over creation through all eternity which, though future oriented, also has a present and active impact on our posture toward creation and our role to care for everything that God has made.