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The offices of Christ

April 2003 | by Roger Fellows

We have been considering the offices that Christ occupies as our Redeemer. As Prophet he brings the Word of God to us. As Priest he offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins and now intercedes for us. This month we will consider him as King.

The reason for selecting these three offices is that ‘Christ’ means ‘the anointed one’. Anointing was a process of installing people into office by pouring oil on their head, and in the Old Testament people were installed into these three offices by anointing.

What is a king? Someone who rules over a territory and a group of people. His task is to govern those people, maintain law and order, and, hopefully, lead them to prosperity.

We must view the position from the perspective of biblical times, when kings were not mere figureheads – they really ruled. So, as we consider how our Lord Jesus Christ fulfils the office of a king, let us consider first his territory.

The territory of Christ

When Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, he replied: ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born’ (John 18:37). Earlier he had said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (v. 36).

This would sound strange to Pilate. All the kings he knew had an earthly territory with physical boundaries. But Jesus’ kingdom is of a very different character. It was a kingdom that became manifest when our Saviour walked on this earth.

His first public words spoke of this kingdom: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17). ‘Near’ surely speaks of something at hand, within reach. It is true that in the world to come there will be a fuller and more glorious manifestation of Christ’s kingdom, but his kingdom has already begun.

As Jesus said elsewhere, ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21). Jesus never intended to set up a physical kingdom in this present world. On one occasion, when a group of people wanted to make him king by force, he quickly disappeared from the scene (see John 6:14-15).

It is an inward, spiritual kingdom that Jesus established; it is in the hearts of God’s people. Every Christian is within that kingdom, and every true believer has Christ as king.

Indeed, a Christian can be described as one who has submitted to the authority of Christ as king. That submission may not be perfect in this life, but it is real and sincere.

The nature of his reign

Psalm 45 is a Messianic psalm and clearly speaks of Christ’s kingly office. Let us note a few things about his kingdom from this psalm.

First, it is eternal: ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’ (v. 6). This is applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:8. Earthly kingdoms are always fragile. Even with a good ruler, there is always the risk of his death or defeat.

But Christ’s kingdom will never cease. It is an everlasting throne. It is secure, and that means his subjects are secure. What a comforting thought!

Second, it is a righteous reign. Verse 6 speaks of a ‘sceptre of justice’. The next verse says, ‘You love righteousness and hate wickedness’. The best earthly rulers are inconsistent. David was sometimes cruel, sometimes too lenient (with his own sons, for instance). But Jesus Christ is always consistent, always fair.

Sometimes we hear of (or experience) some injustice, and we say, ‘That’s not fair!’ Perhaps from a human standpoint it may not be fair, but we know that whatever Christ allows to happen to us is under his control. It is always for our good. King Jesus acts as he sees best.

Third, it is a triumphant reign. Verse 4 speaks of him riding forth victoriously. Verse 5 refers to the conquests of his enemies. We all like to be on a winning team, and if we are in Christ’s kingdom, we are assured of victory – his victory.

Whatever opposition Christ’s kingdom sustains, we know that ultimately he will be the victor.

Even now, when we are on the receiving end of persecution, we can be sure that men will never do more to us than God permits. He will never allow his enemies to thwart his purposes. Moreover, he will use our adverse circumstances for our good (Romans 8:28).

Sovereign and gracious

Fourth, it is a sovereign reign. He really does rule. He is in control.

Note the words spoken, not by one of God’s prophets, but by the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar after God had humbled him: ‘His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.

‘He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”‘ (Daniel 4:34-35). All that is true of Christ. Do we believe that? Why do we worry then? Christ is in control of every situation.

Fifth, it is a gracious or gentle reign. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he was described as ‘gentle’ (Matthew 21:5).

When a king came on horseback it was a show of strength and a challenge to battle. But when he came on a donkey, it was a sign of peace. Though Christ will destroy all his enemies, yet to his people he is gentle, gracious and loving.

Before David became king he learned to tend sheep (Psalm 78:70-72). That calls for gentleness, and our great shepherd king also treats his people with tenderness. He understands our weaknesses.

The implications of Christ’s reign

The implications of Christ’s kingship are, of course, many; but here are three for us to consider.

We should honour him (Psalm 45:11). Peter tells us to ‘honour the king’ (1 Peter 2:17). How much more should we honour the King of kings!

Two or three generations ago the religion of many was characterised by fear, with little joy and little boldness in coming before the Lord. How the pendulum has swung!

Today we see little fear of the Lord, and services are often characterised by flippancy, with light and irreverent songs. They are more like music halls than reverent assemblies. The Lord is addressed as if he were a pal to help us in our need, or a psychiatrist to sort out our problems.

Psalm 45 describes the most intimate of human relationships – marriage – yet there is a call to honour the bridegroom. We need to cultivate exalted views of Christ, and worship him with reverence. We ought to meditate on his greatness and glory.

Trust and obey

Secondly, we should trust Christ. If the universe is under his control, he should be able to handle our problems! If he is king, then worry, fear and resentment over circumstances have no place in the Christian life.

We will always face uncertainty in this life, but our king is in control and will work all things out for our good and his glory.

Thirdly, we should submit to him. There is no honouring Christ without obedience. Jesus asked: ‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” but do not do what I say?’ (Luke 6:46).

We have today a generation of professing Christians who call Jesus ‘Lord’, but do not do what he says. Some even explain it theologically by saying you can take Jesus as Saviour but not as Lord.

We are told that those who do so are ‘carnal Christians’. They should be spiritual, but as long as they have trusted Jesus as Saviour, they will go to heaven even if they are not obedient.

No crown?

Much could be said about this unbiblical and dangerous teaching, but let us approach it in terms of the offices of Christ that we have studied.

These people will have Christ as prophet – to speak to them about salvation. They will have him as priest – to offer himself a sacrifice for their sins and then to intercede for them.

However, they will not have him as king and submit to him. Can we divide up the offices of Christ? Will we invite him in wearing his prophet’s mantle and his priestly garments, but ask him to leave his crown outside?

What an insult to the King of kings! No, we must have him as a whole Christ or not at all. We receive him as Lord of all or not at all.

I am sure there are areas in all our lives where our submission is far from perfect, but that is a different thing from deliberately refusing to submit to him. We should continually evaluate our submission to Christ, and ask him to show us where we need to submit more fully.

May God help us to own Jesus Christ as our king and live to please him, our prophet, priest and king!