“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)
Many people may think that the name “Christ” is a nickname, or that it is perhaps the last name Jesus of Nazareth. It is neither of them. Last month, in Lord’s Day 11 we learned that the name “Jesus” is the personal name of the Savior chosen by God Himself for His Son. This month, we will see that “Christ” is the official title given to the One who is, who was, and who is to come.
When we say, “George W. Bush, the President,” “George W. Bush” is a personal name, “the President” is his official title. It describes the office that Mr. Bush holds and the job that is assigned to him. Likewise, “Christ” describes the office held by our Savior, Jesus, and the tasks assigned to Him. “Christ” is the Greek word and “Messiah” is the Hebrew word. The English for both of these words is “Anointed.”
But anointed to what? What is the office that Jesus holds and what are the tasks to which He is assigned? According to the Bible, and explained in q/a 31 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Jesus was anointed to be our chief prophet and teacher; our only high priest; and our eternal king. These are the three offices held by the Anointed One: Prophet, Priest, and King.
This month, we look at what the Heidelberg Catechism teaches concerning Jesus’ role as our Prophet.
The Role of the Prophet
The catechism teaches that a prophet is one who fully reveals the secret council of God to the people. In other words, the prophet represents God to the people.
Deuteronomy 18 makes very clear that in order for the prophet to know the council of God, it is necessary for God to reveal it to him. Deuteronomy 18 tells us that if God does not speak there can be no prophecy but a false prophecy, there can be no prophet but a false prophet.
The words of the true prophet must be the words of God. Through the prophet, God reveals His gracious plan of redemption; the prophet calls the people to serve God in all righteousness; and he challenges God’s people to depart from sin and turn to God. Through the prophet, God threatens to punish disobedience and He promises to reward the faithful. In all these things, the prophet is the mouth of God to the people of God.
We have a great need for a great prophet! When God created Adam and Eve in His image, He gave them knowledge of their Creator. At first, Adam and Eve were happy in concentrating their thoughts upon God. Then sin entered the world and true knowledge of God was lost. Mankind became spiritually blind and ignorant of God’s will. Separated from God, the sinful human race looked for spiritual and physical satisfaction apart from God in a way which leads to further ruin and greater sin.
Knowing our need, the Lord supplies us with that which only a true prophet can give. He comes with the Word of God. Because this prophet lives among his people, there is no need for God’s people to follow the evil practices followed by other nations. There is no need for wizardry, sorcery, or witchcraft. There is no need for calling forth spirits or consulting horoscopes to find out what God’s will is for us.
Deuteronomy 18 teaches us that the prophet spoke for Jehovah. Everything the people of God needed to know about God and everything they needed to know about the will of God for their lives would come to them through the prophet. This is still true today.
The Bible tells us that the answer to our need for a prophet has been graciously provided for us by God Himself. The catechism teaches us that Jesus “fully revealed to us the secret council and will of God concerning our redemption.” When Moses was approaching the end of his life, he told the people in Deuteronomy 18:15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him.” Peter said in his Pentecost sermon that Jesus was the very prophet of whom Moses spoke (Acts 3:22). Peter went on to add: “Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from among His people.”
Unless we listen to Jesus we will remain ignorant. He is the eternal Word who became flesh. He communicates to us the will of God. The promise of the eternal prophet has found fulfillment in Jesus the Christ. Not listening to Jesus of Nazareth will lead to your destruction because Jesus is the anointed of God. He is the Christ, anointed by God to reveal God’s will to us.
The Chief Prophet
As our chief prophet and teacher, Christ is not merely one of the powerful and great personalities who have lived in history. He is not just a great teacher like Aristotle or Augustine. No! Christ is infinitely more than this! He is in a class all by Himself. All other prophets and teachers find their reason for existence in Jesus Christ. All must point to Him as the prophet.
Israel had in her day great prophets such as Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, and John the Baptist. Yet, even the greatest of these was heard to say, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Who but the Christ could ever say, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”? Jesus, the prophet, was greater than Moses; greater than Isaiah, greater than Daniel; greater than John the Baptist.
Whatever men may teach, if it does not conform to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, then it stands condemned. Any teaching from the pulpit; any teaching in the catechism room; any teaching in the Christian school, or anywhere else; if it does not seek to glorify Jesus the Christ, the great prophet then it is hopelessly out of line with the will of God. It is the teaching of a false prophet and it stands condemned.
Rev. Wybren Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and editor of The Outlook.