The Triple Cure: Jesus Christ – Our Prophet, Priest, and King

By Kim Riddlebarger

It was John Calvin who brought the munus triplex, or the so-called “threefold office” of Christ into prominence. Picked up by most of the subsequent Reformed tradition, and adopted by many Lutheran theologians as well, the threefold office presents Jesus Christ as prophet, priest, and king, who in his saving work, fulfilled all the anointed offices of the Old Testament. (1) Calvin adopted this model to accomplish several things. First, it helped him give shape to his overall Christology, which focuses primarily on Christ’s work in terms of being mediator of a covenant of redemption, the one chosen by God to be the savior of the elect. Second, he used the threefold office to bind together Christ’s person as the eternal Son of God, fully human and fully divine, to his work as redeemer, as seen in his names “Christ” and “Messiah,” which themselves are indicative of his being the “anointed one.” (2) This means that for Calvin, “the Son of God, therefore, is not properly called Christ apart from his office, for it is there, in his official capacity, that he manifests as the true fulfillment of the offices of the Old Testament his threefold work as prophet, priest, and king.” (3) This model also offers an excellent way to connect redemptive history to systematic theology. Since Christ’s three offices, prophet, priest, and king, “represent the three offices of ancient Israel to which men were appointed as servants of God,” Calvin could connect the incarnation directly to Christ’s work as mediator. This means that “the prophet, the king, and the priest are united in Christ, are perfected, and are thereby fulfilled and brought to conclusion in the one who is both king and priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (4) In the threefold office, Calvin offers an excellent and compelling way to make sense of a large block of diverse biblical data.

Later Reformed theologians, such as Francis Turretin, introduce the threefold office of our Lord as the divinely revealed solution to the threefold disease of ignorance, guilt, and pollution described above. It is Christ, as prophet, priest, and king, who offers the threefold cure to our fatal disease. Read more»

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