He Is The Savior And We Are The Saved (Part 6)

Christians are prophets, and we honor our King when confess his Word to a watching world

“When ecclesiastical assembly pronounce on trendy issues (e.g., divestment) they are not likely to find much opposition from the powers of this age. When, however, they perform their actual prophet duty, then resistance is much more likely. This is as it has been since Christianity first came into contact with the pagan world in the 1st century.”

 

In part 5 we began looking at Heidelberg Catechism 32, which distinguishes between the Savior (Jesus) and the saved (Christians) and applies to believers the three offices of Christ: prophet, priest, and king. By virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, through faith, we too are prophets, priest, and kings but just as Christ is the Savior and we the saved, we must distinguish clearly between the way he possess and fulfills those offices and the way we do. God the Son is the archetype for the biblical offices as they were revealed progressively in the history of redemption. When he became incarnate of the blessed virgin (blessed because she was chosen to be the Theotokos i.e., θεοτοκος—Definition of Chalcedon, 451 AD; the God-bearer) he not only fulfilled the types and shadows from the history of redemption but manifested in the flesh the full reality of those offices on which the types and shadows were based. Put simply the types and shadows work, as it were, for Jesus not the reverse. So he is the original, we are his image bearers. We partake in his offices but they are his offices. We reflect them as servants to whom gifts have been given. As servants we administer his belongings, on his behalf and on behalf of his kingdom.

In Heidelberg Catechism 32 we say:

32. But why are you called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ and thus a partaker of His anointing, in order that I also may confess His Name, may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him, and that with a free conscience I may fight against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.

We use four verbs to capture our fulfillment of the three offices: confess, present, fight and reign Our prophetic office is to confess his name. As prophet Jesus reveals God and his salvation to us. We are not revealers. We are recipients of revelation. This is has been a difficult distinction for people to accept. At least since the Montanists in the 3rd century Christians have been tempted to dislocate Scripture as the sole, unique authoritative revelation from God. The Montanists wanted ongoing revelation. Ultimately the medieval church would reply to such approaches by saying, in effect, “we have continuing revelation in the teaching magisterium” (councils and popes). In the 1520s the Anabaptists claimed to receive continuing revelation and accused the the Reformed of being “ministers of the dead letter.” Since the 1820s and particularly since the early 20th century American evangelicals have regularly claimed to have renewed apostolic gifts and revelation. In contrast, however, the Reformed are content with Holy Scripture as God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word.

Simply repeating what God’s Word said is evidently not very interesting to many who profess to hold the Christian faith. Confessing God’s Word, however, is a holy privilege. When we confess the faith in our confessions (e.g., the Belgic and the Westminster), our catechisms (e.g., the Heidelberg and the Westminster), and the Canons of Dort we are fulfilling our prophetic duty. Today, when Christians talk about the church’s “prophetic role” we don’t often hear and read about the duty to confess. Typically the “prophetic role” is invoked when we want the government to change a law or a policy. Surely there are a small number of instances when the church as Christ’s institutional representative might speak to the state. WCF 31.4 says:

Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.

This way of thinking about the questions that the church as institution should address was not original to the Westminster Divines. They inherited a view that had long existed among the Reformed and some medieval thinkers. Ecclesiastical assemblies have taken to speaking to all manner of social questions, e.g., investment in Israel, on which faithful believers who confess the same faith may well legitimately differ.

Read More

Read Part 7 “He Is the Savior and We Are the Saved” and Part 8 “He Is the Savior and We Are the Saved”

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