by Matthew Pinson
(reposted from www.welch.com/blog)
I grew up in church singing “Praise Him, Praise Him,” a hymn by the prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby. It was hymn 58 in the old 1964 Free Will Baptist Hymn Book. There was a phrase in that hymn that always intrigued me:
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever.
Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
I sung about Christ as prophet, priest, and king in church hundreds of times. In addition to that, I recall hearing the phrase in some of my grandfather L. V. Pinson’s sermons.
Another recollection I have of what is known as the “three offices of Christ” or the “threefold office of Christ” was when Leroy Forlines, about 25 years ago, introduced me to Jacobus Arminius’s writings on the offices of Christ. He told me that his theology of the atonement and justification had been particularly influenced by reading Arminius’s Oration on the Priesthood of Christ. He had encountered this while taking a course in “Arminian Theology” in the early 1950s, taught by Dr. L. C. Johnson, founding president of Welch College.
Other than that, I’ve heard very little about the phrase or the concept. I think it’s safe to say that, generally, we hear less and less about Christ’s offices of prophet, priest, and king in modern Christianity. Still, I’ve become fascinated by the three offices of Christ, and I’m thinking of writing a little book of spirituality on them.
There was a time, not long ago, when Christ as prophet, priest, and king was common vernacular in the church. In the history of Christianity, you read a great deal about the subject. I have found this especially true in our spiritual ancestors in the seventeenth century, the English General Baptists.
I’m currently producing a critical edition of a work on spirituality by the English General Baptist Francis Smith entitled Symptoms of Growth and Decay in Godliness. It hasn’t been published since the early 1700s. In the “Dedicatory Epistle,” Smith, speaking of conversion, the “gracious change, God through his rich grace then made, that . . . his Son should become your King, to rule you, your Priest to make atonement for you, and also your Prophet to teach you; in a word your All in All. Thus at the sight and sense of what sin and Satan had been, and what now Christ Jesus would be by way of change, your hearts were wonderfully taken up with admiring this choice, that was not only of God’s preparing to redeem you from the highest wrath, but to redeem you to the highest glory.”
A wonderful summary of the historic Protestant teaching on the three offices of Christ is found in a seventeenth-century General Baptist confession of faith entitled the Orthodox Creed. The passage below comes from the article entitled “Of Christ and His Mediatorial Office.” “Mediatorial Office” is another way of saying the three offices of Christ or the “threefold office of Jesus Christ,” as was commonly used. The language of “mediatorial office” comes from 1 Timothy 2:5, which reads, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (NKJV). The Free Will Baptist Treatise of Faith and Practices uses similar language in its chapter six, “The Atonement and Mediation of Christ.” Below is the passage from the Orthodox Creed. I encourage you to read it carefully and meditate on the three offices of Christ, praising Him as prophet, priest, and king.
“It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, according to the Covenant made between them both, to be the only mediator between God and man, (viz.) God the Father, who was by Adam’s sin justly offended, and Adam (our common parent) the person offending. Now in order to reconcile God to man, and man to God, who were at a distance, Christ Jesus, the second person in the Trinity, being very God, of the same substance with his Father, when the fullness of time was come, took unto him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities (sin being the only exception), being made of a woman, of the seed of Abraham and David. . . . The same Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience to the whole Law and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit offered up unto God the Father, hath fully satisfied the Justice of God, reconciled him to us, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those that the Father hath given unto him. Now by a continued act of intercession in heaven, Christ Jesus applies the benefits he has purchased to the elect. In this office of mediator, he has the dignity of three offices, (viz.) Priest, Prophet, and King. All these offices are necessary for the benefit of his Church, and without them we can never be saved. For in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office. In respect of our alienation from God, our imperfect services, and God’s wrath and justice, we stand in need of his priestly office, to reconcile God to us and us to God. In respect of our bondage to sin and Satan and averseness to return to God, we need his kingly office, to subdue our enemies and deliver us captives out of the kingdom and power of sin and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. Thus (in our nature) he, living the life of the law and suffering the penalty due to us, continually presents us at the throne of grace, so is a most wonderful and complete mediator for his elect” .
 William J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), 135-37. I have updated some of the spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.