Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
" GOD PRIVILEGES HIS PEOPLE BY MAKING THEM PROPHETS ."
Q. Why is He called Christ, that is, Anointed?
A. Because He has been ordained by God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us, and who continually intercedes for us before the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.
 Ps. 45:7 (Heb. 1:9); Is. 61:1 (Luke 4:18; Luke 3:21, 22.  Deut. 18:15 (Acts 3:22).  John 1:18; 15:15.  Ps. 110:4 (Heb. 7:17).  Heb. 9:12; 10:11-14.  Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24; I John 2:1.  Zach. 9:9 (Matt. 21:5); Luke 1:33.  Matt. 28:18-20; John 10:28; Rev. 12:10, 11.
Q. Why are you called a Christian?
A. Because I am a member of Christ by faith and thus share in His anointing, so that I may as prophet confess His Name, as priest present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him, and as king fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter reign with Him eternally over all creatures.
 I Cor. 12:12-27.  Joel 2:28 (Acts 2:17); I John 2:27.  Matt. 10:32; Rom 10:9, 10; Heb. 13:15.  Rom. 12:1; I Pet. 2:5, 9.  Gal. 5:16, 17; Eph. 6:11; I Tim. 1:18, 19.  Matt. 25:34; II Tim. 2:12.
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Psalm 119:18 & Hymn 41:3,4
Lordís Day 12.31A,32A
Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
The familiar word ĎChristí isnít English; itís Greek. In the Greek language the term simply means Ďanointedí. Jesus is called ĎChristí because on the day of His baptism God the Father anointed His only-begotten Son with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21f), and so equipped Jesus to carry out the task for which God sent Him into the world. Through this anointing on the day of His baptism, God made Jesus of Nazareth prophet, priest and king at the same time. This is what we confess in Question & Answer 31 of our Lordís Day.
The word ĎChristianí comes from the same Greek word, and means Ďanointed onesí. Thatís because the ĎChristianí shares in the anointing of Christ, with as result that the Christian also has an office, a duty including three distinct aspects; the Christian is Prophet, is Priest, is King. In fact, we all are Christians, anointed with the Holy Spirit, and therefore prophets, priests and kings. We confess this in Question & Answer 32 of Lordís Day 12.
There is much to say about each of these three offices. For that reason I intend to spread Lordís Day 12 over three Sundays, dealing successively with the three offices of prophet, priest and king. Today, then, the matter of "prophets". I summarize the sermon with this theme:
GOD PRIVILEGES HIS PEOPLE BY MAKING THEM PROPHETS.
1. The task of the biblical prophet.
Prophets we are, says Lordís Day 12. What, beloved, is a prophet? The term Ďprophetí is popularly used today to describe someone who has insights into the future, who tells us about the things that are going to happen. On that understanding, our function as prophets would be that we tell others about the things that are yet to happen, and we might then think of earthquakes and famines, of the return of Jesus Christ and the final judgment.
But that is not how the Scripture uses the term. What Scripture means by the terms Ďprophetí is possibly best illustrated by what we read from Ex 6 & 7. The Lord instructed Moses to "speak to Pharaoh Ö all that I say to you" (6:29). Moses objected to this command on the ground that he wasnít very eloquent, that he expressed himself awkwardly. God responded to Mosesí complaint with this word: "Aaron your brother shall be your prophet" (7:1). What that means is amplified by what God says next: "You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh...." From that passage we learn what a prophet is; a prophet speaks on someone elseís behalf, a prophet is some elseís mouthpiece.
Yet in Scripture a prophet is not simply a person who speaks for some other person; in Scripture a prophet is specifically someone who speaks on behalf of God. So we read in Dt 18 these words from God: "I will raise up for them a prophet...; and I will put words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him" (vs 18). So it is that the prophets of later generations prefaced their words with that phrase: "thus says the Lord." The prophet did not speak his own word; he was rather "moved by the Holy Spirit [and so] (spoke) from God" (II Pet 1:21).
Here, beloved, is a most marvelous thought. The almighty Creator in heaven on high is pleased to speak to people on earth, to creatures, sinful creatures. But God does not speak directly from heaven; He did that at Mt Sinai, and the people were afraid when they heard Godís voice, and so asked that God speak to Moses and let Moses please pass on Godís words to the people (Ex 20:18f). And so it happened! No longer has God spoken directly from heaven to men, but He takes certain people to function as mouthpieces on His behalf. God wants His Word heard among men, and certain persons received the privilege to be the medium God used to bring His word among people.
Of course, those who heard Godís prophets were obligated to listen. After all, the prophets spoke from God. This word, exactly because it came from God, was life saving. Through His prophets God told His people Who He is, told people what man is and how he is to worship this God. In His care for His people, the Lord revealed through His prophets all we need to know about the fall into sin, about how God saves us in Jesus Christ, about His being our Father, about His providence, about the resurrection of the body, about the church, about the Holy Spirit, about the Last Things, etc. God had these life-saving realities spoken amongst men in circumstances of peace and in circumstances of sorrow, in circumstances of obedience and in circumstances of disobedience. But always the fact that He sent His Word meant that the hearers were obligated to listen!
But see: time and time again the prophets of the Old Testament experienced so painfully that the people did not want to listen to what God was saying through them. They ignored the prophets, they ridiculed the prophets, they persecuted the prophets. Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah (I K 19). The youths of Bethel echoed the mind of the time when they mocked Elisha and told him to "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" (II Kings 2:23). Micaiah was slapped across the cheek and placed on a diet of dry bread and water in some prison (I K 22). Amos was told to go home (7:12). Against Jeremiah the plot was made to put him to death; because he spoke as he did, he ended up in a well with a quicksand bottom (ch 38). In a word, there was a distinct danger in being a prophet.
And yes, we can understand that danger. For who of us likes to be told that a habit of ours is sin? We, like they, catch ourselves from time to time not wanting to hear Godís word as Godís word, find ourselves deriding those around us who speak to us Godís Word. Yet a faithful prophet hasnít the choice whether to speak or not, hasnít the choice whether to water down what God wants him to speak or not. God gives a command Ė"say this"- and the prophet is obliged to say exactly that..., even if it be at the cost of his own life. Thatís what being a prophet is all about.
And that makes it clear: to be a prophet was far from easy. To be a prophet took a lot of courage. And it took a lot of insight too. And a lot of wisdom. And none of the prophets of old had the necessary courage and insight and wisdom. But with the calling to speak Godís Words, to be prophet, came also the needed strength. As God said to Moses: "I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (Ex 4:12). The Sender of the prophet was faithful.
2. The fulfillment in the chief prophet.
Of all the persons that the Lord was pleased to use as His mouthpieces, Jesus Christ is presented to us in Scripture as the "chief". Now that we know what the task of a prophet is, we can also easily understand why Christ is called the "Chief Prophet and Teacher". For Christ is Himself God, and so every word He speaks is invariably a word of God. So it is that we read in the gospels that Christ "speaks the words of God" (Jn 3:34). Indeed, "I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak" (Jn 12:49).
Remember, Jesus Christ was Son of God, and thatís to say that He was from eternity in the bosom of the Father. If anyone on earth, then, was equipped to declare the Father to earthlings, surely it was Jesus of Nazareth! (cf Jn 1:18). That is why in Jesus Christ the line of prophets came to its climax; in the Son of Man God has revealed the fullness of what He wishes men to know. Chief Prophet and Teacher: in Christ Jesus, God has made Himself fully known. What God says of human corruption, of substitution by grace, of atonement for sin, of providence, of the resurrection, of the church: that Prophet of prophets has revealed it all to the full. That is why that voice came from heaven on the Mt of Transfiguration and told the disciples: "This is My beloved Son...; listen to Him" (Mt 17:5).
How privileged, then, how very privileged were the people of Israel in Jesusí day to have this Chief Prophet and Teacher in their midst! Here was grace from God; the Creator wished to speak to men, and used His own Son as the means to do so!
But the people did not appreciate this wealth. Certainly, His miracles, and even the authority of His teaching, made Him popular at the beginning of His ministry. But when He laid before the people all the glorious promises of God and all His demands, when He exposed their sins for what they were and urged repentance, when He told them they had nothing they could contribute to their salvation but were dependent on Godís grace completely, He was rejected out of hand. En masse, the people deserted Him (Jn 6:60). The Pharisees told Him that He had a devil and tried to discredit Him in His prophesying, to unmask Him as a fake, to prove that God was not speaking through Him. Make no mistake, beloved: to be Chief Prophet and Teacher was for the Christ no easy office. But the Lord God had anointed Him to the office of prophet, and with the anointing came the strength to carry out the office. So John could write that "He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure" (Jn 3:34). That is: when Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, God gave the Spirit to Jesus in fullness. Even when Jesus was arrested, afflicted, spit on, scoffed at, nailed to the cross, He continued to speak words that came from heaven alone Ė Chief Prophet and Teacher.
After His resurrection from the dead, the Christ spoke the Word of God on earth for forty days more. Then His task as personal spokesman for the Father was completed, and He was carried aloft to receive from God the throne at Godís right hand. Yet that ascension, beloved, did not mean that now Jesusí task to be prophet was ended. Ten days after His ascension He poured out His Holy Spirit, the Spirit who spoke not His own words, but spoke rather the words of Christ (Jn 16:14). Through this Spirit the Chief Prophet and Teacher would lead the apostles further into all the truth (Jn 16:13). So it is that our Chief Prophet, through His Holy Spirit, caused the apostles to put Godís revealed Word into writing; the Bible is the Word of God given to us by that chief prophet and teacher. When that Bible is opened today, the Christ who sits at Godís right hand still speaks to the Church, yes to all the world. Once He was anointed to be Prophet; always He functions as Prophet, continually.
How wonderful, brothers and sisters, the grace and mercy of the Lord your God! Though we are sinful, and live in a world of unbelief, the Lord God would have us hear His Word, would speak to us Ė the Bible! How much, then, are we to treasure that Word in our homes, and to treasure that Word also when it is preached to us in church. God our Father speaks to us still! We praise You, Lord, for your marvelous works!
3. The mandate of the modern prophet.
The fact that Christ is chief prophet implies that God has ordained others to be prophets with Him. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ moved Peter to speak these words: "Öthis is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ĎAnd it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesyÖí" (Act 2:16f). Says Peter: with the Spiritís outpouring today, Joelís prophecy is fulfilled; common people, your children, are now prophets, spokesmen from God! Amazing, beloved, but thatís the force of Peterís words. God speaks to sinners through sinners, yes, through common people, through you and your sons and your daughters! What mercy that is! Thatís also why this same Peter can tell the saints of the dispersion in his first letter that they are "Godís own special people that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (I Pet 2:9). And Paul can consider confessing Godís Name to be normal Christian activity. Rom 10: "Ö if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (vs 9f). No, not that thereís something new in the thought that common folk are prophets; what happened at Pentecost fulfills what Moses longed for at Mt Sinai already when he said: "Would that all the Lordís people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (Num 11:29). On the day of Pentecost it happened; by pouring out His Spirit on all His people, the chief Prophet and Teacher in heaven has ordained all His people to be prophets, spokesmen from God amongst sinners.
See there your identity and mine, beloved. At our baptism the Lord God promised that His Holy Spirit would dwell in us. In the strength of this Spirit, we can speak the Word of God in our daily circumstances. True, we donít do it identically to the prophets of, say, the Old Testament. Whereas God may have given to them particular revelations that they were to pass on the people, we receive no revelations from God. For us it is instead to open the Bible left to us by the Chief Prophet, and confess in our particular circumstances what the Lord God says. Be it circumstances of sorrow or sin, of grief or gladness, we are equipped to confess Godís mighty acts, to bring His life-giving Word to bear on sorrow around us or the sins we witness.
I cannot say it strongly enough: here is an enormous privilege!! It pleases the Father in heaven and His ascended Son to have the Word of God heard on this earth. Though He knows well how our society has rejected that word, and that so many millions have no regard for God and His life-saving revelation, the Lord does not turn His back to this world. Instead, He causes the Bible the Spirit inspired to be readily available in our community, and causes the Word of the Bible to be preached also at particular places Sunday by Sunday, and thatís wonderful indeed. But God does more! Such is His interest for our community that He sends His people into this community as prophets, as persons anointed by the Holy Spirit and so equipped to speak words from God in the particular circumstances in which God in wisdom leads us. "Leaf and blade, food and drink, health and sickness," etc, come not by chance but by His Fatherly hand, and thatís true too of the place of employment God gives us in this community and the neighbors we have and the person we bump into on the bus. God in heaven causes us to rub shoulders with specific people, and so God through His children-as-prophets causes His Word to cross their paths!
No, thatís not to say that as soon as God puts a person on our path we need to speak the gospel to him. There is also such a thing as manners in speaking, and that includes respecting the other personís space and earning the right to speak about intimate matters. Here is need for wisdom, and courage, and therefore need for prayer.
Yet, brothers and sisters, itís not first of all to the people of the world that the Lord makes us prophets. For so many of us, the people with whom we spend most of our time are brothers and sisters in the faith. The family is such an integral part of our lives, be it our children, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our grandparents, our grandchildren, and maybe even cousins. The church community, and therefore the school community, also provides so very many of our day-to-day contacts. Here first of all we are prophets, appointed by God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to speak His Word in changing day-to-day circumstances.
By the grace of God, we do speak Godís word as we rub shoulders at home, at school, at soccer, etc. Yet we find to our dismay that the more readily we speak Godís word the more square weíre seen to be. Parents feel it in the home with growing children, especially youth feel it at school with their peers; itís just not cool to bring up the Lord and His service in normal, daily conversations. Yet the Lord, brothers and sisters, tells parents to speak of God to their children "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Dt 6:7). So, even on the soccer field there is place for parents to speak with their children of the Lord and His Word. And if itís fitting for parents to be spokesmen for God in any and every circumstance of life, thereís no reason why the same would not be true for friends among friends, older or younger. Our coffee klatches should not be forums to discuss the latest in gossip, but occasions where older women encourage younger women in the biblical art of good housekeeping and loving their husbands Ė as Paul writes to Titus (2:3). Our BBQs should not be events where the fellows drink themselves in a knot, but occasions where Ėagain, as Paul writes to Titus- the young men and older show themselves to be sound in faith and displaying a pattern of good works, with speech that cannot be condemned (2:1,6ff). That is: weíre prophets around the clock, always, everywhere.
I know: speaking according to Godís word invariably prompts a response from the hearers. The prophets of the Old Testament were scorned and ridiculed because they spoke the word of God, and so was Jesus in His day. Thatís because the human heart does not want Godís word to interfere with our lives; thatís human. What Jesus said to His disciples is true for us today too: speaking Godís word will "set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Mt 10:35). We find it very painful, but Jesus has told us that we will experience what the prophets of the Old Testament also experienced. It wasnít the Babylonians who put Jeremiah in the pit, but Godís own people in Jerusalem, Jeremiahís brothers and sisters. It wasnít the heathen Moabites who slapped Micaiah across the face, but a fellow prophet from Israel (I Kings 22:24). It wasnít the Romans who demanded Jesusí crucifixion, but Jesusí own people. We are prophets first in the home, then in the church and school community, and there is where we will experience rejection first of all; "a manís enemies will be those of his own household" (Mt 10:36). Let no one surprised at hostility, even in home and church communities.
How much more, then, shall we receive ridicule from the public community! On the train and at work weíre prophets too, appointed and anointed to confess Christís name. The reaction of the public will not be more favorable than reactions from the brethren; ridicule is the lot of those who would speak the word of God. As Jesus said: "A disciple is not above his teacher.... If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of His household!" (Mt 10:24f). Hence Jesusí words in Mt 10:17ff: "they will deliver you up to councils, and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake.... and you will be hated by all for My nameís sake" (10:17ff).
Truly, itís enough to frighten us off. That is why two more things need to be said. The first is Jesusí promise in vs 19: "Ödo not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you" (vs 19f). As the Spirit of God moved the prophets of the Old Testament to say what they had to say, and gave them the courage to say it too, and as the Spirit was poured so fully on Jesus Christ so that He could speak Godís word fully and faithfully during His three year ministry on earth (Jn 3:34), so the Spirit of God gives us the words we need to say, and the courage to say them, and the wisdom to know when to speak. That is true in the home and true at school, true on the train and true at work. The Lord God has anointed us with the Holy Spirit, and so appointed us to the office of prophets of God in this sin-filled world, and so He gives the words and He gives the strength. It is for us to work with His promises in our specific situation. An opportunity to speak does not come by chance, but comes from Godís Fatherly hand; well then, when this Father-for-Jesusí-sake puts us in such a circumstance, He will certainly supply the words and the strength. It is not by accident that Jesus spoke to the disciples about the value of sparrows and the hairs on peopleís heads precisely in the context of the response faithful prophets experience. The disciples should know, and we should know, that our God does not fail; with Him weíre always safe.
Here is enormous encouragement for us. We donít desire to be on the receiving end of scorn, neither at home from family members nor at school from our peers nor on the bus from a stranger nor at work from our mates. The Lord knows that, and that is why He encourages us with the reminder of His sovereignty and the promise of strength from His Spirit. So we do well, beloved, to begin each day with the prayer that God please give us the grace and strength and words He promised, and give us too the confidence of faith to trust His leading.
The second thing that needs to be said relates to vs 39 from Mt 10. In the context of being prophets and the negative reactions the disciples may expect, Jesus told them that "he who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Jesusí point here was both to warn His disciples and to encourage them. The person who wants to be Ďiní with the crowd on this earth will have to embrace peopleís sinful aversion to Godís word, and therefore refrain from confessing Christ before men. Such a person, says Jesus, may "find his life" on this earth, be accepted by men, but he will lose it on the last day. For, vs 33, "whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." In other words, Jesus will not intercede for Godís mercy on behalf of that child of His who didnít confess Jesus before men. Jesus is frank with His disciples Ėand with us- about the cost of failing to be the prophets God called us to be.
On the other hand, says Jesus, "he who loses his life for My sake will find it." The person who speaks up for the Lord God on this earth will lose his life here, be ridiculed and scorned and betrayed by family and friends and mates. But the Lord will not desert him, and having God on our side is true life today already. And on the day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, Christ will Himself intercede before Godís throne on behalf of this faithful child of His. This faithful Christian was willing to take up His cross and follow the Lord, even into ridicule, and so heíll receive the crown of glory.
God the Father has granted you, brothers and sisters, the unsurpassable privilege to be anointed with the Holy Spirit. To Him be all glory! He made us prophets, now and forever, and He does not fail! Amen.