“Never man spake like this man” John 7:46
Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between God and men. As Mediator, He unifies three offices that were distinct in the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. Scripture reveals that those were the three functions necessary for the restoration of fallen man: Man must receive a revelation of true knowledge by an authoritative spokesman; he must be forgiven and justified by the offering of an atoning sacrifice; and he must be brought into submission and protected from his enemies by a powerful sovereign. The purpose of this article is to highlight the glory of Christ’s prophetic ministry.
The Need for a Prophet
One of the fundamental maladies of fallen humanity is ignorance. Man was originally created with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. By his rebellion, he forfeited that knowledge. Paul teaches us about our depraved minds in Ephesians 4:17-18 under four descriptions.
First, our mind is vain. It is empty and aimless. It wanders about without any goal. Our thinking is purposeless.
Second, our understanding is darkened. We have no natural light to illumine our ability to think through things with accuracy and in proper proportion.
Third, we are ignorant. Man does not deal with the facts. This is what we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Line after line, clip after clip, sound- bite after sound-bite ignores the single greatest fact: the existence of God. Devoid of the single greatest reality in the universe, natural man can only be superficial at best.
Fourth, we are blind. That particular word has to do with something that is as hard as stone—it has become petrified. When Mark tells us that Jesus was grieved at the hardness of men’s hearts (Mark 3:5), he uses this word. We all know the difference between a rock and clay. The playdough that my children enjoy shaping is able to easily receive impressions from their hands. Not so with a rock. As hard as you press that rock, there is no sign that any force at all was applied to it. That describes our fallen minds—unable to receive impressions. Resistant to being acted upon from the outside.
Fallen man is plagued by a depraved, ignorant mind. He chooses what he does because he thinks like he does. And what he needs therefore is true knowledge. No wonder that the entire process of Christian transformation is spoken of in Scripture as the renewing of our minds.
But it requires more than the dispensing of knowledge to correct man’s thinking. Paul, in Romans 1, describes the mechanism of our mind’s rebellion. Creation constantly presents facts that reveal God’s eternal power and Godhead, but we actively suppress the knowledge of God and choose to live in darkness rather than light (Romans 1:19-21). Our problem is a willful one.
Therefore, our redemption requires more than the presentation of knowledge. We need a powerful person to break through our aimless, ignorant, rock-hard minds and shine the light of revelation into that willful darkness. God has given us such a Person. Jesus Christ is our Prophet.
The Uniqueness of Christ’s Prophetic Ministry
Of course, there were many prophets in Scripture. The first man that God called a prophet in Scripture was Moses’ brother Aaron (Exodus 7:1). Recall how Aaron functioned as Moses’ prophet: “And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people” (Exodus 4:15-16).
Note the chain of revelation. God would give the words to Moses, and Moses would give the words to Aaron, and Aaron would give the words to the people. The people of Israel would hear Aaron’s voice, but his words were from Moses, who received them from God. So a prophet is a spokesman; he is one who speaks on behalf of another.
Following these initial prophets were dozens of other prophets. But each left the people incomplete. Just as the priests were unable to perfect the worshippers, and the kings were unable to subdue the people’s rebellions and vanquish their enemies, Old Testament prophets were ignored, ridiculed, persecuted, and largely unsuccessful. This is because the success of a prophet depends not merely on the delivery of information, but the illumination and changing of the mind and will. No Old Testament prophet had the capacity to change the heart.
Illumination is a Divine prerogative. In this, Christ sits in a category of one. His prophetic office is not merely superior to all who came before—it is unique, because He alone has the sovereign power to reveal truth, grant spiritual understanding, and overcome hardened hearts. The beauty and success of Christ’s prophetic office consists in its application to sinners both externally and internally.
The Revelation of Christ’s Prophetic Ministry
Christ’s prophetic office, and His absolute success in executing that office, was first predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.”
Note that this prophecy includes both aspects of Christ’s prophetic ministry. He will reveal truth as God’s spokesman, but He will have a further ability no other prophet ever knew: the power to make people obey. Christ does not merely dispense knowledge. He sovereignly causes truth to be understood and obeyed. He “opened the understanding of His disciples that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).
The various names and titles of Christ imply His prophetic office. He is called the Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), the Witness (Isaiah 55:4), the Messenger and Interpreter (Job 33:23), the Apostle (Hebrews 3:1), the Word (John 1:1), and the Truth (John 14:6). Further, Scripture describes Christ in terms consistent with His prophetic office. He is “the light of men” (John 1:4), “the light of the world” (John 9:5), “the light to lighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32; Isaiah 60:3), and the “Christ in whom are laid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). He says in Isaiah’s prophecy, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” (Isaiah 50:4). He said, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). He is “made unto us wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30). It is no wonder that the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:5).
The Mercy of Christ’s Prophetic Ministry
Consider what a mercy it is that Christ executes the office of prophet. Ever since the fall, mankind has been engaged in a revolt against the Lord and His Messiah (Psalm 2:1-2). Their objective is to break off the government of God. That is the whole history of the human race—a systematic, progressive effort to throw off the sovereign rule of God.
Everyone of us has had our part in that mutiny. We all were dead in sins, “walking according to the course of this world,” all the while energized by “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). We are part of the insurrection against God and His Anointed One.
Later in the second psalm, Christ declares the decree of His Father who said to Him: “I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:8). What will it take for Christ to be able, ultimately, to seize control of this earth and to exercise His Lordship over all of its peoples? He will have to “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).
But astoundingly, the first advent of Christ wasn’t to break anyone with a rod of iron. It was to talk to the rebels. This was Christ’s own personal understanding of His mission, according to Luke 4:16-21. When He opened up the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, He chose to read the words of His own commission from Isaiah 61: “The LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek… to proclaim liberty to the captives… to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” He came to speak to rebels. He came to preach good tidings, to proclaim the gospel. What a mercy!
The Continuation of Christ’s Prophetic Ministry
Is this still His ministry today? It most certainly is. In the days of Christ’s humiliation, Christ executed the office of Prophet personally and directly. “All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22). They marveled, because He spoke “as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29).
But Christ still speaks even after His exaltation to God’s right hand. God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). Now, Christ executes His prophetic office through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit acting upon the Word of God. Peter wrote, explaining the ministry of the Old Testament prophets, that the “Spirit of Christ… testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). Paul joins Peter in calling the third Person of the Trinity the “Spirit of Christ” in Romans 8:9 and Philippians 1:19.
By this same Holy Spirit, Christ “went and preached unto the spirits in prison” during the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:19- 20). Those hardened sinners heard the voice of Christ in the preaching of Noah. The same was true of the Apostle Paul’s preaching ministry. While sinners heard Paul’s preaching, we know that through Paul Christ was opening their eyes, and turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). The risen Christ has gifted His church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). When they minister the truth of the Word of God, Christ speaks as God’s great Prophet.
Blessed be God, that He has mercifully given ignorant, darkened sinners like us a powerful, authoritative Prophet to reveal God unto us. May the Lord give us grace to always receive Christ’s prophetic ministry with gratitude, humility, and a tender heart.
“He speaks and, listening to His voice, New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice; The humble poor believe”
— Charles Wesley