Jesus holds 3 primary offices we first see pictured in the Old Testament. He reveals himself to us in these ways so we can understand who he is and what he has done. These offices are:
It is important to not only understand each of these roles (and few, in principal at least, would disagree with them) but to ensure we hold a balanced view of these roles to understand Jesus in truth.
Unfortunately, we often fall into the trap of minimizing one of these offices, resulting in an incomplete and ultimately incorrect picture of Christ.
Some common errors can be attributed to such imbalances.
Prophet + King – Priest = the Jesus of Fundamentalism
Traits such as legalism, moralism, the lack of love, grace, mercy or patience are often the result of a deficiency in the understanding of Jesus as priest.
There is a good understanding of his role as prophet; calling sin sin and commanding repentance. His role as king, his authority in all things, is also well understood. But the minimized understanding of his grace, love and care of us as priest results in a cold, distant God who is just sitting there, ready to strike us down when we mess up.
Prophet + Priest – King = the Jesus of Evangelicalism
This is often typified by an understanding of Christian truths and that Christians are called to different standard of how to live, but in reality their lives are no different than the average non-Christian in our society.
Here there is the understanding that Jesus loves them as their priest and that he speaks truth in his role as prophet. But what seems to be missing, or minimized, is his authority over their lives in his role as king. Instead, Jesus is viewed more as an assistant, someone who is there to help out when invited to, while the individual maintains control and sovereignty over many or all aspects of their own lives.
Priest + King – Prophet = the Jesus of Liberalism
This results in a Jesus who would never offend, raise his voice or be harsh. A Jesus who would never demand repentance because of his infinite patience, tolerance and understanding.
Here, Jesus’ love, patience, grace and mercy as priest are understood. Also understood, as king, is his rule over all and his desire to extend his peace into their lives. Missing, however, is Jesus’ hard-edged role of prophet; his firm call to us that we are sinners and must repent.
As you can see, our understanding in this area can drastically shape our theology and, by extension, can (and, I’d argue, will) have a very real impact on our lives and actions as Christians.
I would guess that when most of us review these offices we will see the one office we tend to minimize. I know I do … I actually reworded one of those sections because I had naturally written “we” and “us” when describing the error.
Note: These ideas have been taken and summarized from the Christological text by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears, Vintage Jesus (Chapter 4: Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?).