“There is a reason why our Lord Jesus, the Prophet, the Priest, and the King said nothing to the powers of this age, even when he had opportunity, about their oppression of the poor or their manifold injustices. That was not his office. He came proclaiming an eschatological kingdom, a heavenly kingdom, which had, in his person, descended into history in a unique way. He healed, he raised the dead, and he spoke the truth but he never fundamentally challenged the political or economic status quo. If that troubles you, then perhaps you have replaced the Jesus of Scripture with the Jesus sought by the crowds on Palm Sunday, the Jesus in whom Judas hoped?”
(R. Scott Clark – Abounding Grace) In the first part of this two-part series, I sketched some of the background to explain how and why, in our late-modern period, it seems plausible to so many to regard the institutional church as an agent for social change….
On the face of the New Testament, this would seem rather implausible since neither Jesus nor the Apostles preached a message of “social justice,” which I defined in part 1. This absence of a clear, unequivocal message of social justice in the New Testament has led to some rather clumsy attempts to wedge a message of social justice into the New Testament. One sees interpreters doing this to Paul’s letter to Philemon concerning the slave Onesimus. It is reasonable to interpret Paul as intending to persuade Philemon to free Onesimus but if Paul intended to upend the institution of Greco-Roman slavery, he whiffed. Recently I heard an attempt to interpret 1 Peter 2:21–22 through the lens of social justice but that interpretation must be judged a failure since it quite misses Peter’s intention altogether. For an alternative interpretation see this commentary. 1 Peter 2:18 is quite clear and it must condition our understanding of Peter’s use of Christ as example.
The Prophetic Office Of The Church
Our Lord Jesus Christ has three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. This is an ancient Christian way of understanding the person and work of Christ. In the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) the Reformed churches confess this threefold office (triplex munus):
31. Why is He called Christ, that is Anointed?
Because He is ordained of 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; and our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.
Our Lord Jesus, of course, is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic office, which began with Moses. God the Son, in his pre-incarnate state, revealed through Moses the office of prophet that was to be patterned after Moses (Deut 18:15–22). The function of the prophet was to announce only God’s Word to the people. The Lord gave to the people a test to determine a true prophet from false prophets. If the word they spoke came true, it was from the Lord.