The Prophet, Priest, and King of Nazareth

In school plays, acting skills are limited. Many times, the best actor has to play multiple roles. He may play the role of the main character, but he also probably plays other roles in scenes that do not include the main character. The same is true for mediocre sports teams. When I played baseball in Little League, I played for a team that was so bad that only two of us could throw and catch without running all over the field after the ball. Because my friend and I were the only two players who could successfully throw and catch, we had two roles—pitcher and catcher. Whenever I pitched, my buddy would be the catcher. Whenever he pitched, I was the catcher. Our team desperately needed us to play these roles every game, or else we would lose by 20 runs instead of only 5.

As our redeemer, Jesus also plays certain roles that are crucial to the victory of his team—his people. In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus performs the roles of a prophet, a priest, and a king. It feels strange to think of Jesus as a prophet, priest, and king because these are all roles that were played by people in the Old Testament, but not so much in the New.

In the Old Testament we learn about prophets like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. We learn about priests like Aaron and his sons. We learn about kings like David and Solomon. But when it comes to Jesus we seem to only think of him as a Savior. God’s people in the New Testament seem to be much different from God’s people in the Old Testament. The church, so it seems, doesn’t have prophets, priests, or kings the way Israel did. However, all of those prophets, priests, and kings were like shadows of the greatest Prophet, Priest, and King. They were like arrows pointing to Jesus who would be what all the prophets, priests, and kings of old failed to be.

For hundreds and even thousands of years, the people of God anticipated the coming of the Messiah, or Savior, who would perfectly reveal God’s will, provide for their sins, and rule over them. In Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection, he perfectly revealed God’s Word to us, offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and ruled over us in power. Jesus saves us by being a prophet who reveals God’s Word to us, a priest who sacrifices himself for us, and a king who brings us into his kingdom under his eternal rule.

The only hope my Little League team had for even smidgen of success was in the arms and gloves of my friend and me. We had to perform our roles perfectly or our team would lose spectacularly. In the Bible, there are many examples of cowardly prophets, impious priests, and rebellious kings. None of them adequately fulfilled the role to which they were called. The prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament are a litany of disappointments. But in Jesus we will never be disappointed. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the roles of a prophet, priest, and king, which is our only hope for knowing, loving, and living for God.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.


Morning Mashup 09/02

Kentucky Clerk Not Issuing Marriage Licenses – A Rowan County clerk has stood her ground and continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses. She is at war with her employer, the Kentucky state government. But Ryan Anderson shows there is a better way for protecting religious liberty rights of county clerks as well as civil rights of citizens. If you are at all plugged into this unfolding drama, please consider this piece.

When Jesus Got the Bible Wrong – Uh oh! Don’t you just love clickbait? Nevertheless, this is a fantastic piece about hermeneutics and biblical tensions.

Should We Go Down the Ashley Madison Rabbit Hole? – “Our media-saturated lives offer regular opportunities to make private details public. How do we know when to feed our hunger and when to starve it?”

Tullian Tchividjian Files for Divorce – I don’t know how I missed this news. I’m saddened to see Tchividjian fall. Praying for God’s grace in his life.

Judgment and Grace – Another sad loss in the Reformed Christian community as Ligonier’s R.C. Sproul Jr. was suspended by Ligonier based on his confession that he had signed up with Ashley Madison.

6 Joys and Perils of Full Time Ministry – I think most pastors can identify with these.

The End of the RGIII Era in Washington? – It’s kind of hard to believe, but Robert Griffin III’s tenure in the nation’s capital may be short lived. The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has already been passed over in favor of Kirk Cousins for the starting gig in Washington. Now the question will be, What’s next for RGIII?

Why All Christians Should Care About Systematic Theology – A helpful excerpt from a book partly written by my current Systematic Theology professor, Stephen Wellum.

Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him. –C.S. Lewis

Brief Reflections on Systematic Theology

theology-mattersAs I began my seminary journey at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this past week, I was more than excited to jump into Stephen Wellum’s online course in Systematic Theology. I love theology, especially when I can sit under the teaching of a seasoned scholar like Wellum.  As we began, I wanted to share a few early reflections on the initial lectures and readings from the course itself, and hopefully offer some helpful guidelines for approaching systematic theology with humility.

What is systematic theology? Systematic theology tends to be oddly frowned upon by many local churches. This is mainly because in doing systematic theology you will be using words not found in Scripture (like, Trinity) and you will be relying on the thoughts, works, and philosophies of men throughout church history. Some even see it as a waste of time for the average Christian. Others see it solely as a means of boasting in intelligence or academic superiority. However, systematic theology is much more simple than that. And it is in fact one of the biggest sanctifying grace for humility in my life.

Take for example Wellum’s introductory definition of systematic theology. Working from John Frame’s view that systematic theology is “the application of God’s Word by persons to all areas of life,” Dr. Wellum provides a helpful reminder that systematic theology should always be grounded in Scripture and is relevant for all Christians in all walks and seasons of life. Simply put, Christians need systematic theology to help them apply the vast array of biblical truths to their lives. What is the Christian’s basis for fighting for the rights of the unborn? We can give answers, but the most complete answer can only be given through a systematic theological explanation of biblical truth.

It is no more than an organized application of the Bible to life. While systematic theology deals with and builds on extra biblical literature and voices, both historical and contemporary, it is primarily an application of God’s Word. This reminder of the organization of biblical truth into categories helps ground our thinking so that theology doesn’t become ultimate. It is no more than a telescope, used to help us see more clearly the vast array of God’s glory as revealed in his Word.

Dr. Wellum also offers a few basic elements of Christian theology that help us evaluate theology. His balance is encouraging as he explains the importance of having a biblically grounded, historically informed, relevant, and practical theology. A theology must be grounded in Scripture, because that is where all Christian theology originates. It must be informed by history, because if you are the first person to think something about God, you are probably wrong. It must carry contemporary engagement. While doctrine never changes, the way it is communicated depends on the culture and age in which we live. It must finally be lived out. A theology that is not practical is not valuable.

Theological error typically results from a failure to strike such balance. A theology may be grounded in Scripture, but fails to speak to the culture (in which case would be an error of application). Or, a theology may speak to contemporary issues in a relevant and practical way, yet fail to uphold biblical truth (in which case would be an error in exegesis). Wellum’s balance in these introductory matters provides a solid launching pad from which to begin this course.

Is there pride involved with Christian theology? Just like all things in life that God meant for good that we distort for our own glory, the study and practice of theology can be done in prideful ways. And there are many superb, yet jerky theologians. But a prideful heart hasn’t engaged theology deeply enough. It is entirely possible to know sound, biblical and theological doctrine and be unmoved. But for the Christian who is seeking to know God on a more intimate level, theological study is a means to accomplish this goal.

Humility is inherent to Christian theology because the theologian cannot boast in the thing he has received solely by the grace of God. How is theology even possible? Wellum’s answer is, “God speaks.” Without the revelation of God, our theology would be impossible or horribly speculative. Even those with errant theologies retain some elements of Christian theology because God has revealed himself not only specifically in his Word, but also generally in the world. Yet, while revelation from God in Scripture (God’s “self-disclosure”) is the origin of our theology, Wellum urges us to proceed with caution because the God who speaks is also “incomprehensible.” He discloses himself, but not fully. And our understanding of God is far from complete. This is a crucial reminder for theology students.

Humility must be our guide as we study theology, for the God who speaks is also mysterious. May we marvel at the splendor of this great God.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.