Just for Catholics

JESUS' WORK OF REDEMPTION

Two men, Adam and Christ, stand head and shoulders above all people because of their influence on the rest of humanity. In Adam, who is the head of the entire human race, there is sin, condemnation and death. But God appointed the second man, the Lord from heaven, to redeem and gather a people for himself from among the fallen human race. Christ, who is called the ‘last Adam’ (1 Cor 15:45), is the head of a new people. He reversed the ill-effects of Adam’s fall, and brought righteousness, justification, and eternal life.

The Anointed

The title ‘Christ’ (or in Hebrew, ‘Messiah’) means ‘the Anointed One’; it indicates his consecration by the Father for his redemptive mission. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil as a sign of their appointment (1 Kings 19:16; Ex 29:7; 1 Sam 10:1). In fulfillment of these symbols, the Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit to perform the work of a prophet, priest and king, and thus to bring to his people the blessings of the covenant of grace.

Prophet

The prophet is God’s messenger to his people. Christ is the definitive Prophet because he perfectly reveals the Father. No one can know the Father apart from Christ’s prophetic ministry (Matt 11:27).

The Old Testament spoke in advance about the coming of Christ as a prophet greater than Moses (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:23). He referred to himself as a prophet (Luke 13:33), taught with authority (Matt 7:29) and delivered the message of God. ‘For 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’ (John 12:49). Today, though he has ascended into heaven, he still fulfils his prophetic ministry through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:12-14).

Priest

Jesus is our great high priest (Heb 3:1; 4:14; 5:5; 6:20; 7:26). The prophet represents God before the people; the priest represents the people before God – offering sacrifices on their behalf and interceding for them. The Old Testament predicted Christ’s work as a priest: ‘The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’’ (Ps 110:4). The animal sacrifices foreshadowed the one true sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (Heb 9:23, 24).

The New Testament often speaks about the priestly work of Christ (John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 9:11-15; 10:11-14). Apart from offering the sacrifice of himself to God, once for all, for our reconciliation, Christ continues to intercede for his people before the throne of God. He does this on account of the infinite merit of his sacrifice (Heb 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1, 2). Christ intercedes only for God’s elect, not for every individual indiscriminately (John 17:9, 20).

King

Jesus is the King of kings. The Bible foretold that ‘the government will be upon His shoulder ... of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever’ (Isa 9:6, 7). Seven centuries later the angel announced to Mary that her son ‘will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1:32, 33).

From the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus proclaimed the arrival of the Kingdom of God. His own people, the Jews, did not receive him because Jesus was not the kind of king they expected. They even brought about his execution on a cross, for they said, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’ (Luke 19:14). But God the Father raised him from the dead and gave him all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18; Eph 1:20-22). Jesus Christ is now reigning in heaven and from heaven (1 Cor 15:25).

Some Christians are of the opinion that Jesus is not reigning at present; he will reign in the future, they say, when he returns to earth. Our brethren should remember that at the present time, we are already in his kingdom. God the Father ‘has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love’ (Col 1:13). Of all people, Christians ought to recognize the sovereignty of our King.

Thus Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King – he reveals God to us, reconciles us together, and leads us safely in the way everlasting.

The Cross

We should take a closer look at the death and resurrection of Christ because this momentous event is the very heart of the gospel.

Christ died according to God’s eternal plan. He certainly didn’t die by accident or because he couldn’t avoid the conspiracy of his enemies. Christ died voluntarily, giving his life as a ransom for many (John 10:17, 18; Mark 10:45). His death was frequently the subject of prophecy (see, for instance, Isa 53:7, 8). It was exhibited beforehand in the sacrifices of animals that took place during the old Mosaic period. Christ died because it was so determined by God the Father (Acts 2:23; 4:28).

Christ died to satisfy the divine law which we had broken. God set him forth to be the propitiation – Christ’s sacrifice turned away God’s wrath against sinners. ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10).

Moreover, in Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). He gave his life as a ransom to purchase our freedom from the slavery of sin. God’s broken law brings a curse upon the sinner. Christ freed, or redeemed, us from that curse by taking it upon himself when he hung upon the cross (Gal 3:13).

Christ’s death was substitutionary; he died instead of his people. God placed upon him the sins of his people (Isa 53:6); on the cross, Jesus bore our sins (Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 3:18). The Righteous did not deserve to die; he wasn’t guilty of any sin – we were the guilty sinners; we deserved the punishment. But he took our place; he took our sins and our punishment.

For whom did Christ die? In a certain sense Christ died for the whole world -- ‘he takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29). But we cannot understand ‘world’ to mean each and every person, for the following reasons: (1) elsewhere in the Bible ‘world’ obviously does not mean every single person in the world (Luke 2:1 and Rom 1:8); (2) if we take ‘world’ in the absolute sense, we are led to the heresy of universalism, namely, that all people will be saved (if their sin is ‘taken away’ they cannot be condemned and punished in hell); (3) if we say that Christ merely made salvation possible for everyone, we distort the clear meaning of Scriptures (since Jesus actually ‘takes away’ sin and not merely ‘possibly’).

In what sense, then, did Christ die for the world? The New Testament authors emphasize that God’s salvation was not intended for the Jews only, but for the Gentiles also – Christ is the Saviour of the world, of people from all nations (Rev 5:9).

Some Christians maintain that Christ died for every person individually, whether they are eventually saved or lost. But if Christ died for them to cancel their sins, why should they be lost? It cannot be said that they are lost because they do not believe – their unbelief is in itself sinful. But since they are lost, it is evident that Christ did not pay for their sin of unbelief.

The Bible limits the scope of Christ death; he came to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21); he gave his life for his sheep (John 10:11, 15), for his church (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25-27), for God’s elect (Rom 8:32, 33). Christ perfectly fulfills the purpose of his sacrifice: all for whom he died will certainly be eternally saved.

The Crown

The grave where Christ’s body was laid is now empty; he arose from the dead on the third day, on the first day of the week. The Father raised him up; the apostles and other disciples were witnesses of the risen Christ (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 26, etc). His resurrection marks the beginning of his exaltation, followed by his ascension to heaven, his present reign over the universe, and his Second Coming in glory.

Jesus’ resurrection is the sure pledge of our own resurrection at the last day (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:12-23; Phil 3:20, 21). Adam’s sin brought death upon all his posterity; Christ’s obedience gained righteousness and life for all his people. Now that he is alive forevermore, Christ sees to it that all the redeemed will be brought to final glory. ‘For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life’ (Rom 5:10).

© Dr Joseph Mizzi. 2008. Permission is given to reproduce and distribute this article in any format provided that the wording is not altered and that no fee is charged. Please include the following statement on distributed copies: Copyright Dr Joseph Mizzi. Website: www.justforcatholics.org. Used by permission.