We noted last week that the title Christ is used more for Jesus in the New Testament (some 531 times) than any other title. It is important to remember that “Christ” describes a function or role of Jesus and is not His last name. Even though our English translations of the Greek New Testament usually refer to “Jesus Christ,” a more proper use of the title is “Jesus the Christ.” Still it is not inappropriate to say “Jesus Christ” or to refer to our Lord simply as “Christ”; after all, He is the Christ par excellence, the final holder of the title and the One in whom it finds its greatest fulfillment.
As you might have deduced from the preceding paragraph, we call Jesus the “final Christ” because in actuality, many people have held the same title. “Christ” comes from the Greek word christos, which is itself a translation of the Hebrew term mashiach, that is, “messiah” or “anointed one.” Before Jesus was born, anyone whom God anointed for a certain task could be called a “christ” or “messiah.” Specifically, prophets (Isaiah 61:1), priests (Ex. 29:29), and kings (2 Sam. 5:1–3) were all anointed under the old covenant, which helps us understand that when the biblical authors call Jesus, “the Christ,” they are in fact making an allusion to His threefold office as our prophet, priest, and king.
Despite the fact that there were many “christs” during the old covenant, the prophets predicted God would one day send the Christ to redeem His people. The idea of a redeeming Messiah is seen in the title’s application to Cyrus (God’s “anointed”), the pagan king of Persia, in Isaiah 45:1. To call Cyrus a “christ” does not indicate salvation, it refers to his work in setting the captives of Israel free. Our Creator anointed Cyrus — He selected him to conquer Babylon and release the Jewish exiles in 536 b.c. to return to their homeland. Cyrus’ liberation pointed to the greater salvation from sin and death that the Suffering Servant would accomplish on behalf of God’s people (chap. 53).
As our prophet, priest, and king (Heb. 1:1–4), Jesus speaks God’s Word to us, intercedes for us, and leads us to final victory over Satan. His triumph is assured, for He is the Christ — the Messiah whom the Father has set over all.
Of all the titles given to Jesus in Scripture, Christ may be the one with the richest meaning since it incorporates the three offices of prophet, priest, and king and everything that is connected to them. We who are suffering the effects of the fall need someone to reveal God to us, to intercede for us, and to lead us in the way we should go. Let us be thankful that the Father did not neglect these needs but has sent the Christ for our sake.
For further study:
The Bible in a year: