Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
The Church Confesses Her Anointing
by Rev. Harry Van Dyken
Text: Psalm 45
Sermon Date: N/A
Congregation, beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ:
We have confessed the beauty and the wonder of the name Jesus, Jehovah Savior. We have, as we must, joined with the churches of Christ in their history in the anthem of praise and adoration as we hear God say through His angel, "It is He!" We have endeavored, in considering Lord’s Day 11, to speak to the question, "What’s in a name?", in such a way that our confession would become more meaningful to us who are the confessors. And today we want again to face a question: What’s in a title? Why is he called Christ?
We seek to answer this question under the theme, the church confesses her anointing. Notice with me that this is:
1. In the anointing of her Lord;
2. By the work of her Lord; and,
3. Unto service for her Lord.
Why is He called Christ, that is, anointed? Anointing was not something new at the time that Christ came into the world. God has instructed His people at various times concerning the anointing of priests, of prophets, and of kings. In Exodus 28 and 29 you can read of the command of God to consecrate and to anoint Aaron and his sons to the office of the priesthood. In the same passage you can read of something of the meaning of that anointing, that is, how God would in this way show that He had called them and that He promised to qualify them with His Spirit for the office to which He called them. Concerning the prophetic office, the Lord had said through Moses in Deuteronomy 18,
"Jehovah thy God will raise thee up a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken; and according to all that thou desiredst of Jehovah thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of Jehovah my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.’ And Jehovah said unto me, ‘They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that which I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak, I will require it of him."
We do not read very often in the Word of God concerning the anointing of a prophet. We take it for granted. Yet it is very clearly commanded by the Lord in I Kings 19. At a time when the whole meaningfulness of the office of prophet was being called into question by Elijah, God said to him, "...and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room."
Concerning the anointing of kings, of course, there can be little question. I refer you specifically to I Samuel 16 where it is recorded that Samuel met with Jesse to anoint one of his sons as God had commanded him. Beginning with verse 11 we read,
"And Samuel said unto Jesse, ‘Are here all thy children?’ And he said, ‘There remaineth yet the youngest, and behold he is keeping the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, ‘Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he come hither.’ And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look upon. And Jehovah said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David mightily from that day forward."
The last part of this passage makes clear, also, just what was involved in the anointing at the command of God. Two things stand out in this anointing of David. First of all, God makes clear in this anointing that He confirms that He has chosen and called David. When David comes in God said, "This is he." And we see further that it involves God’s special equipping for the work of the office to which he was called. "...And the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward." God speaks of this again in I Chronicles 17 at the time that David intended to build a temple, and the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David to say, "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, ‘I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be prince over My people Israel: and I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast gone, and have cut off all thine enemies before thee; and I will make thee a name, like unto the names of the great ones that are in the earth." The Lord makes the fact of the calling and qualification of David very clear here.
Our confession focuses clearly on the meaning of anointing saying, "Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed by the Holy Spirit." The choosing of God the Father, and the qualifying by the Holy Spirit come to their real purpose and intent in Jesus Christ. Up to this point the anointing of prophets, priests, and kings has been a temporary measure. Always again it was necessary to do what God told Elijah to do, that is, anoint a successor. Death came to take the prophet, the priest, the king, and another had to be anointed.
This work reaches its finality in Christ. This is indeed the One chosen of God from eternity, from before the foundation of the world. Paul in Ephesians 1:4 speaks to the Ephesians concerning this then he says, "Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love." In chapter 4 of his gospel, Luke records that Christ was in the synagogue and read this passage from Isaiah 61, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
So we see that the ordination or choosing of Christ by the Father took place before the foundation of the world. In chapter 8 of Proverbs we hear wisdom personified, which speaks these words (among others) in chapter 8:22-36, "Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the world was... When He established the heavens, I was there." And we see that that choice of God was for a particular work. This comes out very clearly in Isaiah 6l, as Christ applies this to himself in Luke 4.
Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit to qualify Him for the work the Father had called Him to do. This happened, as we know, when He was baptized of John the Baptist in the river Jordan and the Spirit of God came upon Him in the form of a dove. It is true that Jesus was the Son of God, and that He who was the Son of God had all power and could do all that was necessary. Yet the Word of God tells us that He emptied himself for our sake, "...who existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men." John the Baptist himself could not understand this and first maintained that he could not baptize Jesus. It was only when Jesus insisted, that John proceeded and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit brought this to its fullness with the announcement of the Father’s good pleasure and the Holy Spirit’s qualifying presence for the work to which Christ was called.
I am pleading that you will see that the Word of God leaves no doubt about this matter of the ordaining and qualifying of Jesus Christ our Prophet, our Priest, and our King.
We needed and we need such a prophet for, as children of Adam, we had sold ourselves to the lie. We turned our prophetic office from the knowledge and the proclamation of the truth into the knowledge and the proclamation of the lie. In doing this, we made ourselves inescapably as servants of the lie. And Christ was ordained and qualified to be our chief prophet and teacher that He might "fully reveal to us the secret counsel of God concerning our redemption." In His high-priestly prayer in John 17 Christ said,
"I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world: Thine they were, and thou gavest them to Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they know that all things whatsoever Thou hast given me are from Thee: for the words which Thou gavest me I have given unto them; and they have received them and knowest of a truth that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send me."
In a time when the Word of God is being questioned, is being qualified by the words of men, it is terribly important that you and I know that Christ can say the same of us as He then said of His followers concerning that Word, "…and they have kept Thy Word... For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest me; and they have received them..." Tragedy is great indeed for those to whom this Word has been committed and who have been unfaithful stewards of that Word.
The confession continues, "And our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession for us with the Father..." Serious introspection in the light of God’s Word will make clear to us our desperate need of that redemption. This great Priest who came to bring the answer of our life to God, knew that that answer would be totally unacceptable to God. He knew that in bringing our prophetic, priestly, kingly answer to God’s revelation, He would come under God’s awful judgment and condemnation. Standing ready under God’s ordination and anointing to take that place as Priest for us is the most glorious gift of God to His children. And that work did not end with the presentation of His sacrifice. That was the opening of the way. The book of Hebrews makes clear to us once and again that this means that we must now use this open way and come near to the throne of grace. Romans 8:34 declares that Christ is presently making intercession for us. He continues to bring our answer, that is, His answer, given for us, to God the Father. He continues to make us realize that this answer is completely acceptable before God.
And, says the catechism, He is "our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the salvation obtained for us." Notice how the confession reflects the Word of God in relating the kingly office and its function directly to the believers. He rules them by his Word and Spirit, He defends and preserves them in the salvation which He obtained for them. Psalm 2 speaks wonderfully of this. You ought to read the whole Psalm to get the import of it, but verses 6 and following says,
"Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell the decree: Jehovah said unto me, ‘Thou art my son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel…’"
Christ Himself related this very closely to the work He was doing for His people. In Revelation 2:26-27 we read, "And he that overcometh and he that keepeth by works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as also I have received of my Father…" And in Revelation 3:21, "He that overcometh, I fill give him to sit down with Me in My throne, even as also I overcame, and sat dawn with my Father in His throne." The Lord certainly makes very clear to us in these passages how closely Christ’s mediatorial work as King is related to the believer.
He is our great Prophet; our only High Priest; our eternal King. Paul’s great cry of triumph and victory in Romans 8 is grounded in the three-fold office of Christ, and Christ’s functioning in those offices for him. That is why "nothing could separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus."
In looking to God’s Word as we have confessed it here in Lord’s Day 12, I have sought to have us see clearly that the Church confesses her own anointing in the first place in the anointing of Her Lord; and that that anointing comes to its expression and meaning in His work as Prophet, Priest and as King. I have wanted that we see it in distinction, and yet to see that the office and the work of Christ can never be separated. You can see that our confession moves very quickly from the one to the other: it says, "...to be our Prophet and Teacher," and then notice how quickly the confession adds, "who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption." So also in placing the other two offices before us we see the same direct relation of office and function in that office for us. Psalm 45, which we have read, follows this same pattern in a little different way. It simply moves from the declared praise of the King, the enumerations of His complete qualifications, to the beauty and blessings of the King’s bride, the queen, and finally to the children of the queen.
And now, what of the bride and her children? What of those whom, as Christ said in John 17, "God hath given Me"? The catechism asks, why are you called a Christian? Notice that the catechism nowhere relates us to his glorious name, Jesus. That name is his uniquely. He is Jehovah Savior. But the catechism asks us what it means now that we have the Christ and that we are called Christians. You see, this goes all the way back to creation. For God made man to be His prophet, His priest, His king. Jesus Christ came to restore man in this. And now the anointing of Christ became our anointing.
For a moment, I want to turn with you to Psalm 133, for this illustrates beautifully what God has done, and is doing and saying to us here. Psalm 133 speaks of the anointing of Aaron as High Priest. In doing so, it speaks of Aaron as he really is, that is, as the type and figure of the Christ who was coming. And then notice what Psalm 133 says about the anointing of Aaron: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity; it is like the precious oil upon the head, that ran down the beard, even Aaron’s beard; that came upon the skirt of his garments."
The anointing oil that comes on the head does reach all the way down to the skirts of the garments. So too the anointing oil of our great High Priest reaches all the way down to His body, the church. Why are you called a Christian? Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus a partaker of His anointing. The oil that came on the head reached all the way down to the skirts of his garments.
That anointing oil, mine by faith in Jesus Christ, calls to me again as a prophet. I am called again of God to know the truth and to proclaim it. This recalls a passage I mentioned as we searched God’s Word concerning Christ’s appointment by God to His offices. Ephesians 1:4 says, ".. even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which is freely bestowed on us in the beloved." The ordination, the call, the appointment of the head involves the appointment of the body.
This call as a prophet reaches back to paradise, to my calling as a creature of God who was made in his image in true knowledge. Remembering Christ’s prayer recorded in John 17, I hear Him pray for my knowledge and for my proclamation of the truth, which He gave me from the Father. And so the catechism says "that I may confess His name". Obviously, I cannot confess His name unless I know it. And, as I begin again to understand His Word, the wonder of the Psalms comes to me afresh, "...and I will sing praise to the name of Jehovah most high." "O Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth, who has set Thy glory above the heavens..." "I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou most high..." "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the assembly will I praise Thee." "...and they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee..." "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of Jehovah our God." These are but a few examples of the praises that are raised to the name of Jehovah in the Psalms, as well as in the rest of the Word of God. What does it mean to know the name of Jehovah? It means to know Him, for His name is His self-revelation!
My qualification as a prophet by the anointing of the Holy Spirit leads me to His Word. It leads me to study to know it in such a way that the working of the Spirit in my heart calls forth the Word from me when it is his pleasure to declare His name. Church of Jesus Christ, we must face the call to seek the Lord’s name, that is, to seek the Word of God diligently, consistently and persistently, or we bring shame on the anointing of Jesus Christ as that oil runs down His robes to us!
His anointing, which is my anointing by faith, restores me as a priest. There is a sweet-smelling sacrifice that can arise to God, the odor of a life that is holy and pure before Him, "that I may ...present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him." Obviously, my life cannot be an acceptable sacrifice to present to God. But when that life carries the anointing of the perfect sacrifice and the perfect life of my great High Priest, Jesus Christ, God does find it sweet. It does rise as incense before Him. It cannot, as some would maintain, lead us to carelessness, since it is finally dependent of what He did for me rather than on what I do. For my struggle to heed His call, "Be ye holy even as your Father in heaven is holy," speaks of how that anointing of Christ has reached to my heart and assures me that that great work of God in the anointing of Christ, which I share, is indeed mine and is effective.
Nor may I misunderstand this word sacrifice. So easily we think that there is something which we can give up, something that costs us something, and that when that is true, we are making a sacrifice. This is simply not possible. Everything I am, everything I have is His! It cannot be. Even if I could offer Him a perfect life, I would then have to say that I was an unprofitable servant. But, when my life is presented in His life; when my sin is washed in His sacrifice, then and then alone my life is a sweet-smelling sacrifice to Him. Surely this drives us once again to the Word of God to know the life that He demands. Surely this drives us to understand Him when He says, "This is love, that ye keep My commandments." Surely this will drive us in prayer to seek ever more fully the guiding, keeping power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that Holy Spirit whom He promised to us His children who call upon Him.
And that anointing, that being a Christian, calls me to a royal life as king for Him. "That I may... with a free and good conscience fight against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter reign with Him eternally over all creatures." Our anointing as kings declares us to be justified in the finished work of Jesus Christ so that when our conscience, or the world, Satan, or anyone else says, "You, a king?", I may answer that my God has, even as He promised, remembered my sins and my iniquity no more. That, though my sins were as scarlet, they are now as white as snow; that, though they were red like crimson, they are now as white as wool. So there is no guilty conscience that holds me back in the fight. I have heard people who confessed themselves to be Christians say, "How can I speak to others? I am guilty myself." But that is simply and precisely not true. God calls us to fight with a free and good conscience, and to carry on this fight on every front.
There is, finally, a wonderful conclusion to that fight. I will reign with Him eternally over all creatures. I have earlier referred you to Psalm 2 and to Revelation 2 and 3 to show how the Lord promises this and carries it out. He calls His children to live now in the heat of the battle, while, at the same time living in the absolute assurance that the victory is theirs and they do and will reign with their Lord and Savior for all eternity.
Why are you called a Christian? Because my Lord and Savior is called Christ and I am in Him by faith. And then I know that all the wonder of His ordination and His qualification is mine now and can never be taken away. Let us live in the wonder of the challenge which our Lord places before us in this calling.
The Rev. Harry Van Dyken was a Minister in the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches. He graduating from Calvin Seminary in 1954. Rev. Van Dyken served in Christian Reformed churches in Redlands, California (1954-1957), Neerlandia, Alberta (1957-1962), Winnipeg, Manitoba (1962-1967), Woodbridge, Ontario (1967-1973), Mt. Vernon, Washington (1973-1978), and Listowel, Ontario (1978-1980). He served in the newly-founded Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Toronto, Ontario, from 1982-1985. Rev. Van Dyken was also instrumental in assisting other OCR churches to form.