What Is the Meaning of "Christ"?

Do you believe in Christ? To answer that question well, you must not only know who He is, but also what He is.  Interestingly, the word “Christ” is technically not a name.  Granted, to our ears, “Jesus Christ” sounds like a first and last name.  It is not.  The word “Christ” is not a name, but a title.  Jesus is His name, and Christ is His official title.  We could reverse the order (as the New Testament sometimes does) and call Him Christ Jesus, which would be more fitting to our ears–like President Jones, Coach Johnson, or Principal Johnstone.  Now that we know that Christ is a title, let us explore what that title means.

Have you ever seen the inauguration of the President into office?  The ceremony is solemn, complete with a Bible and an oath before the Chief Justice of the United States.  In that moment, we recognize that the individual with his hand on the Bible has entered into a unique role, with a unique title–President–regardless of his given name from birth.  Similarly, long before Jesus was born, the Jews had a special ceremony for setting apart an individual for a unique role of leadership.  Someone, often a prophet, would anoint the head of that special individual by pouring olive oil upon his head.  In that moment, God Himself set the individual apart for leadership.  From that moment on, the individual could be called “the LORD’s Anointed” (see, for example, 1 Samuel 24:10; 26:11; cf. 10:1; 15:17; 2 Samuel 1:14).  In Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, the title “Anointed One” is Messiah.  In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the title “Anointed One” is Christ.

Therefore, when we say that Jesus is the Christ, we are saying that He is the Anointed One, the One specially set apart by God for a particular role of leadership.  What is that role?  Apart from one exception, all anointed individuals were either a king or a priest.  For example, both Saul and David were anointed king over Israel by God through the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1; 15:17; 16:13; 2 Samuel 12:7).  Similarly, the high priest was also anointed (Exodus 29:7; Numbers 35:25), as were other priests (Exodus 30:30).  The one exception is the anointing of Elisha the prophet (1 Kings 19:16).  Which role did Jesus assume as the Anointed One?  Prophet?  Priest?  King?

According to the Psalm 2, written one thousand years before Jesus’ birth, the Lord’s “Anointed” would be God’s king, placed upon His “holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:2, 6).  At first glance, it would appear that the Anointed One is simply a king; a closer look, however, reveals that He might be more than a king, for He is set upon God’s holy hill.  Does that mean that He is also a priest, having special access to the holy place?  It may not.  The kings of Judah were strictly forbidden to act like priests, as King Uzziah later found out to his shame (see 2 Corinthians 26:16-21).  Moreover, Psalm 48:1 speaks of the whole city of Jerusalem as “the mountain of [God’s] holiness.”  If Psalm 2 were the only reference to the coming Anointed One, we would probably conclude that he would simply be a king.

Interestingly, Psalm 2 is not the only messianic psalm.  In Psalm 16, the Anointed One is called the “Holy One,” which likens Him to the priestly tribe of Levi (see Deuteronomy 33:8, and note that the Holy One of Psalm 16 has the Lord as His allotment, just as the Levites did).  Psalm 110 actually calls Him “a priest forever, after the order of Mechizedek” (Psalm 110:4).  Significantly, the Anointed One is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, whose name literally means “king of righteousness” and whose occupation included both priesthood and kingship (Genesis 14:18).  Therefore, the coming Anointed One would be both king and priest, and possibly even a prophet, according to the implications of Isaiah 61:1.

Again, let me ask, do you believe in Christ? Now you know what I am asking: Do you believe in Jesus as your King and as your Priest? If you believe in Jesus as your king, He then represents God the Father to you.  You have submitted to His authority and have called Him “Lord,” letting your mind and your will be shaped by all that He says in His word.  Moreover, if you believe in Jesus as your priest, He then represents you to the Father.  Your sins have demanded your death, but He died in your place and now offers His life to the Father as your substitute.  He is your “Savior”.  (Of course, if you deny that God had wrath toward sin, you definitely do not believe in Jesus as the Christ, for if there were no wrath to propitiate, there would be no need at all for a priest or a sacrifice!)  Do you see?  To believe in Christ is more than simply acknowledging that He existed.  He lives and is anointed for these two roles.  Do you believe in Him as your king and as your priest?  If not, you do not believe in Christ.

Since the days of Melchizedek, no one has ever been said to be both king and priest.   There have been many anointed ones, but none that assumed both offices.  Jesus is unique.  He alone unites the two offices in one person, as Zechariah prophesied (Zechariah 6:9-13).  There is no other representative of God to man–no president, no pope, no prophet Mohammed or Joseph Smith.  Jesus alone is king.  Moreover, there is no other representative of man to God–no priest, no saint, no mother of Jesus.  Jesus alone is priest.  In a word, Jesus alone is “the one mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5).  All others are impostors.  Again, do you believe that Jesus is the Christ?  Do you believe in Christ?  If you do, you have the promise that your sins are forgiven by His blood, and that you too, with every other believer, have been made “kings and priests unto God and His Father,” to the glory of God (Revelation 1:6).  In Him, and in Him alone, you truly are a “Christ-ian” (as it were), an anointed one (cf. 1 John 2:20, 27).

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