When the Apostle Paul was dealing with division among the church at Corinth, he asked the rhetorical question, “Is Christ divided?” Paul’s question is most relevant today, particularly regarding Christ’s threefold redeeming offices, those being: (1) Prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation; (2) Priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us; and (3) King, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies (Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1647). It is this third office, Christ’s kingship to which its topic has been shamefully neglected or forgotten. Some do not typically think of Christ’s kingship as a Gospel issue, while others flat out reject the idea that he is currently upholding this office altogether. But Christ must currently be King for the reason that his kingship is requisite for the completion of salvation.
Those who deny Christ’s present kingly status would have us believe that his kingly role has been postponed till after his second coming. Instead of filling all three offices simultaneously, he currently acts as prophet and priest, but his kingly office is temporarily vacant. The first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, Lewis Chafer said, “Though He [Jesus] is a King-Priest according to the Melchisedec type, He is now serving as Priest and not as King’ (Chafer, 1971; emphasis added). Commonly know as the father of modern Dispensationalism and Futurism, John Nelson Darby said that Christ “as prophet, refusing to be king, and thereon going up to exercise His priesthood of intercession apart on high…” (Darby, 1865; emphasis added).
But in order to secure our salvation, Christ must have been invested with regal power as well as prophetic and sacerdotal power. It is not enough that Christ as prophet merely announced salvation to mankind, or that as priest accomplished salvation by his death on the cross. These elements of redemption are certainly necessary for salvation and are never to be disparaged. However, on their own they are insufficient in securing salvation. It is not enough that Jesus merely announced and accomplished salvation. What is announced and accomplished must also be applied. This is exactly what Jesus does through his kingly office.
It is Christ’s authority as king which is the basis for evangelism. Before Jesus ascended to heaven he told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18-19). Jesus could have said, “I am the sacrificial lamb of God. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” which would have made his priestly office his focus. Although it is certainly true that Jesus is the lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29), that wasn’t the driving force behind his command to evangelize the nations, rather it was his authority as the risen king. Christ’s kingship is necessary for the evangelical mission of the church.
God’s ability to save sinners and to establish Christ’s kingship are accomplished by the same power. Ephesians 1 says that the mighty work by which God used to predestine believers to salvation and sealed their inheritance with the Holy Spirit is the exact same work “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (v. 1:20-21). Christ’s exaltation and our inheritance of salvation are the same mighty work of God.
The kingly office of Christ cannot be separated from his power to save. His kingly rule means the obedience of the peoples (Gen 49:10), obedience being evidence of salvation (Matt 7:15-20; Eph 2:8-10; 2 Cor 5:17; James 2:14-26); he saves as judge, lawgiver, and king (Isa 33:22); and pardons wrong doing (Mark 2:10; Matt 9:6; Luke 5:24), a right practiced by kings. Even the term “gospel” or “good news” itself originally referred to the announcing of both salvation and that Israel’s God reigns (Isa 52:7). We also hear the term “good news of the kingdom” (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14), the good news being that Christians have a King who rules and reigns in their hearts and minds; Not like in the days of the judges when Israel had no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judg 17:6; 21:25).
Christ has been made king as well as prophet and priest. His function as king is necessary for our salvation. By his royal position, he conquers all enemies that keep us from the truth (Psa 110:1), he subdues our hearts to his submission, and rules the universe for the benefit of his church (Eph 1:20). As prophet, he proclaims salvation; as priest, he procures it; and as king, he applies it.
William Symington accurately summarized the inevitable outcome had Christ not been made our mediatorial king:
Without Christ’s kingly work, the gracious purposes of God could not be executed; the mediatorial character itself would not be complete; the work of salvation must continue unrewarded; the enemies of truth and holiness should finally triumph, and the necessities of the children of God remain for ever unsupplied. Such things cannot—shall not be. “The Lord is our king, and he will save us.” The exalted Redeemer is at once a “Prince and a Savior” (Symington, 1990).
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Major Bible Themes. Moody Press, 1971, bartimaeus.us/pub_dom/major_bible_themes.html#chap10, Accessed 16 July 2019.
Darby, J. N. Operations of the Spirit of God. W.H.Broom, 1865.
Symington, William. Messiah the Prince: the Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ. Still Waters Revival Books, 1990.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) by Various. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/westminster-shorter-catechism/.