“The Person and Work of Christ”

When it comes to discussing biblical truths, there can be no matter more important, than the person and work of Jesus Christ.  According to the Apostle Paul, the gospel is “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3 ESV).   This article will focus on the person and work of Christ, which is the content of the gospel.  It is no fluke that false teachers throughout the history of the church have attacked the person of Christ.  If we err at this point, the rest of what a person believes is, in all practical purposes, inconsequential.  All theology is in a sense either leading to the person of Christ or is branching out from the person of Christ.  In my effort to set forth the biblical teaching of the person of Christ, I will begin with an examination of who the person of Christ is.  We will see that he is one, eternal, divine person.  Second, we will see that this one person has two natures.  Finally, I will focus in on the three saving offices that he has assumed.


According to Jesus Christ Himself, if we do not believe in his deity, we are lost.  In John 8, we see Jesus responding to the religious leaders of the day, to their question of who he is (vs. 53).  Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see his day and was glad, he then said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (Jn 8:58).  He does not say, I was, or I existed.  He says, I am.  By Jesus using both: ego (“I”) and eimi (I am), he is making his point emphatic.  In the day, Jews who spoke Greek would have translated the Hebrew name for God, “Yahweh” as “I am who I am” in Greek.  They would have picked this up, and made the connection that he was taking upon Himself the sacred name of God.  Their ensuing reaction is also telling, “they picked up stones to throw at him” (vs. 59).  They would not have stoned him for simply claiming to be older than Abraham.  But, for taking the name of God for himself, they would have.  Jesus said earlier in the chapter, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (vs. 24).  Clearly a rejection of the Deity of Jesus Christ is a clear indication that one’s sins remain and the person is lost. 
The New Testament also uses the name God for Jesus as well.  Even in the Old Testament, the word God was used for Jesus as the coming Messiah.  His “name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God” (Isa 9:6).  In the New Testament, there are several passages that refer to Jesus Christ as being God (Jn 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2 Pet 1:1).  Also, the name Lord (Kyrios) is used for Christ.  The word kyrios is used to in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the name of the Lord, 6,814 times. Christ not only assumes the name for God, he is worshiped.  One thing emerges as clear in the Old Testament, God is the only acceptable object of worship (Ex 34:14; Duet 6:13).  The Angels know that only God is to be worshiped (Rev 19:10), yet they worship Jesus (Heb 1:6).  His own disciples worshiped Jesus (Matt 28:9, 17).  In fact, everyone will eventually worship the Lord Jesus (Phil 2:10). 

Jesus not only assumes God’s names and is worshiped, but he also demonstrates that he possesses God’s attributes.  He shows His omnipotence in stilling the storm (Matt 8:26-27) and changing water into wine (Jn 2:1-11).  His omniscience in knowing peoples thoughts (Mk 2:8), future things (Jn 6:64), and even where people who were far off were located (Jn 1:48).  The disciples exclaimed that Jesus knows all things (Jn 16:30).  He also shows he is Sovereign (Matt 11:25-27), and even omnipresent (Matt 18:20; 28:20).

Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, “was sent” (Lk 4:43), and, “came to seek out and save the lost” (Lk 19:10).  These statements and many others would make no sense if Jesus did not exist prior to the incarnation.  Jesus eternally existed in one person.  This one, who was to be born, “is from of old, from ancient days” (Mic 5:2); He is called the “Everlasting Father” (Isa 9:6).  The New and Old Testaments, both, clearly teach the pre-existence of the Messiah.   

Although, as we will see, he added to Himself a human nature.  He exists as one person, there is only one Christ.  “He always says I, me, mine.  He is always addressed as Thou, thee, thine.  He is always spoken of as He, his, him.  It was the same person, to whom it was said, ‘Thou art not yet fifty years old;’ and ‘Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands.’”[1]


Although Jesus Christ is one divine person, he exists in two distinct natures.  Just as important as believing that Jesus is divine, is believing that Jesus was a real man.  John made this very clear in 1 John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”  John had made it clear in his gospel that the eternal Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).  By using the Word flesh, John means the Word added to Himself a fully human nature.  Believing Jesus was really a man, is an important part of a credible profession of faith.  Jesus needed to take on a fully human nature, God demanded that sin be punished upon the very nature that committed it.  By Jesus being a man and standing in our place, he was able to take our punishment as a representative man.  The mediator also needed to be God, to give the sacrifice an infinite value and worth. 

Jesus, as one person, was not a mixture of God and man, as though he were some kind of third thing.  The early church rejected the heresy of the Monophysites, who claimed Jesus was just that.  They believed that Jesus possessed only one nature, and that a mixture of the divine and human.  The early church responded in the Chalcedonian Creed, that Jesus is to be acknowledged in “two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably”.[2]
To the other extreme, the Nestorians claimed that there needed to be a clear distinction in the natures.   So much that if there are two natures, they said, there must also be two persons.  The church, responded that this is going into the other ditch and condemned it as heresy as well.  The creed states, the natures are distinct, but “concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son”.[3]
Jesus was God and man.  The one, eternal Son of God, existed after the incarnation (meaning “in flesh”), in two distinct natures.  Each nature retaining all its own properties and without the communication of them to the other.  Jesus (the one person) got tired (according to his human nature), and never tired (according to His divine nature).  Jesus developed like an ordinary human (Lk 2:40; Heb 5:8), yet was immutable; He had limited knowledge (Mk 13:32), and was omniscient (Jn 18:4; 21:17); He left the earth and went to heaven (Acts 1:11), and is omnipresent (Matt 18:20; 28:20).  

Just as a natural man has both a body and a soul.  This union is analogous of the union of the divine and human natures in the one person of Christ.  It is the one person that feels the pain of falling down the stairs and this, of course, according to the body.  It is the same person the feels the pain of a slanderous accusation, according to the soul.  The same person feels both, they are both real felt pain, but not according the same substance.  The same with Christ.  He (the one person) knew what it was to be ignorant of facts (Mk 13:32), and knew what it was to know everything (Jn 21:17).  It was the one person of Jesus, who knew these things.  One according to his human nature, and the other according to his divine nature. 

This, of course, is beyond the understanding of man.  How the eternal Son of God added to himself a human nature and will forever exist as such, “is the mystery of godliness:  He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim 3:16).  It might just be the mystery of mysteries. 


Our Lord Jesus Christ did not become incarnate for its own sake.  Jesus came, to “save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).  The three saving offices, or functions, of Christ are:  Prophet, Priest, and King.  These three offices were prefigured, as the three major offices among the Old Testament people of God, Israel.  As a prophet, Jesus reveals God to us and his will for our salvation; as a priest he makes sacrifice for our sin and intercedes to God for us; and as King he protects us and subdues us to his rule.  Now we will look at each office in more detail.


The office of prophet was first filled by Moses.  Although many prophets followed Moses, he foretold of a coming, special prophet like himself (Duet 18:15-18), who the people should look for and listen to.  It was only in the coming time of the Messiah that people believed that they would come into full light and have all things revealed to them (Jn 4:25).  This was fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-23), who was more than a prophet.  The prophets spoke God’s truth to the people, Jesus Christ was the truth.  Jesus was even the one speaking through the prophets of Old (1 Pet 1:11).  As the only one who fully knows the Father, Jesus, as the Son of God, is uniquely qualified to reveal God to us (Matt 11:27).  Jesus being the true God (1 Jn 5:20), reveals God to us and gives us God’s words concerning our salvation.


Unlike the office of prophet, in which the prophet represented God to the people.  In the Old Testament office of priest, he would represent the people to God.  The function of the Christ in His high priestly office could be broke down into two categories:  sacrifice and intercession.[4]
It is proper to first look at sacrifice, since intercession is based upon the former.  In the Old Testament, the priest would offer up sacrifices that prefigured Christ, for the sins of the people.  The high priest, once a year, every year, would first make sacrifice for himself and for his household in the outer courtyard of the tabernacle.  Then, he would take the blood of the second animal, and sprinkle it carefully upon the mercy seat, which was the ark’s covering.  Before, God was viewed as between and above the Cherubim, which were statues on each end of the ark.  God, was pictured as looking down upon the law of God and then the sinful people; this was a picture of judgment.[5]
  Now, as the blood is sprinkled on the mercy seat, God is satisfied, or propitiated – which is the word in the Greek that is used to translate mercy seat.  This of course prefigured Christ, who did not need to make sacrifice for his own sin – for he was sinless.  He did not die and have to be replaced by another high priest, He lives forever having an endless life.  He does not offer the blood of bulls and goats which could never take away sin (Heb 10:4).  They are types, but Christ is the antitype.  They all pointed to him who, as the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. 

The just anger of God is satisfied because Jesus’ sacrifice expiates our sin.  Expiation means that Jesus takes our sins upon himself; he stood in our place at the cross.  God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).  God took our sins and placed them on Jesus at the cross; they are taken from us, and on account of that, we stand blameless. 

The result is that we are reconciled to God.  We, being bound in sin, were God’s enemies.  We not only were hostile toward God, but God being angry with the wicked, viewed us as objects of his own wrath.  But, now by the blood of the cross, his anger is satisfied: we are no longer enemies, but are reconciled to him.  “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Cor 5:18-19). 

Finally, we are his, we are his redeemed people.  To be redeemed is to be bought back, “for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).  Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that He came “to give his life as a ransom for many”.  We were lost, on the slave market with Satan and sin as our master.  Jesus came and redeemed us by the infinite value of his own life.  We are doubly his now, the first time by making us and the second by redeeming us; as creator and redeemer.  He bought us, not from Satan, but from God.  God’s justice needed to be satisfied, he can’t just overlook our sin.  Justice needed to be satisfied.  Jesus, both by his active and passive obedience, fully satisfies God on our behalf.  In active obedience, Jesus as a man, fully keeps the law of God in our place.  In his passive obedience, he willingly suffers God’s just anger against our sin. 

Jesus now sits at God’s right hand, and by the power of a perfect and endless life, he pleads with God on our behalf.  He says, these who believe in me are mine, I died in their place and fully paid the penalty for their sin, oh Father, forgive them (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25).  And God hears the Son, and he credits the Son’s righteousness to them, as if it were their very own.  God is for us, and if he be for us, who can be against us (Rom 8:32). 


In looking at Christ as a priest, we focus on his death.  But when we look at Christ as king, we place the focus on his resurrection.  He, after being raised from the dead, ascended into heaven.  Now he sits at the right hand of God, which is the place of power and authority.  He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). 

The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would rule and reign as a king (Gen 49:10; Sam 7:16).  When Jesus came he began preaching “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15), for the king has come.  Jesus spoke clearly about himself having a kingdom (Jn 18:36), for now it is invisible, he is ruling in the hearts of those who trust him.  But one day, he will come again and his kingdom will be visible, at that time every knee will bow (Phil 2:10-11). 

In conclusion, we can be wrong on lots of issues.  But a correct view of the person and work of Jesus Christ is absolutely essential, for “this is the principal foundation of our religion.”[6]
We must believe that Jesus is the second person of the Holy Trinity.  We must believe that he existed in two distinct natures but united indivisibly in one person.  We must believe in this God/man and receive him (Jn 1:12) in all three offices that he assumed.  This is truly a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor 15:3).   








[1]Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Volume II (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), 383.

[2]The Chalcedonian Creed (A.D. 451).


[4]John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Christian Belief (Phillipsburg NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 901.

[5]James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened To The Gospel Of Grace: Rediscovering The Doctrines That Shook The World (Wheaton ILL: Crossway Books, 2001), 99.

[6]Francis Turretin, Institutes Of Elenctic Theology Volume Two (Phillipsburg NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992), 287.