In today's study, learn more about the origin and meaning of the title "Christ"— and why it is a title rather than a name.

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matt. 16:16–17).

- Matthew 16:13–20

Jesus identifies Himself as being one with the Father (John 10:30), and so any title for Him is suitable for study in an investigation of the names of God. Today we will look at the title Christ, since it is the most frequent designation of Jesus in the New Testament.

It is important to reiterate that Christ is a title — not a name. It comes from the Greek christos, which translates the Hebrew mashiach, or “anointed one.” Basically, this title refers to one set apart by God for a special service. The Old Testament applies mashiach to many people, including the pagan king Cyrus (Isa. 45:1), whom God chose to release His people from Babylon.

Under normal circumstances God’s annointing was given to the prophets (Ps. 105:15), priests (Lev. 4:3), and kings (1 Sam. 2:35) of Israel. Prophets were anointed by the Spirit to speak Yahweh’s words to the people (Jer. 1:1–10). God consecrated the priests to be mediators between Him and the people (Ex. 28). Kings were commanded to lead the Israelites in fidelity to the covenant, and their office was also conveyed through the pouring of oil (1 Sam. 16).

These three offices help us understand what Scripture means when it refers to Jesus as christos, or “anointed one.” As a prophet, Jesus speaks the word of God to His people and shows us how to interpret the Bible properly (Matt. 5:17–20; John 14:24). Christ’s effectual, once-for-all sacrifice and continuing intercession fulfill His priestly duties (Heb. 7:25; 10:12–14). Jesus is the Son of David, the King of kings who leads His people in victory over His enemies (Matt. 1:1; Rev. 17:8–14). Our Savior holds all these offices perfectly, for unlike those who came before Him, He did not fail in His service to God. As the Christ, He is the final prophet, priest, and king, for all these offices find their ultimate realization in Him (Heb. 1:1–4).

Few people recognized Jesus as the Christ during His earthly ministry, but Peter confessed Him as the anointed one — as the Messiah — at that time (Matt. 16:16). This profession of faith was only possible by the special work of the Father (v. 17), and it remains the confession upon which Jesus builds His church today (v. 18).

Coram Deo

If we are to know the truth, we must sit at the feet of our prophet, Jesus. If we are to be reconciled to God, we must approach Him through the sacrifice of our priest, Jesus. The battle against sin and Satan can only be won if we submit to the leadership of our great King, Jesus. Take some time today to sit at Christ’s feet by reading from one of the Gospels. Then, thank Him again for His great offering and look to Him to help you win the war against temptation.

Passages for Further Study
  • Lev. 8
  • Ps. 28:8; 45
  • Mark 14:3–9
  • Rom. 5:6
  • 2 Peter 3:18

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