By William S. Plumer, 1867
"Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout
CHRIST A PROPHET
The prophetical office of Christ claims solemn attention. The life of men's souls is involved in it. The necessity of some great teacher to enlighten mankind was confessed by the heathen as well as by the Jews. Socrates said: "You may resign all hope of reforming the manners of men, unless it pleases God to send some person to instruct you." Plato said: "Whatever is set right in the present ill state of the world can be done only by the interposition of God." Cicero, speaking of the philosophers, said: "Do you think that those precepts of morality had any influence, except in a very few instances, upon the men who speculated, wrote, and disputed concerning them? No! Who is there of all the philosophers whose mind and manners were conformed to the dictates of right reason? Who of them ever made his philosophy the law and rule of his life, and not merely an occasion of displaying his own ingenuity? On the contrary, many of them have been slaves to the vilest lusts." How the pious Jews longed, and waited, and prayed for the coming of a great prophet is declared in many Scriptures.
Let us consider this subject:
I. Among the ancients and moderns, civilized and crude, the office of prophet has been held in high esteem.In this agree Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, and pagans. The evangelical prophet expressed the popular sentiment of his countrymen and the common sense of mankind when, in the same list, he enrolled the prophet with the mighty man, and the man of war, and the judge, and the prudent, and the ancient, and the captain, and the honorable man, and the Counselor, and the eloquent orator. Isaiah 3:2, 3. Such men are the stay and the staff of a people. Among them all, none were more important, or were charged with more weighty duties, than the prophets.
II. What is the office of a prophet?The word prophet comes to us from the Greek, where its literal signification is a foreteller. The Hebrews had two words for a prophet. One was from their word to see. It was in use a long time in the early history of that people. So we read in 1 Samuel 9:9: "Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spoke, Come, and let us go to the seer; for he who is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer."
The other word for a prophet signifies primarily to boil up or pour forth, as a fountain—to pour forth words like those who speak with fervor of mind, or under divine inspiration. Then it came to signify a prophet, one who spoke in the name of God, or in the place of God.
Proof is not lacking in the Scriptures themselves that the word designates one who speaks eloquently or beautifully. God said to Moses, "Aaron your brother shall be your prophet." This is God's answer to Moses, who had objected to his mission on the ground that he was "of uncircumcised lips." The Greek word prophet is by Paul himself applied to a heathen poet, Titus 1:12, either because the poet had written eloquently, or because he was held in high esteem as a teacher.
In the New Testament the word prophesy has at least in one case the sense of edifying the church by preaching. "The gift of prophecy included that of prophetic foresight, but it included more. The prophet was inspired to reveal the will of God, to act as an organ of communication between God and man. The subject of the revelations thus conveyed was not, and could not be, restricted to the future. It embraced the past and present, and extended to those absolute and universal truths which have no relation to time." A prophet then is an inspired, and so an infallible teacher, able to tell the past or the future, authorized to speak for God and by his authority, not merely as an expounder of truths already revealed, but to teach truths before unknown or forgotten by mankind. In this full and broad sense Jesus Christ was a prophet.
III. The fundamental passage on which we found the doctrine of Christ's prophetical office is Deuteronomy 18:15-19: "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." The Lord said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account." This prophecy is quoted by Peter in his address to the people in Jerusalem after the cure of the lame man, Acts 3:22, 23. It is also cited by Stephen, in his pungent address to the Jews who were about to stone him to death, Acts 7:37. In this prediction several things claim attention.
1. It is a promise made to the people on the occasion of their asking that God would not again speak to them in so solemn a manner as he had done.God was not angry at them for this request, but approved of their words. The prediction is full of kindness. It is a gracious engagement to give them a teacher whose presence should not be terrifying to them.
2. We have the best evidence that this prediction is not fulfilled, unless Jesus of Nazareth was the promised teacher.The last chapter of Deuteronomy was evidently not written by Moses, for it tells of things done after his death. It was probably written by different hands. Some, perhaps not without reason, ascribe it to Ezra, who compiled the canon of the Old Testament more than nine hundred years after the death of Moses. Its precise date we are not able to give; but it declares that up to that time there had not arisen in Israel a prophet like unto Moses, Deuteronomy 34:10. Nay more, no prophet like Moses had, in the belief of the Jews, arisen until the time of John the Baptist; for they asked him, "Are you that prophet? And he answered, No." John 1:21, 25. So when they saw the miracles Jesus did, they said, "This is of a truth, that Prophet that should come into the world." John 6:14. Again: "Many of the people . . . said, Of a truth this is the prophet." Jews do not pretend any more than Christians that "that prophet" has arisen since the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. He has not as yet come at all, unless Jesus be he.
3. The great prophet that was to come was to be raised up from the midst of Israel, and to be one of their brethren.Jesus Christ was, as descended from his mother, a Jew. No one denies this.
4. The promised prophet was to be like unto Moses.In the following particulars Moses was a striking type of Christ:
Moses was hardly born when his life was sought by bloody men. No sooner was the birth of Jesus known, than Herod sought to destroy the young child.
Moses brought God's people out of the house of bondage. Jesus Christ delivers God's people from a worse than Egyptian bondage.
Moses was faithful in all his house. So Jesus was faithful to Him who appointed him. Heb. 3:2. Each of them spoke the will of God in honesty and sincerity.
Moses was a mediator between God and his ancient people. He is expressly so called in Galatians 3:10: "The law was ordained by angels in the hands of a mediator." Moses received the mind of God and bore it to the people; and he heard the wishes of the people, and bore them to God. Nor did anyone but Moses perform this office to the Jews. So now Christ is our one and sole Mediator. "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." 1 Tim. 2:5.
Moses was very intimate with God: "The Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." Ex. 33:11. "The Lord knew Moses face to face." So Christ was in the beginning with God. "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." John 1:18.
Beyond all others before Christ, Moses attested his doctrine and commission by signs and wonders, both in the land of Egypt and in the sight of all Israel. Deut. 34:11, 12. So Jesus Christ has filled the world with the renown of his stupendous miracles. Even when he was on earth, many who were not his disciples said, "When Christ comes, will he do more miracles than these which this man has done?" John 7:31. Jesus called on his enemies to "believe the works" which he wrought. John 10:38. Indeed, our Savior's miracles were not only amazing in kind; they were countless in number. Having told us much of Christ, John says: "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should all be written, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." 21:25. So Cleopas said that "Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people." Luke 24:19.
Moses introduced a new state of things, setting aside the patriarchal dispensation. So Jesus Christ introduced a new dispensation in the place of the Mosaic. Now we have the gospel instead of the Sinaic covenant.
In all these respects Moses was a striking type of Christ. Yet, as was fitting, the Anti-type far excelled him. Moses was a servant. Christ was a Son. Moses was a mere man. Christ was "God manifest in the flesh." Moses was a sinner. Christ never displeased his Father. The Mosaic dispensation passed away. Christ shall never be superseded; while eternity lasts, the Lamb himself shall feed his people, and lead them to fountains of living waters. Rev. 7:17.
So convincing was the evidence which Christ gave of his divine mission, that the woman of Samaria said, "I perceive that you are a prophet." John 4:19. And the blind man who was healed by him, in the midst of taunts and threats said, "He is a prophet." John 9:17. So when he raised the young man of Nain, "there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying that a great prophet has risen up among us." Luke 7:16. And at one time multitudes of the Jewish nation, gathered at the holy city, were so affected that they said, "This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee." Matt. 21:11. Indeed, during his ministry his miracles were confessed. Nor did any one ever successfully impugn his teachings, or assail his claims to be the prophet of God.
The objections made were frivolous, such as these: "Search and look: for out of Galilee arises no prophet." John 7:52. To this bold statement there are several fair answers. 1. Neither Moses nor any other writer of the Jewish Scriptures had said where all the prophets should be born. 2. At this very time the Jews had among their canonical books the writings of two prophets, Jonah and Nahum, both of whom were natives of Galilee. 3. Jesus did not arise out of Galilee, for he was born in Bethlehem of Judea. 4. Isaiah had expressly foretold, not that Messiah should be born in Galilee, but that his ministry should greatly enlighten that dark region, sometimes called Galilee of the Gentiles, because it bordered on Syria and Arabia, and because there many Gentiles dwelt with the Israelites. Compare Isaiah 9:1, 2, and Matt. 4:14-16. 5. The cities of refuge, it is commonly admitted, were types of Christ, and one of these, Kedesh (or Kadesh) of Naphtali, was in Galilee for Galilee included Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, and Naphtali.
Another objection has no more force. When Simon the Pharisee saw how Christ permitted the poor sinful woman to wash his feet with her tears, and to anoint him, he said, "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him: for she is a sinner." Luke 7:39. But Jesus did know not only the woman's sinfulness, but also her penitence, and amply vindicated his conduct. Simon did not know that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The mistake was all on his side.
IV. It remains to show how Jesus Christ fulfils "the office of a prophet, in revealing to the church in all ages, by his Spirit and word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning the edification and salvation of believers."
1. For about four thousand years Jesus Christ made known the will of God by his servants, the prophets."In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." Hebrews 1:1-2. So Peter also says, "Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven." 1 Peter 1:10-12.
These Scriptures bring out these truths:
1. All the will of God was not revealed at once, but at various times from Adam to Malachi.
2. God's will was revealed in various ways; sometimes in dreams, sometimes in visions, sometimes by sending an angel, sometimes by an audible voice, and once by the Son of God assuming a human form.
3. But whatever the manner of the revelation, it was always by "the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets."
4. Much that the prophets spoke was dark to themselves, so that they found it necessary to study very carefully their own writings.
5. The theme of their messages was the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow.
6. Their teachings were in their aspect chiefly prospective, relating to gospel times.
7. The same Holy Spirit, who dictated the prophecies, gives efficacy to the preached gospel.
8. Much that was said by the prophets, amounting in all to thirty-nine books, was put in writing, and committed to the ancient church, as the depository of the truth.
2. The prophets were followed by John the Baptist, who, for the clear light he gave and for pointing out the very man who was to save the world, was "more than a prophet." Matt. 11:9. He was in a sense an evangelist. He was Christ's herald and forerunner.
3. Then came Jesus Christ himself, the Light of the world, the life of men, and the desire of all nations. God "has in these latter days spoken unto us by his Son." Heb. 1:2. Men saw him full of grace and truth. Men wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth. And no marvel "for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Col. 1:19. During his personal ministry Christ taught us the will of God in four ways.
1. He wrought miracles in his own name and by his own power, thus showing not only that he was a teacher sent from God, but that he was himself divine.
2. In his entire human nature he set us an example of piety and benevolence, making plain to us all our duties. Whatever Christ did as a man, we are bound to do. In obedience to parents, in submission to civil rulers, in forgiveness of injuries, in all things his example was perfect.
3. During his personal ministry Christ uttered several remarkable predictions, which have been and shall be of eminent service to the church of God. Christ's predictions were strongly marked.
4. Jesus Christ preached much and in a manner wholly incomparable. When the minions of cruelty were sent to arrest him, they were disarmed by his amazing discourses. When asked why they did not bring him before the chief priests and Pharisees, the only account they could give of the matter was, "Never man spoke like this man." John 7:46. The guilty hands lifted against him fell nerveless before his amazing words. No wonder the people were "astonished at his doctrine; for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Matt. 7:28, 29. The word of God in his mouth was a sharp two-edged sword. Deut. 18:18 and Rev. 1:16.
4. When Christ left this world and ascended up far above all heavens,"he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Eph. 4:11-43. This whole work of the apostles and their co-laborers was conducted under the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, who both taught them and brought to their remembrance all things taught them by the Master personally. John 14:26. It was given them what they should say. The same Spirit in his converting power was poured upon their hearers.
5. Jesus Christ inspired his apostles and evangelists to write for our use, twenty-seven distinct books, giving a full account of his life and doctrine, and of his will in all things pertaining to life and godliness, to the end of the world.
6. It is still Christ's gracious plan to pour out his Spiriton faithful ministers in preaching his word, and on the hearers of his word, so that great numbers are still converted, sanctified, and built up in faith and holiness unto eternal life. In these several methods Jesus Christ carries on his great work as the prophet of God.
Let us consider the excellence of his work as a teacher.
1. Everything he has taught us either by himself or by his servants is TRUE.In it all there is no mistake, no error, no delusion. The more it is tested, the more true it is proven to be. In a world full of falsehood and delusion, pure truth is a great matter. Now whether men jest or are serious in asking, What is truth? we can look up to God and say, "Your word is truth." "It is truth without any admixture of error." It is the truth of God. And it all comes to us through the Spirit of Christ. Indeed, he is the Rock, out of which the river of truth has ever flowed to make glad the city of God.
2.All he has taught us is very PURE. It cannot defile. "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." "The law is holy, just, and good." The reason why the wicked hate God's word, is because it is so holy.
3. Jesus Christ has, in ways already stated, revealed to us the WHOLE will of Godfor our salvation. He has kept back nothing that would be profitable to us. He says expressly: "All things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you." John 15:15; Psalm 40:9, 10; Deut. 18:18.
4. The whole will of God thus made known to us through our great Prophet is accompanied by the strongest ATTESTATIONS.It is confirmed by witnesses who jeoparded their lives, and in most cases actually died martyrs. God has also borne witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is confirmed by the spotless life of Christ himself, and by the holy lives of his prophets and apostles. It is confirmed to us by its converting and sanctifying power over men's souls. It is confirmed by the commanding authority it has over the human conscience. It is confirmed to us by covenant and by God's solemn and unimpeachable oath.
5. The will of God, as revealed to us by our great prophet, is PRACTICAL.The doctrines can be loved and are loved by all whose hearts are right. All the precepts are just. They are obeyed sincerely by the godly. They were obeyed perfectly in our Lord's human nature, thus showing that they could be kept whenever sin did not oppose.
6. Our great prophet has made the will of God very PLAIN."The common people heard him gladly." He never mystified his hearers. "That which makes manifest is light." God's word is even a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It exposes to our view the secrets of our souls and the glorious mysteries of heavenly things. Neither Christ nor his servants handled the word of God deceitfully. If to any the Bible is a sealed book, it is because of the blindness of their heart. "All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge." Proverbs 8:8, 9.
7. God's will is made known to us in the KINDEST, GENTLEST WAY.Our great prophet did not strive, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets. He held up a little child as the pattern he would have us follow. Even Moses, his servant, who was the minister of the Sinaic covenant, was the meekest of mere men.
8. Jesus Christ teaches all his people EFFECTUALLY."I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people." Jer. 31:33. So that David said no more than every child of God may say: "I will never forget Your precepts, for You have given me life through them." Psalm 119:93.
1. Let us not waste our life and time in gaping after some strange thing, some new doctrine, or some new revelation.Let us seek the old paths, the ways in which the prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors, and righteous men walked. There never was but one way of salvation for sinners. There is but one way now. It is taught us by Jesus Christ. Let us not, like the foolish, say, "Who will go up to heaven?" that is, to bring Christ down or, "Who will go down into the abyss?" that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation." Romans 10:6-10
2. The teachings of Christ as our great Prophet are not submitted to us for criticism, for speculation, for our entertainment; O no. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13. "Whatever things were written afore-time were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4. Hear the word of this salvation not as critics, but as criminals; not as theorists, but as candidates for eternity; not as idle spectators of a drama, but as those who must give account to God.
3. How very reasonable it is that such poor, ignorant, blind creatures as we are should pray for light and wisdom, and especially for the teaching of the Spirit of Christ.Of him it was promised by Christ, "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." John 16:14. Other things being equal, he who prays most will learn fastest. When Daniel was to expound Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he and his friends found out the secret by prayer. Dan. 2:18. Luther said: "Three things make a good theologian—meditation, temptation, and prayer." David was a prophet, yet often he cried, "Teach me your statutes;" "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."
4. Whatever we do or leave undone, let us not fail to hear and obey this great Prophet.God says we must: "Unto him shall you hearken." "Whoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name—I will require it of him." This is the law under which the gospel is promulged. Let none think to screen himself from this awful responsibility by the fact that Christ is no longer on earth. He is here by his essential presence, and he is here by his faithful ambassadors. Before he left the world, he said to his ministers: "Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me." Luke 10:16. The law of nations is, He who despises an ambassador insults the government that sent him. Such also is the law of the God of heaven.