“A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you” (Acts 3:22).
Christ's prophetical office consists of two parts. The first is external, consisting of His true and full revelation of the will of God to man (Jn. 17:6). The second is internal, consisting of His illumination of the mind and inclination of the heart to receive and embrace His revelation. The first part is contained in the verse before us: “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up.” These words are taken from Deuteronomy 18:15. Peter applies them to Christ, to convince the incredulous Jews that He is the true Messiah and the great Prophet of the church. There are two parts in these words.
First, there is a description: “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brothers, like unto me.” Here, Christ is described by His title: “prophet.” He is the Prince of the prophets, or the Great and Chief Shepherd (Heb. 8:10; 1 Pet. 5:4). It belongs to a prophet to expound the law, declare the will of God, and foretell things to come. All these come together in a singular and eminent manner in Christ (Matt. 5:17; Jn. 1:18, 1 Pet. 1:11).
Second, there is an exhortation: “him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” To “hear” is to obey. Obedience it to be yielded to Christ alone. It is true that we are commanded to obey the voice of His ministers (Heb. 13:17), but it is Christ who is speaking through them; thus, we obey them in the Lord. Our obedience to Christ is to be universal: “him shall ye hear in all things.” His commands are to be obeyed, not disputed. We must “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). When His will is known and understood, we have no liberty to choose otherwise. Obedience is required under penalty of being destroyed from among the people.
Doctrine: Christ is called and appointed by God to be the great Prophet and Teacher of the church.
Christ is anointed to preach good tidings to the meek, and He is sent to bind up the broken hearted (Isa. 61:1). When He came to preach the gospel among the people, He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). All light is now collected into one body of light, the Sun of righteousness. He “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn. 1:9). He dispensed knowledge variously in times past, speaking in many ways to the fathers, but now the way of revealing the will of God to us is fixed and settled in Christ. In these last times, God has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:2). In this point, two things must be opened and discussed.
The Implication of Christ’s Prophetical Office
What is implied in Christ’s role as a Prophet? First, it implies that people are naturally ignorant and blind in the things of God. They sit in the shadow of death until Christ shines upon their souls (Matt. 4:15–17). In the state of innocence, man had a clear apprehension of God’s will. But now, that light is quenched in the corruption of human nature (1 Cor. 2:14). The things of God are not only contrary to corrupt and carnal reason, but they are above right reason. Grace indeed uses nature, but nature can do nothing without grace. The mind of a natural man has a native blindness, by reason of which it cannot discern the things of the Holy Spirit. It also has a natural enmity (Rom. 8:7). Until the mind is healed and enlightened by Christ, the natural faculty cannot discern the things of the Holy Spirit. The mysteries of nature may be discovered by the light of nature, but, when it comes to supernatural mysteries, the most searching and penetrating mind is at a loss.
Second, it implies that Christ is true God. Who else can reveal the secret counsels of God but He who eternally lay in the bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:18; 8:38; 17:8)? Christ is a fixed and perpetual sun, who gives light in all ages of the world, for He is “the same yesterday, today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). Yea, the very beams of His divinity shone upon the hearts of those who heard Him, so that even His enemies were forced to acknowledge that “never any man spake like him” (Jn. 7:46). Nature stands in need of grace for the right disposing of the mind to receive a supernatural object, and grace uses nature so that by strength of mind, clearness of judgment, and the light of good education, greater progress may be made in the study of the sacred writings.
Third, it implies that Christ is the original and fountain of all that light which is diffused by ministers. They are the stars which shine with a borrowed light from the sun. Those who teach others must first be taught by Christ. All the prophets of the Old Testament, and all the prophets, pastors, and teachers of the New Testament, have lit their candles at Christ’s torch. It was Christ who gave them “a mouth and wisdom” (Lk. 21:15). What Paul received from the Lord, he delivered to the church (1 Cor. 11:23). Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), and all the under-shepherds receive their gifts and commissions from Him.
The Execution of Christ’s Prophetical Office
We shall next enquire as to how Christ executes and discharges His office—how He enlightens and teaches people.
First, our Prophet has revealed God’s will variously (Heb. 1:1). Sometimes He has taught the church immediately in His own person (Jn. 18:20), and sometimes He has taught the church mediately by His ministers and officers. Before His incarnation, He dispensed the knowledge of God mediately to the church. It was Christ who, by the ministry of Noah, went and preached to the spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:19); that is, to men and women then alive, but now separated from the body and imprisoned in hell for their disobedience. And it was Christ who was with the church in the wilderness, instructing and guiding them by the ministry of Moses and Aaron (Acts 7:38). And this is how He has taught the church since His ascension. He cannot be personally with us because He is in heaven, but He has appointed His officers in the church (Eph. 4:11–12).
Second, our Prophet has revealed God’s will gradually. Sometimes the discoveries of light have been obscure: visions, dreams, oracles, types, sacrifices, etc. They were but a glimmering light, and had no glory compared to that which now shines (2 Cor. 3:7–11). It was sufficient for the instruction and salvation of the elect in those times, but now the light has shone gloriously in the gospel dispensation. It is not a twilight, but the light of a perfect day.
Third, our Prophet has revealed God’s will plainly. While He was on earth, Christ taught the people by parables (Matt. 13:3–4). He clothed sublime and spiritual mysteries in earthly metaphors, bringing them to people’s dull capacities. And so, He would have His ministers preach, using “great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12). He would have us stoop to the understandings of the simplest, and not give the people a comment darker than the text. He would have us pierce their ears rather than tickle their fancies, and break their hearts rather than please their ears. Christ was a very plain preacher.
Fourth, our Prophet has revealed God’s will powerfully. He spoke “as one having authority, and not as the Pharisees (Matt. 7:29). They were cold and dull preachers, and their words froze between their lips. But Christ spoke with power. There was heat as well as light in His doctrine. The Word is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow” (Heb. 4:12). The blessed apostle imitated Christ, and being filled with His Spirit, spoke freely to people’s hearts. Faithful ministers are not similarly gifted in this particular, but there is a holy seriousness and spiritual grace and majesty in their doctrine, commanding reverence from their hearers.
Fifth, our Prophet revealed God’s will sweetly. Christ spoke in an affectionate manner. His words made people’s hearts burn within them (Lk. 24:32). He did not break “bruised reeds” or quench “smoking flax” (Isa. 42:2). He spoke the word in season to the weary soul (Isa. 41:1). He gathered the “lambs with his arms, and gently led those that were with young” (Isa. 40:11). How sweetly did His words slide into melting hearts! He drew with cords of love. He discouraged none who were willing to come to Him. Such is His gentle and sweet carriage to His people that the church is called the Lamb’s wife (Rev. 19:7).
Sixth, our Prophet revealed God’s will purely. Christ’s doctrine did not have the least dash of error to debase it. His most envious hearers could find nothing to charge against Him. He is “the faithful and true witness” (Rev. 1:5). He has commanded His ministers to preserve the purity and simplicity of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:2).
Seventh, our Prophet revealed God’s will fully. Christ kept nothing back that was necessary for salvation (Jn. 15:15). He was “faithful as a Son over his own house” (Heb. 3:6).