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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

A Commentary
on the
Shorter Catechism

Alexander Whyte

Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer? A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

The offices — Our English word office is derived from the Latin officium, and both in derivation and use it means any special trust, duty, or charge laid upon or taken up by one person to perform for another. The name is never applied to what any man does for himself, and at his own instance: the name of an office is applied only to what one does for another. It is a scriptural term, and as such it is of very ancient and frequent employment. Thus we read of Potiphar as an officer of Pharaoh. The elders and judges in Israel also bore this name. We read also of the priests’ office, the office of a pastor, and the office of a deacon. “I am an apostle of the Gentiles,” says Paul, “I magnify mine office.”

The name is not applied in as many words in Scripture to our Lord’s work, or to any part of it, but it is very familiar to us from theological works, and especially from our Catechism. The classification of our Lord’s work as the execution of the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, may be regarded as somewhat arbitrary. It may fairly be said that these three categories do not exhaust the teaching of Scripture concerning all that our Lord has done and is still doing for us. And He certainly bears other official names, and sustains relations toward us that cannot all be included under those three offices. His favourite title of Shepherd, for instance, implies all His offices. (See Goodwin, v. 373.) Still, this threefold classification has long obtained in our best scriptural theology, and it serves many useful purposes to the student and the preacher. This classification of Christ’s work has come to us from the great schoolmen, and it has secured for itself a sure place in all our modern systems of evangelical divinity.

humiliation and exaltation. “The Jews have invented a double Messiah to the one they attribute all those places which mention His low estate and sufferings; and to the other, such as speak of His power and glory. The one they style the son of Joseph, and the other the son of David”(Pearson).

“How God is to preserve holiness and forgive sin, I am at my wits’ end to know; here I stand nonplussed, my faculty of reason serving me not a jot. . . . Tell me how this is to come to pass, and you shall be my prophet, and priest, and king. For verily to do this pertaineth to Him only who is my Prophet, and Priest, and King’ (Edward Irving).


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