The first six chapters of this exposition of the Doctrine of Christ have dealt with His person. We have tried to answer the question of who Christ is, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Now it is time for us to turn our attention to the work of Christ. Other truths concerning His person will be evident in the presentation of what He did.
In the prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed just before His passion, He refers to the work for which He had been sent into the world: "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (Jn. 17:4) He had already described His purpose to His disciples thus: "I must work the works of Him that sent me..." On. 9:4) And He identified His own work with that of the Father: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."
Christ's work was not one particular act or deed of His life; rather, His work was His whole life and ministry. In other words, His work, His ministry, was one. It was a divine work accomplished through His humanity.
The Lord's great work was His ministry on behalf of the human race. "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mt. 20:28)
Indeed, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him that the child conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary was of the Holy Spirit. The son born of her would "save His people from their sins." (Mt. 1:20,21)
St. Paul described the ministry of Christ in these terms: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." (II Cor. 5:19)
St. John the Apostle tells us that Jesus Christ saved us in having "given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true..." (I Jn. 5:20) In his Gospel account, the same Apostle records the words of Jesus to those who sought to kill Him: "But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard from God." (8:40)
How this ministry of salvation, reconciliation and of testifying to the truth was accomplished must now be our focus.
Everything Christ did had as its one purpose the restoration of fallen mankind and the reconciliation of the world to Himself. It is traditional to speak of three aspects of His one ministry: that of prophet, of priest, and of king.
The name that is properly given to Jesus is Messiah, a Semitic word which means "anointed." The name "Christ" is derived from the Greek word meaning the same thing. In the Old Testament, this anointing was given to persons who were ordained by the Holy Spirit for God's work among men. Thus, it was given to the prophets: Elijah was commanded by God to anoint "Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah...to be prophet." (111 [I] Kgs. 19:16)
Anointing was also given to the high priests. The Lord said to Moses: "Thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office." (Ex. 30:30)
And, anointing was given to the kings. "And Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." (I Kga [I Sam.] 16:13)
The name Christ (Messiah) is attributed to our Lord Jesus as having been anointed in His humanity by God Himself "with an oil of gladness, above [His] fellows." (Hb. 1:9) As previously stated (pg. 52), "fellows" refers to all those whose humanity He shared. This is said prophetically of the promised Saviour in Psalm 44 :7, and here applied to Jesus by St. Paul.
Thus Jesus combined in Himself in the highest possible degree these three types of anointed ones. He is the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. He saved us as prophet by proclaiming to us the truth about God and about man; as priest, in offering Himself out of His love for us as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world; and as in having destroyed the reign of death and established His Kingdom among us.