Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 16
(... continued from part 15) 

Chapter 15. 
15. Three things briefly to be regarded in Christ; viz., His Offices 
of prophet, king, and priest. 
    The principal parts of this chapter are - I. Of the Prophetical 
Office of Christ, its dignity and use, sec. 1, 2. II. The nature of 
the Kingly power of Christ, and the advantage we derive from it, 
sec. 3-5. III. Of the Priesthood of Christ, and the efficacy of it, 
sec. 6. 
1. Among heretics and false Christians, Christ is found in name 
    only; but by those who are truly and effectually called of God, 
    he is acknowledged as a Prophet, King, and Priest. In regard to 
    the Prophetical Office, the Redeemer of the Church is the same 
    from whom believers under the Law hoped for the full light of 
2. The unction of Christ, though it has respect chiefly to the 
    Kingly Office, refers also to the Prophetical and Priestly 
    Offices. The dignity, necessity, and use of this unction. 
3. From the spirituality of Christ's kingdom its eternity is 
    inferred. This twofold, referring both to the whole body of the 
    Church, and to its individual members. 
4. Benefits from the spiritual kingdom of Christ. 1. It raises us to 
    eternal life. 2. It enriches us with all things necessary to 
    salvation. 3. It makes us invincible by spiritual foes. 4. It 
    animates us to patient endurance. 5. It inspires confidence and 
    triumph. 6. It supplies fortitude and love. 
5. The unction of our Redeemer heavenly. Symbol of this unction. A 
    passage in the apostle reconciled with others previously 
    quoted, to prove the eternal kingdom of Christ. 
6. What necessary to obtain the benefit of Christ's Priesthood. We 
    must set out with the death of Christ. From it follows, 1. His 
    intercession for us. 2. Confidence in prayer. 3. Peace of 
    conscience. 4. Through Christ, Christians themselves become 
    priests. Grievous sin of the Papists in pretending to sacrifice 
    1. Though heretics pretend the name of Christ, truly does 
Augustine affirm, (Enchir. ad Laurent. cap. 5,) that the foundation 
is not common to them with the godly, but belongs exclusively to the 
Church: for if those things which pertain to Christ be diligently 
considered, it will be found that Christ is with them in name only, 
not in reality. Thus in the present day, though the Papists have the 
words, Son of God, Redeemer of the world, sounding in their mouths, 
yet, because contented with an empty name, they deprive him of his 
virtue and dignity; what Paul says of "not holding the head," is 
truly applicable to them, (Col. 2: 19.) Therefore, that faith may 
find in Christ a solid ground of salvation, and so rest in him, we 
must set out with this principle, that the office which he received 
from the Father consists of three parts. For he was appointed both 
Prophet, King, and Priest; though little were gained by holding the 
names unaccompanied by a knowledge of the end and use. These too are 
spoken of in the Papacy, but frigidly, and with no great benefit, 
the full meaning comprehended under each title not being understood. 
We formerly observed, that though God, by supplying an uninterrupted 
succession of prophets, never left his people destitute of useful 
doctrine, such as might suffice for salvation; yet the minds of 
believers were always impressed with the conviction that the full 
light of understanding was to be expected only on the advent of the 
Messiah. This expectation, accordingly, had reached even the 
Samaritans, to whom the true religion had never been made known. 
This is plain from the expression of the woman, "I know that Messiah 
cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all 
things," (John 4: 25.) Nor was this a mere random presumption which 
had entered the minds of the Jews. They believed what sure oracles 
had taught them. One of the most remarkable passages is that of 
Isaiah, "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a 
leader and commander to the people," (Is. 54: 4;) that is, in the 
same way in which he had previously in another place styled him 
"Wonderful, Counsellor," (Is. 9: 6.) For this reason, the apostle 
commending the perfection of gospel doctrine, first says that "God, 
at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the 
prophets," and then adds, that he "has in these last days spoken 
unto us by his Son," (Heb. 1: 1, 2.) But as the common office of the 
prophets was to hold the Church in suspense, and at the same time 
support it until the advent of the Mediator; we read, that the 
faithful, during the dispersion, complained that they were deprived 
of that ordinary privilege. "We see not our signs: there is no more 
any prophet, neither is there among us any that knoweth how long," 
(Ps. 74: 9.) But when Christ was now not far distant, a period was 
assigned to Daniel "to seal up the vision and prophecy," (Daniel 9: 
24,) not only that the authority of the prediction there spoken of 
might be established, but that believers might, for a time, 
patiently submit to the want of the prophets, the fulfilment and 
completion of all the prophecies being at hand. 
    2. Moreover, it is to be observed, that the name Christ refers 
to those three offices: for we know that under the law, prophets as 
well as priests and kings were anointed with holy oil. Whence, also, 
the celebrated name of Messiah was given to the promised Mediator. 
But although I admit (as, indeed, I have elsewhere shown) that he 
was so called from a view to the nature of the kingly office, still 
the prophetical and sacerdotal unctions have their proper place, and 
must not be overlooked. The former is expressly mentioned by Isaiah 
in these words: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me: because the 
Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has 
sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the 
captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to 
proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," (Is. 60: 1, 2.) We see 
that he was anointed by the Spirit to be a herald and witness of his 
Father's grace, and not in the usual way; for he is distinguished 
from other teachers who had a similar office. And here, again, it is 
to be observed, that the unction which he received, in order to 
perform the office of teacher, was not for himself, but for his 
whole body, that a corresponding efficacy of the Spirit might always 
accompany the preaching of the Gospel. This, however, remains 
certain, that by the perfection of doctrine which he brought, an end 
was put to all the prophecies, so that those who, not contented with 
the Gospel, annex somewhat extraneous to it, derogate from its 
authority. The voice which thundered from heaven, "This is my 
beloved Son, hear him" gave him a special privilege above all other 
teachers. Then from him, as head, this unction is diffused through 
the members, as Joel has foretold, "Your sons and your daughters 
shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men 
shall see visions," (Joel 2: 28.) Paul's expressions, that he was 
"made unto us wisdom," (1 Cor. 1: 30,) and elsewhere, that in him 
"are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," (Col. 2: 3,) 
have a somewhat different meaning, namely, that out of him there is 
nothing worth knowing, and that those who, by faith, apprehend his 
true character, possess the boundless immensity of heavenly 
blessings. For which reason, he elsewhere says, "I determined not to 
know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified," (1 
Cor. 2: 2.) And most justly: for it is unlawful to go beyond the 
simplicity of the Gospel. The purpose of this prophetical dignity in 
Christ is to teach us, that in the doctrine which he delivered is 
substantially included a wisdom which is perfect in all its parts. 
    3. I come to the Kingly office, of which it were in vain to 
speak, without previously reminding the reader that its nature is 
spiritual; because it is from thence we learn its efficacy, the 
benefits it confers, its whole power and eternity. Eternity, 
moreover, which in Daniel an angel attributes to the office of 
Christ, (Dan. 2: 44,) in Luke an angel justly applies to the 
salvation of his people, (Luke 1: 33.) But this is also twofold, and 
must be viewed in two ways; the one pertains to the whole body of 
the Church the other is proper to each member. To the former is to 
be referred what is said in the Psalms, "Once have I sworn by my 
holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for 
ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established 
for ever, as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven," (Ps. 
89: 35, 37.) There can be no doubt that God here promises that he 
will be, by the hand of his Son, the eternal governor and defender 
of the Church. In none but Christ will the fulfilment of this 
prophecy be found; since immediately after Solomon's death the 
kingdom in n great measure lost its dignity, and, with ignominy to 
the family of David, was transferred to a private individual. 
Afterwards decaying by degrees, it at length came to a sad and 
dishonourable end. In the same sense are we to understand the 
exclamation of Isaiah, "Who shall declare his generation?" (Isaiah 
53: 8.) For he asserts that Christ will so survive death as to be 
connected with his members. Therefore, as often as we hear that 
Christ is armed with eternal power, let us learn that the perpetuity 
of the Church is thus effectually secured; that amid the turbulent 
agitations by which it is constantly harassed, and the grievous and 
fearful commotions which threaten innumerable disasters, it still 
remains safe. Thus, when David derides the audacity of the enemy who 
attempt to throw off the yoke of God and his anointed, and says, 
that kings and nations rage "in vain," (Ps. 2: 2-4,) because he who 
sitteth in the heaven is strong enough to repel their assaults, 
assuring believers of the perpetual preservation of the Church, he 
animates them to have good hope whenever it is occasionally 
oppressed. So, in another place, when speaking in the person of God, 
he says, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, 
until I make thine enemies thy footstool," (Ps. 110: 1,) he reminds 
us, that however numerous and powerful the enemies who conspire to 
assault the Church, they are not possessed of strength sufficient to 
prevail against the immortal decree by which he appointed his Son 
eternal King. Whence it follows that the devil, with the whole power 
of the world, can never possibly destroy the Church, which is 
founded on the eternal throne of Christ. Then in regard to the 
special use to be made by each believer, this same eternity ought to 
elevate us to the hope of a blessed immortality. For we see that 
every thing which is earthly, and of the world, is temporary, and 
soon fades away. Christ, therefore, to raise our hope to the 
heavens, declares that his kingdom is not of this world, (John 18: 
36.) In fine, let each of us, when he hears that the kingdom of 
Christ is spiritual, be roused by the thought to entertain the hope 
of a better life, and to expect that as it is now protected by the 
hand of Christ, so it will be fully realised in a future life. 
    4. That the strength and utility of the kingdom of Christ 
cannot, as we have said, be fully perceived without recognising it 
as spiritual, is sufficiently apparent, even from this, that having 
during the whole course of our lives to war under the cross, our 
condition here is bitter and wretched. What then would it avail us 
to be ranged under the government of a heavenly King, if its 
benefits were not realised beyond the present earthly life? We must, 
therefore, know that the happiness which is promised to us in Christ 
does not consist in external advantages - such as leading a joyful 
and tranquil life, abounding in wealth, being secure against all 
injury, and having an affluence of delights, such as the flesh is 
wont to long for - but properly belongs to the heavenly life. As in 
the world the prosperous and desirable condition of a people 
consists partly in the abundance of temporal good and domestic 
peace, and partly in the strong protection which gives security 
against external violence; so Christ also enriches his people with 
all things necessary to the eternal salvation of their souls and 
fortifies them with courage to stand unassailable by all the attacks 
of spiritual foes. Whence we infer, that he reigns more for us than 
for himself, and that both within us and without us; that being 
replenished, in so far as God knows to be expedient, with the gifts 
of the Spirit, of which we are naturally destitute, we may feel from 
their first fruits, that we are truly united to God for perfect 
blessedness; and then trusting to the power of the same Spirit, may 
not doubt that we shall always be victorious against the devil, the 
world, and every thing that can do us harm. To this effect was our 
Saviour's reply to the Pharisees, "The kingdom of God is within 
you." "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation," (Luke 17: 
21, 22.) It is probable that on his declaring himself to be that 
King under whom the highest blessing of God was to be expected, they 
had in derision asked him to produce his insignia. But to prevent 
those who were already more than enough inclined to the earth from 
dwelling on its pomp, he bids them enter into their consciences, for 
"the kingdom of God" is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the 
Holy Ghost," (Rom. 14: 17.) These words briefly teach what the 
kingdom of Christ bestows upon us. Not being earthly or carnal, and 
so subject to corruption, but spiritual, it raises us even to 
eternal life, so that we can patiently live at present under toil, 
hunger, cold, contempt, disgrace, and other annoyances; contented 
with this, that our King will never abandon us, but will supply our 
necessities until our warfare is ended, and we are called to 
triumph: such being the nature of his kingdom, that he communicates 
to us whatever he received of his Father. Since then he arms and 
equips us by his power, adorns us with splendour and magnificence, 
enriches us with wealth, we here find most abundant cause of 
glorying, and also are inspired with boldness, so that we can 
contend intrepidly with the devil, sin, and death. In fine, clothed 
with his righteousness, we can bravely surmount all the insults of 
the world: and as he replenishes us liberally with his gifts, so we 
can in our turn bring forth fruit unto his glory. 
    5. Accordingly, his royal unction is not set before us as 
composed of oil or aromatic perfumes; but he is called the Christ of 
God, because "the Spirit of the Lord" rested upon him; "the Spirit 
of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the 
Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord," (Isaiah 11: 2.) 
This is the oil of joy with which the Psalmist declares that he was 
anointed above his fellows, (Ps. 45: 7.) For, as has been said, he 
was not enriched privately for himself, but that he might refresh 
the parched and hungry with his abundance. For as the Father is said 
to have given the Spirit to the Son without measure, (John 3: 34,) 
so the reason is expressed, that we might all receive of his 
fulness, and grace for grace, (John 1: 16.) From this fountain flows 
the copious supply (of which Paul makes mention, Eph. 4: 7) by which 
grace is variously distributed to believers according to the measure 
of the gift of Christ. Here we have ample confirmation of what I 
said, that the kingdom of Christ consists in the Spirit, and not in 
earthly delights or pomp, and that hence, in order to be partakers 
with him, we must renounce the world. A visible symbol of this grace 
was exhibited at the baptism of Christ, when the Spirit rested upon 
him in the form of a dove. To designate the Spirit and his gifts by 
the term "unction" is not new, and ought not to seem absurd (see 1 
John 2: 20, 27,) because this is the only quarter from which we 
derive life; but especially in what regards the heavenly life, there 
is not a drop of vigour in us save what the Holy Spirit instils, who 
has chosen his seat in Christ, that thence the heavenly riches, of 
which we are destitute, might flow to us in copious abundance. But 
because believers stand invincible in the strength of their King, 
and his spiritual riches abound towards them, they are not 
improperly called Christians. Moreover, from this eternity of which 
we have spoken, there is nothing derogatory in the expression of 
Paul, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the 
kingdom to God, even the Father," (1 Cor. 15: 24;) and also, "Then 
shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things 
under him, that God may be all in and" (1 Cor. 15: 28;) for the 
meaning merely is, that, in that perfect glory, the administration 
of the kingdom will not be such as it now is. For the Father has 
given all power to the Son, that by his hand he may govern, cherish, 
sustain us, keep us under his guardianship, and give assistance to 
us. Thus, while we wander far as pilgrims from God, Christ 
interposes, that he may gradually bring us to full communion with 
God. And, indeed, his sitting at the right hand of the Father has 
the same meaning as if he was called the vicegerent of the Father, 
entrusted with the whole power of government. For God is pleased, 
mediately (so to speak) in his person to rule and defend the Church. 
Thus also his being seated at the right hand of the Father is 
explained by Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, to mean, that 
"he is the head over all things to the Church, which is his body," 
(Eph. 1: 20, 22.) Nor is this different in purport from what he 
elsewhere teaches, that God has "given him a name which is above 
every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of 
things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, 
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to 
the glory of God the Father," (Phil. 2: 9-11.) For in these words, 
also, he commends an arrangement in the kingdom of Christ, which is 
necessary for our present infirmity. Thus Paul rightly infers that 
God will then be the only Head of the Church, because the office of 
Christ, in defending the Church, shall then have been completed. For 
the same reason, Scripture throughout calls him Lord, the Father 
having appointed him over us for the express purpose of exercising 
his government through him. For though many lordships are celebrated 
in the world, yet Paul says, "To us there is but one God, the 
Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus 
Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him," (1 Cor. 8: 6.) 
Whence it is justly inferred that he is the same God, who, by the 
mouth of Isaiah, declared, "The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our 
Lawgiver, the Lord is our King: he will save us," (Isaiah 33: 22.) 
For though he every where describes all the power which he possesses 
as the benefit and gift of the Father, the meaning simply is, that 
he reigns by divine authority, because his reason for assuming the 
office of Mediator was, that descending from the bosom and 
incomprehensible glory of the Father, he might draw near to us. 
Wherefore there is the greater reason that we all should with one 
consent prepare to obey, and with the greatest alacrity yield 
implicit obedience to his will. For as he unites the offices of King 
and Pastor towards believers, who voluntarily submit to him, so, on 
the other hand, we are told that he wields an iron sceptre to break 
and bruise all the rebellious like a potter's vessel, (Ps. 2: 9.) We 
are also told that he will be the Judge of the Gentiles, that he 
will cover the earth with dead bodies, and level down every opposing 
height, (Ps. 110: 6.) Of this examples are seen at present, but full 
proof will be given at the final judgement, which may be properly 
regarded as the last act of his reign. 
    6. With regard to his Priesthood, we must briefly hold its end 
and use to be, that as a Mediator, free from all taint, he may by 
his own holiness procure the favour of God for us. But because a 
deserved curse obstructs the entrance, and God in his character of 
Judge is hostile to us, expiation must necessarily intervene, that 
as a priest employed to appease the wrath of God, he may reinstate 
us in his favour. Wherefore, in order that Christ might fulfil this 
office, it behoved him to appear with a sacrifice. For even under 
the law of the priesthood it was forbidden to enter the sanctuary 
without blood, to teach the worshipper that however the priest might 
interpose to deprecate, God could not be propitiated without the 
expiation of sin. On this subject the Apostle discourses at length 
in the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the seventh almost to the end of 
the tenth chapter. The sum comes to this, that the honour of the 
priesthood was competent to none but Christ, because, by the 
sacrifice of his death, he wiped away our guilt, and made 
satisfaction for sin. Of the great importance of this matter, we are 
reminded by that solemn oath which God uttered, and of which he 
declared he would not repent, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the 
order of Melchizedek," (Ps. 110: 4.) For, doubtless, his purpose was 
to ratify that point on which he knew that our salvation chiefly 
hinged. For, as has been said, there is no access to God for us or 
for our prayers until the priest, purging away our defilements, 
sanctify us, and obtain for us that favour of which the impurity of 
our lives and hearts deprives us. Thus we see, that if the benefit 
and efficacy of Christ's priesthood is to reach us, the commencement 
must be with his death. Whence it follows, that he by whose aid we 
obtain favour, must be a perpetual intercessor. From this again 
arises not only confidence in prayer, but also the tranquillity of 
pious minds, while they recline in safety on the paternal indulgence 
of God, and feel assured, that whatever has been consecrated by the 
Mediator is pleasing to him. But since God under the Law ordered 
sacrifices of beasts to be offered to him, there was a different and 
new arrangement in regard to Christ, viz., that he should be at once 
victim and priest, because no other fit satisfaction for sin could 
be found, nor was any one worthy of the honour of offering an only 
begotten son to God. Christ now bears the office of priest, not only 
that by the eternal law of reconciliation he may render the Father 
favourable and propitious to us, but also admit us into this most 
honourable alliance. For we though in ourselves polluted, in him 
being priests, (Rev. 1: 6,) offer ourselves and our all to God, and 
freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of 
prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odour 
before him. To this effect are the words of Christ, "For their sakes 
I sanctify myself," (John 17: 19;) for being clothed with his 
holiness, inasmuch as he has devoted us to the Father with himself, 
(otherwise we were an abomination before him,) we please him as if 
we were pure and clean, nay, even sacred. Hence that unction of the 
sanctuary of which mention is made in Daniel, (Dan. 9: 24.) For we 
must attend to the contrast between this unction and the shadowy one 
which was then in use; as if the angel had said, that when the 
shadows were dispersed, there would be a clear priesthood in the 
person of Christ. The more detestable, therefore, is the fiction of 
those who, not content with the priesthood of Christ, have dared to 
take it upon themselves to sacrifice him, a thing daily attempted in 
the Papacy, where the mass is represented as an immolation of 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 16
(continued in part 17...)

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