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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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The triple ministry of the Lord
The systems of dogmatic theology, following the ancient custom, in order to gain a fuller illumination
of the whole work of salvation accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, view it most often
from three aspects, namely as: a) the High Priestly ministry of the Lord, b) His Prophetic
ministry, and c) His Royal ministry. These three aspects are called the triple ministry of the Lord.
The common feature of the three ministries, the Prophetic, the High Priestly, and the Royal,
is that in the Old Testament the calling to these three ministries was accompanied by anointing
with oil, and those who worthily passed through these ministries were strengthened by the power
of the Holy Spirit.
The very name “Christ” signifies “Anointed One” (The name “Jesus” signifies “Saviour”).
The Lord Himself referred to Himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah when He read them in the
Synagogue at Nazareth. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to
preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance
to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
A. Christ the High Priest.
The Lord Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb of God Who is offered as a sacrifice for the life
of the world; He is at the same time also He Who offers, the Performer of the sacrifice, the High
Priest. Christ is “He Who offereth and is offered; that accepteth and is distributed” (the secret
prayer at the Cherubic Hymn in the Liturgy). He Himself is offered as a sacrifice, and He Himself
also offers the sacrifice. He Himself both receives it and distributes it to those who come.The Lord expressed His High-Priestly ministry on earth in its highest degree in the prayer to
His Father which is called “the High-priestly prayer,” which was pronounced after the farewell
conversation with His disciples in the night when He was taken by the soldiers, and likewise in
the prayer in solitude in the garden of Gethsemane: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they
also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which
shall believe on Me through their word” (John 17:19-20).
The Apostle Paul interprets the High-Priestly ministry of Christ in his Epistle to the Hebrews
(chapters five to ten). He juxtaposes the High-Priestly ministry of Christ with the ministry
of the Old Testament high priests and shows that the priesthood of Christ incomparably surpasses
There were many high priests according to the order of Aaron, since death did not allow
there to be only one. But this One, according to the order of Melchisedek, as remaining eternally,
has a priesthood that does not pass away (Heb. 7:23-24).
Those high priests had to offer sacrifice constantly; but Christ performed the sacrifice once,
offering Himself as the sacrifice (Heb. 7:27).
Those high priests themselves were clothed with infirmity; but this High Priest is perfect
forevermore (Heb. 7:28).
Those were priests of the earthly tabernacle made by hands; but this One is the sacred Performer
of the eternal tabernacle not made with hands (Heb. 9:24).
Those high priests entered into the holy place with the blood of calves and goats; but this
One with His own blood entered once into the holy place and obtained an eternal redemption
They were priests of the Old Testament; whereas this One is Priest of the New Testament
B. Christ the Evangelizer (His prophetic ministry).
The evangelistic, or instructive, or prophetic ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was expressed
in the fact that He proclaimed to men, in all the fullness and clarity accessible to them,
the will of the heavenly Father, for the salvation of the world, and granted to them the new, more
perfect law of faith and piety which serves for the purpose of the salvation of the whole human
race. This ministry was performed immediately by the Lord Himself and through His disciples,
who, in accordance with His commandment, proclaimed the good news to all peoples and handed
it down to the Church in all times.
The Lord proclaimed the good news of 1) the teaching of faith, and 2) the teaching of life
The evangelical teaching of faith is the teaching:
a) concerning God, our All-Good Father, to Whom we are taught to appeal with the cry of a
son: “Our Father.” Concerning this revelation to men of the new, more perfect understanding of
God, the Saviour speaks in the prayer before His sufferings: “I have manifested Thy name unto
men, and, I gave declared unto them Thy name” (John 17:6, 26);
b) concerning the coming of the Word into the world — the coming of the Only-Begotten
Son of God — for the salvation of men and their reunion with God;
c) concerning the Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Sanctifier,d) concerning the nature and purpose of man; concerning sin, repentance, the means of salvation,
sanctification and rebirth;
e) concerning the Kingdom of God and the New Testament Church; concerning the final
General judgment and the final fate of the world and man.
The evangelical teaching of life and piety is the high commandment of love to God and neighbor,
which is presented much more fully and elevatedly than in the Old Testament, and inspires one to
the full devotion to God of a son. Many private commandments of this most perfect moral law
are concentrated in the Sermon on the Mount. Such, for example, are the commandments of the
forgiveness of offenses and love for one’s enemies, of self-denial and humility, of true chastity,
not only bodily but also spiritual, of mutual service according to the most exalted example of the
Saviour Himself, and of the other things that are morally demanded of a Christian.
While the Old Testament law inspires one to fulfill the commandments chiefly for the sake
of an earthly, temporal prosperity, the New Testament law inspires one to higher, eternal, spiritual
The Old Testament law, however, was not abrogated by the Saviour, it was only elevated; it
was given a more perfect interpretation; it was placed upon better foundations. With the coming
of the New Testament, it was only the Jewish ritual law that was abrogated.
Concerning the relation of Christians to the Old Testament, the Blessed Theodoret reasons
thus: “Just as mothers of just born infants give nourishment by means of the breast, and then light
food, and finally, when they become children or youths, give them solid food, so also the God of
all things from time to time has given men a more perfect teaching. But, despite all this, we revere
also the Old Testament as a mother’s breasts, only we do not take milk from there; for the
perfect have no need of a mother’s milk, although they should revere her because it was from her
that they received their upbringing. So we also, although we do not any longer observe circumcision,
the Sabbath, the offering of sacrifices, the sprinklings — none the less, we take from the
Old Testament a different benefit: for it, in a perfect way, instructs us in piety, in faith in God, in
love for neighbor, in continence, in justice, in courage, and above all presents for imitation the
examples of the ancient Saints” (Blessed Theodoret, “Brief Exposition of Divine Dogmas”).
The law of the Gospel is given for all times, unto the end of the age, and is not subject to
being abrogated or changed.
The law of the Gospel is given for all men, and not for one people alone, as was the Old
Therefore, the faith and teaching of the Gospel are called by the Fathers of the Church
“Catholic,” that is, embracing all men in all times.
C. Christ the King of the world (His royal ministry).
The Son of God, the Creator and Master of heaven and earth, the Eternal King according to
Divinity, is King also according to His God-Manhood, both in His earthly ministry until His
death on the Cross, and in His glorified condition after the Resurrection.
The Prophets prophesied of Him as a King, as we read in the Prophet Isaiah: “Unto us a
Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His
name shall be called: Angel of Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Master,
the Prince of Peace, Father of the coming age . . . of the increase of His government and peace
there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon His Kingdom” (Is. 9:6-7).The Royal Ministry of the Lord before His Resurrection was expressed a) in His miracles, in
His authority over nature; b) in His authority over the powers of hell, concerning which there is
the testimony of His numerous exorcisms of demons and of the word of the Lord: “I beheld Satan
as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18); c) in His authority over death, manifested in the
resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus of the four days.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaks of Himself as a King before His Resurrection when
He was being judged by Pilate: “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36-37).
The Lord appeared in His glory to His disciples after the Resurrection when He said to
them, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt 28:18).
After His Ascension, the God-Man Christ is Head of heaven, earth, and the underworld.
In all its power, the royal might of the Lord Jesus Christ was revealed in His descent into
hell and His victory over hell, His destruction of its bonds; further, in His Resurrection and victory
over death; and finally, in the Ascension of Jesus Christ and the opening of the Kingdom of
Heaven for all who believe in Him.
The deification of humanity in Christ.
The human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, through its union with the Divinity, participated
in Divine qualities and was enriched by them, in other words, it was “deified.” And not only the
human nature of the Lord Himself was deified: through Him and in Him our humanity also is
deified, for “He also Himself likewise took part in” our flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14), united Himself
in the most intimate way with the human race, and consequently united it with the Divinity.
Since the Lord Jesus Christ received flesh from the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Church books very
frequently call her the fount of our deification: “Through her we have been deified.” We are deified
likewise through worthy reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. However, one must understand
the limits of the meaning of this term, since in the philosophic religious literature of recent
times, beginning with Vladimir Soloviev, there is a tendency towards an incorrect broadening
of the meaning of the dogma of Chalcedon. The term ‘deification’ does not mean the same
thing as the term ‘God-Manhood,’ and one who is “deified” in Christ is not placed on the path to
personal God-manhood. If the Church of Christ is called a Divine-Human organism, this is because
the Head of the Church is Christ God, and the body of the Church is humanity reborn in
Christ. In itself humanity in general, and likewise man individually, remains in that nature in
which and for which it was created: for, in the person of Christ also, the human body and soul did
not pass over into the Divine nature, but were only united with it, united “without confusion or
change.” “For there never was, nor is, nor ever will be another Christ consisting of Divinity and
humanity, Who remains in Divinity and humanity, the same being perfect God and perfect Man,”
as teaches St. John Damascene (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 3, chapter 3).