The Three-fold Work of the Spirit

people and placeWarning: This is a nerdy one.

I’ve long found the three-fold office of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King to be an extremely helpful and biblical way of organizing the complex fullness of his once-for-all reconciling work in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of the Father. What I’ve not found is a succinct piece linking the accomplishment of Christ’s final mediatorial with the present work of the Spirit in the community and the life of the believer–that is until I ran across this passage by Michael Horton:

From John 14-16 we also see that the Spirit brings about the…effect of the threefold office of Christ in these last days. As prophet, the Spirit bears the covenant word of judgment and justification, conviction of sin and faith-creating promise. This is what it means for the Spirit to be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2). As Barth famously put it, “The Lord of speech is also the Lord of our hearing.”

Furthermore, the Spirit is not merely a bonding agent between the Father and the Son, but an equal actor in the economy of grace. Although the external works of God are undivided, the agency of each person is distinct. The one Word is spoken by the Father and reaches its creaturely goal through the perfecting power of the Spirit. As the Spirit is different from the Son (“another Paraclete”), Pentecost is a genuinely new episode in the economy of grace. The Spirit “translates” for us and within us the intra-Trinitarian discourse concerning us (election, redemption, and renewal in Christ). The content of the Spirit’s teaching ministry is Christ (John 15:26b)–not another Word, but its inward effect in our hearts, provoking an “Amen!” AS one sent by the Father in the name of Christ, the Spirit preaches Christ, gives faith to hearers, and thereby unites them to Christ as members of his mystical body.

As “another Advocate,” the Spirit also ministers within us as that priestly office that Christ holds objectively outside of us. The Spirit is not our high priest, but applies the benefits of Christ’s completed work to us and unites us to Christ himself. Apart from the Spirit’s agency, we would remain “dead in trespasses and sins,” refusing the Gift, without any vital connection to Christ’s person and work (Eph. 2:1-5) We have already been reconciled to God in Christ “while we were still enemies” (Rom. 5:10), but the Spirit comes to make us friends and children of God (Rom. 8:1-27). As a covenant attorney, the Spirit makes more than a truce–a mere cessation of hostilities–and brings about a state of union.

Mediating Christ’s royal ministry, the Spirit subdues unbelief and the tyranny of sin in the lives of believers, creating a communion of saints as body ruled by its living head through prophets and apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers that Christ has poured out as the spoils of his victory (Eph. 4:11-16). The Spirit makes Christ’s rule effective in us and mong us by inspiring the scriptural canon and by creating a people who will be constituted by it. Jesus Christ had already appointed apostles as Spirit-inbreathed witnesses, but now at last through the ordinary ministry of pastors, teachers, and other officers in the church, Moses’ request in Numbers 11:29 (“Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”) will be fulfilled beyond his wildest dreams. Not only the seventy elder, but also the whole camp of Israel is made a Spirit-filled community of witnesses. The charismata bestowed on the whole body are orchestrated by the Spirit through the ordained office-bearers, who differ only in the graces (vocation), but in the grace (ontic status) of the Spirit. Thus, the mission of the Twelve in Luke 9:1-6 widens to the seventy in chpater 10. Yet this was but a prelude to the commissioning ceremony of Pentecost.

People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology, pp 24-25

Soli Deo Gloria

2 thoughts on “The Three-fold Work of the Spirit

  1. This is a great portrait of of the work of the Spirit as it relates to the munus triplex concept. I found that entire book, as well as the companion volumes in Horton’s dogmatic project, to be a valuable work.

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