There is no church without “Christ.” But what is the definition of this word?
The New Testament portion of The Bible was written in Greek and the Greek word “christos” is frequently attached to Jesus. “Christos” or the English equivalent “Christ” means “anointed.”
You will frequently find in the scriptures that the word “Christ” is treated as a title or rank of office. When Jesus asks His disciples who the people think He is, Simon Peter responds: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God..” (Matthew 16:16, King James Version)
Interchangeable and Interdependent Words
To further confound readers, some versions of The Bible replace the word “Christ” with “Messiah” in their translations. But don’t worry, because “Christ” and “Messiah” mean the same thing. As noted earlier, “Christ” is the English translation of the Greek word “christos” and “Messiah” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “mashiach.” Think of it this way:
Christ = Anointed One = Messiah
It reveals the interchangeable nature of the scriptures. The same definition or concept can be expressed using a different word or series of words. Do you see a fundamental difference in the meaning of the following recognizable verses taken from two different translations?
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
- “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”
Can you identify which translation of John 3:16-17 came from the New International Version and which came from The Message translation of The Bible?
The scriptures are also interdependent. I cannot imagine Peter answering Jesus’ question without ending it with the words “the Son of the living God.” There aren’t enough adjectives to describe Jesus Christ or titles to recognize His power and authority.
Here is an experiment you can try by yourself or with others: try to talk or write about Jesus without using words like “Christ”, “Savior”, “Son of God” and/or “Messiah.” Maybe you can do it, but I can’t. Embedded in my “Christian speak” is a compulsion to call attention to the greatest man who ever walked the earth.
The Anointed One
Why is describing Jesus as “the anointed” or “anointed one”” so important?
In ancient times, great leaders were set aside by anointing them with precious and symbolic oils. An early scriptural example is the anointing of Aaron and his sons as priests by Moses in Exodus 28. Before being made king of Israel, Saul is anointed by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 10. The prophet repeats the process in 1 Samuel 16 when he anoints David.
The act of anointing with sacred oil made it clear that it was God who had set aside a person and given him authority to act as God’s representative. The four gospels include several occasions where Jesus was anointed by those He came to redeem from sin and death. But the first time anointing oil is mentioned in the gospels is when a magi presents myrrh as a gift to the infant Jesus and His parents.
Myrrh was extracted from a small bushy tree found in the Arabian peninsula. It was used raw or crushed and mixed with oil to make perfume. Myrrh was also used to reduce swelling and stop pain. Currently, it is used in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments.
Myrrh was used by the Jews to anoint and prepare a body for burial. So it is a bit of scriptural foreshadowing when the magi’s gift is myrrh. Does it signal that there will be something special about the death and burial of Jesus?
Jesus acknowledged His role as the Christ in his hometown of Nazareth when He declared in the synagogue that He was the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy recorded in Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and He was anointed to save humanity from sin and death. “C” was and is and always will be for “Christ”.