Messiah Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Messiah

In the Old Testament, the verb and participle forms of mishach (and occasionally the noun form of mishiach), meaning "to anoint" or "anointed one," occur frequently. Anything that was anointed — usually with oil — was thereby set aside or set apart for a sacred purpose. Sometimes memorial stones or pillars or sacred furnishings in the temple were anointed. But of particular importance was the anointing of individuals who, by virtue of the sacred anointing, were imbued by the spirit of God and ordained to a particular task. In the Old Testament this was usually associated with the offices within Israel of prophet, priest, or king, but sometimes God anointed a non-Israelite to be his chosen servant. The most famous instance of this comes in Isaiah 45:1, when King Cyrus of Persia is declared by God to be his "messiah" to set Israel free from its long captivity. Over time, prophetic descriptions of Israel's servant and deliverer became associated with the ultimate Messiah, the final Anointed One, who would definitively save God's people. This figure would embody and fulfill within his very self all three of Israel's sacred offices: prophet, priest, and king. In the New Testament, Jesus is identified as this long-awaited Messiah in the very first verses of Matthew and Mark, the first chapter of John, and the second chapter of Luke. The Greek word messias (a transliterated version of the Hebrew mishiach) is used just twice in the New Testament (John 1:41; 4:25). All other messianic references in the New Testament use the Greek word christos, which also means "anointed one." In the gospels and in Acts, christos is primarily translated "the Messiah" and is applied to Jesus as God's Anointed One, but in the balance of the New Testament christos becomes a title for Jesus and is typically translated "Christ." The title sometimes stands alone as "the Christ" (or in Paul's favorite phrase: our being "in Christ"), but very often it is yoked with Jesus' human name, as in "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus." Although we sometimes treat "Christ" as if it were another proper name for Jesus, it is technically a title or role that Jesus fills. But as God's chosen Messiah/Christ, Jesus fulfills all the promises of salvation in the Old Testament and so indeed represents the long-awaited Savior of the world.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.