The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah comes, he who is called Christ. When he has come, he will declare to us all things.”

John 4:25

The English word ‘Christ’ is a transliteration of the Greek word ‘christos’ (Χριστός – G3323) which is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word ‘messiah’ (‫מששיח‬ – H4899). Both ‘christos’ and ‘messiah’ mean ‘annointed one’. ‘Anointing’ was the act of rubbing oil, typically olive oil, on the face or head:

Exo 29:[7] And you shall take the oil of anointing and shall pour on his head, and shall anoint him.

Psa 133:[2] It is like the precious oil on the head that ran down on the beard, Aaron’s beard, going down to the mouth of his garments;

Mat 26:[7] a woman came to him having an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.

Anointing was used for a variety of reasons in biblical times. It was considered to be a normal act of personal hygiene (Rth 3:3, Psa 104:15, Mat 6:17), and neglecting it was a sign of mourning (2Sa 14:2; Dan 10:3; Mat 6:17). Anointing oil was also used as a curative (Isa 1:6, Luk 10:34, Mar 6:13, Jam 5:14) and was even applied to dead bodies to counteract the smell of decay (Mat 26:12, Mar 16:1, Luk 23:56). A lack of anointing oil was a punishment from God (Deu 28:40, Mic 6:15).

Anointing was a popular activity especially at the evening meal (Psa 23:5), because it was refreshing and cooling in the heat of the late day. As such, it was considered to be an important act of hospitality (2Ch 28:15, Amo 6:6); not offering it to guests was considered disrespectful (Luk 7:46). Anointing therefore came to symbolize joy, fellowship, and the blessing of abundance:

Psa 23:[5] You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.

Psa 92:[10] But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox. I am anointed with fresh oil.

Psa 133:[1] See how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity! [2] It is like the precious oil on the head, that ran down on the beard, even Aaron’s beard; that came down on the edge of his robes; [3] like the dew of Hermon, that comes down on the hills of Zion: for there Yahweh gives the blessing, even life forever more.

Ecc 9:[7] Go your way—eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. [8] Let your garments be always white, and don’t let your head lack oil.

Isa 61:[3] to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified.

Heb 1:[9] You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.”

By extension, anointing also came to represent the Holy Spirit, as the giver of that spirit of joy and fellowship.

Act 10:[38] even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

2Co 1:[21] Now he who establishes us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; [22] who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts.

So also, anointing came to represent the knowledge of the Gospel that is given by the Spirit, since mealtime was frequently a time for teaching, as well as fellowship:

1Jo 2:[20] You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. … [27] As for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him.

This is a meaning of ‘anointing’ that is common to all believers. But anointing was also used as an initiation ceremony for prophets (1Ki 19:16), priests (Exo 28:41), and kings (Jdg 9:8, 1Sa 16:13, 1Ki 1:39, 2Ki 9:3, Isa 45:1). Unlike the use of anointing as a daily ritual for hygiene or hospitality, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. So anointing also came to symbolize a person with divine authority as a result of being divinely appointed to an office (Lev 21:10-12, 1Sa 24:6) in which he would act as a mediator between God and the people (Deu 18:18-19, Zec 6:13). This use of the word to symbolize God’s representative on earth (1Sa 2:10, Psa 2:2, Psa 18:50, Psa 84:9, Mat 22:42. Joh 1:41, Joh 4:25) culminated in the hope of the one true Messiah that the people of God hoped for, and the Jews continue to hope for.

This hope was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus:

Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah about whom the prophets of old spoke. He is the one who was anointed by the Father to be a Savior for His elect people. [1Sa 2:10; Psa 2:2; Psa 18:50; Psa 84:9; Isa 43:11; Mat 16:16-17; Luk 2:25-30; Luk 24:44-46; Joh 1:41; Joh 5:39; Joh 8:56; Act 3:18; Act 4:25-27; Act 9:22; Act 28:23; 1Co 10:1-4; Gal 3:8]

Christian Confession of Faith, IV.B.1

Here are some of the verses that the Confession refers to:

Psa 18:[50] He gives great deliverance to his king, and shows loving kindness to his anointed, to David and to his seed, forever more.

Mat 16:[16] Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [17] Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Joh 1:[41] He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is, being interpreted, Christ).

Act 9:[22] But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

The action of anointing initiated one into the office of prophet, priest, or king; but Jesus was actually initiated into all three offices at once.

First, the anointing of Jesus was an initiation into the office of Prophet:

Jesus Christ is the great Prophet who declares the will of God to His people. [Deu 18:15-19; Isa 50:4; Isa 61:1-3; Nah 1:15; Luk 4:17-21,24; Luk 13:33; Act 3:22-24; Heb 1:1-2]

Christian Confession of Faith, IV.B.2

Here are some of the verses mentioned:

Deu 18:[15] Yahweh your God will raise up to you a prophet from your midst, of your brothers, like me. You shall listen to him.

Luk 4:[18] “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, [19] and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Luk 13:[33] Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, for it can’t be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.’

Heb 1:[1] God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, [2] has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds.

Second, the anointing of Jesus initiated him into the office of King:

Jesus Christ has absolute authority over His people, ruling and reigning over them as the great King. [Gen 49:10; Psa 2:6-7; Psa 132:10-11; Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5-6; Dan 7:13-14; Dan 9:25; Zec 6:13; Zec 9:9-10; Mat 21:4-5; Mat 22:1-14; Mat 25:31-34; Mat 28:18; Joh 18:36-37; Eph 1:20-23; Phi 2:9-11; Heb 2:8-9; Rev 1:5; Rev 17:14; Rev 19:16]

Christian Confession of Faith, IV.B.4

Let’s look at some of the verses appealed to here:

Psa 2:[6] “Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion.” [7] I will tell of the decree. Yahweh said to me, “You are my son. Today I have become your father.

Jer 23:[5] Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. [6] In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name by which he shall be called: Yahweh our righteousness.

Zec 9:[9] Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Mat 28:[18] Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

Joh 18:[36] Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn’t be delivered to the Jews. But now my Kingdom is not from here.” [37] Pilate therefore said to him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Rev 17:[14] These will war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and those who are with him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

Third, the anointing of Jesus initiated him into the office of Priest. Ordinarily, this would have been impossible since one could be a priest or a king, but a priest could never be a king. Kings were chosen from the tribe of Judah, while priests were chosen from the tribe of Levi. But Jesus, who was born of the tribe of Judah, was chosen as a priest of a different order than that of Aaron:

Jesus Christ is the great High Priest who intercedes with the Father on behalf of His people, pleading the merits of His own atoning blood and imputed righteousness. [Psa 110:4; Zec 6:13; Heb 2:17; Heb 3:1; Heb 5:1-10; Heb 6:20-10:21]

Christian Confession of Faith, IV.B.3

Here are some of the verses the Confession refers to in this section:

Psa 110:[4] Yahweh has sworn, and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

Zec 6:[13] even he shall build Yahweh’s temple; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on his throne; and he shall be a priest on his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

Heb 7:[11] Now if there were perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people have received the law), what further need was there for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? [12] For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law. [13] For he of whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. [14] For it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah, about which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

Heb 9:[11] But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, [12] nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption.

Jesus shares an anointing of joy and fellowship with all of his people. But he was also initiated through his anointing into the three great offices of God’s church: Prophet, King, and Priest. His people enjoy the benefits of his fulfillment of these roles, but ultimately he alone is exalted as “the Anointed One of God”.

8 Lord God of hosts, my prayer hear;
O Jacob’s God, give ear.
9 See God our shield, look on the face
of thine anointed dear.
(Psalm 84, The Psalms of David in Metre)

See Also:

A Christian View of the Messiah

The Offices of Jesus Christ

IV. Christology – The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ