The Prophets and the Prophet

In Miscellanies 1044, Jonathan Edwards made the following profound observation about the contrast between the mediated authority with which the Old Testament prophets spoke the word of God and the immediate authority with which Christ spoke the word of God:

“The ancient prophets, when they uttered their predictions, were wont to introduce them after this manner, “Hear ye the word of the Lord,” or “Thus saith the Lord,” or with some such like phrase showing that they did not speak of their own knowledge, but by special revelation and direction from God; but Christ foretold things to come in a remarkably different manner and style, holding forth as much as that he spake of his own knowledge, introducing his predictions not with a “Thus saith the Lord,” but “Verily I say unto you,” (as Matt. 23:36, 24:34–35 and 26:13, 21, Mark 14:30, Luke 21:31–32, John 13:38 and 14:12 and 16:20–22). The following place is very remarkable, showing what great authority Christ attributed to his own word in his predictions: Matt. 24:34–35, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” These words are annexed to the chief prophecies that Christ ever uttered, which are contained in ch. 24 of Matthew; see the same, Luke 21:31–32.”1

Jesus’ word was attended with Divine power–as from his own person–in the same way in which his miracles were marked by a Divine authoritative word-accompanied power. Herman Ridderbos explained,

“[Jesus’] word is not only a sign, it is charged with power; it has the disposal of the matter, the salvation which it defines: it is not merely a word, but “it shalI accomplish that which he pleases” who speaks it. That is why at bottom there is no difference between the word with which Jesus casts out devils and his preaching of the gospel. In both cases the word and what it indicates go together…Jesus’ preaching of the basileia (i.e. the Kingdom) is at the same time its revelation.

The multitude, too, notices this authority with which Jesus preaches the gospel, although they remain outsiders with respect to its real secret. For the most part they are offended by it, because they feel it as blasphemy for a human being to speak with such authority which belongs only to God (Mark 2:7, parallels).

That is why Jesus’ adversaries were able to attempt to entangle him “in his words” (en logooi) (Matt. 22:15; Mark 12:13; Luke 20:20,26); for in his word they sensed his claim to absolute authority and thereby his dangerous character.” Others, however, responded in a more positive way. Thus, e.g., on the occasion of the miracle of the healing of the palsied man, the multitude was filled with fear and praise for God “who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:8). Although they do not know Jesus in his true significance ( they conceive that which Jesus maintains as the authority of the Son of Man, as an exousia (i.e. authoritative power) given by God ‘to men,’) they recognize Jesus’ authority to forgive sins when they witness the miracle. We also point to the many expressions of ‘fear,’ ‘amazement,’ ‘astonishment,’ ‘bewilderment,’ ‘confusion,’ ‘being beyond themselves,’ describing the frame of mind of the multitude upon seeing his miracles and hearing his preaching.”

To be sure, the word of God spoken by the Old Testament prophets accomplished all for which the Lord sent it. It too was invested with all of the Divine authority and power; however, it was mediated by the Old Testament prophets, who were not themselves the fulfillment of it. With the coming of Christ, however, the revelation of the Redeemer was accompanied by the revelation of the Kingdom in word and in deed in such a way that the Messiah and the accomplishment of all that God was speaking was through him are to be viewed as inseparable. Jesus’ “I say to you,” is the immediate word of God spoken by the great Prophet of the Church in the fulness of time.

 

1. Edwards, J. (2002). The Miscellanies: (Entry Nos. 833–1152). (H. S. Stout, A. P. Pauw, & P. Miller, Eds.) (Vol. 20, p. 384). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

2. Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1962) pp. 73-74.

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