This title from the Greek Khri·stosʹ is equivalent to the Hebrew Ma·shiʹach, “Messiah; Anointed One.” (Compare Mt 2:4, ftn.) “Christ” is not a mere appellative added to distinguish the Lord Jesus from others of the same name; it is an official title.
The coming of the Christ, the one whom Jehovah would anoint with his spirit to be the Messianic King, had been foretold centuries before Jesus’ birth. (Da 9:25, 26) However, at his birth, Jesus was not yet the Anointed One or Christ. In foretelling his birth, the angel instructed Joseph: “You must call his name Jesus.” (Mt 1:21) But when the shepherds near Bethlehem were given the angelic announcement, in anticipation of Jesus’ future role they were told: “There was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” that is, “who is to be Christ the Lord.”
The personal name of Jesus followed by the title Christ may call attention to the person himself and that he is the one who became the Anointed One of Jehovah. This occurred when he reached about 30 years of age, was baptized in water, and was anointed with Jehovah’s spirit visibly observed in the form of a dove descending upon him. (Mt 3:13-17) This is the point Peter made at Pentecost: “God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus,” evidently recalling the expression he had heard from the lips of Jesus, who first used the term “Jesus Christ.” (Ac 2:36-38; Joh 17:3) This expression “Jesus Christ” is also used in the opening words of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
On the other hand, putting the title ahead of the name and saying “Christ Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ” places greater emphasis on the office or position held by Jesus. It focuses attention primarily on the office, secondarily on the office holder, as in saying King David or Governor Zerubbabel. It would remind one of the singular official position Jesus holds as the Anointed One of Jehovah, an honored position not shared by others of his followers who are also anointed. Only Jehovah’s beloved Son is entitled “Christ Jesus.” Paul used this expression in his first inspired letter. (1Th 2:14) Luke also used it, once, at Acts 24:24 (NW; RS), when speaking about Paul’s bearing witness.
The use of the article “the” with the title (“the Christ”) is another way attention is sometimes drawn to the office as held by Jesus. (Mt 16:16; Mr 14:61) The grammatical structure of the sentence, however, may be a factor determining whether the article is used or not, for says W. E. Vine: “Speaking generally, when the title [Christ] is the subject of a sentence it has the article; when it forms part of the predicate the article is absent.”
In the Scriptures titles are never multiplied before or after Jesus’ name; but if one title precedes the personal name, then any other title is added only after the name. We never find a combination like the Lord Christ Jesus or the King Christ Jesus, but we do find the Lord Jesus Christ. The expression “our Savior, Christ Jesus,” at 2 Timothy 1:10, in the Greek text has the expression “of us” between “Savior” and “Christ” to identify who the Savior is, in keeping with the expression “Christ Jesus our Savior [literally, “Christ Jesus the Savior of us”].” (Tit 1:4) In the text at 1 Timothy 2:5 mention is made of “a man, Christ Jesus” as the Mediator, but “a man” is not a title. The expression only explains that Christ Jesus was at one time a man on earth.
An exceptional use of the title “Christ” is Paul’s reference to Moses rather than Jesus, when he writes: “He [Moses] esteemed the reproach of the Christ [Khri·stouʹ, “Anointed One”] as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” (Heb 11:26) Moses was never anointed with any literal oil as were the high priests and kings of Israel. (Ex 30:22-30; Le 8:12; 1Sa 10:1; 16:13) But neither was Jesus nor were his followers, and yet the Scriptures speak of them as having been anointed. (Ac 10:38; 2Co 1:21) In these latter cases their anointing with God’s holy spirit served as an appointment by God, or a commission, even though literal anointing oil was not used. So, in a similar sense Moses received a special appointment. Paul, therefore, could say of Moses that he was Jehovah’s anointed one, or Christ, the recipient of a commission given to him at the burning bush, which appointment he considered to be greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.
The term “Christ” is also used when speaking of the Christian congregation and its relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Now you are Christ’s body, and members individually,” in a spiritual sense. (1Co 12:27) Those “baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” with hope of being “joint heirs with Christ” of the heavenly Kingdom. (Ro 6:3-5; 8:17) They share in “the sufferings of the Christ,” being “reproached for the name of Christ.” (1Pe 4:13, 14; 5:1) A number of times this relationship is described as being “in union with Christ” or “in Christ,” and also the reverse expression “Christ in union with you,” with its different implications, is used. (Ro 8:1, 2; 16:10; 1Co 15:18; 1Th 4:16; Col 1:27) Weak ones in such association, who should be strong, are called “babes in Christ.” (1Co 3:1) In the course of time all things in heaven and on earth are gathered again “in the Christ.”
False Christs. In his prophecies on the conclusion of the system of things, Christ warned his followers: “Look out that nobody misleads you; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. For false Christs [Gr., pseu·doʹkhri·stoi] and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Mt 24:4, 5, 24) Such wicked persons who falsely lay claim to the title and office of the Lord Jesus Christ are included in the an·tiʹkhri·stos (Greek for “antichrist”) mentioned five times by the apostle John.
Other Uses of the Term “Christ.” The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the same Greek word khri·stosʹ more than 40 times, frequently as a title of anointed priests, kings, and prophets. Aaron the high priest was “the anointed one,” commissioned and “appointed in behalf of men over the things pertaining to God.” (Le 4:3, 5, 16; 8:12; Heb 5:1) Expressing his judgment on the house of Eli, Jehovah promised to raise up a faithful priest who would walk before God’s anointed one (khri·stosʹ) for all time.
The kings shared this same honored title because of their relationship to Jehovah in their kingly office. So Samuel spoke of Saul as khri·stosʹ at 1 Samuel 12:3, in the Greek Septuagint. “It is unthinkable, on my part,” exclaimed David, “to thrust my hand out against [Saul] the anointed [LXX, khri·stonʹ] of Jehovah!” (1Sa 26:11) And David would not allow his nephew Abishai to touch Saul. (1Sa 26:8, 9) David also had the Amalekite slain because that one said he had killed Saul “the anointed [LXX, khri·stonʹ] of Jehovah.” (2Sa 1:13-16) This title and commission to be king was also bestowed on David, and thereafter he spoke of himself as Jehovah’s “anointed one [LXX, khri·stoiʹ].” (1Sa 16:12, 13; 2Sa 22:51) King Zedekiah, who sat on the throne as an heir of David, was also called “the anointed one [khri·stosʹ] of Jehovah.”
The prophets too were titled Jehovah’s anointed ones, as is indicated by the parallelism in Psalm 105:15. Jehovah gave the command to his prophet Elijah: “Elisha . . . you should anoint as prophet in place of you,” though the details of the actual anointing are not recorded.
There are other instances where the Greek Septuagint uses khri·stosʹ prophetically. There are ten references to khri·stosʹ in the book of Psalms, the one in Psalm 2:1, 2 being particularly noteworthy: Nations in tumult and kings of the earth massing together “against Jehovah and against his anointed one.” The apostles quoted this prophecy and applied the title to the ‘holy servant Jesus, whom Jehovah had anointed.’ (Ac 4:24-27) A more unusual example is where the term is applied to the Persian king Cyrus. Before his birth, the prophecy of Isaiah (45:1-3) declared: “This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one [LXX, khri·stoiʹ], to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of.” Cyrus was never literally anointed with holy oil as were the kings of Israel, but as in other instances in the Bible, the expression “anointed one” is a titled form of address given to him because of his commission and appointment from God.