Christ, The Head Of the Church
By Eddie Cloer
"For the husband is
the head of the wife, as Christ
also is the head of the church, He Himself being the
Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).
An old story has it that a group of boys came running into a country store. They bought a few things and rushed out. Within minutes they topped the hill just beyond the store and went out of sight. A few minutes later, another boy came running into the store, out of breath. He excitedly asked the store clerk, "Have you seen a group of boys come by?" The store clerk said, "Yes. They were here not more than fifteen minutes ago. They were in a big hurry and didn't stay long." The boy said, "Which way did they go? I'm their leader!"
This boy, the group's leader, illustrates the kind of leadership all of us have seen too often--a leadership which is not out front leading but is behind wondering which way the followers went! The trouble with human leadership is its frailty and inadequacy. Human leadership, at some time or other, brings disappointment. People are always going to be people.
Must we also expect inadequate leadership for the church at times? Does the ship of Zion have a Captain who is subject to human weakness and mortal failures? As we journey from earth to the eternal shore of the great forever, must we depend upon a broken compass?
Our fears are allayed by the words of inspiration which assert that the head of the church is none other than Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, "Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). Let the phrase "Christ also is the head of the church" enter deeply into your thinking. Recognizing Christ as the head of the church will give assurance to those who are members of Christ's church, for doing so reminds them of the unerring guidance they receive. It will also give an incentive to non-Christians to enter the church, that they might come under the infallible leadership of Christ.
Let us contemplate the reassuring theme of "Christ, the Head of the Church," by considering the ways in which He is the head of the church.
HE IS THE HEAD IN AUTHORITY
First, Christ is the head of the church in authority. He is our Lord, and He leads us by His law.
After His resurrection from the dead and His ascension to heaven, Christ was seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come" (Ephesians 1:21). God "put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body,..." (Ephesians 1:22, 23). Paul emphasized this same truth in Colossians, when he said, "He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him" (Colossians 1:18, 19). According to the writer of Hebrews, God will speak to us through His Son during the last days or the Christian dispensation (Hebrews 1:1, 2). He has highly exalted Jesus and has bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,..." (Philippians 2:10, 11). The Scriptures assure us that Christ will reign as head of the church or king of the kingdom until the end of time, and then, when all rule, authority, and power are abolished, He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:23, 24).
Someone has said, "The best government in the world is a dictatorship, if the dictator is perfect!" This statement obviously is true, but it does not give us any comfort regarding the governments of men, for every earthly dictatorship is flawed with human imperfection. This saying does, however, give us encouragement concerning the church. The dictator of the church, the divine Son of God, is perfect in knowledge, wisdom, love, and grace! Learning, therefore, that we as Christians are under the dictator, Christ, is not bad news; it is the highest kind of good news. Would we want it any other way?
As we live as His church, we live in subjection to His authority and leadership. Even in a "me-istic age," we cannot demand our own way in Christ's church. We cannot say, "Me first," and acknowledge Jesus as Lord at the same time. Every decision we make is a spiritual decision, guided by our submission to His Lordship. Christians sing, "Have Thine Own Way, Lord," not "I Am Going To Do It My Way."
HE IS THE HEAD IN EXAMPLE
Second, Christ is the head of the church in example. He is our perfect pattern in obedience to God. He leads us by His sinless life.
Peter said that Christ committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When suffering, He uttered no threats (1 Peter 2:21:23).
Christ never needed to apologize for a mistake He had made. No need ever arose for Him to retract a misspoken word. His heart never knew a sinful thought. His enemies scrutinized His life but were unable to find a single sin.
The head of the church is perfect in character even as He is perfect in authority. He leads His church with His own life. As His church, we are to heed His commands and imitate His life. John wrote, "The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Because of the unique leadership Jesus gives to the church, Paul could charge others, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11: 1).
From one viewpoint, Christ became our perfect Savior. By living a perfect life before God, He became perfectly qualified to be our Savior and could offer to God a sinless life for the atonement for sin. The writer of Hebrews argued, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:8, 9).
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the story "The Great Stone Face" which reminds us that we become what we behold; we imitate what we admire. A gracious face, chiseled in the side of a mountain, overlooked a valley where a village of oppressed people lived. The community believed that someone with a face similar to the great stone face would one day come as their deliverer. A boy of the village continually meditated upon the stone face with aspiration and desire. In time, through his beholding and admiring the stone face, the youth grew into the likeness of the face, and the community soon recognized him as their deliverer.
The truth that we become what we behold is especially true of the church. Paul said, "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The church of Christ looks to His life as a model of how to live. He is our head in example. Not only do we look at Him, but we also look unto Him (Hebrews 12:2) as He ever leads us with His perfect life.
HE IS THE HEAD IN LOVE
Third, Christ is the head of the church in love. He leads and commands us with His compelling love.
The evening before His death, Jesus told His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34, 35; emphasis mine). He further told them, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you" (John 15:12; emphasis mine).
This love which Christ has for us and beautifully demonstrates motivates us in three directions: First, it constrains us to love Him. John said, "We love, because He first loved us" (John 4:19). Second, His love constrains us to love each other. John wrote, "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (John 3:16). Third, His love constrains us to do His will. Christ said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
Assuredly, Christ is the head
of the church
in authority, in example,
and in love and service.
As the angels watched the earthly ministry of Christ, how they must have watched with awe as He, the day before His death on the cross, took a basin and a towel, and in love and humility washed His disciples' feet! The King of kings knelt before His disciples in loving service. Christ not only became a man, but He became a servant of men. He took the form of a man and lived the life of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7).
John introduces this tremendously important scene with these words: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God" (John 13:3). In other words, at a time when Christ was especially conscious of His authority, position, and future, He condescended to do the work of a servant in harmony with the life of a servant which He had lived. He did not flaunt His supremacy and strength, His power and position. In love, He used it to teach His disciples the lesson of humility.
As the head of the church, He lovingly serves us with His power and authority! He did not relinquish His position as Lord when He washed the disciples' feet; He used His position as Lord to serve them and to inspire in them the spirit of service. He said to them, "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you" (John 13:13:15).
Jesus has portrayed in the highest possible way what love is and how true love is manifested. He leads His church with His love. As we live in the atmosphere of His love, breathe that atmosphere, and respond to it, we are remade by it into His image. No wonder our brother said, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7, 8).
Assuredly, Christ is the head of the church in authority, in example, and in love and service. He leads His church through His Lordship, through His perfect life, and through His compelling love.
The head of any organization or body gives the credibility, authenticity, and strength he possesses to the organization or body he leads. This is certainly true of Christ and the church. The Christ, the divine Son of God, gives His spotless perfection, infinite wisdom, matchless integrity, and almighty strength to the church with His headship and leadership.
The church of Christ was founded by Christ, is led by Christ, and wears Christ's name. Whatever Christ possesses, He imparts to His church; whatever future Christ has, the church has. He promises to sustain His church today and to sanctify her for her future,"that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27).
If Christ has created the church, imparted to the church His love and salvation, and has crowned the church with His promise of eternal glory, who would not want to be in His church?
Are you the church led by Christ?
QUESTIONS FOR STUDY
| 1. Cite examples of
leadership which does not really lead.
2. How is Jesus the head of the church in authority? Give passages of Scripture
which teach that Jesus has all authority.
3. How long is Christ to reign as head of the church? (See 1 Corinthians
4. Why is it encouraging to know that a Christian is led by Christ?
5. How does Jesus lead the church with His life?
6. How did Jesus become our perfect Savior? (See Hebrews 5:8, 9.)
7. Conversion to Christ is an event in time, but transformation into His image is
a process over time. Discuss this process of transformation. (See 2
8. How does Christ lead with His love?
9. How does the love of Christ motivate us?
10. What does Christ's washing of the disciples' feet teach us about daily living
11. How do we wash each other's feet today?
12. What does a leader contribute to the body that he leads?