Christ, the Head of the Church

Intro: Reviewing what we have considered about Jesus, the Lord of Glory:

  • January – Jesus, “the Word was God” ; The pre-existence and deity of Christ
  • February – Jesus, “the Word became flesh”; The humanity of Jesus
  • March – Jesus, His Miracles; The power and purpose of His works
  • April – Jesus, His Mission ; Seeking the lost
  • May – Jesus, His Message; The “I am’s
  • June – Jesus, His Teaching; Jesus’ parables
  • July – Jesus, His Enemies; Jesus, the controversialist
  • August – Jesus, His Priesthood; He lives to make intercession for us
  • September – Jesus, the Lamb of God: ; The event and meaning of His death
  • October – Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life; The power and purpose of His resurrection

When I put these topics together about a year ago, I thought they would provide a somewhat thorough and profitable study of the life of Jesus. How could we study these important things about the life of Jesus and not be made stronger Christians? But after you get to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, where do you go from here?

What is the primary applicable truth about Jesus? What must we recognize NOW? There is a sense in which all of the previous lessons lead to our study in November. There are many people who believe in the deity of Jesus, believe in His miracles, study His parables, know about His crucifixion and celebrate His resurrection, but do not recognize His authority in the church. There are many who claim Jesus as their Savior, but do not submit to the teaching of Jesus in worship, doctrine, morality or in their everyday lives. He is not their Head.

 Let’s begin with this question: Is Christ the Head of the Church?

I. Christ is the Head of the Church. The answer is an emphatic YES. The headship of Jesus is clearly enunciated in scripture. The apostle Paul says it 3 times in the book of Ephesians:

  • Ephesians 1:22-23 – 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
  • Ephesians 4:15 – 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ
  • Ephesians 5:23 – 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

A. What does this mean? What is the definition and function of a head? The Greek word that we find in the verses just read is kephale (kef-al-ay’), which is used both literally and figuratively in the scriptures.

1. Literally it is used of the physical head of a man or an animal. We all know what and where our head is physically, or organically. It is that thing at the top of our body, that makes everything happen. I t is the source of intellect, thought, and activity. A living body presupposes a head.

a. The English word can signify the source or beginning of a thing; such as the head of a river or road is its beginning source.

b. the term “head” in scripture can also signify the whole person, such as when it speaks of evil returning upon the head of a person. (heaping coals of fire upon his head)

2. Metaphorically it denotes that which is supreme or exalted. Jesus uses the word to describe the most important stone in a building as the “head of the corner” in Matt. 21:42.

a. Paul’s use of the term in Ephesians is certainly metaphorical, but the meaning rests in the physical reality of a body with an attached head. Jesus is the head of His body, the church. Ungers’ says… This part of the body has generally been believed to be the seat of intelligence… He goes to write… According to Scripture the head is the noblest part of man. Because the human organism culminates in the head, Christ is called the “head of the church”; and for the same reason the head is the general metaphorical designation of him who is most exalted, the most excellent, the chief.

                • The function of the head is to lead and guide the body.
                • Headship by definition includes authority over the body. The head of the body is its source of power or authority. So in Ephesians 1 it describes Jesus as the head Who has “all things under His feet” (Eph. 1:22). Every part (member) of the body is under His authority, and must answer to Him alone.
                • The head is a position of relationship – Jesus is the Head of HIS body.

b.After His resurrection from the dead, and just prior to His ascension Jesus gave the marching orders His apostles that became the marching orders of His church – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19). He prefaced His command with a proclamation of His Headship – “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (v. 18) So every disciple made by apostolic preaching in the N.T. were made “in the name of Christ”, or by His authority. One becomes a Christian, or a member of the body of Christ, through submission (obedience) to the Head. In Acts 4:12 Peter declared to the council at Jerusalem that there was no other name under heaven given among men whereby men could be saved other than the name of Jesus. There is no person, council, synod, or church that has any authority over God’s people (body of Christ). Jesus is the Only Head.

c. If you belong to a religious denomination that has a creed book or a source of religious authority other than the Bible, (book of Mormon, Watchtower Society, Writings of Ellen G. White, etc) that body is not the body of Christ. The body of Christ has only one Head, and that Head is Christ.

B. The Authority of the Savior: Jesus’ absolute authority over His church is also expressed in His unilateral sacrifice for all the saved. I like the very accurate American Standard translation of Eph. 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, (being) himself the savior of the body. Christ’s headship over His church is established in the fact that He is also her Savior. He gave Himself for Her… 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, We cannot follow the directions of any other, because Jesus alone saved us. If we believe that Jesus died for us, why would we follow anyone else, or trust our salvation to any other authority?

1. Consider Paul’s extensive rebuke of the division that existed in the church of Corinth. There were competing sources of authority within the church (I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, v. 12) Paul points to the absolute authority of Christ in his rhetorical question, 1 Cor 1:13 – “…Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Unless one is your Savior he has not right to claim to be your Head.

2. In Acts 20:28 Paul says that Christ purchased the church with His own blood. It belongs to Him alone. His headship is established through His relationship to the body. It is HIS body; it does not belong to us, individually or corporately. There can be no human headship to Jesus’ church.

3. That helps me understand the events of Acts 2, in the very beginning of Christ’s church. (turn there)

            • Peter preached the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, establishing through appeals to OT prophecy (Joel, David) that Jesus was sitting on His throne. David prophesied that God would raise Jesus up to sit on his throne (v. 30) and God raised Him up (v. 32), and all His enemies were made His footstool (v. 35).
            • Based on this, he commanded sinners to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (v.38). As many as believed were baptized (v. 41), and the Lord added the saved together in the church (v. 47) They were the Lord’s people (His church) because He bought them with His own blood. Their obedience in repentance and baptism brought them in contact with that blood and they were saved. Their submission to the Head, brought them into the body and identified them as His body.

4. Consider Paul’s words in Colossians. The apostle describes the headship of Jesus over His church in the context of His sacrifice for us.

            • Col 1:13-14He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Who has done this for us?

Col 1:15-18 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

a. notice in v. 17 Paul adds that Jesus is the beginning. The word here is arche and is used a twofold sense of source and primacy. The church has its origins in Jesus.

              • As its source, It is He who gives life to His church. His sacrificial death and resurrection on our behalf provided our new life.
              • Because He is the source, He is also the head of the Body. Jesus holds the chief position, or highest rank in the church.

5. He has the preeminence. What does that mean?

a. Those who are in His church seek please Him above all others – Gal 1:10-12 – For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

b. Those who are in His church settle every question of conduct and faith with His words above all others. Paul encourages the Ephesians to not act like those of the world by reminding them… – But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: (Eph 4:20-21)

c. Those who are in His church are willing to suffer for their Head, and strive to be like their Head – Col. 1:24-28I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

                • Eph 4:14-15That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ —
                • Col 2:9-10For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
                • Col 2:18-19 – Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

Conclusion: The position of Jesus as the Head of His church is without question. Those who claim to serve Jesus, yet refuse to obey His authority cannot be His church. The body is defined in its submission to its Head. Are you in Jesus’ body?

  • Mark 16:15-16 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.