Now, tonight I’m going to give you a really long introduction and maybe even an exposition at the end of the introduction, if I have enough time. But this subject that’s been assigned to me (Jesus Christ, the head of the church) is a very, very serious subject. And I’m pretty confident that just off the top, it might appear to you to be somewhat benign, somewhat ho-hum. Certainly we all know that Jesus Christ is the head of the church. So maybe we need to look at history a little bit and find out just how benign this is or isn’t.
Throughout history, I can honestly say there have been some notable servants of the Lord whose name was John. And I’m happy to bear the name, although I’m quite certain I don’t belong in the ranks of many who do. One is John Huss. John Huss was and is well-known and loved by many who know Reformation history. He was a Bohemian and he was a pre-Reformation Reformer. He was actually born to peasant parents in Husinec, now modern Croatia. At twenty years of age, he shortened his name to Huss, which means the goose.
That nickname stuck. So firmly did it stick that a hundred years or so later, Martin Luther referred to Huss as, at his martyrdom, the goose being cooked. The day for the cooking of the goose was actually July 6, 1415. He was taken to the cathedral in Prague. He was dressed in his priestly clothing, and then when he arrived in public view, he was stripped of all his priestly garments, one garment at a time. He was then tied to the stake at which point his biographers say he prayed, “Lord Jesus, it is for you that I patiently endure this cruel death. Have mercy on my enemies.”
He was heard reciting the Psalms as the flames engulfed him. His executioners were so desirous of ridding the earth of every bit of this man that they actually scooped up his ashes and tossed them into a lake so that nothing of John Huss would ever remain. Those who revered him, however, collected bits of dirt on the spot where he died and took them back to Bohemia for a memorial.
Early in his monastic career, Martin Luther was rummaging through stacks in a library, and he came across a volume of sermons by John Huss. He wrote this: “I was overwhelmed with astonishment. I could not understand for what cause they had hurt so great a man who explained the scriptures with so much gravity and skill,” end quote. In fact, Luther looked to Huss as a hero because Huss taught and practiced biblical doctrines that later became crucial to the Reformation and also was hostile to the church regarding indulgences.
Why did they execute him? If he was as noble as he was, what brought about this slaughter, this murder? A little biography. He decided at an early age to become a priest because you were guaranteed a decent living. And coming from abject poverty, this was a good option for him, and so he entered the priesthood. He was a bright enough guy that once he got into the priesthood, he got a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate, and he was then ordained in 1401. He became the preacher in Prague at the Bethlehem Chapel, which seated three thousand people.
He determined to preach in the language of the people and not in Latin, which set him apart and made him very attractive to the people. He was influenced by the writings of Wycliffe, and when he preached, he actually discussed the Bible, “desiring to hold,” he said, “to believe, and to assert whatever is contained in them as long as I have breath in me,” end quote. Eventually, he was forbidden to preach. He was excommunicated, but they couldn’t get him out of the pulpit, so he just kept preaching in the same Bethlehem Chapel.
The longer he preached, the more heavily he leaned on the Bible, which he proclaimed unequivocally is the final authority. Powers that be in the church, however, passed an edict that no citizen could receive Holy Communion, no citizen could be buried on church grounds, as long as Huss kept preaching. So to spare the people, he stopped. And in 1412, he retired to the countryside where he taught and wrote feverishly.
The most important treatise that Huss ever wrote is called “The Church.” It was read completely in public in Prague. And it contained radical views. One, that the church was made up of all the pre-destined believers of all ages. During the time of Wycliffe and Huss, the official position of the church was that the true church consisted only of the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, and the priests and that common lay people were not real members but only communed with the true church as they received communion - which was, by the way, then limited only to the bread.
Two, in this same treatise on the church, he said that the authority of the Bible is higher than the authority of the church. This, by the way, was another radical idea in his day and an idea that he drew from Wycliffe. It’s interesting that his words regarding the authority of Scripture were later repeated almost verbatim by Martin Luther. But the goose was cooked primarily because he said that Jesus Christ Himself is the head of His Church, and for that, they burned him at the stake.
He also said (which didn’t help) that the reprehensible lives of disqualified men made them unfit for positions of authority in ministry, and he took a swipe at the whole system. Huss believed Jesus was the head of the church and that reprobate men were disqualified from any role of leadership whatsoever. In fact, he argued particularly that Christ alone is the head of the church and not the pope, quote, “who through ignorance and love of money is corrupt.” To rebel against the pope, he said, is to obey Christ as head and, in a manner of speaking, to lose your own - head, that is. They burned him at the stake, they didn’t behead him, but the results are the same.
The Bohemian people were furious over his execution. They repudiated the council, they repudiated the church. The group that was so aggressive in this repudiation of the church formed what’s called the Unitas Fratrum, the communion of brethren, which became the foundation for the Moravians, who would play an influential role in missions and particularly in the conversion of the Wesley brothers, among others.
So the truth of Christ’s headship, while it may seem to us somewhat benign, is in fact not so at all. In fact, the preservation of this truth has sailed down through the ages to us on a sea of blood. A century later, the young Martin Luther engaged in the same fight, and his fight was for the honor of the true head of the church. Luther said this, quote - in Table Talk): “I am persuaded that if at this time St. Peter, in person, should preach all the articles of Holy Scripture and only deny the pope’s authority, power, and primacy and say that the pope is not the head of all Christendom, that they would cause him to be hanged.
“Yea, if Christ Himself were again on earth and should preach, without all doubt, the pope would crucify Him again.” The Roman Catholic Church, by the way, still holds to the lies of papal headship and papal infallibility. Reading from Catholic dogma, “The pope possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church and not merely in matters of faith and morals but also in church discipline and in the government of the church.”
To explain that out of their own literature against the various forms of Episcopalianism (which limited the jurisdictive power of the pope in favor of the bishops) the Vatican Council declares this, quote: “If anyone shall say that the Roman pontiff has the office merely of inspection and direction and not a full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals but also in those which relate to the discipline and government of the church spread through the world, or assert that he possesses merely the principal part and not all the fullness of this supreme power or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the churches and over each and all the pastors and the faithful, let him be anathema.” Damn anybody who questions the pope’s headship.
A somewhat familiar Roman Catholic theologian by the name of Ludwig Ott writes, “A true power, a universal power, a supreme power, and a full power is possessed by any pope who can thereby rule independently on any matter without the consent of anyone else, he himself is judged by nobody because there is no higher judge on earth than he.” Of course, Luther’s response to the papacy was to say, “I owe the pope no more obedience than I owe to antichrist.”
D’Aubigne, in his history of the Reformation of the sixteenth century, wrote this: “Luther’s rejection of the pope as head of the church inflicted the most terrible blow on Rome.” Calvin agreed. Calvin said, “Some think us too severe when we call the Roman pontiff antichrist,” that from his Institutes. John Knox called the pope an antichrist tyrant over the church. Wesley identified the papacy as “the man of sin and son of perdition for exalting himself above the true head of the church and even above God Himself.” He wrote that in his book Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms.
1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith, quote, “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ, nor can the pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, the man of sin and son of perdition that exalted himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God.” Now, you get the idea that this was a real battle - don’t you? - to uphold the headship of Christ over His church.
Of particular interest to me (I guess maybe “MacArthur” will tell you why - we have our own plaid) is Scottish history. Seventeenth century Scotland, the same war was waged over who is the head of the church. Was it the Lord Jesus Christ? Is He the head of the church? Or the king or queen of England? There were periods of time, you remember, when England went Roman Catholic and then it bounced back to Protestantism, and the times that it was Catholic, it was the pope being the head and other times, it was the royalty.
Blaikie writes in a book called The Preachers of Scotland, which you can still find available - written in 1888 - this is worth listening to. “The attempt by the state” (that would be the English) “to force a new liturgy on the church, the use of which should be binding under the highest penalties, showed a determination,” writes Blaikie, “to set aside Christ’s authority and tyrannize over His heritage even in the most sacred region of worship.”
What happened was the English crown wanted to get control of the Scottish, who were rebelling against them and believed that Christ was the head of the church, and so they wrote a new liturgy which was to be imposed upon the church by the crown. You may remember that in a famous incident at St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile there, many of visited it, a lady supposedly by the name of Jenny, Jenny Geddes, was there on a Lord’s Day at a worship service, when the introduction of this new book by the crown was made. And she stood up in protest and picked up a stool and threw it at the one who was presenting it.
That launched a serious riot, and the conflict really went on pretty intensely. It started in about 1625 and went on to 1675. It was really fifty years of battling over who is the head of the church. Blaikie further writes, “By the force of reaction, the church was thrown upon the more full assertion of Christ’s claims as head of the church.” They had to define their theology in that environment. Who is the head of the church? “The more” - he writes - “this truth was thought of, the more glorious did it seem.”
So many times in the history of the church, that’s what happens. When a truth becomes embattled and you begin to dig in and dig in and dig in, the richness that comes out of it is something you never would have discovered if it hadn’t been in the battle. Blaikie goes on, “Every vision of the apocalypse acquired new interest when it was remembered that the true head of the church of Scotland was no other than the glorious King exalted to such honor there, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, having on his head many crowns and surrounded by elders and living creatures and thousands of thousands crying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.’
“The men of those times did not, like so many now, deem it enough to recognize Christ’s headship over themselves personally. They joined to that with all the ardor of their nature, His headship over the whole church. To repudiate the one was as great a crime and as great a folly as to repudiate the other. To deny Him His place as King was to imperil their personal relation to Him almost as much as to deny His atonement.”
I’ve written a lot through the years about the Lordship of Christ. There’s a lot to write about it. I’ve written a lot about the Lordship of Christ over His people individually, that confessing Jesus as Lord is necessary to be saved. That’s Romans 10:9 and 10. But here we’re talking about something other than just that. We’re talking about His Lordship, not over me personally but over the church. And I’m convinced today there are people sitting in churches for whom Christ is Lord personally but He’s not ruling in that church as He would desire to do.
Samuel Rutherford’s letters deal with this issue. The glow of adoration toward the person and the work of the Redeemer bears equally on His relation to the church. The more that one delighted to think of His grace in relation to oneself, the more was one bound to see to it that He sustain no insult and no injury in His wider dominion. For the believer to join with those who gave over His authority as King to earthly sovereigns was about as wicked as to join with those who set aside His personal authority, that they might personally serve the devil, the world, and the flesh.
In this way, the controversies of those days disposed the preachers, mandated the preachers, to be ever looking to an exalted Savior and to be preaching One who had gone into heaven and was at the right hand of God, angels, authorities, and powers having been made subject to Him.
The drama perhaps focused in John Knox in Scotland. I would love to have met him in those days. I think there’s something of me in him. But Knox once confronted Queen Mary on this issue, and to say that he was bold would be an understatement. This is how he addressed her. He addressed her as a woman of stout stomach. Now, usually you don’t point things like that out when you’re talking to any woman, let alone the queen. In fact he said, “She is a woman of stout stomach,” and he said this apparently in her hearing, “who can’t abide the presence of God’s prophets.” And what had raised his ire was this battle over the fact that Christ ruled the church and she did not.
I was in the presbytery in Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, just across from St. Giles where the Church of Scotland meets to conduct its affairs. There is sort of an awesomeness about it. And I went in with Eric Alexander who was having to say something there in defense of his doctrine. He was called on the carpet for being orthodox and he gave a speech about that and to some effect, he basically said the question is not why am I preaching what I’m preaching, but the question is why are you people preaching what you’re preaching, and afterwards, I said, “Did it help?” And he said, “No, but I felt a lot better.”
But he gave me a little tour of the place and I noticed that it’s very hierarchical in their seats, low seats, middle seats, high seats. There’s a seat that would be in here up there. And I said, “Who sits there?” The king or the queen. Still there.
The opposition became so fierce that the Scottish people got together and produced a national covenant. It was signed originally by sixty thousand of them and you know what it said? “Christ is the head of the church.” And heads began to roll. And it was a slaughter. I’ve been in the little hay market area in Edinburgh where the massacres took place. I’ve seen the spears around St. Giles and across the street where they put the heads of the covenanters who said Christ was the head of the church. Women were drowned, young women.
There’s a wonderful story about a seventeen-year-old girl who would only affirm that Christ was the head of the church. They took her out to the Firth of Forth and they put her on a stake and they drove the stake into the sand when the tide was out, and they stood on the shore and asked her to recant before she was drowned. And next to her they put an older woman and they drowned together. People were chopped up, they were hacked, and they were drowned.
The preachers of Scotland had been dispossessed of their churches and they went out and held what were called conventicles out on the countryside. And if you wanted to go to church, you had to wander out in the cold, find a moor somewhere and a secretive meeting. And these went on for years and years and years, and many of them tried to avoid being killed. In one region alone four hundred pastors were killed, only thirty-seven survived.
So when you think about Christ as the head of the church, you need to think a little bit, like so many things that we have, of the price of that great reality. A few centuries later, good old CHS, Spurgeon, wrote this: “Of all the dreams that ever deluded men and probably of all blasphemies that ever were uttered, there has never been one which is more absurd and which is more fruitful in all manner of mischief than the idea that the bishop of Rome is the head of the church.
“No, these popes die and how could the church live if its head were dead?” He had a way of saying things so we all understood. “The true head ever lives and the church lives in Him.” He said further, “Christ did not redeem His church with His blood that the pope might come in and steal away the glory. He never came from heaven to earth and poured out his very heart that He might purchase His people that a poor sinner, a mere man should be set up on high to be admired by all the nations and to call himself God’s representative on earth. Christ has always been the only head of the church.”
In a message he preached called, “Jesus, Our Lord,” he said this: “The church of God in a very special manner calls Jesus our Lord for there is not and there cannot be any head of the church except the Lord Jesus Christ. It is awful blasphemy for any man on earth to call himself Christ’s vicar and the head of the church. It is a usurpation of the crown rights of King Jesus for any king or queen to be called the head of the church, for the true church of Jesus Christ can have no head but Jesus Christ Himself. And I’m thankful there is no head to the church of which I am a member except Jesus Christ,” then he added, “nor dare I be a member of any church which would content to any headship but His.”
Jonathan Edwards weighs in on it. “Christians are one society, one body politic, and they are subject to the same King, Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church. He is the head of this body. Indeed, all men are subject to the power and providence of this King, but those who are in His kingdom of grace all acknowledge the same King, own His rightful sovereignty over them, are willing to be subject to Him, to submit to His will, and yield obedience to His commands.” That’s a strong statement.
So you’re in the church. So you confess Jesus Christ as Lord. So you have confessed that He’s not only your personal Lord, and that’s kind of a strange expression because it’s not really a biblical one, but in the individual sense that you therefore have confessed as well that He is the head of His church. And if that’s the confession you made at your salvation, then by that very confession at its essence, you have given Him rightful sovereignty over you, affirmed that you are to be subject to Him, submit to His will, and yield obediently to His commands.
Edwards went on to say, “Christ governs His people in a peculiar manner. He immediately influences their wills and inclinations and powerfully brings them to a compliance with God’s commands and rules. They are a society united in the same interest and concerns. It is by the same covenant and promises that they have their inheritance and that they hold their title to their enjoyments, as a people of the same nation hold their temporal rights by the same rule and citizens hold their rights by the same laws. So Christians have the same common enemies that seek to hurt and overthrow.
“He that is an enemy to one saint as a saint is an enemy to all. They are jointly called to resist the same powers of darkness. The church here upon earth is an army that goes forth under Jesus Christ.” Obviously, the people who voted him out of his church in Northampton thought they were the head of the church. Modern liberal - let’s get up to date. Theologians deny Christ’s headship. How? He’s dead. If you don’t believe in a resurrection, He’s certainly not the head of the church, He’s just a dead martyr.
They deny His deity. They would deny His resurrection. Therefore, there is no current reign. Therefore, there is no authority being expressed by Him and nor is the Word of God inspired. So they’re in the same category with others who denied His headship.
Let me get a little closer to home. Seeker movement strips Him of His headship by silencing His rule, by removing His Word from its rightful place in domination of the life of the church and substituting anything and everything else. As John Piper calls it, “evangelical slapstick.” Even feminists deny Him His headship in the church. Bible translators who tamper with the original text intrude into His headship over His church. Emerging movement leaders deny Him His headship, celebrating what they perceive as the Bible’s lack of clarity.
That’s the key to mark the Emerging Church. They say, “Yes, Christ has spoken in the Bible, but we have no idea what He meant by what He said.” That’s not helpful. The head may be Christ and He did speak, but we have no right to say for sure what He meant. And anybody who says that this is what He meant by what He says is proud, intolerant, divisive. And the Emerging Church will tell you they exercise the hermeneutics of humility. “I’m too humble to say I know what the Bible means by what it says.”
Sounds like Rome to me. Rome said the Bible is unclear and the only way you’ll ever understand it is for the infallible church to interpret it because you can’t interpret it, you don’t even need to know it in your own language. In fact, let’s kill William Tyndale for putting it in your language.
You can strip the Lord of the church, of His rule in the church a lot of ways and it’s not just with bloodshed. Something current from John Armstrong, here’s a quote, “Certitude is often idolatrous. I have been forced to give up certitude. If there is a foundation in Christian theology, it is not found in Scripture. Theology must be a humble human effort to hear God, never about rational approaches to texts.” What is that? Maybe you like Brian McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, “Shock and ambiguity often stimulate more thought than clarity. Clarity,” he says, “is overrated.”
We chuckle about those things because it’s so absurd. But how can the Lord speak to His church if we don’t know what He means by what He says? How can He speak to His church if He’s dead? How can He speak to His church if you take the Bible out and put in whatever else? Psychobabble, self-help therapy in a zillion forms. Current evangelical trends really do attack the headship of Christ and an unwillingness, for example, to distinguish between the invisible true church and the visible professing church.
It’s so confusing now in the contemporary evangelical movement that people don’t even want to find out who really belongs to the church and who is under the authority of Christ. Entrepreneurialism tends to reign where you have a thousand little Christs running their own little entrepreneurial thing and calling it a church. It’s a product of human cleverness, creativity, ingenuity with a weak gospel, indifferent to propositional truth, minimizing the Word of God. Christ rules through His revealed truth, preached, explained, applied, upheld.
And at the same time today, there is a growing disdain for faithful mediators of Christ’s headship. Who are they? Faithful expositors. Those are the mediators, the human instruments, the human agents that bring to bear the rule of Christ to His church - true elders, true pastors. See, the faithful through history have always preserved by the Holy Spirit the true understanding of and devotion to the head because it goes with being a true Christian. This is no benign truth. This is no truth to be held lightly. This is what it is to be a Christian. And this is what it is to be a church.
And I understand the movement today much better if I just don’t call it a church. Somebody said to me, some wacky outfit somewhere, named themselves “Grace Church” and somebody asked me if it bothered me. And I said, “Well, it doesn’t bother me that they said ‘grace,’ it just bothers me that they use ‘church.’” When anyone serving, shepherding a church deviates one step out of the revealed will and truth of the true and only head, he has declared a mutiny, a revolution, an overthrow and has become a rival of Christ. He is an adulterer, a seducer, trying to steal the bride.
I told you I was going to give you a long introduction. Nonbiblical ministry, non-expository preaching, non-doctrinal teaching usurps Christ’s headship, silencing His voice to His church and gives honor to proud independence and autonomy as if it is a virtue. This approach strips the church of the mind of Christ, builds indifference and ignorance toward the Scripture, prevents the preacher from being the voice of the Lord to His church, removes protection from error and sin, eliminates transcendence and clarity, cripples worship, produces compromisers, and cheats people of the glory of their head in all His fullness.
Well, okay, here’s my outline. Point one - you’ve got to have a couple of these. Three questions: What does “head” mean? What does “head” mean? And for this, we can thank a little assistance from the evangelical feminists. They have forced us to define the word. For two decades, they have worked to overthrow the clear biblical teaching on male/female order in God’s plan. They have indirectly assaulted the headship of Christ over His church in their efforts because the headship of Christ is linked to the headship of the husband, right?
Ephesians 5:23, “The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.” So if the husband’s headship goes down, guess who goes down with it - Christ. First Corinthians 11:3 essentially says the same thing, the husband is the head of the wife, Christ is the head of the man, God is the head of Christ. In their efforts, then, to strip men of their authority in the home and the church, they’ve stripped Christ.
For example, here’s the popular one, the idea that head (biblically, kephalē) means source. That’s a big one, that’s a predominant one, it means source, it has no connotation of rule and no connotation of authority. “The man is the source of the woman.” What in the world does that mean? That’s goofy. A husband is not the source of his wife, what about the in-laws? Didn’t they make some contribution to this deal? I mean it’s nonsense. And there’s no linguistic support for this at all.
We’re very thankful for our encyclopedic friend, Wayne Grudem, who has, more than anybody in the history of the church, dealt with this issue. In 1985, he studied kephalē. Only he would do this. He examined two thousand three hundred and thirty-six examples of its use in Greek literature. He went all the way from Homer in the eighth century B.C. to the church fathers in the fourth century A.D. Never - never - when the word was used of a person and not a body part, never did it have any other meaning than governing, ruling authority. That’s what it means. And Scripture uses it exactly that way. To say that Jesus is head is to say that He is Lord. To say kephalē is to say kurios.
Now look at Philippians chapter 2 for a moment. Philippians chapter 2, verse 9, “Therefore God highly exalted Him and 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 earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Now I want you to just think about one thing here. God gave Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus - this is not the name - Jesus is not the name - the name is a name that’s above every name and the name is clearly in verse 11, “Every tongue must confess that Jesus Christ is” - what? - “Lord,” kurios. Kephalē is kurios.
To say He is head is to say you bow, you bow as an individual and the church bows to His sovereign rule, just like everybody in the universe bows. Matthew 28:18, “All authority is given to me.” That’s what it means to be head, means to be in charge, governing authority, to be Lord, sovereign.
Second point: Who made Him head? Who made Him head? Turn to Ephesians 1 and you can dig into these a little more for yourselves, time limits us. But look at Ephesians 1, this is so profound. Ephesians 1, verse 17. And here, the apostle Paul is praying and his request is (verse 17, Ephesians 1) - I’m reading the NAS here, by the way - “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation and the knowledge of Him.” One thing you need to know is what’s important about Christ.
He’s praying that God will help you to have a full-orbed understanding of Christ. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” This is about Christology. Paul prays, “I hope and pray to God that you’ll have your Christology filled out.” “These are in accordance” - verse 19 at the end - “with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”
And we’re talking about this majestic, exalted, transcendent Christ, “Far above” - verse 21 - “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.” Now follow verse 22, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church which is His body.” Now I want you to look very closely at this. The sovereign God who chose us, called us, sovereign God who gave us an eternal inheritance, sovereign God who empowered and regenerated us for salvation, the sovereign God who sanctifies us and will one day glorify us, that God wants us to have a full understanding of the glory of Christ.
He raised Him from the dead, seated Him in glory. Now let’s go back to verse 21. “Far above,” huperanō - huperanō - anō is higher up, huper, super high up, infinitely above all beings, all rule, archē could be translated firsts, primary ones, all authority, exousia, all those who have the rights, the supreme rights, all power, dunamis, all dominion, kuriotēs, lordships. He is not just above, He is far above, infinitely above. In fact, verse 22 adds, “He put all things in subjection under His feet.” Says it again in another way, to say that He’s over everything.
And not for a while, but the end of verse 21, “Not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Now and forever, beloved, now and forever, Jesus is Lord. Now and forever, He is head of His church. Colossians 2:19 says, “He is the head from whom the entire body being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments grows with the growth which is from God.” He reigns universally in all of creation.
Now, the language here is very careful. So go back with me for a moment to verse 22, I want you to catch this language. “He put all things in subjection under His feet” - now listen - “and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” Did you get that? He didn’t say He gave Him as head to the church. He didn’t say He made Him head of the church. He said - look at it - He gave Him as head over all things to the church. Wow. Auton edōken kephalēn huper panta. The verb is followed by the indirect object. He gave - God gave, listen to this - the one who was already head over the universe to the church to be her head.
Colossians 1:18, “He is also head of the body who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, the one who has the first place in everything.” This is a way of saying He gave His beloved redeemed church the King of the universe to rule her. What kind of an idiot comes up with his own ideas in the church? What is that? This is the most glorious kind of language by the Holy Spirit to express the love of God for His redeemed church. Look, He didn’t give us Gabriel to be the head of the church. He didn’t give us Michael to be the head of the church.
He didn’t give us ten thousand really super angels to be the head of the church. He didn’t give us twenty thousand really creative angels to be the head of the church. He didn’t just give us gifted preachers, teachers, theologians, and evangelists to guide and lead the church. He gave us the King of the universe to be our head and our shepherd, and we are His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. All things in all filling, He filled us up with His headship.
Fall on your knees, you popes, fall on your knees. Fall on your knees, you kings and queens. Fall on your knees, you self-appointed lords of the church who lead it your way and not His. Fall on your knees, you who deny Scripture or replace it with anything else. Take your place on the ground, you who put your own creativity and will between Christ and His church. All who would deny His people, His Word, have silenced Him in His own church.
If we had time, I would have preached on Ephesians 5. But can I read it? A little of it? Look at Ephesians 5. We’ll start at verse 23. “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. As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, 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.
“So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church because we’re members of His body.” You talk about intimate marriage.
So how does He rule in His church? We asked what does it mean to be head? Who gave Him that headship? How does He rule? He sovereignly saves His church. He’s the Savior, verse 23, of the body. He loved the church and gave Himself up for her. He sovereignly saves His church. He sovereignly supervises His church. Verse 24, “The church is subject to Christ.” He sovereignly sanctifies His church, verse 26, “that He might sanctify her having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.”
He sovereignly secures His church, “And will present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In that day, she will be holy and blameless.” And He sovereignly supplies all His church needs, verse 29, “He nourishes and He cherishes it.” Everything is in Him, the head. Is it any wonder Paul said to the Colossians, “See that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ, for in Him all fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete and He is the head.”
A final word for John Calvin. In his Ephesians commentary, page 198, I found this, “Hence, should anyone call us anywhere else than to Christ, he is empty and full of wind. Let us, therefore, without concern, bid him farewell. The body” - the church - “will be in a right state if simply the head, which furnishes the several members with everything that they have, is allowed without any hindrance to have the preeminence.” And I said I’d give Calvin the last word. Let’s pray.
O God, our hearts are filled with joy and delight and a bit overwhelmed, almost breathlessly so, to know that you loved us, your bride, so much that you gave us the supreme bridegroom of the universe to be our husband, to be our Lord, to be our head in intimate leadership and direction and that He fills us individually and He fills us collectively as a church. O God, all we want is that Christ have the preeminence, that He rule and reign supreme in His church. And how our hearts ache that that battle rages and rages and rages still today - different form, different shape, different issues, but - oh, how Satan wants to silence the head of the church, even in the church. Triumph, O Christ, in your true church. For your glory, we pray. Amen.
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