Meditations in Colossians: 33. Jesus, head of the Church
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church;
In this sweep of the wonder of Jesus, Paul has been pointing out how Jesus is supreme above all (and he will reiterate that later on). So far he has done that by pointing out that Jesus is the temporary ruler over God’s kingdom on earth, that Jesus is the image or expression of God, that he was there before all else, the begotten Son, sharing with his Father in bringing into being all of existence and he maintains all of existence by his word. Now, coming down from these incredible and lofty acclamations he also identifies him as the one who is head of the church.
But before we get to ‘church’ we pass the word ‘body’, his body which is now the church. Taking Paul’s letters in Scriptural order, in Romans this concept does not appear until chapter 12: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom 12;4,5) There it is, one body with many members – each of us.
This has an echo in 1 Corinthians: “is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor 10:16,17) There is a similar oblique hint about us being part of the one body of Christ, but this comes into its fullness in chapter 12 which details these ideas and culminates with, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27) He then goes on to detail specific ministry gifts.
The next big mention is in that wonderful letter of the church, Ephesians: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:22,23) When he later details the gifts of ministries to the church, he says that they are, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Eph 4:12) He also uses the concept later there in connection with husband and wife relationships.
Which brings us to Colossians where we have our present reference and a few verses later on his reference to “for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (v.24) Later on he makes reference to the proud believer who, he says, “has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Col 2:19) It is still in his mind when he later makes the appeal, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Col 3:15) It is a concept that is unique to Paul’s writing but in it he conveys some wonderful truths.
So let’s summarise what this concept says in Paul’s writings.
- When he was alive Jesus had one physical body through which he ministered God’s will.
- Now Jesus’ body comprises every believer and we must assume the purpose is still exactly the same – to do God’s will (see Mt 28:19,20).
- Each one of us who is a born again believer is a unique member of this body with gifts assigned to us by God and expressed by the Holy Spirit
- In whatever we do as his members, we are to reveal him by doing his will, and that inspired, guided, directed and empowered by his Holy Spirit, and all for the glory of God.
- Jesus is the ‘head’ of this ‘body’ as the head of a physical body directs the body. Seated at his Father’s right hand, he leads his body into works of God for the blessing of the church and the world, and for the glory of God.
How far this is from all of the trapping of ecclesiastical ritual we often see on television, with men or women dressed up in special clothes. How far this is from the gimmicky services we often find in many modern churches. I challenged one of our own church leaders about this recently because although I have advocated and used such things as ‘café church’ or ‘messy church’ in the past, my conclusion today is that so often (not always) we use these things to hide the absence of the Holy Spirit in our gatherings. Let’s learn to wait on the head of the body to both be inspired and to find out what he has on his heart for us to be and do when we gather together. HE is the head of the church, not the Pope, not the arch-bishop of Canterbury or any other ‘bishop’. When we let him be the head, then we might start seeing the body behaving like his body. May it be so!