The Headship of Christ.

The subject of headship is found in both Old and New Testaments. Shortly before David's decease he addressed a great congregation of princes, captains, and other notables of his kingdom, speaking to them of his preparation for the building of the house of God. Turning to bless Jehovah he says, "Thine, Jehovah, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the splendour, and the majesty … Thou art exalted as HEAD ABOVE ALL; and riches and glory are of Thee, and Thou rulest over everything; and in Thy hand is power and might … we thank Thee and praise Thy glorious name" (Chronicles 29:11-13). This remarkable paean of praise delineates what the Spirit of God connects with the position of headship — greatness, glory, majesty, riches, might, power and splendour. These things belong to God as Head above all, and bring before us what God is as supremely and infinitely above all He has created; but these same things very blessedly describe what belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ in the position of headship that God has given to Him.

In Israel there were "heads of the people," holding positions of trust and authority under Moses, the king in Jesurun (Deut. 33:5, 21). Israel's king, according to the words of Samuel, was "The head of the tribes of Israel" (1 Sam. 15:17); and in the coming day "the children of Judah and the children of Israel … shall appoint themselves one head" (Hosea 1:11). David, in his song of deliverance to Jehovah says, "Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; Thou hast made me the head of the nations" (Psalm 18:43). Christ's headship in the millennial age will embrace both Israel and the nations, for then He will be displayed as Head over all things.

Two Heads — Adam and Christ.

The writings of the Apostle Paul bring the headship of Christ before us in the New Testament. Although the word head is not used, in the fifth chapter of Romans there is a very striking contrast between Adam and Christ; Adam, the head of a race derived from him after his fall; Christ — of whom Adam was a figure — head of a race that inherits rich and abiding blessings through His work on the cross. Through Adam's fall, the reign of sin and death began, and all born of him are constituted sinners, receiving, because of sin, judgment, condemnation and death. In blessed contrast, those who are under Christ's headship are constituted righteous, having justification of life, receiving the free gift of righteousness through grace, and have the prospect of reigning in life with Christ in the coming day. The reign of grace, which belongs to the present period of time, has come through our Lord Jesus Christ; and soon, at His coming, we shall enter into the full blessedness of eternal life. (Paul normally views eternal life as future; it is the blessed hope of Titus 1:2; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:7).

Although born of Adam, the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is no longer viewed by God as being in Adam; we have been transferred from Adam to Christ. Because we are under Christ's headship, we are no longer under condemnation, even as it is recorded in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

Head of Every Man.

Paul desired the Corinthian saints to "know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). Adam was not only head over the lower creation, but in him, man was established by God as head of the woman. This divine relationship is not to be confused with that of Ephesians 5:23, where the husband is viewed by God as head of the wife. In every circle where men and women are found together, it is God's order for man to be the head. Christ having been established by God as head of every man, it is the bounden duty of every man to acknowledge Him in this place of authority, and God will hold him responsible if he refuses or neglects to do so. When Christ was raised from the dead, God made Him both Lord and Head. We know from Phil. 2 that every tongue shall yet confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Men are ignorant today, even in Christendom, of the great place that God has given to His Christ; they do not know that all things are in His hand, and that everything of which they partake to keep them in life in this world comes from Him who sits upon the throne of God. The Apostle Paul recognised that all came from God through Christ, saying to the saints at Philippi, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). Because Christ is the head of every man, every man shall come forth from the grave in the power of Christ, even as we read in 1 Cor. 15:21-22. In this passage we find God presented as Christ's head. Having become Man, Christ has forever taken the place of subjection to God (see 1 Cor. 15:28), though ever having His own essential place in the Godhead. God's place as head in this Scripture is what David spoke of when he addressed Him as Head above all.

Head of the Body, the Church.

There are three mentions of Christ as Head of the body, and they all speak of His present relationship to the Church. Let us look at Colossians 1 to begin with, where the greatness of Christ, the head of the body, is portrayed by the Spirit of God. It may be well to remark that the Colossian saints were in danger of the subtle influences of philosophy, and the Apostle not only warns them, but shows them that in having such a glorious Head they needed nothing from the teachers of this world. How great is Jesus, the Son of the Father's love, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. All the efficacy of the great work of redemption, accomplished on the cross, abides in Him in the Father's presence. He is the image of the invisible God; the One in Whom God, Who dwells in light unapproachable, is made known and represented before men. Coming into the creation He takes the place of Firstborn in relation to it, and this because He is the creator. (The position of firstborn relates to pre-eminence of place, not necessarily to birth, as we can see from both mentions in this passage of Scripture). All things created not only came from Him as their source, but He was the actual agent in creation, and the One for whose pleasure and glory they were brought into being. Eternal in His existence; supreme in His glory; He is before all; and the whole universe is held together through His wisdom, power and authority. Such is the Personal greatness of Him Who is the Head of the body. With such a Head, why should the saints of God, His members, seek for anything outside of Christ? Philosophy could never secure for men forgiveness of sins: this alone is to be found in Christ; why then should we look for anything from men when all of God is to be found in Him who is the image of the invisible God, and our Head, to Whom we are united? Moreover, He is the beginning of all that proceeds from God, whether in the old creation or the new creation; and coming out of death into the resurrection world, He takes the chief place — that which is rightly His — the place of Firstborn from the dead. When upon earth, all the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in Him, in view of reconciling all in the universe to the Godhead. How transcendingly great is the Head of the body in His Personal excellency, and in every position He fills!

A second mention of this subject in Colossians 2:19, brings out the sufficiency of the Head of the body. Verse 16 of this same chapter indicates that the Colossian saints were in danger of being ensnared by the elements of Judaism, and the Apostle reminds them that the things of the law were but shadows of the substance now theirs in Christ. Why then should they follow after shadows when the substance, the body, of all that was spiritual belonged to them in their heavenly Head? There was another danger — the introduction of angels between the saints and God. They had no need of intermediaries, for God was immediately available to them in the Son of His love, His image, and their Head. There was nothing that saints of God could acquire either from Judaism or from angels; all for them dwelt richly in Christ, their living Head; and they were united to Christ and to each other as members of His body. What they needed was the increase of God, and this was only in Christ; and God had so formed the body in relation to the Head that through the joints and bands provided by Him there was the ministry of this divine increase. Joints and bands are not viewed as "gifts," but as functioning in the body to minister and unite together. They minister that which comes from the Head; binding together the saints through the heavenly grace of Christ. Alas! the professing church draws largely from the resources of this world; and its leaders are little concerned with the increase of God. Discourses on the things of this world, the display of human learning and natural wisdom; government by tradition and the principles of the world; and the evident neglect of the word of God, only too clearly manifest that the truth of "holding the Head" is virtually unknown. Christ as a living Person, who cares for His church, and who is indispensable to it, is little realised where His Name is professed. Do we realise that the body of Christ, the church of which we are members by His Spirit, is altogether dependent on the Head in heaven for the increase of God? Are we seeking the increase of God or for some other kind of increase from some other source? God would have us draw constantly upon His unfailing resources, which He has made available for us in our living Head above.

Christ as the Head of the body is also presented to us in Ephesians 4. In this Scripture He is seen as having ascended up on high, after having descended into the lower parts of the earth. Coming out of death, He led captivity captive; manifesting to the unseen, spiritual world the great triumph secured through His death and resurrection. Having plumbed the lowest depths, and having ascended up above all heavens, He will fill the whole universe with His fame and glory in the coming day. From the place of exaltation He now fills, He has given grace to all His saints, and has given gifts to men. These gifts are given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, and they will be maintained until the church arrives at full maturity. God desires that we should grow through the truth ministered, so as not to remain immature Christians, and susceptible to all the varied influences of human teachings by which wicked men seduce unstable souls. We are to hold the truth in love, and through it grow up to Christ in all the beauteous features that are His. This brings us to the living union of the Head and the body of Christ. The whole body, which embraces every believer on earth indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is vitally united to Christ the Head, and is united together, the members being not only members of Christ, but members of each other. Joints of supply also connect the members together, and every part functioning, according to its measure, works for the body towards its self-edification in love. But all that supplies the body to procure its self-building comes from the Head to which the body is united. How dependent we are upon our heavenly Head! Whether we consider the gift of grace given to each, the gifts given to men, or what comes to the body through the joints of supply; all comes from Christ on high, our exalted Head.

Whatever men may say, the church has no head but Christ. The Head of the body is in heaven, and there is no earthly head. Peter was the apostle of the circumcision, and Paul the apostle of the Gentiles; both had outstanding gifts from Christ and peculiar administrations, but neither claimed to be the church's earthly head, nor is it claimed for either in the Holy Scriptures. Direction for the church is vested only in the Head, and His mind for us is found in the Word, which suffices for our every need. To carry out the will of God, the divine resources of heavenly grace in the Head are available for us. Christ has been made everything to us and for us; the wisdom, authority and strength necessary to carry out anything in the assembly today resides in Him, and it is for us to draw upon Christ, and in this way prove how real His Headship to the church is.

Head of the Church.

Another aspect of Christ's Headship of the church is taught in Ephesians 5. The headship of the husband to the wife is compared in this Scripture to Christ's Headship of the church. We are taken back to the relationship established by God in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve: Eve was derived from Adam, then united to him, and placed under his headship in subjection. So it is with the church: derived from Christ, Who entered into the deep sleep of death that she might be His; in the will and counsel of God she is united to Him, and even now is brought into subjection to Him. We derive our all from Christ; life, resources, direction, nourishment and affection. No wife who is true to her husband would seek anything displeasing to him, or use the resources he has provided to gratify herself in things dishonouring to him. Christ's infinite resources are all available for us, so that we might carry out His will, and do what is for His pleasure. The church is left in the world to represent her absent lover, to manifest His features in testimony, to concern herself with His affairs, to be loyal to Him during the time of His absence from the world, and nothing but the supplies of grace that abide in Him can enable us to carry out His will. Christ has undertaken to nourish His church, and this makes her entirely independent of the world and its resources. But Christ also loves the church, and His love has been proved to the utmost in His death on the cross. That love will not be satisfied until Christ has the church with Himself, to present her to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Meanwhile He cares for the church, sanctifying and cleansing it with the washing of water by the word; this purifying ministry continuing throughout the church's earthly sojourn, until the heavenly Head has His bride all glorious before Him, holy and without blemish.

Head of Every Principality and Authority.

This aspect of the Headship of Christ is found in Colossians 2:10, where we also learn of the dangers that beset the saints at Colosse. The Apostle had been speaking of the mystery of God, in which were hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and this great mystery centred in Christ. Why then should saints of God turn to philosophy and Judaism; there were no treasures of wisdom and knowledge in them; all these wonderful treasures could only be known in communion with Christ, as occupied with Him. All the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ bodily, and they were filled full in Him according to this divine fulness. If they were filled full in Christ, they had everything in Him; without Him they had nothing. Their divine resources dwelt in Him Who was the Head of every principality and authority in the vast universe; such is the greatness of the place that Christ fills. He controls, directs and supplies all the great spiritual beings that He created, and who carry out the behests of God in the wide realm of the creation. Is there not then sufficient in Christ for us to carry out God's will in the church? Do we need the help or advice of the world; do we require anything from human resources when we have such a Christ? Could the saints at Colosse receive anything from angels that was not already theirs in Him Who was the Head of all angelic beings? Indeed, they could receive nothing from angels or men for the accomplishing of the will of the Lord; all must come from Christ in heaven.

Head Over All Things to the Church.

The first chapter of Ephesians unfolds the purpose of God, and according to this purpose God will gather the whole universe around Christ, the Man of His counsels, in the administration of the fulness of times. All the things in the heavens and on the earth are to be headed up in Christ, according to the mystery of God's will. This is a great secret into which God has brought His saints, and of which the great men of the world are completely ignorant. Statesmen and religious leaders alike are baffled with the conditions in the world, and they know not where all is leading; all their schemes and efforts to put the world right having proved fruitless. But God is not baffled: He has His Man at His right hand who will put everything right in this world; all the evil will be judged and suppressed, and all things brought under His Headship. Not only will everything on the earth be brought under Christ, but also the things in the heavens; every sphere of authority in the vast universe of God, and all the resources of the creation, will be at His disposal, and ordered according to His wisdom and will for the glory and pleasure of God. This is what God purposed to do before the world was made, and nothing can hinder its accomplishment; yea, all things of the present period of time are ordered in the government of God to subserve the counsel of His will.

None of the princes of this world knew anything of God's purpose in Christ, else they would not have crucified Him. Yet it is in death that the Man of God's purpose is found in this chapter; and God intervenes in a display of the exceeding greatness of His power, to give effect to what was in His purpose before the ages of time. Mighty power has been manifested in God's dealings with the old creation; the power that brought the earth from the chaos and darkness spoken of in the second verse of Genesis, and in ordering it for the habitation of man. The judgment of the old world; the overthrow of Pharaoh and his host; the destruction of the cities of the plain; the smiting of Sennacherib's army, and many other incidents of the Old Testament display God's power in relation to the old creation; but in the resurrection of Christ from the dead there was such a display of divine power as had never been seen before. The powers of darkness would fain have kept Christ in death, where the efforts of Satan, with men as the instruments, had brought Him, as allowed of God; but there was no power in the universe to withstand this mighty display of the exceeding greatness of God's power, which He wrought in Christ, in taking Him from the domain of death, and setting Him down at His own right hand in the heavenlies. In this place of exaltation, Christ is above every created intelligence in the universe, and His fame transcends that of every name of man or angel that has ever been known, or ever shall be known. According to God's thought, as pre-figured in Adam, and according to what had been before proclaimed in the eighth Psalm, all things are put under the feet of Christ, whose glory is above the heavens. Moreover, according to the purpose of God, unfolded in the earlier verses of this chapter, God has given Christ to be Head over all things. There is nothing in the whole creation that is not under Christ, and if this fulfils God's counsels regarding Man, it is also the suited answer to all that Christ passed through on the cross to give effect to all that lay in God's will for the blessing of men.

Christ is indeed worthy of the supreme glory with which God has enshrined Him, where all the great beings of the universe are ranged under Him, and where every sphere of authority in the heavens and on the earth comes under His direction; but who could ever have conceived that He would have a companion to share this place of honour and glory? Yet so it is; and His companions are not the great beings that we have just mentioned, but those who once were sinners, far from God. The exceeding great power, manifested in the resurrection of Christ, is the power that brings Christ's companions from the place of sin and death into His own life, and into the heavenly places to be His companions. The church, for which Christ gave Himself in love, is His body and His bride, and she will for ever share His glory where He is Head over all to the church. It is not His Headship of the church that is taught here, but His Headship over all, with the church by His side.

With such a glorious Head in heaven to maintain us constantly during our stay in this world, and Who will bring us shortly to Himself, to be with Him forever, should we not be living in the consciousness that we are here for Himself, to do His will, to give Him pleasure, to enjoy and respond to His love, and to manifest His features in testimony in the world out of which He was cast.
Wm. C. Reid.