Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds us that the church is a body.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The Church is not an institution. It is not an organization. It is a living organism with a head connected to the body.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, April 3.
For the last few weeks, we’ve been in the series “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus.” This program was recorded as part of the Revive Tour. Nancy was in the Cleveland area, at Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. To see the video of Nancy’s teaching, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Let’s listen.
Nancy: Well, in the last session, we talked about Jesus as Lord. Today we want to look at a name that is closely related. We’re looking at Jesus as the Head, the Head over all things and the Head of His Church.
Let me invite you, if you have your Bible, to turn to the book of Ephesians chapter 1. We’re going to spend some time today in Ephesians and also in Colossians. So you’ll want to find those if you can. Ephesians chapter 1 is where we’re starting, and let me read a few verses beginning in verse 20. This matter of the headship of Jesus is so important, and it was very important to the apostle Paul. So he writes about it quite a bit, particularly in these two Epistles.
Ephesians 1, verse 20 is picking up in the midst of a long sentence like only the apostle Paul can write, but he talks about how God "raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named" (vv. 20–21).
So where is Christ? He is above. He’s above everything, every name, not only in this age but also in the one to come, and "he put all things under his feet." So Christ is above all things, and all things are under Christ’s feet, and God "gave him as Head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (vv. 22–23).
The Head over all things. That’s what Jesus is called in this passage. That word "head" is the same word, by the way, that we talked about a few weeks ago when we talked about Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone. In the original language, the word that is translated “chief” is now translated “head.”
It speaks of His superiority, His superior rank, the fact that He is preeminent. He is the supreme ruler over all things. He is the chief preeminent cornerstone, and now He is the head over all things.
He is Master. He is Lord, as we spoke about in the last session. All things are under His feet, and He is head over all things. That “all things” pretty much includes all things . . . things in heaven, things on earth, all angels, holy angels, fallen angels. He is head over all things. He’s head over all humans, over all creation, over all nations. There is no one and nothing that is higher than Christ, who is the Head.
Now, after being raised from the dead and ascending to heaven, the Father exalted the Son, the Lord Jesus, as the head of all things. He came and took that low place for a period of time, He was made lower than the angels. He humbled Himself. He became a servant. But after He was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, sat on the right hand of the throne of God, God exalted Him and gave Him this high place as Head over all things. He was made the Head of His Body, which is the Church.
Flip over to Ephesians chapter 4, and you see this connection between Christ as the Head and the Body, the Church.
Ephesians 4, verse 15:
Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body . . .
This is not a head without a body, and it’s not body without a head. It’s a head and a body connected. He is the head from whom the whole body—that’s us,
. . . joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (vv. 15–16).
All of that would be impossible without Christ as our Head.
Flip over one more chapter to chapter 5 of Ephesians, verse 23:
For the husband is the head of the wife [we’ll talk about that more in just a few moments] even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Now flip over to the book of Colossians. Now Colossians was a little different situation than was true in Ephesians. In the Colossian church, and I’ve actually been able to visit the site where the Church of Colossae existed in Asia Minor. There were false teachers who were troubling the church. They came from within the church. They were teaching false doctrine, and they were stirring up troubles.
How do you deal with heresy in the church? That’s the question Paul wrote to address in the book of Colossians. The way you deal with it is by pointing believers back to Jesus. He’s the truth, and He’s the supreme, sole head of the church, and head over all things.
Chapter 1 of Colossians, verse 17:
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (vv. 17–18).
So we see Paul just exalting Jesus, lifting Him up as God has exalted Him, to be head over all things, giving Him His rightful place in His body. He is not an appendage to His body. He is not an afterthought to the body. He’s not an unnecessary organ in the body. He is the head of the body, and we’ll see how important that is.
But look at chapter 2 of Colossians, verse 9: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” He is God in the flesh. And, by the way, He is still a man, a human in heaven. He still has a body. He is God, the God/man. In Him all of God dwells bodily, and "you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority"—Head over all.
Now, in this Colossian church, these false teachers claimed that they were more spiritual than other people because they had these strange mystical beliefs—we know it as Gnosticism today. Therefore, because they thought they had this superior revelation or knowledge, they were proud. They were “puffed up” as Paul says in Colossians 2:18.
And what was their fundamental error? We see it in Colossians 2, verse 19. They were not holding fast to the Head. They were operating independently of the Head. They’d left Christ behind and gone after all these other side and strange and false doctrines. They’d left Jesus. They weren’t holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
When you depart from Christ, our Head, when you try to operate apart from Him, you are going to end up believing strange things and influencing others in ways that are not biblical.
So we have Christ who is the Head of the Church, and we are His Body as believers. This is a description of the relationship between Christ and us as believers—Head and body. And that relationship, Paul uses this metaphor, this physical, visible picture of a physical head and a physical body.
And I want us to just think about what a head and a body do and how they work together and get some insight at what it means that Christ is the Head of His Body, the Church.
Now, I don’t know a lot about science or biology or anatomy or these things, but I have a friend who just graduated from nursing school at Liberty University. So I emailed her a few weeks ago, and I said, “Tell me about how the head and the body work together and why the body needs the head.” You’d think that’d be obvious, but I just wanted to ask somebody who really knew something about this. Here was her response; she said:
Growth hormone is secreted by the anterior pituitary which is stimulated by the hypothalamus located within the brain and is responsible for cellular regeneration within the body. Medulla oblongata controls breathing, digestion, and heart rate. It’s usually the thing that will keep someone alive while in a "vegetative state"—it sustains life.
Now that I get. That’s what the head does. That’s what the brain does. So as we went back and forth—I said, “Can you say that in English for me?” Here’s some of the things, if you think about the relationship between your physical head and body, here are some insights about Christ, our Head, and His Body, the Church:
First of all, and this is, like . . . duh . . . so obvious. The head and the body are connected. They are connected. They are organically united. You don’t just stick a head on a body and, like, glue it on or tape it on. They are connected. Jesus is organically, intimately connected to His Body, the Church. He’s not just stuck on there. He is connected to His Body. The Church is not an institution. It is not an organization. It is a living organism with a head connected to the body.
Then the head is essential to the body, secondly. The body has no life and cannot exist apart from the head. If the body is separated from the head, the body is dead. As the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, we derive our life from Christ. We have no life apart from Him, and those who are not connected to Him are dead, spiritually speaking. They have no life.
Now, here’s a third observation, and that is that the head is the control center for all the body’s functions. The head houses the brain—right? And it’s the brain that gives direction to the body. It tells the body what to do. So walking, talking, swallowing, breathing, thinking, all these things are controlled by the brain, which is in the head.
It’s the brain, the head that controls our sense of touch and taste and sight and smell and hearing. It’s the head, the brain, that controls emotions and memory and perception. And the brain is always sending out signals—it’s happening right now as we’re talking and listening. You’re not conscious that it’s happening, but it’s happening. The brain is sending out signals to other parts of your body so that you can breathe and you can listen and you can see and you can move your hand and you can write. That’s the brain giving direction to your body. Any movement that your body makes is governed by the brain that’s in the head.
Well, as the Head of the Church, Jesus is the brain. He’s the control center for every function of His Body—how the body relates and interacts with other members in the body, how the different members interact with each other; how the body interacts with the outside world. Jesus is the control center for all of that, for every function of His Church. He rules over His Church. He directs it. He controls it. He has absolute authority over it.
The members of the Body in the Church—we cannot move at will, as we wish. We cannot take our own initiative. We are to operate only at the direction and the order of the Head. The body, physically, can only obey and follow. And in the Church, should it not be true that what He says, goes? He’s the control center.
Then the body depends on the head. The body, as my friend in nursing school said, secretes these hormones which cause the cells of the body to regenerate. The brain causes the body to desire food. Without the brain saying, “You’re hungry,” you wouldn’t eat. Without the brain, your diaphragm wouldn’t move to allow each breath. So your body is dependent on the brain activity in your head.
Well, as the Body of Christ, we are utterly dependent on Him as our Head. Our life is sustained by Him. Our growth comes from Him, as we read in Ephesians and Colossians. We draw our nourishment from Him. And the head knows what the body needs and works to supply it.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus knows what His Body needs? He knows what you need as a member of the Body? And He supplies those needs.
And here’s another observation: The human body has only one head. Any creature with two heads is a freak, and it can’t function. I actually did some Googling when I was researching this. I thought, I wonder if there’s some animals with two heads? And I saw a YouTube video of a snake with two heads, and it was amusing to watch.
I understand there’s a sign in the San Diego Zoo next to the two-headed snake, and it says, “The two-headed snake competes with itself for the gathering of food and other necessary functions in life. It cannot long survive. It ultimately destroys itself.” That’s what happens when you’ve got two heads.
Well, the human body has one head. If it’s got two heads, there’s something really wrong with it. The Body of Christ, the Church, has one Head—His name is Jesus. And the Body, the Church, takes its direction from Him. God has given Jesus as “head over all things to the Church.”
I am not the head. I may direct an organization, but I am not the head of this organization. I am not the head of the Body of Christ. I’m not the head of my church or anybody else’s church. You are not the head of the Body, nor is anyone else in the Church the head of the Body, nor is any human institution the head over the Church.
The State is not the head over the Church. The State does not have the right to rule over the Body of Christ. The Church takes her orders from Jesus, her living Head. And for this belief, we have millions of believers throughout the centuries who have gone to their deaths as martyrs for claiming we have only one Head; His name is Jesus.
Now, Jesus has appointed earthly undershepherds to lead and feed the flock—changing the metaphor here—but they take their direction from Him. They operate under His authority, His Lordship. It’s is not my church. It’s not Allister Begg's church. It’s not “So-and-so’s” church, David Jeremiah’s church, John MacArthur’s church, or whoever pastors at your church. It’s not their church. It’s His church; Jesus’ Church. The Body has only one Head and must be in subjection to that Head, which is Christ.
And then every member of the body, physically speaking, has a direct relationship with the head. It’s controlled by the head. And so each member of Christ’s Body must have its own relationship with Christ. That’s why Paul says to the Colossians, “You must hold fast to the head. Don’t let go. Do what He says.”
Here’s the neat thing: If we have a right relationship with the head, then we will have a right relationship with the other members in the body. Our ability to solve and deal with issues with other believers, with your mate, etc., it depends on each member’s relationship with the Head.
So you want to heal a marriage or see a marriage be healed? Don’t focus so much on that relationship as your relationship with the Head, and let him focus on his relationship with the Head, and when you both have a right relationship with the Head, you will have a right relationship with each other. The same applies to conflicts in the Body of Christ.
And then this: To be cut off from other members of the body is to be severed from the head. Your hand, your eye, your spleen—whatever that is and wherever that is—if they operate independent of the body, they would also be separated from the head. You can’t live or thrive or function unless the members of the body are connected to each other and together to the head.
Now, why is that important? Because there are a lot of people today who want to have a relationship with Jesus but don’t want to have a relationship with His Body, the Church. They want to be Lone Ranger Christians. They may be disillusioned about how other members of the Body acted.
So if my hand goes off and says, “I don’t like how this hand treated me; I’m going to go off and be on my own.” If that hand goes off on its own, and it gets severed from the body, it gets severed from the head, and it can’t live. As believers, you can’t have a relationship with Christ, the Head, and not have a relationship with the rest of the Body.
Now, as members of the body, we have different gifts, different characteristics, different needs, different assignments, but we share a common head. And that is the basis of our oneness. That’s the basis of our fellowship with each other. We’re interconnected with each other through our relationship with the Head.
And then the head or the brain coordinates all of the body’s functions and the various activities of the different members. It’s Christ our Head who holds the Body together and who causes the members to work together. If we’re just off on our own, doing our own thing, being our own authority, being our own head, we’re going to have a mess, which is exactly what we have in a lot of Christendom today. But if we, together, come under His headship, then He will coordinate the growth and the outreach and the relationships of the different members.
Now, as the Head of His body, Jesus models for us what it means to be under the headship of another. There’s an important verse about this. I won’t ask you to turn there, but listen carefully to 1 Corinthians chapter 11, verse 3. The apostle says, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
Now, there’s much more in that verse than we’re going to take time to dissect today, but just notice that last phrase: “The head of Christ is God.” Christ not only is a head—the Head of His Church—but He has a Head as well.
Now, you know that the Son and the Father are equal. They have an eternal union—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—they are of the same essence. They are equal with each other, and yet the Son is subordinate to the headship of the Father—happily, gladly. It doesn’t make Him inferior. It doesn’t make Him any less. He was obedient in all things—still is—as a Son to the Father, as being Head over all.
I believe that watching Jesus take His place under the headship of the Father shows us the beauty of God’s created order. Your body doesn’t whine that it has to do what the head says. Your body doesn’t gripe that it can’t operate independently of the head. Being under the headship of your head isn’t a burden to be borne. It’s a privilege. It’s what makes your body work—the fact that you have a head is why your body can function.
Your body doesn’t have to consciously strive to “submit” to your head. You’re not just sitting there thinking, Oh, I’ve got to do what my head says to do. It just comes naturally as a result of being connected to the head—right?
Well, to be under the headship of Christ is not an onerous thing. It’s a privilege to live in union with Him, to know that, as our Head, He cares for us. He always acts in our best interests and for our good, and He is protecting us and providing for us all that we need to sustain life. It’s a privilege as His Body to operate as an extension in this world of His heart and His mind. It’s a privilege to be engaged in fulfilling His will and His directives in this world as we go about our lives and our duties . . . that’s a privilege.
And the same with a wife. The husband is the head of the wife, the Scripture says here. Now, your husband is not Jesus. You knew that—I didn’t have to tell you that. And it’s a weighty responsibility for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves His own body, to protect and provide, and give godly and wise direction, and that husband always being himself under the headship and the lordship of Christ. That’s a huge responsibility those guys have.
But it’s also a great privilege for a wife who lives under Christ’s headship to also live in oneness her husband, to allow him to provide and protect and lead, to let him be the head of the wife, to serve in sync with him, and together fulfill the directives of Christ who is our Head.
So everything about your Christian life hinges on your connection to Christ, your living Head. We were created to glorify Him, to draw attention to Him, to shine the spotlight on Him. That happens by the way that we respond to Him as our Head. When the world sees us loving Him, honoring Him, exalting Him, submitting to Him, obeying Him, considering it a privilege to be under His headship, then the world is going to be drawn to that faith. They’ll see that Jesus is incredible. He’s a wonderful Head.
Have you acknowledged Christ as your Head? Do you live as if He is your Head? Are you conscious that you cannot live without Him; that you are dependent on Him; that you have no right to make your own choices in life or be your own head?
And as our churches, I think we need to be asking: Are we honoring and exalting and worshiping Jesus as the Head of His Body, the Church? Listen, that will do away with praise of men, with honoring and exalting men. Yes, we should honor those who lead the flock, but not like we honor Jesus. This thing of worshiping people and leaders and exalting and adoring them, no, no, no, no, no. It’s all about Jesus, our Head.
He reigns and rules as Head over His Church now, and our goal, our longing is to see all things will be brought into subjection to Him, which will happen one day. At the end of time, all things will be placed in subjection under His feet, His headship, and He will reign forever and ever. Amen? Amen!
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why it’s so important to recognize Jesus as the Head of the Body. Nancy will be right back to pray.
That teaching is part of a larger series called “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus.” We’re listening to this series during the Lenten season to focus on Jesus as we lead up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. If you’ve missed any of the series, I hope you’ll listen to past episodes and take advantage of this rich study.
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