“and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22b–23, NASB95)
I said I worked through a lot of things pertaining to this passage over the past several days, and today I am coming back to it again. As I was driving with the radio off I thought of what seems to be some dysfunction in the church today. This is not a general statement of negativity, but one made in a general sense knowing that there are many, many solid, healthy churches whose people are growing in Christ, building each other up, and reaching out in love to the world around. I know that there are many, many godly leaders who take the task of shepherding and overseeing the local congregations under their charge quite soberly as they seek God and together with others follow Him with their whole hearts. But having said this we also see and hear stories of “churches” doing some pretty strange things. We hear of or maybe even have experienced hurts which have not been easily healed, and we read of understandings of Scripture that baffle our imagination.
We could walk into any of these churches and ask, “Who’s in charge?” According to the word of God the answer is that the church of God is headed by the Son of God who is Jesus Christ. He is the head, and there is no other. And in establishing His church He has chosen to place oversight into the hands of men. As stated above, some of these men have kept their eyes on Him, hiding His word in their hearts, and trusting His Spirit to guide and direct them. But along with that there have also been those who have turned away in varying degrees. Even this week as churches gathered to mourn the loss of life in Roseburg there is reported to be another “church” that in their hate might protest the memorial services declaring that these deaths were God’s judgment on them because of the sins of the state. Clearly both can’t be right. So the question then becomes, “What is our measure?”
Paul tells us that Jesus Christ has been made head over the church. The church is His body. It is His physical representation of Him here, and the church is filled and empowered by Him. He dwells fully in His church. Looking to this the answer becomes clearer. When we speak of the church as the body of Christ we refer to a body which looks to Him as its head, who reflects Him in their actions, and who walks according the power that He supplies. Jesus set an example for us in how to walk even in the face of trials, hate, and persecution. He set the example that even when He was being reviled that He chose not to revile those who reviled Him. He lived as He is—perfect, holy, and righteous, and He calls us to walk according to who He has made us. Sure we stumble. We sin. We rub people the wrong way. But is this our general course of action, or do we listen to His leading, repent of those things, and turn fully toward Him to walk as He called us to walk.
We read that He is truth. He is the perfect embodiment of truth. He came to do the will of the Father and the Father was perfectly displayed in Him. As His church, what do we do with the truth? There are many out there who would change it and say, “Well, God didn’t really mean that.” Or, “The Bible isn’t the infallible, inerrant word of God, but really more of a general direction from Him given through men.” For these people they pick and choose what they will believe base upon their personal or shared preferences.
We also read that in Him we know grace. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, NASB95) Looking to this one “church” who is so set on ugly protests and harsh judgments, I have to ask, “Where’s the grace of Christ.” The Bible tells us that while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. We read that we are to be patient, enduring, and forgiving toward one another. This is how we show grace to each other. We recognize that in Christ we are fully forgiven and set free from slavery to sin, but we still sin and do things that simply bug people. Grace works with that. Grace also looks outside and sees a world that does not know God and needs to see Him in them.
We also see that the church corrects itself with both truth and grace in view. In Philippians we read of two women who were not getting along. This was proving itself disruptive to even a church filled with people who were seeking after God such that Paul spoke well of what he had heard of them. But in the church there was a problem that could grow and fester if left unattended. He wrote, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:2–7, NASB95)
The answer for the disruption was a change in direction. The ladies were to be helped in taking their eyes off of their problem with each other, and look to Christ who was near to them and Who Paul assured them would even bring peace, guarding even their hearts and minds. I find this interesting that Paul mentioned both, because it is our Lord who came to reveal grace and truth who is there to guard our hearts from where we normally think our emotions spring and our minds where justice and right reside. The answer for this church and these women was to look to their Lord, praying to Him about all things even lifting their specific struggles to Him rejoicing knowing that He is near, will answer, and will work.
Being election season people are looking at the prospective candidates for who might make the best leader of our country, our states, and our communities. John’s gospel begins with the incredible credentials of the One the Father chose to head His church—His Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” … “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me [John the Baptist] has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:1-4, 14–17, NASB95)