“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)
The “body” is used in the New Testament to refer to the church which is made up of all who are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ. There are lots of institutions out there defined in a variety of ways as “churches” and many of them hold to some special claim on the Jesus. But just calling a group of people a church, does not mean that they satisfy God’s standard. There is only one true church and it is the body of believers who have been called by God the Father and are forgiven and set apart by the blood of His Son. Now this body of believers may meet in many different places in different communities and even with different names, but what marks them and makes them unique is that they look to Jesus Christ the Son of God sent by the Father as their head and trust Him alone for their salvation
The apostle Paul, who was given a unique ministry to the church, was very concerned about the bodies of believers gathered as the church in various areas would be on guard as they kept their eyes on Christ and held tight to the truths they had been taught.
To the Corinthians he wrote, “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” (2 Corinthians 11:1–4, NASB95)
Paul asked them to bear with him a moment while he made an argument in favor of sound teaching and maybe consider just how vulnerable they might be. He spoke of people coming in who start to teach strange things about Jesus, who would teach things that do not match up with the truth of who He really is. Despite how others might have attacked him, Paul challenged them to consider how he had been in their presence, the example he set, and the words he said. None of them were for his own glory, but rather pointed them to Christ and the rich salvation they had in Him. In the verses that came next in 2 Corinthians Paul encouraged them to consider both his example and compare it to those who have presented themselves as their new teachers. He urged them not to be deceived.
Again in verse 16 of 1 Corinthians 11 he asked them not to consider him foolish as the threats before them are real. There are people who would teach them another Christ and try to deceive them into other doctrines for their own glory. He moved forward telling them that if they were looking at the boasting of these men, then consider even his own boasting as a fool. Paul then laid out all of his credentials, everything about him that man might look at in considering him qualified to speak, and Paul had very impressive credentials. And he didn’t just leave it to his background credentials, he went on to tell them of what he had suffered for the gospel of Christ. Were all that he had said and suffered for a false cause then he surely would have been the greatest of fools. Then in verse 30 he said, “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” (2 Corinthians 11:30–31, NASB95) Paul had every confidence that Christ was the true head and he contended with believers to stand with that same conviction.
The apostle Peter also gave similar warnings. “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 1:16–2:3, NASB95)
John added, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1–6, NASB95)
Jesus Christ is the head of the church according to the will of the Father. This is the truth and anyone who would deny it or twist it is speaking a lie. As such we are to look to Him in all things and to trust that He indeed will tend to us as His body. He is the head of the church and we are the body. The body does not direct the head, but the head the body. Later in Ephesians chapter 4 Paul will expand on this, but for now jumping back to 2 Corinthians and looking to chapter 12 we read, “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:12–13, NASB95) This is how we have been united in Him, and in being united with Him we are also united with each other. Continuing with verse 26 we read, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26–27, NASB95)
The church is an amazing design of God. He has brought us together in the Son as one and called us to live together as one under the headship of the One through who we have been redeemed. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:15–18, NASB95)