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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 9.30am service, 2003-10-19

Text: Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 4:7-16

On the occasion of our Church's 53rd anniversary this morning, I think it would be most appropriate for us to focus our thoughts on the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ in the church. Colossians 1:18 tells us: 'And He is the head of the body, the church' This headship is mentioned again in Ephesians 4:15 - 'that we may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ'. Let us study this concept of Christ's headship of the Church in detail. This concept must be understood and applied accurately if the church is to fulfill its role. Christ is not merely a figurehead, receiving all kinds of honour, but doing nothing! The Scriptures reveal that Christ is actively involved in the Church as her head. There are at least six important functions of His headship. The first one is very comforting to all of us. The headship of Christ means that:

I. Christ Ensures the Security of the Church.

This is highlighted in Ephesians 1:20-23 which says that the Father has 'raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.'

This passage mentions Christ as the One who exercises His dominion over all things, in favour of His body, which is the Church. This implies that nothing can stand in the way of the church's growth and development. The Lord Jesus Christ ensures that His church will develop in exactly the way that He wants it to develop, and nothing will be able to stand against it or utterly destroy the Church. Jesus Himself has said, 'upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' 

Isn't it encouraging to know that we have a Head over the Church who has all power at His disposal? When He gave the great commission, Jesus said, 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations' (Matthew 28:18,19a). Since Christ has everything at His disposal, He can use them all to preserve the church, protect the church and provide for its needs. The headship of Christ therefore ensures the security of the church. Let us look at another function of Christ's headship over the church:

II. Christ Ensures The Salvation of the Church

How does He doe this? As the Head of the Church, Christ becomes the representative of all His people. In Covenant Theology, Christ is called the federal head of the Church, just as Adam was the federal head of the whole human race. God made the Covenant of Works with Adam. That covenant expired when Adam sinned and brought all His descendants under the terrible curse of sin, by the representative principle. Then God instituted another Covenant, the Covenant of Grace. Those who are in this covenant are not represented anymore by Adam, but by Christ. Christ is the 'second Adam' because He was a man like us. And so, by the same representative principle that had brought us into death, we are now brought by Christ into life. 1 Corinthians 15:22 'For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.'

There are other designations of Christ that bring out this wonderful role of Christ over us: In Hebrews 2:10 He is called the Captain of our salvation, a captain who partakes of the same flesh and blood that we have. In Hebrews 6:20 He is called the Forerunner who has entered within the veil right into to God�s presence, doing it all for us. As our Captain or Forerunner, Jesus, died on our behalf, He was raised from the dead and ascended up to heaven. Like one who leads his people through uncharted territory, He has blazed the path that leads to heaven for us. This means that like our captain, we too will take the same path He took and be raised from the dead and ascend up to heaven.

Having seen how the headship of Christ ensures the security and the salvation of the church, let us go on now to the next function of His headship:

III. Christ Exercises Authority to Rule the Church

As the head of the Church, Christ has every right to rule over the church, and to demand full submission from it. This truth is highlighted in Ephesians 5:23,24, where it is used as an analogy for the husband's headship over the wife: 'For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.'

This authority is quite evident in the letters that Christ sent to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, where he exercises His right to commend them and to condemn them for the things they did. You will notice that each letter begins with a statement describing the authority of Christ over the Church, e.g. 2:1 (to Ephesus) 'These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks' ; 3:7 (to Philadelphia) 'These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth' 

What this means for us is that the Church must always submit herself to the authority of Christ at all times. Christ is like the CEO - the one who issues out orders and expects full compliance from us. Submission to the authority of Christ will result in commendation and reward from the Head. But rebellion against the authority of Christ will result in receiving a stern comdemnation from the Head! So we must serve the Head of the Church with a sense of holy reverence for His great authority and with godly fear, seeking to do what He want at all times. But how do we know what He wants us to do? Through the next function of Headship that Christ has over the Church:

IV. Christ Provides Guidance and Direction for The Church

As the Head of the church, the Lord Jesus guides and directs His Church to accomplish all the goals that He has set for the church. The church must follow His guidance and direction closely, and not go astray from Him. When a church stops following Christ, it will lose its direction and stray away quickly into false doctrines. 

Let us turn our Bibles to Colossians 2:16-19a 'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head' Here the Apostle Paul warns the Colossians against following certain teachers who would lead them astray. What we want to notice here is that these false teachers are not holding the Head. This means that they are not connected to Christ. To follow them is to cut oneself off from the Head of the Church.

One example of this is the Roman Church - It started off as a true church of Christ, but when the Bishop of Rome replaced Christ as its head, and the popes and church councils began issuing their own directives and decrees that mixed truth with error, the Roman Church lost its direction and veered away to become an apostate church. It stands today as the most prominent example of what can happen when the headship of Christ is no longer maintained in a church! Let this be a warning to us so that we will keep ourselves constantly under the guidance and directorship of Christ, our Head. How do we do this? We do it by following His Word closely, without adding to it or subtracting from it. We do it by corporate praying, like the apostolic church that sought God�s will and direction together.

V. Christ Provides Life and Power to the Church

Now, the headship of Christ over the church also implies that He is the source of life and power for the church. He is the one who infuses the church with life so that it may grow and multiply, just like the account of the amazing growth of the early church in the Book of Acts. There were some remarkable men that were used of God to bring about the increase. The apostle Paul is a notable example of one who laboured tirelessly to build up the church of God. In the early church there was also a powerful preacher from Alexandria by the name of Apollos, who edified the church with his excellent preaching and teaching. But the perspective we should have on them is the one written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6,7 'I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.' We must never forget that any increase in the church actually comes from no one but the Head. Christ is the one who provides the sustenance and energy that transforms the church into a dynamic growing movement. 

The same truth is mentioned in Ephesians 4:15,16 'But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.'

Therefore when any church is cut off from Christ, who is the Head, it will not be able to grow nor multiply any more. There is no life and no power to sustain the growth, and the church will eventually die a natural death. It no longer has the vitality and vigour of a movement, but becomes just a lifeless monument. 

What then must we do to avoid ending up like this? We need to maintain a close relationship with Christ, the Head of the Church in order to be a lively, energetic and dynamic movement. We must continue to draw life and sustenance from Christ. We do this through a concerted effort by every member to feed constantly on His life-giving Word, and through communing with Him in prayer. Are you keeping your walk with God? 

One striking example of how the church was thoroughly infused with power from Christ is found in Acts 4. As the church prayed for boldness in the face of persecution, a remarkable change took place: 'And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.' (Acts 4:31-33). May this be the testimony of Life Church as well, as we seek to draw life and power from Christ our Head. 

We have already seen five functions of the headship of Christ: Ensuring the security of the Church, the salvation of the Church, Exercising authority over the church, providing guidance and direction, as well as life and power. We now proceed to look at one more function that Christ exercises as the Head of the Church:

VI. Christ Provides Various Spiritual Gifts To Edify the Church

A. Who Receives These Gifts?

This wonderful provision is described in detail in Ephesians 4:7-16. In order for the church to function efficiently as a body, every member of the body has to play its part. That truth is brought out in v.7 'But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.' Christ, who is the Head, has given special spiritual gifts to every member in the church. He alone decides what gifts each of us receive, and we who receive them must commit ourselves to use them to serve Him in the body of Christ. The Church is meant to function as one body, and every member has been equipped by Christ to play a part in it. These spiritual gifts came into existence only when the Church was born. That took place at Pentecost which was eight days after Jesus ascended up to Heaven. 

Some of the spiritual gifts are listed in v.11: The gift of apostleship, the gift of prophecy, the gift of an evangelist, and the gift of pastoring and of teaching. This list is not a comprehensive one, as there are other passages that provide list with other gifts (Romans 12:6-8,28; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Peter 4:9-11. There are at least 19 different spiritual gifts that Christ has bestowed on His church, and not all of them apply today. Those like the gifts of apostleship, healing, and miracles were only meant for the early church at a time when the New Testament was not completed yet. It is not our purpose this morning to study these spiritual gifts in detail, but to look at:

B. Who Apportions These Gifts?

This is described in vv.8 'Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.' The expression, 'He led captivity captive' which is quoted from Psalm 68, portrays Christ in His ascension as a mighty Military General returning to His home country in a grand victory procession, leading all his prisoners of war, and the spoils of war which He now distributes freely to all His people. 

And we must be thankful to our ascended Lord for giving these spiritual gifts to us, for without them we would not be able to serve Him or build His kingdom. Like the spoils of war given by a victorious general to His people, these gift are bestowed upon us by Christ so that we can have a share in His victory. The spiritual gifts then can be understood as all the equipment that the church needs now in order to emerge victorious from her mission on earth, as Christ was in His mission on earth. The mission that these gifts are designed to help the church fulfill is stated in v.12 'For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ'. 

C. The Results of Using the Spiritual Gifts

Dearly beloved, if we faithfully seek to discover, cultivate and use our spiritual gifts, then we will have the wonderful satisfaction of seeing the glorious results of it in the body of Christ, which are described in vv. 13-15 of our passage. These verses show what Christ, the Head of our Church ultimately wants us to become - a body of mature believers who are likeminded. Such maturity is marked by two things: Firstly, it will be marked by stability - the mature church will not be easily swayed by false doctrines, but will always remain firm and stedfast in the faith. In contrast to that, immaturity brings instability - the church will be moved easily, tossed to and fro like a piece of driftwood floating on the ocean waves, blown about constantly by every wind of doctrine. 

Besides stability, the mature church will be marked by an effective witness - It will be speaking the truth in love (v.15). It is important that our witness for Christ should be characterised by both truth and love. To have love alone without truth will result in being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, as we have already seen. But to have the truth alone without love will result in a self-righteous ministry that may turn many away from the truth. The lack of love is as much a sign of immaturity in a church as the lack of truth. 

Let us be convinced that through the use of all the spiritual gifts that Christ has bestowed on each member, the church will grow in maturity to speak the truth in love and to have an effective witness that will go forth far and wide, reaching the lost of Christ with God's Word, and making an impact upon the world! Let is be our vision to fulfil the mission of the church to shine as lights in the world. 

Thus we have seen the glorious results of using the spiritual gifts, which Christ has provided for the church so that it may be built up. We should therefore give praise and thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for granting us all these spiritual gifts. We should also thank Him for exercising all the functions of His headship that we have seen earlier on: As our Head, Christ ensures both the security and salvation of the church. As our head, He exercises authority to rule the church and provides guidance and direction, as well as life and power to the church. We therefore end this anniversary message in wonder and praise for the Head of the Church. May the Lord Jesus Christ always have the pre-eminence that He should have here in Life Church!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25