Recently, my church has hit a pothole in the road. In essence, the direction of the church, the vision for leadership has been in dispute. We are working through resolving the issues. It has not been fun. At all.
When I read today's verses, I am reminded who is in charge of our church. Take a look:
18He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.
19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son
20and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Colossians 1:18-20 NET
As church members, regardless of denomination, it gives us certain comfort (and sometimes license) to know that "someone is in charge". The pastor is in charge of the vision and preaching the Word of God. The men of the church (and in some denominations the women) are elected as elders and/or deacons. There are committees for this and for that task. Structure gives us order, security, peace.
But, sometimes this "order" gives a license to disengage. It is oh-so seductive to just "go along to get along" and to "let someone else handle it". That is fine, if we are remembering who the actual Head and Master of the church is, and as long as His precepts are being implemented. It is not-so-fine when egregious oversteps occur and our response is to "check out" or cut-and-run. But, I digress...
Why do you supposed Paul put that fact about Jesus' headship over the Church into this letter? (Paul goes on to emphasize in Colossians 2:10 that Jesus Christ is the Head over ALL.) Shouldn't it be obvious that Jesus Christ is the Head of His Body, that group which, regardless of denomination, is comprised of all true believers around the world?
This truth is emphasized in Paul's letter to help prevent schisms and riotous behavior among the members of the Church. It is also in there to affirm that no angel or other spiritual entity has a right to this position, as the Gnostics believed. Since Jesus ascended to Heaven, many men have wrestled for control of the Church. Some denominations have titular heads of their denominations, such as Pope. It seems to me that this has not worked out very well, given the history of the Papacy. Little wonder.... Jesus Christ, and only He, is the Head of the Church Universal, or the "church local".
In His position as "Head/Master", He supplies His Church with life, through His Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, He gives spiritual gifts to men and women that they might serve Him and their fellow believers through the exercising of those gifts in truth and love. Ephesians 5:25-30 reminds us that Jesus Christ, through the power of His Word, cleanses and nourishes His Church. Yes. There are times we need His cleansing, uncomfortable though it may be. The evidence of His cleansing is repentance and revival. It is easy to forget who is in charge, to get all wrapped up in our own narratives and to become beset by pride in the exercise of our spiritual gifts. Doing so leads us and sometimes the entire local body into pain, until we remember who He is - - - our church's Head, our Origin, our Master. Acts 20:28 after all, y'all...
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
What right does Jesus Christ have to this title/position as Head of His Church? This is explained in verses 19 and 20. We studied verse 19 yesterday. In verse 20, Jesus earned this right through the shedding of His blood on the cross.
I love the picture that is presented in Revelation 5. Go read the chapter if you have the time. John was being showed a picture of what happened in the throne room of God after Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Oh glory to His name! Look at these verses, if you don't have time to go read the whole chapter right now.
7Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, 8and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). 9They were singing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals
because you were killed,
and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God
persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
10You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
"...at the cost of Your own blood..."
This ultimate sacrifice gives Jesus Christ the right to be Head of His Church. It is His blood which makes peace between us and our Holy Father God, which reconciles us in our sinful state to a holy, righteous God. It is His blood which provided the remedy, which paid the steep, steep price for our salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us that we "were bought with a price" (the precious blood of our Savior). It is His blood which cleanses us from our sins, all of them, so that we can have a relationship with God our Father.
We tend to relegate the power of the blood of Jesus to some secondary position. We don't like to talk about it, for fear people will accuse us of having a "bloody religion".
It is only through the spilled blood and finished sacrifice of our Savior, however, that we can have peace. It is only He, in His headship over His Church, who brings correct order and growth to our fellowship of believers. God the Father has given God the Son the pre-eminence in the Church Universal, and we would all do well to remember that so that we may walk with one another in purity and truth as well as in humility and grace.
Father, how I need the constant cleansing which your precious blood provides! Thank you for cleansing me of all my sin at the moment that my salvation began, that moment I accepted Your Son, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior. While I rest in that knowledge, I also know that my sin nature is never at rest, but is constantly battling with my new nature for control of my soul and spirit. I acknowledge that You, in your purity, righteousness and holiness, are the Head of me, my church and the Church Universal. Bring a new purity and holiness to my spirit, Lord, and to my local body of brothers and sisters as well. Use me, use us to spread the message of Your saving grace far and wide. May the preaching of the gospel be proclaimed with power and may the message of the gospel be on all our lips as we reach out to "Jerusalem", "Judea", "Samaria" and "the uttermost parts of the Earth". In the powerful, holy name of Jesus and through His blood, amen.