It's okay to talk about the church, which is the body of Christ, but eventually we must focus on the leader of the church, the "head" of that body and that is Jesus Himself.
In this lesson, I want us to consider Jesus, head of the church we belong to, worship at, serve, and strive to help grow. More specifically, I want us to look carefully at the qualifications that Jesus has that make Him the only person worthy and qualified to serve as the true leader of God's people.
Background - Colossians
Jesus' qualifications as head of the church are nicely summarized in the epistle of Paul to the Colossians. Before we get to these however, it would be helpful if we had a little background information on this epistle so we can understand Paul's comments in context. Paul himself had never personally visited this church that was situated, in what is now known as Turkey.
Epaphras, a fellow worker of Paul is probably the one who established this congregation after being trained by Paul in Ephesus. The problem in this church began when a certain heretical movement found its way into this congregation and Epaphras sent to Paul for help and guidance in dealing with it.
There are many opinions as to what was being taught, but it seems that some were promoting the concept that in addition to Jesus' death on the cross there needed to be added other works of merit in order to be saved. Some were teaching that in order to obtain complete salvation, these Christians also had to fast and obey certain food laws and take vows of celibacy etc. This new teaching was dangerous and false because:
- They claimed that Christ's work was incomplete and in doing so denied His power and true position.
- This, in turn, was weakening the faith of the church and fostering discouragement and despair and lack of confidence in Christ.
In response to this, Paul writes them a letter in which he describes Jesus' superior status. Qualifications that firmly established Jesus as the only possible true head of church and leader who could be trusted to deliver on His promise of salvation.
Jesus' Resume - Colossians 1:9-20
Now, when interviewing a candidate for a job we usually look at two main areas:
- Personal background, family history, social status.
- Skills, training, ability in relationship to the job.
Paul, in a sense, does this very thing when explaining how eminently qualified Jesus is in order to hold position of head of the church.
A. Personal Background - Colossians 1:13-19
He begins by listing three things about Jesus' personal background that establishes His qualifications to be the head of the church.
1. He is the Beloved Son of God - vs. 13b
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Another way of saying this is that Jesus is the Son of God's love. It is more than just and adjective about how God feels about Jesus - it is a title bestowed on Christ by God Himself. Jesus has a great family background in that He wears a title given to Him by God the Father that no one else wears - Beloved Son. No one else is worthy to wear this name; it is exclusively Jesus'.
2. He is the image and fullness of the invisible God - vs. 15b-19
15bHe is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For 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. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He 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. 19For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
When we read this verse we think, image or reflection, like a mirror and find it hard to grasp how an invisible God can somehow be reflected. To understand this particular characteristic of Jesus, think of this word "image" as being a derivative and not reflective. A good example of the difference between reflective and derivative is the following:
- Drawing a picture of a child, this is reflective; the picture reflects the image of the child in the drawing.
- Giving birth to a child, this is derivative. The child and mother are one because they share the same nature, the same life.
Of course this is not a perfect parallel because Jesus wasn't created by God, but this example does explain the similarity of natures that Paul is referring to in this verse. When Paul refers to Jesus as the image of the invisible God, he doesn't mean that Jesus is a copy of God in some form - as a kind of reflection. Paul says that Jesus shares the same nature as God in the derivative sense. A little later in verse 19 he explains it in another way where he says that Jesus has the fullness of God dwelling in Him.
- He's not less than God.
- He's divine in every way God is divine.
So Jesus has a nature that is unique in that He shares a divine nature with God.
3. Jesus is the "First Born" - vs. 15b; 18b
the firstborn of all creation... so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
We usually use the term "first born" to describe the first of several children in a family. For example Paul is Lise and my "first born" of 4 wonderful children.
When Paul the Apostle uses this term in reference to Jesus however, he is describing 2 very different things about Jesus' special background:
- "First Born" refers to Jesus' rank in the universe. Jesus is first in rank over everything and person in the universe because He possess creative power. (The ability to create something from nothing.) Before anything ever was, He was there, and in things that are there, He is first. It is only natural therefore that He and only He can be the first or head of the church created by God.
- "First Born" also refers to Jesus' source. Jesus was of God, with the nature of God, not created by God. Just as God was always there, Jesus was always there. He is first because He is eternal.
Now in vs. 15b Paul describes Jesus' primary position in relation to created things - and this is so because He is the agent of creation. In vs. 18b Paul describes Jesus' primary position in relation to regenerated things (such as the church) because He is also the agent in regeneration. Paul explains that a very special quality of Jesus' person is that He has first place in creation because the creation originally came into being through Him. He then explains that when the creation was ruined by sin, Jesus was the One through whom it was re-created as the church. And so Jesus becomes first in everything both old and new! And so Paul tells us that from a personal background perspective, Jesus is perfectly qualified to be the head of the church.
- He is the only one who is beloved of God.
- He shares a divine nature with God.
- He holds the primary positions in both the old and new creations.
B. Skills and Special Abilities.
Now, in our search for candidates, we don't only look at personal background. We also want to examine what skills and training a person brings to the job. In chapter one of Colossians Paul mentions two very special abilities that Jesus has that qualify Him for His role as head of the church.
1. Jesus Has the Ability to Create - vs. 16
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.
We know that there are two sides to the creation - the things that are created and the one creating these things. Paul indicates that Jesus' power is superior to every thing and every person within creation. He explains that Jesus' "power " is not just bigger or stronger or more long lasting but rather a different kind of power.
Jesus' power is not mechanical, it is creative in nature. No amount or degree of mechanical, natural or human power can generate or equal "creative" power. Mechanical, natural and human power exercises itself in changing or reinventing things that already exist. But creative power is the ability to bring something into existence from nothing!
This type of power is possessed and exercised only by Divinity and Jesus has this type of power.
2. Jesus Has the Ability to Save Souls - vs. 13-14; 20-22
We, as Christians, have the ability to tell others how they can save their souls; we can help them maintain their salvation; but only Jesus can actually save a person's soul! In Colossians Paul explains the three steps that Jesus goes through to actually do this:
A - First Step is Redemption - vs. 13-14
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus actually pays the moral debt we owe God on account of our sins and He pays this debt with His death on the cross. He offers the only thing God will accept as payment for our sinful lives, a perfectly lived life. His death wipes away everything we will ever owe God for our sins.
B - Second Step is Forgiveness.
Now that our debt for sin is fully paid for, God can offer us forgiveness.
C - Third Step is Sanctification - vs. 20-22
20and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
21And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach
Sanctification is that process where Christ, through His Word and the Holy Spirit matures and prepares the Christian for eternal life in heaven with God. Through Jesus we become holy, blameless, acceptable.
Although the divine qualify of Jesus' nature, and His intimate relationship with God, as well as the primary position He holds in creation surely establishes Christ as the only candidate to be the head of the church. It is Jesus' ability to save souls that makes Him the only person who can have this position for practical reasons as well. After all, it is this ability to save souls that created the church in the first place. Without Him this thing called the church would not and could not even exist.
The Colossians needed to know more about the Lord Christ and why He was their Lord and the head of the church. Their faith, their hope of salvation, and their freedom rested upon the quality of their leader. And so, Paul describes a Lord who was supremely qualified to receive their faith, and their allegiance and ultimately deliver on His promise of salvation.
Let's face it, if one who was:
- Uniquely loved by God
- Divine by nature
- First in all things
- All powerful
- Completely devoted to saving them
If this person could not lead them, could not save them, could not be trusted by them, then who in the world could? This is why he encourages them to not be fooled or made prisoners by any person's religious ideas or philosophy that did not have the words of Christ, the spirit of Christ or the leadership of Christ to support them.
8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
- Colossians 2:8-10
We also need to be reminded of how wonderful, and able, and qualified our Lord is even to this day, as head of the church. After all we call ourselves the Church of Christ for that very reason!
As we begin to plan and work toward various ministry goals let us remember why we are doing these things - we want to honor and glorify our head, our leader and our Lord.
- Our allegiance is not to some tradition, or historical movement, or issue or doctrinal position; our allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone!
- Our faith is in the head, not the body.
- Our hope is in he strength of the head, not the size of the body.
- Our glory is not how great a church we are but how glorious the head of our church is.
Yes, we have a ministry system, and leaders, and a budget, and a building and all these things are necessary and important. But let us never forget that all of these people and things came from the head and are in service and for the honoring of the head of our church, Jesus. Let us also never forget that every lesson, every exhortation, every admonishment or rebuke that comes from this pulpit concerning the church
Whether it be to better faithfulness in attendance or greater service in ministry or deeper love among the brethren. All of these things are said so that in the end we will be more faithful to Christ; we will offer greater service to Christ; we will love each other with the love of Christ, so that the head is in all and through all and over all to God's glory.
Finally brothers and sisters I close out this series on the church and the head of the church… Let us always remember who we are to preach. When I was doing mission work at the beginning of my ministry I learned rather quickly that lost souls are not interested in the preaching of the church, they are hungry for the preaching of Christ, the head of the church! Don' t get me wrong, the church is important, and necessary because it proclaims Christ, serves Christ. But the church grows and rejoices when people come to know and love and obey the head of the church, Jesus. Let us follow Paul's instructions to the Colossian church of long ago. Let us focus our faith and hope and love on the head of the church, Jesus Christ; and know for certain the He is truly qualified to lead us, to provide all that we need, and to transform us into heavenly beings. Ask yourself this morning, "Is Jesus my head, my personal Lord?"
If not, you can give yourself to Him in repentance and baptism and He will add you to His glorious body, the church. Whatever your needs, bring them to Christ.