The Headship of Christ

As regards the disciples of the Lord two things were to result from the presence of the Spirit with and in them. One was, He would bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them during His sojourn upon earth; another was, He would glorify Christ, for He would take of His and show it to them (John 14:26; 16:14). He would lead them into the truth of all that had been said to them by their Lord and Teacher as they followed Him in His lonely pathway through a hostile world, and which they had neither been able to understand nor retain; and He would enable them to receive all the wonderful things which, until redemption was accomplished and the Spirit given to them, they were unable to bear (John 16:12). These things we have in the Word of truth, so that we expect no further revelation and we have also the Holy Spirit to lead us into the understanding of them, and to keep them ever fresh in our memories.

Nothing new can be true, and nothing true can be new. That which was used by the Spirit of God to convert sinners at the very beginning of this dispensation, and that which was used of God to build them up on their most holy faith when they were converted, is the same thing that converts souls and builds them up today, and that is Christ. The preaching is the preaching of Christ, and the teaching is the teaching of Christ (Rom. 16:25; Acts 28:31). All that came to light in Him down here, and all that is set forth in Him glorified, is that which is ministered to saints or preached to sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The preaching may be very imperfect, and converts may be little in the benefit of that which they have heard; the building up of saints may be greatly neglected, and even bad material may be largely mingled with that which is of God; but that which is of real value, and that which will stand the fire of persecution, must be Christ: everything else will come to nothing.

Through Him everything received being, and everything subsists in His power. This was true of Him as the eternal Son with the Father, but having taken humanity into union with Deity it can be, and is, said of the glorified Man Christ Jesus. But now that He has become a Man, the place which He has as supreme in the universe is said to have been given Him (Eph. 1:22). He is now said to have received everything from the Father, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35). His becoming Man has not altered His status, looked at as eternal Son in the Deity. This is both unaltered and unalterable. But in becoming Man He took a place inferior to God. It was not an unreal place He assumed in incarnation. It was a very real place He took as a servant to the Godhead, and He took it in order that the eternal counsel of these divine Persons might be fulfilled. It was no make-believe position and form He assumed, but He was as truly a servant as ever a creature was, and as truly a man as was any man upon earth.

Hence He speaks of every power that He exercised when here below as given Him of the Father, and the exercise of that power He declares was in obedience to the will of the Father. He was here, He tells us, not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him (John 6:38). He was here absolutely devoted to the will of the Father. This took in the laying down of His life; but going to the death of the cross He says, “That the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do” (John 14:321). Having taken the place and form of a servant, He was the perfect Servant, ever seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, and that not only without murmuring and complaining about the trials of the path marked out for Him, and the persecuting environment in which He found Himself, but in admiration of the Father’s gracious ways in a world of sorrow and sinful men.

Self-will and failure, miserable failure, come to light in the greatest and most devoted servants of God, but in Jesus there is no failure; no pride of heart, no self-seeking, no will contrary to God, no finding fault with the ways of God, no grasping at Divinity; His Father is always greater than He, it is the Father’s heart He is here to gratify, He is the Servant, knowing nothing but what is told Him, doing nothing but that which He is commanded, going nowhere but to the place to which He is directed, saying nothing but what the Father gives Him to say; raising no question as to where the path marked out for Him would lead, nor shrinking from the storm of persecution raised against Him on account of the words given Him to speak. He gave His back to the smiters, and withdrew not His face from them that plucked off the hair; the shame, the ignominy, the reproach, the scorn, the spitting, the brutal blow—He suffered all uncomplainingly. When reviled He reviled not again, when He suffered He threatened not, but committed Himself unto Him that judges righteously; taking up His lonely, lowly path to the cross saying, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.”

Then we have the answer of God to all this in His exaltation and session in the place of power and authority, and in that name given to Him at which every knee of heavenly, earthly, and infernal things must bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11). This Man is Lord of all, and Head over all things in the universe of God. He has gone back to the place from which He came, but He has gone there as the Man that has glorified God. He says, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:28). It is a Man who has gone back into the place from which He who was in the form of God made the first move earthward. He has gone back as the One who glorified the Father in life and in death; amid the plaudits of the multitude, the treachery and malice of their leaders, the betrayal of Judas, the faithlessness of the other disciples, and the forsaking of God. As man He is entitled, because of His glorifying God, to the position He has now at the right hand of God 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 … all things under His feet and … Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:21-23). He is Sustainer, Nourisher, Director, Governor, in the whole universe, which was, when He was in the form of God, the work of His hands.

In the world to come there will not be a thing in the whole creation of God that will not be gathered together under His headship. The things in the heavens as well as the things on the earth. Every intelligent being in the universe will be dependent upon a Man for everything that concerns happiness. It is in this way, I do not doubt, He will fill all things. If every intelligent being is directed by Christ, and only moves as directed by that glorious Head, then it will be Christ that, in some measure, will be reproduced by that intelligence. No doubt there will be differences in the various families which will be gathered under the name of the Father, but as everything must be subject to Christ, and move only at His commandment, some feature of Christ must be exhibited by each several intelligence. He has gone down into the lower parts of the earth, and now He has gone up far above all heavens; in this way He has spanned the universe, but it is in order that He may fill all things. I do not doubt He will fill all things with the glory of redemption, and that really is the love of God; but that love has all come to light in Himself, and just as He fills all things so all things will be filled with redemption’s glory.

What a wonderful day it will be in which we shall see all things gathered under His blessed headship! Nothing out of harmony with the divine mind. Everything attuned to give forth the praises of God, and the whole creation led in its praises by Him who sings in the midst of the assembly. “No jarring note shall there discordant sound.” But this will be at the close of the thousand years of His reign. During His reign He will be occupied with putting all things under His feet. And this is distinguished from His headship over all things. In Ephesians 1 we have first of all His resurrection from the dead and His session at the right hand of God—“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.” Next we have—“and has put all things under His feet.” All this is, I think, taken in in Philippians 2:9-11. But “gave Him to be Head over all things” does not convey the same thought to the mind as “put all things under His feet.” The latter is connected with the kingdom and with the subjugation of rebellious wills to Himself, “He must reign, till He has put all enemies under His feet.” When this is done, and He has put down all rule, authority, and power, “then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all and in all.” The kingdom and everything connected with it will be given up, but headship is not said to be given up at all. In the day when God shall be all in all the personal glory of Christ as man remains, as well as His pre-eminence in everything, and also, I do not doubt, His headship over all things.

But He is said to be “Head over all things to the church.” He is not spoken of as Head over the church, but to it. And then it is said to be “His body.” He is Head to the church as a man’s head is to his body, and as a husband is head to his wife: for both figures are used (Eph. 5:23). Of Adam God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2). Out of a rib taken from the side of Adam God builded a woman and brought her to the man, and of her he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” So the church is really evolved from Christ. He “loved the church and gave Himself for it,” and from the fullness which is in Him she is builded to be His everlasting companion, and the sharer of His glory and of all that is His. The church is also the body of which He is the Head.

But it is with Christ as Head I desire to occupy the reader, and not with His body and His bride, though it is impossible to speak of the One without in some measure touching upon the other. In Colossians we have the glory and greatness of the Head brought before us. He is spoken of there as “the Son of His [the Father’s] love”; “the One” in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.” He is the Creator and Upholder of all things, and He is pre-eminent in the whole universe, which is His own creation.

And this is the One who is Head of the body. Over everything else, but of the body the living and glorious Head, from whom the body derives, and from whom it has all its nourishment, and from whom it “increases with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19). In the Head resides all the fullness of the Godhead: hence the fountain of our supply is unlimited. Outside of Him we have nothing, and nothing do we need, for the wealth of blessing that resides in the Head is inexhaustible.

From this risen glorified Head comes the power to gather out from among the Jews and Gentiles those that are to be members of His body, and to give them their place in that body, and to minister to all everything that is needful—“till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we … 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” (Eph. 4).

This is all with relation to the body. The bride comes in in chapter 5, and there we are told that He loved the church and gave Himself for it. Here it is not so much the power of Him who went into the lower parts of the earth, led captivity captive, and is gone up far above all heavens, that He may fill all things, but in this place it is the love of the Head that is brought to light—that self-sacrificing love that led Him to give Himself for His beloved object, in order that He might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself, a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Thus in power and love our living and exalted Head occupies Himself with us, and will occupy Himself with us until that day when He shall present His church to Himself in the sight of the universe, when every intelligent being shall learn how He loved her and gave Himself for her. May we be kept close to our heavenly Head, and may we draw out of His fullness everything we need to sustain us and build us up, until that day in which He will see in His glorified assembly the fruit of the travail of His soul.

There is just one other aspect of His headship which I would briefly notice before I conclude this paper. I refer to what we have in 1 Corinthian 11. There, in order to regulate the attitude that women should assume in their approach to God the Apostle unfolds the order established by God on the basis of redemption, between Himself and those who reflect His glory in creation. He tells us the Head of every man is Christ; that is, man in contrast with woman, for man is her head. The head of the woman is the man, the head of the man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God. Woman therefore must have her head covered in her approach to God. Her true head is man, who is visibly present, hence she covers up her own head; and this on account of the angels, who are witnesses of the order of creation, now that redemption has been accomplished. It is only in the house of God that this order can be looked for, but it really is God’s order in creation. In this scripture Christ is seen in relation to each man individually; He is set as Head of every man. Hence every man should be subject to Him.

What a blessed thing it is to have such a glorious Head to direct, control, nourish, and sustain us in our pilgrimage here below; and to whom we may ever turn for all the wisdom and grace that we need, and who loves us beyond all our thought. He gave Himself for us when we were utterly regardless of the grace that caused Him to stoop to take up such unworthy objects. And now that He is in glory at the right hand of God He makes intercession for us, and soon He will come again to receive us to Himself, that He may have us as His companions throughout eternity. He will be our Fountain of supply then as He is now, for we shall never be independent of Him, and He will nourish us then in all the power of that love which came to light in His death for us—that love whose depth and fullness no creature can fathom; yet now we are given to know the love of Christ which surpasseth knowledge.