Lord and Head

Acts 9:1-6; Colossians 3:12-17

To Paul was given that wonderful truth, the truth of the mystery, to complete the Word of God. The way in which the Lord Jesus was first made known to him characterized the whole of his ministry. Two things are prominent in that interview. One, the lordship of Christ — "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" the other the headship of Christ, underlying the Lord's first words to Paul — "Why persecutest thou Me?" In the title Lord we have specially brought before us His rights, what is due to Him; and in the headship of Christ the One in whom are all the boundless resources of God for us.

Turn to Colossians 3:12-14, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness". I can understand somebody saying. "Is it possible for these wonderful things to be manifested on earth? If a spot can be found where these things are manifested, that spot would surely be heaven upon earth." Indeed, it would be like heaven upon earth if saints manifested these heavenly graces. How can this be brought about in us, who by nature are the very opposite of these things? I believe if we keep subject to the Lord, and if we are truly holding the Head, if we know His lordship aright and His headship aright, these things will be seen in us as a natural consequence; and where it is otherwise, you may be sure that we are weak in these two ways. Alas! how much do we see that is contrary to these things. We find a brother with a grudge against another, and he maintains that grudge. Hard and bitter feelings come in between Christian and Christian, and no attempt is made to settle the difference or remove the feeling. Instead of there being a forgiving spirit there is oftentimes a spirit of retaliation, revenge, bitter feeling, back-biting, and the like, all so different from the beautiful qualities mentioned in these verses. We little understand how terrible these evils must be in the sight of the Lord. Many who shrink with horror from the gross sins of the flesh think lightly of speaking evil of their brethren and harbouring bitter thoughts against them, and yet, are they not equally wrong in God's sight? Ah, when we get to God's side of things how different our view of evil. We then see that to harbour bitter feelings against our brethren, and to speak evil of them, brings in a breach into that holy, sacred circle where the Lord is Head. It breaks up fellowship, and instead of God and our Lord Jesus Christ seeing that which is delightful to them in the saints, there is seen the very opposite.

Thank God, it is possible for these lovely graces to be manifested in and through us. They are exactly the things that characterized the Lord Jesus Christ. We are never exhorted to be anything that He was not, hence, these lovely things that are to be manifested in the Christian circle, are the things that came out in all their perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ upon earth, to the delight of God's heart. If they are to come out in us we must be brought under His control, and that can only be as we come under His Lordship. There must be subjection to Him in our individual lives. That is what we are called to.

"Take Thou our hearts and let them be
For ever closed to all but Thee;
Thy willing servants, let us wear
The seal of love for ever there."

He calls us to acknowledge His Lordship. He calls us to be in every way under His authority, and do not think that will be a life of hardship. Listen to His gracious words: "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."

But what kind of a Lord and Master is He? He is a Lord and Master who is most tender in His dealings with those who are subject to Him, and moreover He desires that they should serve in a very blessed capacity. You will remember the passage in the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel, where our Lord Jesus Christ sets forth the character of the service wherewith He would have us serve Him. There He says: "I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known to you." "Ye are My friends." Oh, think of that. Think of the Lord Jesus Christ saying, "Ye are My friends." Many a time I have said to myself, "Am I?" What is a friend? A friend is one whom you can trust, one to whom you can commit your secrets, one who is true to you — who you know will maintain your interests and not betray you. That is a friend, and the Lord Jesus says, "Ye are My friends." Are you? Can He trust us? Can He commit to us His secrets, and know that we will maintain those secrets here in this world for the honour of His name, and act in accordance with them?

He is our Friend; yes, never a difficulty in which we cannot go to Him; never a burden that we cannot put at His feet; never a trouble that we cannot tell Him. He is a Friend that loves at all times, the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Every one of us has proved that, but can He turn round and say, "Ye are My friends"? "If ye do whatsoever I command you" is the test by which we may test ourselves as to whether we are His friends. He has called us into communion with His thoughts and purposes, He lets us know and understand what He is about, the blessed motives that are behind all His gracious work, the purpose and the reason for everything He does; He would bring us intelligently into these things, so that we might serve as friends and not as servants.

This being the case, it becomes us to be in true subjection to the Lord, and the maintenance of His rights in our individual lives, as well as His rights in connection with the people of God. Hence we must not be found in any association in which the Lord's rights are set aside. We may be called to serve the Lord in the world where His rights are altogether rejected, but we ought not to be found in association with any circle where there is not the desire to maintain His rights, and where there is not the maintenance of them as far as light is given. This will keep our feet in the narrow pathway, but it will also keep us with the sense in our souls of the approval of our Lord. As we tread that path He will be able to say to us, "Thou hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My name."

But what is to maintain us in such a pathway? The Lord Jesus Christ as our Head. Let us read a wonderful verse: "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:9-10). See what is said: "are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power." But who is it that is the Head of all principality and power and in whom we are complete? The One in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. There is a Man upon the throne of God in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells. All the mighty resources of God are in Him for us; we are complete in Him. That means there is no necessity to go outside Him for anything we need. We do not need philosophy, the wisdom of man, religious organizations, or anything men can produce. We are complete in Christ. We have everything we need in Him, for in Him are all the resources of God.

Then He is the Head of all principality and power. There are mighty powers in this world, powers of evil, powers seeking to withstand the work of God, powers seeking to turn aside Christians from the right way, principalities and powers under the lordship of Satan, but the Lord Jesus Christ towers above them all; He is the Head of all principality and power. All the resources of God are in Him for us, and there is no power in the universe can prevent those resources from coming to us if we are subject to the Lord. So no matter how weak we are in the eyes of the world, if we are in touch with those mighty resources, what results there will be!

Our great business is to hold the Head. Just as the members of our body are all in touch with the head, and the nourishment of the members comes from the head, so we find in the Colossians that all the nourishment the members receive comes from Christ. The life of the Head is the life in the members. The same life that is in Him is the life that is in us. He is our life. But what does it mean to be holding the Head, and how can we hold the Head? There is a verse in Colossians 2 that will help us, I think: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him and stablished in the faith as ye have been taught" (vv. 6-7). How did you begin your Christian pathway? Oh, you say, "The Lord Jesus Christ received me, a poor sinner, and I received Him, a great Saviour. He saved me, He did it all." The language of my heart was:

"Thou hast Thyself redeemed me,
Yes, Thou hast done it all."

Yes, we found everything we needed in our Lord Jesus Christ. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." Let us continue in that way. If He was sufficient for us at the start, He is sufficient for everything along the road; we need not look outside Him for anything. If we are not looking outside of Him for anything we are holding the Head, and from Him will come the nourishment that we need, so that the spiritual life will be vigorous within. How would that life manifest itself? In exactly the same way that it manifested itself in Him. Oh, how tender we should be one with the other; how graciously we should act towards each other; in short, we should act towards each other as the Lord acted towards His own when He was here. Do you see Him in the midst of His disciples, girding Himself with the towel, and taking the basin and stooping down and washing those feet, and then saying, "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." Yes, if His life is in us in vigour and power — as it will be if we are holding the Head — we shall be acting towards each other as He acted, in accordance with His own words, "I am among you as He that serveth," and again, "The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Is that to be my pathway? Yes, that is the pathway, and that is the life that will be seen if you hold the Head. Impossible for us naturally, for no power in nature can maintain us in a path like that. For instance, Peter listening to the Lord's gracious teaching realizes that it is very different from the things he had heard under the law. He had listened to the scribes and teachers in Israel, rehearsing the law its "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," and with the sense in his soul that this is very different from the Lord's teaching, he says, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" And the Lord replies. "I say not to thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." You can understand Peter saying, "Lord, is it possible?" and we say, "Lord, is it possible, seventy times seven to forgive one another?" Why, if we did that the most cantankerous Christian would be overwhelmed by grace. I have said to myself, "Is it possible?" and like a flash the answer came from the Lord, "That is the way I have treated you, that is the way I am treating you; and I only desire that you should treat others as I have treated you." That makes all the difference. I am not righteous in the place He has put me in if I do not treat others in the way He has treated me. When we come under the power of His grace, instead of it being a difficulty, it becomes a pleasure, it becomes the natural welling-up of that love that is within us to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

This scripture in Colossians 3 presents a lovely picture of what every Christian company should be, but these things will not be seen in us if first of all we do not become subject to the Lord — if His lordship is not a fact in our lives. But if owning Him as Lord, and being subject to Him, we hold Him as the Head from whom all nourishment flows — weak and feeble and insignificant in the eyes of the world as each one of us may appear, the life, the blessed life of Jesus, will be seen in us to the delight and glory of God.