Christ Head of the Body.

Among the many glories of the ascended Son of Man, we may think of Him by the teaching of Holy Scripture as "Head of all principality and power," or as "Head of His body the Church" (or assembly). It is about the latter - the present marvellous relationship of Christ in heaven to His saints on earth - we would offer a few remarks as the Lord may graciously help.

And first of all let us not fail to notice that Scripture connects His headship to the assembly with His ascension; a point of moment not only as to accuracy, but as to its effect on our hearts when truly received, because it leads us to look to and have to do with Him in the place where He now is, as to everything connected with His assembly on earth. Poets have indulged the thought that the Head died for the members, but we know from Scripture that when here in incarnation He was "alone." "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." (John 12:24.) Nor could we scripturally speak of Him, as has sometimes been said, as our risen. Head; for although when He rose from among the dead He gave "life more abundantly" - risen life - and announced the glorious facts that in virtue of what He had done believers were now His "brethren," and brought into the same endearing relationship to the Father as Himself, He was not then given to be Head over His Church or assembly. There was as yet no Head, and consequently no members; the disciples were our Lord's "brethren" and God's "children," but not yet members of His body, The body was not yet formed. "Go to my brethren," said Jesus unto Mary, "and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17.) This was very precious, but the body was not yet formed. Till Jesus had ascended there was no one in heaven who could be Head of the body. When man, in the person of the Son, went through death into the glory of God, and was set 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," then it was that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, gave Him to be "Head over all to the church [or assembly] which is His body." Here then we are definitely taught that it was in Christ in ascension that we have the first idea of the Head of the body, till which time there could have been no members formed on earth. Nor, in point of fact, could the body be formed till the coming of the Holy Ghost, which the ascended One received from the Father and shed forth; because we are told that it is "by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body." (Eph. 1:19 - 23; 1 Cor. 12:13.) We could not therefore scripturally speak of Christ as Head of the assembly in the days of His flesh, or when He died, or when He rose again. Neither could we speak of Him as our risen Head; but we can look up to Him where He now is, and there know among many other glories that He who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, who is our life, our righteousness and peace, is the Head of His body the Church, or assembly. For such grace we cannot but praise God.

When we think then of God's assembly on earth, it always connects us with Christ in ascension. Thus we are a heavenly people; our life, blessings, inheritance, supplies, and home, are there; so that we are partakers of a heavenly calling, and are taught to look for the Saviour to change our body of humiliation, fashion it like His body of glory, and take us there. The consciousness of this will produce heavenly-mindedness, and ways.

The more we ponder the truth, the more shall we be struck with the precious fact that the whole economy of the assembly on earth flows from association with Christ in ascension. For example, if it be a question of gifts for edification, they are from Him who ascended up on high, who led "captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Eph. 4:8.) If it be the apostolate of the Church we are considering, we find an entirely new order of apostles from that of the kingdom as appointed in the gospels, though many of them might have been the same men; for of the ascended Christ it is said, "He gave some, apostles … for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:11-12.) Paul was, as all know, one of these apostles; and besides being a minister of the gospel, was especially distinguished as a, minister of the Church or assembly. (Col. 1:23, 25.) We all know that Peter was an apostle of the kingdom by our Lord's sovereign call and appointment when on earth; but we have only to view him in Acts 1, and then in chap. 2, where he is seen as an apostle from the ascended Christ, and in the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and we cannot fail to be struck with the immense difference.

If the object and scope of Christ's present ministry from heaven be before us, then it will be found that it is for those who are, or who may be, while on earth, connected with the Head in heaven; as before observed, it is for "the building up of the body of Christ." Ascension then is peculiarly the word for those who, through grace, even now on earth are by the Spirit united to the Head in heaven, and - oh, how marvellous! - are "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." If our souls apprehended these things as they ought, we should easily see how dishonouring to our Lord it must be to think lightly of them, and how pleasing it is in His sight when our affections and interests are toward His saints as "members of His body" according to His mind, not only as the purchase of His own precious blood, but as one with Himself - "of His flesh and bones" - so that He could say to a persecuting Saul, "Why persecutest thou me?" May we ponder in our Lord's presence this "me," till we have something more of His own regard and care for His dear ones on earth! Then, and not till then, shall we be able to "endure all things for the elect's sake," and to see there could be no narrower limits to our love for each other than laying down our lives for the brethren. May the Lord stir afresh within us deep affections and suited ministries toward the members of His body!

We should never forget that "Head" and "members of the body" are relative terms. We cannot think of the Head without the thought of the members, neither should the thought of members of His body occupy us without thinking of the Head to which they are united; they must go together, for Christ is Head of the body. The "one new Man," which He hath "made in Himself of twain" (believing Jews and Gentiles), consists of Christ the Head in heaven, and believers on earth united to Him and to each other by one Spirit. It is therefore entirely "new," not an improvement of the Jew's religion, but something which never was before, and never will be repeated; for it is "one," and yet a mystical body, perfect as consisting of Head and members, God's own workmanship, who hath "created us in Christ Jesus" - ONE NEW MAN. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in this mystery. Perfect wisdom, intelligence, sufficiency of grace, and never-failing supplies of truth, and blessings treasured up in the ascended and glorified One who is Head of the assembly, whose love, and care, and sympathy are as to His own flesh, and who ever regards us as His complement, or "the fulness of Him who filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:23.) What a marvellous union of Head and members is Christ and the assembly!

But He is not only Head of the body, He is also Head over all to the body. All her springs are in Him. He is to us the Fountain of living water. All our wisdom, all our strength, yea, all our resources, are in Him. Not only are we blessed in Him, accepted in Him, have redemption and are made nigh in Him and through His blood; but so truly are we the members of the one body with the Head, that all our endowments, all our ministrations, and all our sufficiency are in and through Him. And when this is truly apprehended as a divinely-given reality, it will certainly set us in the place of entire dependence on Him, as those who have nothing, and yet possess all things, even as when our being united to Him as members of one body to the Head first dawned upon the soul filled us with thanksgiving and worship.

Much failure was traced by the Spirit, when addressing the Colossian saints, to their "not holding the Head;" and no doubt very much that is wrong among believers in the present day may be traced to the same source. It is not that saints do not hold the doctrine that Christ is Head of the body, and speak of it in Scripture language; but "holding the Head" is much more than that. Those who are "holding the Head" are in communion with Him as to the members of His body. Their hearts and minds are interested in what interests Him. Their sympathies, affections, and care have no less a circle than "all saints." Such look at them, think of them, pray for them, and feel for them, in their measure, according to the mind, and heart, and care of the Head. It is impossible it can be otherwise if we are really "holding the Head." We believe there is no other prevention of, or cure for, sectarianism. When our hearts are really in communion with the Head of the body, we cannot be satisfied with a narrower circle than all the members of the body, or desire a larger circle for those deep springs and energies of the new life which we have in Christ, than the power and operations of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. We repeat, it is much more than knowing the doctrine, and we believe it will be known in power by those only who have a conscience toward the Lord as to being in communion with Himself concerning the members of His body. We add that it has long been our conviction that many who resolve, and exhort others also, to cultivate a catholic spirit, and who desire to have no less scope for their interest and service than the whole Church of God, yet never become disentangled from a sectarian spirit on the one hand, or from being latitudinarian on the other, because they do not accept in simple faith what the Spirit teaches, that "holding the Head" is the divine way, and only true way, whereby such desires can be accomplished. We cannot see how it is possible to be right with the "members of His body," unless we are right with "the Head;" nor can the true liberty which the Holy Ghost gives be known, in a day of ruin and in difficult times like the present, by such as are not "holding the Head;" for if we are truly in communion with Him, and in subjection to Him, the heart will be kept in freshness and care for "all saints," even though circumstances necessitate that in loyalty to Him we walk in a narrow path.

Perhaps no one ever knew what it was to be "holding the Head" better than the apostle Paul. Not only was he arrested by the wondrous revelation that Christ in heaven was one with His saints on earth, but to him was revealed the mystery of the assembly, and he was also made a minister of the assembly; and we can in some measure imagine what the effect of all this on his life and walk must have been. He writes to some believers whom he had not seen, "We are praying always for you;" and he desired they might know the conflict, or agony, he had for them, lest they should not intelligently and heartily acknowledge the mystery of God, and thus fail to answer to the Lord's mind of "holding the Head," and of being knit together practically in the membership of the body - for such is the great characteristic of Christianity. He could say to others, "I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ;" to others, "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith." He wept over others because they were dishonouring the Lord. The members of the body were so dear to him, that he suffered trouble and endured all things for the elect's sake, and said, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the assembly." So much was the welfare of the whole Church of God upon his heart, that he not only prayed for all saints, but could truly say, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? "

There is another point, never to be forgotten, as to the Head of the body, the assembly. It is that all the comfort, edification, and growth of every member flow from the Head. It may be through gifts, or such other members of the body as are neither pastors, teachers, nor evangelists, but in other ways, by joints and bands, and the different healthful exercises of the members according to their measure, and the grace given unto them, and the working and power of the Holy Spirit. No doubt all believers know that their blessings come to them in and through our Lord Jesus Christ; but here it is Christ the Head ministering in every way to His members, in the perfectness of love. He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. He is now sanctifying and cleansing it with the washing of water by the Word, and in a little while He will present it to Himself a glorious assembly, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. How unspeakably dear to His heart must every member of His body be! What favour we all must have in His eyes! How precious to Him must the feeblest be!

"Oh, yes! Christ loves His Church,
'Tis her He lives to bless;
He cannot love her more,
Nor will He love her less:
Bone of His bone, cleansed by His Word,
A bride adorned meet for her Lord."

There is, then, a constant ministration of grace and truth from the Head to all the members of His body; and as we are in communion with Him, "holding the Head," we shall be conscious of this living blessing from Him who nourisheth and cherisheth the assembly. But if the busy workings of unbelief, self-importance, and unjudged evil in words and ways come in, can it be otherwise than the grieving of the Holy Spirit, and the lack of comfort and edification to those who are so dear to the Head? When, however, in simple, child-like faith we are "speaking the truth in love," we shall surely grow up to Him in all things who is the Head, Christ, "from whom the whole body" (observe, the whole body, not one member excluded) "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. 4:16. See also Col. 2:19.) In this way we may expect growth and the increase of God. The difficulty is to seize and carry out this great principle of divine truth in a time of confusion and evil; but if only two or three are faithful to the Lord, and honour His name and word, such will in a very especial way have His presence and blessing, as many have proved. But let none expect, however well instructed they may be in Scripture knowledge, to have that communion with the Lord they desire, or to know His present mind, unless they are "holding the Head." H. H. Snell.