Autonomy and Authority - 4
Headship of Christ
The only Head of the Church is Jesus Christ her Lord. No Moderator, President, or Pope may usurp that position or power, or legitimately intrude into the sphere of Christ's supreme Lordship over His assemblies. The Lordship of Christ extends over the whole of His Church – the “body” aspect of which He is Head (Eph.1.22-23) and which is His peculiar possession being designated by Him “My Church” (Mat.16.18), as well as the “local” aspect seen particularly in the vision granted to John (Rev.1.12-13). In this vision each of the seven assemblies is seen as a separate lampstand standing upon its own base and having responsibility directly to the Lord in the midst. There was no intermediary agency interposed between the individual assemblies and the Lord. No central assembly committee of representatives, no elected synod or council, no metropolitan, archbishop, or cardinal—but the Lord dealt authoritatively, directly, and personally with each of His assemblies.
And this vision and these letters to the seven churches were given as having a message for God's people throughout the whole of the Christian era. The message was the Spirit's voice speaking to all the churches, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” Rev.3.22. They are meant therefore to span the present testimony of Christ on earth from Apostolic days down to our own times during these “last days”. This clearly means the vision is for us and the assemblies of today! It emphasises strongly that throughout the Church Age no central authority has any place among the assemblies of Christ, and it was meant to teach that in order that Christ's golden lampstands should be kept free from ecclesiastical pretensions and bondage.
To quote J.M. Davies again, “Each of the churches of Asia referred to in Revelation chapters 1-3 was a separate lampstand owning no central authority but that of the Lord in the midst. Nevertheless the letters addressed to each severally was the message of the Spirit to the churches. This is in keeping with what is taught in 1 Corinthians. While this epistle was expressly written to the Church of God at Corinth , the Apostle immediately adds the important words, “with all that call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord in every place”. The bond between such groups was not a governmental one due to their being recognised as within a certain circle of fellowship, but a vital one contingent upon an essential and organic oneness.
Of necessity they partook of certain common characteristics, for the Apostle taught the same things, “everywhere and in every church” (1 Cor.4.17; 7.17). Not only were the lampstands separate with the Lord walking in their midst, the stars also are seen in His right hand. They were directly under His control. The NT does not envisage the servant of God formed into a mission with a board of directors and a president”. This establishes the rule also that the servants of Christ are in His hand, called and directed by Him, moving under the control and guidance of His nail-pierced hands, and serving His interests in and through the assembly. They are not the servants of men to be hired and fired at will, but have the proper dignity of true servants of God speaking the mind of Christ and teaching the truth of His word.
Holding the Head
While Christ's Lordship is fundamental it is not always submitted to in practice. Theoretically acknowledged by credal statements, it is too often displaced in practice by human institutions and traditions of men. Paul in Colossians chapter 2 deals with this danger and warns against false teachers who were not “holding the Head” and influencing the assembly to follow them (v.19). It was a challenge to Christ's Lordship. He shows in this chapter the Colossians had received Christ as Lord, they walked in Him, were rooted and built up in Him and established in His faith, and through Him were able to be delivered from empty philosophy and the traditions of men. That is, they were under no lordship or headship save His who was “the Head of all principality and power”, and in Him they were complete and needed nothing else nor anyone else. His divine Lordship was all-sufficient for them and in it they found a fulnes that satisfied completely (Col.2.6-10).
Thus “holding fast the Head” (v.19) from whom all the body was to live, they were supplied with all necessary spiritual nourishment constantly flowing down from the Head to His Church below, and grew as God intended they should grow. The whole point of Paul's exhortation here is that the believer needs no intervening or mediatorial headship, whether natural and earthly or supernatural and celestial, for his well-being and growth, but having an all-sufficient Heavenly Head he is to “hold fast” to Him and own His Lordship to the exclusion of all other authority.
It is a very serious matter indeed in light of such teaching for any man or group of men to intervene between the Heavenly Head, Christ, and His members upon the earth. Christ, and Christ alone, is the Head, and all other claimants to power or control over His people are presumptuous intruders who should be strongly rejected by saints who insist upon their right to “hold fast the Head”!
Next:- Autonomy and Divine Ownership