Summary: Deals with the text of Col 1:15-20 by expositing its rich Christological significance.
Col 1: 15-20 - Still Sufficient and Supreme (full text)
In our survey of Col 1:15-20 we are now up to course five of this amazing Christological feast of the person and work of Christ.
Course Five: Christ the Pope v.18a
In 1376 John Wycliffe, a lecturer at Oxford University, wrote a controversial work entitled ’Of Civil Dominion’. In it he audaciously asserted that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and not the Pope. Wycliffe’s views were condemned and he was sent into exile. But Wycliffe continued propagating his ideas through a group called the Lollards, who proclaimed this view even to the point of death. It is a point worth dying for: that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and no-one else. Not the elders, not the deacons, not the Prime Minister and not the WCC. The reason it is important is because headship of the Church determines who we obey.
Are we to obey Christ or are we to obey men claiming to hold the office of Christ? We hold unswervingly to the headship of Christ for 2 reasons: 1. its his body; 2. he created it.
Church as the Body of Christ
The reason Christ is the head is because the Church itself is the body of Christ. When the Lord Jesus spoke to Saul he said to him, “Why are you persecuting ME”. Paul’s campaign against Christian believes was a war against Christ himself who is with his people. The idea of the ‘body of Christ’ is a metaphor for the unity believers have w. each other and with Christ
For Christ stands over all believers as their authority. Despite all its diversity the one thing that all Churches share is the headship of Christ. The Headship of Christ means we can truly be called the ‘Churches of Christ’ regardless of our other tags. Reformed, Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican and so forth. Those who believe in one Lord, one gospel, and one head of the Church, regardless of denomination may call themselves members of the ‘Church of Christ’ – under his authority. The headship of Christ transcends national boundaries, cultures and languages.
It makes church politics of minuscule significance, its bigger than theological debates, the one thing of church government we can all agree on is the headship of Christ. Despite our immense diversity and loving disagreements what we may all proudly confess with one mouth and in one heart is that Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. Ecumenism begins with the recognition of the soul Headship of Christ. The early Church Father Cyprian writes:
As there are many rays of the sun and one light, many branches of a tree and one trunk, and as very many streams flow from one fountain, and though numbers seem diffused by the largeness of the overflowing supply, yet unity is preserved entire in the source, so the Church, pervaded with the light of the Lord, sends her rays over the whole globe, and yet it is one light, which is everywhere diffused without separating the unity of the body and extends her branches over the whole globe and sends forth flowing streams; still the head is one, and the source is one.
Christ the Creator of the Church
The second reason for the headship of Christ is because he created the church. In Mt 16.18 – “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not overcome it.” Christ is the one source of its life – it is his death which inaugurates it.
[Illustration] It is interesting how a pearl is made. A pearl, you know, starts out as an irritated oyster! A grain of sand gets under the oyster’s shell. To the oyster that feels like crackers in bed do to us. It is very uncomfortable, and the oyster sets about getting rid of it. What it does is to cover the irritating grain of sand with a beautiful nacre that hardens into a lustrous and gorgeous pearl. That is how the church was born. It emerges from the wounded side of Jesus. It was the irritation that we represent by our sinful lives that put him to death, and he covers it over and heals it, making it into a beautiful pearl of great value. That is the church. That is what Paul is describing here: Jesus himself is the beginning and source of the church, and therefore He is also its Head.
Can you imagine a job advertisement looking for someone to be head of the Church. Sounds like a cushy job and the only requirements are: a) be both divine and human; b) be sinless; c) die a wretched death for the sins of humanity; d) rise from the dead. As you might imagine its a job with few applicants, for the only one suitable is Christ. Christ alone is the head of the universal church. His reign is sufficient for us. The sufficiency of Christ means: No system however proven; No building however immense; No organisation however powerful; and No person however talented is the head of the Church but Christ alone. For just as he is Head over creation so to is Christ the Head over the new creation of the Church