Christ, the Head of the Church

 

If you are a Christian and I was to ask you, “Who is the Head of the Church and who constitutes the Church?” You would respond,  I hope, by saying, “Well, Christ is the Head and those who repent and put their faith in Christ alone by faith alone constitute the Church, of course.  It’s obviously what the Scriptures teach.”  That is true, yet few realize that that truth has sailed down to us in a sea of blood.

 
Jan Huss, the great 14th century Pre-Reformer, voiced three distinct and radical views (for his time) in his treatise De Ecclessia:
 
  1. The Church is made up of believers of all ages.  Every true believer is in the Church.
  2. The authority of the Bible is higher than that of the Church.                             -Following John Wycliffe.
  3. Being a Pope, cardinal, or bishop does not automatically grant membership in the universal, invisible church of God.
 
This three are in direct contradiction to the Roman Catholic Church that taught, and still does, the following:
 
  1. The pope is the head and the cardinals the body of the Church.” – Matthew Spinka
  2. “The Pope possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church and not merely in matters of faith and morals but also in Church discipline and in the government of the Church.”– Catholic Dogma
  3. -“If anyone shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection and direction and not a full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread through the world, or assert that he possesses merely the principle part and not all the fullness of this supreme power or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the pastors and the faithful, let him be anathema.” – Reiteration of Council of Trent – Vatican Council
  4. A true power, a universal power, a supreme power, a full power is possessed by any pope who can thereby rule independently on any matter without the consent of anyone he himself is judged by no one because there is no higher judge than he.” – Ludwig Ott

To this Jan Hus replies,
Hence neither is the pope the head nor are the cardinals the whole body of the holy, universal, catholic church.  For Christ alone is the head of that church, and His predestinate are the body and each is a member.”  
For this the great pre-reformer Reformer was excommunicated, ceremoniously stripped of his clerical office, and finally burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

Why was Huss burned for proclaiming that Christ is the Head of the Church?  What does Scripture say on the subject?

Colossians 1:18And [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Ephesians 1:10 – “As a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”
Ephesians 1:22-23 – “And he put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Ephesians 5:23-32 – “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

                Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

 
 
It seems crystal clear that the Bible teaches that Christ alone is the Head of the called out ones, the ekklesia, His Church. Why, then, would the Pope (and subsequent kings after Henry VIII broke away with the Roman Catholic Church and established his own church and forced his subjects to recognize him as head of the church under penalty of death) claim to himself a title that the Bible explicitly says is given to Christ alone?
 
Authority.  It boils down to the issue of authority.
 
Every time people like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Tyndale, and others would go to Scripture to prove their point, they would be silenced and not allowed to discuss anything, but only asked to repeat one word, revoko, I recant.
 
Luther summarizes well what the problem was in his day,
“The chief cause that I fell out with the pope was this: the pope boasted that he was the head of the church, and condemned all that would not be under  his power and authority….Further he took upon his power, rule, and authority (Eph. 1:22-23) over the Christian church, and over the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God; [claiming that] no man must presume to expound the Scriptures, but only he, and according to his ridiculous conceits; so that he made himself lord over the church.” – Luther, Table Talk.
 
And Calvin,
“[They did not care] if the glory of God happens to be violated with open blasphemies, provided no one lift a finger against the primacy of the Apostolic See [the pope], and the authority of their holy Mother Church.” – John Calvin
 
The reasoning behind the doctrine of the Pope’s infallibility and his claim to derive his supreme authority from God Himself through apostolic succession is well summarized by Mike Horton,
 
“There is the tendency simply to collapse Christology (and soteriology) into ecclesiology.  The concept of thet church and Christ together comprising ‘the whole Christ’ (totus Christus) was developed by Augustine. However, over time it grew into a cosmic ecclesiology (and Christology) that fused the head with his members in one corporate personality…..In Roman Catholic ecclesiologies, Platonism’s ladder of being is transformed into a hierarchical ladder of grace, flowing in diminishing grades from Christ and Mary to the pope and magisterium all the way down to all who do what lies within them.  Through this hierarchy, writes Karl Adam, ‘the divine is objectivised, is incarnated in the community.'” 1
Christ is seen “less as a concrete human being than as ‘merely an exemplum of human beings.'” 2 In other words,
“We have no access to the body of the gendered Jew [Jesus]….It is pointless because the Church is now the body of Christ, so to understand the body of Jesus we can only examine what the Church is and what it has to say concerning the nature of that body as scripture attests it….As Gregory of Nyssa points out, in his  thirteenth sermon on Song of Songs, ‘he who sees the Church looks directly at Christ.'” 3
To explain both quotes above, the Pope is “placed in direct responsibility to the Lord….to embody and secure the unity of Christ’s word and work.” 4  Since Christ is no longer physically present, Rome argues, Christ left the office of the papacy to oversee in “a supreme and sovereign manner” his body, and thus becomes the head of it because he represents Christ physically and tangibly on Earth.  Whereas the cardinals, bishops, and laymen cannot behold Christ, the pope can, and has.  Thus, the Roman hierarchical ladder holds the Pope as the head of the church, being entrusted with such office by Christ himself through the appointment of Peter in Matthew 16:18.
 
Needless to say, the Scripture presented by Huss and the others were enough to assert the Headship of Christ, not only over the Church, but over all things,
….and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1:17-23, NASB).
Let’s take a closer look at  verse 23:
Far above all rules: arche, archetypal, the first, the primacies.
All authority: exhusia, right, power, dunamis.
All dominion: kuriates – all lordships, all kingships, all monarchies, all popes. 
He is above all of them, far above all of them, not only in this age but in the age to come (meaning forever, far above all that is animated and inanimate).
-This one has had all people placed under him, all things placed under Him “God gave Him as head over all things to the Church.”
 

In other words: God gave to the Church for its Head the one who is already Head over everything!  Just because Christ is no longer physically present does not mean He needs or has rightfully established anyone other than Himself as the rightful monarch of the Church!

 
This is reflected in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in Article 26, Paragraph 4,
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” 
The reference to the papacy as “Antichrist” would take an entirely separate entry.  Suffice it to say for now that, seeing the testimony of Scripture that Christ alone is the rightful King of the Church because of the appointment of the Father himself,  that He alone has “in a supreme and sovereign manner all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church,” the  Pope can in no wise claim to be the Head of the Church, but is seen as antichrist: against Christ and all that is called God, and against Christ in seeking to dethrone Christ and establish himself as Head of the Church by doing away with Scripture as the authority and making himself the ultimate standard of truth.  This is nothing short of insurrection, rebellion, and open blasphemy; which is why the 1689 LBCF authors, the pre-Reformers, and the Reformers could boldly proclaim such things as what Luther said,
“I owe no more allegiance to the Pope than I do antichrist.”
This is not to say that we are to reject all manner of control, organization, or order.  That is the usual Roman Catholic argument against the rejection of the papacy.  We know the Lord has established an order and organization, which I plan to touch on a future entry.
 
We can learn from all this the following,
“The lordship of Christ is not merely a corporate concept.  It is also highly personal.  In the same way that Christ is Lord of His church collectively, He is also the Lord and Master of each believer individually.  When we affirm His headship over the whole church, we simultaneously and necessarily acknowledge His lordship over ourselves and every other member of His body….Christ is the head not merely of the corporate body but also of each individual believer.  He is both the Savior and the Lord for each person who calls on Him (Acts 2:21).” – John MacArthur
May the Lordship and Headship of Christ seep into every area of our lives, that we may live out the words of the Lord’s Prayer,
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
May the lordship of Christ and His sovereignty be the best deterrent to sin and the best catalyst to holiness. We belong to the Lord.
 
Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Scriptura
Solus Christus!
 
Eliezer Salazar
 
Bibliography:
 
1.  Horton, Michael Scott. “The Attributes of the Church: Unity, Catholicity, and Holiness.” The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. 829-30. Print.
2.  Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 35,37.
3.  Ward, Cities of God, 115-116.
4.  Ratzinger, Das neue Volk, 169, quoted in Volf, After Our Likeness, 58.
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One thought on “Christ, the Head of the Church

  1. Wow! Very nice sir! I love the closing prayer. May his Lordship be over our lives and may the Lord’s Prayer also be true in our lives.

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