Lecture 20: The Mystery of the Church
Course: Systematic Theology II
Lecture: The Mystery of the Church
I. The Doctrine of the church (Ecclesiology)
II. The Universal Church
A. Elements of the nature of the universal Church
B. The mystery of the Church
It is very interesting when you looked at the Paul's writings in particular at how frequently he refers to the Church is a mystery.
Romans 16:25 At the end of Romans, the way that the book of Romans ends.
Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
Even that phrase my gospel is interesting. Why would Paul call the gospel of Jesus Christ my gospel? I think you'll have an answer that by the end of class period.
What he is really saying is essentially you know what I've written about in this letter to you, the letter to the Romans, is about the mystery.
Ephesians 3:4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
1. Definition and description:
The first thing to know about this term is that it does not have to do with what we normally think of with the English word mystery. Think of Mystery Theater or a mystery novel for example. When we think of mystery in those contexts we think of an unsolved problem, a puzzle and we can't figure out who done it. We can't figure out the solution to the problem and hence it is a mystery. That is not what it means for Paul.
For Paul mystery means truth that was formerly concealed now revealed. Or truth previously hidden now made known. It's sort of like he defines mystery for us every time he uses it, not every time but almost every time. He helps us to understand this is what he means by it.
In Romans 16, listen to the definition of mystery that's contained it.
Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.
Here you have mystery, it wasn't known before, hidden before now made known.
Ephesians 3:3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
Mystery is some truth and must be some really wonderful, glorious truth that wasn't known before that now to Paul, to these New Testament apostles and prophets in the Spirit has been made known.
Ephesians 5:31 This is not church per se, but he uses mystery again in chapter 5 of marriage. He quotes Genesis 2.
Ephesians 5:31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Now do you understand what mystery is? Do you get what he means here in the Ephesians 5? Back there Genesis 2 when God said it is not good for man to be alone of maker helper suitable for him. So he puts them to sleep, takes a rib from him and brings a woman to him, she is now bone of my bone's flesh of my flesh, the two become one flesh. Paul says even though we didn't know this back then as we now know it because God has revealed this to us,
the fact is from the very beginning marriage is meant to picture the relationship of Christ and the church. That has been the point of it from the beginning. This institution is a picture; it's a type of an anti-type. Picture the reality of Christ and the church.
Mystery for Paul is truth that is made known in this age as he said in Ephesians 3 to the apostles and prophets in the spirit. Obviously he means New Covenant times. What is this mystery? If you asked the question what is the mystery that Paul talks about and begin looking for example in Ephesians 3.
Ephesians 3:4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise along with Jews. Gentiles and Jews join together in one body.
2. Relationship between mystery of the church and Old Testament earlier prophecy of gentile blessing and inclusion
If the mystery is truth previously unknown now revealed, what about this Old Testament teaching that was revealed earlier about Gentile blessing and inclusion with Jews together in one community of faith, what's the difference between that and the church?
Is it true that in the Old Testament we are to think that it was revealed that Gentiles would be part of the saved community along with Jews? That Gentiles would be brought in and God saving purposes along with Jews, are we to think that from the Old Testament, was that revealed in the Old Testament? Yes. Where, is the example? Isaiah 53 indicates the nations. Where do we have the earliest clear indication that God is going after the whole world in his saving purposes? Genesis 12. To Abraham God says I will bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you and through your seed all the nations will be blessed. Is it clear that God intends from the beginning and revealed in the Old Testament that the nations, Gentiles along with Jews, are going to be part of the saved community? Yes.
Student question: Unintelligible
Answer: No, not missions anyway. Not missions to the nations. What was Israel supposed to be? A light to the nations. Don't picture a lantern
that you carry, picture a lamp post planted firmly in Jerusalem. How did God bless obedient Israel viz a vie their location? Where did they live? What was one of the evidences of God's blessing upon them because they're obedient? They were in the land and when they send what happened to them? Exiled to the nations. And when they repented, and God said I will favor you again, what did God do? Bring them back to the land. You do not find in the Old Testament a missionary mandate meaning anything like Matthew 28. Instead, missions in the Old Testament, I always forget which one is which centrifugal and centripetal, which is which? Israel and the nations in the Old Testament, and to Israel and in the New Testament go out. A major difference between how the two are conceived. Part of it is in Matthew 28 Jesus said all authority has been given me therefore go to the nations. He won the nations by what he did.
If the Old Testament did feel that Gentiles would be part of the believing community, part of the saved, next question.
a. Did Old Testament reveal that Jews and Gentiles would become one community of faith?
In other words they wouldn't be separated, the Gentile community and the Jewish community, that they would be one community of faith. Was that revealed in the Old Testament? There were these people called proselytes, who were Gentiles who agreed to come into Judaism and would submit to circumcision, submit to the law, submit to all the requirements of Judaism and become part of the believing community, Gentiles brought in as proselytes. So there was that. What else in the Old Testament in terms of anticipation prophecy that was revealed? Ruth might be an example of this. Ninevites might be an example (although we don't know that the Ninevites were actually brought into Israel, they were saved). Ruth clearly this was an example of going, your people will be my people your God my God joining in.
Listen to some other passages.
Isaiah 2:1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many
peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the
LORD from Jerusalem.
All the nations will stream to what? To Jerusalem, to the mountain of the Lord, Jerusalem, that is the king of the mountains, the mountain raised above all the others.
Isn't that an amazing thing. So here Isaiah envisions a day when the nations will stream to Jerusalem, worship God with Israel as one collective community of faith.
Isaiah 19:19-25 Even more remarkable is Isaiah 19, this is just astonishing what is said here.
Isaiah 19:19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD near its border. 20 It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. 21 Thus the LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD and perform it. 22 The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them. 23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Ass (NAU)
In that day, obviously a future day that is going to happen.
Did you hear words going to be? An altar to the Lord in the land of Egypt.
And he will save them, this will be the Egyptians, he's going to save the Egyptians.
Highway between Egypt and Assyria. Egypt South and West of Israel, Assyria North and East of Israel.
This is a Jewish prophet saying this. Absolutely astonishing.
All this to say, is it foretold in the Old Testament, not only that Gentiles would be saved, would be part of the believing community? Yes, Genesis 12 through your seed Abraham all the nations will be blessed. Are we also told in the Old Testament that the Gentiles with the Jews will comprise one unified worshiping people? Yes, we are.
What is left? What's the difference then when you look at these Old Testament promises of Gentile blessing and inclusion along with Israel, what's the difference between that and the church? It seems to me, that the significant difference. In other words what is the mystery? Mystery is truth formerly not revealed. This was revealed, that the Gentiles would be blessed, would be saved, this was really revealed that the Gentiles would be included with the Jews and one believing community. So what was not revealed that now is revealed? I think the answer is for Paul, it would happen in Christ.
b. Mystery is that these prophecies are fulfilled in Christ
When you think of it from an Old Testament vantage point, how are Gentiles included in the saving work of God in the Old Testament? How'd this happen? We talked about proselytes a moment ago. So how did happen? They have to essentially become Jews. Think of Paul, think of circumcision, think law, are you putting two and two together in the New Testament? If you think as an Old Testament Jew, the Gentiles can become part of the believing community as
they become like us, as their men are circumcised, as they come under the law, as they submit to the sacrificial system. Basically as they become they become Jews they can become part of us. Here comes Paul, and he says, but Jew and Gentile are united together in one new man, one new Temple, one body of Christ in which there is neither Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. But one new man in Christ. Do you see how radical this is? What does
he say about circumcision? Whether you're circumcised or not it really doesn't matter. What? If you were Jew, you're thinking this is ridiculous because circumcision was the obligation of the people of God as a sign of the covenant. But here it is not circumcision anymore as the sign of the covenant which was the covenant made with the people of Israel through Moses because that covenant is over. It is over. Think about what Paul says about the law. We have died to the law having been raised to the newness of life in Christ. We are not under the law of Moses. We are now not under the law but under grace in Christ.
What is radical and new for Paul is that both Jew and Greek are together in Christ, people in Christ. A Jew’s main identity is no longer being a Jew. A Jew’s main identity as a saved one now, saved by the blood of Christ is that a Jew is an in Christ person and they Gentile is an in Christ person. So the enmity that separated Jew and Gentile, the law of commandments, remember Ephesians 2, the law of commandments that separated them now has been removed by Christ so there brought together in one new person in Christ.
There are such radical implications of this. It means that our identity is Christian people and the bond we have as Christian people becomes for us the most is significant bond in life. It is more significant than ethnicity, than nationality. I'm proud to be an American, I am, this is a great country and I feel very privileged to live here. There is something far more significant than being an American, then being of a certain race or ethnic background or family. We talked about this earlier Jesus’ statements to his disciples, your mother and brother at the door. Oh mom, you expect, stop everything mom’s here. Who are my mother and my brothers? That's how Jesus responds. Those who hear my word and follow me and obey me they are my mothers and my brothers
and my sisters. There is a bond in Christ that surpasses everything else. I think we need to take this to heart and realize in Christ. This is why circumcision was such a huge problem for Paul because he had Judaisers. That is fine to talk about all that happened in Christ, it's wonderful for grateful for all that but we still have to be circumcised to be part of the people of God. No, it is not circumcision is faith in Christ period.
So what is not revealed is how this will happen. How it all happened, Jew and Gentile are brought together in one saved entity. How will this happen? Through Christ and his work. So all of us are in Christ people. Another word for that is Christians, we are Christians. But it doesn't carry the same weight as, I think, in Christ people. That's who we are. Our fundamental identity, above everything else is that we are in Christ people. This is who we are.
3. Israel and the Church (continuity and discontinuity)
This raises the whole issue of how we understand Israel as a people of God and the church is a people of God. If in fact there is something new and distinctive about the church as a New Covenant people, the church is a new entity that is identified by our union with Christ and that wasn't true of Israel. Now this true of those who are part of church there in Christ people. Our union with Christ is what identifies us as members of the church.
a. The same or different
Is Israel and the church the same, are they both the people of God? Or should we think of them as different peoples of God. In my own judgment, I think you have to answer this question that is both and rather than either or. I think problems come if you go the direction of saying Israel was Israel, pure and simple the church the church and don't confuse the two at all. This was the tendency in traditional dispensationalism.
Traditional dispensationalism looked at Israel over here and the church over here and between the two was a brick wall. There is no connection between the two. The reason that dispensationalists held this view was because they were concerned that promises made to Israel that have yet to be fulfilled, this is Paul's concern in Romans 9-11 when he raises the question, what about the promise of God to Israel? What about Israel and their salvation? And he ends it by saying the natural branches of Israel were kind of but they're going to be grafted back onto the tree and all Israel will be saved. He ends it by saying God will be faithful to his promised Israel. Dispensational have been concerned that promises to Israel need to be kept. God will keep his promises. What kind of promises have not been kept? The Davidic Covenant with Israel that they will be in the land and David will reign as king over them or that the son of David will rain as king over them, in the land they will be restored. When has that happened? The answer is it hasn't. So dispensationalists have wanted to see promises to Israel kept by God with Israel pure and simple. That means there is no connection between any promises to Israel and what carries forward to the church, none whatsoever. Covenant theologians who on the other hand will say that the promises to Israel carried forward to the church are misinterpreting the Bible, misunderstanding that God's promise to Israel is kept with Israel. And don't think it as being fulfilled in the church.
Covenant theology has seen more of a connection of Israel of the church like an arrow pointing straightforward. Covenant theologians have no trouble talking in terms of the church being the new Israel or Israel being the Old Testament church. There's really no significant difference between them except that Israel anticipated the coming of Christ to die for sins, we look back on the coming of Christ who has paid the penalty for sin. Other than that there's no
significant difference between the two entities of people of God. They cite for example the fact that we are the seed of Abraham. We are brought into the seed of Abraham. They cite for example the end of Romans 2:28-29
Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
So who's a true Jew? One who is circumcised of heart. So we're Jews, they were Jews and so it's brought forward..
b. Continuity or discontinuity?
In my judgment, (this is a very controversial issue and each of you will want to think about this and see for you land on it). I hold the view that a both and proposition. It's held by people called progressive dispensationalist, that's the name given to it. I Identify with the movement. In this view it holds that the relationship of Israel and the church is something like a screen door rather than a brick wall where some items can pass and others are blocked. That is there's both continuity and discontinuity between Israel and the church. If you're interested I wrote a chapter of a book that Craig Blaising, who used teach here he's now down at Southwestern Seminary and Darrell Bock from Dallas seminary edited called Dispensationalism Israel And The Church's Search For Definition. I wrote a chapter in the book is on the New Covenant. The New Covenant is so helpful I think in explaining this combination of promises to Israel carried through to the church and promises to Israel that stay with Israel period that will be kept by God with a restored Israel one day. The New Covenant illustrates this because in the New Covenant Jeremiah 31 God says I make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. So it's very clear he's talking ethnic national Israel, there's no doubt about it. And he says in this New Covenant I will write my law upon your heart, you won't have to teach each other, saying know the Lord for you all know me from the least to the greatest and your sins will be forgiven and I'll remember them no more. So the New Covenant he promises to Israel in Jeremiah 31. Now you come to the New Testament and you realize, wow, we the church are in the New
Covenant. That covenant that was made with Israel. Do you know what traditional dispensationalist did if Israel is Israel and the church is the church and the New Covenant was made with Israel and so it cannot have anything to do with the church, you know what they did with the New Covenant in the New Testament? A different New Covenant. So they actually argue for two New Covenants, there was the Jeremiah 31 New Covenant and then the New Testament New Covenant that Paul talked about when he said I'm the minister of the New Covenant in 2 Corinthians 3. Or Jesus in Luke 22 when he said this cup is the New Covenant in my blood, a different New Covenant not Jeremiah 31. What really brought an end to this view though, this traditional dispensational view on the New Covenant, was Hebrews. We finally noticed what Hebrews had to say." Jeremiah 31 twice in Hebrews 8 and 10. And says the old covenant is done away, the New Covenant has come and he is relating it to the church. It just won't work to say the old covenant has to do with Israel pure and simple. This is part of the carryover, part of the continuity of the New Covenant is that we to whom it was not given, nonetheless get to participate in because we become part of the seed of Abraham through faith in Christ. So we get into the covenant that wasn't even given to us Gentiles.
Here's a question, what about the promise Israel per se? Israel I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, the house of Judah. Are you going to say that all these Gentiles you to participate in the New Covenant fulfills what Jeremiah said? I don't see how you can conclude that. That Gentiles entering into the New Covenant fulfill Jeremiah 31 where it says I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
In my view what is going to happen is a future, it hasn't happened yet, restoration of Israel, ethnic national Israel in which God will save them and bring about the New Covenant reality with the people of Israel and a yet future day. This plays into my eschatology as well, I hold to a pre-trib view, and a pre-millennial view and all that kind moves into the mix as we will see when we get to that point. But here you have a case the New Covenant made to Israel is fulfilled in some measure with the church, even with us it's not fulfilled in its entirety, is it? It says that when the New Covenant is fully in place you will not have to teach each other saying know the Lord for you will all know me from the least to the greatest. Well I get paid for teaching people about knowing the Lord, I don't think we're there yet but we will be. So even there can't you see that the New Covenant is only fulfilled partially, not completely. And part of the partial is that Israel has not yet entered into the New Covenant yet. So the promise made to Israel will be fulfilled. This is what Romans 9-11 is about, all Israel will be saved. Why? Because God said so, because God promised to them.
All of this to say, that on the question of Israel or the Church, continuity and discontinuity, I would urge you to consider a view that allows for a healthy dose of both continuity and discontinuity. I think mistakes are made when too much emphasis is put on continuity and this is the mistake of covenant theology and the problem there is that it doesn't recognize the integrity of these promises in the Old Testament to ethnic, national Israel. God likes to his word. I think you've noticed that in the Bible, he really does like to be not only a promise-giver, which is, but a promise keeper. So these promises to Israel with their King, their Messiah, their land will yet be fulfilled. Their New Covenant yet fulfilled. But continuity as well in that the New Testament gives us warrant for seeing promises for Israel being fulfilled in some measure in the church. Which simply means that God does more, not less, not other than, more than he claimed he would or promised he would with Israel. We get in also. How do we get in? One body in Christ, that's how we get in, through Christ the seed of Abraham in which we now participate in the blessings of those promises.
If you are Gentile as I am, you have to have even more amazement at the fact we get in, because God chose Israel. And he didn't have to, but He did promise that through Israel all the nations would be blessed. And so by God's grace we get dinner into benefits, promises that we were given to Israel that we were not privy to, we were not participants in that but we get drawn into it through faith in Christ and reap the benefits of it.
Student Question: Unintelligible relating to not all Israel is Israel.
Answer: I'm trying to think of how that relates to the mystery. What is made known is that spiritual Israel connects to the Gentiles, is that what you're saying? Ephesians makes very clear; as long as that includes not just other Jews who are circumcised of heart but this brings in Gentiles. And the key element, I think has to be, is that these are people brought together on a basis that was not done earlier, namely in Christ, by faith in Christ. You can see this in Colossians, the way he puts the mystery in Colossians is and this is the mystery Christ in you the hope of glory. So it's kind of like there are two sides to a coin, in Christ and Christ in you that is this interpenetration of Jew and Gentile with Christ, union with Christ becomes this dominant motif for understanding our identity as members of the church. You
Student Question: Unintelligible.
Answer: Well no more than other interpreters have been just trying to access whether or not the promises of God have been fulfilled yet or not. If He promises something he's going to make sure it happens. So no I don't think so, not any different than all of us are subject to that kind of a problem as we interpret. We have to be careful about.
Student Question: What is driving the replacement theology, the church replaces Israel, the church is the complete fulfillment of Israel?
Answer: Boy, what is driving it? In part it is legitimate New Testament teaching like Romans 2 that indicates that we are the true Jews as it were, if you want to put it that way. Indications that the, the New Covenant would be another example that we become participants of that New Covenant. So why think any other category than the church as it were fulfilling everything that happened with Israel? Why not consider that? Along with that is a fundamental amillennial view or post millennial in some cases more commonly amillennial that sees no future time for God to do anything with Israel. This church age is it. It's sort of like everything has to be fulfilled here and now. Whereas if you hold a pre-millennial view, then you realize there's another chapter to be written yet, another time period before heaven and hell when God has purposes yet to fulfill that he's going to do. Their eschatology meshes with their ecclesiology.
Student Question: Unintelligible relating to Israel's plan A didn't work out so now where are in Plan B with the church. Something about covenant
theologians and progressive dispensationalism that there is not really as much controversy about these views.
Answer: Not nearly as much. There has been a coming together of both traditions. If any of you are interested in this, Russ Moore wrote his dissertation, I was supervisor of his dissertation, and he wrote a lot about what has happened in both covenant and dispensational theology, modifications that have been made that have drawn them very closely together. It is a very fine piece of work.
Student Question: Unintelligible relating what have they given up
Answer: What they both given up his exclusive discontinuity, dispensational continuity, covenant. Both are recognizing some combination of the two. There is some continuity, some discontinuity of the two. You will find a number of more progressive covenant theologians who think in terms a future salvation for Israel, but Israel will be saved. When that happens, how that's going to happen they may not be sure about because their eschatology doesn't really allow for it well.
Student Question: Unintelligible
Answer: It is the very same kind of statement that God through a prophet would make to the people of Israel, I will take you back to your land. Well, you might die but your children, Israel that exist at the time will be brought back to the land.
C. Metaphors for the Church
In one sense I would love to spend a lot of time these metaphors because they're so rich and wonderful on the other hand they are familiar, at least some of them are familiar. So we can't nor should we take a lot of time on them. Please realize there's a lot of richness that we are just touching on. I'm actually teaching a Sunday school class at church right now on the church and we're going to metaphors of the church in Sunday school. It makes a wonderful study. The metaphors provide angles, perspectives or maybe you can think of a diamond with facets. No one metaphor tells you everything about the church but the collection of metaphors that are used in the New Testament together present a very rich picture of what the church is about. They are pictures of the church.
1. Church as the body of Christ:
The metaphor used more often than any other in the New Testament is the church as the body of Christ. What is true of this metaphor as well as the others is that Christ is preeminent in this metaphor. Think of other metaphors, you've got the church as the bride, Christ is the bridegroom so Christ is preeminent in that relationship husband-wife cried bridegroom relationship. The church is a building or a Temple, where is Christ in this? He is the foundation or even the cornerstone. In all the metaphors it's clear that Christ is preeminent, as you look at that metaphor. And clearly this is the case here.
a. The headship of Christ is made clear
Colossians 1:18-20. It emphasizes the headship of Christ over the church.
Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Ephesians 1:20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 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. 22 And He put all things in
subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
So Christ as the head of the church is the one who reigns as authority over the church.
There has been a lot of discussion in the past 10 years or so on the word head in the New Testament, kephale (κεφαλή). Wayne Grudem has demolished attempts, the opponents don't think so but it is true nonetheless, that he has demolished attempts to see kephale as meaning source and rather it connotes a notion of authority over. So Christ as the head of the church, has authority over the church. Yes, he also provides for the church, he does many many other things that the metaphor of head of the body is a metaphor that conveys the notion of directorship. The rest of your body takes its direction from the head. So head as director, authority, or governor of the body. Christ certainly has that role.
That is so clear in the marriage passage in Ephesians 5:22 as well. Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
So he is making there the parallel between Christ's church, husband-and-wife, and was clear of the husband" clear of Christ is headship. So what is the proper relationship of the other then, to husband in Christ? Submission.
So obviously by that it indicates authority over. So he does have absolute rights over the church. Remember Jesus said I will build My church. I hope you can personalize this in your own lives and recognize, if you are in Christ, you're part of the church, then it is never appropriate for you or for me make a decision, do what we want to do our own disregarding the will of Christ, never. Their other biblical teachings that reinforces this. Christ is Redeemer
reinforces this, we have been bought with a price, we are not our own, we have been bought with His shed blood and therefore we don't have rights over ourselves. But here's another case where our role is to be subject to Christ. Pure and simple. That's the fundamental question that we need to ask about our lives, how may we submit to what Your will is? You are head and I follow you. That's what it's about.
This brings up the next aspect of this metaphor.
b. Dependence of the body on the head
This is clear that a number of passages, dependence of the body on the head.
Colossians 2:19 were Paul warns against allowing anything from taking the place of Christ's prominence in our lives.
Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
So He is not only authority over, He is the one who sustains, provides for, brings growth to the whole of the body.
Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love
So where does the body receive everything it needs for its growth? From the head.
So there is a dependence of the body on the head that is absolute and comprehensive. Personalize it, that means you and I should not wake up any day of our lives and think, I am able to handle what's in front of me this day, I can do it. The minute we start thinking that way, we are forgetting that everything we need comes from one source and that is from Christ. All the blessings that God has for us, come through Christ, period. So we have an absolute
comprehensive dependence upon him.
c. The unity of the body and the head
Colossians 1:18 stresses not only the headship of Christ alongside of this he places the church.
Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
He is the beginning, that is he is the beginning of new life; his resurrection from the dead is the first of many resurrections. We all follow after that first resurrection. So Christ and his people share one resurrection life together. Another way to put it is that we share in His life, we shared Christ's life. The metaphor of the vine in the branches conveys this also. The branch abides in the vine (John 15). What life does the branch have a part from the vine? The answer is none. If it is cut from the vine it loses its life. So there is this unity of the body and the head. We share fully in his life. The church takes on the new life of Christ and identifies herself with Him and everything He is. So Christ's life, Christ's message, Christ's purposes then become ours. So there's to be this fundamental unity, what is true of Christ becomes true of us as we are united to him.
d. The interdependence of each member
This is the aspect of the metaphor that is developed at length by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14, particularly in Chapter 12 where the whole notion of the body of Christ is here taken to indicate the contribution that various members of the body make to the whole. So if all were and eye, it could see but it couldn't walk, it couldn't do other things. If all were at ear, it could hear but it couldn't do other things. So God has so made the body of Christ to have multiple
members so that every member contributes to the common good. You know this from experience that the tiniest member of your body, if something is wrong with it, it can mess you up. Stub your toe tonight walking to the bathroom and find out what a really badly injured little toe can do to you. It is amazing how much we are interconnected in our physical bodies and that's true in the body of Christ as well. So we help one another or hurt one another
depending upon things that we do. This is why certain things the church you wonder why Paul and Peter talked as much as they did about relational issues in the church. 1 Corinthians is just filled with it. Why? Because members to the body of Christ can bring tremendous harm by gossip, by in-fighting, by selfishness, by immorality. On the other hand, members of the body that contribute to the well-being of others using their gifts for the building up of the
body of Christ can bring great blessing and benefits to the body of Christ. So it is an amazing thing to realize that God so designed that the church be affected by what we do to one another. He could have done it differently, couldn't he? He could've taken us all in isolation and grew us up Christ, but He decided to do it this way where in relationship to one another we use God-given gifts to build one another up in Christ. What a tragedy when we use that
interconnectedness to harm the body rather than to grow up the body of Christ.
2. Church as the bride of Christ
I have often said that Christian women ought not whence at the fact that in many passages in Scripture that you Christian women are referred to as sons of God. The reason that is a good thing, at least in a number of contexts where it is, gender inclusive translations that translate that “children of God” do not do you any service or the rest of us by doing that. You ought to think of yourself as a son of God because in certain contexts it is the son who receives the inheritance of the father. So if you wanted inheritance you need to be a son. Certain contexts appeal to women, female Christians to think of them
Men guess what, we have our gender confusion issues as well. All men and women in Christ need to think of ourselves as comprising the bride of Christ. So men need to think in the role of the bride to the bridegroom, the role of the wife to husband in relation to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:2
2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
Do you get what he is saying? He is saying you are engaged, you are betrothed to Christ but the wedding has not been consummated. When the wedding is consummated I want to present you to Christ a virgin. So in other words, live your life as one who was given wholly to him and don't spoil and mare this upcoming wedding is going to take place by giving yourself to another. All through the Bible the analogy has been drawn regularly between idolatry and adultery. Think of the book of Hosea as a great example of that, idolatry and adultery. I think the reason that God uses that analogy is because a marriage relationship is very much like our relationship with Him. Number one it is a relationship. It isn't just a legal thing. It's a relationship. And it's a covenant bond. And it's a relationship in which there is trust, allegiance, devotion, commitment, loyalty. So to go after another god, to unite yourself to another apart from Christ is like committing adultery in the marriage. In other words he wants them to finish their lives holy people; I betrothed you to Christ want to present you before him a pure virgin.
Revelation 19:7-9 indicates this upcoming marriage supper of the Lamb.
Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are true words of God.
Revelation 21:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
So now the marriage has taken place and it is not a bride anymore, it's a wife, a wife of the Lamb.
a. Christ’s unconditional love
This probably comes out clearest in Ephesians 5:27 where the analogy is made, husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.
Ephesians 5:27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Do hear that phrase holy and blameless in Ephesians 5:27?
Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
That same pair is used again in Ephesians 5 of what Christ will do. So the accomplishment of our election, the fulfillment of why we were elected, we are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before him is accomplished by Christ. So this unconditional love that he has for the church, so husbands love
your wives as Christ loved the church, gave himself for to seek her best, to bring about her well-being, to bring about her purification. Of course, this unconditional love is real love. It's it seeks what is best for his bride. Not what his bride necessarily wants but what He knows is best. And He will not fail.
b. Emphasis of the purity of the Church
The other truth that is conveyed in this is the church’s purification; that we are to be before Christ as a bride awaiting our wedding day. Imagine what you would think of an engaged woman, while planning the wedding, while waiting for the day to come, shacked up with another man. How vile. So here we are to think of ourselves as an engaged bride waiting for the wedding day and we are to be pure, we are to be devoted to Him.
I think about this when I see engaged couples because often times you see this displayed an engaged couple. An engaged woman has such a tenderness to want to please this man who is going to be her husband. And he has such a longing to romanticize his bride.
Both of these things are just so much more evident oftentimes with an engaged couple. So put yourself in the place of the bride, the one who was awaiting the day of the marriage and you want to stand at that wedding pure. So this whole emphasis on purity is conveyed in this metaphor.
May God help us to be pure people.