Simple Papers on the Church of God: Part 6, the Body of Christ

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In the closest of earthly associations, connected too b' the nearest and dearest of ties known to man, does the Church stand in relation to Christ. It is His body. Nothing can be closer than that. It is His bride, with the assured prospect of being manifested as the Lamb's wife. Nothing can be dearer and nearer than that. And first, as to His body, God has given "Him to be head over all things to the assembly, which is His body the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:2323Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:23)) Of assemblies, God acknowledges now but one called here the assembly, the same which is elsewhere termed the assembly of the living God (1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) and is claimed by the Lord Jesus Christ, as we have seen, as His own. (Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)) But this assembly is also the body of Christ, which, viewed in this character, has Him for its head.
Now the headship of Christ is by no means an unimportant subject in the Scriptures, nor is it one in which but few have any concern. Far and wide through. out the universe does the headship of Christ extent Further than the eye of man has yet penetrated is that headship to be acknowledged; for, to three distinct spheres does the headship of Christ appertain. He is the head of all principality and power, as we lean, from Col. 2:1010And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Colossians 2:10). Headship in this character has of course to do with His place in creation; and the mystery of God's will, now disclosed to us in Eph. 10, but not yet carried out, has made known the divine purpose of heading up all things in the Christ. Again, as the Christ, He is the head of every man, the man being in his turn woman's head. (1 Cor. 11:33But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)) There is however a third character of headship in which the Lord is presented. " He is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:1818And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)) The headship aver the universe is His who died, and He receives it who created all things, being the firstborn of alt creation, and that by virtue of having called it all into being. (Col. 1:1515Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Colossians 1:15)) His headship over every male as distinct from the female flows from His incarnation, who as man is the Christ. His headship in relation to the assembly only dates from His resurrection; for until He had died the assembly had no existence; but since He has died and has risen, He stands as head in relation to it. He is head of the body, the Church (Eph. 1:22; 4: 1522And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:22); Col. 1:18; 2: 1918And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)); He is also head of the Church, as the husband is head of his wife. (Eph. 5:2323For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (Ephesians 5:23)) Of Christ's headship of the assembly the New Testament alone treats, and that only in the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians. This is a much more circum scribed sphere of course than that of headship over the universe; but we are taught, that it is He, who is head over all things, whom God has given to the Church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. His relation to it,' and by consequence its relation to Him, as viewed in this character, was both new and peculiar. Nothing of the kind had Israel, God's earthly people, ever known; nothing of the kind will they ever enjoy.
To the Church, whether viewed as His body or His bride, He is head, not Lord. Lord of course He is; God made Him such. (Acts 2:3636Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)) Every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (i.e. all intelligent creatures), must ever own Him as Lord. (Phil. 2:1111And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:11)) The Church too knows Him as the Lord; but He is head to, not Lord of, the Church. Headship and Lordship both belong to Him, but they are not convertible terms. As Lord, He stands out apart from all others; as head, He is in close. association with that to which He is as such connected. Scripture then never speaks of Him. as Lord in relation to the Church; for that clause in Eph. 5:2929For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (Ephesians 5:29), when rightly read, stands thus: "Even as the Christ the Church." 1Of this assembly He is the head, and it stands to Him in a relation altogether new, being His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. St. Paul alone of the New Testament writers treats of this branch of the subject, and to him was the truth of it first made known. The foundation on which the assembly was to rest was announced, as we have seen, to Peter in the audience of the twelve. The existence of His body upon earth Christ first revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:33How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, (Ephesians 3:3)) when in the company of his -fellow-travelers, though in words they did not understand.
The Lord Jesus was speaking to Saul, but He did not address them. How near were they to the speaker from heaven, and yet remained strangers to the communication, embodied in that single sentence, "Why persecutest thou me?" No question surely was ever asked more astounding to anyone than this; no interrogation was ever addressed to a prisoner more condemnatory than this. From One whom Saul had never seen, and from that One in heavenly glory, the light of which the whole company beheld, came that startling, penetrating question to the impetuous opponent s; God's saints. All that Saul was doing was known to his interrogator. What Saul was doing was unknown to himself. To turn aside the question was impossible; so personal it was, so heart-searching it must have been. To answer it satisfactorily was equally impossible. It convicted him of ignorance of God's mind, and of hatred to God and to His Son. Paul evidently never forgot it, nor the truth which by it was revealed. As proof that he never forgot it, we find that question, recorded in all three accounts of his conversion, two of which are related by himself. Writing to the Corinthians, he tells them too of his sin. (1 Cor. 15: 9) Exhorting the Philippians, he makes mention of it (3: 6); and when unbosoming himself to his child in the faith, he again refers to it.
(1 Tim. 1:1313Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (1 Timothy 1:13)) The truth too which was thus revealed took a firm hold of him. He taught it, he contended for it, he suffered for it. (Eph. 3:11For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, (Ephesians 3:1)) Further, by that question the Lord threw a shield over His persecuted ones, who were dear to Him, and arrested the arm of the self-constituted inquisitor of the saints. But He did more. By the form of His question He revealed the truth, that His saints were part of Himself. Of old Jehovah had declared of Israel that those who touched them touched the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:88For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (Zechariah 2:8)); i.e. that which a man guards most carefully. Here the Lord announced that in persecuting His saints Saul was persecuting Him. Thus the mystery was disclosed of a body upon earth, which belonged to a head in heaven.
For teaching about this body we must turn, as we have said, to the epistles of Paul; not that he was the only one who knew about it, for to God's holy apostles and prophets was it revealed by the Spirit (Eph. 3:55Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:5)); but to Paul was it first made known by revelation. (Eph. 3:33How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, (Ephesians 3:3)) A body on earth, its head in heaven, this constitutes the mystery of the Christ, the two making up the one mystic man-the Christ. And this body is His complement, or fullness, who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:2323Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:23)) Without it as the ascended Christ He was not complete; with it there is nothing left to be desired. The divine conception of the Christ thus stands forth in all its completeness. But what a conception! His fullness the body is, who fills all in all; thoughts, statements,. a revelation, we have about the Christ which far surpass our small intelligence to grasp in their fullness. This however is simple, and within the power of our mental faculties to take in, that great as is His glory, who is God as well as man, when looked at as man, though He fills the whole universe with His divine glory, He, the Christ, is not complete without His body, the Church. What an interest He must take, He does take, in that which stands in this relation to Him It is His body. How close to Him! how really a part of Himself I How full of meaning, then, was the question, " Why persecutest thou me?"
C. E. S.