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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Colossians 1:18 by Robert Dean
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:59 mins 1 sec

Christ and the Church. Colossians 1:18


Four different ways in which we see the headship or authority of Christ talked about in the New Testament. The first has to do with a dispensational orientation. "Dispensational" comes from a Greek word oikonomia [o)ikonomia] which has to do with the administration of God's plan in history; how God oversees history in the human race, and that God has a plan and purpose and that there are different times and epochs and eras in human history with distinct characteristics that belong to each of these time periods.

A simple illustration: In the Old Testament period in the dispensation related to Israel and the Mosaic Law the people of God were the Jews. God called out the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He said that through them all the world would be blessed. We know that that blessing came through several different ways. One was that they were the custodians of Scripture: it was through the Jewish people that the Word of God was given to the prophets of Israel, and the Scriptures were recorded, maintained and preserved down through the centuries. Another way in which al the world would be blessed was that it would be through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then narrowed down to the tribe of Judah and even further to the descendants of King David that the Messiah would come; that He would take upon Himself our iniquities, He would bear in His body our sins, and that this was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53). So there is a dispensational difference there from the Old Testament, there is a looking forward to the fulfillment of that promise of the Messiah, and that until that came there would be these animal sacrifices depicting the very nature of the kind of thing that would be necessary to pay the penalty of sin. Sin is a horrible thing and so for sin to be taken care of in the sight of God death was the penalty, so there was a picture of this in the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. It required a special kind of sacrifice. There was a lamb was taken from the flock and observed to make sure that it truly was without spot of blemish. This lamb was really picturing something, i.e. the ultimate sacrifice, the one who would pay the penalty for sin, would have to be sinless Himself. This picture seen throughout the whole sacrificial system in the Old Testament looked forward to the future final sacrifice.

But after Christ came there was no longer a sacrifice in the temple. We don't go to God on the basis of an animal sacrifice because the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has come and has paid that penalty. So we understand that something changed in the way that God administered history from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In the Old Testament God focused on Israel as His people, but because they rejected Jesus as savior they were removed from the land and God has temporarily put the emphasis on a new people of God composed of both Jew and Gentile.

When Jesus came He came first to offer Himself to Israel as the Messiah, and He was rejected. He was to have been the chief of head cornerstone for Israel at His first coming and He will be at His second coming when He establishes His kingdom. This is the thrust of Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.

The second way Jesus has this authority is over the human race in terms of humanity and a chain of command/leadership structure is that Christ is the head of every man—man in terms of male, 1 Corinthians 11:3.

Third, we see an ecclesiological authority (Colossians 1:18) which is referred to as the bride of Christ.

Fourth, there is a universal or cosmic authority that Jesus has, that He is the head over all principalities and powers and authorities; He has a universal Lordship and authority, as we see in Colossians 2:10. Cf. Ephesians 1:22, 23. 

Colossians 1:18 NASB "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." The word for "beginning" is a little bit misunderstood here. It is the Greek word arche [a)rxh] which not only has the idea of beginning or first in a series of events but it also has the idea of originating cause. This is talking about Christ as the one who is not only the head of the body but He is the one who originates the body of the church. The church is born from His death on the cross; there is no church before AD 33.

Sometimes we will run into various other Christian organizations that will teach that Israel is the church in the Old Testament and that the church in the New Testament is spiritual Israel. There is a name for this kind of teaching, it is called "replacement theology," it replaces Israel completely and totally in God's plan with the church. In replacement theology they only see one people of God and so they read back into the Old Testament New Testament teaching on the church and will talk about Adam being the first Christian, Abraham as a Christian. They read these things back so that they obliterate the distinction between Israel and the church. One of the unintended evil consequences of replacement theology as it has worked itself out historically has been anti-Semitism. Not everybody who believes the replacement theology position is into anti-Semitism but replacement theology is the soil that is perfectly fertilized to produce the thorns and the weeds of anti-Semitism. One of the byproducts of that kind of thinking today is anti-Zionism.

What Paul says is that there is a new organism that comes into existence in AD 33, and there is nothing anti-Semitic or anti-Israel about it and for the first 20 years or so of the church it was almost exclusively made up of Jewish believers in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. It wasn't until sometime towards the end of the 40s and into the early 50s that Paul began to take the gospel to the Gentiles as there was less and less acceptance of Jesus as Messiah among the Jewish people. So Jesus is seen here in verse 18 as the beginning. The beginning of the church was with Jesus' death, burial and resurrection when the church is established when He sends the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

The connection is made by the next phrase which is just an appositional explanation of the term "beginning," "the firstborn from the dead." We have already run into this word in verse 15 where we read "the firstborn over all creation." We have seen that this word "firstborn," prototokos, can mean first in priority or first in time. Paul uses it both ways here because Jesus is first in priority over all creation, the preeminent one. He is also eternally God, so He is firstborn over creation not because He has a beginning either in time or in eternity past but because He is the preeminent one over all creation. But here as a human being, as one who entered into human history through the hypostatic union, we see that Jesus becomes the firstborn in time. He is, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, the first fruits of resurrection, so that none received a resurrection body before He. It is His resurrection that is the first fruits, i.e. the first of all those who believe in Him, Old Testament and New Testament believers. It is not until He receives His resurrection body that others do. It is that that lays the foundation for the beginning of the church. This is the same phrase that is used in Revelation 1:5 referring to Jesus Christ "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth." There is a cause-effect relationship here that because He is the firstborn from the dead God glorified Him and He is in haven and will be given as the Son of Man the authority to rule over the kings of the earth.

Colossians 1:18 goes on to say that the purpose in God's plan for Jesus is that "He Himself will come to have first place in everything [preeminence in all things]." The purpose clause there is that the reason He is the head of the church, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, all focuses towards the end game that in all things He may have the preeminence. This is the Greek word proteuo [prwteuw] which means to have the highest rank in a group. Jesus in His deity is fully God. He created all things, they were created through Him and for Him, and He is before all things and by Him all things consist. In His deity Jesus is over everything. He is equal to God the Father in His person and He is distinct from God as a person. This is the doctrine of the Trinity: one essence in the triune God and three distinct persons. But when Jesus entered into history through the incarnation, when He added to His full divine nature true humanity, He had a purpose and a plan, and that was to fulfill God's original purpose and plan for the human race. Adam was faced with a test and Adam disobeyed God and failed. Jesus is coming along as the second Adam, born as Adam was created, without sin. Jesus, unlike Adam, will pass all of the tests and will not sin. So in His humanity Jesus is going to gain what He had already in His deity. Jesus is elevated to the right hand of God the Father on the basis of what He achieves in His humanity, so that the person who is sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heaven is sitting because He is true humanity. In His deity He is omnipresent, but in His humanity He is localized and is seated at the right hand of God the Father in a position where He is waiting for the Father to give Him the kingdom. He will give it, according to Daniel chapter seven, when He returns to the earth not as the Son of God but as the Son of Man and the Son of Man comes to conquer the kingdoms of man to establish His kingdom on the earth. It is through His death, burial and resurrection, through His ascension and glorification at the right hand of God the Father, His elevation above the angels at that point, that he becomes the preeminent one, the God-Man, and that hypostatic union never goes away. For all eternity He is joined with humanity and He rules. All this is tied together in this concept of His headship.

In the latter part of Ephesians chapter five Paul is describing the characteristics of the person who has been filled by means of the Spirit and grows to maturity. In that growth to maturity there are certain things that should characterize that person's life. He is going to be characterized first and foremost by worship. Ephesians 5:19 NASB "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Singing out loud reflects an inner reality. This is an important part of the spiritual life. The next thing is: [20] "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." Developing an attitude of gratefulness; thinking about the fact that all that we have is coming from the Lord. Then: [21] "and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." Notice the mutual submission. That flows out of humility. There is a mutual submission and respect for one another in the body of Christ. Then having said that Paul says that now within certain other areas of our experience there are authority structures. Wives are to submit to their 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." The husband is the head of the home. If you want to attack the authority of the husband in the home then you have to attack the authority of Christ over the church. That is why the whole issue of authority in the home and what came out of the feminism of the 1960s is a theological blasphemy. If what the radical feminists say about authority in the home is true then Christ is evil and the authority of Christ over the church is evil. Also there just can't be a Trinity either because in the Trinity Christ is equal to God the Father but God the Father is the authority over Christ. It is a direct assault on the foundational doctrines of Christianity. [25] "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."

After Paul reminds the men that their responsibility is to love their wives as Christ loved the church he goes on to talk about this relationship between Christ and the church because there is something in that relationship between Christ and the church that is abstract, difficult for us to get our mental hands around; and so he uses the analogy of the way a husband and wife should be together to help us understand how Christ and the church relate. Ephesians 5:28 NASB "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself." Then he gives an explanation. [29] "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also {does} the church." The Lord's relationship to the church in this passage is all about headship and authority, and that headship and authority is expressed by these two verbs, nourish and cherish. The first verb is the Greek word ektrepho [e)ktrefw], a present active indicative indicating this is a continuous action, an ongoing characteristic of Christ's authority and relation to the church. It is a gnomic present which expresses a timeless truth. It means to nourish, to promote health and strength. (It is used in chapter six where it is talking about fathers are to bring up the children in the training and admonition of the Lord; it has to do with instruction as well.) He does what is necessary to produce strength and growth and health in the object of love. The second verb, cherish, is the Greek word thalpo [qalpw]. Its core meaning is to warm something, and from that literal meaning it picked up a metaphorical meaning of looking at a mother bird incubating her eggs, keeping the eggs warm in the nest; so metaphorically it came to depict the idea of caring for someone, comforting someone, brooding over. When we really focus on something we care about it a lot, think about it a lot. That is the idea here. This is the essence of the love relationship just as the Lord does it to the church. That is the relationship of the head to the body: nourish and cherish.

Then he goes on to develop this analogy. Ephesians 5:30 NASB "because we are members of His body." It is a spiritual body, not a material body. Paul is using the analogy of a physical body to express a spiritual truth. He also does this in passages such as 1 Corinthians chapter twelve where he says in verse 12 NASB "For even as the body is one and {yet} has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ." There are two ideas that are present here. One is that there is a universal body and the emphasis is on unity, but on the other hand the emphasis is also on the distinction among the members of the body. That is what is interesting about Christianity and we can only get it from a plural concept of the Trinity. In the Trinity God is one; He is a unity. But He is also three: three distinct individuals, so that the whole has value, the parts have value, and the whole isn't more valuable than the parts and the parts aren't more valuable than the whole. That has a lot of application, and one is to marriage. When Paul says submit to one another that emphasizes unity, but in the midst of that unity there is also the role or authority distinction where the husband is the head of the wife and the is submissive to the husband, the parents are in authority over the children. So the parts have significance.

This is important in terms of understanding culture and government. Only in countries that have had a profound impact of biblical thought and where truly theologians and Christians thought these things out centuries ago has it produced the kind of culture where the government is limited, because the bigger the government gets the less value the individual parts have. But if too much emphasis in placed on the individual parts, which happens in various forms of libertarianism, then the significance of the whole is lost and it ends up in anarchy. So only coming out of a Scriptural viewpoint where we can recognize the wholeness and the distinctiveness of the entity can we really have value for each part. Men can respect women as equal image bearers and women can respect men as equal image bearers but still recognize an authority structure that doesn't minimize and diminish the equality aspect. Are we ever going to get that out of Islam? Never, because they just have a god who is a unitarian monotheism. 

All of these ideas of headship and authority and how we understand the role of Christ and the church and our individual relationship to His authority are interconnected. It impacts marriage, government, and anything that relates to an authority structure.

1 Corinthians 12:14 NASB "For the body is not one member, but many." There is the emphasis on the whole. [2] "But now there are many members, but one body"—emphasis on the individual. [25] "so that there may be no division in the body, but {that} the members may have the same care for one another." The word care is the Greek word merimnao [merimnaw] which is the same verb as used in Philippians 4:6 where it says: "Be anxious for nothing." It can have a negative sense or a positive sense. Here it is the positive sense of care and concern for someone. Ephesians 4:25 NASB "…for we are members of one another." There is the interconnectiveness among members of the body of Christ.

Ephesians 5:31 NASB "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." This is a quote from Genesis but this isn't talking about marriage in this passage. The word for "be joined to his wife" is the Greek word proskollao [proskollaw] which means to just join something. It is used in Psalm 22:15 in the LXX where it says NASB "…And my tongue cleaves to my jaws." Luke 10:11 NASB "Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off…" In the passage about the Prodigal son he "joins himself" to foreign citizens. In Acts 8:29 Philip joins the Ethiopian eunuch up in his chariot. It just means to come together in a unity. Ephesians 5:31 fits within a thought flow. Verse 29 talks about the Lord's authority to the church as nourishing and cherishing it. Verse 31 is using a human institution to illustrate that joining of man and women, and then in verse 32 NASB "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." What is the great mystery? It is understanding how Jesus as the head of the church is going to nourish and cherish the church. Ideally, in Genesis 2:24 and in the marriage union before the fall there is that nourishing-cherishing taking place between the husband and the wife. And when Paul says this is a great mystery, mystery is a previously unrevealed doctrine. Marriage has been revealed since Genesis 2. This is not talking about marriage; it is talking about something new which is this relationship between Jesus and the body of Christ. The fact here is that headship and love go together.

Colossians 2:18 NASB "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." We are to hold on to Jesus as our authority and as our head. The word for "supplied" ["nourish" in the NKJV] epichoregeo [e)pixorhgew] which means to supply something at one's own expense. That is grace. Jesus says it is at His expense because you don't have anything that can contribute. So the idea of nourishing here is to supply at His expense what is necessary to have anything and to have life. "Held together" is sumbibazo [sumbibazw] which means to bring things together. That is the body of Christ coming together and it grows, and it is God that causes the growth, the increase.

In Colossians 1:18 that headship isn't just an authority that is telling the church what to do but it is an authority that tells the church what to do in order to nourish it, in order to bring health to the body, in order to bring growth to the body. That means to bring health and growth to each one of us. The purpose of this has to do with the body growing together to maturity so that it is prepared for the future role that God has for it in terms of the kingdom when Jesus comes.

What Paul has established here is that Christ is sufficient for all our problems because first of all He created everything, He knows everything, and He sustains everything. And secondly, because He is the head of the church and He loves us and wants to solve all of our problems. Only He can do it.