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“And he put all things 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” (Ephesians 1:22,23).

PAUL WROTE THAT GOD HAS MADE CHRIST “HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH.” This is consistent with what Christ Himself said to the apostles prior to His ascension to heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20).

In its widest, most universal sense, the word “church” encompasses all the saved everywhere. This is the sense in which it is used in Ephesians 1:22,23. But it can also refer to a group of the Lord’s people in a particular place. So we read, for example, about “the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1), “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), and many other places. In this local sense, the Lord’s people don’t just share a saved relationship to Christ; they are able to “assemble as a congregation” (1 Corinthians 11:18 Amplified Bible) and jointly participate in the Lord’s work.

We need to recover the importance that first-century Christians saw in the Lord’s church. In the local congregation, we need to see the essential nature of that arrangement as the Lord designed it. And beyond the local churches in which we take part, we need to value our connection to “the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17; 5:9) — a relationship bigger than the affairs of our own local assembly, and one, in fact, existing in heaven as well as on the earth (Ephesians 3:14,15). We hurt ourselves spiritually — and we hurt the Lord’s work of evangelism — when we undervalue the church.

Above all, we need to emphasize the sovereignty of Christ over the church. The church is “his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” God Himself made Christ “head over all things to the church.” To be a part of that body, then, is a privilege. And it means we submit to Christ’s headship lovingly, radically, and respectfully.

“Christ is the head of His church. His word is authority; all things relative to the church are at His feet. Its characteristics must, therefore, be Christ-determined. Questions must be Christ-answered; and problems must be Christ-solved . . . If it is important enough to be an issue, it is important enough to let Christ settle — that is, there must be authority for our conclusion in the New Testament” (Robert F. Turner).

Gary Henry — +

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