The Head of the Church
I wanted to deal with these last two verses separately because of the subject they touch upon, which is the Church of Jesus Christ. We learned yesterday that the power whereby the Father raised the Son is the same power whereby He sat him at His right hand above all rule, authority, power, and dominion—which is to say, above everything. Our Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme with God the Father, and all things visible and invisible, the godly and the ungodly answering to the Son’s sovereign rule as the Father has “put all things under his feet.” Colossians 2:10 speaks to this same matter of Christ’s rule over heaven and earth. But here in 1:22-23, after speaking to this universal dominion of our Lord and Savior, Paul refers to a special dominion which Christ has over that which is most precious to him—which is his Church for which he shed his own blood.
There is a particular shortcoming among evangelicals and it has to do with an extremely reductionistic view of the Church, understood both as universal and local. Among many, the Church is seen merely as an organization made up of voluntary likeminded believers whose primary purpose is to spread the gospel. They may see the local church as providing other good things like fellowship, Christian education, mission projects, and the like. But their view of the Church is, in a word, functional, and so is reduced to its purpose and what it does. Some even go so far as to speak of the Church as a “movement,” eschewing any association of the Church as an “institution,” clearly disregarding not only the Scriptures but Church history and even common sense. It’s hardly different from the view the IRS takes of churches when judging of 501c3 status.
But the New Testament takes a more substantial view of the Church. Here, she (I like using that personal pronoun in regards to the Church) is called Christ’s “body,” clearly indicating that there is a REAL spiritual bond between the Lord and His Church. Indeed, she is both filled with him (Colossians 2:9) and in some mysterious way fills him as is indicated here in 1:23. In Revelation 19:7, the Church is called our Lord’s “bride.” Thus, the church is no mere organization for spreading the gospel, as important as that is, but is a real spiritual body that the New Testament speaks of in organic terms when relating that body to Christ; that is, that it is His body. The Church (both universal and local) is united to her Lord in such a way that her existence is far more significant than any other institution in society, excepting the family. She’s not “just” anything; she is his body and fullness.