Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 22
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|What is the Church? What does it mean that Christ is the “head”? How can we know we are members of the “true” church? Dr. Barber answers these and other questions as he continues his series in the book of Ephesians.|
Christ, the Head of the Church
We want to look at Christ, the Head of the Church in this study. Let’s go back and pick it up in the middle part of verse 19 after he says he wants us to know the surpassing greatness of His power. “These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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. And He put all things in subjection under His feet.”
He saw earlier that our Lord Jesus is seated in the highest place of honor; He is seated in the highest place of authority. He is seated in the highest place of Lordship. Christ is far above all things, and all things are far beneath Him. We touched on the fact that we can experience this Lordship, that He rules and reigns every day. We know that He is Lord. We know that He is in control.
I had a beautiful picture of this. I was in the Atlanta airport watching a man and his young son. You could tell what the father was doing. The father just wanted the little boy to run and get some energy out, because evidently they had a long flight. You could tell he had just turned him loose. That father was right beside that little boy. That little boy would take off and look back and just laugh, because he thought he was outrunning his daddy. That little boy would run looking backwards, and that loving father was running along with him. When he would see him about to run into somebody, he’d reach down and grab him up. The little boy would just laugh. Then he would set him down again, and that little boy would just take off. The big hands, the quick movement of the father was right there. He was absolutely in control of that little boy. One time he said to that little boy, “Now son, don’t go there. Don’t run that way.” The son looked around and just laughed. He was going to see why. He went that way and tripped and fell on his little face. You know the next part. He hit, scraped his nose all the way up his face. That father was quick to pick him up, put him over on his shoulder and console him. The little boy finally began to whimper, got quiet and rested in the arms of his father. I sat there in the airport, and I thought, “God, thank You for loving me like that. Thank You that Jesus rules and reigns. I am thankful, Father, that Your big hands are so quick to keep me from falling on my face. But I thank You, Father, for those times that you don’t use those hands and let me go on and fall on my face.” I saw both sides of that. “I thank You, Lord, that you are behind me. You are in front of me. You are over me. You are beneath me. You are within me. Oh, Father, thank You for Your rule and authority in my life.”
Oh folks, Paul wants them to see Jesus is in control. He’s far above all things, and all things are far beneath Him. You see, the world does not realize He is in control. He has not chosen yet to manifest Himself in that way to the world. Oh, He is, but they don’t know it. All the people that do things that come out of a reprobate mind, they think God is not in control. Oh, He’s in control. You see, you and I can be in on that control day by day. He rules and reigns in our hearts. To the degree I am willing to submit to Him is to the degree I recognize that, yes, He is in control, and, yes, He does want me to experience His reign in my life.
The Bible tells us we have three enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. Every one of them are conquered when we bow before Him because He is far above any rule or authority. Well, we are going to see how our majestic Lord, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, who has been made head of all things, has been given to the church.
The last part of verse 22 says, “…and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.” I want us to look at how He is the head of the church.
Before I get into it, I would like to give you a definition of the church. This is not a thorough study, but just to give you an idea of what the church is. It is something that belongs to Christ, as we will see later.
First of all, the Greek word for the church that is used there in Verse 22 is the word ekklesia. It comes from the word ek, and the word kaleo, which means to call out. In other words, the called out ones. It refers to those who have been called out for the purpose of being set aside for God’s use. It refers to believers. You see, believers make the church. Just because your name may be on the church roll, that doesn’t mean you are a part of the church. The church refers to those people who have been called out, cleansed by the blood of Jesus and have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, in our context, it tells us a lot about the church.
Verses 3-14 tell us that they have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ. That’s who makes up the church. They have been chosen before the foundation of the world. They have been predestined to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ.
They have been redeemed by His blood, forgiven of their sins and sealed with the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, in verse 13, it tells us that these are the people that make up the church. They have heard the message of truth, the gospel of their salvation, and they have believed it. They responded in obedience to it. These are the people that make up the church.
You say, “Well, do you mean that we may have people on the local roll that may not be a part of His church?” That’s exactly right. The universal church means somebody who has been called out. We are set aside. We are usable for God. That’s His church. Those are the people who have been cleansed and sanctified and set apart.
It means you have confessed Him as Lord. Look in Romans 10. Romans 10:9-11 very clearly tells us what a man must do to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s back up to verse 8 and catch the whole thought there. “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’”
Who makes up the church? People who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, by belief I am not meaning you understand everything. As a matter of fact, if we are to come to Him as little children, how can we understand everything? What little child understands everything? We receive it by faith. We do what He tells us to do. We believe it because God said it, and the Holy Spirit of God reveals to us that we are in need of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Look in Romans 3:23. We have confessed the fact that we are sinners. We can’t save ourselves. For people who are trying to work their way to heaven there is always a rung to the ladder they can never reach. Romans 3:23 says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That word “all” means “all.” There is nobody who escapes that. When a man realizes that he has sinned, he realizes he has come short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23 tells man that the wages of sin is death. He realizes what the Lord Jesus has done to come down and die on the cross. But He arose from the dead. That man believes in what He has done, trusting not what he can do, but what God did for him. That’s part of believing and receiving the Lord Jesus.
Look back in Romans 10:13. You called on Him to save you. I mean, if you don’t ask Him, its not something that is just going to happen. You see the need. The need is brought clear to your heart. It says in verse 13, “…for ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’” God said that. When you see yourself as a sinner, when you see that the wages of sin is eternal death, when you realize that Jesus came to die for you, and you confess Him as Lord with your lips and believe in your heart, then something is going to take place in your life. Salvation is going to take place. When it takes place, you are going to be a part of what the Lord calls the church.
Finally, in John 1:12, it says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
Revelation 3:20 talks about this. Some people say they are Christians, and some people say they are lost people. The principle is solid. It says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.” Do you realize what He is saying there? We have got to hear His voice. That’s the key. That’s the significant difference in being convinced that you need to be saved and convicted that you need to be saved.
When God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, lets you realize you are a sinner, there is absolutely no hope for you until you see that Jesus came to die for you. He reveals to you that Jesus is the Son of God. He begins to knock on your heart’s door, and you feel that need in your life. You say, “God, I’m empty. I’m absolutely empty.” Jesus says, “You must believe upon Me.” When you hear His voice, there comes with it the power to open the door. You open the door, and He comes in and dines and sups with you and becomes one with you for all eternity.
So what is the Church made of? It’s the called out ones. Who are the called out ones? Those who have heard the gospel of truth, the gospel of their salvation and have responded in belief. They didn’t understand it all. They just simply, by the conviction of the Spirit of God, have believed it. They fell down and did what God told them to do. That’s the Church.
Once we have the Church made up of people who love Jesus, people that are cleansed by His blood, people that have been set apart for His purposes and not for the world’s purposes, then we need to look at how Jesus is the Head of that group of people. I want to keep saying it over and over again. Your name could be on a church roll, and you not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Because your name is on a church roll doesn’t mean it is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They are two different books altogether. One’s going to burn, and the other one is going to stand. When it stands at the end of time, that’s when we will know.
All right, Jesus is the Head of the Church. Who is the Church? Set apart, cleansed people, people that want to let God use them and people that have received Jesus into their life as Lord and Savior.
There are three things we need to look at concerning Jesus as Head of the Church.
He sets the course for the Church.
Look back at Ephesians 1:22. It says, “and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” That little Greek word there for “head” is the term that generally means “the leader or ruler of something.” In other words, it means the one who is at the top that everyone is subordinate to. Everybody has to obey him. That’s what it means by head, the leader, the one at the top. Regardless of where you are found in His body everyone in the Church submits to Him.
Now, in light of the fact that He is the Head to which everyone in the Church submits, there are several things I want you to see. Look in Matthew 16:18. As the Head of the Church, He is the designer and the builder of the Church. “Oh, Brother Wayne, I thought we did that in church growth conferences. I thought that’s how you built the church. I thought that we sat in committees and figured out how to build a church.” Oh, no, He has the design, and He alone can build it. In verse 18 look what He says to Simon Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.’” Peter had just confessed that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He said, “No man told you that, but my Father in heaven.” He is not saying, “I am going to build it on you, Peter.” Oh, no. He is saying, “I am going to build it on what you confessed. A man’s got to confess that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
He says, “I will build My church.’” We can’t build it. He builds His church. He is the designer, therefore, He is the builder. As the head of the Church, He builds the Church.
He is the sole owner of the Church.
In Acts 20:28, not only is He the builder of the Church, He’s the sole owner of the Church. He holds the title deed. He says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” He purchased it with His own blood. He owns the title deed. The Church is lock, stock and barrel His. He is the sole owner of the Church.
I have people all the time saying, “Do you own your church property?” Well, yes, we do. Baptists are allowed to do that. We are autonomous, and I like that. There is not a Vatican that tells us what to do. We own our own property, so therefore, we can be pretty free in that situation. However, when it comes to the Church itself, the true Church, not the building, but the people that have believed in Christ, we are owned lock, stock and barrel by the Lord Jesus Christ. He shed His blood and purchased the Church. He owns the title deed.
In First Corinthians 12:28 He administrates the Church. “Oh, Brother Wayne, I thought the elders administrated the church.” Well, no, they are just there to make sure they are hearing what He has got to say. Many people say that elders are the only ones that can hear from the Lord. Oh, folks, we are of the priesthood of believers. The elders are appointed to make sure He is heard. They are making sure that He is doing the administering that He says that He will do. Look at I Corinthians 12:28. “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then the gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles.” Then he goes on and speaks of the diversity of the gifts in the Body God has appointed in the church. It was His business; He is the divine administrator.
As a matter of fact, there is a word that popped up in Ephesians that we’ve seen already. He is the man who manages the household. He is the one who purchased it. It is His own. He has the title deed to it, and He administrates it. It is His church. It is His property. In Ephesians 5:25 and 29, He loves the church and cherishes the Church. It is used in light of families and wives and husbands, but the truth is still there very clearly about Christ loving the church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Verse 29 says, “…for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,…” Boy, that’s a precious verse, isn’t it? He nourishes it and cherishes it. It is His property. He purchased it. He administrates it. Everything about the Church centers around the Head which is Jesus Christ.
In Revelation 2 and 3 He has a message for the church. Boy, I love what the apostle John saw. He saw the Lord Jesus standing in the midst of all those seven messengers, those seven pastors of the churches there. He held them in his hands. I mean, you talk about who is in control of the church. You talk about His authority being far above every name that will ever be named. Folks, that is the same authority that has been given to the Church. He is the head, the designer, and the builder of it. He is the sole owner of it. He is the one who administrates it. He loves and cherishes it, and He instructs it. It’s His church. Folks, that is comforting to me. Boy, you talk about security! Nail that one down. I belong to Him. I am His property. You belong to Him. As a local body, if we are filled with people who are believers, then this is His church, not the Southern Baptist, not the Presbyterians. It is Jesus’ Church, and He is the Head! He alone sets the course of the church to which everyone is to obey and who is to follow. He sets the course.
But then, secondly, He is the source inside the church. Ephesians 1:23 says, “…which is His body.” The term “body” in reference to the church is used eight different times in Ephesians. In 2:16 it says, “and might reconcile them both [Jew and Gentile] in one body.” We see how the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles there.
In 3:6 it says, “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body,…” We are a part of the body which is called the Church.
4:4 reads, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling;…”
In 4:11-12 it says, “He gave some…as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The body of Christ, the church, is to be equipped and built up in order that it might function the way it is supposed to function.
In 5:23, he uses it again. “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.”
Drop down to verse 30: “because we are members of His body.” Now we see in His body there are many nations and people because Gentiles make up most of the world. There are also Jewish people who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. All are made one in His body.
Now let me ask you a question. What is a body for? Well, we know that a body brings identity to an entity. When I think of my son, Stephen, I think of a long, tall drink of water with a big grin on his face looking for food. Every time I think of Stephen, I think, “Is there any food in the house?” I can shut my eyes right now and just see him embarrassed right now that I am talking about him. At the same time, I can see that big grin on his face. I can see the shape of his face. I can see his body. I can see Stephen who lives in that body, the body bringing identity to the entity that lives within it. That is what a body is for.
It is to bring visibility to the entity that resides within it.
The church is the body of Christ and as the body of Christ, His body, we are not to bring visibility to what we can do. We are to bring visibility to who He is and what He does in and through us. That is who the church is, the body of Christ. That is why He designed us like He did.
If you will look over in Romans 12 just for a second, we can see how He designed us. Boy, it’s a different kind of body, isn’t it? It’s not an organization.
In Romans 12:1 there is a presentation. There’s a renovation in verse 2. We are to be completely totally transformed from within. Then he goes on and says, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Verse 4 says, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Now remember, He is the source within the church. Since He wants Himself to be glorified through the church, He has designed it His own way. That’s why some preachers may have the gift of teaching, but it is different than some other preacher who has the gift of teaching. It is all a little bit unique. It is all a little bit different. Somebody has a little bit more exhortation than somebody else. The gifts are just varied. Paul gives the list of gifts here as we go on down through the passage.
When we are filled with the Spirit of God and His authority, which is far above all others that you can ever name, and it begins to operate in our lives, then what comes out of us is a gift that He has given. And guess what? We don’t get any glory for that. All the glory goes back to the One who reigns and rules in our life. He is the source within the church.
Christ sets the course for the Church. He is the Source inside the Church. Since He is the Source, He wants the recognition from the body bringing visibility to Himself, not to what we can do for Him. Folks, if we needed that, then why did He die to start with? It’s what He can do through us.
He brings the Force to all the Church.
Now when I say, force, I am not talking about “Star Wars.” Look at verse 23 of our text. It says, “…which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.” That’s a tough phrase, folks. What does that mean? One view is some people think that the Church completes Christ.
Ruth Paxon wrote a book on Ephesians, and she said this, “Jesus would have been as incomplete without His body, the church, as Adam would have been without Eve.” You know what? I believe there is some truth in that because the God man is to some extent incomplete without His body, the church. If that wasn’t so, what did He come to die for?
He came to die for the whole world. Once we believe in Him, He wants to minister life and truth through all of us.
That’s why I believe in John 14 when Jesus said, “You shall do greater works,” I don’t believe that means qualitatively. How are you going to top raising Lazarus after the four days? If you will study real carefully, He raised His own self from the dead. Who is going to top that? He was in one body and could only be at one place at one time. Now, He fills all in all, and the body is His completeness. Now simultaneously, He can be in Romania and Poland and America. Wherever He is, He is doing the works that He was doing before but now He is doing them in such a greater way. Jesus is not in one body now. He is in many filling all in all.
Now what Ruth Paxton says is certainly true, but there is another side. One side says the church completes Him, but the other side says, for sure He completes the church. That’s what I think He is saying here. The present tense is used when it says “who fills all in all.” Who is consistently filling all in all, controlling all in all? That is one of the reasons we exist. He is in us and continues to be in us and continues to fill all in all. He is the one who completes us. Do we dare think we might be that which completes Him in the work that He came to do on the cross?
So personally, I think both are correct, but I lean heavier on the last. He completes us. We exist because He is in us. We are His visible expression on this earth. You see, through us His character is expressed. Through us His life is extended. Through us His power is exhibited. He fills all in all. What we are not, He is. He sets the course for the church. He is the source within the church, and He brings force to all the church. He empowers His body which He purchased, which He has the sole title deed to, which He loves and cherishes and which He instructs. We are His. We are not our own.
He is the head far above all authority. He is far above all things. All things are far beneath Him. As the Head, He has been given to the church. We are the body to bring visibility, not to what we can do for Him, but to let Him do what only He can do through us.