In Lesson 1, we began a series on ecclesiology – the doctrine of the church. We learned that biblical doctrines are interconnected. That is, they are intimately related to each other. For example, one cannot study the church without studying salvation, Christ or the authority of scripture.
We also learned that a local church is made up of things ‘seen’ and things ‘unseen’. Typically, what is seen are those things we do: preaching, teaching, evangelism, missions, worship, prayer, giving, attendance and fellowship. The things unseen are those things that go on behind the scenes or internal attitudes such as a high view of God, absolute authority of Scripture, sound doctrine, personal holiness, spiritual authority, humility, submissiveness, love, joy peace, self-discipline, and accountability.
Two passages illustrate the danger of having an outward form of Christianity (that which people see) without the inward reality of Christ (the attitude of the heart). In Matthew 7:15-23, for example, Jesus teaches us that many will come to Him saying “Lord, Lord” but He, in turn, will tell them to depart because He did not know them (even though they called Him Lord).
What’s wrong with them? Why will they be turned away? Because even though they outwardly used the right language and did many things in His name, inwardly they practiced lawlessness. Mark 7:5-13, 17-23 is another example. In this scene, Jesus had a run-in with the Pharisees and scribes. The Pharisees complained how Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands. These religious leaders had added rules and regulations on top of what God had commanded (also known as legalism). These religious leaders had developed their own brand of righteousness, but it was merely outward. So, Jesus called them on it; He exposed and rebuked them by saying, “You honor me with your lips but your heart is far away from me.”.
In both instances, men focused on an outward form of godliness. But as Paul would warn Timothy, some 30 years later, men will be “holding to a form of godliness, although they will deny its power…” (2 Timothy 3:5).
I say all of this because we live in a day and age when the church is basically a mile wide and an inch deep. Churches measure their success by the number of people in the congregation and not the Christlikeness of its people.
So, who is in charge of the church? Who runs the church? What does He have to say?
These are important questions and we must answer all three of them. The answer to this question is threefold: first, Jesus Christ is the Head, second, His word is our authority, and third, God ordains elders to lead the church through the ministry of the word.
There are a number of images and illustrations that tell us who is in charge. Other than ‘Master’ and ‘Lord’ here are a few:
• Romans 6:17-23 – the Master / Slave image
• 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 and 2 Corinthians 3:6 – the image of a Servant
• Matthew 16 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – the image of God as Owner
But I want us, for the sake of answering the question, to look at the image of Christ as Head.