“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn
from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
With a smile and twinkle in her eye my friend tells me: “I’m a CEO!” She knows that I get what she’s saying. I know I will see her in church Christmas and Easter Only. She’s a CEO.
I understand where my friend is coming from. I do! Like most pastors I’ve known, I’ve had my bouts with the church. And I am a Baby Boomer, schooled on the motto, “Jesus, Yes! Church, No!” I’ve been there, done that!
But I have come to appreciate the great importance and role Jesus assigns the church in history. In today’s scripture we see the dramatic move from Jesus as Creator and Lord over the old creation, the cosmos, to Jesus as Creator and Lord over His new creation, the church. Paul’s thought is moving from old creation to the wondrous new creation. If we think the old creation all around us is spectacular, just wait till we see what Jesus is doing in His new creation.
Jesus delights in His old creation, the cosmos, in the way an artist delights in his or her creation. But it is the new creation, the church, that Jesus loves and for whom He gives Himself. The church is the love of His life! The old hymn gets it right in celebrating the church:
“From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.” (Samuel Stone, “The Church’s One Foundation”)
Today’s scripture takes us up several octaves in the Christ Hymn, introducing us to Jesus’ intimate and organic relationship with His church: “He is the head of the body, the church.” I am reminded of that day the risen Jesus challenged Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, demanding: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus takes it personally! He does not ask, “Why are you persecuting the church?”, but asks, “Why are you persecuting me?”. The church is bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh; Jesus is the head giving life to His body. New Testament theologian F. F. Bruce makes plain the vital unity of Christ with His body, the church:
“Christ and His people, that is to say, are viewed together as a living unit; Christ is the head, exercising control and direction; believers are His body, individually His limbs and organs, under His control, obeying His direction, performing His work. And the life which animates the whole is Christ’s risen life, which He shares with His people.” (F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians)
Yes, the church is made up of sinners, but of reconciled sinners. The coming of Christ into the world as God’s image continues today through His body the church, as we image Christ in the world. Our new life in Christ is the beginning of God’s new creation, the new life Christ ultimately brings to the entire cosmos.
I had a pastoral mentor who, when asked by a stranger what he did, would say: “I work for a global enterprise that has outlets in every country. It builds hospitals, orphanages, schools, does justice work, deals in the area of behavior alteration, and seeks to bring about world peace.” When the stranger would ask my friend in amazement what that global enterprise was, he would happily respond: “It’s called the church!”
Yes, it is called the church. For there are two glorious dimensions to Christ’s coming into the world! One is, God humbled Himself to become one with us; the other is, God raises us up with Him into something grander and bigger than we. He comes down to raise us up!
- What are your thoughts about the church, the body of Christ?
- What is your relationship to the local church, the body of Christ?
- What are Christ’s thoughts about the church, the body of Christ?