King Jesus' Supremacy In The Church (Part 1)February 16, 2023 Ecclesiology 1 Comment
With ownership comes authority. That's a simple truism that I want to spend this article (and the next few) unpacking.
When Five Points voted to call me as the next lead pastor in November 2021, there followed a flurry of excitement and anxiety in our family. We were so excited as we anticipated all that the Lord might do for His glory in the years ahead. And we were also anxious about moving from our home in Warner Robins, Georgia and resettling in Northport, Alabama. And the first big ticket item? Purchasing a home. The housing market was a shark tank at the time, but by God's kind providence, we were able to find a home before November's end and the sale was finalized in early January.
Since Candace and I own the home, we have the authority to make decisions about it. Should we paint it? Replace the floors? Add on? Such questions are finally answered by us, not our kids. And we can correct our children when they misuse it. For example, one of our little ones went through a phase recently of leaving little drawings on the wall. Cute as they were, we had to make clear that drawing on the walls was out of bounds. We own the home and therefore we have the right to tell our children when they are misusing it. With ownership comes authority.
This same principle applies in King Jesus' relationship to the church. He owns the church and therefore He has the authority to decide what the church should be and do. If more pastors and church members would internalize this truth, we wouldn't see nearly as many churches ripped apart through ugly power struggles by divisive people.
So where do we see this truth in the Scriptures? Here are a few places...
In Colossians 1, the apostle Paul wanted the church in Colosse to see the unchallenged supremacy of Christ in all creation. The end of verse 16 and the beginning of verse 17 gives us a nice summary statement:
...All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Behold your King, Five Points! Jesus created all things and sustains all things for His glory! The reason why the planets are held in alignment and why our own planet hasn't spun off into oblivion is because King Jesus sustains us each moment by the power of His word. What supremacy! What strength! And it is this same Jesus, Paul says in verse 18, who owns the church:
And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. (Emphasis mine)
Paul has told us plainly that the church belongs to King Jesus. Why? Because it was through His resurrection that the church came into existence in the first place. That's what he means by the phrase, "firstborn from the dead". Jesus died and rose again so that He might have a people for Himself who are to the praise of His glory and grace (Ephesians 2:4-8).
This isn't the only place this is taught in the Bible. In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders:
Shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. (Emphasis mine)
Hear the language of ownership there? The church belongs to Jesus because He shed His own blood to purchase her. Again, this is good medicine for our souls.
Pastors don't own the church. Deacons don't own the church. Trustees don't own the church. Charter members don't own the church. Why? Because none of us have shed our blood for the church. But Jesus has. Position, status, or seniority count for nothing. The church belongs to Jesus. Full stop. Revelation 5:9 echoes the same:
Worthy are You (Christ) to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and langauge and people and nation. (Emphasis mine)
Notice also the authoritative way in which Jesus speaks to His churches earlier in Revelation 2-3. To each of the seven churches He gives clear directives which He expects to be obeyed. He even has the authority to snuff a church out of existence if it continually refuses to submit to Him! Speaking to the local church in Ephesus, the resurrected Christ warns the members there in Revelation 2:5...
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Removing a church's lampstand means wiping out its existence. And one needs only to see the scores of empty church buildings that litter the American Northeast to grasp the seriousness with which Christ takes the church. He will not allow a church that rejects His authority to continue on forever in that way. The point? Let us be a church that remains sensitive to the supremacy of Christ over us! Since King Jesus owns the church, He has the authority to make all the decisions about who we are to be and what we are to do.
But what does it look like, practically speaking, for a church to submit itself to Christ's authority? Thankfully, the answer is simple. We submit ourselves to King Jesus by submitting to His Word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16).
We often think of obedience to God's Word in individual terms. And rightly so! Each believer has the responsibility to read God's Word and then live their lives accordingly. But have you ever thought about a local church needing to obey the Word? The same Bible that speaks to individual Christians also gives directives to the local church. As a church, we must submit all of our practices to the authority of God's Word. The pyramid shows the nature of these relationships. King Jesus reigns supreme at the top. He has made His will known through the Scriptures. We submit to His authority when we seek to live underneath those same Scriptures.
In the articles that follow, we'll tease this idea out more and take a look at how King Jesus should reign supreme:
1. In our times of gathered worship
2. In all of our preaching and teaching
3. In the way we structure and govern ourselves
4. And in the methods we use to live on mission for Him
I want to hear from you! Why would you say it's important for a church to submit itself to Christ? What can happen when we don't do this? What are the blessings when we do?