22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:22-23 (NIV)
Could the Church rise and fall—just like the Roman Empire? In the West, the Church is currently so weak that it is easy for her members to feel marginalized, voiceless, and having no authority. More worryingly, the concomitant feeling can even be that, in practice, Christ Himself has no control over the crises of the age, either. Of course, all Christians know, at least in theory, that this is not true. But they need to be reminded of the full force of His authority—a sovereignty that extends beyond merely the walls of the Church.
Ephesians 1:22-23 speaks of Christ as the head and the Church as the body. It is tempting to “read back” modern understandings of the head as the home of the brain, which controls much of the body’s functioning. But it is not likely that Paul had modern physiology in mind as he developed his metaphor. It is more probable that “head” refers either to “authoritative ruler” (as in “head-teacher”) or to “source” (as in “head of a river”). Much scholarly debate has occurred over which of these might be more likely. In Ephesians, at least, the former idea is dominant (see 5:22-24: since Christ is her head, the Church must submit to Him).
Paul presents the authority of Christ as a gift to the Church. He emphasizes the following truth: Jesus is Lord over everything in the universe, not just the spiritual or religious matters that concern Christians (vv. 10, 22b). Stated differently, the Church’s Lord is Lord over all. For the first readers of Ephesians, this would have been a wonderful encouragement and comfort against fear of the powers, dominions, authorities, and titles over which Christ has been made head. They are firmly under His feet, and He, as head, has been given to them.
Ephesians is as true today as when it was written. No matter what powers of darkness are at work in the world there should be no cause for fear or intimidation in the mind of the Church. By the grace of God, Christians have a unique and intimate relationship with the One who is in charge: of history, of domestic politics, of international affairs, and of the universe as well as of His people. Jesus is the head, and the Church is His body.
All preaching, praying, and action are emboldened by this truth. Christ is not head of a marginalized and declining movement, because He is not a Lord who fails. He is head of everything. He will make certain that His sovereign mission for the nations is being carried out through His chosen and beloved vessel: the Church.