John MacArthur: Jesus, the Head of the Church


Tonight, I — I’m going to give you a really
long introduction, and maybe even an exposition at the end of the introduction, if I have
enough time. But, this subject that’s been assigned to me, Jesus Christ the Head of the
Church, is a very, very serious subject. And I’m pretty confident that, just off the top,
it might appear to you to be somewhat benign. Somewhat ho-hum. Certainly we all know that
Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. So maybe we need to look at history a little
bit and find out just how benign this is or isn’t. Throughout history, I can honestly say there
have been some notable servants of the Lord whose name was John. And I’m happy to bear
the name, although I’m quite certain I don’t belong in the ranks of many who do. One is
John Huss. John Huss was, and is, well-known and loved by many who know Reformation history.
He was a Bohemian, north-east Croatia area. And he was a pre-Reformation Reformer. He
was actually born to peasant parents in Husseneck (now modern Croatia). At 20 years of age,
he shortened his name to Huss, which means ‘the goose.’ That nickname stuck. So firmly
did it stick that, a hundred years or so later, Martin Luther referred to Huss as (at his
martyrdom) ‘the goose being cooked.’ The day for the cooking of the goose was actually
July 6th, 1415. He was taken to the cathedral in Prague, he was dressed in his priestly
clothing, and then, when he arrived in public view, he was stripped of all his priestly
garments, one garment at a time. He was then tied to the stake, at which point his biographers
say he prayed, “Lord Jesus, it is for You that I patiently endure this cruel death.
Have mercy on my enemies.” He was heard reciting the Psalms as the flames engulfed him. His
executioners were so desirous of ridding the earth of every bit of this man that they actually
scooped up his ashes and tossed them into a lake, so that nothing of John Huss would
ever remain. Those who revered him, however, collected bits of dirt on the spot where he
died, and took them back to Bohemia for a memorial. Early in his monastic career, Martin Luther
was rummaging through stacks in a library, and he came across a volume of sermons by
John Huss. He wrote this: “I was overwhelmed with astonishment. I could not understand
for what cause they had hurt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much
gravity and skill.” End quote. In fact, Luther looked to Huss as a hero, because Huss taught
and practiced biblical doctrines that later became crucial to the Reformation, and also
was hostile to the church regarding indulgences. Why did they execute him? If he was as noble
as he was, what brought about this slaughter, this murder? A little biography: He decided, at an early
age, to become a priest because you were guaranteed a decent living. And, coming from abject poverty,
this was a good option for him, and so he entered the priesthood. He was bright enough
guy that, once he got into the priesthood, he got a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree,
and a doctorate, and he was then ordained in 1401. He became the preacher in Prague
at the Bethlehem chapel, which seated 3,000 people. He determined to preach in the language
of the people and not in Latin, which set him apart and made him very attractive to
the people. He was influenced by the writings of Wycliffe. And when he preached, he actually
discussed the Bible, “desiring to hold,” he said, “to believe, and to assert whatever
is contained in them as long as I have breath in me.” End quote. Eventually, he was forbidden
to preach. He was excommunicated. But they couldn’t get him out of the pulpit. So he
just kept preaching in the same Bethlehem Chapel. The longer he preached, the more heavily
he leaned on the Bible which, he proclaimed unequivocally, “is the final authority.” Powers
that be in the church, however, passed an edict that no citizen could receive holy communion,
no citizen could be buried on church grounds as long as Huss kept preaching. So, to spare
the people, he stopped. And, in 1412, he retired to the countryside, where he taught and wrote
feverishly. The most important treatise that Huss ever wrote is called The Church. It was
read completely in public in Prague. And it contained radical views: 1: That the church was made up of all the
predestined believers of all ages. During the time of Wycliffe and Huss, the official
position of the church was that the true church consisted only of the Pope, the cardinals,
the bishops, and the priests, and that common laypeople were not real members but only communed
with the true church as they received communion, which was, by the way, then limited only to
the bread. 2: In this same treatise on the church, he
said that the authority of the Bible is higher than the authority of the church. This, by
the way, was another radical idea in his day, and an idea that he drew from Wycliffe. It’s
interesting that his words regarding the authority of Scripture were later repeated, almost verbatim,
by Martin Luther. But the goose was cooked primarily because
he said that Jesus Christ Himself is the Head of His church. And, for that, they burned
him at the stake. He also said (which didn’t help), that the
reprehensible lives of disqualified men made them unfit for positions of authority in ministry.
And he took a swipe at the whole system. Huss believed Jesus was the Head of the church,
and that reprobate men were disqualified from any role of leadership whatsoever. In fact,
he argued particularly that Christ alone is the Head of the church and not the Pope, quote,
“who, through ignorance and love of money, is corrupt.” “To rebel against the Pope,”
he said, “is to obey Christ as Head and, in a manner of speaking, to lose your own” (head,
that is.) They burned him at the stake. They didn’t
behead him but the results are the same. The Bohemian people were furious over his execution.
They repudiated the council. They repudiated the church. The group that was so aggressive
in this repudiation of the church formed what’s called the Unitas Fratrum, the ‘union of brethren,’
which became the foundation for the Moravians, who would play an influential role in missions
and particularly in the conversion of the Wesley brothers, among others. So the truth of Christ’s headship, while it
may seem to us somewhat benign, is, in fact, not so at all. In fact, the preservation of
this truth has sailed down through the ages, to us, on a sea of blood. A century later, the young Martin Luther engaged
in the same fight. And his fight was for the honor of the true Head of the church. Luther
said this, quote (in Table Talk), “I am persuaded that if, at this time, Saint Peter in person
should preach all the articles of Holy Scripture and only deny the Pope’s authority, power,
and primacy, and say that the Pope is not the head of all Christendom, that they would
cause him to be hanged. Yea, if Christ Himself were again on earth and should preach, without
all doubt the Pope would crucify Him again.” The Roman Catholic Church, by the way, still
holds to the lies of papal headship and papal infallibility. Reading from Catholic dogma:
“The Pope possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and
not merely in matters of faith and morals but also in church discipline and in the government
of the church.” To explain that, out of their own literature, against the various forms
of Episcopalianism which limited the jurisdictive power of the Pope in favor of the bishops,
the Vatican Council declares this, quote: “If any one shall say that the Roman pontiff
has the office merely of inspection and direction and not a full and supreme power of jurisdiction
over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals but also
in those which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread through the
world, or assert that he possesses merely the principle part and not all the fullness
of this supreme power, or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate
both over each and all the churches and over each and all the pastors and the faithful,
let him be anathema.” Damn anybody who questions the Pope’s headship. A somewhat familiar Roman Catholic theologian
by the name of Ludwig Ott writes, “A true power, a universal power, a supreme power,
and a full power is possessed by any pope who can thereby rule independently on any
matter without the consent of anyone else. He himself is judged by nobody because there
is no higher judge on earth than he.” And, of course, Luther’s response to the papacy
was to say, “I owe the Pope no more obedience than I owe to Antichrist.” D’Aubigne, in his
History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, wrote this: “Luther’s rejection of
the Pope as head of the church inflicted the most terrible blow on Rome.” Calvin agreed.
Calvin said, “Some think us too severe when we call the Roman pontiff ‘Antichrist'” — that
from his Institutes. John Knox called the Pope an “antichrist tyrant over the church.”
Wesley identified the papacy as “the man of sin and son of perdition for exalting himself
above the true Head of the church, and even above God Himself.” He wrote that in his book
Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms. 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith, quote: “There
is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ, nor can the Pope of Rome in
any sense be head thereof but is that antichrist, the man of sin and son of perdition that exalted
himself in the church against Christ and all that is called ‘God.'” Now you get the idea that this was a real
battle, don’t you?; to uphold the headship of Christ over His church. Of particular interest
to me, I guess maybe MacArthur will tell you why (we have our own plaid), is Scottish history.
17th century Scotland, the same was waged over who is the head of the church. Was it
the Lord Jesus Christ? Is He the head of the church, or the king or queen of England? There
were periods of time, you remember, when England went Roman Catholic, and then it bounced back
to Protestantism, and the times it was Catholic it was the Pope being the head, and other
times it was the royalty. Blakey writes, in a book called The Preachers of Scotland, which
you can still find available, though written in 1888, and this is worth listening to: “The
attempt by the state” (that would be the English) “to force a new liturgy on the church, the
use of which should be binding under the highest penalties, showed a determination,” writes
Blakey, “to set aside Christ’s authority and tyrannize over His heritage over even the
most sacred region of worship.” What happened was the English Crown wanted to get control
of the Scottish, who were rebelling against them, and believed that Christ was the head
of the church, and so they wrote a new liturgy which was to be imposed upon the church by
the Crown. You may remember that in a famous incident
at St. Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile there, many of us have visited it, a lady
supposedly by the name of Jenny Geddes was there on a Lord’s Day at a worship service
when the introduction of this new book by the Crown was made, and she stood up in protest
and picked up a stool and threw it at the one who was presenting it. That launched a
serious riot. And the conflict really went on, and pretty intensely. It started in about
1625 and went on to 1675. It was really 50 years of battling over who is the head of
the church. Blakey further writes, “By the force of reaction, the church was thrown upon
the more full assertion of Christ’s claims as Head of the church.” They had to define
their theology in that environment. Who is the head of the church? “The more,” he writes,
“this truth was thought of, the more glorious did it seem.” So many times in the history
of the church, that’s what happens. When a truth becomes embattled and you begin to dig
in, and dig in, and dig in, the richness that comes out of it is something you never would’ve
discovered if it hadn’t have been in a battle! Blakey goes on, “Every vision of the apocalypse
acquired new interest when it was remembered that the true Head of the Church of Scotland
was no other than the glorious king, exalted to such honor there; the Lamb in the midst
of the throne, having on His head many crowns and surrounded by elders and living creatures,
and thousands of thousands crying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”
The men of those times did not, like so many now, deem it enough to recognize Christ’s
headship over themselves personally. They joined to that, with all the ardor of their
nature, His headship over the whole church. To repudiate the One was as great a crime
and as great a folly as to repudiate the other. To deny Him His place as King was to imperil
their personal relation to Him almost as much as to deny His atonement.” I’ve written a lot through the years about
the lordship of Christ. There’s a lot to write about it. I’ve written a lot about the lordship
of Christ over His people individually; that confessing Jesus as Lord is necessary to be
saved (that’s Romans 10:9 and 10). But here, we’re talking about something other than just
that. We’re talking about His lordship not over me personally, but over the church. And
I’m convinced today there are people sitting in churches for whom Christ is Lord personally,
but He’s not ruling in that church, as He would desire to do. Samuel Rutherford’s letters deal with this
issue. “The glow of adoration toward the person and the work of the Redeemer bears equally
on his relation to the church. The more that one delighted to think of His grace in relation
to oneself, the more was one bound to see to it that He sustain no insult and no injury
in His wider dominion. For the believer to join with those who gave over his authority
as king to earthly sovereigns was about as wicked as to join with those who set aside
his personal authority that they might personally serve the Devil, the world, and the flesh.
In this way, the controversies of those days disposed the preachers, mandated the preachers,
to be ever looking to an exalted Savior, and to be preaching One who had gone into heaven
and was at the right hand of God, angels, authorities and powers having been made subject
to Him.” The drama perhaps focused in John Knox, in Scotland. I would love to have met
him in those days. I think there’s something of me in him. But Knox once confronted Queen
Mary on this issue, and to say that he was bold would be an understatement. This is how
he addressed her. He addressed her as a “woman of stout stomach.” Now usually you don’t point
things like that out when your talking to any woman, let alone the king, or the queen!
In fact, he said, “She is a woman of stout stomach,” and he said this apparently in her
hearing, “who can’t abide the presence of God’s prophets.” And what had raised his ire
was this battle over the fact that Christ ruled the church and she did not. 1560 or
so, Charles I insisted that the Crown should rule the church, and Charles I went so far
as to order it in the kingdom, everywhere, that he would wear this title: Head of the
church. I was in the presbytery in Edinburgh, on the
Royal Mile just across from St. Giles where the Church of Scotland meets to conduct its
affairs. There is a sort of an awesomeness about it. And I went in with Eric Alexander,
who was having to say something there in defense of his doctrine. He was called on the carpet
for being orthodox, and he gave a speech about that, and to some effect that he basically
said, “The question is not why am I preaching what I’m preaching. But the question is why
are you people preaching what you’re preaching?” And afterwards I said, “Did it help?” and
he said, “No, but I felt a lot better.” But he gave me a little tour of the place and
I noticed that it’s very hierarchical — and there are seats, low seats, middle seats,
high seats — there’s a seat that would be up there. And I said, “Who sits there?” “The
king, or the queen.” Still there. The opposition became so fierce that the Scottish
people got together and produced a national covenant. It was signed originally by 60,000
of them. And you know what it said? “Christ is the Head of the church.” And heads began
to roll. And it was a slaughter. I’ve been in a little haymarket area in Edinburgh where
the massacres took place. I’ve seen the spears around St. Giles and across the street where
they put the heads of the Covenanters who said Christ was the Head of the church. Women
were drowned. Young women. There’s a wonderful story about a 17-year-old girl who would only
affirm that Christ is the Head of the church. They took her out to the Firth of Forth, and
they put her on a stake, and they drove the stake into the sand when the tide was out,
and they stood on the shore and asked her to recant before she was drowned. And, next
to her, they put an older woman, and they drowned together. People were chopped up.
They were hacked. And they were drowned. Children were tortured. One of my favorite stories is about Richard
Cameron, who was a Covenanter. And he was leading a strong opposition. They had, the
preachers of Scotland had been dispossessed of their churches, and they went out and held
what were called ‘conventicles’ out in the countryside. And if you wanted to go to church,
you had to wander out in the cold, find a moor somewhere, and a secretive meeting. And
these went on for years, and years, and years, and many of them tried to avoid being killed.
In one region alone, 400 pastors were killed. Only 37 survived. Richard Cameron is one of
my favorite characters and I’ve read his story from a number of angles. And one day he was
given a package and, in the package, he opened the package and in the package were two hands.
And immediately he said, “These are my son’s hands.” “These are my son’s hands.” And soon
followed his sons head. So when you think about Christ as the Head of the church, you
need to think a little a bit, like so many of the things that we have, of the price of
that great reality. A few centuries later, good old C.H.S — Spurgeon
— wrote this: “Of all the dreams that ever deluded men, and probably of all blasphemies
that ever were uttered, there has never been one which is more absurd and which is more
fruitful in all manner of mischief than the idea that the bishop of Rome is the head of
the church. No! These popes die, and how could the church live if its head were dead?” He
had a way of saying things so we all understood. The true Head ever lives and the church lives
in Him. He said further, “Christ did not redeem His church with His Blood that the Pope might
come in and steal away the glory. He never came from heaven to earth and poured out his
very heart that he might purchase his people; that a poor sinner, a mere man, should be
set upon high to be admired by all the nations, and to call himself God’s representative on
earth. Christ has always been the only Head of the church.” In a message he preached called
Jesus, Our Lord, he said this: “The church of God, in a very special manner, calls Jesus
‘our Lord’, for there is not and there cannot be any head of the church except the Lord
Jesus Christ. It is awful blasphemy for any man on earth to call himself Christ’s vicar,
and the head of the church. It is a usurpation of the crown rights of King Jesus for any
king or queen to be called the head of the church, for the true church of Jesus Christ
can have no head but Jesus Christ Himself. And I’m thankful there is no head to the church,
of which I am a member, except Jesus Christ.” Then he added, “Nor dare I be a member of
any church which would contend to any headship but His.” Jonathan Edwards weighs in on it: “Christians
are one society, one body politic, and they are subject to the same King, Jesus Christ.
He is the head of the church. He is the head of this body. Indeed, all men are subject
to the power and providence of this King, but those who are in His kingdom of grace,
all acknowledge the same King, own His rightful sovereignty over them, are willing to be subject
to Him, to submit to His will and yield obedience to His commands.” That’s a strong statement.
So you’re in the church. So you confess Jesus Christ as Lord. So you have confessed that
He’s not only your personal Lord — and that’s kind of a strange expression because it’s
not really a Biblical one — but in the individual sense that you have therefore questioned,
as well, that He is the Head of His church. And if that’s the confession you made at your
salvation, then, by that very confession, at its essence, you have given Him rightful
sovereignty over you, affirmed that you are to be subject to Him, submit to His will,
and yield obediently to His commands. Edwards went on to say, “Christ governs his people
in a peculiar manner. He immediately influences their wills and inclinations, and powerfully
brings them to a compliance with God’s commands and rules. They are a society united in the
same interest and concern. It is by the same covenant and promises that they have their
inheritance and that they hold their title to their enjoyments, as a people of the same
nation hold their temporal rights by the same rule, and citizens hold their rights by the
same laws. So Christians have the same common enemies that seek to hurt and overthrow. He
that is an enemy to one saint, as a saint, is an enemy to all. They are jointly called
to resist the same powers of darkness. The church here upon earth is an army that goes
forth under Jesus Christ. Obviously the people who voted him out of his church in Northampton
thought they were the head of the church. Modern liberal. Let’s get up-to-date. Theologians
deny Christ’s headship. How? He’s dead! If you don’t believe in a Resurrection, He’s
certainly not the Head of the church. He’s just a dead martyr. They deny His deity. They
would deny His resurrection. Therefore, there is no current reign. Therefore, there is no
authority being expressed by Him, and nor is the Word of God inspired. So, they’re in
the same category with others who denied His headship. Let me get a little closer to home.
The seeker movement strips Him of His headship, silencing His rule, by removing His Word from
its rightful place in domination of the life of the church and substituting anything and
everything else. As John Piper calls it, ‘evangelical slapstick.’
Even feminists deny Him His headship in the
church. Bible translators who tamper with the original text intrude into His headship
over His church. Emerging movement leaders deny Him His headship, celebrating what they
perceive as the Bible’s lack of clarity. That’s the key to mark the Emerging church. They
say, “Yes, Christ has spoken in the Bible, but we have no idea what He meant by what
He said.” That’s not helpful. “The head may be Christ, and He did speak, but we have no
right to say for sure what He meant and anybody who say that this is what He meant by what
He says is proud, intolerant, and divisive.” And the Emerging church will tell you they
exercise the hermeneutics of humility. “I’m too humble to say I know what the Bible means
by what it says.” Sounds like Rome to me. Rome said the Bible is unclear, and the only
way you’ll ever understand it is for the infallible Church to interpret it, because you can’t
interpret it. You don’t even know it in your own language. In fact, let’s kill William
Tyndale for putting it in your language. You can strip the Lord of the church of His rule
in the church a lot of ways, and it’s not just with bloodshed. Something current, from John Armstrong. Here’s
a quote: “Certitude is often idolatrous. I have been forced to give up certitude. If
there is a foundation in Christian theology, it is not found in Scripture. Theology must
be a humble, human effort to hear God, never about rational approaches to texts.” What
is that? Maybe you like Brian MacLaren, Generous Orthodoxy: “Shock and ambiguity often stimulate
more thought than clarity.” “Clarity,” he says, “is overrated.” And we chuckle about
those things because it’s so absurd. But how can the Lord speak to His church if we don’t
what He means by what He says? How can He speak to His church if He’s dead? How can
He speak to His church if you take the Bible out and you put in whatever else? Psychobabble,
self-help, therapy in a zillion forms. Current evangelical trends really do attack
the headship of Christ; an unwillingness, for example, to distinguish between the invisible,
true church and the visible, professing church. It’s so confusing now, in the contemporary
evangelical movement, that people don’t even want to find out who really belongs to the
church and who is under the authority of Christ. Entrepreneurialism tends to reign, where you
have a thousand little christs running their own little entrepreneurial thing and calling
it a ‘church,’ and it’s a product of human cleverness, creativity, ingenuity with a weak
gospel. Indifferent to propositional truth. Minimizing the Word of God. Christ rules through
His revealed truth, preached, applied, upheld. And at the same time, today, there is a growing
disdain for faithful mediators of Christ’s headship. Who are they? Faithful expositors.
Those are the mediators, the human instruments, the human agents that bring to bear the rule
of Christ to His church. True elders. True pastors. See, the faithful through history
have always preserved, by the Holy Spirit, the true understanding of, and devotion to,
the Head. Because it goes with being a true Christian. This is no benign truth. This is
no truth to be held lightly. This is what it is to be a Christian. And this is what
it is to be a church. And I understand the movement today much better if I just don’t
call it a ‘church.’ Somebody said to me, some whacky outfit somewhere named themselves Grace
Church and somebody asked me if it bothered me and I said, “Well it doesn’t bother me
that they said ‘Grace.’ It just bothers me that they use ‘Church.'” When anyone serving,
shepherding a church, deviates one step out of the revealed will and truth of the true
and only Head, he has declared a mutiny, a revolution, an overthrow, and has become a
rival of Christ. He is an adulterer, a seducer, trying to steal the bride. I told you I was going to give you a long
introduction! Non-biblical ministry, non-expository preaching, non-doctrinal teaching usurps Christ’s
headship, silencing His voice to His church and gives honor to proud independence and
autonomy as if it is a virtue. This approach strips the church of the mind of Christ, builds
indifference and ignorance toward the Scripture, prevents the preacher from being the voice
of the Lord to His church, removes protection from error and sin, eliminates transcendence
and clarity, cripples worship, produces compromisers, and cheats people of the glory of their Head
in all His fullness. Well. Okay, here’s my outline. Point one, you’ve
got to have a couple of these, three questions: What does ‘head’ mean? What does ‘head’ mean?
And for this, we can thank a little assistance from the evangelical feminists. They have
forced us to define the word. For two decades, they have worked to overthrow the clear, biblical
teaching on male-female order in God’s plan. They have indirectly assaulted the headship
of Christ over His church in their efforts because the headship of Christ is linked to
the headship of the husband, right? Ephesians 5:23, “The husband is the head of the wife
as Christ is the Head of the church.” So if the husband’s headship goes down, guess who
goes down with it? Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3 essentially says the same thing: “the husband’s
the head of the wife. Christ is the Head of the man. God is the Head of Christ.” In their
efforts, then, to strip men of their authority in the home and the church, they’ve stripped
Christ. For example, here’s the popular one: the idea that ‘head’, biblically kephale,
means ‘source.’ That’s a big one. That’s a predominant one. It means ‘source.’ It has
no connotation of ‘rule’ and no connotation of ‘authority.’ The man is the ‘source’ of
the woman. And what in the world does that mean? That’s goofy! A husband is not the source
of his wife. What about the in-laws? Didn’t they make some contribution to this deal?
I mean it’s nonsense! And there’s no linguistic support for this at all. We’re very thankful
for our encyclopedic friend, Wayne Grudem, who has, more than anybody in the history
of the church, dealt with this issue. In 1985, he studied kephale. Only he would do this.
He examined 2,336 examples of its use in Greek literature. He went all the way from Homer
in the 8th century B.C. to the church fathers in the 4th century A.D. Never, never, when
the word was used of a person and not a body part, never did it have any other meaning
than ‘governing, ruling authority.’ That’s what it means. And Scripture uses it in exactly
that way. To say that Jesus is Head is to say that He is Lord. To say kephale is to
say kurios. Now look at Philippians chapter 2 for a moment.
Philippians, chapter 2, verse 9, “Therefore God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him
the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of
those who are in heaven, and earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Now I want you to just think
about one thing here. God gave Him “a name which is above every name, that at the name
of Jesus” — this is not the name. Jesus is not the name. The name is the name that’s
above every name, and the name is clearly in verse 11. “Every tongue must confess that
Jesus Christ is,” what? “Lord.” Kurios. Kephale is kurios. To say He is Head is to say you
bow. You bow as an individual, and the church bows to His sovereign rule just like everybody
in the universe bows. Matthew 28:18, “All authority is given to Me.” So that’s what
it means to be head. It means to be in charge, governing authority, to be Lord, sovereign. Second point: who made Him Head? Who made
Him Head? Turn to Ephesians 1. And you can dig into these a little more for yourselves.
Time limits us. But look at Ephesians 1. This is so profound. Ephesians 1, verse 17, and
here the apostle Paul is praying. And his request is, verse 17, Ephesians 1 (I’m reading
the NAS here, by the way) that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.” One thing you need
to know is what’s important about Christ. He’s praying that God will help you to have
a full-orbed understanding of Christ. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory
of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward
us who believe.” This is about Christology. Paul prays, ‘I hope and pray to God that you’ll
have your Christology filled out.’ “These are in accordance,” verse 19, at the end,
“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.” And we’re talking
about this majestic, exalted, transcendent Christ, “far above,” verse 21, “all rule and
authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but
in also in the one to come.” Now follow verse 22. “And He put all things
in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which
is His body.” Now I want you to look very closely at this. The sovereign God who chose
us, called us; the sovereign God who gave us an eternal inheritance; the sovereign God
who empowered and regenerated us for salvation; the sovereign God who sanctifies us and will
one day glorify us; that God wants us to have a full understanding of the glory of Christ.
He raised Him from the dead, seated Him in glory — now let’s go back to verse 21 — “far
above,” huperano. Huperano. Ano is ‘higher up.’ Huper, ‘super high up.’ Infinitely above
all beings, all rule, arche (could be translated ‘firsts,’ ‘primary ones’), all authority (exousia),
all those who have the rights, the supreme rights, all power (dunamis), all dominion
(kuriates), lordships. He is not just above. He is far above. Infinitely above. In fact,
verse 22 adds, “He put all things in subjection under His feet.” It says it again in another
way to say that He’s over “everything.” And not for a while, but the end of verse 21,
“not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Now and forever, beloved, now and
forever Jesus is Lord. Now and forever, He is Head of His church. Colossians 2:19 says,
“He is the head from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints
and ligaments, grows with the growth which is from God.” He reigns universally in all
of creation. Now the language here is very careful, so go back with me for a moment to
verse 22. I want you to catch this language. “He put all things in subjection under His
feet.” Now listen: “and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” Did you get that?
He didn’t say ‘He gave Him as head to the church.’ He didn’t say ‘He made Him head of
the church.’ He said, look at it: “He gave Him as head over all things to the church.”
Wow! Auton edoken kephalen huper panta. The verb is followed by the indirect object. He
gave, God gave, listen to this, the one who was already head over the universe, to the
church, to be her head. Colossians 1:18: “He is also head of the body, who is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead, the one who has the first place in everything.” This is a
way of saying He gave His beloved, redeemed church the King of the universe to rule her.
What kind of idiot comes up with his own ideas in the church? What is that? This is the most
glorious kind of language by the Holy Spirit to express the love of God for His redeemed
church. Look! He didn’t give us Gabriel to be the head of the church! He didn’t give
us Michael to be the head of the church! He didn’t give us 10,000 really super angels
to be the head of the church! He didn’t give us 20,000 really creative angels to be the
head of the church! He didn’t just give us gifted preachers, teachers, theologians, and
evangelists to guide and lead the church! He gave us the King of the universe to be
our Head, and our Bridegroom, and our Shepherd. And we are His body. The fullness of Him who
fills all in all. All things in all. Filling. He filled us up with His headship. Fall on your knees, you popes. Fall on your
knees. Fall on your knees, you kings and queens. Fall on your knees, you self-appointed lords
of the church who lead it your way and not His. Fall on your knees, you who deny Scripture
or replace it with anything else. Take your place on the ground, you who put your own
creativity and will between Christ and His church. All who would deny His people, His
word, have silenced Him in His own church. If we had time, I would’ve preached on Ephesians
5. But can I read it? A little of it? Look at Ephesians 5. Just start at verse 23. “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. As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought
to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved
the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her
by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in
all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy
and blameless. So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who
loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and
cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we’re members of His body.”
Talk about intimate marriage. So how does He rule in His church? We asked
what does it mean to be head? Who gave Him that headship? How does He rule? He sovereignly
saves His church. He’s the Savior, verse 23, of the body. He “loved the church and gave
Himself up for her.” He sovereignly saves His church. He sovereignly supervises His
church. Verse 24, “the church is subject to Christ.” He sovereignly sanctifies His church,
verse 26, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with
the word.” He sovereignly secures His church. “And will present to Himself the church in
all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In that day, she will be holy
and blameless.” And he sovereignly supplies all His church needs, verse 29, “He nourishes
and He cherishes it.” Everything is in Him, the Head. Is it any wonder Paul said to the
Colossians, “See that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according
to the tradition of men, according to the elementary princes of the world, principles
of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all fullness of Deity dwells in
bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head.” A final word for John Calvin. In his Ephesians
commentary, page 198, I found this: “Hence, should anyone call us anywhere else than to
Christ, he is empty, and full of wind. Let us therefore, without concern, bid him farewell.
“The body,” the church, “will be in a right state if simply, the head, which furnishes
the several members with everything that they have, is allowed, without any hindrance, to
have the preeminence.” And I said I’d give Calvin the last word. Let’s pray. Oh God, our hearts are filled with joy and
delight, and a bit overwhelmed, almost breathlessly so, to know that you loved us, your Bride,
so much that You gave us the supreme Bridegroom of the universe to be our Husband, to be our
Lord, to be our Head in intimate leadership and direction, and that He fills us individually,
and He fills us collectively as a church. Oh God, all we want is that Christ have the
preeminence, that He rule and reign supreme in His church. And how our hearts ache that
that battle rages, and rages, and rages still, today; different form, different shape, different
issues. But, oh how Satan wants to silence the Head of the church, even in the church.
Triumph, Oh Christ, in Your true church. For your glory, we pray. Amen.

5 thoughts on “John MacArthur: Jesus, the Head of the Church”

  1. If He (and those who posted this on Youtube) understood the headship of Jesus Christ, He would not be a man standing behind a podium monologuing each time the body comes together. The body is directed by the Head (Jesus himself by the Spirit) and each one of the members would be communicating Jesus Christ to one another through the gathering. There would not me any pulpit, pew, program, preaching. There would be dialogue singing,teaching,discerning the voice of the shepherd, moving according to Ephesians 4:16 whereby each one is hearing Jesus for them selves. Ephesians 4:21..1 Cor.13:26-38 is the normal functioning body gathering. No tithing, no government tax receipts, no corporations, no religious buildings, no one man shows, and no spirit of confusion. Wake up

  2. This is a x side issue. Do you know that the neck tie that is wrapped around a man's neck is shaped as a phallic symbol? The neck in the bible speaks of one's will. Ye still necked and uncircumcised in heart..for example. So the priestcraft standing before you has a sex symbol around his will with out him even understanding it. That is how far the institutional gathering have gone astray.

  3. Tim, perhaps Dr. MacArthur would refer to this as the "charismatic movement." I take a middle stance between John's style of pulpit preaching and your style, if in fact I am understanding it correctly.

  4. Isaiah 53:5, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes, we are healed.
    For salvation, people just need to follow the way they did it in Acts? They were baptized in the water and of the spirit. Here's why! The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we are to follow him, we must do the same thing. Death= repentance, Burial = baptism, and resurrection = being filled and rising again from the dead. That's what Acts 2:38 is.
    We must obey the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that OBEY NOT THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ… Matthew 7:21-23, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that DOETH THE WILL OF MY FATHER which is in Heaven. St John 3:3-5, EXCEPT a man be born of WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter into the kingdom of GOD.
    We can't come up with our own gospel. Galatians 1:8-9, But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Don't be cursed. One way for all people. Jews, Gentiles, and Samaritan. Our salvation has to match-up with the scriptures and no scriptures on the subject can be taken away.
    Eternity is TOOO long to be WRONG! st John 5:39, Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
    The gospels show what Christ has done on the cross for us. The book of Acts shows us the beginning of Christ's Church and how to enter the Church, obeying Acts 2:38. The letters were written to the Church to show us how to behave now that we are born again into the Church.

    It's better to walk alone than to walk with a crowd going in the wrong direction. Are we supposed to follow the teachings of the apostles? Acts 2:42, They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrines. Ephesians 2:20, We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. If you believe in this message, help spread it in the name of Jesus Christ. God bless you!

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