Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18, Colossians 2:14
Head of the corner (see Acts 4:11).
Head over every man (see 1 Corinthians 11:3).
Head over the Church, the Bride (see Ephesians 5:22-33).
Christ loved the Church - How can we as believers testify to this fact?
We must accept no human leader as head of the church. We must not recognize any temporal head of the body of Christ. Examples: Lordship of Christ, stars, messengers, letters to the seven churches (see Revelation 1:20). The headship of Christ is acknowledged when we allow Him to control the church's activities and allow Him to make its decisions. He must superintend every department. See Acts 11 and 13. The head speaks of authority and leadership. It is the seat of intellect.
Can the Lord guide the local church?
The Lord never fails to make His will and purpose known to those who patiently and diligently wait for Him. This may require deep prolonged spiritual exercise. It will slow down all activity sufficiently to allow New Testament principles to be carried out with New Testament power.
In James 4:2-3, James writes on prayer saying, “You have not because you ask not.” There is no power, no progress, and no fruit. James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lack wisdom (having no power, no progress, and no fruit), let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally (freely), and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” The local church should be enveloped in prayer. Those local churches who do not walk the path of dependence, prayer and patient waiting upon God will never have the privilege of seeing the great Head of the Church leading and guiding that local assembly.
One of the greatest sins among God's people today is that of vehemently affirming the headship of Christ with their lips, yet denying it in principle by their actions. This error is seen in Christendom. In some instances it can be observed in assemblies. A man, or a group of men, without an official title can rule ruthlessly over a company of God's people to their spiritual detriment. The Spirit’s work is quenched and ends in spiritual stagnation.
John warned of such a one in 3 John 1:9-10. Diotrephes was a brother who loved preeminence - the place reserved for Christ. With malicious words he spoke against John. He also would not receive God's servants and forbade the others in the assembly from doing so, even casting them out of the fellowship. Such conduct is a flat denial of the truth of the headship of Christ. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
The Reception Policy
All believers are members of the body (see Acts 2:47). The moment a person is saved, he is added to the Church as a member of the body of Christ. This membership transcends all bounds of race, color, nationality, temperaments, culture, social standing, language and denomination. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 is the classic passage to illustrate the unity of the body. The truth of the oneness of the body of Christ is a precious one; it is also very scriptural (see Ephesians 4).
Acts 2:47 “And the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.”
John 17:20-23 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through Thy word. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: there is one body.”
We are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit (see Ephesians 4:3).
The Local Church’s Part
How can we as a local church best witness to this?
We should receive all those whom Christ has received (see Romans 15:7). Receive one another as Christ has received the believer. Christ has already received a believer into the body. When a local church receives a believer into fellowship, it merely gives expression to this fact. Having said this, however, I would hasten to add that there are other requirements necessary, if we are to follow scriptural paths:
1. A person must be holy in life.
1 Corinthians 5:11 says, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” The Lord's Supper extends into the social sphere. Compare this verse with 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, which says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” If any of these sins were allowed in the assembly, it would misrepresent the holy character of the church. Therefore, believers who are guilty of these sins should not be admitted into fellowship. If we knowingly receive any such, we are guilty of grievous sin.
2. A person must be sound in doctrine.
2 John 1:10 says, “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” The person received into fellowship must subscribe whole-heartedly to the truths concerning the person and work of Christ, including His deity, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His substitutionary death, His burial, resurrection, ascension, and His coming again.
Although the doctrines of the one who is anti-dispensationalist, falling-away, and believes in baptismal-regeneration would not necessarily bar one from fellowship, they would restrict their activities, as it would be fatal to allow these things to be taught. We conclude then that a local church should receive into fellowship all born again believers who are:
- Holy in life
- Not under discipline by some other assembly
- Sound in doctrine
Life is the basis of fellowship, not light. Each assembly may interpret this a little differently, so let me give you a resume of the local policy.
A visitor is received as a visitor: (1) either by letter of commendation or the testimony of a responsible believer or (2) because of his own testimony. On the strength of either of these, he is welcomed to break bread for a limited period. Should this person decide to remain with the local church, the elders would arrange an interview, and if necessary determine if he is sound in doctrine, holy in life, and inquire as to the matter of baptism. The elders, being satisfied with his statement of faith, would then welcome him publicly into the fellowship.
The Lord’s Supper
There is a more delicate question that arises out of this, namely, “How do children stand relative to the Lord's Supper?” Let us take the hypothetical case of a young person who has made a profession and friends in the assembly, with good intent, bring that young person to the breaking of bread. Should he break bread? Before reaching a final decision, let us find out what the Word teaches. Consider 1 Corinthians 11.
The error or sin at Corinth is generally taken to be the unworthiness of the participant of the Lord's Supper. What is stressed in this passage is the fact that the sin in the life of the believer at Corinth should have barred many from participating in the supper, but it did not. We shudder to contemplate the unholy spectacle of drunken hands taking bread and cup. Also in 1 Corinthians 5:11, to those guilty of immorality or excessive greed, or an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber, Paul adds “with such an one no not to eat.” See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.
“For this cause,” says Paul, “many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (see 1 Cor. 11:30). We can understand the horror of this serious and sinful situation to a degree. But what many of us fail to see is that the great sin was “not discerning the Lord's body” (see 1 Cor. 11:29). A person not guilty of any of the aforementioned sins can be guilty of “not discerning the Lord's body.” We conclude then that an adult carnal Christian can partake of the supper, and be so spiritually blind as not to see the Lord's body in the elements.
Such a one should not participate (see 1 Cor. 11:28). The individual, in 1 Cor. 11:31, is told to examine himself and to judge himself. By the same token, it is possible for a young person, immature in so many ways, either through ignorance or perhaps innocence, depending on age and background to partake of the Lord's Supper and be guilty of the sin of “not discerning the Lord's body.” This “not discerning the Lord's body” is a very serious matter and God is going to hold someone responsible, whether it be the parents, friends, or the elders of the assembly.
Let me now express in few words the guidelines:
1. A young person, perhaps born again, if invited by friends in the assembly to attend the Lord's Supper, with good intent, should be made aware that they are coming as “observers” rather than participants.
2. Regarding children of believers in fellowship, it is, first of all, the duty of the parents to instruct the child over a long period, relative to the implications of partaking of the Lord's Supper, and before commencing to break bread they should be seen by the elders.
3. Closely related to participation in the Lord's Supper, I believe there arises the question of “fellowship” and “baptism.”
4. Consider Acts 2:41-42. If a child is not ready for these then there is grave doubt as to their readiness to partake of the Lord's Supper. [Let me explain the motive behind this very serious and delicate talk: Christ, the Head of the Church, has revealed certain things; we must comply. We do not wish to exclude anyone from any Christian privilege. But we have such a love for our young folks that we want to shield them from errors that will doubtless bring repercussions.]