Christ - The Head of the Body

We read nothing of any “Body of Christ” (in the sense
in which we are now considering it), until Christ is a man in heaven.
Figure, as of course it is, the appropriateness of the figure depends
upon this, that it is a relationship to Christ as Man of which it
speaks. Being a figure, we are to examine its force as such, as
Scripture develops it, expecting to find in it the instruction which
all figures have: for, as in Israel’s history, the “things that
happened to them” (not merely can be used in a typical sense, but) “happened to
them for types” (1 Cor. 10:11), so we may be sure also that in nature
everywhere, according to the design of God, the clothing of the natural
is but the veil of the spiritual; nor shall we “materialize too much”
by allowing the glory of the light to shine through its earthly

This at once reminds us that the Lord compares
His body with the temple of God, “Destroy this temple, and in three
days I will raise it up: He spake of the temple of His body” (John 2:19
and 21). And this is directly in the line of John’s testimony, that
“The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us; and we
beheld His glory,—glory as of an Only-begotten with the Father, full of
grace and truth” (chap. 1:14). Here it is said, “was made flesh,” not
because He assumed nothing but a human body, but because in taking
flesh, He came within the sphere of human observation and
knowledge,—here the direct revelation of His glory began: He was in the
world and the light of it.

The body prepared Him was as the
instrument of His Spirit by which His words and works made known the
unique obedience which proclaimed Him the Second Man; while over all,
through all, shone, in strange yet blessed harmony with this, the
higher glory. Thus the body of Christ was the tabernacle or temple of
God on earth.

Now the apostle, speaking of the
responsibility of Christians, as flowing from their relationship to
Christ, uses the same figure and connection of thought. The Church, as
baptized by the Spirit of God, is one body, and that the body of Christ
(1 Cor. 12:13, 27). Christians are also the temple of God for the same
reason, the Spirit of God dwells in them (chap. 3:16). These thoughts
are here no further connected, but in another place in the same epistle
(chap. 6:15–20) he does connect them further, and applies them to the
individual Christian and to his body as indwelt by the Holy Ghost.
“Your bodies,” he says, “are members of Christ...Do ye not know that
your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye
have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price;
wherefore glorify God in your body.”

Here in the Christian,
as in Christ, the body is the temple of God, He being glorified in it
by the devotion to Him of those members in which humanity even in its
highest faculties is manifested. The practical life glorifies Him, not
only in the character exhibited in it, but this as the fruit of divine
grace acting in virtue of Christ’s blessed work, and by the Spirit of

It is not, of course, of the Church that the apostle is
speaking, but of the individual; and therefore it is that he says that
“your bodies are the members of Christ”—he could not go
further. Yet the basis is the same, the being “joined to the Lord” by
the Spirit; and the individual is thus in the same way the temple of
God as the whole Church is. Thus far, at least, the individual
represents the whole, the “living stone” represents or shows the nature
of the whole building.

As the “body prepared” Him was that
in which the Word was manifested, and the Life, thus seen, became “the
Light of men,” so now in the night of His personal absence, He has a
Body in which (though not in that original brightness) the same Light
shines. Thus the Body of Christ is always spoken of as here, in the
place of manifestation. The Church is “the epistle of Christ, read and
known of all men, written with the Spirit of the living God upon fleshy
tables of the heart,”—written with the rays of that glory hidden from
the world, but to faith unveiled: “for God who caused the light to
shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give out the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
(2 Cor. 3–4:6). Thus “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16): in the
body of Christ, as energized by His Spirit, and controlled by the
unseen Head in heaven, the life of Christ continually renews itself on
earth. For the body speaks of living activities, of an organic unity in
which communion is wrought out in the ministry of every member to the
whole: for no member of a body liveth. to itself, and the love of
Christ to His own is reproduced in the mutual service which is love’s
outflow, and for which He who knows best our interests has provided by
the variety and inequality of the gifts He has given, that we may be
bound the more together by our mutual dependence.

Such is
the Church which is Christ’s body, in the thought of it which Scripture
gives. The hindrances to realization of this, Scripture dwells upon
also fully, and we are made to feel them painfully and continually. But
these do not come within our purpose to consider now; as, indeed, it is
not even the Church itself which is the object before us, but Christ in
His relation to it. This, while it is in Him unspeakable condescension
and grace, is even thus His glory forever, and shall fill the hearts of
all the hosts of heaven with His praise. Yea, “unto God” shall “be
glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all the generations of
the age of ages” (Eph. 3:21, Gk.).

In Corinthians
the Church is contemplated in its order, fellowship, and service. It is
the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), and therefore Christ is its Head,
but the Head is not explicitly brought before us, save incidentally,
“nor again the Head to the feet, I have no need of you.” I apprehend no
difficulty in applying this to Christ. The Church is, in that divine
purpose which is the glory of divine grace, His “fulness:” the Head
must have a body; and it is because of this wonderful relationship,
that it is said, where speaking of the unity of the body
notwithstanding its many members, “so also is the Christ.” Some are beginning to apply even this to the Church exclusively—“the anointed Body.
And they tell us even that, its being the complement of Christ is not
the idea of Scripture, and that, if here we take in Christ, the eye and
ear which the apostle instances as parts of the body would belong to
the Head; but even in Ephesians and Colossians the “Body is looked at
as complete in itself, though deriving” from Christ. Nay, even “the
force of ‘He gave Him to be Head over all things to the assembly which
is His body,” is said to be only “that He might in all things have the
pre-eminence—be chief.” “All these things,” it is finally urged, “are
only human figures;” “we have been materializing too much.”

it is granted, at once, that the “body of Christ,” as applied to the
Church, is a figure, and therefore also the Lord’s headship. They are
figures of realities, to convey which all words are feeble. To
materialize them would be profanity; but to take them as language the
most suited that could be found to make us know what may be known and
what God would have us know,—to take them at their fullest worth,
therefore, instead of diminishing that worth, and so casting slight
upon the communication of the Spirit who gave them,—this is what surely
becomes us. The apostle himself assures us that we do “see by means of
a mirror, in an enigma” (1 Cor. 13:12, Gk.). Must we not, therefore, scan the more closely, look the more needfully into, all the words of the enigma?

it is certain, the apostle uses these terms, “head” and “body,” very
distinctly and determinately, in reference to the relationship between
Christ and the Church. They are words not once merely, or casually
used. We can see, indeed, that the figure fails before the full
reality: for the body has to grow up to the stature of the Head (Eph.
4:15), and from the Head all the body maketh increase to the upbuilding
of itself (16). Yea, Christ nourisheth and cherisheth the Church: for
we are members of His body (5:29, 30). And in Colossians we have a
similar statement (2:19).

Thus the Body does surely “derive
from the Head;” but that does not show that Headship of the body does
not (so we are told) express authority. Certainly it is the very thing
which in relation to the body the head would express; and
this is, I think, why the apostle can speak of the eye and ear as in
the body rather than the head. For eye and ear are not the governing
part: the hearing ear goes with the spirit of obedience; it is the very
part anointed with the blood in the Old Testament to express this.
While the Church sees also, and is governed intelligently. But the head
presides—governs. The crown is put on the head. To say, “not even the
head16 to the feet” is to say as much as can be said.

“wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord: for the
husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the
Church” (Eph. 5:23). Will it be said that here there is no question of

Mere authority, it is true, does not
give the proper thought of headship, which springs out of relationship,
with common interests, and generally implies a representative
character. Head and body, while of course they may be contrasted with
one another as such, are yet in union so intimate that any completeness
of one without the other could only be the completeness of a corpse.
Scripture certainly does not contemplate it as to the Church in
Corinthians, as we have seen. It is negatived three times over by “the
Head to the feet,” so also is the Christ,” and “ye are the body of

We might leave the passages in Ephesians and
Colossians to speak for themselves; only it is good to realize how God
in them would lift us up as much as possible to the height of His
glorious thoughts. Thus in Ephesians (1:22, 23), “He put all things
under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church
which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” There
are the words, but how are we to interpret them? That Christ should be
Head over all things,—that is not difficult to understand if He be what
He is, the Creator of all things, the One for whom all was
created, the One by whom all things subsist, and, yet again, the One
who has been pleased to link Himself eternally with this creation of
His by the manhood which He has assumed. But the apostle says, “Head
over all things to the Church:” why and how “to the Church”? That
cannot mean to limit what is absolute. It cannot mean (what would be a
small thing to say in such connections as we have here) that to the Church God
has made Him preeminent in all things,—even if that were the meaning of
“Head over all.” No, but this headship over all shows the fulness of
His resources for that to which He is Head in such sort 17 that it is His Body. The Head over all is Head to a
people so by the Spirit united to Him, that they are one with Him as a
body is with its head; thus His fulness, as the head must have a body
in order that there should be a complete man. Yet, most marvelous to
say, He who is in relation to this Body as His fulness, is Himself
divine and filling all in all!

We can trace these thoughts
in Colossians also, though with characteristic difference of
presentation: “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead
bodily, and ye are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality
and power...the Head, from which all the body, by joints and bands
having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with the
increase of God” (Col. 2:9, 10, 19).

It has been said by
some one that we never read of the body of Christ in heaven: and true
that is, surely, of the whole present time. The Church is not yet in
heaven, and is never spoken of as part here, part there. The condition
of the dead is not the question, though every saint absent from the
body is present with the Lord. But against the Church the gates of
Hades cannot prevail; and it remains upon earth until caught up to meet
the Lord in the air, completed then by the recovery of all the many
that in the meanwhile have been removed by death.

Till then
the Body will not have reached the full stature of its blessed Head, so
as to be perfectly fitted to Him, a work which is now being carried on
by the continual energy of the Spirit of God, working by the gifts of
His grace to accomplish this result. When this is
accomplished, we cannot for a moment suppose that what has been
carefully wrought out will come to an end, and serve no eternal
purpose. We might as well think that our own bodies, perfected by the
change of the living or by resurrection from the dead, will then have
fulfilled their purpose and be laid aside forever. Into the future of
each we are indeed given to see little; but this should no more in one
case than the other, hinder our belief in that future. We feel also
that we can evidently infer from the service of the body here, a good
deal as to its future purpose. What the body is to us now, that (only
perfected) will it be to us forever. May we not as rightly infer that
what the Body of Christ is to Him now, that (only perfected, for
perfected we know it is to be) it will be to Him forever? And we have
seen the actual link in meaning between our bodies and His: the
scripture figures given us of God for our instruction may be counted on
to instruct and not deceive us.

The body is the servant of
the mind, and in all its parts speaks of special adaptation to its
various needs. As we think of it often, and prove it in the diseased
and maimed conditions which are the result of sin, we may deem it
little beside a hindrance to the activity of the soul—a clog upon it.
Yet the simple fact that we are destined to an eternity in the body
should make us dismiss such hasty inferences. The body is, as we are at
present constituted, a necessity even to the work of the mind itself in
many ways; and the mind trains it, disciplines it, as well as uses it
according to its will.

In how much
may one apply this to the Body of Christ, while of course fully
remembering how entirely it is of grace, not of necessity, that He is
found in such relationship as this implies with men His creatures.
Here, indeed, how often seeming an obstruction to His will, the light
of life how little shining out of us so as to be His commendatory
“epistle” in the world, the Body how little, as to display, the temple
of His glory yet! Still, the very discipline of His hand upon us, the
experience of a grace which abides with us and does not give us up, the
learning however slowly and imperfectly, something of His path, His
cup, His baptism, all this assures us, of what His word reveals—a
purpose to have us with Himself and for Himself, a drilled,
disciplined, at last perfected “Body,” through which His Spirit will
work out purposes of His love, of which as yet we can know little, but
which will reveal a special, divinely given oneness with Himself, in
which He will be glorified, His heart satisfied, as He sees in it the
fruit of the travail of His soul. And to God shall be glory in the
Church by Christ Jesus, through all the generations of the age of ages.

16 If
the body is “complete in itself,” and Christ is not here the head, what
is this “head of the church,” (if it mean any thing) which is not

17 τις eστi τo σoμα αvτου~.