Colossians 1: 12-20
RWMcC I wondered if we could enquire together about the matter of the headship of Christ. In thinking over this occasion and what might be before us, a thought came to me about headship and lordship, and I realised that I did not know the difference between the two; I could not think it through. So I wondered if we could briefly contrast, or distinguish between headship and lordship, and then think about the headship of Christ. There has been a lot of ministry about headship, and I find that I do not know very much about it; so it must be taken up in the spirit of enquiry, and the desire to learn a little bit more about it. One thing that struck me, when I studied it, is that headship and lordship are centred in one blessed Person, the Lord Jesus. They convey two distinct ideas - I am quoting there, FER vol 4 p173. Lordship represents in a man the authority of God - the Lord has subjects and servants, and so on; whereas headship involves more the thought of relationship, and wisdom, and a source of supply. I think headship is a wonderfully great thought. I think we would understand from Scripture that lordship is for time. The scripture in 1 Corinthians 15, where it speaks about the Lord giving up the kingdom would bear that out, I think; whereas headship is a great eternal thought, and goes on right through. So we can get a sense of the greatness of headship, what God is expressing in headship, when we think that, in the eternal state, the emphasis is not so much on the assertion of authority and rule as on headship and subjection.
Headship is seen in the Lord Jesus Himself. There are a good number of references to it in Scripture. This chapter in Colossians is bringing out, and opening up the headship of Christ personally; you read it and you see how great a Person He was and is. There are many, many aspects of headship, and we might touch on some of those as we go on; but I thought it would be good to get a view of Christ as Head, His personal glory, His personal suitability. It gives this list of things, and it has been said that where it says that the Father has “translated us into the kingdom of the son of his love” the kingdom is where headship is worked out (JT vol 38 p116); and then there is this list of things which all draw attention to Jesus, and promote His personal qualification and beauty to us. There is the thought of creation, and then the thought of thrones and lordships, and so on, and “he is before all”. It says that He is “firstborn of all creation”. He is the One who set it all on; so He is Head in that way. And then it goes on to the clause that particularly drew me to this scripture, in verse 18, where it says, “that He might have the first place in all things”. I think that would be the desire of the Lord for our time together; perhaps I myself might grow in that, “that he might have the first place in all things”. So we have different aspects of the Lord’s headship, and in Colossians I think it has been suggested also that it is the collective side; it says, “he is the head of the body”. The Lord is Head in many ways, and people better than me have developed each of these thoughts over many occasions, and so there is a lot to cover. His headship has been spoken of as moral; He is morally qualified to be Head; and He is Head in the created order. The moral side comes out in Romans, and the created order comes out in Corinthians, where it says, “the Christ is the head of every man, but woman’s head is the man, and the Christ’s head God”, 1 Cor 11: 3. Then we have the personal side in Colossians; and Ephesians has been described as His official headship. These are all very great thoughts, but I thought that if we focus our minds on the greatness of His Person, we might get help together.
DAB I cannot say how thankful I am for what you suggest, because I have been praying that the Lord would give us a word about this very subject. I have been very interested to re-discover that it was in fact the point of light that led to what we speak of as the recovery, that - to pick up one aspect - every believer, by virtue of having the Spirit, is united to Christ; and by the death of Christ, separated from the head we had in Adam. And then the church is viewed in the same way because, “in the power of one Spirit, we have all been baptised into one body”, 1 Cor 12: 13. So that the collective side which you have in mind is the product which each of us should have arrived at by receiving the Spirit?
RWMcC Yes. I suppose we come to know Jesus as Lord before we recognise Him as Head. I have felt for myself that there is a need to understand headship better. It seems to have this individual and collective bearing. As you say, the recovery of the truth that we have been blessed to have had opened up to us involved that, a Head in heaven and a body here.
DAB It sets us up in an entirely different way, does it not? If I can refer to it again, I suppose we all understand the idea that Adam is head of the race, because we are all descended from him - not only physically, but morally. It was “by one man sin entered into the world” (Rom 5: 12), and we have all been “constituted sinners” (v 19), because that man is head of the race, the fallen race. But God has dealt with that in the death of Christ and, in the wonder of His purpose, He has set on something new through the coming of the Spirit, which unites us to a Man in heaven, and, by that means, to one another. And that sets fellowship in an entirely new way, and you would look for the unity and dependence and making way for His mind which an understanding of that would bring.
RWMcC Yes. I think it has been said that there are only two who can be considered head of the race; that is, Adam and Christ. Adam, because he was the first and we know what we have all inherited from that; and in a sense we carry that with us until the Lord comes. But the Lord is Head in relation to a new order and condition and that is how it is to affect us, through the wisdom that comes from the Head
PM Adam was established as head positionally, was he not, but he had not the resource to maintain it? But Christ as Head has all the resource, and does not this passage bring that out, that He has a resource to maintain all that He has been appointed Head over?
RWMcC Yes, I was thinking of what it says somewhere in the prophet, “He shall bear the glory”, Zech 6: 13. Everywhere you look, Christ is qualified to be Head; in every aspect in which he is viewed as Head, He is fully qualified. In the greatness of His Person, He set creation on; He was before Adam. I think that is what this scripture touches upon.
PJW Ephesians says, “from whom” (Eph 4: 16), and I was thinking that everything comes from that glorious One; and nothing will nourish the body but what comes from Him, do you think?
RWMcC Yes, that is what I was thinking. Everything for God involves that Christ is Head, and it becomes clear as we consider it that this is not a reaction to a problem. The note here speaks of prepositions: He is the Head of creation because, as the note says, He was the characteristic power behind it; He is also the Head of creation because He is the active instrument (note c in v 16); and He is also the end in creation. The scope of it is just awe-inspiring, is it not?
DAB It has been remarked in relation to Adam that God finished everything else first and put a man in it; and in what is new He has begun with the Head. You could not say that the physical creation took its character from Adam, could you, although it became so morally? He has put his sinful stamp upon it, but creation does not derive from Adam in the way that this does from Christ. Adam was simply not great enough as a creature for such a thought, was he?
RWMcC No, and when we consider that Christ, that Person of the Godhead, was “before all”, we can see that in Genesis 1 and 2 Adam was a type, a figure; and creation does not take its character from him. But he named things, and in principle that naming remains, does it not? It says he was made in God’s image and after His likeness (Gen 1: 26), but he failed in that. It never says of the Lord that He was ‘a likeness’ of God, but it speaks about Him here as the image, “who is image of the invisible God”. We could not say He is ‘a likeness’ because He is God, God in His own Person. He is the image of God; all that we may know of God we see in Him, and we shall be able to look upon Him - that is a wonderful thing.
PM What it says of Him is that He “is image of the invisible God”; and that same One took His place “in the likeness of men”, Phil 2: 7.
RWMcC That is a good reference, because that scripture in Philippians (Phil 2: 5-8) is full of deep meaning and precision, is it not?
PJW It says He is “the effulgence of his glory and the expression of his substance”, Heb 1: 3. Could you explain that to us, please?
RWMcC I do not think I could. All that God was, was expressed in Christ. Where we read it says that “all the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell”, in Him. God was here as a Man when Christ was here.
DJW I was thinking of this expression here, “who is the beginning”; it is something entirely new. Adam was head of an earthly race, but Christ is the Head of a heavenly race, and all that is for God is in that blessed Man.
RWMcC Yes; it is a wholly new order that takes its character from Him, “the beginning of the creation of God”, Rev 3: 14. Then it says, “who is the beginning, firstborn from among the dead”. It shows us that, in the wonderful counsels of God, this is how it is worked out. He is “the beginning of the creation of God”, but He is the “firstborn from among the dead”.
DJW He is “the heavenly one”, and “such also the heavenly ones”, 1 Cor 15: 48. So persons who have part in this august vessel, the assembly, take character from Him who is the Head of it, do you think?
RWMcC Yes. One of the aspects of headship is the way the body derives from Him, takes character from Him; but then another side - as I think we have been taught - is in Ephesians, where the assembly shares with Him in headship. He is “head over all things to the assembly” (Eph 1: 22), and it shows us the immense scope of God’s thoughts in this. But I think the great idea of supply and wisdom in the Head should affect our spirits, should it not?
MRC The body cannot exist without the head, can it?
RWMcC I think the idea of the head in relation to the body adds a distinctiveness to headship. You can say that “Christ is the head of every man” (1 Cor 11: 3); we have been taught that you could go out and say to anyone that the Lord is Head, because He has qualified Himself, He is qualified morally to be the Head of every person individually. But when you bring in the body, there is a wonderful thought of supply and influence. It seems like a relationship where love flows, does it not?
RDP-r I think it has been said that headship works out as influence by love, and really it is what God is flowing out towards man, and towards this wonderful vessel of which Christ is Head.
RWMcC Yes, I think that is right: influence by love. The thought of the Lord’s headship over every man has that in mind, does it? It is in order that every man, and every woman and every child, might come into blessing under the influence of the Head, in coming into that relationship.
DAB I think you are right to hold our minds and hearts in relation to the glory of the Head, but it may be worth remarking in relation to what was just said as to the body not existing without the head, that the Head is expressed in His body, is He not? I was thinking that it says that “in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2: 9); that is, that there is something substantial. He did things by the Spirit; and He does things now by the Spirit in His body. We need just to keep in the back of our minds whether the outcome of a conversation about the glory of the Head might be that there was something more consistent with Him expressed in each of us, and in our fellowship together?
RWMcC Yes, you are entirely right about that. I did think about Proverbs 31 and the woman of worth, because you see there headship expressed in the body in that sense, do you not? She shares in headship, and it is expressed as wisdom. Wisdom comes down from the Head, and the assembly in her place expresses it in all her dealings.
PJM It would be a shame, would it not, if we did not get beyond the forgiveness of sins in verse 14? I think we are conscious sometimes of how selfish we are in our appreciation of the Head; it is too much a matter of what is for me. Forgiveness of sins is where you begin, is it not? And then we are to see the extent of His influence and of His love, and what He is working on; and the end result should bring joy to my soul, should it?
RWMcC It should indeed, and scriptures like these should bring joy to our souls. It should be a joy to every Christian, should it not, to read of such a One? But as you say we come in by way of verse 14. It is the door. I often think of it as like a mouse hole: you have to get right down to go in through the door, you have to go down; but when you get through things open up, and you have the sense that all is established in another Man.
RWF The idea of being made “fit for sharing the portion of the saints in light” seems to be very attractive in connection with what you are saying. We might think of Christ as pattern for that. It is not simply that everything is put right with us, but there is that in us which is formed after Christ as pattern, which is perfectly acceptable to the Father. Headship works in that way, does it not?
RWMcC Yes, I think that is right. And “sharing the portion of the saints in light” has been linked with inheritance. The note takes us back to where Paul is speaking to Agrippa of the “inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me”, Acts 26: 18. I think what you say as to being made fit is good, because it is not the old man, it is not our old nature that is modified to make it fit, but God has begun again. We have been made fit; as we have been made in the new creation, we fit in our place.
DAB That is what redemption does, is it not? It puts us in a new position. I was struck by what Mr Stoney suggests (vol 5 p129), that you need to be at the right level to be united to Christ. He uses a very dated example, but at that time in society people married others who were of the same rank. That idea has gone - maybe mercifully from a natural point of view - but you did not marry below your station. And what God has done in the work of redemption is to elevate us to the level at which union with Christ becomes a possibility.
RWMcC It sets things on an exalted level. The assembly is entirely suitable: she is a suitable vessel as Eve was for Adam - made from his body. And so with the assembly, she is entirely suitable and fit in that way.
DAB And so are you. That is the glory of the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit, is it not?
RWMcC Yes, and so all the individuals of the assembly, that is, every believer on Jesus who has the Spirit. We need to remember not to be restricted or sectarian at all in our thinking. Every believer who has the Spirit is fit to take their place in power.
PJW They are made fit as soon as they believe on the Lord Jesus and receive the Spirit; there is no process exactly, although in our appreciation there may be, but we are not made more fit. We are as fit as when we first believed. Is that right?
RWMcC Yes. It has been said that our place in heaven is on the ground of pure grace; that is what has made us fit. What you say is right.
PJW I am wondering if the idea of headship is a very sensitive thought. Maybe you could say something about that - both individually and collectively?
RWMcC Well, I feel the need for help about that, but I believe that there is a sensitive side to it. Elsewhere we read about those who were “not holding fast the head” (Col 2: 19); and it says somewhere, “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have not need of thee; or again, the head to the feet, I have not need of you”, 1 Cor 12: 21. That is really bypassing the head; if one member says to another “I have not need of thee”, that is bypassing the head. Everything must link back to the head, and I think is a link with the sensitive side that you draw attention to; that He is our Head, but we are to be kept in the gain of it.
PJW That is helpful, and I wonder if that is where we need the Spirit, and to give place to the Spirit, do you think?
RWMcC The Spirit is not spoken of much in Colossians, but you can see that the Spirit’s work in their souls underlies the ministry that was given to them. We are not going to make progress in divine things without the Spirit.
PM Could you help us as to how we get the gain of the headship of Christ?
RWMcC I would like you to say a little more, please.
PM Well, in this epistle, Paul speaks of some who were drifting away from it and it was in danger of being replaced with “philosophy and vain deceit” (chap 2: 8); and perhaps that tendency is always present with me. But I would like if you would just help us.
RWMcC Well, I hardly know what to say about it, but “holding fast the head” should be how I feel about it. If I allow matters to depend on me, there will be a problem, will there not? It is not exactly what I hold but what Christ holds for me. Colossians has been described as ‘over Jordan’ but not in possession of the land, not yet in the enjoyment of the land. We remember that they came to Gilgal (Josh 4: 19), did they not? That suggests the cutting off of the flesh, and they had to learn dependence. Do you think those things would help us?
PM I was wondering about that. It is unquestionable that the headship of Christ remains. “In him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”; that is never changing, is it? But I change, and do I have to come to it that the first head has been removed, and I cannot draw from that resource because it will only lead to death; but in my links with the Lord Jesus practically, by the Spirit’s service, I come to prove what He is - not only what He has done, but what He is, and the way He can meet every need, and far surpass every need. Does that bear on it?
RWMcC Yes, it does; as any one of us is preserved in our appreciation of Him - we find our resource in Him - there is the thought of a resource and wisdom. They are there to call upon, so that they might flow down.
RJF Do you think the illustration of a natural body helps in an enquiry as to these things? What I mean is that, if you think of a part of the natural body that is damaged or hurt, the damage is at that place, but the head knows about it and the head feels it. At the same time, if we think of movement, the instruction for that and the direction is given by the head and co-ordinated by the head. So there is that flow of sympathy, of feeling, of knowledge in these things, do you think?
RWMcC Yes, I think so; the illustration Paul uses is good for us to think about; and as to the thought of movement, it has been said that every impulse is derived from the Head. There is the thought of the joints and bands that link the body together, and they might relate to our links together and the way the body is ministered to and united together. The Head is the source.
AGM Is the apostle in this chapter drawing attention to the greatness of the Head, so that our affections might be fixed upon Him? Then he speaks as to the other things that were referred to, as there is always the attempt to bring in the other head, and the thinking of the other head. Do you think this is the answer to the Laodicean position, holding on to the Head, and referring everything to and receiving from the Head?
RWMcC I think that would be right. The apostle Paul sets the greatness of Christ before them, and what can compare with what comes from such a Head? From Adam, all that we derive ends in death, and even before that it brings in trouble and problems. That is because of what he is as head, but from Christ as Head it is an unfailing line.
PJM Would you say a word as to the work of reconciliation in verse 20? The Godhead was pleased to dwell in Him, and then the work - “and by him to reconcile all things to itself”, and then the basis of it is spoken of; but that is a great work of God through the Head. Would you say something about that?
RWMcC I was just looking at the note there – “by him” is ’the instrumental power’. This headship is an active thought, is it not: “and by him to reconcile all things to itself, having made peace”? There is what has been done at tremendous cost to secure our blessing. All the moral questions have been met. This is the ground we can enjoy, and God can come out in this way; “by him to reconcile all things to itself” shows that it is the heart of God that is involved, the desires of God to reconcile all things to Himself.
DAB The means by which He did it was the “death of his Son” (Rom 5: 10), was it not? He has not brought what was incompatible to Him nearer, but by removing it He has replaced it with something that can be near Him.
RWMcC Yes. As you suggest, what has gone has been removed out of God’s sight for ever, and we need to be in the gain of that, to recognise that. So that everything that is derived from Christ is suitable: we are reconciled on that principle.
MRC One order of man has gone completely in the death of Christ, has it not? It is an entirely new order of things, is it not, entirely compatible and suitable to the Head?
RWMcC Yes. It is not a transplanted head or a transplanted body, but it is one that derives from Him; it really and literally derives from Christ and is therefore entirely suitable and compatible, as Eve was to Adam. Men talk about clones, but she was not a clone. She was a creature in her own right, but she derived from Adam.
PJM Is it interesting that when Adam sees her, having seen the rest of the creation, he sees something completely new and different, does he not - “this time”?
RWMcC It says, “as for Adam, he found no helpmate, his like”, as if all the other creatures found a helpmate their like, but Adam did not. But that was because God wanted to make something special. Eve is a special example, and she is a helpmate, his like; she can share with him in his headship.
HTF It also gave a completely new dimension to headship, did it not? He was head to the creatures; now he was to be head to Eve.
RWMcC I think it is very fine to think of it that way, that in the working out of God’s thoughts that is what we see; headship is introduced in this relationship. There is the thought of rule in the sun and the moon, and God’s hand is in all that; but then we see it in the man and the woman. It is remarkable; it brings a dignity to headship. There is a kind of respect in creation but headship brings a dignity.
RMB I wonder if this chapter would also help us, in line with what you are saying, to have a view of the greatness of the assembly? I have often thought that the only way to get the divine view of the assembly is by having the divine view of its Head: we might say, ’What a body it must be to have such a great Head!’.
RWMcC I think so, yes. You can imagine the Colossians reading this and saying, ‘We knew Christ was wonderful, but this is superlative!’. And, as you say, it is wonderful that such a One should have a body that is entirely suitable. I have noticed before that it says here, “and he is head of the body, the assembly”; but in Ephesians it is, “head over all things to the assembly, which is his body”, Eph 1: 22, 23. It is as if the body and the assembly are different views of the same personnel, the same wonderful creature. The body is organically linked; but the assembly is the side of relationship and affection. I do not know if that links with what you are suggesting?
RMB Yes; I suppose that if we speak of the body that is one aspect of the truth of the assembly, is it? But I was thinking too about the question as to “holding fast the head”, how it is practically that we get the gain of the headship of Christ. Do you think one way in which we do that is to be exercised not to introduce anything that comes from any other source? If I have any impression of the greatness of the assembly, the body of Christ, I would be very exercised, would I not, not to bring anything in but what comes from Him? Because it is only what comes from Him that will edify His body, do you think?
RWMcC Yes, that would be perfectly right. The way it works out is beautiful, because, when we think of the Head and the body, it is not an austere thought, is it? There is supply, there is love, there is what flows; every impulse is a benevolent influence, so that if I am attached to the Head in that way, the principle of what the Head is will come out in the body. Anything that does not derive from the Head is foreign, is it not? Our natural bodies will expel that sort of thing. If you get a sting or a splinter, for instance, the body acts in relation to that, that it might be contained and the problem removed, and the body healed and brought into uniformity.
RMB I was thinking just by way of practical example, I might read something in the ministry, and maybe there is some particular aspect of the truth that strikes me in a fresh way and I read up about it in the ministry - and that is a very important and valuable thing to do, and I come away with a better understanding of that aspect of the truth than I had before; and I might think I can say something about it when the saints are gathered together. But is not necessarily the same as deriving from the Head, is it? It is an exercise to be in living touch with what is coming down from Him, do you think?
RWMcC Yes, I was really challenged by something I read in Mr Taylor, where he said that we are prone to speak about things that we have not assimilated, vol 41 p181. I have felt that, even in relation to this occasion, and what I had in mind. It is a challenge, but I think what you say is right, that we need to have everything in principle as deriving from Him - and that will then regulate me.
AGM That brings in life. The body is full of life; it is not a dead body. As deriving from Christ the Head, it is really representing Christ, showing the living character of things.
RWMcC I believe that is most important.
CHS In Colosse and Ephesus, Paul speaks of evidence of the practical effect of the Head, and of a state which would be able to receive the truth presented to them.
RWMcC I think that would be right, and I think it was remarkable how the apostle Paul was able to minister what was needed to each assembly; and this epistle was to be read in Laodicea. The Lord gives Paul something specific for the Ephesians and something specific for the Colossians, and also the Laodiceans; and do you think the Lord is faithful in that, that He gives us what we need? The Lord wants us to move on to the next step in our spiritual progress?
CHS I was thinking of the reference in Colossians 1: 8, “who has also manifested to us your love in the Spirit”, and then in the next verse they had heard of their faith and love. And there are also similar references in the Ephesians to what was there flowing out of that state. The writer appreciated it, did he not?
RWMcC I think it is fine to see that. Paul was immensely skilled in building up. He speaks about what was given to him “for building up, and not for overthrowing”, 2 Cor 13: 10. I really covet that. There was some danger in Colosse, we would understand, of certain things, but Paul was ministering to them. They were in a position where this was relevant. If they had been further back in their soul history, they might not have appreciated it so much
CHS What we speak about and what is seen in practice need to be connected. And that is deeply testing for us, is it not, how far we have been formed by what we know?
RWMcC It is very challenging, but the idea is that we might be formed in it.
DSB How do we move towards headship? I might know what lordship is, but how do I get into the gain of this? It has been said that we have been made fit; that is in purpose, and is true in that sense from conversion, but how do I get into the gain of it?
RWMcC Well, that is help I was hoping to get from this occasion; perhaps you would say a little more? I am appreciating what is coming out because it must involve my personal link with the Lord Himself. If I do not recognise Him personally as Head to me, then I am not going to be of much help in the assembly. As to headship, it says, “that he might have the first place in all things”. I know that is much wider than our lives, but it includes them, do you think?
DSB I was thinking of what you said earlier about relationship. In relation to lordship, I could do things out of duty; but in terms of headship, that brings in a relationship out of affection.
RMB As to what has just been said as to being made fit, it is important to distinguish between what we sometimes refer to as our standing and our state. As far as our standing is concerned, we are as fit for this wonderful kingdom as ever we shall be - our standing can never be improved, it is at the very highest level; but as to our actual spiritual state, I am sure all of us feel that there is plenty of room for growth. It is often in connection with our state that we realise that there are things which need to be adjusted, and we have not made as much progress as we should; and perhaps it is on that side that the exercise comes in as to knowing the headship of Christ, because that depends on how we are with the Lord, and also whether the Holy Spirit has liberty with us, do you think?
RWMcC I think so. I think we perhaps know a little more of what was mentioned as to knowing Him as Lord - perhaps I should speak for myself. God has addressed our standing, and has resolved that in the work of Christ; but as to our state, God has every resource for us so that our state should be in keeping with our standing. But things are worked out in the ways of God, and I think that is to provide substance to our growth. It is a growing season now, is it not? When the harvest comes, then the fruit will be made manifest. It says “one thirty, and one sixty, and one a hundred”, Mark 4: 8. That is how these things have affected our state, as we have been exercised.
RMB The great type of it for us is the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness, is it not? We see the people of God on a journey. God had a wonderful purpose for them; they were the people of God. He did dwell among them, and there was no question that they were going to reach the promised land; but in practice there was a lot of sinfulness and rebellion, there were a lot of deep lessons to be learned, in order that they might in practice answer to God’s thoughts about them. That really corresponds with our experience, does it not?
RWMcC The practical side of it is where we are tested, is it not?
DAB Do you think it helps us to put these things to the test? There is nothing abstract about the question just raised as to how we get the gain of headship; these things can be proved, can they not? And, dare I say, we are not short of things to take to Him, even among the brethren, are we? It is instructive to feel that you have the sense of His resource, which will often be expressed in taking the thing away from you, so that He can manage it and deal with it - maybe through another member, but maybe by His own personal intervention?
RWMcC Yes, it is fine to think of it that way, is it not? The wisdom and resource are available in Him, the living Head, if only I would draw from Him.
DAB I was thinking about that point earlier, because reference has been made to Israel. God had a relationship with Israel but they were in the flesh, and the approach to influencing them was through law. I sense that things arise, and people want to know what the rule is. But the body does not work that way, does it? I am not saying that we re-invent solutions to problems every time they arise, but as our brother said, this is a living thing; and that is what we need to prove, I think, and trust more than perhaps we do.
RDP-r Does the matter of subjection come into experiencing the headship of Christ? The assembly is a subject vessel, and if we are subject to the Head, we will prove the blessing of His headship.
RWMcC Yes, I think that is right. Headship is seen in the creatorial order, is it not? The head of the man is Christ, and man is head of the woman. It is not liked in modern times, but that is the divine order. On reflection, what has been brought out as to life is key to what we are talking about, because it is easier to talk about it than actually to let it have its effect in my life - not just in a practical way but in a spiritually formative way. So it is not just that practically I order my life in an honourable kind of way, but that the Head is to be represented. And the only way in which the Head can be represented is to have this flow, this life-giving flow, from the Head. Subjection in the way in which it is presented in Scripture is a very honourable and beautiful thought. It is not demeaning, but it is the idea of love flowing and responsiveness.
RDP-r We often think of going to the Lord if we have a problem, but that is not the way it should work; it should be that we go to the Lord for everything. How do we conduct our day? We start it on our knees, looking for help for the day; not that we assume to know what is to be done. We have One who is able to direct us, and we want to take His direction because of the greatness and the knowledge of who He is.
EOPM There is an interesting little word at the beginning that you referred to, “that he might have the first place”; that seems to allow for my responsibility. I may learn gradually - perhaps through a lifetime of experience - that that is the best solution, to let Him have the first place in everything. You can also understand how the truth of a Head in heaven and a body here put paid to the whole idea of clericalism: every impulse must come from the Head and not from man.
RWMcC That phrase did strike me and was the first indication of a Scripture that we might read, “that he might have the first place” - it is emphatic: “that he might have the first place in all things”.
EOPM The Lord will seek to bring me to this and to His influence. On our side, it may be a bit like Romans 12, “that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. Here we prove not only that headship is the best way, it is the only way to make spiritual progress.
RWMcC Yes; somebody commented recently that we might understand the “good”, but we might find the “acceptable” a bit more of a challenge. I think what is coming out is that it is an organic thing, it is a living, feeling thing. The affections, the feelings, the life, are involved in it. The Lord can command whatever He wishes, and He does; but, whilst authority is not absent, headship is a more sensitive thing. What was in my mind was not only that we need to get the gain of it now, and to be practically in the enjoyment of it, but for it to be our way of life. It would lift our thoughts, when we think that this is the way the God is going to work eternally.
PJW So subjection is a state of soul. Ephesians puts submission first - to the Lord, and then subjection to the Head. It is not simply doing what I am told, or obeying, but it is a state of soul, do you think?
RWMcC That is very interesting. I had not really thought about that, but yes, subjection there is not to lordship but subjection to the Head.
PJW I might be terribly insubject and rebellious in my spirit but still do what I am told; but what comes from subjection is more automatic and natural, do you think, because it is formed through love?
RWMcC There is a mutual side, a mutual responsiveness.
PJM Was the Lord working with Simon Peter in John 21 to get him thinking in terms of headship? There was a time when he says, “I go to fish”, v 3. He may have thought it was reasonable enough, but perhaps he neglected to think of the body, or the headship of Christ; and what he did had its consequences in others following him. The Lord speaks to him at the end, movingly, about what he needed to do in respect of the body, to feed the lambs and shepherd the sheep. I must see Christ in relation to “all things” - it is not just my things, is it? It is all that is of interest to Him.
RWMcC The Lord’s commission to Peter has been going through my mind, feeding the lambs, shepherding the sheep, feeding the sheep. That is what we need, that is what is going to engender right feelings in us, and attach us to the Head. Peter may have had the best intentions when he went fishing but it was actually not the right line, and others followed him. He was influential there on the wrong line, and that is quite a sobering thought, but the Lord graciously brought him back.
PM The first breakdown in headship was in the one in whom it was introduced, and it seems that distance had come in so that Satan could appeal to Eve. You cannot know headship at a distance, can you?
RWMcC No. You are thinking that, if she had been with Adam, Eve might have been preserved. We do not know. Really, in principle, she had stopped looking to the head. You say that headship does not work at a distance, so in terms of the body - it speaks of the “working of the body” - that is in close relation with the Head.
AAC Could you give us some sense of God’s delight in Christ as Head, and all that enters into what we have been speaking of? This is something that is of great delight to God, is it? Could you help us as to that?
RWMcC I am not sure what I can say, but where we started off, Paul is “giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit ..., who has delivered us from the authority of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love”. That is a full expression, and that gives us an impression of the Father’s delight in the work that Jesus has done; and in the Person, the Son of His love. In principle, He was that when He was here; there was the Son of His love, to whom He could say, “in thee I have found my delight”, Mark 1: 11. We think about it, but does all that God has desired to work out really lay hold of me? As the hymn says -
All that His love designed
Secured by Thee!
That is God’s affection for Jesus, for the work and the Person. Headship is the place that God has chosen to give to Him, and He has chosen it because He delights in it.
AAC So much that He will have this throughout eternity.
RWMcC That is right; it is the thought of the Father and God dwelling, and it is wonderfully represented in all the families there. They are all there because of the work of Christ. Headship flows through it all, and it is suffused with joy.
DAB There is a fine reference in Ephesians “his good pleasure … to head up all things in the Christ”; and then he says that “we should be to the praise of his glory”, Eph 1: 9-12. They would be among those who have a place in the body? God has the most stupendous design in His mind, and He can hang it all on this One, and let Him give character to all the rest.
RWMcC He gives His own character to it as the Head; and God looks at every aspect of what He will have in every family, the assembly being the nearest as we understand; and He will see the headship of Christ and the glory of that light shining through it all.
JSH I was thinking of what you were saying as to relationships, and that as we have what flows down from the Head, and as we see that working in one another, it helps us in our relationships and building up together, does it?
RWMcC I do think so; it has got to colour everything that we do. We had a head in Adam, and deriving from him colours what we are naturally - we cannot help it. Well, should it not be the same from our heavenly Head, that we can hardly help ourselves? “As he is, we also are in this world.” 1 John 4:17. In the working out and enjoyment of these relationships and links together we should be like the Lord - the characteristics seen in the Head being seen in the body. It is a most wonderful thing.
CHS Paul speaks of giving thanks to the Father and if we appreciate Christ as Head we would know more of that. We learn from the Father to appreciate the One who has been made Head. I was thinking about our links with the Spirit, how the Spirit would help us; things flow out of our links with divine Persons; and then horizontal links are worked out.
RWMcC That is entirely right, and John the apostle develops the character of those horizontal links a little in his black and white way: “If any one say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar”, 1 John 4: 20. That is stark, but it gets down to the truth. Our links with divine Persons are vital, and our appreciation of what God is doing must go beyond our appreciation of what has been done for us to save us from our lost estate.
EFW It says, “the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell”. I thought that is much more than just a fact; it is fact, but to get some sense of the pleasure divine Persons have in what they have done is, I think, very encouraging.
RWMcC Thank you for that; it is very interesting - it was pleased to dwell. When the Lord was here, the Father was here and the Spirit was here, CAC vol 9 p276. God has worked according to His pleasure, and everything that God has done is towards that - it is for His pleasure. That involves having everything centred in Christ, but it involves each one of us being brought into a place. We have a place, and according to His pleasure, He desires to bring us into that place. I often think of how we write invitations, and it says, ‘So-and-so requests the pleasure of your company’. That is really what God is saying to us, is it not?
21st June 2014