by W.B. Screws

The Pilgrim's Messenger

"Have a pattern of sound words which you hear from me, in faith and love
which are in Christ Jesus."--11 Timothy 1:13
Published Monthly By W. B. SCREWS, Glennville, Georgia
Twenty-five Cents a Year

Volume XXIV

January, 1945

Number 6

Entered at the postoffice at Glennville, Ga., as second-class matter.

When Christ is said to be Head of the ecclesia, it is not to be taken literally.  Surely, everyone knows it is a figure of speech.  But, even so, there is much haziness about it, in the mind of some.  

If He is Head in the same sense that I have a literal head, then He is part of the body.  If my head were cut off, only a part of the body would be left.  In other words, my body includes my head.  

Paul explains the sense in which Christ is Head of the ecclesia.  His words are easy to understand.  "...for the husband is head of the wife even as Christ is Head of the ecclesia," Ephesians 5:23.  A wife has a head of her own, and is a complete woman, even without a husband.  The preceding verse says, "Wives, be subject to your husbands as to a master."  The husband has authority over the wife.  This is the sense in which he is her head.  In the same sense Christ is Head of the ecclesia.  He is Master, or Lord, of the ecclesia.  

If a man is master of a slave, he may be cruel.  But this is not so in the case of a husband being master of his wife.  He is supposed to love her, according as Christ loves the ecclesia and gives Himself up for its sake.  The husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.  A true husband will no more hate his wife than he will hate his own flesh.  All this is found in Ephesians 5:25-31.  Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24: "A man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh."  They are not one flesh in point of identity.  This is true only in point of relationship.  It is in this same sense that she is his body, and he is her head.  He has an actual body, independent of her, and she has a head of her own, which is part of her actual body. 

This passage, more than any other scripture, throws light on the subject we are discussing.  The ecclesia is a complete body, as to members, and Christ is no part of it.  On the other hand, Christ has a body seated in the heavens.  The ecclesia is no part of this body - this physical frame of our Lord.  

The ecclesia is a body, in a figurative sense. And, because Christ is the Master of it, it is His body and He is its Head.  

In First Corinthians 12, it is not said that He is Head of the body.  In that passage Paul discusses the body - that is, its different members - and the question of Christ's control over it is not in view.  It is not pertinent to the subject.  Indeed, in that passage, the apostle speaks of the ecclesia as the christ.  I spell christ with a small, instead of a capital, initial, because it is a statement that refers to the anointed ecclesia - not to our Lord.  "Christ" means "anointed."  The ecclesia is anointed. I refer to verse 12.  "For as the body is one, and has many members, yet all the members of the one body, being many, are one body.."  He is speaking of a human body - the hand, the foot, the ear, the eye, the head, the feet, the honorable members, the dishonorable members, (it takes all these and more to make one body), verses 14-26.  So is the ecclesia - the christ - the anointed!  

The word, "expedience," is used in verse 7.  The situation was such that it was necessary to place in the ecclesia many gifts that were to be temporary.  "Now to each one is being given the manifestation of the spirit with a view to expedience," - temporary arrangement.  Read the whole chapter. In verse 28 we find "first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers," and then in verse 31 we find the exhortation, "Yet be zealous for the greater graces."  It is evident that the greater graces are those numbered "first, second and third."  It is also evident that, while many of the others were to be abrogated, these three were to remain, for in Ephesians 4:11 we find that apostles, prophets and teachers remain in the ecclesia.  In that passage, evangelists and pastors are added.  This is rally no addition, for these are teachers, also.  Apostles and prophets are in the foundation of the ecclesia, Ephesians 3:20.  But the administration of the ecclesia is being carried on by evangelists, pastors and teachers.  These are as essential to the functioning of the ecclesia, as the members of the human body are, to its functioning.  

The matter of the joint body, mentioned in Ephesians 3:6, does not mean that no teachers, evangelists and pastors are necessary.  That passage merely shows that saints of the nations (gentiles), who were inferior to the Circumcision members of the body in a previous era, are now on a level with them.  In other words, the "jointness" does not lie in the supposed fact that none are to be teachers, etc. but in the fact that both - Circumcision and Uncircumcision - are now reconciled in one body.  (Prior to this, they were not reconciled to each other, although they were in one body.)  Not a new body, but a new condition, has been created - a new humanity.  

There is no distinction in the relationship of all saints to Christ.  But there is a distinction in relation to their usefulness in the functioning of the body on earth.  All saints should have some activity.  But some are more essential than others. The loss of a little finger is not so serious to the human body, as the loss of the eye, the ear or the tongue.  

In Christ, all are sons (mature), regardless of sex; all are holy and flawless, Ephesians 1.  

In the Lord, we are minors, and need the ministrations of the evangelists, pastors and teachers, that we may grow into maturity; and we also need these ministrations in order that we may not sin, Ephesians 4 and 5.  

I insist that we shall recognize that the ecclesia is a body, and has members of its own, to minister to its needs, just as the human body needs hands, eyes, head, feet, etc., to enable it to function.  

That Christ is the Head of the body, is a different matter.  He is its Head in the sense that He is its Lord.  All direction must come from Him.  Such direction is given in His word.  The ecclesia is His body, not because it is physically connected with His physical frame, but because it belongs to Him.  

Christ's Headship grows out of the fact that He is Firstborn from among the dead, and is Sovereign.  And this Headship is to be followed by His work in reconciling all in the heavens and the earth to God.  He must be coming first.  The entire complement delights to dwell in Him.  In other words, His position as Head of the ecclesia is a small circle, in comparison to the headship of the universe.  But the circle will widen to include more and more until, finally, all in the heaven and earth are headed up in Him and reconciled to God.  See Ephesians1, and Colossians 1.  As a mater of fact, He is Head of every sovereignty and authority, Colossians 2:10.  Perhaps He has not yet begun to exercise this Headship to its fullest extent.  His is a progressive work. 

In Colossians 2:16-19 is a very impressive passage.  "Let no one, then, be judging you in food or in drink, or in the particulars of a festival, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of those things which are impending - yet the body is the Christ's.  Let no one be arbitrating against you, wanting, in humility and the ritual of the messengers, to parade what he has seen, feignedly, puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, out of Whom the entire body, being supplied and united through the assimilation and ligaments, is growing in the growth of God."  

Holding the Head means holding to His teachings.  He has given a certain body of truth for the ecclesia.  Other scripture is to be read by us, and cherished as a record of God's dealings with others.  But it is in Paul's writings that we find the doctrine, the practice and the promises that are for us.  This is directly from Christ, the Head of the ecclesia which is His body.  

Parading what we have seen, means trying to prove that a certain thing is right because we have seen it work.  No matter in what part of the scripture it is found, if we have seen it used with "good" results, we conclude that it is for us, even though Paul, the apostle of Christ Jesus, says it is not.  Who has not seen great numbers join the church, following a sermon on some part of the Circumcision scriptures?  Just about all the "growth" of the "church" is based on such passages.  

What is taken for humility may be just the opposite.  I recall an occasion when I had insisted that the personal teaching of Jesus Christ when He was on earth was for the Jews, and that we have no part in it - that Paul is the apostle of Christ Jesus to us.  A man arose and interrupted by saying, "I resent that!  You are dishonoring my Lord!  What He said while He was on earth, is good enough for me, and it certainly is better than what Paul said!"  The man felt [himself] to be very humble.  He was not, like myself, underrating the teaching of Jesus!  He was putting it first!  In vain did I remind him that our Lord was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and that He did not teach them the full truth, John 16:12-15.  He knew better!  For had he not seen great revivals under the stimulation of what I called the Circumcision scriptures?  No use to argue with him!  He knew what he had seen, and that out-weighed anything that Paul has said!  

The lowly Jesus Christ was not the Head of the ecclesia. He was the Servant of the Circumcision, to confirm - not to fulfill - the patriarchal promises, Romans 15:8.  It is the risen and glorified Christ Jesus Who is Head of the ecclesia. He who rejects this plainly-stated fact, believes in festivals, (Easter, for instance), is a stickler for the "Christian Sabbath,"  (Sunday), or else is making salvation dependent on keeping the seventh day of the week as the sabbath, and is bound by ritual.  He is the one who judges us, and who is anxious to arbitrate against us.  He regards us as "bound for an endless hell," because we insist that Paul is the apostle for us, and that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record a ministry that was not for us.  To him it is blasphemy to say the Acts of the Apostles is not the history of the "present church."  And if we say the Twenty-third Psalm is not for us - that we are not sheep and the Lord is not our Shepherd - we are regarded as past redemption.  

The only growth that is worth anything is the growth of God.  It comes from Christ, the Head of the ecclesia.  Holding the Head, is recognizing this fact.  

Christ is our Head, because He is our Lord - our Master.  His love for us is greater than can ever be expressed in words.  His authority to give directions for our service lies in the fact that He is Head.  He, alone, has the right to abrogate things that were given to the ecclesia in its early days, with a view to expedience.  There are abrogated.  But the permanent arrangement stands.  

So-called humility sometimes works the other way.  Not only does it rightfully reject the idea that the Circumcision scriptures are for us, but it divides Paul's epistles, and throws part of them to the Jews.  It bases its contention partly on the statements found in the early verses of Ephesians.  It reasons that if we are sons (mature), and holy and flawless, there is no need for teachers. It arrogates it itself as much ability to teach, as is possessed by any other person.  It is only so-called humility.  It ignores the fact that the Christ, Who has ascended up over all who are of the heavens, gives the gifts to the ecclesia.  As a matter of fact, it is the very opposite of humility.  

If we hold the Head, we not only highly regard what He says is our place in Christ, Ephesians, first three chapters, but we also give loving heed to what He says is our condition in the Lord, and our need for teaching and watchfulness, Ephesians, last three chapters.  We put great stress on Paul's words, when he says, "I, Paul the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you," Ephesians 4:1.  In the Lord, is service. 

[Return to main indexpage]