At the end of Ephesians 1, Paul makes a final declaration about the power of God demonstrated in the life of Christ. Paul says: “… and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1.23).
Growing up in church, I have heard it said from a young age that the church is the body of Christ. Obviously this cannot be a literal statement in the realm of the physical (because Jesus has a physical body apart from the Church), but spiritually Jesus is the head and the Church* is His body.
Note: Church here is not referring to a building or one congregation but to the collective whole of believers called throughout the New Testament as “the Church” or “the saints.”
It’s not that we merely fellowship as a “body” of believers (though this is true as well), but just as a physical body has aspects, parts, and variety (belly buttons are different than ears, a liver has a different function than a kidney, your lips play a significant role but so does your toe nail), so we do too within the Church.
Romans 12.4-5 says: For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
And likewise 1 Corinthians 12.12-22: For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. . . . For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
The Nature of the Head is the Nature of the Body
It should be rather obvious that what is going on in the head is going on in the body as well. The nature and character of the head is the same as that of the body. The DNA of one is the DNA of the other. If Jesus is the fullness of love and joy and peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control—those qualities should be evident in the body as well. It could be stated that lacking such qualities may be a sure sign that the body is lacking its head.
It is not that we as the body try to emulate or act like the head, we allow the Head to become the source of the body, as it should be. Jesus talked this way in John 15 talking about the vine and the branches. A branch doesn’t have to try to act like the vine or try to show it has the fruit or sap of the vine—the evidence is a natural by-product of being rooted (abiding) in the vine. If I want the flow, source, life, and nature of Jesus (the Head), I must be rooted, grounded, and abiding in Him.
A Body Without a Head
What do you call a body without a head? No this is not some sadistic satire but an interesting thought. A body without a head would be dead, lifeless, impossible to function and perform even the simplest of tasks. I realize this is common sense but bring it into the realm of our passage—Jesus is the head, and without Him, the body (ie: you and I, the Church) is dead, lifeless, and incapable of functioning as we were designed or should.
What is the solution? What is our desperate need? It is for the Head to be the head in our lives and Church.
Jesus is to have the position of Lordship in our lives, both personally as well as corporately as the body of Christ. Headship in the dictionary is defined as authority, influence, or a leader. As the Head, Jesus makes the decisions, He determines the movement of the body, He is the authority, standard, influence, and essence of what the body is to be about.
Is that true about your life? Can it be said that your whole life is focused and clearly demonstrating the life, attitude, tone, essence, power, and nature of the head?
Becoming the Fullness of Christ
In our passage, the word “fullness” is the idea of completion or something filled to the fullest level. In other words, the body of Christ is to have the headship and nature of Jesus in fullness, not in part. Our lives as believers corporately, as well as my life individually, is to have the Spirit of Christ living in and through us that what comes out is not a tiny picture of Jesus but the full expression of who He is. The world is to know there is a God because they see Him showing Himself through our lives.
I don’t produce it, I don’t play copycat, I allow the Living God – through the Holy Spirit indwelling my life – to act upon the stage of my life, to show Himself strong and powerful to the world, despite my weakness and inability.
The only explanation for my life is to be Jesus. The reason I have victory or purity or joy or peace or strength or wisdom or anything else is not because there is something inherently good about myself or because I try real hard but rather because I am embracing Jesus and He, through the Spirit, is producing His life through mine. The Head shows itself through the body.
Ian Thomas, one of my heroes from Christian history, once wrote in his book The Mystery of Godliness:
The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you – your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything – then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.
He went on to say:
It is only when your quality of life baffles the neighbors that you are likely to impress them! It has got to become patently obvious to others that the kind of life you are living is not only highly commendable, but that it is beyond all human explanation! That it is beyond the consequences of man’s capacity to imitate, and however little they may understand this, it is clearly the consequence only of God’s capacity to reproduce Himself in you! In a nutshell, this means that your fellowmen must become convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ of whom you speak, is essentially Himself the ingredient of the life you live!
Could it be that the world becomes aware of the Head because they see the Head through the body? Does the world see Jesus in my life? Is Jesus the only explanation for how I live, how I think, or what I do? Or can they explain my life away but chalking it up to my talent, resource, wisdom, or my whatever?
Perhaps it is time for the body – you and I – to get reacquainted with the Head. His name is Jesus. Would you embrace Him today and allow His life, love, nature, resource and fullness to become yours and show itself to the world?
[I pray] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Check out the other Bible studies in this series from Ephesians 1:
God’s Indescribable Power – four studies from Ephesians 1.19
Christ’s Sitting Position (Ephesians 1.20)
Far Above (Ephesians 1.21a)
The Name (Ephesians 1.21b)
The Position of Conquest (Ephesians 1.22a)
The Position of Control (Ephesians 1.22b)