The Head and the Body

The New Testament uses various symbolic illustrations to describe the relationship between the universal Church and Jesus Christ. These symbolic illustrations can help one to get a better understanding of our relationship with Christ, and today we discuss how the New Testament depicts Christ’s relationship with the universal Church as a Head and his body.

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The Head and the Body

The New Testament depicts Christ’s relationship with the universal Church as a Head and his body. Ephesians 1:22-23 says that God the Father “put all things under his feet and gave Him as Head over all things to the Church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” According to Enns (2014:365), as “the head has authority over the physical body and gives direction to it, so Christ is the head of the church, having authority over it and giving it direction (Eph. 1:22–3; Col. 1:18).” Colossians 1:18 states that “He is the Head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.” God the Father has given Christ honour so that in everything He might be pre-eminent.

Forever United with the Head

During the Church age (from Pentecost until the rapture), entrance into the body of Christ occurs when a person is born again, when Christ baptises the believer into the body: “in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Through this baptism each member of the body is forever united with the Head (Fruchtenbaum 2005:23). Disciples publicly identify with Christ when they obey the ordinance of baptism.

What is the Mind or Attitude of the Head?

Philippians 2:5-11 shows that Christ’s mind and attitude is to obey God the Father, to serve, to nourish and to build up. Christ Jesus gives leaders to the Church and He equips them for their tasks (Ephesians 4:11-16). The purpose is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). It is not only leaders that are equipped but all saints have received at least one gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11) so that we won’t be passive spectators but “use it [the gifts] to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10; cf. Fruchtenbaum 2005:23). For this reason, each member of the body of Christ should display the same attitude and mind of the Head, Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

The Unity in the Body

Even though different functions exist among the members, there is unity in the body of Christ — and we celebrate this unity through the ordinance of communion, i.e. the Lord’s Supper. No member receives all the gifts and so there is interdependence in the body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4). But each member and the body collectively remains completely dependent upon the Head from whom we receive nourishment, direction and strength. To Christ be the glory, great things He has done, great things He is doing and great things He will yet do!

Our next article in this series about the symbolic illustrations of the universal Church will focus on the First-fruit and the harvest.


If you would like to read more about the Universal Church, we suggest you read the original article and source of this short series, The Universal Church, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

We also made use of The Moody Handbook of Theology by P.P. Enns, which was published in 2014 by Moody Publishers in Chicago.

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