Series: Fundamental Lessons on the Church. Lesson Two,


By Bob W. Lovelace


Jesus is the church’s one and only head,

            Dear reader, we hope that you have completed the first study concerning “The Establishment of the Church of Christ," Lesson One in the "Fundamental Lessons on the Church" series. In this lesson, Lesson Two, you will be learning about the Head of the church and how this relates to the New Testament as the authority of Christ for His church. As with the first lesson, our plea is that all go back to the Bible and simply practice what was given through the inspired apostles and prophets of the first century. We have just presented the truth that Christ's church is built upon a firm foundation. The foundation laid in the first century never changes. Paul said to Christians at Ephesus that they were “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephes. 2:20). Moreover, there is no other foundation upon which to build the church. Hear Paul, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. [11] For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10-11).      

            There are several passages that relate to Christ being the Head of the church. Many of these declare the authority Christ has over "all" principality and power in heaven and on earth. These passages show that in all things Jesus has the preeminence. We shall simply list some now for your consideration:

Passages that show Jesus is the head of the church:

1. Ephes. 5:23, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."

2. Col. 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."

             Passages declaring Jesus is head of all principality and power in heaven and on earth:

1. Matthew 28:18-20, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

2. Col. 2:10, "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"

3. Ephes. 1:20-23, "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, [21] Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: [22] And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, [23] Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

Many Jews in the first century were convinced that Jesus had “all” authority,

            In order to convince the Jews that He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus said “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (Matt. 21:42). Moreover, as presented in Lesson One, on the day of Pentecost to a large gathering in Jerusalem the apostles preached Jesus as both Lord and Christ. Take a few seconds here and read the words Peter preached,  

“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. [30] Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; [31] He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. [32] This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. [33] Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. [34] For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, [35] Until I make thy foes thy footstool. [36] Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:29-36)

            Being convinced that they crucified Jesus who was indeed the Messiah a number cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) In reply to the question as to what they must do to be saved Peter commanded, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Some 3,000 responded to the Gospel invitation and obeyed in baptism. Luke's record of the conversions to Christ on that day states, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Soon the number of men alone came to about 5,000 as the church continued to grow (Acts 4:4). Moreover, Acts 5:14 says “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.”

            Following the events of Pentecost both Peter and John were arrested for preaching Jesus and the resurrection of the dead (Acts 4).  The next day Peter gave this answer to the Jewish authorities (council):

            "And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? [8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, [9] If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; [10] Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. [11] This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. [12] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:7-12). 

            Dear reader the church has but one head, Jesus Christ! And eternal salvation is found in no other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 1:21-23; 3:17; 17:5; 27:54; Luke 1:35; 2:11; John 1:41; 14:6; 20:30-31). The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for both Jew and Gentile. Hear Paul, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). Furthermore, when Paul came to Jerusalem before going to Rome he was welcomed by the church and told that "many myriads of Jews…have believed" (Acts 21:20).

God’s order of authority and how it was display itself at Corinth,

            Concerning authority and how it was to display itself in the church at Corinth Paul says: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Should you desire to read some comments on Paul's instruction on the place of women in the church you may go to this link when you have finished reading A Consideration of I Cor. 14:34-35 .

Application of God’s order of authority for the church,

            We have established with scripture that Jesus is the head of the church. Moreover, He has all authority in heaven and on earth. These are plain truths that christians did not compromise in the first century; they must not be compromised today for any man or people. These truths necessitate that Christians reject any man or group who should claim to be the head of a church claiming identity with Christ. The Roman Catholic "Pope" is not the head of Christ’s church. The Pope is but a man as all men are. Only Jesus as a man (being God in the flesh) was worthy of worship. (Matt. 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17) Nor does the church of Christ have a pyramid type structure here on earth with a so called “Prophet” who works in conjunction with key men (at the top of course), thus claiming authority to give directives to the church and local churches connected thereto. Churches of Christ as local congregations functioned in the first century without a Pope. They had a head, Jesus Christ, who was in heaven (Acts 2:34-36). Moreover, there is no central headquarters for churches of Christ here on earth. Each local church that you read about in your New Testament had a head: Jesus Christ (Ephes. 5:23). Each local church  had a doctrine: the New Testament as delivered through the inspired apostles and prophets of the first century (Titus 1:9). The New Testament is Christ's covenant or will; it is His law for all men until the end of time (Matt. 26:28; Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16-17; James 1:25, Jude 3). God’s will, the doctrine of Christ, is recorded in the New Testament to assure that where ever Christians agree to worship and work together as a church they may have a proper guide. Thus, through the New Testament each local church has a guide for scriptural organization, worship, and work that God requires of them in their collective capacity. Later in our lessons on the church we will take time to discuss the organization, worship and work of the churches of Christ as recorded in the New Testament. But for the moment let’s consider how Christ, as the head of the church, gave the church the New Testament to be its sole guide and authority for what it teaches and practices.

The New Testament is the authority of the church,

            Throughout the New Testament the apostles’ doctrine, or “the faith once delivered” to the saints, is said to be the inspired guide given for Christ’s church (Acts 2:42; Titus 1:9; Jude 3). The churches in their various locations were expected to abide by (stay within the guidelines of) the directives delivered to the apostles through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 1:6-12; I Cor. 2:10, 12, 13; 2 John 9). Christ’s word delivered to the church came from God to the apostles and prophets of the first century “by” inspiration, i.e. through the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the word. Here's a simple chart showing how God through Christ, and then Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit delivered the word of Christ to the church.

The New Testament order for God’s revelation made known to man:

The New Testament came from God TO (arrow) Christ. Jesus upon His ascension sent the Holy Spirit to reveal that word TO (arrow) the apostles and prophets in the first century. The inspired prophets of the first century delivered God’s word TO (arrow) man. This word in time was WRITTEN in the inspired text (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:1-2, 15). The order is: God to Christ who sent the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and prophets who then delivered that word, the New Testament, to man! 

            Thus the word was the Father’s and was given to His Son, Jesus Christ. We'll look at the verses in the next paragraph but just let this sink in for the moment. Jesus during His ministry on earth promised the Holy Spirit who would come and teach the apostles all things and guide them into all truth. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven this promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled, and God’s word was revealed to the inspired apostles and prophets of the first century. Thus, through the inspired apostles and prophets of the first century we have the New Testament as God’s will for all men, for all time, until the end of time (Rom. 1:16-17; Jude 3).

            Explaining the "order" now with the scriptures: The Father gave the word to Christ, His Son. Notice that Jesus attributed the word or doctrine to the Father who sent him. Hear Jesus, “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me“ (John 7:16). Again Jesus said, “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me" (John 14:24). Dear reader in these last days God speaks to mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2).

            Concerning Jesus' promise that the Holy Spirit would be sent in His name so that the apostles might be taught all things and guided into all truth He said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). Also in John 15:26-27 Jesus says, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: [27] And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” Repeating this promise He said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [14] He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14). In accord with His promise the apostles received the promise of the Holy Spirit as recorded on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. 

            This inspired word of Christ was first spoken "orally" as the apostles fulfilled the commission given them by Jesus to go into all the world. Matthew records this great commission thusly, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

As time progressed during the first century this word began to be "written" by inspired men in order that it man might have it in the written word. The very word "scriptures" means that which is written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (See 2 Peter 1:20; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). During this time period in the first century when the word was being both spoken and written by inspiration Paul said, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thes. 2:15). The word “traditions” here means that which was "transmitted" by the inspired apostles and prophets and thus delivered by inspiration (2 Th. 3:6). Illustrating the importance of the written word Paul said to the church at Ephesus, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [6] That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: [7] Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power“ (Ephes. 3:1-7).

Paul clearly states that as man “reads” what is written by inspiration he can know just as the inspired prophet who wrote the scriptures (Eph. 5:3-4). Dear reader this is how man learns God’s will today. One learns by reading and studying the Scriptures that were given by inspiration (See I Cor. 2:7-10, 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The problem with most people today is they want religion without revelation! They don't want to be bothered with having to learn and obey God's Word. The all-sufficiency of the scriptures is stated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (Cp. 2 Peter 1:3-4; Jude 3).

            Peter, just before he died, gave the same emphasis as Paul to the importance of this word being written down. He said, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: [2] That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:“ (Peter 3:1-2; also verse 15).

            Dear reader strive to understand this in its fullness or entirety. The apostles were taught “all things” and had “all truth” revealed to them in the first century just as Jesus promised (John 14:26; John 16:13-14). And the church that Christ promised to build, and did build, and to which men are being added yet today is built upon the foundation that was laid in the first century. That foundation is Christ! And it consists of the work of the inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament as they revealed His word to mankind. The revelation was made know by the Holy Spirit through inspiration. The word of Christ that was "first spoken" (delivered only by mouth), in the process of time "was written" through inspired apostles and prophets. That word consists of the books of the New Testament as Christ's will or covenant for mankind (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 8:6-13). Christ's will is also referred to as the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all men, both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 1:16-17). This revelation was completed in the first century; it was "once delivered" and the process of  "revelation" (revealing God's word to man) has been completed now for some 2,000 years. Hear Jude's exhortation, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Today, some two thousand years later, christians have the responsibility to uphold the truths written and recorded in the New Testament (2 Th. 2:15; Jude 3; 2 Tim. 2:2; I Tim. 3:15; Titus 1:9).


The New Testament is Jesus’ authority “for” the church.

*It is the New Testament that is the authority and “not” the church.

*The New Testament is God’s authority (Word) for the church to hold to and support,


           Christians have the responsibility to study the scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). They are commanded to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the saints in the first century (Jude 3; Titus 1:9). Paul says to all the members of the church at Ephesus, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Moreover, each local church has the responsibility of holding to, upholding and sounding forth the word as Christ's will during the last days (2 Th. 2:15, I Th. 1:8; I Tim. 3:15). Above all teachers have a responsibility to teach others who being faithful will in turn teach more as well (2 Tim. 2:2).

            In the first century the local churches were to be the pillar and support of the truth in the communities where they were located (I Tim. 3:15). To serve as an elder in the local church Paul said one must be, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). You may read about the qualifications for bishops (also called overseers, elders, shepherds and pastors) in I Tim. 3:1-11 and Titus 1:5-9. Later in this series there is a lesson on the local church and its organization. Peter taught that bishops or elders had authority only to oversee the local church they were members of (I Peter 5:1-3, "…the flock of God which is among you").

            We have presented the basic truths concerning the order of authority in Christ’s church. Christ’s word, the New Testament, was revealed in its entirety in the first century. Dear reader there is no such thing as “latter day revelations” taking place through "inspired" prophets in our present day and time (I Cor. 13:8; Jude 3). Would you be interested in studying the next lesson in this series? Fundamental Lessons on the Church: Lesson Three, "Membership Requirements According to the First Century Revelation.”



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