Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18), and that promise was fulfilled a few days after our Lord ascended back to heaven. The Godhead’s intent for Jesus to be the Ruler over the church is set forth clearly in the New Testament. It is not open to debate. Let us look at some irrefutable facts.
Jesus has all authority in spiritual matters, as He declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). The divine plan for Jesus is “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). “Preeminence” means “to be first, hold the first place” [Thayer word no. 4409 via e-Sword].
Jesus is the Head of His church. “And He is the head of the body, the church . . .” (Colossians 1:18). Paul also wrote, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23).
Jesus is the Father-chosen Head of the church. In contrast to how some human-planned religious organizations vote in order to select a person to have the top position of authority among them, the Bible says, “And He [the Father] put all things under His [Jesus’] feet, and gave Him [Jesus] to be head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22; all explanations mine, rdc).
Jesus is the single Ruler over His church. If you think of the church as the Lord’s body, He is “the” Head of it (Colossians 1:18). When the church is described as the house of God, Jesus is the sole High Priest over it (Hebrews 10:21). When the Bible calls the church Jesus’ kingdom, He is the King (Colossians 1:13), and with the church portrayed as the flock of God, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:2,4).
The Christ shares His headship over the church with no others. God’s arrangement is not for Jesus to be a co-head with some highly-respected human. To propose that it would be a good plan to have Jesus as Head number one in heaven and some man functioning as head number two on earth may appear to be a wise plan from a worldly point of view, but in reality, such a practice has absolutely no basis in the Scriptures.
Jesus’ rulership over the church is immutable. Unlike some political positions, Jesus’ role as Head of the church is not limited to a certain number of terms or years in office. He was the initial Head of the church, He is the current Head of the church, and He will continue as its Head as long as the world stands. It is comforting to know that in the Lord’s church, we do not have to fret about who will be our Head tomorrow morning, next week, or next year. Jesus’ Headship will not be passed on to any others. No human vote can “kick” Jesus out as Head. No group of people meeting behind closed doors can install a new head in place of God’s Son.
As the church’s Head, the Christ has “the final say” in all doctrinal matters. God’s will is for local churches and individual members to “abide in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9). According to the Bible, the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The church does not set doctrinal policy – the church is neither the source nor setter of proper teaching. Rather, its role is to adhere to, practice, support, teach, and defend the truth which came from the Father via the Spirit.
If the church properly recognizes Jesus’ rule over it, what will the church do? The Bible says, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24). So, the body is supposed to be in subjection to the Head. If He is seated at God’s right hand in heaven, how does that work? One shows his/her allegiance to Jesus’ Lordship by doing what He commands (Luke 6:46). In the same way, when the church submits to Jesus’ teaching, it is submitting to Him. In short, our King rules His church through His law.
Jesus’ authority cannot be cast aside by the waving of a hand or casting of a vote! Godly elders are granted the right to oversee the Lord’s church and lead it in carrying out the Master’s will (1 Peter 5:1,2). Yet, as they are given such delegated authority, they are not, and cannot ever be, co-heads of the body. They are, so to speak, under-shepherds of “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). All the glory and honor go to our Head.
— Roger D. Campbell