Colossians 1:18a

Head of the Body



1. This section of Colossians exalts the Person of JESUS CHRIST.

2. He is over the original creation as Firstborn.

3. He is over the new creation as the Beginning and Head of the Body, the church.

4. In every realm (what God is doing in His Body and in the rest of the universe) He is to have the preeminence.


Christ is the Head of the Church. He has absolute authority.

1. Headship is used in this sense in the New Testament. (Cf. Eph. 5:25 – the husband is the head of the wife. The emphasis is on his authority in the home.

2. In Col. 1:18, the emphasis is on Christ’s authority in the Body. The Head is in charge.

Christ Is Captain in the Promised Land (Josh. 5:13-15)

1. Vs. 13 – Joshua met the Lord Jesus (a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ).

2. Vs. 1 – context = the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership.

3. Vs. 12 – this was a transition period for the Jews. The wilderness experience was coming to an end, and now they were IN the Land of milk and honey…

4. Vs. 13 – immediately upon entering the Land, Joshua is confronted by a MAN with a sword—the eternal Son of God.

5. Review the typology:

a. Exodus = redemption in Christ.
• Israel was redeemed out of bondage to slavery in Egypt –the world. We were redeemed out of the world—and out of slavery to sin.
• Moses was their redeemer; Christ is ours.
• It was just an 11 day journey to cross the wilderness—and COULD have and SHOULD have entered into their inheritance early on… but refused to trust God.

b. Wilderness wanderings = chastening… the only alternative to entering into Canaan… wander in a dry and weary land… this was NEVER intended to be the norm.
• It didn’t have to happen that way.
• They could have entered into their inheritance right away, but it was a lack of faith that resulted in them being condemned to the wilderness for 40 years.
• Instead, they wandered in a dry, parched, weary wilderness—when they COULD have been and should have been enjoying the riches God promised them!

c. Crossing Jordan does not picture our physical death, but our death with Christ… our old man being crucified.
• Not until we come to this point of reckoning SELF dead are we able to enter into our Canaan land.
• Before the Christian can ever enter into the full appreciation of and experience of his riches in Christ—he must come to an end of himself…
• We need to acknowledge that our old man DIED with Christ…

d. Canaan does not picture future heaven, but speaks of our PRESENT experience of our heavenly blessings.
• Christ is in heaven and we are in Him.
• But physically, we are on earth—but are to ABIDE in Him and DWELL in our Canaan… dwelling in our Beulah Land… by faith.
• We have been raised up already in Christ… and hence, the heavenlies are OURS already! That is our inheritance…
• We are joint heirs with Christ. It is our glorious position in Christ.
• This is our present possession, but we only experience its riches as we abide in Him by faith, a heavenly experience is ours… now… a foretaste of glory divine!

e. Entering the Promised Land pictures the believer, once redeemed, entering into a full experience of what he has in Christ BY FAITH … our inheritance in Him… entering into our REST.
• It isn’t necessary to wander spiritually for years; and waste years of our Christian life.
• We can and should enter in as soon as we get there! Pursue it… seek it… LEARN about our riches in Christ through studying the Word… and then enter in by faith… and settle in and enjoy it! LABOR to enter into His rest! Hunger after it.

f. Contrast between Old Testament and New Testament
• In the OT, Israel had an earthly inheritance… our inheritance is not earthly or physical. Our inheritance is in the realm of light… holiness… a heavenly position in Christ.

6. The message of the vision in Joshua 5:13

a. Joshua and the people are about to enter into their rich inheritance in the land—where he can enter into rest… and rest under his fig tree… and rest from his physical enemies when God gives them victory. The land was Israel’s all the time they wandered—but not until they were ready to trust God were they able to enter in.

b. This pictures the believer entering into and experiencing by faith his rich inheritance in Christ where we too can enter into rest for our soul… This inheritance is the property of every believer the moment they are saved, but not until they are ready to surrender to Christ… yield fully to Him… and reckon themselves to be dead are they able to experience their spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…

c. In this picture, as soon as Joshua and the people enter the land, they are confronted by a Man with a sword…

d. The Israelites were about to begin their battles—fighting in Jericho in chapter six… but BEFORE they could ever experience victory — it was necessary for them to be confronted—face to face—with this Man with a sword.

e. This Man is the Lord Jesus Christ… the Angel of the Lord… the eternal Son… the image (visible manifestation) of the invisible God.

f. Joshua’s question: (vs.13c)
• Joshua didn’t know who this man was at first.
• “Are you on OUR side or are you on THEIR (our enemies’) side? Whose side are you on?”
• Joshua saw himself as the leader… and the adversary as having a cause… and a leader. Joshua wanted this man to pick sides: either you are with me or with my enemies.
• The Man’s answer: (vs.14)
• Nay (no). A strange answer for an either/or question.
• The Lord made it clear that Joshua’s question was wrong! His thinking was wrong.
• Joshua asked “Are you on my side or their side? Which one?”
» Meaning: if you want to be on OUR side, then you can join our army and fight alongside us. You can be one of our soldiers…
» You can HELP us fight… one of our helpers. You can add a little more strength to our side.
• The Lord answered: NO. I’m not on your side OR their side. I’m not joining anybody’s team.
• I am the Captain. I am Captain of all the Lord’s armies. I am Captain of all the hosts of heaven.
• Previously the children of Israel experienced defeat and frustration as they wandered in the wilderness for a generation. In the wilderness they were concerned about who was in charge… and they murmured against Moses and Aaron. They didn’t want anyone over them.
• But now that they have entered the Promised Land, the Lord makes it clear that things are different in this realm. I AM CAPTAIN in this land. I am in charge of this realm.
• I don’t join your army. You are to join my army and to submit to Me. I am Captain… Lord…
• Joshua understood exactly what the Lord meant—and fell down to worship… and acknowledged that He was Lord and Joshua was his servant.
• The Lord also said, that when you are in My presence, you are on HOLY ground. Take off your shoes!

g. What this illustrates:
• As believers, we have been made meet to be partakers of our rich inheritance in Christ. (Col. 1:12c)
• Christians are positioned IN CHRIST… In His Body, the church.
• IN HIM we have all spiritual blessings and our spiritual inheritance.
• But if we as individual believers are to experience our inheritance… and enter into rest… and have victory… then we are expected to BOW in submission before the Captain…
• We are to acknowledge Christ as Lord… as HEAD of the Body.
• In the spiritual realm… in our heavenly position… as we dwell in the heavenly sphere… it is no longer I but Christ. He’s the Captain of this land… He’s the Head of the Body.
• As we face our foes, Christ doesn’t “help” us fight. He doesn’t add a little more strength to what we can muster up already. He IS our strength! He doesn’t “help” us fight. The battle is the LORD’s! He is our strength, our shield, our fortress, our Captain, our LIFE!
• Before we can ever enter into our rest… and experience the blessings of our inheritance in Christ, the issue of AUTHORITY needs to get settled once and for all.
• Unless we come to an end of SELF… reckon self to be dead… and yield our members to Christ… surrendered completely to Him… there IS no victory!
• The Man with the sword demands submission… we must acknowledge Him as Lord… as Head of the Body… and Head over each member of that body—namely, ME… and you!
• As we put our all on the altar in total submission, and enter into this close personal relationship to Christ, we are entering holy ground… (Heb. 10:19).
• In the church, we are coming into His realm… holy ground… a fellowship or assembly of God’s heavenly people… and into the presence of our heavenly High Priest… into the heavenly sanctuary… the holy of holies… this is holy ground…
• And in this realm… in this land… on this holy ground, Christ is Lord… Captain… Head…
• In this relationship to Christ, we enter with reverence and humility… bowing before Him as Lord… as Head… as Sovereign. WE take off our shoes as servants…
• He is not joining our cause, we are united to Him.
• He is not our Servant. We are here to serve Him.
• We don’t come to Christ so that He can do us favors. Rather, we come to Christ with self placed on the cross and out of the way… so that we can serve Him unhindered, unrestricted, unentangled, unencumbered.

7. Paul presents Christ this way in Colossians one.

a. He is HEAD over all creation…

b. He is HEAD over His Body… the new creation.

c. First and foremost, the church—the Body—is a place where Christ is HEAD.

d. We are privileged to be members of His Body. We are placed in HIS Body.

e. Just as the Captain of the Lord’s hosts didn’t join Joshua’s army, Christ doesn’t join our church organization. He doesn’t join our team. Rather He is Captain. He is Head.

f. We are joined to Him… united to Him… baptized into HIS Body…

g. We are joined to Him and He is HEAD over us all.

h. Headship speaks of Christ’s absolute authority OVER the Body… the church.


1. The BODY Paul mentions here is not any particular local church—or an association of churches. It speaks of the universal church.

a. This refers to believers worldwide—anyone who is born again in this age is a member of the universal church.

b. Christ is HEAD over the universal Body of Christ.

c. Therefore, He is also HEAD over every local manifestation of the universal body of Christ—including this little church: SALEM BIBLE CHURCH!

2. Vs. 18 is translated word for word from the original.

a. The only possible change that one might want to make would be to emphasize the auto/self… The subjective pronoun is not needed because it is included in the verb. But when it is added, it is added for emphasis.

b. He Himself is the Head.

c. It sounds a bit clunky or awkward to translate it that way, but it does bring out a shade of meaning that Paul INTENDED here.

d. Christ is the Head of the Body. He Himself—and no other!

e. Christ is not a mere angel. Angels serve as servants to the church (Heb. 1:6-7). Christ is head OVER the church… and is Head over all angelic realms too! (Col. 2:10).

f. The One who is Creator of the universe is also the Head of the Body!

3. There is no POPE over the body of Christ.

a. Rome states that apart from the pope, the body of Christ would be “headless” on earth.

b. Not so. God did not set up a human hierarchy over all the churches.

c. The pastor is not a protestant pope. The board of elders does not RULE the church. Christ does. He is Head… all power is given unto Him.

d. The earthly leaders have authority only in so far as they submit to Christ and His Word… submit to Christ the Living Word and the Written Word. Apart from that earthly church leaders have NO power… no authority.

e. The church is not to revolve around an earthly personality… yet sadly in our generation we are seeing super churches developing around a super personality… a celebrity-like leader with a big name with lots of charisma…

f. The church is not to revolve around a pastor or any member. Christ and Christ alone is the Head of the Body.


1. There are many members in the Body. (I Cor. 12:14)

a. This is by God’s design and they all serve a valuable function to the Body. (I Cor. 12:11,18)

b. But this fact can also be problematic in that the many members, with many differences, CAN produce friction in the Body… disunity…

c. I Cor. 12:31 – they were coveting the best gifts for themselves. Paul wanted to show them a better way to function in the Body: selfless, humble, love (ch.13).

d. The Body functions because of unity in the midst of diversity. BOTH are absolutely essential for the Body to function properly… diversity AND unity.

e. Unanimity would severely LIMIT the Body’s ability to function (I Cor. 12:19). If we were all the SAME… with the same background… the same spiritual gifts… the same outlook on life… if every member were identical—the Body of Christ would be as handicapped as a physical body that only had one big eye… or one giant foot… Unanimity does not make a body. It makes for a hideous monstrosity!

f. The Body of Christ NEEDS diversity of function.

g. But if a body has 100 different functions all operating at the same time… we would say that that body is spastic.

h. All of those different functions must be coordinated… and there must be unity in the midst of diversity.

2. Christ is the HEAD of the Body. He is the UNITY of the Body.

a. In our physical body, it is the head that tells the legs to walk or the arms to lift… or the tongue to speak.

b. These valuable functions (walking; lifting; talking) are not be operating independently of the other members, or independently of the body corporately.

c. Each member… each function is to be submitted to the Head and the Head gives the orders.

d. Real unity occurs in the Body only when each member is in harmony with the Head.

e. In recent years, there has been much emphasis on psychology in the churches. There have been many seminars on counseling, resolving conflicts, dealing with interpersonal relationships, all aimed at dealing with problems that arise among men. There is a certain amount of benefit to that.

f. However, it is FAR better to teach church members to learn to submit to Christ… to surrender to Him… when that is the case, conflicts in the Body will dissolve away into insignificance.

g. By putting all our efforts into working out the problems in the church among men, we are basically spending our time putting out fires.

h. By spending time with the Lord, submitting to Him, abiding in Him, surrendering our will to Him, we are preventing the fires from erupting in the first place… a far better approach.

i. Illustration: if we each have a watch and are trying to get all of our watches in sync, we could spend forever going from person to person making adjustments. What is needed is a Standard—and all the watches are to adjust to that ONE Standard… one Head… or we are wasting our time.

j. If there were 50 pianos in this room and we wanted to tune them all, we could tune pianos with each other for 50 years before getting it right. But if they are all tuned to a single tuning fork, then they will automatically be in tune with each other.

k. At SALEM BIBLE CHURCH, we choose to point men to Christ… as Head… and to teach all of us to submit to Him… to be in tune with Him. If that is the case, we will automatically be in tune with each other.

l. And even if we disagree about observing certain days, or eating meat, certain forms of entertainment, or some other non-doctrinal issue… as long as our goal is to eat the meat or not eat the meat as unto the Lord… then we really are on the same page… in unity with each… BECAUSE we are in unity with the Head… the mind of Christ the Head rules.

m. The Head organizes, coordinates, orders, arranges, and facilitates all operations in the Body so that the Body functions smoothly… effectively… and rationally.

n. All of this requires each member to be in selfless submission to the Head.

o. A lack of submission or surrender to the Head means that members will be functioning independently of the Head and of the Body on their own.

p. When a physical body moves and operates independently of the brain, it is called either “insanity” or a “convulsion.” It is NOT normal behavior.

Back to top of page

Back to Chapter-1 Index

Back to Colossians Index

Back to Bible Studies