Head: Source or Authority

Headcoverings, Part 1
Headcoverings, Part 2 (Head is covered here)
Headcoverings, Part 3

In our recent look at the presence and use of head coverings by women when praying or prophesying in the gathering of believers, we pointed out one of the more difficult interpretations was the meaning of head used throughout the passage. As we saw, the passage uses head in a number of ways, yet the hinge for interpreting the meaning of the passage and subsequently its application is found in 1 Corinthians 11:3
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 

1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
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 Corinthians 11:3 KJV
In part 2 of our study, we saw how this verse is often used as the hinge in the debate between egalitarianism and complementarianism, the former a reference to equality of gender roles and the latter referring to distinction and complementary gender roles. Having concluded that the entire passage is a support for complementary gender roles, we saw how this is the case even if the decision is made for head to mean source, rather than authority. If you refer back to that post, we noted that interpreting head as authority in 11:3 above forces the logical conclusion of eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) or eternal functional subordination of the Son (EFS). The conclusion is a false dichotomy between source – and being deemed an egalitarian, or authority – and deemed to hold to some sort of eternal subordination of the Son. As we saw, neither conclusion is necessary.

Recently, while considering the meaning of Christ as Head of the church from the letter to the Ephesians, I was listening to a sermon from the venerable Martyn Lloyd-Jones and was pleasently surprised to hear his conclusion on the use of head in Ephesians 1:10-23. Below are his thoughts:
Paul says that the Lord Jesus Christ is ‘the head of the church’, ‘the head of the body’. He is not thinking primarily here of authority or governance. Of course, it is true that Christ as Head of the Church is the sole authority, and we must recognize no other. There is no head of the Church save the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is the essence of the reformed position that we assert this truth. We recognize no human being as Head of the Church; Christ alone is the King and the Head of the Church. But that is not what the Apostle is emphasizing at this point; he is concerned to say that Christ as the head of the Church is the source and the centre of the life of the Church. This is made quite clear by the analogy of the body. In the body the head is the source and the centre of power. The body derives its vital energy from the head. Nothing provides a greater proof of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures than the way in which the Apostle Paul and others were led to use this analogy. They did not possess the knowledge we now have of anatomy and physiology; but the analogy is quite perfect in such terms. There is not a part of the body which is not controlled by nerves and the nervous system. The life of every muscle and in every part is conveyed to it by nervous energy and power. And all the nerves ultimately can be traced back to the brain, which is in the head. It is the centre and the source which controls all the nervous energy of the whole body and every separate part and particle of the system. When the Apostle says that Christ is the Head of the Church he means that He is the Head of the Church in that sense. We have no life apart from Him; all the energy and power come from Him. To state it negatively, we can say that we have no independent life as Christians. He is the Vine, we are the branches; branches would never have existed without a vine. All comes from Him. The Apostle John says: ‘Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace’ (John 1:16). The life of the whole body and every individual part comes from the head, and that is what is particularly meant by saying that Christ is the Head of the Church.

Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. God’s Ultimate Purpose: An Exposition of Ephesians 1. Baker Books, Ann Arbor, MI. pg. 427-428.
One of the more prevalent analogies between Christ and His church is that of head to body. Recent discussions on the aforementioned doctrine of ESS/EFS and it’s theological accuracy have led specifically to revisiting the meaning of Christ as head, particularly as source or authority in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Perhaps we ought to use this as an opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of allowing the text of God’s Word to inform our doctrinal beliefs rather than imposing our doctrinal beliefs onto a passage of Scripture.

Sola Scriptura

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Christian saved by grace through faith.

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