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Colossians 1:18 by Robert Dean
Jesus is sufficient and necessary. He provides all we need, and He alone can provide all we need. The first line of evidence is that He is the Creator with all that implies. The second line of evidence is that He is the head of the church, the authority over the church. Authority is a crucial concept involved in headship. What does it mean that Jesus is head over the church? What does it mean that Christ is the head of man, and man the head of woman? These are just some of the questions answered in this lesson.
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:56 mins 19 secs

Sufficiency, Necessity and Authority. Colossians 1:18


Sufficiency, necessity and authority are three ideas are really inherent throughout this section. The theme of Colossians is the sufficiency of Christ. That is because the point of challenge that came from the culture around them—from those who were religious, whether the influence was from the Greek culture or from the Judaism of the Jews that were in the area—was the idea that Jesus was great, Jesus is nice, we are glad you have Jesus, but you really need to have these other things. Whether the other things were ideas from Greek philosophy or they were rituals from a Jewish background, the idea was that Jesus just isn't enough. Yet what Scripture emphasizes again and again is that Jesus is sufficient. Sufficient for what? We have a problem with that because we often want to narrow that and restrict it to spiritual things. We talk about sufficiency and that means that Jesus is all that we need and more to solve whatever problem it is, what ever the issue it is that we face in life. Some of those issues are emotional, some are what we call psychological, some are relational, and some have more to do with the academics and understanding of the world that God created. Necessity has a little different idea, the idea of exclusivity. Sufficiency of Jesus is enough; exclusivity is Jesus is the only way. Put it another way, the Word of God is enough; the Word of God is the only way. Once those two ideas are combined together and the idea of necessity is developed, especially as Paul does in the second chapter, we will see that these two ideas have to go together in Scripture. It is not just that Jesus is enough because you may be able to get enough from something else, and if we think that happiness comes from pleasure we can certainly get enough if we buy enough six-packs, women or men, or parties or drugs, or whatever it is to make ourselves happy if that is what we think the ultimate goal is. But Scripture says that is not really sufficient and it is not going to get us an eternal happiness or stability because that only comes God's way, and that is through Jesus Christ.

But both of these ideas are then connected in this passage under the idea of authority. The only way that we know truth is through some sort of authority. As we have seen we have basically four options in terms of authority. Three of them really relate to us. We are either going to make our authority empiricism, or reason, or some form of the two combined, or mysticism. Most people merge those three and they have certain things they believe to be true because they "just know it is true." The problem we have in American Christianity is the idea of well that's good for our spiritual life but I am studying physics today; or that is good for Sunday but I'm studying law today; or that is good for Bible class but I am studying history today. What that is saying is that God may be the creator of everything in the universe on Sunday but He doesn't have anything to say about what He created in the universe on Monday through Saturday. This is Paul's argument right at the beginning of this section because Jesus is the creator of everything, Jesus is God, therefore omniscient, and since He created everything—including history, English, physics, biology—He can address all of those subjects; there is nothing in creation that is outside of His authority. So we make this mistake of separating our spiritual life from other areas of life and we end up trying to find solutions to all kinds of problems that are faced in our lives and in culture apart from God's Word.

What we have to understand is that our spiritual life is really at the core of everything. It is only as we have regeneration and have new life, and are informed by the Word of God that that in turn begins to help us understand all the other details in God's creation, put them in their right place and have a right understanding of them. We then can understand all of these other details, whether they are emotional or psychological, historical, legal or economic.

Now Paul move from the sufficiency of Christ because He is the creator of everything to v.18, that He is the creator and originator and sustainer of a spiritual organism called the church; and He has placed an authority over the church. Here Paul is suddenly bringing us down to this dispensation and to something that is specifically related to a spiritual organism that came into existence on the day of Pentecost. That birth of the church occurs only because Jesus has been resurrected and ascended and glorified and seated at the right hand of God the Father. Now Paul is saying that not only do we understand that Jesus is sufficient for everything because He is the creator of the entire physical universe but He is the creator of this organism the church and He is the head of the church. 

Colossians 1:18 NASB "He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."

The word "head" is the Greek word kehpale [kefalh]. Its literal meaning is the physical part of the body that contains the brain. It is the brain that is the command and control center of the body. That idea of authority, the command and control center, is what is then used in a symbolic way to come over for a metaphor for meaning. It describes superiority or authority but in Greek it never describes source or origin. It is also used in a few passages in the Scripture to refer to the chief or head cornerstone. In that sense it is related to something that is the uppermost part or the extremities of something. Cf. Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11. 1 Corinthians 11:8 NASB "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man." The NASB has inserted the word "origin" which is not in the original. In the Greek there is only the preposition ek [e)k] which means "from," or it can indicate source as in this case. The text just says the woman is from man. The word kephale always refers to authority, and it does in Scripture. So in conclusion in talking about this word we have to understand that the meaning of the metaphor is related to authority and leadership. Authority isn't just tyranny; genuine authority involves leadership, it is not just being in charge. The idea of headship teaches ideas of supremacy, control and authority. The body receives direction from head where the brain is located.

Note the similarities in Ephesians chapter one with what we are reading in Colossians chapter one. Ephesians 1:19-21 NASB "and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. {These are} in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly {places,} far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." Note that in v. 21 Paul looks to the future: that after the resurrection and ascension Jesus is placed in authority over all categories of created life, and specifically over the angelic dominions. We have seen—Colossians 1:16—that Christ is the one who created everything in heaven and in earth. In His humanity He becomes lower than those things but in the ascension and when He is seated by the Father He is back in authority over the angelic powers, fallen as well as elect. Then Colossians 2:10 NASB "and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority." Ephesians 1:22 NASB "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church." The words "under His feet" is an idiom for putting under authority. The Greek word for "put all things" is hupotasso [u(potassw] which means to submit or to subordinate something to something else. It is the word that is used in Ephesians 5 where it says women are to submit to the authority of their husbands. We can't escape the fact that for Paul headship means authority. Jesus directs, controls, and is in charge of the church. That is what headship means.

The core of the discussion in the first 12 verses of 1 Corinthians 11 has to do with authority. Why did Paul address head coverings and hair and comportment at all? It is because certain things that he says here are important because they have a testimony effect to the angels in the realm of our submission to the authority of God. The issue there always goes back to the fact that it was Satan who rebelled against the authority of God, and so whenever the issue is authority it has to do with our witness as a believer to the angels that authority is the real issue. That is what was at the core of the first sin which was Satan's rebellion against God. 

1 Corinthians 11:1, 2 NASB " Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." By traditions he means the teaching of the Word of God, the traditions of divine viewpoint that go all the way back to creation, not human traditions. [3] "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." Again he uses this word "head," kephale, which is so important in terms of authority. Paul is talking to males and saying that the authority over them—going back to divine institution # 1—is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the man's control officer and the man's responsibility is to be in obedience to Him, which means that he more than anybody else needs to know the Word of God so that he knows what his responsibilities as a man are. Authority roles have nothing to do with a person's value or their essential characteristics of who they are, it simply has to do with a role. Even Christ is under the authority of God the Father. 

1 Corinthians 11:4 NASB "Every man who has {something} on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head." If we look at the context here we see that covering is really integral to understanding this passage. What we read in the Greek is, "Every man who has on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head." Translators will often try to put something in there, and they relate it to something like a head covering or hair. So we have to decide if it is talking about physical covering like a hat or a veil or is it talking about hair?

There are passages such as Ezekiel 44:18-20, which is talking about the Millennial temple and the rules and regulations for the priesthood in the Millennial temple, and it states that the priests were never to either shave their head nor let their hair grow long but were to have it trimmed. This is making a comment that biblically there is something that is to be distinct about hair, something that it indicates. In Leviticus 13:45 lepers were to let their hair grow long and unkempt as a sign that they were lepers. So there is something negative there with men especially in long and unkempt hair. In Numbers 5:18 about a situation where a woman is accused of adultery she was to let her hair down, loose and unkempt, rather than have it tied up in a bun or somehow kept under control. So in this 1 Corinthians passage what we have in this passage is that the suggestion is either the word that is left out is "hair" or the word "veil." It is suggested for a number of reasons that it should be hair. There is no indication from the Old Testament that there is a tradition of having a veil over the head which disgraces the head. In fact, within Judaism the men have a prayer shawl that they put over their head when they pray. So if Paul is saying in this passage that a man can't a veil over his head without dishonoring it he is making a strong assertion that this whole practice in Judaism is wrong, and the application of that would be that any time that a Jewish convert became a Christian they would have to quit using a prayer shawl when they prayed. There is no indication historically that that was ever an issue. It would have been a major issue: they would have been making an issue out of the prayer shawl, but they never did. 

The principle that Paul is laying down here is stated as a universal principle. So we have to understand what this covering describes. It doesn't appear to be an external covering. 1 Corinthians 11:5 NASB "But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved." Part of what is going on here has to do with how men and women are to handle their hair, that hair styles have something to do with expressing one's masculinity or femininity. The bottom line on this in terms of the hair as the head covering is that Paul is saying that men need to dress and comport themselves as male and women as a female to honor God, because there are distinct roles between the two. The man dishonors God is he has a feminine hairdo; he disgraces the authority set over him. In verse 4 he states that every man who has long hair, and improper hair style, dishonors his head, i.e. his authority, Jesus Christ. 

1 Corinthians 11:6 NASB "For if a woman does not cover her head [wear her hair in an acceptable feminine manner], let her also have her hair cut off [like an adulteress]; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head [wear her hair in an acceptable manner]. So the bottom line in all of this is authority.

1 Corinthians 11:10 NASB "Therefore the woman ought to have {a symbol of} authority on her head, because of the angels." It is an angelic witness that she is authority oriented. [11] "However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman." There are still role distinctions and you have to comport yourself in the proper role distinction. [12] "For as the woman originates from the man"…That is what happened in the garden. "… so also the man {has his birth} through the woman; and all things originate from God." So there is an interplay between the roles of the sexes and they can't be used to assert an inappropriate authority, men over women. [13] "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God {with her head} uncovered?" i.e. without her hair in an appropriate manner. [14] "Does not even nature [God's intended design] itself teach you that if a man has long hair [an effeminate manner], it is a dishonor to him, [15] but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering." That verse defines what the covering is. It is not just an external veil, it hair. 

Colossians 1:18. We see from all of this that Christ is the head, the authority, and He is the one who directs that to the church. He is called the arche [a)rxh], the beginning. arche as we find it here has to do with the source or cause of something. He is the one who gives origination to the church. Why? Because He is the firstborn from the dead; that is His resurrection. There "firstborn" has to do with first in time rather than first in priority. So as the one who rose from the dead He gives birth to the church. "…so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."

Headship is more than  just authority. Ephesians 5:22 NASB "Wives, {be subject} to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Same authority issue. Christ is the head, so women are to submit to the husband just as they submit to the authority of Jesus Christ. [23] "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself {being} the Savior of the body." That brings in the second idea. It is not just being the boss, it is true leadership. The true leadership has to do with how it functioned for Christ as going to the cross to die for the sins of the world. [24] "But as the church is subject to [hupotasso] Christ, so also the wives {ought to be} to their husbands in everything. [25] Husbands, love your wives…" But the standard is Jesus. "… just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her….  [28] So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself." The head tells the body what to do; the brain is concerned about the health and welfare of the body. Part of headship is love and nourishment, care for the body. [29] "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also {does} the church." Part of that headship responsibility is to nourish and cherish. Authority without love is tyranny; love without authority is just permissiveness and mushy sentimentality. You have to have authority but true biblical authority functions with true biblical love, as exemplified by our salvation.

Revelation 1:5 NASB "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood."  Authority is related to love.