The Body of Christ: A Reality

Watchman Nee

3. Hold Fast the Head

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church. (Eph. 1:22)
But speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him, who is the Head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)
And not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increases with the increase of God. (Col. 2:19)
One

In order to make Christ the Head of all things, God first made Him the Head of the church. After being made the Head of the church, Christ will later have His authority extended to be Head over all things. His future position in the universe is closely related to His place today in the church. For Christ to be Head over all things, God wants Him first to be such among His children - that is, in the church which is His body. How exceedingly important a subject is this matter.

Christ being the Head of the church and the church being the body of Christ, the whole body is thus summed up in the Head. If our human body is separated from the head, that automatically means death to our body. All the movements of a person are governed by the head. Whenever the head is wounded and thereby loses its effectiveness, the activities of the body stop and the body ends in death; for the head is the central control of the life of the body. Now the word of God declares that he who has the Son of God has life (1 Jn. 5:12). A Christian receives life from the Lord Jesus, who is the Son of God; yet this life never leaves the Lord. He who has the Son has life, but this life, says God's word, is in the Son (1 Jn. 5:11), and not even for a moment has this life left the Son. Hence, apart from the Lord Jesus we just cannot live.

Let us understand that God has not apportioned to us a small amount of Christ so that we may take that portion and go away. No, God has given the total Christ to us and has joined us intimately with His Son. All the power of our existence rests in Christ. In the event we lose communication with the Lord because we have departed from Him, we instantly become lifeless. Thus, though a Christian receives life from Christ, it remains in the Lord. We have received life, yet this life and the head are inseparable. Upon our accepting Him, we still must live in Him. Though we have received Him, we are yet to depend on Him. Accordingly, we cannot be independent in anything. The Lord alone is head, and He is the sole resource of our life.


Two

Christ is the life of the body; He also is its authority as the Head. Because life is in Him, authority too is in Him. He is our life, therefore He has authority; and when we obey His authority, we have life. Hence if we see what is the body of Christ, we cannot avoid accepting the control of the Head, since a body with its members is not able to move at will but does so only at the order of the head. If there is no command from the head there is no movement in the body. No member of the body can take its own initiative, but must be governed by the head. Where life is, there is authority. True authority is life. And since the Lord controls our life, He has authority over us.

Anyone who confesses with his mouth that he knows body life ought to ask himself if he has subjected himself to the Lord's authority. Whether or not he is in subjection to the authority of the Head proves whether or not he really knows the life of the body. The attitude of some people to the word of God is: "This is what the Lord has indeed said, but I think..." Who allows any of us to say "But"? Who gives us such an authority to say "But"? In the world, if anyone does not follow the order of his superior he is deemed an insubordinate person. Since Christ is the Head and we are not, we have no right not to obey the Lord.

What is meant by "follow"? To follow signifies that the way I tread and the place where I go are all decided by someone else. We are following the Lord; therefore we have no authority to decide our own path. The body in its relation to the Head can only obey and follow. If we wish to live out the life of the body of Christ we must cover our own head; that is to say, we must not have our personal opinion, egoistic will or selfish thought. We can only obey the Lord and let Him be the Head. The Lord alone is in that position; nobody else can be. I cannot be the head, neither can anyone else in the church be, for the body has only one head and is in subjection to that Head, which is Christ. We all must therefore obey Him.

Unfortunately, there appears to be in the church too many heads, too many human leaders, too many men's ways and regulations. Too often man aspires to be the authority. While Christ is Head in heaven, man wants to be head on earth. When the thought of the earthly head happens to agree with that of the heavenly One, we obey Christ. But when the earthly head disagrees with the heavenly One, we disobey Christ. How wrong is this entire system!

Have you ever said to the Lord: "O Lord, You are my Head. I have no right to decide anything, nor have I authority to make any choice of my own. May You deliver me from trying to be head as well as deliver me from other people who set themselves up as head." Each one of us needs to learn how to accept the command of God: Christ is Head, and therefore no one can follow his own will. To be subdued by the Lord and then to capitulate to Him should be a basic experience of every Christian.

We learn from Acts 2 that when Peter proclaimed the gospel he said this: "God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36). He opened his mouth and declared that Christ is Lord. Christ is not only Savior, He is firstly Lord: we need Him to be Lord to us. And because we have sinned, He must also be our Savior.

Take a look at the experience of Paul at his conversion. While he was on the way to Damascus the Lord shone around him,. And then he asked: "Who are You, Lord?" (Acts 9:5) Paul first saw Jesus as Lord before he believed on Him as Savior. Oh how we all must come to the place where we can honestly say: "O Lord, I am finished. Henceforth, it is You who directs me, because You are the Lord."


Three

Let us realize that we all must hold fast the Head. To do this means to acknowledge that Christ alone is Head. It means absolute obedience to His authority. "My grow up in all things into Him, who is the Head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in due measure of each several part, makes the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15,16). From this passage we learn that the members of the body of Christ are fitly framed and knit together because all hold fast the head and live out the life of the body. This does not suggest that God wants you to pay attention only to the one who sits next to you, but that He preeminently wants you to have a proper relationship with the Lord. If you maintain such a relationship with the Head you will have a good relationship with other body members. All matters between you and your brothers and sisters may be easily solved if you can submit yourself to the Head. If you have no controversy with the Lord you will have no problem with any brother or sister.

Whether or not you can successfully live out the life of the body rests on your relationship with the Head. Let us see that we did not become Christians because we found other Christians agreeable, nor are we successful as believers because we have mastered some kind of Christian technique. We became Christians because we know Christ. And the way we continue to live successfully as Christians is the way we were born as Christians. We were so born by having a relationship with the Head, and we continue as Christians by maintaining a proper relationship with the Head - who is Christ the Lord.

This is not to insinuate that Christians do not need to have fellowship with one another; no, it simply affirms that the fellowship among believers is based on their relationship to Christ. We need to fellowship with one another because the Christ who dwells in me and the Christ who dwells in you are inseparable. The Christ who indwells me is not a fragmentary, but a whole, Christ. Christ in you and Christ in me - this is the Christ that is the basis of our fellowship. Aside from Him we have nothing with which to fellowship. Even though the education we each receive and the environment and natural talent we individually have are all different, there is still one thing common to all of us, which is the indwelling Christ. Since the Christ in us is the same, we can fellowship with one another. Not because a certain person has ability or good temper or is gentle or considerate do you have fellowship with that one. Not at all. If your fellowship is based on people, you are not holding fast the Head - but on the contrary, your fellowship will be according to the kind of communication which Absalom had with the people of Israel. Such fellowship separated the people from David (see 2 Sam. 15:1-17). And similar conduct today would not constitute a holding fast the Head.

The fellowship between Christians ought to be that which is related to Christ. We have no basis for fellowship outside of the Head. Our fellowship is both normal and profitable if all of us hold fast the Head. Otherwise, fellowship will be marred. How far will you go as a Christian? Will you follow the Lord to the end? If someone draws back and falls away, will not your fellowship with him be affected? All of us must follow the Lord the entire way in order to maintain full fellowship, which only the mutual holding fast of the Head can accomplish.


Four

What are the conditions for holding fast the Head? On the one hand we must let the cross deal deeply with the flesh and its natural life and on the other hand we need to learn to walk according to the Spirit. Thus shall we enjoy a wholesome body fellowship. Without the dealing of the natural life by the cross we cannot live out the body life.

The book of Revelation reveals a company of people who follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes (see Rev. 14:1-5). Can we say we follow the Lamb anywhere He goes? Let us never forget that the cross is the instrument of fellowship. It deals with our flesh, it breaks down our self-life so that we may follow the Lamb wherever He leads. If we have no hindrance before the Lord, we will present no obstruction to the church. If our relationship with the Head is proper, our relationship with the body will also be proper. For let us clearly understand that every member has a direct relationship with the Head. In the physical body, for example, if the left hand should be hurt, it will be the head which order the right hand to help. The right hand makes no direct move by itself. So is it with the body of Christ. The inter-relatedness of its members comes in every instance through the Head. When one member goes to help a brother, if he holds fast the Head it is for the Lord's sake and not for the sake of mere human friendship. By holding fast the Head we will be spared from maintaining a direct relationship with anyone, and thus we will not harbor any special affinity towards a few. To do otherwise will bring in division or party spirit.

Now God does not permit division or party in the church. What is party? A party is formed when a few Christians establish direct intercourse among themselves through the technique of bypassing the Head. They maintain a special affinity towards each other which does not originate with the Head. This is party. Yet what is even worse than a party is a sect. Some people are so close and so naturally attracted to one another that the form a sectarian group. But if brethren will hold fast the Head their hearts will be as large as that of the Head. Brethren should indeed love one another; yet this mutual love has a foundation which belongs to the entire body of Christ. Loving one another must encompass all members in the body. That which falls short of the boundary of the body is not permitted by God. Only by holding fast the Head can Christians love one another without falling into parties and sects.



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