"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." (Colossians 1:18)It is interesting here that Paul chooses to describe Jesus as the head of the church, using a metaphor from the body. Likening the church to a body is not uncommon for Paul for, in many places, he refers to us as being a body. "But now there are many members, but one body." (1 Corinthians 12:20) What is interesting is that, in reference to authority and first place in the body, he assigns the head to Jesus. The head rules over the body with absolute authority and there is no place left for any assistant-heads, under-heads, or little-heads. Jesus is the head; the sole ruler of the body, and the sum of all authority in the body.
It is interesting, however, that from a very early date, the church has largely adopted a contrary authority structure for herself. Instead of seeing herself as a body with one head, she has expressed herself as a government and/or business with layers and layers of authority by which she is to be ruled. We have Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops. We have Pastors, Assistant Pastors, and Ushers. We have Leader, Elders, and Deacons. Each stratifying the authority in the church in to various layers and offices all filled and ruled by men (and in some rare cases by women too).
If the church were really a body and Christ was really its head, then our job would be merely to find and fulfill our place in the body. The hand does not exist with secret ambitions of being the head and the left big toe is not always trying to tell the other toes what to do. Why must we think that we must rule over each other when there is one who rules and who has already been given first place? Can we not be content to take second place? Must we always be first?
It is God's intent and design that Jesus should have first place in the church. He clearly show this intention in that Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead. Because He was the first to raise from the dead, He is to have first place in the church of those who have this hope within them; the hope of the resurrection from the dead.
The question is, does Jesus really have first place in our church? Most of us would immediately respond in the affirmative, but does He really? The best way to gauge this answer is to ask yourself, what are you most proud of regarding you church? Is it the beautiful structure, the rousing worship, the clear and concise teaching of the pastor, the programs for children, the outreach to the lost, the coffee in between services, or even your devotion to orthodoxy? All these things are find and good, but should it not be the presence and reality of Jesus in our midst that make up what we are most proud about of our churches? If someone asks us what makes our church so good, ought our response not be "Jesus!"
Perhaps we need to examine what we have give first place to in our church, or at least first place in our estimation of our church. Then, let us strip away all things that detract from the preeminence that belongs to Jesus, from boasting about ourselves and our works, and from identifying the church with ourselves rather than with Jesus. Let's return Jesus to the head and assign to Him once again the first place. If we do so, then church will never be the same.