bodyparts02Colossians 1 Part 5

w King James Version 18. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

The Resultant Version 18. And He is the head of the body of the out-called: Who is the Sovereign, the firstborn of all who will rise from the dead, that in every respect He might have the first place.

Here we have a very interesting statement: that He is the head of the body, the church. We know what men believe churches to be today: these many Christian organizations, these human institutions, that we see on every side. Whenever men hear these words “head” and “body,” they tend to think of a human head and a human body. Yet all these assumptions need to be considered to see if we cannot come up with some clearer understanding of what this passage means.

First let us consider the word “head.” This is the Greek word kephale. There is no doubt that this word can be used of the human head, and it is used this way in its first six occurrences in the book of Matthew. Yet consider its seventh occurrence, in Matthew 21:42.

42. Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

The words that are translated “chief cornerstone” in the New King James Version reads “eis kephale gonias” or “into the head of the corner” in Greek. The cornerstone is the head of the corner. This certainly has nothing to do with a human head! The same is true of the parallel passages in Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17. Peter also uses the same language in Acts 4:11, and in I Peter 2:7.

Then, when we get into the epistles, the uses of “head” for something other than the human head start coming thick and fast. First, we see it in I Corinthians 11:3.

3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Here, clearly the “head” is something more than just the top part of the human body, and it continues that way in verses 4, 5, 7, and 10 of the same chapter. Then, we have Ephesians 1:22, a very similar statement to what we have here in Colossians 1:18.

22. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

Then, in Ephesians 4:15:

15. but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

And finally, we have what we saw in I Corinthians 11 combined with what we have seen in Ephesians in Ephesians 5:23.

23. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

These verses should be enough to convince us that “head” means something more than just the top part of the human body. But what, then, does it mean?

The words about the “head of the corner” that we have seen are repeated five times in the New Testament, and are actually a quotation of Psalm 118:22.

22. The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.

Here again the Hebrew is “head of the corner,” and the word “head” in Hebrew that corresponds with kephale is shown to be, by Divine interchange, the Hebrew word rosh. The very first occurrence of this word is in Genesis 2:10.

10. Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads.

The New King James Version here has tried to make this clearer by translating rosh by “riverheads,” rather than just “heads,” but there is no Hebrew word for “river,” and this is just the word for “heads.” This should be familiar to us from our use of the term “head waters.” What exactly are head waters? They are the source from which a stream or river flows. In fact, this is the basic meaning of the word “head,” whether it is in English, or the Greek word kephale, or the Hebrew word rosh. A head is an outflowing source.

This is certainly true of the human head. It is the source to all the rest of the body. Any word that is spoken, or any action that is taken, all has its source in the head. Every part of the body reports back to the head with any sensation, whether it is heat or cold, pain or pleasure, and the head decides what to do with it. The head is the outflowing source of everything to the body, just like the headwaters are the source of water to the river.

So we read here that Christ is the Head of the body. Now we need to consider this second word, “body.” Most when they come upon this immediately start thinking of the human body. Yet does this really make sense? For certainly animals have bodies as well. What can we say about this word “body”?

The Greek word for “body” is soma. Throughout the gospels it is used for the human body, except perhaps in passages like Matthew 26:26.

26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

The parallel passages to this are Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19. What exactly Christ meant by “body” here could be argued. It is when we get into the epistles that we start seeing the word “body” used in a way that clearly cannot mean the human body. The first such passage we will consider is Romans 6:6.

6. knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Clearly, the “body of sin” is not the human body of sin, for sin is a concept, and does not have a human body. Another example where “body” does not appear to refer to the human body is in I Corinthians 10:16-17.

16. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

The “body of Christ” here clearly does not refer to His human body, whether resurrected or prior to resurrection, and “we” are clearly not one HUMAN body.

The concept of a “body” moves far beyond the human body as well in I Corinthians 15:37-40.

37. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.
40. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

Clearly, the “body “mentioned here is not the human body. First, we have the body of the grain plants, whether it be wheat or some other grain. Then, we have celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies. The human body is one kind of terrestrial body, but certainly not the only kind. As for the resurrection body, we may not be entirely certain if this is a terrestrial body or a celestial one. But certainly celestial bodies go far beyond just human bodies.

Ephesians 1:22-23 ties the words “head” and “body” together, even as we have it here in Colossians 1:18.

22. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23. which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Yet what is this thing called a “body”? We certainly do use the word for the human body, but we also use it for animal bodies. Yet we have other uses of the word “body” in English than these. For example, we will speak of bodies of water. The usage might be less familiar to some of us, but the “body” of cloth is important if you want to decide what to wear in the cold of winter versus the heat of summer. The “body” of a can of paint determines whether the paint is thick or runny. Yet what is the common thread of meaning that runs through all these different uses of the word “body”?

If we want a Scriptural clue to the meaning of this word, I believe we find our best one right here in Colossians, in verse 2:17.

17. which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Here, the Greek word “soma” is actually translated as “substance” by the New King James Version. They realized correctly that this word is put in contrast with the word “shadow” in this verse, and that the opposite of the shadow of a thing is the actual substance of a thing. That is what the “body” means here, and that is what it means everywhere, I believe. The body of a thing is the actual, organized substance of the thing. The human body, for example, is the actual substance of the human being. The body of an animal is that animal’s substance. A body of water is the actual substance of the water, organized by sides of the lake or sea or by the channel of the river or stream. The body of cloth is the kind of actual substance the cloth has, as is the body of paint the actual substance of the paint, whether thick or runny. Always, the body of a thing is the substance of that thing. This is seen in Colossians 2:17 in the contrast between the shadow and the body.

So when we read that “He (Christ) is the Head of the body,” what we are reading is that He is the source of the substance.  But the verse continues. In Greek, the next words are “of the church,” or “of the outcalled,” as The Resultant Version has it. The Greek word here is ekklesia. This is a word that is deserving of much study, much more than most people will give to it. It is the word that is almost consistently translated as “church” throughout the New Testament. Yet the two places where it is often not translated as “church” show the dubious nature of this translation. The first is in Acts 19, where ekklesia is translated “assembly” in verses 32, 39, and 41.

32. Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

39. But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.

41. And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

If we were to examine the context here, we would discover that the “assembly” referred to is made up of the city leaders of Ephesus who met in the amphitheater to fulfill their duties. Of course, this is a usage that would be entirely contrary to the way the English word “church” is used. By this usage, one might as well call the United States Congress the “church of the United States.” That would be contrary to our way of thinking, and completely unacceptable to most people. Yet that is how the word ekklesia is used here. No wonder our translators all have united in excising the word “church” from this passage, or else, like the King James Version does, translating the Greek word for “temples” in verse 37 by “churches” instead.

The other occurrence that calls into question the usage of “church” to translate ekklesia is Acts 7:38. There, we read in Stephen’s address:

38. “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,

Here, the word ekklesia is translated by “congregation” in the New King James Version. The old King James Version translated it “church,” but most modern translations have moved away from this, recognizing the problem this presents in that it shows that Israel in the wilderness had a “church.” The popular thought in Christian circles is that the church replaced Israel, so the idea that Israel had a church is unacceptable to many. Yet there is Acts 7:38, revealing the truth.

The reality is that this same word, “church” or whatever we want to call it, occurs in the Old Testament, just as it does in the New. This is revealed by the law of Divinely interchangeable words, wherein Hebrews 2:12 uses the word ekklesia in quoting Psalm 22:22.

12. saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

Here, we can see that the New King James translators have hidden the word ekklesia behind the word “assembly.” This is another case wherein the old King James was more honest, but the modern translators have deviated from it in an attempt to hide the (to them) unpleasant truth. Yet when the original languages are considered, ekklesia is shown to be interchangeable with the Hebrew word qahal in this passage. While a complete study of the words qahal and ekklesia is beyond the scope of this study, wherein we are focusing on Colossians, it will be beneficial to our study to point out that the word qahal is often used in the Old Testament for a chosen leadership group, capable of representing the rest of the people and making decisions for them, just as ekklesia does in Acts 19.

Now the word ekklesia comes from two words in the Greek. The first is ek, which means “out.” The second is the verb kaleo, which means “to call.” Yet what kind of calling is meant? Many insist that kaleo means “to invite or bid,” and speaks of the members of the church being invited or bidden to come out of the world. Yet this meaning will only fit kaleo in about a third of its occurrences in the New Testament. Conversely, in about two-thirds of its occurrences, it cannot possibly mean this. Instead, in those cases it means either “to name,” “to position,” or “to designate.” It is this latter meaning that I believe the word ekklesia takes on in Greek, matching it well to the Hebrew word qahal. Those who are “outcalled,” then, are those who either are marked out from others in a special way, or those who have a position out of another that is different from the position most others have. This position is usually a leadership position, though of course that is not the only possible position one can have.

Thus we are learning in this verse that Jesus Christ is the source of the substance of the out-positioned ones. The ekklesia Paul is referring to is clearly God’s ekklesia. He is telling us that the members of this ekklesia find the very source of the substance of their positioning in the Lord Jesus Christ. First, He created these positions. We saw this back in verse 16. Then, He qualifies those who will fill those positions. We saw that in verse 12. Next, He places us in those positions. We see this in Ephesians 2:6. Then, finally, He sustains us in those positions in which He has placed us, bringing us into conformity with Himself. This is declared in verse 20 of this same chapter. Therefore, indeed, He is the very source of the substance of what His ekklesia are in Christ. Praise God for His glorious position in which He has placed us!

Next, we read that Jesus Christ is the beginning, or the Sovereign. This is the same Greek word arche that we have in verse 16, translated “principalities” or “sovereignties.” We said it means the first or chief rulers, those who have the top rule, and from whom those delegated authorities under them get their power. Here, the word is used of Jesus Christ, the very King of kings and Lord of lords, the chief or top Ruler of all. Moreover, He is sovereign over His outcalled, and exercises His sovereignty in providing for them the very substance of what they are and what they become in Him.

Next, we read that He is the firstborn from among the dead. Many people think this means that He was the first one resurrected, but that cannot be since we read of resurrections in the Old Testament. This is sometimes explained by saying that those raised at that time were raised to die again, yet Christ is the first One raised never to die again. Yet all such ideas are stemming from the thought that the “firstborn” means the one who was born first, whereas we have already studied the fact that the “firstborn” is the one who has the right of rule or authority over the family. If Christ is the firstborn from among the dead, this means that He has the rule or authority over those who come out of death. Their fate is in His hands, and He will dispose of them as He sees fit. This is exactly what Christ Himself is saying in John 5:25-29.

25. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27. and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29. and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Christ here tells us that He will raise men from the dead, and that then He will judge them regarding them either receiving life or condemnation. This means that they are under His authority, and that they are at His disposal. In other words, He is the firstborn from among the dead.

Finally, we read, “That in all things He might have the preeminence.” Among God’s out-positioned Christ has the first place. Among all who are raised from the dead Christ has the first place. In fact, in all things Christ has the first place. This is a form of the Greek pas, not the phrase ta panta, so it does indeed mean “all.” Christ has the first place in everything. Amen!

New King James Version 19. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

The Resultant Version 19. For it is in Him that the Divine fullness dwells without limit,

Now we read that it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. Yet there is no word for “Father” in the Greek here. The word translated “pleased” seems to refer to the fullness, that it was pleased to dwell in Christ. The Resultant Version suggests “without limit” as the idea behind “pleased.” The idea, then, is that the fullness of God dwells within Jesus Christ without any limit. To try to make any distinction between Jesus Christ and God, then, is futile. The fullness of the Deity dwells within Him. This is why it is right for Him to have the first place in everything. May we all give Him first place in our lives and in our estimation, for He and He alone deserves it.