Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Head of the Church
according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, Ephesians 1:19b-20, 22ESV
Question 52 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?” It gives the answer, “Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof, (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his Church, for their justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.” Last time we looked at how Christ’s resurrection declared His victory over death and Satan, and His Lordship over the living and the dead. Today we consider the significance of the public person of Christ and how His resurrection established Him as head and helper of His church.
When the birth of Jesus Christ was declared at several occasions and to multiple witnesses: the shepherds, magi, Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Anna, and Simeon – not to mention the Old Testament saints and prophets – it was not just to provide information to curious onlookers, but to publicly declare the advent of God’s covenant Head, the Messiah of Israel. Scripture describes Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) and “second man” (1 Cor. 15:47). Here we recall that Adam was a public person, the head and root of all humanity. Accordingly, God’s covenant with Adam in its blessings or cursings would accrue to all whom he represented depending upon Adam’s performance. So when Adam sinned, all whom he represented sinned in Him and became guilty before God. In a similar fashion Jesus came as a public head and representative of a new humanity. God’s covenant blessings or cursings with Jesus would likewise depend upon His performance. When Jesus stood by performing perfectly all the stipulations of the covenant, the blessings He earned were secured for all whom He represented. Scripture contrasts the performance and results of the two public persons and what they secured for their representatives in Romans 5:12-19:AdamJesusby the one man’s offense many died,the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.by the one man’s offense death reigned through the onethose who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnationthrough one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
As we noticed last time, Jesus’ victory was achieved on the cross, but the manifestation and proof of that victory were by means of His bodily resurrection, a public event of which Christ chose the twelve apostles to be the official witnesses. Thus, Scripture affirms each of the twelve apostles was “a witness to His resurrection,” (Acts 1:22); “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). Jesus’ resurrection proved Him to be the head of a new humanity: the church that He loved and gave His life and rose again for!