In my last post I shared how essential it is for the Body of Christ to be “holding fast to the Head” as it gathers in His name. In this and the next post I’d like to share one of the most important insights I’ve gained as to how the Body can most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship as it gathers in His name.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:20 ESV
When we assemble as the church, Jesus Christ is personally present with us. This is the most significant aspect of our gathering. His presence changes everything, for He is not there merely as a spectator, a cheerleader, or even a sideline coach. He is there in the fullness of all that He is, to be all to His people. When we gather “in His name”, we gather under His authority to carry out His specific desire and purpose for our gathering. Jesus Christ is personally present to lead us and to carry out His work in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is there as our indwelling Life and as our living Head.
Gathering under the immediate headship of Christ, however, is not something that the Church at large has been accustomed to or is generally expectant of. Ever since the middle of the second century, when the Church universally accepted the intermediary headship of the monepiscopacy (single bishop), Catholic and, later, Protestant streams of Christianity have primarily assembled under the headship of a set-apart man/woman and been directed primarily by a predetermined liturgy or program. The open, participatory, Spirit-led gatherings of the first century church (see 1 Cor. 14:26-40) have been mainly carried on throughout history by an “outside-the-gate” remnant who were determined to maintain the freedom and fullness of the early church by gathering under the immediate headship of Christ as His functioning Body.
In this last day, that “outside-the-gate” remnant is increasing as an end-times witness to the unchanging purpose of God for His Church. The immediate, functional headship of Christ is being restored as the He is being lifted up once again to His rightful place as the unrivaled center and uncontested Head of His Body. This restoration is advancing with great struggle, however, as remnant expressions of the ekklesia are seeking to overcome layers of age-old patterns, religious preconditionings, entrenched traditions, and inflexible structures and mindsets.
I have personally experienced that struggle and yet through it have learned from both the “successes” and the “failures” of what I’ve been a part of. Through the “school of the Spirit” and also of “hard knocks”, the Lord has taught me some deep lessons and given me some precious insights as to how the headship of Christ can be most readily and regularly experienced within his Body. In this post, I’d like to introduce what I consider to be one of the most significant of these, and then go into more detail and practical application of it in a follow-up post.
The “Heartship of Christ”
The greatest secret that I have learned in this regard is in what I’ve come to know and describe as the “HEARTSHIP of Christ”. In fact, I don’t believe that any gathering of believers will ever truly come to know the manifest “headship of Christ“, until it truly comes to know the manifest “heartship of Christ“.
The Priority of the Heart
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Prov. 4:23 NIV
In the innermost being of both God and man there is a vital connection between the head and the heart. Neither of these function independently of the other. Of these two aspects, though, the heart holds the primary place according to the Divine order.
A strong indication of this is that in Scripture, wherever the words “heart” and “mind” are found in context together, the word “heart” consistently appears before “mind”. This regular ordering indicates the spiritual priority of the heart before the head. (See 1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 26:2, Psalm 139:23, Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 3:5, Jeremiah 3:15, Jeremiah 17:10, Acts 4:32 as examples.) There is one consistent exception to this pattern, however. The word “mind” appears before “heart” when fallen, sinful man is being described or referenced. (See Deuteronomy 28:65, Psalm 64:6, Isaiah 1:5, Isaiah 46:8 as examples.) According to divine order, then, the heart is ordained to have priority over the head, yet when sin enters in, the order reverses and the head takes priority over the heart.
Another consistent pattern in this regard is that the word “heart” always precedes the word “soul” when found in context in Scripture. Numerous times the phrase “heart and soul” is used, for instance, but never “soul and heart”. The soul is commonly understood to be comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions and so the aspect of the mind is also implied in the word “soul”. The important thing to understand is that the seat of all of these three aspects of the soul are found in the heart. Therefore, when God wants us to seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29), return to Him (2 Chronicles 6:38), trust Him (Proverbs 3:5), love Him (Deuteronomy 30:6), serve Him (Deuteronomy 11:13), obey Him (Deuteronomy 30:2) keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 26:16), and the like, He directs His word first to the “heart”, and then to the “soul” /”mind” which will naturally follow after it.
Probably the most well-known example of this Divine order is found in the “great commandment”: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38) Here we see that the “heart” is mentioned first, followed by the “soul”, and then the “mind”. This is the proper order for man to both experience and express the love of God.
According to the nature of God, and of His Divine order for man, then, the heart is to have the priority in all matters, followed by the soul and the mind.
The Priority of “Heartship”
By having an understanding of this Divine order as it exists in both God and man, we can gain a key insight into how the headship of Christ works within His corporate Body.
In the natural body, the head is the highest, most intelligent member that governs the rest of the body. The term “headship”, in its common usage, speaks of both the position and function of the chief, governing member of an organism or organization. The dictionary definition includes: “the position of head or chief; chief authority; leadership; supremacy.” (Dictionary.com) We know from our natural body, and from human institutions, that “headship” is both positional and functional.
In the spiritual Body, the Head (Christ) is, likewise, the highest, most intelligent member Who governs the rest of His Body. Scripture says that Christ is, “… the Head of [His] body, the church…so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent.]” Col. 1:18 AMP Drawing from the “body” analogy, we understand that spiritual “headship” is, likewise both positional and functional. Christ has both the place and the power of governance over His Body as its living Head.
That being said, then, we can further ask, what, if anything, holds the place and the power of governance over the thoughts and intentions of the Head? From what we have seen in Scripture, we know that the heart holds the place of prominence and the power of influence over the deepest workings of the mind. This place and power of governance that the heart holds over the head, according to the Divine order, is what I call “heartship”! This is the heart’s rulership over all of the inner workings within both God and man. Because of this inner supremacy of the heart, heartship precedes headship, and headship proceeds from heartship! All that Christ desires to do for, in, and through His Body as its ruling Head, finds its origins, first and foremost, within His reigning heart. This is the vital relationship that exists between the headship of Christ and “the heartship of Christ.”
This understanding though rather simple in its essence, is profound in its implications. It is one of the most important “keys” to our entering into and experiencing Christ’s manifest headship both individually and corporately. The more we encounter, embrace, and embody the heartship of Christ, the more we will be able to encounter, embrace, and embody the headship of Christ that springs from it! That is the simple truth that I hope you will take from this initial post.
In the follow-up post, I will share in greater detail how we can come into a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ” and thus position ourselves to most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship in our midst as His Body.
In the meanwhile, I encourage you to follow some of the above Scripture links and take some time to study more fully this matter of the supremacy of the heart in spiritual matters. It is a most beneficial and enriching study!
The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church
The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh
Spot on, David, and what a difference it makes to gatherings when one ‘gets’ the ‘heart-ship’ of Christ! Incidentally, in one of our gatherings just very recently, we looked at Prov. 4:23. Each person had done some thinking and meditating on this key-scripture (one of my personal ‘life-verses’) beforehand, and it was amazing how the Spirit of Christ graciously broke open its meaning in so many fresh ways to those who had gathered. Christ is always faithful, even when we are often faith-less…
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Thanks for this thought. Do you see a move to the headship of Christ in (what has now become) the traditional congregation? I believe it is possible, but I’m not really seeing it happen, even in church plants. They will start that way but the goal is not to remain in that position. Do you think this embracing of the Church under headship has to come from those “outside the gate,” as you wrote?
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Brian, these are really great questions, and ones that those who are wrestling with these matters should be seeking God’s perspective on! I’m going to give a simple, initial reply here, but I’m considering using your comment as a possible springboard for a future post in order to go into a deeper explanation from my perspective. So thank you!
In short, as I see it, a traditional congregation can certainly move in the direction of being more open to the headship of Christ, and that they would be better off for it. I think, however, that we underestimate the “tensile strength” of the mindsets, structures, motivations, expectations, and the like of those who have been a part of a long-standing system which is based around the centrality of something or someone other than Christ Himself. If we were to “reverse engineer” the traditional church system and go back to the origins of how and why it formed and developed the way that it did, we would see that at its root is the centrality of human headship, beginning with the exaltation of the monarchical bishop, as I mentioned in the post. Catholicism centers around the bishop/priest’s ministry, while Protestantism centers around the pastor/preacher’s ministry. The institutional form of the church developed around those “eccentric” centers while Christ became more of a mediated “figurehead.” Most of what we know as “normal church” today (i.e. church buildings, religious services, professional clergy, monologue sermons, liturgies, programs, passive congregations, and the like), therefore, formed from this fundamental shift that happened so long ago and has developed over nearly two millennia. That is the “old wineskin” that the “new wine” of Christ’s headship is up against.
So, the situation we are in is a very complex, confusing, and difficult one. Primarily, when God works His program of restoration, though, He works through a remnant of His people who have come out of the “Babylonish” system that prevails and they begin with a fresh start, beginning from the foundations up. That is a costly work of God to be a part of, but I believe that that is where God’s hope lies.
I’ll have to leave it there for now, but I do hope to revisit this in the near future. Please feel free to add your thoughts, and I welcome those of others as well. Blessings to you as you continue to seek HIm! -David
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Thank you for sharing, Erroll. The unity of the Spirit is an amazing thing! It is truly wonderful, too, when the Lord works through his many-membered body and brings out a richness and a fullness that could not have been had otherwise. His Heart beats with Life and when we get in the flow of His Heart, it is truly Life-giving! As you mentioned, also, His faithfulness transcends our faithlessness and so He can use even ones the likes of you and I! 🙂 Blessings!
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Brother David, as you indicated so clearly, this relationship between the Head and the Heart is simple, yet so profound. I enjoyed this initial thought immensely and appreciated it. It provides the explanation of the source of the Head’s love and actions. Thank you. From Africa
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