And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead…
I. ITS NATURE AND CHARACTERISTICS. "A congregation of faithful men," etc. (Acts 19.).
1. The members of which it is composed.
(1) Their privileges. They are believers — faithful men, chosen, redeemed, regenerated, sanctified.
(2) You must view them as brought together in the bonds of a common profession; for they are faithful men assembled. Solitary individuals, however eminent for piety, cannot form a church (Matthew 18:15).
(3) They must be brought together for religious purposes. A company of believers brought together for secular ends would not be a church. They must assemble to worship God, hear His Word, communicate, etc.
(4) These thus congregated are distinguished by the general consistency of their outward behaviour. Hypocrites and evil persons may be found in the Church, but they are not of it.
2. Its characteristics.
(1) Unity. The Church is one in
(a) The foundation on which it rests. "Other foundation can no man lay."
(b) Its worship. "Through Him we all have access."
(c) Its sympathy and spirit, which is much to be preferred to uniformity of opinion.
(2) Sanctity. This does not refer to external and ritual holiness, but to real and internal. "Be ye holy."(3) Catholicity, diffusiveness, generality. We may each of us have our denominational preferences, but we must not unchurch one another. The Church is catholic in the following particulars:
(a) It is the true Church wherever it may be, as to country or clime.
(b) It is found equally among all denominations who are in connection with the Head.
II. THE RELATION IN WHICH CHRIST STANDS TO IT.
1. He is the teaching Head. From Him as the great Prophet of the Church flows all the light by which it is illumined and cheered. "In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom," etc.
2. He is the Head of influence.
3. The Head of government — both legislative and executive.
4. The only Head.
(1) Appointed as such.
(2) Necessarily so. There can be but one head of the body.
III. THE DUTIES WE OWE TO THIS HALLOWED CONFEDERACY.
1. To try the spirits, whether they be of God — the pretensions of those who offer themselves to our notice as assumed members of the Church.
2. To admire the goodness of Christ in undertaking this government.
3. To inquire whether we belong to the Holy Catholic Church.
4. To exult in its prospective triumphs.
5. To look forward to the glorious consummation when this one Church shall be presented in its full numbers before the throne.
(G. Clayton, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.