Christ, the King, and Head of the Church

Rev. Chip Hammond

If you were to ask our friends in the Roman Catholic communion who the head of the Church is, most of them would say that it is the "Pope."

We maintain, however, that Jesus Christ is the only head and king of the Church, and this is the subject of the very first chapter of our Book of Church Order. The first paragraph (which is actually one enormously long sentence!) affirms just this, recognizing him in his headship (e.g. Col. 1:18) and kingship (e.g. Rev. 19:16) with nearly all the titles that Scripture ascribes to Him. It reflects also the fact that Christ in his ascension "...received gifts for his church and gave offices necessary for the building of his church, for making disciples of all nations and perfecting his saints."

The second paragraph introduces us to the government of this King. Many modern Christians are at heart steeped in the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. They like the idea of a King, as long as everyone can think of this King whatever he likes, and do what is right in his own eyes. They like the idea of the church being the citizenry and visible representation of Christ's kingdom, provided there is no real structure or responsibility involved in such.

We see it differently. Christ as ruler, teacher, and servant of the Father has proceeding from himself the offices of ruling elder, teaching elder, and deacon. His rule and government is not only directly and mystically upon the heart, but he also "uses the ministry of men in ruling and teaching his church through his Word and Spirit, thus exercising through men his own authority and enforcing his own laws."

Our Book of Order further delineates the Church's requirement to observe all things for its governance expressly commanded by the Word, or in those areas in which there is freedom, to do things decently and in order according to the general principles of the Word.

We also believe that "a particular form of church government is bound to set forth what Christ requires for the order of his church..." and delineates the fact that the Presbyterian form of government seeks to fulfill the biblical requirements "for the glory of Christ, the edification of his church, and the enlargement of that spiritual liberty in which Christ has set us free."

It affirms that we believe that while Presbyterianism is necessary for the perfection of the Church, it is not necessary for its essence. That is to say, there can be (and undoubtedly are) true churches that do not have a Presbyterian form of government. Nor does it mean that Presbyterian churches are perfect. It only affirms that if a church were to attain perfection, a necessary component of that state would be a proper biblical form of Church government.

The first chapter concludes by affirming that "men, to whom this government is committed, are fit for such work only by the gifts and calling of Christ. While other parts of the Book of Church Order will expand on this, those who would be called to office in the Church must meet the minimum requirements found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.