‘Headship of Christ under assault’ MacArthur says at SBTS

Communications Staff — November 2, 2006

The doctrine under the greatest assault in the church today, including many sectors of evangelical Christianity, is the doctrine of the headship of Christ, John MacArthur said Oct. 31 in a chapel service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

MacArthur’s sermon was the first of three he delivered as the featured speaker for the annual E.Y. Mullins Lecture Series at Southern. MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. and president of The Master’s College and Seminary, said that ministry approaches that undermine the authority of God’s Word deny the headship of Christ over the church.

“Modern liberal theology denies the headship of Christ. The ‘seeker’ movement silences His rule, substituting His Word with anything and everything else,” he said. “You can deny the headship of Christ in the church by removing the only way in which He can rule and that is by the expression of His will, which comes through an understanding of His Word. You take the Word out and you have dethroned the Head.

“The emerging church leaders would probably say that they believe in the headship of Christ and the Bible, but their approach is that the Bible is not clear. As emerging church leader Brian McLaren says ‘clarity is highly overrated. Ambiguity is preferable.’ According to McLaren, Christ may be the head of the church and He did speak but we have absolutely no idea what He is saying. So why should we bother reading and explaining the Word of God? Anything that takes out of the life of the church the voice of its Head is a rebellion.”

Exploring the annuls of church history, MacArthur demonstrated that the headship of Christ over the church is a doctrine that “has sailed down to today’s church on a river of blood.”

In 1415, John Hus was martyred for rebelling against the Roman Catholic doctrine declaring the pope to be the head of church and for emphasizing Scripture as the final authority over the church, MacArthur said. In a treatise titled “The Church” Hus said Christ, not the pope, was the head of the church, MacArthur noted.

“Hus said Jesus is the head of the church and reprobate leaders are disqualified from leading the church,” he said. “Essentially, he called the pope, the cardinals and the bishops of the Catholic church reprehensible, reprobate usurpers of the headship of Christ in His church.”

After Hus’ death, hundreds of people were burned at the stake in England for a failure to be obedient to mandates that came from the pope. Hus greatly influenced Martin Luther, MacArthur noted, saying that the German reformer looked to Hus as “a hero for preaching biblical doctrines crucial to the reformation.” A century after Hus’ death, Luther argued that Christ is the head of the church and said he owed the pope no more allegiance than he owed the antichrist, MacArthur said. John Calvin and John Knox made similar comparisons and Charles Spurgeon said it was a blasphemous idea to think of the pope as the head of the church.

In Roman Catholic doctrine today, the pope is still considered to be the head of the church, MacArthur noted. While evangelical Christians reject this doctrine, MacArthur said several current evangelical trends deny or diminish Christ’s headship.

“Non-biblical ministry, non-doctrinal teaching and non-expositional preaching usurp Christ’s headship in the church,” he said. “This type of ministry silences His voice in the church. This approach strips the church of the mind of Christ and the rule of Christ. It removes protection from error and sin, cripples worship, produces compromise and cheats people from the glory of their Head and the fullness of blessing that comes from His Word. Sadly, the battle is still over who is the head of the church.”

Ephesians 1:20-22 reveals that Christ is head over all things by the declaration of God the Father, MacArthur said.

“It is the sovereign Father who chose us, redeemed us and established for us an eternal inheritance. It is that same God who raised Jesus from the dead, and who gives Him all rule, authority, power and dominion over all things,” he said. “And not just over all things, but far above all things. Now and forever, Christ reigns. How sad that He doesn’t reign in His church and He is not given the place that He deserves and He is not allowed to speak through His Word to His people.”

MacArthur said God giving Christ, the ruler of all things, as the head of the church is the greatest demonstration of His love for His people.

“God gave to the church to be its Head, the One who is Head over all things,” he said. “The universal Sovereign is given headship over the church. This is the most glorious kind of language by the Holy Spirit to express the love of God for His redeemed church. God didn’t give us Gabriel or Michael to be our head. He didn’t give us gifted preachers, teachers or creative entrepreneurs to be our head. He gave us the ruler of the universe to be the Head of the church.

“Not only do we have Him as our head in the sense of dominating rule, but in the sense of a life connection because the church is His body and the very fullness of Him who is the Head fills all of us. I want to exalt the Head of the church. I want the Head to speak to His church and He has in His revelation. I want Him to receive all of the honor and all of the glory.”

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