Life is not possible without one’s head attached. As the control center of the human body, the head and brain maintain and regulate all of the physical processes that keep us alive such as breathing, the heart rate, and more. The brain is also the physical means by which the mind has access to the world so that we might communicate with other people. Despite the fact that many people act is if they have no head, the simple fact is we would all be dead without one.
The same is true of the body of Christ — the church — which exists under the headship of our Lord and Savior. Regrettably, the false teachers in Colossae did not understand this principle as they promoted a variety of legalistic practices, devotion to lesser spiritual beings such as angels, and mystical visions as the way of true salvation (Col. 2:16–18). Fundamentally, their problem was that they were not holding fast to the “Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (v. 19). In adding such things to faith in Christ, these lovers of error were not enhancing the health of the church but doing the opposite, cutting themselves and their followers off from the only One who can sustain and nourish His own body (see Gal. 5:2–4).
Growth in the Spirit and maturity in the faith, Paul tells us, come ultimately from the Father through Christ. We grow through the means wherein we lay hold of Jesus, including prayer, the Word of God, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church discipline, not through the syncretistic embrace of false worship, flesh-promoting rules, mystical experiences, and proud asceticism. As the branches of Christ the vine, to say that salvation comes through practices and beliefs not sanctioned by Him is to cut ourselves off from true life, making our standards the final arbiter of truth and source of growth (John 15:1–17). John Calvin writes, “The constitution of the body will be in a right state if simply the Head, which furnishes the several members with everything that they have, is allowed, without any hindrance, to have the pre-eminence.”
Focusing ourselves on Christ as He offers Himself in the gospel, however, guarantees our connection to the only source of life. Connected to Him, we are connected to one another and are able, through Him, to feed others and be fed ourselves.