Headship and Lordship

Charles Henry Mackintosh

We would call attention to two very distinct lines of truth flowing out of two distinct titles of our blessed Lord, namely headship and lordship. He is Head of His body, the church, and He is Lord of all, Lord of each. Now, when we think of Christ as Lord, we are reminded of our individual responsibility to Him in the wide range of service to which He, in His sovereignty, has graciously called us. Our reference must be to Him in all things. All our actings, all our movements, all our arrangements must be placed under the commanding influence of that weighty sentence (often, alas! lightly spoken and penned), ‘If the Lord will’. And, moreover, no one has any right to thrust himself between the conscience of a servant and the commandment of his Lord. All this is divinely true, and of the very highest importance. The lordship of Christ is a truth the value of which cannot possibly be overestimated.

But we must bear in mind that Christ is Head as well as Lord; He is Head of a body as well as Lord of individuals. These things must not be confounded. We are not to hold the truth of Christ’s lordship in such a way as to interfere with the truth of His headship. If we merely think of Christ as Lord and ourselves as individuals responsible to Him, then we shall ignore His headship, and lose sight of our responsibility to every member of that body of which He is Head. We must jealously watch against this. We cannot look at ourselves as isolated, independent atoms; if we think of Christ as Head, then we must think of all His members, and this opens up a wide range of practical truth. We have holy duties to discharge to our fellow-members, as well as to our Lord and Master; and we may rest assured that no one walking in communion with Christ can ever lose sight of the grand fact of his relationship to every member of His body. Such an one will ever remember that his walk and ways exert an influence upon Christians living at the other side of the globe. This is a wondrous mystery, but it is divinely true. ‘If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’ (1 Cor. 12:26). You cannot reduce the body of Christ to a matter of locality: the body is one, and we are called to maintain this practically in every possible way, and to bear a decided testimony against everything which tends to hinder the expression of the perfect unity of the body, whether it be false unity or false individuality. The enemy is seeking to associate Christians on a false ground, and gather them around a false centre; or, if he cannot do this, he will send them adrift upon the wide and tumultuous ocean of a desultory individualism. We are thoroughly persuaded, before God, that the only safeguard against both these false and dangerous extremes is divinely wrought faith in the grand foundation truth of the unity of the body of Christ.

C H Mackintosh[1]


[1] From ‘The Life and Times of Josiah’ (part 5), Miscellaneous Writings of CHM vol. 4 p. 1.