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How is Christ the Head of the Church?

Hint: it's not about being the boss. Looking at all the places where the Bible says Christ is the Head, it refers to the head of the corner, the chief cornerstone, keystone and the capstone. These passages talk about Christ as the foundation, beginning, and source of our faith, like a foundational cornerstone. They also talk about Christ as the keystone that finishes our faith and holds us together in strength and unity. Being the head of the church is more about serving the church.

Egyptian pyramid
A chief cornerstone connects all angles of a pyramid

What is a Chief Cornerstone? The function of the chief cornerstone is to connect the whole structure. It is from the chief cornerstone that the direction is set for the other cornerstones, angles, and walls. The chief cornerstone creates, strengthens, builds up and holds together the building.

The cornerstone may be at the bottom, the first stone laid in the foundation.

cornerstone at foundation
Sample cornerstone at foundation

A cornerstone may also be the stone placed at the corner of the building or at the entrance or over the door of a building. It indicates the establishment, formation or beginning of the building.

keystone at top of arch
Cornerstone, capstone, or keystone holds top of arch together
keystone at top of arch
Keystone at top of arch holds arch together

What is a Keystone or Capstone?

A keystone, also called a capstone, has the function of holding together an arch or entrance. The keystone affects all of the stones in the arch, strengthening and holding them together. It is the final piece placed in the construction of the arch, finishing and perfecting the construction.

Obelisk in Washington
cornerstone holds together all angles of an Obelisk

At the top of a pyramid or obelisk, the final capstone that connects all of the angles of the four walls into one point is called a benben stone or a pyramidion.

In ancient Egypt, the benben stone represented the mound that arose when God shaped the world. It symbolized rebirth and new life.

Jesus called himself the head of the corner, the chief cornerstone.

Jesus as head of the corner
Matthew 21:42 Jesus is the head of the corner
LUke 20:17 Jesus the head of the corner

Jesus was quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, explaining how he was fulfilling prophecy. He quoted from Psalm 118 and from Isaiah 28.

Psalm 118:22 Jesus is the head of the corner
Isaiah 28:16 God lays a cornerstone

Peter explained to the elders, rulers, and teachers of the law that Jesus was the Christ, using the same quote that Jesus himself used. Peter explained that Jesus, who was rejected by the leaders of the day, has become the precious chief corner stone of faith.

Acts 4:11-12 Jesus is the head of the corner
1 Peter 2:4-7 Jesus is the head of the corner

Jesus is the precious chief cornerstone, yet all who believe are also stones building the new temple of God. The cornerstone strengthens and holds together all the other stones.

Women and men are all living stones, priests in this new living temple, co-heirs in God's household. Jocelyn Andersen, in "Woman this is War! Gender, Slavery and the evangelical Caste System", points out that Psalm 144 is explicit that women are included as precious cornerstones.

Psalm 144:12 Daughters are cornerstones

How does this impact our reading of Ephesians?

Now we understand better what it means that Jesus is the head of the corner, or chief cornerstone. We have also seen that all believers - women and men - are living stones in God's temple. With that understanding, we can take a fresh look at other passages that refer to Jesus as the head of the church.

Ephesians reinforces that we are all fellow citizens with the saints, all belong in God's household, and all living stones built with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. It is through Christ, the chief cornerstone that the building is formed and fits together in strength and unity. Being the chief cornerstone, or head of the corner, means that Christ is the originator, foundation, and beginning of our faith. Christ holds us together in strength and unity.

Ephesians 2:19-22 Christians are living stones
Ephesians 5:23 the cornerstone holds the building together; Christ is the cornerstone

How does this impact our reading of 1 Corinthians?

Christ is the head of the corner because it is through Christ that believers are created and held together to form the church. The man Adam was the source God used to create the woman. God is the source of Christ, with God's very word taking human form.

1 Corinthians 11:3 Christ is the chief cornerstone, the beginning and end of the church

You may see Christ as both the beginning and foundational stone and the keystone and capstone, If you stumble over the foundational cornerstone of who Jesus is, you may fall. If you walk under the keystone of Jesus, the stone may fall on you.

Philip B. Payne, author of The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood, says that correctly translated, 1 Corinthians 11:10 says a woman ought to have authority over her head (whether to wear her hair up or down, veiled or unveiled). Also, to think that the word 'head' in 1 Corinthians 11:3 ("the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man") implies 'authority' is dangerous and heretical. Christ is God; Christ is not subordinate to God. Jesus refers to himself as God and says that he voluntarily lays down his own life and takes it up again (John 10:17-18). The church discussed the idea of Christ as subordinate to the Father in the 4th century and declared it to be a heresy. The Nicene Creed expresses the divinity of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. I have covered this in my post, Is the Trinity Egalitarian or Complementarian?

Christ is both the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, the foundation and the finishing stone, the author and perfector of our faith.

foundational corner stone and top keystone
Christ is the cornerstone, beginning /foundation and end/keystone

mountain and lake
Jesus is the beginning and the end

Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

  • Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Book 1

  • The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

  • Because She Was Called: from Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church, imagines Mary Magdalene's trip to testify before the emperor


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