Headship: The Trinity

But I would have you know … the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3).[1]

It is with astonishment and reverential awe that we contemplate the display of headship within the triune Persons of the Godhead. As mentioned previously, the purpose of headship is not to teach inequality or inferiority between persons. Rather, God clearly illuminates the distinction and difference in divinely appointed responsibilities.

Headship in the Incarnation of Christ

The distinction of divinely appointed roles within the Godhead is beyond dispute as we look into the Word of God. That the Jews understood God as a Father is clear from many Old Testament Scriptures and verified by their statement in John 8:41: “We have one Father, even God” (cf. Mal 2:10). The Son of God was prepared to take a veiled place, allowing the spotlight to shine upon the Father. As we turn the pages of the New Testament, we discover the truth of Hebrews 1:2 that God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” In the present dispensation the Holy Spirit fulfils His ministry upon earth. There are distinct roles within the Godhead.

We’re not long turning the pages of Luke’s record when we arrive at the account of our Lord as a twelve-year-old boy tarrying behind in Jerusalem as Joseph and Mary unknowingly made their way back to Nazareth without Him. Upon seeking and finding Him in the temple, Mary, amazed and perplexed, asks Him, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing” (Luk 2:48). Respectfully, yet in order to communicate vital truth, our Lord highlights two matters.

The statement “thy father” in relation to Joseph had to be corrected. Our Lord gently reminded her that God was His Father, and with the unique dignity of Sonship, He must be occupied in the things of His Father. Second, while equal within the Godhead, part of this great work was to demonstrate unique dependence in manhood to His God. The following statement bore testimony to that incredible truth, “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them …. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luk 2:51-52). The acceptance of headship is perfectly displayed in the life of Christ.

Likewise at Calvary, divinely appointed roles were perfectly executed in the great work of dealing with sin. Both Matthew (27:46) and Mark (15:34) record Christ’s words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We take note that the cry was not “My Father.”  Scripture is replete with teaching that this was God dealing with man. Jehovah laid the stroke of divine judgment upon Christ (Isa 53; Zec 13:7).

Note further, it is only the Synoptic writers who record Calvary’s impenetrable darkness.  John, the writer who mentions the Father some 144 times in the New Testament, omits these details. Neither does John recount the transfiguration experience. In a record that highlights the deity of Christ, we recognise that God cannot be transfigured. This behoves us to be careful in our language while engaged in worship at the Lord’s Supper. It would be inappropriate to thank the Father for punishing Christ. We must display some measure of spiritual understanding in our language; these details may seem insignificant, but they perfectly uphold in its right place the doctrine of headship.

Headship in the Exaltation of Christ

We see the same spiritual intelligence manifested by the apostle Paul with his prayers in the Ephesians epistle. When we read “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” it presents to us the humanity of Christ. Likewise, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” brings to our mind the uniqueness of His essential deity and equality within the Godhead. Paul states that Christ, having been raised out from among the dead and now in the place of exaltation, has been given to be Head over all things to the Church which is His body (see Eph 1:20-23). He then informs us that the Church actually complements Christ, teaching us that He will not be satisfied until He has His Bride by His side. Now we see the reason for the distinction. The Bride will never complement the Son in Godhead glory, but she does complement Christ in His Manhood. Further, Christ is exalted as Head over every sphere. Paul wrote to the Colossians that He is “the head of all principality and power” (2:10).

Headship in the Dominion of Christ

In the Bible, the first mention of the word “kingdom” is located in Genesis 10:10 and is in reference to the kingdom of Babylon, led by Nimrod, who rebelled against the will of God.  This kingdom, along with all who follow in the footsteps of Nimrod, finds its ultimate end is destruction (Rev 18:2). What a contrast, when on the throne of this world there is seated a Man who will display total subjection to the will of God. For 1000 years this world will experience the peaceful rule of a theocracy. Christ’s sceptre will uphold perfect justice, angelic ministry will be veiled and Christ shall reign supreme (Heb 1). His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom (Psa 145:13) and His throne is for ever and ever (Psa 45:6). No wonder we utter, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as in heaven.”

Finally, the end of time as we know it will arrive! The blessed and only Potentate will put down all rule, the King of kings will manifest all authority and the Lord of lords display all power (cf. 1Ti 6:15; 1Co 15:24). Through Christ’s subjection to God, every foe, including the devastating enemy of death, will be under His feet!

But there is one final act in the perfect execution of headship within the Trinity. Christ will not claim the kingdom for Himself. He surrenders all into the hands of God, even the Father, that the triune God may rule and the Godhead be known as supreme, by all and for all eternity. Let us bow and freshly thank God for the perfect demonstration of headship within the Trinity. Without it, we could never have been saved!

“His be the Victor’s name
Who fought the fight alone;
Triumphant saints no honour claim,
His conquest was their own.
By weakness and defeat,
He won the meed and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down.”[2]

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.

[2] Samuel Whitlock Gandy