The same answer will cover groupings of churches in an area. The visible church is made up of all persons in the world at any given time who have been baptised and attempt to live as disciples of Jesus – one enters the visible church through the rite of baptism. Paul did not have in mind only those who professed faith at the time he wrote this letter. He had in mind what has become known as the invisible church, the total number of all saved sinners.
So what does Paul say about this relationship between Jesus and his people. First, by using the terms ‘head’ and ‘body’, he reminds the Colossians of the real unity that exists between Jesus and his people. Second, the illustration reminds us that the church is dependent totally on Jesus Christ. So it what ways does Jesus help the church?
First, Jesus is responsible for the recruitment of those who make up his church. It is Jesus who comes to each of them, through his servants, the witness of his people, or by events in providence, and brings them into his church. He has promised to build his church throughout the centuries.
Second, Jesus is responsible for the rules by which the church lives. He has provided them in his Word. Some he gives in the form of clear commandments, others are deduced from incidents recorded in the Bible. Obedience to his rules is not merely our obligation; it is also the path of wisdom along which we should move with delight.
Third, Jesus is responsible for how the resources of the church are used. He knows what they are in all their varied richness, and he knows what each of his people need at any given time. He possesses the wisdom to know when to give them and he has the power to ensure that his people receive out of his resources.
Fourth, Jesus is responsible for protecting his church as its members encounter various enemies throughout history. There have been many strong opponents in the past and there are many today. But Jesus keeps his church and the enemies will never defeat it.
Fifth, Jesus is responsible for ensuring that his church will reach glory. That is his intention for his church, for its members to see his glory and share it. He will bring each of them to the perfect world, and that will involve them receiving resurrection life in its fullness.
The church is not dependent on Jesus as a last resort; instead it leans on him because he alone is capable and worthy of such trust. Local churches will come and go, national churches may disappear, the visible church may become very small, but the invisible church will survive because it is united to Jesus Christ.
The obvious response to Jesus should be a combination of admiration, assertion and anticipation. We should admire him greatly because of who he is in the church, we should assert his sovereign, unique position consistently, and we should anticipate what he has in store for his people in this life and in the next.