“And he subordinated all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of whom is filling the all in all.”
Paul continues his doxology by citing Psalm 8:6 directly, speaking of the language of all things being subordinated to Christ. And, at first glance, we might be tempted to dismiss this citation as simply being exalted language or our exalted Lord. And, if we do that, we will miss several important principles that Paul is setting before us.
The first has to do with the way that Paul is applying Psalm 8. Remember, when someone quotes a passage from the psalms (really from any place in scripture), then the author is directing us back to the original so that we might understand the citation in its context — in the case here, in the Old Testament Psalms.
David writes Psalm 8 as a psalm that is designed to magnify God for his power in creation — he begins with the familiar language of “how majestic is your name in all the earth!” What becomes plainly apparent is that as we move down the psalm, we see the Dominion Mandate from Genesis 1:28 being fleshed out, but here, in poetic form. Man is given rulership over all of the creation as God’s regent. Just a note of digression here, as the psalms were meant to be sung as the hymnal of God’s people, this is just a reminder of how important it is to God that we sing theology. But, I digress.
What becomes immediately apparent is that Paul is applying this psalm not just to humans in general, but to Christ. Indeed, the Dominion mandate was given originally to Adam, the first covenant head and now is applied by Paul to Christ, who is the second Adam, the greater covenant head. That which the original Adam failed to do, the greater Adam does. He does it in part through his church through the Great Commission (hence the language of the filling at the end of this verse) and he does it in its fullness in the new creation. Thus, the work of dominion will not be completed by mankind as a whole — that would be appealing to Adam’s failed covenant headship, but in Christ, the successful Covenant head.
When we begin to look at both the psalm and this passage in Ephesians in this way, we will also notice that in verse 4 of Psalm 8 you also have a reference to the “son of man.” Again, if looking at Psalm 8 alone, one would simply apply this to those who are the children of Adam. Yet, with Paul applying this to Christ, it adds meaning to Jesus’ own self-designation as “the Son of Man.” Often we only think of this as an allusion to Jesus’ humanity or to Daniel 7:13, but we must also remember that for Jesus to fulfill the original man’s failed covenant and intercede for fallen man, he first had to become man.
Further, we find the language of the church being the body of Christ with Christ as the head. Much could be said here as to this analogy which Paul likes to use, but the most important aspect in the immediate context is that of headship. Jesus is the head of the body. That means, if the body is going to function and live, it must do so in conformity to the will of Him who is the head. When churches simply do what they wish for their own purposes, it is rebellious at best and outright dying (or dead) at worst.
It is true that sin often causes confusion within the body, much like a stroke does, creating a blockage between the brain and the rest of the body. Yet, that is not the ideal nor should it be something with which the church should be content. Indeed, the purpose of church discipline is for the chastising of sin, so that the body may behave like Jesus calls the body to behave so that it may indeed reflect the fullness of Christ to a watching world.