Tag Archives: leadership

Headship in Marriage Part 1 – What Does The Bible Say?

We have been going through ‘The Excellent Wife’ in our women’s ministry, so I thought I’d share some of what I’m learning as I study!

The Bible says that the husband is the head of the wife: ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body.’ Eph 5:22-23

This is a controversial topic because the world’s view is so different from what the Bible says. As Christians we should try not to be pressed into the world’s mould, so if this is something you are not sure about I would encourage you to pray, be open to changing your mind, have God’s word as your rule and not what the world says, and examine the Bible to see if these things are true. Also remember that if you obey God you will be blessed!

Carolyn Mahaney says about this topic, ‘How do you view submission? Do you find it appealing or do you cringe at the mere mention of the word? If you react negatively to the idea, chances are you have only seen a warped or defective product, because the genuine article of submission brings immeasurable benefit to our marriages and tremendous honour to the gospel’

Elisabeth Elliot said, ‘Many are the discussions I’ve heard on this one, almost all of them directed to ‘what it can’t possibly mean’ rather than to the plain word of the Lord. The statement is simple. Not easy for women like me, but simple, that is, I understand it only too well. As Mark Twain said, I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don’t understand.’

What does this mean?

Some people use the verse where it says that there is neither male nor female in Christ (Gal 2:28) to argue against headship of the husband. But there the context is oneness in Christ – it means that we are all equally one in Christ. Marriage is just like in the Trinity, where all the members are equal, yet ‘the head of Christ is God’ 1 Cor 11:3. The members of the Trinity are equal in nature but different in their function, and in marriage it is the same as we are equal but have different roles. Wives submit to husbands yet are not inferior to them, just as Christ submits to God yet is not inferior to Him.

The word ‘submit’ here is a different word from obey – not as a servant or a child, but as an equal. In the Greek it means ‘to voluntarily place oneself under’. So as wives we should voluntarily place ourselves under our husband’s authority. It is also to be done ‘as to the Lord’ because our manner and attitude is to be as to the Lord. There will be times when our husband is inconsiderate and thoughtless, and then it will really help to remember that we do it for the Lord, as it is the Lord’s will. A wife who does not submit to her husband does not submit to the Lord.

Some qualifications

  • The husband never has absolute authority over the wife because God is the higher authority. So if our husband asks us to sin then must we must obey the higher authority – God – and refuse.
  • The Bible doesn’t say ‘Submit to the right kind of husband’. He may be an unbeliever, or sinful (who isn’t in some things?) but we should still submit. A good passage that deals with that issue is 1 Peter 3:1-6
  • God has also put our church and the authorities there for our protection, so if abuse happens we should go to them for help
  • Headship doesn’t mean that we have to ask our husbands about every single decision, unless they want us to! It is more meaning that they have the authority to lead and make final decisions.
  • We can of course give input, but when a conflict of opinion arises that cannot be resolved, they are responsible to decide, and we are responsible to honour and affirm their leadership.

It is interesting to me that Jesus delighted to do His Father’s will – and I think with true submission in our heart we will delight to do our husband’s will – it’s not just a case of waiting till there is a big dispute to submit!