Husband as head

(Mitzi Witt) #1

Is the christian husband the spiritual head of the christian wife? Is he responsible before God for his wife’s spiritual life? Or is the husband as head mean something different?
" The husband is the head of the wife…"

If yes to the questions, what does that mean?

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(SeanO) #2

@mitwit In my opinion, to understand Paul’s point there are two contexts you need to take into account. First, the cultural context. Paul was using the same structure as household codes of his time, but injecting Gospel truth into them. Second, the Biblical context. Everything Paul says in Galatians 5 is in the context of mutual submission. Paul is not setting the household codes of his time up as timeless principles, but rather injecting Gospel truth of love and mutual submission into the codes that already existed. Paul is also not saying that submission is one way - we are to submit one to another.

Regarding your question - “Is the Christian husband responsible for his wife’s spiritual life?” I would say that ultimately the wife is responsible for her own response to God, but that the husband is called upon to lay down his life for his wife even as Christ loved the Church. That certainly involves praying for her, instructing her as he is able, investing in her spiritually and sacrificing himself that she may grow and prosper spiritually just as he does that she may prosper in all other ways. I do not think that means the husband is solely responsible for his wife’s spiritual life. Obviously, she will be held accountable for her own choices. But, as far as he is able, he should seek to love her with the love of Christ.

I highly commend to you Craig Keener’s article and book below on this very topic. Christ grant you wisdom :slight_smile:

Paul presents a series of household codes in the same sequence as Aristotle: the relation of the male head of the household (as it was assumed in his day) to wives, children, and slaves. Paul may be thinking like the member of a minority religious group—after all, he is writing from Roman custody, and probably in Rome (Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20).

Yet Paul changes the standard formula. Instead of addressing just slaveholding men, he also addresses the wives, children and slaves, who probably comprised a larger bulk of the church. (In Paul’s urban congregations, the slaves would have been household slaves, who had more freedom and frequently opportunities for manumission than other slaves. Nevertheless, they were still slaves.) Moreover, he never instructs the male householder to rule; instead, he is to love his wife, serving her by offering his life for her (5:25), to avoid provoking his children (6:4), and to treat slaves as fellow servants of God (6:9).

Some men today like to quote Eph 5:22 (“Wives, submit to your husbands”) out of context, much the way slaveholders quoted Eph 6:5. But in Greek, there is no verb in 5:22; it simply says, “Wives, to your husbands.” Of course, it is not saying, “Wives, just do to your husbands whatever you want.” Greek grammar presumes that we will carry over the verb from the preceding verse, and that verb is “submit.” But because the verb is carried over from 5:21, it cannot mean something different than it meant in 5:21. The wife’s submission is merely an example of mutual submission; so is the husband sacrificing his life for his wife.

Some object, “But submission is explicit only for the wife!” Ah, but the command to love is explicit only for the husband (5:25). Yet we understand that all Christians should love another (5:2), and that all Christians should submit to one another (5:21). Although Paul is not trying to cover every circumstance, he offers us a general principle for how we should live: looking out for one another’s interests, listening to one another, loving others more than ourselves.

(Mitzi Witt) #3

Thinking of 1 Cor. 11:3…still pondering.

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(SeanO) #4

@mitwit What views have you heard on this topic? What is your current way of processing the text? I’d be curious to hear more about where you are at in your own thought process :slight_smile:

You may find Mike Day’s thoughts helpful as well.

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(Mitzi Witt) #5

Your quote is something I heartily agree with and so very much would love to see practiced in my own home. I also can intellectually agree with the post from Mike Day. It was very helpful.

But some of the views I personally encounter, actually one of the only views in my neck of the woods, come from a few men who teach others (and my own husband), and seem to give a bit of a “loophole escape” to men, when teaching man’s headship…i.e. Authority, boss, leader, final arbiter on all matters in marriage and ministry , with Christ alone as his head, and the husband alone as her head. A wife may offer suggestions, pray for him, but decisions come from the head, who leads the wife. What, when how, where and with however many resources he has available ($$), are areas that are strictly between him and the Lord. If that is what 'head" means then I must rise up to that . That’s why I ask about the husband as head. But his can feel like a ‘single’ husband with a paid servant wife.

Personally, from my own study of the word, I tend to see a marriage as a one flesh union, and tend to believe that since God said this is what marriage is, He would look upon a man and wife as one flesh. I know we individually are separate souls belonging both to the Lord.

Where I live, (deep south Texas, raised in west Texas) this above practice/attitude is not uncommon, even among unbelievers (I’m the head so fall in line!) Raised in a non Christian home that way. I know there are many that do not take this attitude, but it is a struggle to have biblical clarity. I read and study all I can, and it is wonderful. But a lot is kept inside my own heart, and I do not want to deceive myself. I want to honor my husband in a Godly way. He is a generous man with many people with his money and his time. These are areas of his decisions, and he does try to inform me of what he is doing or what he decided. I really don’t know until after decisions are made, and our money committed, and his justification is he is the head.

Mostly I just keep silent and pray.

Again, sorry for the airing of frustration. Not helpful to anyone, I am sure.

Thanks Sean for your help.

(SeanO) #6

@mitwit Thank you so much for sharing your struggle :slight_smile: I am certain that you are not alone. I pray that the Lord Jesus would bring love and mercy into your home and grant you wisdom into how best to love your husband / have a healthy relationship.

While I do not agree with his position on this issue, maybe David Platt’s teaching could actually counterbalance this extreme position where you live. Platt is a godly man and I would expect he is respected in your Church circles. Platt makes it clear that the point of male headship is not that he would dominate the woman.

man’s primary responsibility is to lead for the good of the woman

(C Rhodes) #7

@mitwit. I wanted to add additional encouragement. You are already engaged in the activity that will allow GOD to reign in your life. We humans often set-up obstacles to successful living that GOD never intended. I often say, when I rise up in the morning, stupid stands-up with me. Most definitely the clearest reason I must allow the mind of Christ to dwell in me.

Whether you are a housewife or young child, a husband or single, living in a war-torn environment or riding the L-train to work in Chicago; the sacrifice on the cross has already been given. No one else has the power or 'where-withal to be redemption for mankind. Even the devil cannot be the explanation for sin or righteousness.

We are all called to a personal walk with the Lord. That is not diminished or lessened by the act of marriage or social considerations of gender. You already stand at the throne of grace and the apex of power. Prayer!

No matter what it looks like to others, or feels like to your flesh. You are exactly where the Lord needs you to be. Not as an act of submission to your husband, but as a listening ear, a loving heart, and a faithful servant to the most high and only GOD. Stand prayerfully before GOD and watch Him bend it better than Beckham!

(Mitzi Witt) #8

thank you

(Matt Western) #9

I just want to offer some encouragement too.

When I was younger (mid to late teens), and still living at home I went through the usual and natural thing that teens do where they start to develop their own personality and draw away from their parents, and move towards adulthood - I was starting to become disrespectful to my mother.

My dad said something that has stuck with me “how you treat your mother, is how you will treat your wife. If you want a happy marriage then maybe practice looking after your mother and protecting her, so you can do the same for your wife”… I was interested in a girl at the time - my wife of 19 years now - so that little comment from
my dad really hit home…

I’ve heard a pastor say about the passage in Ephesians 5 (husbands love, wives submit), that husbands need to go read the passage addressed to them, and wives their own.

The passage does not say ‘husbands because you are boss of the home, take it upon yourselves to make sure that your wives submit’… it says ‘he that loves his wife loves his own body’…

In Genesis, the fact that man was alone was the only part that God declared ‘not good’, everything else was good or very good.

Please don’t read this as if I have it together, I’m like most guys dealing with a stressful day at work and coming home hungry and tired (hangry :slight_smile:) , complicated family relationships, worried that my teen daughter will follow Jesus and grow to maturity (picking the battles on things that count and not sweating the small stuff), and trying to balance the family budget and teach daughter how to be good steward of money and not serve it etc etc, trying to understand my wife (complicated!!, but amazing woman).

Christ loved us while we were sinners, and we can see that sacrificial love on the cross. We (Christians) are the bride of Christ that responds and submits to his authority.

I just do wonder if the main problem starts with the guys : if men had the ‘love your wives’ bit together or at least working towards it, would not wives feel more secure, protected and cherished ( like Christ cherished the church and gave himself for it) - and would have less of a problem with the submission part because they can see they are of equal value and position within the marriage…

Your original post, and your sharing of your story, has challenged me to be a better man…