One of the more controversial and misunderstood aspects of the faith revealed in the New Testament involves husbands and their authority and responsibility in the marriage relationship. As it is written:
For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body (Ephesians 5:23).
The New Testament clearly lays out that the husband represents the head of the household. Such a view today is not politically correct, to say the least; modern feminism has worked mightily to change people’s perceptions and to advocate other means by which houses may be run. This is not limited only to the world: plenty within “Christian” denominations have decided to render irrelevant the Bible’s teaching on this subject, and even among those who accept what the Bible teaches, what is said and what is actually done in the home are often quite different.
If we believe that Jesus is Lord and the New Testament represents the revealed Word of God (Acts 2:36, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), we must understand and uphold His teachings on the role of the husband in the family. Let us try to clear up misunderstandings and return to God’s intentions for the family.
The fundamental error in the understanding of many is the belief that male headship means power and domination. Such is the way that feminists have attacked what the Bible teaches.
Yet, when understood spiritually and according to God’s intentions (cf. 1 Corinthians 2), the authority of the husband has nothing to do with “power” and domination. Many know about what Ephesians 5:23 teaches; yet the message of Ephesians 5:25 seems lost on too many:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.
The husband is to be the head of the household– and in the New Testament, that means responsibility more than power. The husband must look at his relationship with his wife in the same way as the relationship between Christ and the church, for such is the analogy that God makes here in Ephesians 5.
While we hear plenty of invective against the idea of the husband being the head of the household, who dares to hurl such invective against the relationship between Christ and His Church? It seems perfectly understandable why Christ would be the Head of the Church: He loves it, died for it, and God has made Him its Head (Ephesians 5:22-33). Yet God has also installed the husband as the head of the household, and for many of the same reasons! The husband is to love his wife and family (Ephesians 5:25). The husband should be willing to sacrifice himself for his family– and part of the male code of honor is to die for a worthy cause (cf. 1 John 3:15). It is only natural, therefore, to see why it is that the husband is made the head of the household– he shoulders the burden of the responsibility of the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of the family.
When we consider what God says about the role of husbands, we must consider it in light of His Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom, the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12). In God’s Kingdom, the one who serves is the greatest (Matthew 20:26-28). In God’s Kingdom, Christians are motivated by the needs of others before their own needs (Philippians 2:1-4). In this perspective, then, the husband has a difficult task indeed: he is to put his wife and her needs first, he must serve his family (cf. Ephesians 5:21), and he must act in all lowliness of heart.
Difficulties abound. Some men abuse their God-given authority and abuse their wives and family in various ways. Such is abhorrent; Paul encourages men to love their wives as their own flesh (Ephesians 5:28-29), and Peter commands men to treat their wives with honor, lest their prayers be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). Many other men, for various reasons, do not take on their responsibilities in the family. Such is just as unjustified as abusing the authority. Men, if you are “man enough” to become a husband, then be “man enough” to take on the responsibilities of that obligation!
Unfortunately, many times wives attempt, in various ways, to obtain or maintain power. Such was predicted from the very beginning:
Unto the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).
“Thy desire” here is less sexual and more involving power: after all, Eve’s disobedience involved going around the directive of God and Adam. Eve was deceived; Adam knew what he was doing. Lest chaos reign in the home, God established that the husband would have the authority– and therefore the responsibility.
Wives, God has established that it is not your place to run the relationship. On the day of judgment, the husband will be the one called into account for the family and its decisions, not you. The husband will be called into account for how the children were raised and whether it was in the Lord’s instruction (cf. Ephesians 6:4). You will be called into account for how you subjected yourself to him (cf. Ephesians 5:22, 24). It is easy to understand how the church is to submit to Christ; even though your husband is not perfect, God wills for you to likewise submit to him. Will God see that you helped or hindered your husband from taking on his responsibilities in the relationship?
This is not to say that the wife is to have no input into the governance of the family and its decisions; foolish is the husband who never takes into account the wisdom found in his wife. Yet, as with Christ and the church, so with the husband and the wife: the authority falls upon the one who has the responsibility, the head (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Men, it is high time that we take on the authority and responsibility with which God has charged us. This is not a cloak for evil, to abuse and dictate at whim; it is a solemn and difficult obligation to maintain. We must think less of ourselves and our needs. We must focus on the needs of our wives and our children. We must make decisions that provide the best spiritual and physical benefits to them. We must be willing to follow Christ in our relationship, and to abide by His principles. We must lead by serving. We must exercise authority through sacrifice. If it must be that we receive verbal abuse, we must endure it. God is faithful, and if we bear our burden, we will obtain the reward (Matthew 10:22).
Wives, it is within your power to encourage your husband and to submit to him. While it may not always be easy, strive to be a cheerful helpmeet to him, and not an undue burden (cf. Genesis 2:18). Do not take on the authority for him or against him. Be willing to let him make some mistakes and learn from them. Remember, as Peter says, that husbands are more easily won by behavior without a word (1 Peter 3:1). Be his blessing, not his burden.
This instruction is not politically correct, yet may it be judged by God’s standards, not man’s. Let us live according to God’s Word!