One of the great things about our God that we really like to boast about is that He lays down His life for us. That’s also the source of our salvation, but simply His desire and His willingness to do so make us boast of Him. We’ve got such a great Husband. He’s amazing. Being high above all creation, He makes Himself of no repute. Being perfect Spirit, He takes on humble flesh. Being our ultimate King he even lowers himself just a little under our arm, so He can wrap His own around us and lift us up. He walks with us. Supports us with His power. Not only does He humble Himself so immensely, but in taking on human flesh He even walks out our own righteousness, gets on His knees, and calls out to the Father. God gets on His knees. God obeys. God prays to God.
Yet none of this enormous act of loving humility would make us deny that he is our Lord and King. Unless we are the worst of hypocrites or the worst of heretics, we would say that the very same Husband who pours Himself out with mercy is also our only authority. He is the only King. So being a Servant King does nothing to preclude His tangible leadership. Why should it? He leads us through His word, His commandments, His speaking to our conscience. He leads us also through earthly authorities whom He puts in place and we must obey them unless they demand we do evil. Psalm 2 even makes it clear the strength of His leadership, Mashiach (Christ) will reign with a rod of iron. You do not wish Him to be angry. Oh, no you don’t.
That model of laying down one’s life, and being king, is also the model for the husband in New Covenant marriage. He is like Mashiach. His wife is like the Kahol (Church). He should love her as his own flesh. She should obey him in all things. It’s not a modern idea, sure. But it’s a true one. That leadership that the New Covenant husband has is one that includes simple obedience by his wife, but it is also one which calls for deeper leadership as well. He is a spiritual leader to his wife and to his home. He leads her heart. She follows him. Just listen to the words in Ephesians 5, which compare the husband’s leadership to Mashiach’s, who leads His Kallah (Bride) “that He might sanctify and cleans her by the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle…” This rich kind of leadership, beloved, is leadership of the soul and spirit. Mashiach does it with the Kahol. Husbands are to do it with their wives.
This spiritual relationship is again well-presented in 1 Peter, which is telling us about the Kahol’s former sinfulness when it dives straight into husbands and wives. It tells us, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” It’s true, this passage is in relation to ungodly husbands in contrast to Ephesians 5, but notice that the wives witness is not to suddenly take command from an ungodly husband. Her witness to the Savior is in her submissiveness to her husband and her chaste conduct. Her witness is the woman’s witness. It is the witness of a gentle and quiet spirit. The witness of one formerly gone astray.
This spiritual leadership makes a lot of sense if we just think about our relationship with God. We turn to Him for spiritual leading, we trust that just like His word says, He will remake us, give us a new heart, make us holy and complete before Him. And as we grow and learn to use that new heart, we find a great desire to do His will, even a sweet joy in doing His will where before, there would have been none. Yet even with a newfound joy in serving God, there are plenty of times when the carnal man is speaking to us. There are plenty of times when, in our heart, we don’t want to do the good. We want to do the evil. But what is the right answer for those times? Of course there is only one right answer; that is to shut up and obey. We must obey God. The same is true in the leadership of man and his bride. He IS leading her spiritually. She ought to WANT in her heart to help him and bring honor to him. Yet even when those feelings are not there, which may be more than once or twice, the only good answer is to obey. That is true with any authority. There’s a time to shut up and obey.
Now the reason for an essay about headship in New Covenant marriage at Kodesh Kallah is not to broadly cover the subject, as fascinating as it is. Rather, it is that most of the Body of Messiah hears and practices a very watered down version of this holy relationship. In fact, it is often so watered down that it counts as a deception. What you will hear from most churches, including everything from Evangelical to Catholic, is a softening of the headship and submission in marriage, typically one which undermines the man’s real authority and encourages the woman’s spirit to be anything but chaste. This is what you will mostly hear. That’s a fact.
The typical “headship” talk churches give their congregants is so convoluted that you wonder if anything has been communicated at all. To briefly characterize this modern approach, I call it the A,B,C,D method. Or the Stalin method. It usually goes a little like this:
A) The man should be sure not to behave like Joseph Stalin.
B) We’re serious guys; make sure not to behave like Stalin.
C) The man and woman should serve each other equally and love one another but in the final decision the man has the final say.
D) Guys, need I remind you….please don’t behave like Joseph Stalin.
I realize I’ve put a fair amount of ridicule in there, but the contemporary approach to New Covenant marriage is terrible enough and damaging enough to deserve a fair share of it. Now of course, portions A,B, and D of this modern method might elicit the most laughs. And they are laughable. They DO sound like they were designed for a roomful of convicted psychopaths in rehab counseling. But it is portion C which in fact is the most diabolical.
Now strictly speaking, there’s nothing false about portion C. There are no lies. Husband and wife ought to serve one another, just as every human soul ought to. They ought really to love one another. And yes, in the final decision the man has the final say. Yet what is false about this portion, in fact is truly diabolical, is what it fails to say. You see this method refuses to communicate clearly the real leadership of the man and the real obedience of the wife. It’s as if they didn’t exist.
In fact, take a look at that heavily-edited biblical truth and compare it with the model of Mashiach I briefly presented in the opening two paragraphs. Or for that matter, compare it with other biblical models which capture both His lordship and His sacrifice. Compare it with the plain words of scripture. You will find that this pretty nonsense fails at all to capture the leadership that the man has, in comparison with Mashiach Himself over his wife. You see it either erases it, or more often, clouds it up. Yet if Mashiach is King. Man is king. And his bride too must obey him.
One of the immediate revolts that the modern Western soul has with this biblical teaching comes with an association of clear and strong leadership with evil things. Especially clear and strong leadership from a man OVER his wife. Suddenly, being the boss becomes a wicked thing, rather than a good one. Who but an arrogant and sadistic man would want to be the boss anyway? Suddenly giving commands becomes a cruel act, rather than a natural and good one. Why not just give suggestions instead? Here the “Joseph Stalin” portions of this modern method again take hold. Remember all those wicked people who gave real commands? Stalin gave commands. Nazi guards gave commands at death camps. Genghis Kahn gave commands riding around on horseback slaughtering villagers. We can’t have anyone giving commands around here. Not in a “Christian” marriage. Nope. Doesn’t happen.
Another way to look at it is to compare this modern representation of headship and submission with your own relationship with Mashiach. The modern representation has a wife who is basically doing her own thing and following her own goals, but checks with her husband on this or that final decision. But does this really imitate our relationship with Mashiach? Should we be doing our own thing and following our own goals independently and then check with our Savior from time to time? Check with the word of God from time to time? I think that’s a far cry from what we strive for. We strive to live for our Savior in every breath, to struggle for Him, to be conformed to His shape, responsive to His leading, obedient in all things. Even as we fail at this, we still cry out to Him, forgive me, forgive me. Make every yearning and thought and word and deed captive within you. That is how we live with Mashiach each day. That is utter devotion and love and servitude and delight in belonging to Him. By comparison, the modern church description of marriage sounds awfully sterile doesn’t it? It sounds clinical. Empty.
Now however clever the modern church method is, however many millions it deceives, the falsehood of erasing clear and plain biblical leadership is obvious. Examining the life in Mashiach, we see that our eternal King is, for want of a better word, our Boss. That’s right. Our Boss. Furthermore, our eternal Boss gives commands and will certainly give more as He rules on His return and puts to flight His enemies. Mashiach may have called us His friends, His brethren, but we are also called His servants. His children. Shaleach (Apostle) Thomas on learning the resurrected Lord was real even called out to Him crying “My Lord and My God.” And who among us wouldn’t throw himself at the Lord’s feet at His awesome return?
Here are a few questions for you, beloved:
Who on earth would desire to erase, or greatly lighten, the biblical model of headship and submission?
Who on earth would wish to deny it to husbands and wives?
Who would revolt at the plain biblical language about the marriage relationship?
Who would revolt at the woman’s chastity and gentleness?
Who would revolt at the word obey?
Would a soul rooted in MASHIACH revolt at these things?
Or would a soul rooted in MODERNITY revolt?
Which one, in contrast, would hear them and feel peace?
I’d like to ask everyone to examine their OWN marriages, and see if they are rooted in the divine truth of Messiah and Kahol, or if they are a modern amalgam, or even a denial of it. I’d also like to suggest that if you do NOT know who the boss in your marriage is, you may be experiencing the bare minimum of the brilliant New Covenant marriage you’ve been given. Or you may not be experiencing it at all. Husbands, do you know it is your role to lead your wife, in her spiritual growth in God, in her submission to you and in regular household affairs? Are you devoted to your headship role? Do you take responsibility for the whole household you lead, INCLUDING your wife? Women, is your marriage a journey in submission to your king? Does it fulfill a desire to help him and to help all the things he does? Are you receptive to him as we all ought to be toward our Lord, seeking out the word yes, and eschewing the word no? These are only brief descriptions of the beauty of New Covenant marriage, yet I wish to hold them up before you as gemstones. To let you admire them. To desire their spiritual treasures.
Finally, since marriage in the Kahol has thoroughly collapsed, I’d like to suggest a new standard for what makes a kosher congregation. One that’s biblically strong. Today, a lot of congregations will say the right buzzwords, and tell the world they’re “bible-believing,” or “conservative” or “evangelical.” Yet when it gets down to it, they promote lifestyles which are not far from the secular world surrounding them. So I’m promoting some NEW buzzwords here. Forget “conservative evangelical.” How about this instead: Respects Biblical Gender Roles. That might be a much better indicator that they’re leading their sheep towards a holy life. I can see it now, “We’re your friendly neighborhood bible-believing church, and we respect biblical gender roles.” If congregations began holding to THIS standard, they would have to get out of the modernist frame of mind. And when they speak about marriage, they would have to teach a few simple things – that the man is the boss, and he gives the commands.
To the Restoration of the Bride:
How I Lead My Wife — This is my own description of what leadership means in our home. It covers the basics, not everything. Since so many discussions of biblical headship can be theoretical and nothing more, I just thought the best way would be a simple objective description. I recommend the principles I describe to husbands out there who are unfamiliar with leading their wives.
The Weaker Vessel — This article begins with the question of why Adam ate the fruit in the Garden, and goes on to summarize several kinds of protection husbands need to offer their wives. At the end, I take my own shot at answering the timeless question.
Why do you “Xians” follow so many rules?
Submitting to One Another — This lesson from a good Bible website discusses biblical submission and authority, while focusing on explaining the meaning of Ephesians 5:21.
Hidden Person of the Heart — David Guzik’s verse-by-verse commentary on 1 Peter 3. The long first section deals with the wife’s submission and the husband’s love. It is an excellent oversiew of this passage, although I would not endorse every comment.
Response to Objections — Here is my own article refuting common objections to male headship using both scripture and common sense. It is also, like most of my other work, a call to repentance.
Submit: Reviewing word use — This may be 15 pages, but it’s an explosion of fun. I go over the uses of submit throughout the Brit Chadasha (New Testament), then I get real Old Testament on you and give a short commentary on 50 Shades of Grey.
A Curse in the Garden — This excellent piece from Answers in Genesis, which refutes the feminist claim that Genesis makes male headship a curse, does a good job of explaining man’s authority, the creation order and the meaning of the word “desire” in Genesis 3. This ministry by the way, while it spends a great deal of time arguing for biblical creation, is an excellent apologetics resources and makes sure to point to Messiah in all of its work.
Correcting Distorted Teachings about Headship in Marriage — I’ve gone into some of the specific distorted teachings you’ll hear about headship and done my best to point out the errors and give a more accurate portrayal. I hope it gives you a clearer idea of headship as well as some practical examples.
Win Your Unconverted Husband Without a Word — This short explanation from David Pawson gives excellent biblical advice on how a born-again wife can, through her submission, win her unbelieving husband to the Lord.
Miserable Wives — This is an excellent letter addressed to an unhappy wife who wants a divorce. It gets to the heart of the problem. By Douglas Wilson.
How a Wife Can Use Revenence to Build or Save her Marriage — Most people hear about the wife’s submission, but we often forget the spirit and practice of reverence toward her husband; the way she shows him high honor and respect. This sermon gives a good explanation of reverence and provides some practical advice.