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23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

 

Verse 23 gives the reason why a wife should submit to her husband—the husband is the head or leader of the home. This is the essence of masculinity. The quintessence of masculinity is to care for, nourish, and protect. God characterizes headship predominantly as sacrificial love.

For [because]

The word “for” explains the reason why a wife should submit to her husband. Male leadership of the home is part of the created order.

the husband [man] is head of the wife,

The idea of “head” is that which gives direction to the rest of the body (cf. Eph 1:22; Co 2:10). The husband is responsible for the direction of the home. The “head” is not “source,” as some say. There is no clear passage in all of Greek literature where “head” has the idea of source. That meaning is a rationalization to avoid the true implication of this phrase for our society. There is no doubt that men will use this passage to abuse their wives, but that is not justification for distorting the meaning of this verse.

The Greek uses the word “head” for prominence. The New Testament use carries ideas such as leadership, caring, prominence. A good leader establishes an environment where the family has harmony and felicity.

PRINCIPLE: 

The principle of headship is a unifying principle in Scripture.

APPLICATION: 

The word “head” in 1 Corinthians 11 is metaphorical and means priority in role or function. Our physical head operates the body and sets the direction of the body. The head rules the body. The underlying idea is leadership. This passage states three kinds of headship. It is only the middle kind that causes controversy:

The head of every man is Christ.

The head of the woman is man.

The head of Christ is God.

The argument in 1 Corinthians 11 shows that women should submit to men in formal worship:

The nature of order in the Trinity, 1 Co 11:3

The difference between masculinity and femininity, 1 Co 11:7

The disposition of order in creation, 1 Co 11:8.

The purpose of a woman’s relationship to man, 11:9

The submissive nature of angels, 11:10

The uniqueness of natural physical differences, 11:13-15

The concept of headship has to do with order in relationships. God has a divinely ordained pattern for relationships, both among individuals and in the church community. Christ is the “head” of every man (male). He is the principal of the church and has the right to set the course of the church. He is sovereign over the church.

In the phrase “the head of woman is man,” the male is “head” of the woman. The Greek word “man” (aner) means male. This is true in any relationship such as a daughter to a father or wife to husband. However, this does not involve every relationship of any man or woman.

The principle of headship is a coalescing principle. It brings together issues of masculinity and femininity and how they function. Headship does not imply domination. Domination is not good leadership. With that said, the leadership role is crucial for proper functioning of organizational entities. That is the way God designed us (11:8, 9).

Note that Christ also has a head: “and the head of Christ is God.” Christ is under the Father in role. The principle of headship and roles in the Trinity underlines the unity and function of the Trinity. There is no controversy about this kind of headship. Headship is about order and disorder. This is especially true when it comes to worship, as we will see in the next verses. Role has nothing to do with quality of person. Christ is equal to the Father in person, but He is under the Father in role. He submits Himself to the leadership of the Father.

Christ submitted Himself to the Father to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. Paul tied all three roles of submission together. As men submit to Christ, as Christ submitted Himself to the Father, so women submit themselves to men in worship in the local church. We cannot separate one of these out to make an exception. However, all these authority relationships revolve around love, even tough love.

The biblical role of women has become a hot issue both in evangelical circles and in the public at large. The controlling factor for the evangelical should be a radically honest and objective approach to interpreting Scripture. Many evangelicals manipulate Scripture to accommodate to culture. Fashions of thought usually find their way into the church.

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