Is It Mean, Out Dated Or Archaic To Say “The Husband Is The Head Of The Wife?”

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The title of this article is a great question and one for which we need more scripture. It is established in Genesis 2, and it is explained elsewhere. Every time the roles of husbands and wives are mentioned in the Bible, the husband is always the head of his wife, and this is never reversed. The wife is never the head of the husband. Consider the following passages.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

—Genesis 3:16

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

—1 Corinthians 11:3

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

—Ephesians 5:23

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

—1 Timothy 2:12–13

This is a sampling of passages, but they all teach the same thing, and Paul says the husband is the head because Adam was formed first. The world, humanity, and marriage were all designed by God; each is to function in a particular way. The function of marriage is that the husband is the head of the wife.  We are at the creation of marriage and if we disagree with God’s design from the beginning how can our marriages function the way he designed.

For Some, God’s Design Is Unpalatable

Sadly, men rebelled against God’s design and took advantage of their position even abusing women. This abuse gave rise to feminism and radical feminism. According to Wikipedia the word feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Given this definition, nothing I say should be construed as disagreeing with that. Women are created in God’s image, and they are equal to men in every way before God. However, pay close attention to the definition of radical feminism, according to Wikipedia.

Radical feminism is a philosophy emphasizing the patriarchal roots of inequality between men and women, or, more specifically, social dominance of women by men. Radical feminism views patriarchy as dividing rights, privileges and power primarily by gender, and as a result oppressing women and privileging men. Radical feminists tend to be more militant in their approach (radical as “getting to the root”).

Radical feminism opposes existing political and social organization in general because it is inherently tied to patriarchy. Thus, radical feminists tend to be skeptical of political action within the current system, and instead support cultural change that undermines patriarchy and associated hierarchical structures.

Radical feminism opposes patriarchy, not men. To equate radical feminism to man-hating is to assume that patriarchy and men are inseparable, philosophically and politically.

It is not my desire or intention to discuss philosophical and political issues. But the relationship of husband and wife is patriarchal, and this is precisely the point of Genesis 2:18–25. God made Adam first, and God placed Adam over Eve; this is the design of the relationship. Male leadership is from God, not men.

Adam didn’t create himself and then Eve; God did. Adam didn’t decide he would be made first and by so doing he would be Eve’s head; God did. Radical feminism’s disagreement is with God, not man. And men and women who side with radical feminism must oppose God’s design for the husbands to be the heads of their wives.

Did God Explain How His Design Was to Function?

Adam Was to Lead; Eve Was to Follow

After their creation and marriage, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned. Their eyes were opened; they knew that they were naked, and they were ashamed and hid themselves. What happens next is demonstrative of God’s design of male leadership. In Genesis 3:6, it is clear that Eve ate of the fruit of the tree first. After she ate, she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate.

Even though she ate first when God approached them, notice where and with whom he began.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

—Genesis 3:8–12

Whenever a problem exists, we go to the person who is in charge. The leader is the one who is to answer for what went wrong under his or her charge. After speaking to Adam, God did talk to Eve next, and she was punished for her own action. You may think that it is a stretch to suggest that just because God talked to Adam first, that meant he was in charge. Such a thought is dispelled when you hear God talk to Adam the second time.

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

—Genesis 3:17–19

God was not pleased that Adam listened to his wife instead of listening to him. Eve led Adam, but he was supposed to lead her. For those who disagree, this is a point they must admit. Someone is going to lead; there is no such thing as a leaderless home. Either Eve leads Adam, or Adam leads Eve. Female leadership is not the way God designed marriage.

Before we leave this point, also consider what Paul said to Timothy regarding how he was to behave in the church (1 Tim. 3:14–15). In 1 Timothy chapter two, Paul describes the roles of men and women and uses Adam and Eve as an example:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

—1 Timothy 2:12–14

She can’t exercise authority or rule over him because Adam was formed first. The husband is to lead his wife; they can’t both lead.

Leadership Was in the Design

God never intended to arrange dual leaders or co-leaders. The issue was that the man was alone, and God said that it was not good. Then God said he was going to make a helper “fit for him.” Remember when God said that nothing else was fit for Adam? Only the woman, a female, is fit for the man. The King James Version says of this verse, “I will make a help meet for him.” The woman is fit; she is meet for the man.

God never said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a help lead.” This is a modern assumption, not a biblical doctrine. She was a help meet, not a help lead.

God Explained His Design Ultimately in Christ (Ephesians 5:22–32)

For those who disagree with male leadership, Ephesians 5 will be a challenging text to explain because, in it, Paul uses marriage to illustrate Christ’s love and provisions for his church. The husband occupies the place of Christ in the marriage, and the wife occupies the place of the church in marriage. The scriptural emphasis is that Christ is the head of the church, and Christ leads the church. The church is subject to Christ, and the church follows Christ. No one would suggest that the church helps Christ lead or that the church does not submit to Christ. Certainly, it wouldn’t be thought that the church leads Christ or that Christ is subject to his church.

The Words God Used to Convey His Design for Husband and Wife

These verses cannot be read and explained any other way than that God designed for husbands to lead their wives.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

—Genesis 3:16

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

—1 Corinthians 11:3; 8–9

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

—Ephesians 5:22–24

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

—1 Timothy 2:11–14

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

—Titus 2:3–5

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

—1 Peter 3:1–6

The design of the designer determines the function of the thing designed. Design is the purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.

Our world has taken an aggressive posture against God’s design. It has replaced male leadership with female leadership or some hybrid of the two—or, for some, no leadership at all. This is not God’s design, and it is part of the problems we are experiencing in our marriages. It could be argued that we have seen what giving men this kind of power over women has produced in the past and in many instances still does.

Man’s abuse of women cannot be disputed. Saying that God designed male leadership is not synonymous with saying that males lead as God designed. This chapter has sought to establish God’s design and intent. I’m not saying men lead as God intended—quite the contrary. Men did and do abuse their position and act terribly inconsistent with God’s intention. It is wrong for any man to abuse his wife.

However, the fact that people abuse things designed for certain functions doesn’t remove the design. Men did go astray, and they do today; this does not destroy God’s design, and we are not at liberty to throw out the baby with the bath water. The world has rejected God’s design, and many in the church seem bent on doing the same thing.

We cannot have the marriages we desire and God intended by rejecting or changing the design of the designer who gave it to us.

Eric

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