Women in Leadership - Part 2: Male Headship

Male Headship

Prev - Part 1: Where Did it All Begin?

While Christian marriage is to involve mutual love and submission between two believers (Eph. 5:21), several passages in the New Testament expressly give to wives the responsibility to lovingly submit to their husbands.

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

(1 Corinthians 11:3)

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 

(Ephesians 5:22)

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

(Ephesians 5:23-24)

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

(Colossians 3:18)

to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonoured.

(Titus 2:5)

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives,

(1 Peter 3:1)

These scriptures are entirely consistent with the Genesis 2 pre-fall relationship. - the husband providing loving, protective headship and the wife as the willing helper. This divine principle has not altered one bit in the light of the New Testament. 

Elders in the New Testament

Whether you choose to call them elders, bishops, pastors or overseers, the title is not important - the role, however, is. These people had been given leave to act as spiritual watchmen for the flock of Christ. Their role is succinctly outlined by Paul in Acts.

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

(Acts 20:28)

It is an obvious conclusion that if headship is male in a marriage (which is the closest form of fellowship)  then church leadership would also follow this pattern. We find this to be abundantly clear in the verses which specifically outline how to select appropriate leadership for the Church of God.

So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

(Acts 6:2-3)

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

(1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.

(1 Timothy 3:12)

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

(Titus 1:5-6)

It is clear that in all the above scriptures that the Bible is talking about men and men only. There is no hint (at all) that any of these roles might be filled by women. 

I think at this point it is important that we draw a distinction between leaders appointed by the apostles in the churches (which we take to be geographically centred) - such as “The Church of Ephesus” and groups of believers who meet in one another's homes.  It is clear that the former has had a structured leadership put in place.

From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.

(Acts 20:17)

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,

(Titus 1:5)

As opposed to verses which clearly indicate the meeting of members of the churches in each other's homes.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.

(Romans 16:3-5)

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

(Acts 5:42)

This last scripture is interesting as it draws the distinction between meeting in the temple and house to house. This is not dissimilar to most churches, where we meet corporately and in each other's houses. Even though we meet as small groups in homes we all come under the leadership of the main church.

Even if one were to stretch the idea of leadership to include house churches you will notice how most often it would be a husband and wife team who host the meetings, in the above case Prisca and Aquila. Where a husband and wife are involved in ministry it will be the husband’s headship that takes precedence in accordance with 1 Cor 11:3, Eph 5:22, Col 3:18, et al. 

Next: Part 3: Women Throughout the Scripture


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