Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Responsibilities of the Head

"For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).

We live in an age where egalitarianism is the religion of the masses. No one should dare suggest that men and women are not equal in certain areas at the risk of incurring the ire of the hoi poloi. Think back on the many people who have been ostracized or marginalized in various businesses and enterprises because they dared to declare their belief in the roles that God has assigned to his creation. Even in churches and "Christian" colleges, to even hint at the fact that the Bible speaks to the differences between the sexes is to speak heresy (and that's even if they admit there is such a thing as different sexes in the first place!)

It is understandable that the world is rushing to the exits when it comes to what God has decreed and what He has determined is right and acceptable in His sight. As I often say, we should not be surprised that the world is going to behave as the world. We can't expect people who are unregenerate and who are sold to sin and the slaves of it, to behave in any other way than what their nature dictates. A lion cannot be a vegetarian simply because that is against its nature. Man will sin simply because that is what comes naturally. 

But the problem here is not what the world does, but what the church is increasingly believing and practicing. The egalitarian streak is becoming so common and overwhelming, that even the church is falling prey to its allurements. Instead of following the Word of God and subsuming our carnal wishes to what it says, we wiggle and wriggle and go through all kinds of contortions to try and blunt what it actually says and commands. The scripture at the had of this article is part of a larger set of commands to men and women to (1) submit to one another in the fear of Christ, (2) for the woman to submit to the husband, (3) for the husband to love the wife, and (4) for both to submit to the head of the body who is Christ.

In today's world, however, those injunctions have been turned on their head. Instead of the wife submitting to the husband, we see an increase in "stay at home" dads who allow the woman to be the head of the household. Others, who may not be in that particular situation, still play second fiddle to their wives and are content with letting her be the decision maker in their relationship. Much of this is the result of the misguided idea that men and women are equal in all respects. Remember the curse? "... your desire shall be toward your husband and he will rule over you" (Genesis 3:16). Men and women are constantly struggling for supremacy. A wife will attempt to usurp the husband's authority and the husband will attempt to rule over his wife with an iron fist. That is why we are often reminded in the New Testament that we need to fight that tendency and overcome the temptation to fall into that trap.

It should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense that men and women are different. No amount of shouting about how we're all equal in every way is going to change that fact. Men and women have been equipped by God for different roles and when we attempt to change those roles we are bound to run head on into an unmovable wall. Nature is a stubborn thing, and God has created each sex with a particular nature to fulfill the purposes He designed for them. For a man to voluntarily relinquish his leadership role and allow his wife to "run the show," is not only to disobey God's command, but also to place his wife in a position for which she has not been equipped. The same problem arises when it is the wife who insists on being the captain of the marital ship. A woman who so insists demonstrates nothing more than a selfish, self-centered attitude that loudly proclaims "I don't care what you think, and I don't even care what God says. I'm in charge and that's that."

What happens then, when the wife insists on usurping the husband's leadership role? How then is a husband to react? To be sure, these are difficult questions. Marriage is not a throw away relationship and the answers to such questions should be approached in that light. Prayer, love and understanding will go a long way in diffusing some of those volatile challenges. If, however, the wife in the relationship is not a believer, then an added complication is thrown into the mix. In such a case, it is incumbent on the husband to continue to provide the leadership that God has called him to provide while at the same time being the example that the wife can follow and that may lead her to Christ.

In the final analysis both the husband and the wife in a believing relationship must understand that God expects certain things from them and what He expects from one is not necessarily what He expects from the other. If one or the other partner refuses to submit to the Lord and obey Him, then the other partner must seriously consider whether he or she needs to bring that to the attention of the church as prescribed in Matthew 18. Although we are called to remain married even under the most trying circumstances, we must ensure that our first priority remains our commitment to the Lord. It may be that such commitment may cost us our marriage. But in the end, there may be times when we have to chose even between the Lord and our family (Matthew 10:37-39).


  1. Agreed with it all, at least till the last paragraph. Can you elucidate a little on what you meant by this sentence:

    "If one or the other partner refuses to submit to the Lord and obey Him, then the other partner must seriously consider whether this is a relationship that he or she should remain in."

    1. Hey David, thanks for reading. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify the last paragraph. As I said in the previous paragraph, marriage is not a throw away relationship. Thus, I don't mean to imply that the individual in the situation described in the last paragraph should view it as such. I'm referring to an individual whose spouse is a professed Christian but who, for one reason or another, is in open rebellion against the husband's headship. In such a case, the injunctions in Matthew 18 would apply and it would be, to be sure, a last resort. But there have been many marriages that end up wrecked on the shores of expediency because the husband didn't want to rock the boat. Sooner or later that brings a lot of heartache and, even when the marriage survives, it does so in a way that is a continuous burden on both parties. I'm not, by any means, suggesting that people should just leave a marriage if things don't go their way. I am simply pointing out that when there are two Christians married to each other, then each partner should expect the other to live accordingly. It's one thing to fail in the process of trying to live holy lives. It's another to stubbornly refuse to obey the word because we don't see it as convenient or in accord with our wishes. Obviously everyone has to determine where that line is. Blessings.

    2. Hmm... I think I'm with David here--I agreed with you 'til the very end (and your response to David).

      You seem to be suggesting that a domineering/unsubmissive wife is justifiable grounds for divorce. (Am I misunderstanding you?) The following two passages (among others) do not admit that notion:

      Mat 19:9 -- And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

      1 Cor 7:10-13 -- To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

    3. Okay, I've updated the article to further clarify my belief. I do appreciate it your correction because, you're right, I probably gave the impression that a non-submissive wife is a an okay reason for divorce. As your correctly point out, it is not and I should not encourage anyone to think it is. The reality is that divorce is only the last resort under very specific circumstances. There are far too many out there who believe the way the Pharisees did and who go about asking "is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause." I certainly do not want to give them further ammunition. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    4. Good article, and good edit--thanks, Mike!

    5. Thank you. It's a true blessings to have brothers that are willing to "call you on the carpet" when you've messed up. Thank God that he has provided you and others to help ensure I don't go off the rails and that if do, I can quickly recognize it and get back on track. Blessings.

  2. Hello brother and thank you for this. This passage is one I have meditated on several times, especially in my current trial. In my studies on this passage 2 points became quite clear, and they are points I don't think I have heard expounded on from the pulpit, but are glaringly clear. That of the two different characteristics GOD assigned each sex in this passage. My 2 cents...

    1) The wife is called to Submit. This goes against her now sinful nature, stemming from the fall, as she is inclined to want "Independence", freedom from headship, and as above mentioned, to rule over the man. She wants to steer the relationship in her direction and take on the authoritative "mommy" role. Even in the benign things like choosing what to eat, when the man gives in he's seen as weak, and emotional manipulation is a game often played.

    2) The man is called to Love. This too goes against our nature as we are the more analytical, brash, calculating, stern, at times can appear cold and indifferent, quick for self gratification. We are not emotional, lead with feelings, not that we don't have them, but it's not our natural inclination from the fall.

    So how is this supposed to work, be rectified? Regeneration, endurance, humility. As Unto CHRIST. From the moment we are saved, we are given a new heart of flesh and mind of CHRIST that now knows what love is and seeks to act upon it towards our spouse - as Unto the LORD. We long to please HIM in all we do in our marriages, thus loving our wives, and our wives submitting to husbands, stems from our wanting to glorify GOD- The Chief End of man.

    I have found this to show just another aspect of GOD'S infinite wisdom and Sovereignty over all things. Especially when the marriage covenant was given as a type, shadow, to reflect CHRIST and the Church.

    Thanks again for the reminder bro. GOD bless.

    1. Thanks brother. I hope that the Lord is sustaining you through your ordeal. May He bless and keep you under his mighty wing. Blessings

    2. Much appreciate your thoughts Duane.

  3. Appreciate your increasing the clarity of your point via a little edit work.

    I'm going to muddy the water with a few more thoughts. It seems to me that the marriage relationship trumps (in a manner of speaking) the normal process of church discipline, at least a little. Consider the Matthew 18 passage:

    15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

    16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

    17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

    The husband and wife relationship is more complicated and complex than the relationships between church brethren, and it is built on other issues than church attendance/non attendance, doctrine or various moral failures. Are you going to go to the brethren the first time your wife does not respond to you in some spiritual matter to your satisfaction? The fact she is not delighting in meeting with the brethren, or not being the consistent disciple you would prefer she be? Maybe husband, the church ought to skip the Matthew 18 process for your wife and look to you instead! Maybe you aren't leading, teaching, nurturing & helping your spouse.

    There is no Matthew 18 process for a troubled marriage. Given the unique proximity (on so many levels) of our spouses and the fact that marriage is a creation ordinance that precedes the church - it seems to me that a husband or wife has to have very solid evidence of indisputable moral/spiritual failure.... to seek church discipline of their partner.

    Now if a spouse declares they are NOT a Christian (though in the church and previously professing to be a Christian) - that is a different issue. Or if the spouse is living in unrepentant, open, scandalous sin. Discipline may be necessary.

    For a spouse to have to "Matthew 18" their marriage partner ought be extremely rare and avoided if at all possible.

  4. Thank you both, and for the several points of clarity. They, for me, are helpful. Mine, David, I feel fell/ falls under that rare instance , sadly. I have hope, but am, in the end, resting in the LORD and HIS will for, and through, it all.

    I know I had may failings, as Paul lamented in Romans 7- Oh Wretched man that I am. But I too, agree, that unless we want to enter the realm of cult-like status, we cannot, nor are we called to be, flies on our brethren's walls. I went through something akin to this in our previous church, where some came to her, others to me, to bring the other up on discipline for not following our subsequent roles from this very passage, perfectly. As if that is possible this side of Glory, every day. We strive to be HOLY as HE Is Holy, but there is a reason Paul calls it a war.

    As we grow and mature in the LORD, so should our marriages, especially if both profess to be Christians. But if one decided to rebel, turn against GOD'S word and commands regarding marriage, and even turned their back on the brethren to the point of indifference and anger, then I believe Matthew 18 is given just for this. My wife, struggling with sin on a bad day and choosing not to submit, or the husband becoming harsh or cold stemming from the same, is no reason to start the process, Unless it becomes a practice of unrepentant sin.

  5. I am convinced that you both make good points. When it comes to church discipline, it should, in any instance, be rare and the last resort. If we were to bring up our brethren to the church for discipline every time they disappoint us, we'd be doing it all the time; and I hasten to add, we would be on the docket every day! The key here is to have wisdom and discernment and to understand that we need to be willing to be wronged (as in 1 Corinthians 5 style) and not demand that our wants/likes be catered to at all times. Church discipline is probably the most serious matter the church will undergo this side of eternity. As such, it should be something that is reserved for the most extreme of circumstances. That's why I say in the article that "marriage is not a throw away relationship" and that Matthew 18 only applies in a situation where the partner is stubborn in his/her refusal to submit to the Lord and His commands (not to our likes and dislikes, by the way). I do believe that Matthew 18 applies to the marriage situation as well as to others within the church. I don't believe that, because marriage is a special circumstance, that church discipline is not called for. After all, we are members of the body, married or not, and as such we are all to submit to one another. Obviously opinions in this area will differ, but that's my belief.

    1. I agree once again bro. Great topic and discussion. Really appreciate it, As Iron Sharpens Iron, come, and let us reason together. Love you brothers.

    2. Mike - I trust you understand my point was that NOT that marriage inoculates one from church discipline. Most certainly not. I merely meant to serve reminder that marriage transcends church - it is a creation ordinance, not a church ordinance. If a spouse is not faithful in church, or not a believer at all - that (believing) spouse is STILL a spouse with all that entails within everyday life and marriage fidelity and responsiblity. An unequal marriage (that is between believer and unbeliever) is no less marriage, no less holy, no less binding than a marriage between believers.

      My point was certainly NOT that church discipline cannot occur in the case of an unfaithful (to God) church member who is married to a faithful (to God) church member. BUT - in these sad cases, the marriage is not dissolved viz a viz such discipline. You may believe differently, but I do not see the injunctions against such disciplined members carrying to a marriage. ( c.f., I Cor 5:11).

      Think for a minute about Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

      Now with that verse in mind, I ask you, for the believer who is married to an unbeliever (and fellow church member) who "refuses to listen to the church" - now obligated to cease every other aspect of relationship with that spouse? I think not. This is what I mean by significance and priority of marriage being a "creation ordinance" which transcends even church discipline. Unless, the husband (or wife) who is married to the disciplined ex-member is going to assume his ecclesiastical relationship is to be identical to his domestic one, and thus, ceases to have any relationship with the unrepentant spouse. This seems to me untenable, unwise, and unbiblical. Church discipline does not negate marriage. It may make it more difficult in some respects, but it does not annul it.

    3. You're absolutely right, and that's something that has been mentioned from the pulpit before: if the person being disciplined is a member of your family, then you still have to treat them with the love that relationship merits. And no, I don't think that church discipline of a rebellious partner will necessarily result in divorce. If it does, it should be initiated by the "guilty" party and not by the "innocent." Unless, of course, it deals with matters of infidelity or abandonment. Thanks for sharing.

    4. Exactly Mike. Enjoyed the discussion.