Further Thoughts On Headhship and Submission in Marriage

Ik ben getrouwd met zo’n lieve Nederlands meisje!

For various reasons, I’ve been thinking more about the question of headship and submission.

It is on this question, this concept of wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church, that we are most counter-cultural. On this one issue, we are going to be swimming harder against the stream of American culture than we are on any other issue – even more so than we are on the question of homosexuality.

Culturally, the concept of submission gets a seriously bad rap. There are all sorts of arguments regarding Paul’s use of ὑποτασσω and how it isn’t actually directed at wives; I’ve dealt with some of those arguments here. Frankly, I don’t think our problem is with the idea of submission, per se; I think our problem is with the idea of headship. And I think we have such a problem with it because we have seen so many bad examples of it!

[As an aside, I know that there are Greek scholars out there arguing that head (κεφαλὴ) doesn’t have the sense of “authority over” but rather has the connotation of “source”. Given that there isn’t a single Greek-English lexicon used in the scholarly community that supports this meaning for κεφαλὴ, I remain unconvinced by such an argument.]

One of my burdens, especially as a married man who takes headship and submission seriously, is to see healthy patterns established in this area. On the husband’s side of things, there are some grave misconceptions of what it means to be the ‘head’ of your wife and home. This doesn’t mean a domineering, tyrannical control of things; as a matter of fact, Paul explains what ‘headship’ looks like in Ephesians 5:25:

Οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς…

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…

What headship looks like in marriage is self-sacrificing love that places your wife’s life ahead of your own. This means that your job is to kill your sinful self-centeredness and place your wife’s joy at the forefront of you marriage.

What would our marriage look like if that were true??


"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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