Again, we face the scorn and mockery of a world in rebellion to God, but we are not ashamed and we will not apologize for the headship of a man over his wife, since it is a glorious picture of Jesus Christ our Head and our Savior. In fact, we insist that as men repent and turn to Christ, this is one of the central places for the gospel is proclaimed and bears much fruit.
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the savior of the body.”
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The Bible teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, and this is both an anatomical image as well as a covenantal reality. This headship is to be understood and modeled after the headship of Christ for the church, where He has taken responsibility for the church and represented the church, becoming the savior of the church.
AUTHORITY & RESPONSIBILITY
This is not the first time Paul has referred to Christ as the head of the church in this letter to the Ephesians: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Notice two things about this: it is simply impossible to interpret Scripture’s teaching that the husband is the head of his wife as anything other than true authority. But second, notice what Christ did with that authority: He used His authority to take responsibility for us. He bled and died for the forgiveness of our sins (Eph. 1:7), in order to gather all of us together to receive an inheritance sealed to us by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:10-13), and God raised Him from the dead to be seated in Heaven as Lord of all, where He has raised us to sit with Him in glory (Eph. 1:20-2:7).
This is biblical headship. It is real authority, and it is authority that bleeds in order to bless. The authority of God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be adopted (Eph. 1:4-5), and it is that sovereign authority that accomplished everything needed for our salvation (Eph. 1:11). Human husbands cannot duplicate that salvation, but they are commanded to imitate it. This is what your headship means.
In the Old Covenant, one of the principle pictures of headship was given in the sacrificial system: the elders laid hands on the head of the bull before it was sacrificed for the ordination of Aaron and his sons (Ex. 29:10-19), and usually whenever anyone came to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, he laid his hand on the animal before it was killed (Lev. 1:4, 3:13). The symbolism was clear: this animal represents me. Specifically, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron laid both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of Israel, “putting them on the head of the goat,” and the goat would bear upon him all their iniquities into a desolate land (Lev. 16:21-22). Ordinarily, the idea of someone else bearing an iniquity would be unjust, but the hands upon the head symbolically identified the worshipper with the animal, like a head is identified with a body. So too Christ became our head by being born as a true man, just like us apart from sin. And he who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). A husband becomes one with his wife through vows before witnesses and their one flesh union, such that every husband is the head of his wife, and represents her, whether he knows it or not, whether he thinks he is or not.
This means that God sees him as the official representative of the wife, the official spokesman of the marriage covenant. He may be a negligent or abdicating head, but he is still the head. In 1 Pet. 3:7, it says that husbands must dwell with their wives in an understanding way, honoring the wife as a weaker vessel, as a coheir of the grace of life, that his “prayers be not hindered.” The warning is clear: if you do not honor your wife and listen to her concerns, God will not listen to you or your concerns. But the implication is that God is inclined to listen to that man who listens to and honors his wife.
SAVIOR OF THE BODY
It seems utterly impossible that husbands are commanded to imitate Jesus like this. How can a mere man imitate the Savior of the Body? Begin with the grateful acceptance of this responsibility. Acknowledge the fact before God with thanksgiving. And ask the Lord to teach you: “Lord, I know that I am the head of my wife. Thank you for this tremendous responsibility. Teach me what this means. Help me be a faithful head like Jesus.” If Christ our Scapegoat is any indicator, God is also inclined to listen to our prayers of confession: “Father, forgive us for our sins…” It is true that you cannot “save” your wife from her sins yourself, but as her head, you are authorized to represent her to Christ our Savior.
When the birth of Jesus the Savior was announced at the beginning of Luke’s gospel, the universal response was thanksgiving (Lk. 1:46, 1:68, 2:13-14, 2:20). Let your presence in your home and particularly for you wife evoke similar joy. The thought of you coming home from work, the thought of you being home for a day, the thought of going out with you, being with you should be gladness and relief.
One of the central prophesies of the Messiah was Emmanuel – God with us. A husband brings security, rest, relief, and joy to his wife by merely being present, being present with joy, peace, kindness, grace. But you cannot give this, unless you have this. This means that Christ must be present with you, and you must be casting your cares upon Him. A godly husband is not a man who has no difficulties or trials; a godly husband is a man who is casting them upon the Lord as fast they arise, so that he is free to serve his wife.
The name “Jesus” means savior, and it is the same name as Joshua. Think of the work of Joshua and Jesus as works of conquest. You are called to study and know your wife well. Peter says that you must dwell with your wife in an understanding way, or according to knowledge. Joshua sent spies into the land; Jesus sent the apostles. Before you attempt to lead your wife, you must know your wife. Before you build, you study the land, you make a plan. Before you go to war, you number your troops, you study the enemy. In this case, you have an assignment from the Lord to lead your wife to Heaven, to do everything you can drive the darkness of sin out of her life and present her spotless.
Men, you cannot imitate the Savior, unless you know the Savior. So do you know Jesus?