Does the gospel end the headship of men?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether the gospel has freed women from the headship of men is a complex topic that requires a careful examination of biblical texts. The New Testament presents a vision of the gospel that emphasizes equality, freedom, and mutual respect among all believers, while also addressing specific roles and relationships within the Christian community. To explore this topic, we will examine key New Testament passages and consider their theological implications.

The Equality of all Believers in Salvation

  1. Equality in Christ

The New Testament clearly articulates the fundamental equality of in receiving the benefits of salvation through faith in Christ’s atoning work.

Galatians 3:26-28 (NKJV)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This passage emphasizes that all believers are equally children of God and united in Christ.

  1. Mutual Submission and Respect

The gospel calls for mutual submission and respect among believers, which transforms traditional hierarchical relationships.

Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV)

submitting to one another in the fear of God.

This verse emphasizes mutual submission among all members of the Christian community.

The Headship of Men

The apostle Paul taught that salvation is available to all (men and women), regardless of ethnicity or social class (Galatians 3:28). But the very apostle who wrote Galatians 3:28 taught that God’s order of gender headship was still applicable after Calvary: “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23, NKJV).

The idea that the cross has abolished gender role distinctions is not true by these post-Calvary statements. Even if headship was imposed only after Calvary and because of sin (Genesis 3:16), as some claim, the need for order and organization calls for headship in the family and church. And among equals there should be a head. A committee of men of equal rank still selects its chairman.

The apostle Paul explained, But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3, NKJV). Three degrees of submission are here introduced. The man is to acknowledge Christ as his Lord and Master; the woman, while recognizing the supremacy of Christ as Lord over all, is required to acknowledge that in domestic life she is placed under the guidance and protection of man; Christ, although equal with the Father, is represented as recognizing God as head. Some see a reference here to a voluntary submission of Christ in the working out of the plan of salvation.

The power and dignity of the husband depends on the position he holds toward Christ, his head, therefore the dependence of the wife on her husband is in the true sense dependence on Christ through the husband. The dependence of the wife on her husband was a divinely appointed plan for the good of both spouses. However, the dependence does not in any way imply the slightest degree of degradation. As the church does not experience dishonor by being dependent on Christ (Ephesians 1:18–23; 3:17–19; 4:13, 15, 16), neither does women by being dependent on men.

Authority in the New Testament

  1. The Concept of Headship

The New Testament does address the concept of headship within the context of marriage and church leadership. However, this headship is framed within the context of mutual love, respect, and service.

Ephesians 5:22-25 (NKJV)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.

This passage outlines the divine order of the headship of men within the family and church.

  1. Head Coverings and Authority

Paul addresses the issue of head coverings in worship, which reflects cultural practices of the time but also carries deeper theological significance.

1 Corinthians 11:3-5 (NKJV)

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.

This passage reveals God’s order of authority in the family and church.

The Role of Women in the Early Church

  1. Women as Disciples and Teachers

The New Testament records numerous instances of women actively participating in the life and ministry of the early church.

Romans 16:1-2 (NKJV)

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.

Phoebe is described as a “servant” (or “deacon”) of the church, indicating a recognized position of service. Paul’s commendation of her highlights the important roles women played in the early Christian communities.

  1. Priscilla and Aquila

Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament as a co-worker with Paul.

Acts 18:26 (NKJV)

So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Priscilla’s involvement in teaching Apollos underscores her active role in ministry with her husband in the work of the gospel.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the gospel presents the concept of headship of men in the family and church and emphasizes love, respect, and service. Women played significant roles in the early church, and their contributions were valued and acknowledged. The teachings and practices of the early church provide a model for the contemporary church to affirm the gifts and callings of women in ministry, fostering an environment where all believers can thrive and contribute to the mission of the church. By maintaining a holistic understanding of these biblical principles, the church can continue to honor the divine order for men and women with their distinct and different roles.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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