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Biblical Headship

Gavin Peacock

The Greek for “head” is kephale which conveys the meaning of “authority”; you could say, “a leadership with authority”. It is very doubtful that it means “source” as some scholars have suggested. But how can we know this without being Greek scholars? Well, let’s look at three texts in Ephesians.


Ephesians 1:22, “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the church.”

Here Paul is not talking about Jesus being the source of things, including demonic powers, but the authority over all things; things in heaven and on earth that will be subjected to him.


Ephesians 4:15- 16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Paul speaks of the church as the body and Christ as its head. The logic is clear. The head is the authority and command center for the body not the source. The brain is located in the head and gives direction to the other parts of the body. The eyes give the body vision and guidance; the ears listen and keep watch in order to protect from the body from incoming danger and the mouth takes in food to give the body nourishment.


Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”

With respect to his wife, the husband is her head - the authority over her not her source. His authority is shown in the way he nourishes and cherishes her (Eph. 5:29). The word for nourish, ektrepho, is also found in Ephesians 6:4 where Paul tells fathers not to provoke their children to anger but to "bring them up" (ektrepho) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. A husband is not to think of his wife as a child. She is his peer. She does not need to be brought to maturity the way a child does. But a husband is responsible for his wife's ongoing spiritual and emotional growth. She is in his care, which means he is to shepherd her. The nourishment he provides is both physical and spiritual. Men who fail to provide for the physical needs of their families are worse than unbelievers (see 1 Timothy 5:8). But a husband must also provide spiritually for his wife, washing her with the Word (Eph. 5:26).


Also, a wife is to be cherished. Paul uses the word, thalpo here and only one other time in the New Testament, in 1 Thessalonians. where he writes that he and his men had "proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7). It denotes, tender care, meaning literally "to keep warm." A husband should make his wife his first priority and create a warm, safe, secure environment, in order that she might flourish and grow in a Godward direction.


In the same passage in Ephesians, Paul points again to the inseparable one flesh union of the husband and wife, head- body, which reflects the head-body relationship of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:28-32). And the Apostle encapsulates the husband’s headship over his wife as an authority that expresses sacrificial love and responsibility. He is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church and give himself for her (Eph. 5:25).


In summary the authority of headship is expressed in a wholehearted, sacrificial giving of oneself for the good of the one(s) divinely appointed to your care.