Question & Answer Forum

Is male headship a cultural concept?

Greek and Roman culture in New Testament times was evidently “male-dominated.” If, however, as some contend, New Testament teaching is an expression of that culture, the basic nature of inspiration is at issue. “Thy Word is true from the beginning: and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160). The Scriptures claim to be absolute truth; the Scripture’s application of that truth transcends time and culture.

Enunciated in the New Testament, headship is an administrative arrangement established by God Himself. The statement, “The head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3), anchors this truth in the Godhead. Neither this nor the accompanying statement, “The head of every man is Christ” can be regarded as cultural. These are truths established by divine purpose. The third statement, “The head of the woman is the man,” must be the same. God established this order at creation, as indicated in verses 7 – 9. Verse 5 refers to “every woman,” thus substantiating that male headship is not limited to marriage.

The first clause of Ephesians 5: 23, “The husband is the head of the wife” shows that marriage models this relationship. The second clause, “Christ is the head of the church,” relates God’s purpose for establishing this headship to the greatest work God will ever accomplish; therefore, male headship is a vital and eternal truth.

D. Oliver


What is true subjection for a Christian wife?

Ideally, Christian marriage involves two Spirit-filled believers fulfilling their God-given roles (Ephesians 5:17-33). The husband loves his wife with an unconditional devotion to her wellbeing (verses 25-28); the wife recognizes the responsibility God has given to her husband and respectfully defers to him (verses 22-24, 33). Neither should ever have to remind the other to fulfill his responsibility, because attaining this high standard is enough to challenge each one for a lifetime.

Rather than looking at marriage as male-dominant, verse 21 establishes marriage as “Lord-dominant,” where both are in subjection to the Lord and respectfully defer to Him. “Fear” in verse 21 and “reverence” in verse 33 are closely related words. Aware that the Lord has entrusted to them what is best for them, both marriage partners fulfill their differing roles because of submission to Him. Both act because of obedience to the Lord and not because of the other spouse’s obedience to Him. No matter whether these roles are delightful or difficult to fulfill, the strength to obey the Lord in this can only come from the Spirit of God. Christian marriage requires a willingness to be a Spirit-filled marriage partner.

Subjection does not indicate that a wife exists for the benefit of her husband. In fact, he is responsible to nourish her (verse 29). “A woman’s job” and “a man’s job” are not absolute definitions, but a husband and wife define them by mutual agreement. The couple makes these and all decisions in the marriage with the understanding that God has entrusted to the husband both leadership in the relationship and responsibility for the health of the marriage and for the spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and financial well-being of his wife.

Exactly how this works will differ in each marriage, but true subjection is a wife’s glad participation in this God-ordained arrangement.

D. Oliver


Should a female initiate a romantic relationship or lead during the courtship?

Feminism and society in general do not provide reliable guidance in this matter, but scriptural principles do. Courtship is a special time when a couple forms the framework of their marriage relationship. They are getting to know one another differently and more deeply than they did before. This is the time for the man to inspire his prospective wife’s confidence in his leadership; she learns to trust him because his decisions are for their mutual benefit and she learns to communicate with him in these vital matters. This is likewise the time for the woman to cultivate respect for her prospective husband’s leadership; he learns that she expects and accepts his leadership and that he can openly communicate his feelings regard -ing these issues. A couple makes a mistake to proceed with their relationship if both are not open and mutually comfortable regarding these matters.

A sister initiating the relationship starts the relationship “on the wrong foot.” If she has to lead at this point, won’t she have to lead throughout the relationship? Eventually this arrangement will not be fulfilling for her or her partner, nor will it fulfill the biblical model.

Maintaining this principle may be understandably frustrating to a sister. Among several reasons for this, these may present the greatest difficulties: some brothers seem to enjoy the self-gratification of being pursued by women; some seem to have forgotten that beauty of character is more valuable than physical adornment and therefore hardly seem to notice godly sisters who have chosen to avoid worldly means of exploiting physical attractiveness. Despite all of this, prayerfully maintaining God’s ways is always best.

D. Oliver