Headship: Introduction

The Importance of Headship

I don’t have to educate any of my readers that we live in a distorted world where the flavour of the day is rebellion against God. Truly, in mainstream western society, “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18),[1] and biblical principles that were once upheld are being cast out at an alarming pace. While Christians will acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God, there is an increasing trend to ignore or even jettison certain parts of it that conflict with what society and culture may endorse. We see this with issues such as LGBTQ, women’s rights, abortion and the opposition to the discipline of children, to name a few. If we want to find answers to these pressing difficulties, it is important for us to understand the biblical doctrine of headship. A true appreciation of this subject would fortify us, like Peter and the apostles, to say, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Act 5:29).

There is no one-liner that will suffice when coming to an understanding of headship, but a simple starting point would be to see that headship is the distinct appointment of God-given roles. If we see headship as divine Roles, we may also understand lordship as divine Rule, fellowship as divine Relationship, discipleship as divine Regulation and worship as divine Reverence. We will perceive the importance of headship when we see that it touches every sphere of creation, every dispensation of men, and every part of our lives, reaching up to the very throne of God. Within the Godhead itself there are distinct roles performed by divine Persons.

The Institution of Headship

The institution of headship actually precedes the creation of the human race, taking us into heaven where we observe the distinction of roles given in the angelic realm. Ultimately, it takes its precedence from the very throne of God, where we find headship clearly displayed.  The first chapter of the Bible immediately introduces us to the doctrine of headship. God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:26-27). God gave the role of dominion to man, placing a distinction not only between mankind and animals but also between the roles of male and female. Headship is not a doctrine to be scoffed at, nor does it introduce any thought to our minds of inferiority or inequality between persons. This will become increasingly clear as we progress through this subject, appreciating the wisdom of God in these distinctly different and divinely appointed responsibilities.

The Interception of Headship

So fundamental is this subject of headship to the heart of God that the devil knew if he could attack this first he would ruin the entire human race. His cunning attack was to lure the woman in the Garden of Eden through various means, tempting her to discard the role given to her as helpmeet and to take a place of leadership that had been divinely given to Adam. It clearly states in Genesis 3:6, “She took of the fruit thereof, and [she] did eat, and [she] gave also unto her husband with her.” Adam sadly surrendered his place as head as the woman took the reins of control.

The Bible teaches us that the enemy of our souls has nothing new in his attempts to lure people away from God (1Co 10:13). One only has to read secular history to find there have been numerous specific efforts, by both men and women, to attack headship and challenge the order that God set into creation.

In July 1848, a movement commenced in Seneca Falls, New York. Originally known as the “Seneca Falls Convention,” it was to discuss the political, social, cultural, financial and personal rights of women in society. Advancing into the modern feminist movement, it continues to this present moment with relentless passion, particularly in the developed world.  To gain some idea of what lies behind this agenda one only has to observe the symbol that fronts the movement (see image below). Developed in the 1960s and inspired by the Roman goddess Venus, it is an upside-down cross, with an upstanding clenched fist, surrounded by a circle representing global unity.

Those upholding and promoting feminism have hidden behind a thin veil, believing that the movement will eliminate female suffering at the hands of abusive men. This thought has even permeated Christian thinking, influencing some to abandon the doctrine of headship, particularly in the local church. Feminism is not the answer to human sin – the glorious gospel of Christ (which feminism opposes) is. The Bible teaches (and Christ clearly taught) that women have an intrinsic value equal to that of men. Unlike feminism, the gospel does more than just attempt to liberate persons from perceived peripheral difficulties in this life. It deals with the root cause of our sin, enabling men and women to live in harmony as God intended for eternity!

The Imperativeness of Headship

In a world that is utterly hostile to the mind of God, we as believers have a solemn responsibility to uphold the Word of God. We must first recognise that although God requires nothing less than obedience, cold mechanicalism and form will reduce us to nothing more than robots in this life and rob us of reward in the next. Because of this prevailing attitude our Lord Himself gave a solemn warning to the assembly at Ephesus regarding the swift removal of their testimony (Rev 2:5). Has such coldness left many Christians without a true appreciation for the precious subject of headship?

We must have solid biblical answers ready as to why practices are being upheld in the local assembly, such as the distinct differences in the roles of men and women. Does what is being practiced in the assembly correspond to or conflict with my manner of life in the home, marriage and work place? It is the writer’s desire that in this present generation we recover a true understanding of this precious truth that will lead us in heartfelt willingness to practice and uphold all that our God desires.


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.