Summary: What Does It Mean to Lead?
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Jesus—The Pattern for Manhood
The reason I am using the title “Lionhearted and Lamblike” to refer to the Christian husband as head of his wife is because the husband is called to lead like Jesus who is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) and the Lamb of God (Revelation 5:6)—he was lionhearted and lamblike, strong and meek, tough and tender, aggressive and responsive, bold and brokenhearted. He sets the pattern for manhood.
But it may not yet be crystal clear to some that the concept of headship involves leadership as its main meaning. That is what I think is the case. The key verse on headship here is Ephesians 5:23: “The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” So the husband is to take his unique cues in marriage from Christ in his relationship to his church. I take that to mean that the husband bears a unique responsibility for leadership in the marriage.
The Husband as Leader
I suggested last time that a biblical definition of headship would be: Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. The more I have thought about those three facets of headship—leadership, protection, and provision—the more it seems to me that they really resolve into one thing with two expressions. Leadership is the one thing, and protection and provision are the two expressions. In other words, a husband’s leadership expresses itself in taking the lead in seeing to it that the family is protected and provided for. So protection and provision are not separate from leadership. They are the two most fundamental areas where the husband is called upon to bear primary responsibility.
So what we need to do is see the support for this in the text and then some application or illustration of what it means. Let’s give a few arguments from the text for why we think the word head in verse 23 involves a unique responsibility of leadership.
The Husband as Head
1) Head is used for leader in the Old Testament. For example, Judges 11:11, “So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them (eis kephalçn kai eis archçgon).” (See also 10:18; 11:8, 9; 2 Samuel 22:44; Psalm 18:43; Isaiah 7:8.)
2) Ephesians 1:21–23 says that Christ is “above every name that is named . . . and God has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body.” The focus in this text is on Christ’s rule and authority when he is called head of the church. So the emphasis falls on his leadership over the church.
3) In Ephesians 5:25, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” While the stress here falls on Christ’s sacrifice for his bride and so tells the husband to love like this, we must not miss the inescapable truth that Christ took an absolutely decisive action here. He was not responding to the church. The church did not plan its salvation and sanctification. Christ did. This is leadership of the most exalted kind. But it is servant leadership. Christ is taking the lead to save his bride, and he is doing it by suffering for her.