Summary: Success or failure in husband/wife, parent/child, pastor/congregation, relationships depend on the observance of this ordinance.
The Ordinance of Headship and Submission
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
The meaning of “Ordinance”
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 (KJV)
"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you." 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 (NIV)
"PATTERN YOURSELVES after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah). I appreciate and commend you because you always remember me in everything and keep firm possession of the traditions (the substance of my instructions), just as I have [verbally] passed them on to you."
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
The word “ordinances” in this text, translated “teachings” in the New International Version and “tradition” in the Amplified Bible, are translations of the Greek word “paradosis”. The word means a statute or regulation.
Paul sets forth two ordinances in 1 Corinthians chapter eleven. The second one is the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, which begins at verse seventeen. Most Christians are very familiar with the last part of this chapter from hearing it read at communion services. Few, however, are as familiar with the first ordinance. In fact, some do not realize it exists. This ordinance is, nonetheless, a matter of considerable importance. It has a great impact on a husband wife relationship, parent child relationships and, in fact, bears directly on the ultimate success or failure of these relationships. The same is true for leadership relationships within a church.
As Paul sets forth the ordinance of headship and submission in this scripture passage he begins by saying, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ”. This is a key statement, and is the fountainhead from which all that the Bible says on this subject flows. Following those who follow Christ is the pattern for success for home and church. Commonly, people recoil when they hear someone speak on headship and submission. Conjured in their minds are images of dictatorship and extreme blind obedience. Often those opposed to Christianity point to scriptures that teach this and say it promotes a patriarchal hierarchy that gives license for one person or group to dominate another person or group even to the point of abuse. Sadly, in all too many instances, this does happen. However, we must be careful that we not refuse an ordinance of God based on the failure of others to properly understand and observe it. Nor should we bow to pressures of an unbelieving world that has never experienced its benefits.
The Structure and Order of Headship
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3 (NIV)
But I want you to know and realize that Christ is the Head of every man, the head of a woman is her husband, and the Head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3 (Amplified Bible)
This verse outlines the order of headship by stating that first of all, God is the head of Christ. Second, Christ is the head of man. Third, man is the head of woman. Another way of writing it is:
This headship order is not a denial of equality. Throughout the scriptures we see that Jesus, the Son, is not inferior in person to God, the Father or to the Holy Spirit. The wonderful mystery of the trinity is three persons yet one God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal. The attributes and character of one are the same for all three.
Headship and submission is about redemption, the plan of God to recover a lost race and restore it to, and even surpass, its original glory. God, the Father of Jesus Christ, planned redemption for mankind, even before the time of creation. Jesus was the, “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. (Revelation 5:6). The Father, therefore, was in charge when it came to redemption. Jesus, the Son, willing forfeited his place of equal authority and submitted to the Father. The Book of Philippians describes the extent to which this happened. Of Jesus it says;
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-11
We can only marvel at the extent of our Lord’s submission and wonder even more when we realize he did this for us!