(A Topical Message Delivered by Elder Choong Sin Chun on 4th February 2015 at Homiletics Class in the Far Eastern Bible College)

The topic for our consideration this morning is “Man’s Headship in his Family”.

Definition of The Headship

Before we proceed, we should first have a common understanding on the important term, “Headship. When we talk about “Headship”, we are referring to a person being in a position of authority in an organisation. In other words, this person is in-charge of the organisation.

In Ephesians 5: 23, it reads,

“For the husband is the head of the wife,
even as Christ is the head of the church:
and he is the saviour of the body.”

Just like Christ being the “head” has authority over the church, so a man being the “head” of his family, has authority over his own family; he has authority over his wife, and if God bless him with children, then this authority should also include his children and matters concerning his children.

Well, such an idea of man’s role in his family is not something the world would like to accept. The world would regard this as old-fashioned thinking. The world speaks of gender equality; equality between man and woman. The world thinks that women can also take the lead. We can understand why they have such thoughts for the world does not have God’s Word to guide their ways. However, we as Christians have God’s Word as our sole supreme authority in faith and practice. And God in His Word says that the man alone leads.

Sadly, there are people in the church who think like the world. They question such an idea that man alone should be the head of the family. They want to go the way of the world. Hence, it is little wonder to see so many families facing problems. We are not talking about families out there in the world. We are talking about professing Christians’ families. Families of the people among us.

Hence, there is need for us to search the Scriptures and understand that “Man’s Headship in His Family” is Biblical, and it is for us to follow and obey.

I. The Reason for Male Headship

  •  It is God’s Design (Genesis 2:18, 21-24)

This portion of Genesis chapter 2 gives an account of how woman was made. Here, we see the order of creation; man is created before woman. We also see the institution of marriage.

  • Family is formed by God (Verse 24)

Let us first take a closer look verse 24, it reads,

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother,
and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

In this verse, God says “a man leave his father and his mother …” This man here is not referring to Adam specifically for we know Adam has no father and mother. Rather it refers to all men and women who should follow thereafter. It is a comment that God moved Moses to pen, for all men after Adam, regarding the forming of the family. It makes it clear that this record of the creation of Adam, and then Eve after, is to give us the origin of marriage and family. The institution of marriage and the concept of family is established by God since the beginning of mankind.

Moreover it is stated in verse 24 that “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother…” This means that a man who is going to setup a new family needs to be able “to leave” his father and mother. He needs to be independent of his parents. He needs to have the maturity to make his own decision for his own family. He needs to be mature enough to take care of not only himself but also to lead and take care of his wife. If God sees fit to bless him with children, he needs to be able to take care of his children too.

Now, let us go back to verse 18. Here, we know from the account prior to verse 18 that God had created the universe and the living things on earth (birds in the air, fishes in the water and animals on land). God then created man.

Now in verse 18, it reads,

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him an help meet for him.”

We see that after man was created God saw a need to give him a help meet for him, that is a companion who is compatible and helpful to him.

God then proceeds in verse 21 to say “God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam”. He then “took one of his ribs” and a woman was made out of this one rib that was taken out from him.

  • So, God created Adam first then followed by Eve
  1.  God could have created Eve first … but He didn’t.
  2. God could have created both together, but He didn’t.
  3. God made Woman out of Man
  4. And the reason of making the woman is to provide man the help meet for him.

After the woman was created, in verse 22, we see God led her to Adam, and verse 23 says,

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:
she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

Here we see that the woman was named by man. This is significant. This act of naming the woman means that Adam has authority over her. It is therefore by God’s Design that man was made before woman and man was given the authority over woman.

  •  It is God’s Command (Ephesians 5:22-24)

In chapter 5 of the book of Ephesians verses 22 to 24, wives (that is married women) are being commanded by God to recognise the headship of men in their own families. It says “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands”. By “submit”, it means not just casually hear what the husband says, and do nothing about it, but carefully listen and then obey what was said. Apostle Paul exhorts that a wife must recognise her husband authority over the family by her submission. This is being liken to the church who needs to recognise Christ’s authority over her. The church has to listen to Christ’s Word and the church has to obey Christ’s Word. “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ”, in like manner women are commanded by God to recognise their own husbands’ authority.

  • Women are not Lesser Creatures

Having established the fact that man being head of his family and having authority over woman, we need to be careful, not to have the misunderstanding that woman is of a lower essence, being or standing before God. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, God’s Word says

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ;
and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God”

We know that both God the Father and God the Son are the first two persons in the triune Godhead. They are equal in their essence. However, God the Father is here said to be Head of Christ (God the Son). That means Father has authority over Christ. This is referring to their functional difference.

Hence, likewise, when we say man has authority over woman, we are referring to their functional difference. The man in function has authority over the woman, and the woman is to submit.

II. Man’s Responsibilities as Head of his Family

As much as women are being commanded to recognise men’s authority over the family, men are also expected of God to assume and fulfill this God given role.

Now, man being the head of his family, has responsibilities to fulfill. There are two parts to his responsibilities. These are namely,

  1. His headship over his wife
  2. His headship over his children
  • Headship over Wife (Ephesians 5:25-31)

Let us look at Ephesians 5: 25. Having asked wives to recognise the husband’s headship, Paul turns to speak to the men, and commands,

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”

Notice that Paul did not tell men to enslave their wives. Yes, men have authority over their wives. However, they are not to be bossing around, and act like a dictator in their families. Although wives are told to submit to their husbands, husbands are not to coerce such submission but rather to demonstrate their love for their wives.

i. Love Unconditionally (Ephesians 5:25)

Men are commanded to be loving husbands. They are to model this after Christ. Christ demonstrating a true genuine love, not only sacrificially but also unconditionally. Christ gave Himself before the church could submit. Just as Christ gave His life for the church, likewise a husband is supposed to sacrifice himself unconditionally for the benefit of his wife.

ii. As if Loving one own self (Ephesians 5:28-30)

In verses 28 to 30, husband is told to love his wife just like loving his own body. Every man with a right sober mind would not hurt himself but protect and take good care of it. Paul is telling the men that they should see their wives as part of themselves. In verse 31, Paul quoted from Genesis 2:24 to drive home this point. We know God created Eve using one of Adam’s rib. Eve came out of Adam. Eve was a part of Adam’s body. Therefore, in like manner, a husband should see his wife as part of his own body.

iii. Taking Care of Wife Spiritual Wellbeing (Ephesians 5:26-29)

In verse 26-27, Paul mentioned that Christ unconditional and sacrificial love worked towards the sanctity and holiness of the church. Christ made every sacrifice for the spiritual benefit of his church; that is for her sanctity and holiness.

In verse 29, Paul says a man who loves his own body he would be found “nourishing and cherishing” it. Nourishment here means to bring up, providing its needs. On the other hand, the word “cherisheth” means to clothe it to prevent from cold. This points to a man who would provide food and clothing to meet his body’s needs.

So a man is to love his wife like his own body, he “nourishing and cherishing” his wife like he does for his body. Just like how the Lord Jesus ministers to the church spiritual necessities, so the man should also take care of his wife spiritual wellbeing.

In other passages, when Paul was teaching how a woman ought to behave in church such as 1 Corinthians 14: 35, Paul also mentioned that “. . . if they (referring to women) will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home” In other words a husband is expected to teach his own wife spiritual things.

True godly sacrificial love will lead a husband to consider the needs and desires of the wife and children, particularly their spiritual wellbeing. He will make decisions for not only for their physical health, but also for their spiritual growth.

  • Headship over Children (Ephesians 6:4)

In Ephesians 6:1-3, children are supposed to submit to their parents, particularly to the father who is head of the family. They must recognise his headship in the family.

i. No discouraging by yielding submission

Then in verse 4, Paul begin by saying “provoke not your children to wrath”. He is telling the fathers not to conduct himself in such a way that would irritate his children and cause them to be stumbled. A godly father is not to misuse or abuse his authority, causing his children to lose confidence in him and become angry with him. Children must be treated fairly and justly. No favouritism! Rules and discipline should be consistent. Do not punish them unjustly so much so that they would be discouraged from obeying him and Christ. A father’s conduct should be one that will yield the submission of his children.

ii. Instruct Children with God’s Word

In verse 4b, Paul went on saying “but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” A father should nurture, that is to teach and train, his children. He should also admonish, that is, to teach his children spiritual things, putting into their minds, their duties and responsibilities. All these are to be done “of the Lord”, meaning in such a manner as the Lord approves. He is to instruct and educate his children spiritually according to the teaching of our Lord and not contrary to God’s Word.

Not only has the father to bring children to church, but also teaching them God’s Word at home (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Training children is primarily the work of parents, especially the father, rather than the church. When children grow up without a knowledge of God and His will, the parents will be required to give an account of it before God. However, when we refer to “parents”, it must be stressed that the man is to take the lead in this endeavour. He is the one ultimately responsible for the spiritual state of his family.

III. Application

In summary, the headship of man in his family is taught in the Bible. God instituted marriage since the beginning of creation to form the family. Woman is created with the purpose of helping and supporting man to fulfill God’s will.

Man’s headship is not for him to treat his wife and children as he pleases. It is rather for him to treat wife and children as God pleases. So, the manner in which the headship is carried out should be governed by God’s word; for not only the physical wellbeing but more so the spiritual wellbeing of his family.

With these, let us consider the following:

  • To those who are not yet married

For those of you who are not yet married, you need to begin on a right footing. Set up a family with the right desire to serve and glorify God. This can only be done if we recognise that the man in the family needs to be the head. But recognition is not enough. The man must also exercise his headship. Neglect to do so is a dereliction of duty.

In addition, a man needs to be matured enough before he starts a family. So, young men, you to need make sure that you are ready to head your family before you have one. For those seeking to enter into a boy-girl relationship or marriage, the question you have to answer is “do you have the spiritual maturity to do so?”

Young ladies, you must be prepared to assume a supporting role in the family, willing to recognise whoever you will be marrying. So, you should marry someone who is spiritually matured, ready to head your family in a godly manner. Never marry a mommy’s boy that will need a mother, not a wife!

  • To those who are already married

For those of us who are already married, it is by God’s appointment that every married man exercise his headship in his family; to be a godly husband and a godly father to lead his family to serve and glorify God.

So, married men, are you already leading your family this way? If not, you should pray to God for the ability to exercise this headship. If you are already doing it, then continue to pray for God‘s grace that you would continue to be a godly husband and father. We ought to pray as long as we live.

Married women, are your husbands exercising headship in your families? If this is not so, pray for him and support him. If this is the case, then thank God and continue to seek God mercies and grace to grant your husband the ability to head your family in a godly manner.

IV. Conclusion

Before we end, allow me to share this story with you.

I know of a Christian couple who are married for more than twenty years. He brings his children to attend church since they were young. Their children are in their teens. But now the parents are in great misery, because their eldest son is addicted to online gaming. The son would neglect his study, and has no appetite for God’s word and attending church. Now his siblings are following his footsteps. Whenever the father try to advise his son to cut back on his gaming, without fail, it would end up in quarrels. If the father attempts to stop him, he would go round to the house to damage furniture and things in the house. He would even beat up the father. The problem with this father is that he thought, as the head of the family, all he need to do is merely bring his children to church to attend Sunday school and worship. In the past many years, he never had his daily devotion, less to say lead or encourage the children in devotion.

Dear Christian men, will you not exercise your headship in the home? It is your privilege and your duty. Amen.

Preacher’s Note: Elder Choong Sin Choong is currently a Master of Divinity student in the Far Eastern Bible College. He is also an Elder of the Mandarin Congregation in Calvary Pandan Bible-Presbyterian Church. This sermon is published with minor editions with the permission of Elder Choong.