Before we get into this final video in our Role of Women series, there are a couple of items that relate to the previous video on headship which I would like to discuss very briefly.
The first deals with some of the pushback I’ve gotten from some viewers. These are men who vehemently disagreed with the idea that kephalé means “source” rather than “authority over”. Many engaged in ad hominem attacks or just offered baseless assertions as if they were gospel truth. After years releasing videos on controversial topics, I’m used to that type of argumentation, so I just take it all in stride. However, the point I want to make is that such articles are not just from men who feel threatened by women. You see, if kephalé means “source”, it creates a problem for trinitarians who believe that Jesus is God. If the Father is the source of the Son, then the Son came from the Father just as Adam came from the Son and Eve came from Adam. That puts the Son in a subordinate role to the Father. How can Jesus be God if he comes from God. We can play with words, like “created” vs. “begotten”, but in the end just as Eve’s creation differed from Adam’s, we still end up with one person being sourced from another, which doesn’t fit with a Trinitarian view.
The other item I wanted to touch on is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:10. In the New World Translation, this verse reads: “That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:10)
The latest version of the New World Translation in Spanish goes even farther to impose an ideological interpretation. Instead of “sign of authority” it reads, “señal de subjección”, which translates into a “sign of subjection”.
Now, in the interlinear, there is no word corresponding to “sign of”. Here’s what the interlinear says.
The Berean Literal Bible reads: “Because of this, the woman ought to have authority on the head, on account of the angels.”
The King James Bible reads: “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.”
The World English Bible reads: “For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.”
So even if is it acceptable to say “symbol of authority” or “sign of authority” or “token of authority” as other versions do, the meaning isn’t as clear as I once thought. In verse 5, Paul writes under inspiration giving women the authority to pray and prophecy and therefore teach within the congregation. Remember from our previous studies that the Corinthian men were trying to take this right away from the women. So, one way of taking this—and I’m not saying this is gospel, just an opinion worthy of discussion—is that we are talking about an outward sign that women have authority to pray and preach, not that they are under authority. If you go into a restricted area in a government building, you need a pass, a badge plainly displayed to show anyone that you have the authority to be there. The authority to pray and teach in the congregation comes from Jesus and is placed on women as well as men, and the head covering Paul speaks of—be it a scarf or long hair—is a sign of that right, that authority.
Again, I’m not saying this is fact, only that I see it as a possible interpretation of Paul’s meaning.
Now let’s get into the topic of this video, this final video in this series. I’d like to start by putting a question to you:
At Ephesians 5:33 we read, “Nevertheless, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” So, here’s the question: Why isn’t the wife told to love her husband as she loves herself? And why isn’t the husband told to respect his wife? Okay, that’s two questions. But this counsel seems somewhat uneven, wouldn’t you agree?
Let’s leave the answer to those two questions till the end of our discussion today.
For now, we going to jump back ten verses and read this:
“A husband is head of his wife” (Ephesians 5:23 NWT)
What do you understand that to mean? Does that mean the husband is the boss of his wife?
You might think that. After all, the preceding verse says, “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands…” (Ephesians 5:22 NWT)
But then, we have the verse before that one which says, “Be in subjection to one another…” (Ephesians 5:21 NWT)
So then, who’s the boss if marriage mates are supposed to be subject to each other?
And then we have this:
“The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.” (1 Corinthians 7:4)
That doesn’t fit with the idea of the husband being the boss and the wife being the one who gets bossed.
If you’re finding all this confusing, I’m partially to blame. You see, I left out something critical. Let’s call it artistic license. But I’ll fix that now. We’ll start back in verse 21 of chapter 5 of Ephesians.
From the Berean Study Bible:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Others substitute “fear” for “reverence”.
- “…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ”. (New American Standard Bible)
- “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
The word is phobos from which we get our English word, phobia, which is an unreasonable fear of something.
- acrophobia, fear of heights
- arachnophobia, fear of spiders
- claustrophobia, fear of confined or crowded spaces
- ophidiophobia, fear of snakes
My mother suffered from that last one. She would go hysterical if confronted with a snake.
However, we should not think that the Greek word relates to irrational fear. Quite the opposite. It refers to a reverential fear. We are not terrified of the Christ. We love him dearly, but we are afraid of displeasing him. We don’t want to disappoint him, do we? Why? Because our love for him causes us to always desire to find favor in his eyes.
Therefore, we submit to one another in the congregation, and within a marriage because of our reverence, our love, for Jesus Christ.
So, right off the bat we start with a link to Jesus. What we read in the following verses is directly tied to our relationship with the Lord and his relationship with us.
Paul is about to give us a new way of viewing our relationship with our fellow humans and with our marriage mate, and so to avoid misunderstanding, he is giving us an example of how those relationships work. He is using something we understand, so as to help us understand something new, something different from what we have become accustomed to.
Okay, next verse:
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22) Berean Study Bible this time.
So, we cannot simply say, “the Bible says wives have to submit to husbands”, can we? We have to qualify it, don’t we? “As to the Lord”, it says. The submission wives must show to husbands parallels the submission all of us render to Jesus.
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23 BSB)
Paul continues to use the relationship Jesus has with the congregation to explain the type of relationship a husband should have with his wife. He is making sure that we don’t go off on our own with our own interpretation of the husband/wife relationship. He wants to tie it down to that which exists between our Lord and the body of the church. And he reminds us that Jesus’ relationship with the church involves him being its savior.
Now we know from our last video that the word “head” in Greek is kephalé and that it doesn’t mean authority over another. If Paul were talking about a man having authority over a woman and Christ having authority over the congregation, he would not have used kephalé. Instead, he would have used a word like exousia which means authority.
Remember, we just read from 1 Corinthians 7:4 which talks of a wife having authority over her husband’s body, and vice versa. There we don’t find kephalé (head) but the verb form of exousia, “authority over”.
But here in Ephesians, Paul uses kephalé which Greeks used metaphorically to mean “top, crown, or source”.
Now let’s dwell on that for a moment. He says that “Christ is the head of the church, His body”. The congregation or church is the body of Christ. He is the head that sits on top of the body. Paul repeatedly teaches us that the body is made up of many members all of which are valued equally, though they differ greatly one from another. If one member suffers, the whole body suffers. Stub your toe or smash your little finger with a hammer and you’ll know what it means for the whole body so suffer.
Paul makes this analogy of the members of the church being like the various members of the body over and over. He uses it when writing to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Galatians, and the Colossians. Why? To make a point not easily grasped by people born and raised in systems of government that impose many levels of authority and control on the individual. The church is not to be like that.
Jesus and the body of the church are one. (John 17:20-22)
Now you, as a member of that body, how do you feel? Do you feel that Jesus demands too much of you? Do you think of Jesus as some hardhearted boss who only cares about himself? Or do you feel cared for and protected? Do you think of Jesus as someone who was willing to die for you? As someone who spent his life, not being served by others, but exerting himself to serve his flock?
Now you men have an understanding of what is expected of you as the head of the woman.
It is not even like you get to make the rules. Jesus told us that “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” (John 8:28 ESV)
It follows that husbands need to imitate that example and do nothing on their own authority but only based on what God has taught us.
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:24 BSB)
Again, the comparison is made between the church and Christ. A wife will have no problem submitting to a husband if he is acting as head in the manner of Christ over the congregation.
But Paul isn’t done explaining. He continues:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a glorious church, without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:24 BSB)
In a similar way, a husband will want to love his wife and give of himself with a view to sanctifying her, so as to present her to the world as glorious, without stain, wrinkle, or blemish, but holy and blameless.
Beautiful, high sounding words, but how can a husband hope to accomplish this in a practical manner in today’s world with all the problems that we face?
Allow me to try to explain that from something which I experienced in my own life.
My late wife loved to dance. I, like most men, was reluctant to get on the dance floor. I felt I looked awkward since I didn’t know how to move properly to the music. Nevertheless, when we had the funds, we decided to take dance lessons. In our first class of mostly women, the instructor began by saying, “I’m going to start with the men in the group because of course the man leads”, to which a young female student protested, “Why does the man have to lead?”
What surprised me was that all the other women in the group laughed at her. The poor thing looked quite embarrassed. To her apparent surprise, she got no support from the other females of the group. As I learned more and more about dancing, I began to see why this was the case, and I came to see that ballroom dancing is an exceptionally good metaphor for the male/female relationship in marriage.
Here’s a picture of a ballroom competition. What do you notice? All the women are dressed in glorious gowns, each one different; while all the men are dressed like penguins, identically. This is because it is the man’s role to show the woman off. She is the focus of attention. She has the showy, more difficult moves.
What did Paul say about Christ and the congregation? I rather like the rendering given verse 27 by the New International Version, “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Such is the role of a husband to his wife in the marriage. I believe that the reason women have no problem with the idea of the men leading on the dance floor is that they understand that dancing isn’t about dominance. It’s about cooperation. Two people moving as one with the purpose of producing art—something beautiful to behold.
Here’s how it works:
First, you don’t make up dance steps on the fly. You have to learn them. Someone else has designed them. There are steps for each type of music. There are dance steps for the music of the waltz, but different steps for the Fox Trot, or the Tango, or the Salsa. Each type of music requires different steps.
You never know what the band or DJ is going to play next, but are ready, because you’ve learned the step to every dance. In life, you never know what is coming next; what music is about to be played. We have to face many challenges in a marriage: financial reversals, health problems, family tragedy, children…on and on. How do we handle all these things? What steps do we take to deal with them in a way that brings glory to our marriage? We don’t make up the steps ourselves. Someone has designed them for us. For a Christian, that someone is the Father who has communicated all these things to us through his son Jesus Christ. Both dance partners know the steps. But which step to take at any given time is up to the man.
When the man is taking the lead on the dance floor, how does he tell the woman what particular step they are going to perform next? A basic backward, or a rock left turn, or a forward progressive, or a promenade, or an underarm turn? How does she know?
He does all this through a very subtle form of communication. Communication is the key to a successful dance partnership just as it is key to a successful marriage.
The first thing they teach the men in dance class is the dance frame. The man’s right arm forms a semicircle with his hand resting on the woman’s back at the level of the shoulder blade. Now the woman will rest her left arm on top of your right with her hand on your shoulder. The key is for the man to keep his arm rigid. When his body turns, his arm turns with it. It can’t stay behind, because it is the movement of his arm that guides the woman into the steps. For instance, to avoid stepping on her, he leans into her before lifting his foot. He leans forward, and then he steps. He always leads with the left foot, so when she feels him lean forward, she immediately knows she must lift her right foot and then move backwards. And that’s all there is to it.
If she doesn’t feel him move—if he moves his foot, but not his body—she going to get stepped on. That’s not a good thing.
So, firm but gentle communication that is the key. The woman needs to know what the man intends to do. So, it is in marriage. The woman needs and wants to be in close communication with her mate. She wants to know his mind, to understand how he feels about things. In dancing, you want to move as one. In life, you want to think and act as one. That is where the beauty of a marriage lies. That only comes with time and long practice and many mistakes—many feet that get stepped on.
The man isn’t telling the woman what she has to do. He’s not her boss. He is communicating with her so she feels him.
Do you know what Jesus wants of you? Of course, because he has told us plainly, and more he has set the example for us.
Now from the woman’s point of view, she has to work at carrying her own weight. In dance, she rests her arm on his lightly. The purpose is contact for communication. If she rests the full weight of her arm on his, he will tire out quickly, and his arm will droop. Though they work as one, each carries their own weight.
In dancing, there is always one partner that learns more quickly than the other. A skilled woman dancer will help her partner to learn new steps and better ways to lead, to communicate. A skilled male dancer will not lead his partner into steps she has not yet learned. Remember, the purpose is to produce a beautiful synchronicity on the dance floor, not embarrass one another. Anything that makes one partner look bad, makes them both look bad.
In dance, you are not competing with your mate. You are cooperating with her or him. You win together or you lose together.
This brings us to that question I raised at the beginning. Why is a husband told to love his wife as he does himself and not the other way round? Why is a woman told to respect her husband and not the other way round? I put it to you that what that verse is actually telling us is the same thing from two different viewpoints.
If you hear someone say, “you never tell me you love me anymore.” Would you immediately assume you’re hearing a man talking or a woman?
Don’t expect your wife to understand you love her unless you constantly reinforce that with open communication. Tell her you love her and show her you love her. Big grandiose gestures are often less important that many small repetitive ones. You can dance a whole dance with just a couple of basic steps, but you tell the world how you feel by showing off your dance partner, and more important, you show her how you feel about her. Find the way every day to show you love her as much as you love yourself.
As for the second part of that verse about showing respect, I’ve heard it said that everything Fred Astaire did, Ginger Rogers also did, but in high heels and moving backwards. This is because in a dance competition, the couple will lose points for posture if they don’t face the right way. Notice that the man is facing the way they are moving because he has to avoid collisions. The woman, however, looks where they have been. She’s moving backward blind. To do this, she has to have absolute trust in her partner.
Here’s a scenario: A newly wed couple has a leaky sink. The husband is underneath working away with his wrenches and the wife stands by thinking, “Ah, he can do anything.” Flash forward a few years. Same scenario. The husband is under the sink trying to fix the leak. The wife says, “Maybe we should call a plumber.”
Like a knife to the heart.
For men, love is all about respect. I’ve seen women working on something, when another women comes into the group and offers a suggestion on how to do the thing better. They listen and appreciate the advice. But you don’t see that so much in men. If I walk in on a friend doing something and immediately offer advice, it might not go so well. I’m not showing him respect. I’m not showing him that I trust what he is doing. Now, if he asks for advice, then he is telling me he respects me, respects my advice. That is how men bond.
So, when Ephesians 5:33 tells women to respect their husbands, it is actually saying the same thing it says to husbands. It is saying you should love your husband, but it’s telling you how to express that love in a way a man will understand.
When my late wife and I would go dancing, we’d often be on a crowded dance floor. I’d have to be ready to change into a different step to avoid a collision, on a moment’s notice sometimes. Sometimes, I’d have to reverse, but then I’d be going backwards and I’d be blind and she’d be looking. She might see us about to collide with another couple and pull back. I’d feel her resistance and know to stop or to change to a different step immediately. That subtle communication is a two-way street. I don’t push, I don’t pull. I merely move and she follows, and vice versa.
What happens when you do collide, which happens from time to time. You do collide with another couple and you fall? Proper etiquette calls for the man to use his greater bulk to spin so that he is underneath to cushion the fall of the womsn. Again, Jesus sacrificed himself for the congregation. A husband should be willing to take the fall for the wife.
As a husband or wife, if you ever worry that you’re not doing what you should to make the marriage work, then look at the example Paul gives us of Christ and the congregation. Find a parallel there to your situation, and you will see how to fix the problem.
I hope that this clears up some of the confusion about headship. I have been expressing a number of personal opinions based on my experience and understanding. I’ve engaged in some generalities here. Please understand these are suggestions. Take them or leave them, as you see fit.
Thank you for watching. This concludes the series on the role of women. Look for a video from James Penton next, and then I’ll get into the topic of the nature of Jesus and the question of the Trinity. If you would like to help me keep going, there is a link in the description of this video to facilitate donations.