JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Christ is head of the church.”
January 29, 2011, 3:26 pm
Filed under: P Letter to the Ephesians

This last section of Paul’s letter, specifically related to submitting and headship is a pretty difficult one and fraught with all kinds of worldly and fleshly bias. Too often these words immediately get defined from an ungodly perspective and made reasons for having or taking authority over someone, satisfying the fleshly egos of many. This section by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians focuses on seeing each other as in Christ and therefore shows us how living by Christ’s life, being in Christ, is expressed in our relationships with one another, especially those relationships where we have the most interaction with: family and those we work with. Perhaps Paul is looking at a basic gathering of believers and the make up we would normally find in a gathering at that time. See my blog for a more detailed look at this: My previous blog focused on submitting, this blog will focus primarily on headship. See: Given this then the words submitting and headship take up the meaning as they were intended in their context. For an excellent word study on “head” as used by Paul see: by Laurie Fasullo.

Paul gives a wonderful picture of mutual submission in the body of Christ and gives some incredible imagery to the greater mysteries of being in Christ. Paul had earlier described some incredible realities of being in Christ already and what learning to live by His life looks like. As I stated in a previous blog: [“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” When we live by His life then submitting to one another is one of the fullest expressions of His life with one another, considering others better than ourselves.] The word “head” also adds significant meaning to living by the life of Christ.

The word head generally means just that “head.” Some try to give it the meaning “authority” when in fact Paul and others always used a different Greek word if they wanted to mean “authority.” Others would subscribe that the word “head” means “source.” This seems to have a better meaning, but just using the word “source” can seem confusing. It is my opinion that “head,” similar to “source,” means to give your life to another (1). It seems to have a one way direction for the person who is “head” of another. But as I sense Christ in me, Him being my, our very life, could it not mean nothing more than Christ’s desire to give His life to another, to be the life for all and for me, for us, to accept, receive, and abide in His life with my brothers and sisters?

Looking at what Paul said:

“Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word (rhema). He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”

So as we learn Christ, hear Him and are taught by Him, learning to live by His life together, is when we allow Christ to be head of His body. Like many other aspects of the Christian life, not only is Christ already described as “head of the church” we do not always allow Him to be head of our gatherings, to let Him be our life and so abide in Him. We love because He first loved us. Our love for one another is directly proportional to our knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. So it is in the wife-husband relationship. Seeing each other in Christ, while the wife and husband are called to think of each other more than themselves, we are also called to give ourselves away towards one another, to give our life for each other. This seems to describe Paul’s thought to the churches in Galatia: “through – love serve ye as slaves one another” (literal) (2) and the church in Rome: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” As Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

While wives, living by Christ’s life, are called to submit, to think of her husband more than herself, husbands are called to sacrificially love their wives, to give themselves away to their wives. Both seem to be two images or parts of the same coin of love: denying self and sacrifice. When we know Christ better we will know His love better and His life expressed, as we live by His life, is sacrificial. Sacrificing self, denying self, taking up our crosses, putting off the flesh and sacrificing for someone else, which is the “greater love.” “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Wives when living by Christ are willing to die to self and think of her husband more than herself, looking at her husband as in Christ. Husbands when living by Christ are you willing to die to self and sacrificially love their wife, give their life for their wife. Are you willing to be head of your wife, to give your life away to her? Wives are you willing to allow your husband to give himself away to you? That is living with Christ as Head. In so doing we display a beautiful picture of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Spirit giving ourselves away to one another, mutually loving, mutually thinking of the other more than the ourselves. The goal: “a dwelling place” for the Son “in which God lives by His Spirit.”

The Scriptures speak time and again of the beautiful love relationship between Christ and His Bride. The Old Covenant portrayed some of the greatest images ever! No wonder Paul paints the picture of “washing with water through the word (rhema).” (3) But now in the New Covenant, in Christ, it is a reality now! One image Paul uses is that of Adam and Eve and using this to show the intimate nature of Christ and His Bride, His church, His body. Oh to know Christ better through living by His life, His headship, His giving of His life to us as we learn Christ together! In so doing the body of Christ will express His life: loving and giving themselves up for one another, knowing Christ better as we see the measure of the gift of Christ in each other. He wants to express His glorious life through us. The flesh brings death, the Spirit brings life. Let us allow Christ to give His life to us, to cleave to us, to nourish us, to cherish us, bringing “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” resting in Him, abiding in Him. Let us make Him head of us, to be our life, because He “is head of the church and Savior of the body,” He is our life! We are His body, the two are one. As Paul said: “This mystery is profound!”

(1) Lincoln comments that this “sort of headship included Christ’s giving his life for the Church.” Andrew T. Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, Volume 42, Word Books, 1990, 370.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 559.
(3) Rhema describing the spoken or written words given by our indwelling Lord, the spiritual sight received through seeing the testimony of Christ whether through Scripture or through His life spoken through one another. Perhaps another reference of the expression of the spoken word from the indwelling Word who is our life. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 683.


4 Comments so far
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FEMALE PERSON: A wive is called to submit to her husband; To think of her husband more than herself.

MALE PERSON: A husband is called to sacrificially love his wive; to give himself to his wife.

QUESTION TO FEMALE PERSON: Wives are you willing to allow your husband to give himself away to you? [Are you willing to allow your husband to be your head?]

QUESTION TO MALE PERSON: Are you willing to be head of your wife (to give your life away to her)?

I would answer the female question with a resounding “no” if it means that I must submit to the male person(husband), yet he is not called to submit to me.

Re: the male is to love and female is to submit.

The difference, if any, is unclear to me. Why use these different words unless there is, in fact, a difference. I for one, would rather be alone than under the control of another person because of the person’s birth flesh anatomy.

I suppose what I am asking is the following:

Are male and female married persons equal in opinion and say so?

Are male and female married persons to submit to one another with equal submission?

If the male in the marriage is head, does that mean the husband is the source of the wife? If so, what does that imply in practical terms of everyday married life?

To me all this the husband is that and the wife is this other, and the he is to do that and she is to do this other is nothing more than a division. There is no male nor female in the Kingdom of Christ. We are all equal in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus. So I guess our view would then depend upon which Kingdom we are living in.

Comment by Kat

Hi Kat, thanks for the comments. I guess the thought that comes to mind is that while I understand the fact that yes there is no division in the body, no male and no female, we are all one in Christ, I think Paul is using the analogy of the husband and wife to focus on Christ and His bride. Christ giving His life away to His bride and in turn the bride denies herself and thinks better of Christ than herself. I don’t think it is an if, then situation since Christ is always ready to give His life away to us, it is the bride who is called to allow Christ to give His life to her. I think this is a healthy way to also look at the husband and wife relationship as we see each other in Christ.

The use of the word “submit” does not mean control, that is from the worlds point of view. Paul’s use is to think of the other person more than yourself, denying self. And submission in this sense is always mutual as I mentioned in my previous blog and is mentioned by Paul as the general statement of the rest of his letter. Living by Christ’s life is sacrificial, that is the essence of love and it is also mutual. I agree there is a sense that there is little difference between preferring another person and giving your life away to someone else sacrificially, but I think that the writers often wrote the same thing but used different ways to say it, perhaps to relate Christ in a unique way to each of us. Specifically in this passage to focus on Christ and His Bride. Perhaps submit is more of a conscious decision, a change of mind, while head is focused on the doing, the giving away. By the way I did not think I was listing things for wives and husbands to do, I was thinking that the questions might offer some thought about how we are living by Christ’s life?

Hope that helps to clarify my thoughts. I do have to say that Paul did quite a number at putting some of the greatest points of Scripture into a tight package with his letter to the Ephesians, so sometimes my thoughts as I am reflecting on Christ can get jumbled and move faster than my fingers on the keyboard!

God bless sister.


Comment by John Wilson

Bro John,
I figured you and I were of the same mind. Submitting one to another, each living the Life of Christ in Love. The mutual submission of equal partners, two equal parts that create the “as one”. My concern was more for others than myself in understanding this mutuality of marriage. Knowing this intention of Christ in the body is so very important to the body and thus to Christ, I would think. I loved your response, well put my brother!
Your Sis,

Comment by Kat

You are welcome sister! Blessings!


Comment by John Wilson

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