The Part of a Man or Husband

By Alison Rowan

There are those in the church who believe that New Testament Husbands have a divine prerogative as ‘head’ to rule their wives, their homes and lead in the church, while the wife’s part is to co-operate and assist in those tasks, submissively. Indeed there are MANY contented and productive couples who live by this model and whose churches, God is pleased to bless and to use in the Great Commission.

Nevertheless, I would propose firstly, to take a closer look at the Scriptures regarding the word ‘Head’ and its meaning that was concurrently in use at the time of Paul’s writing and in the Old Testament. This I did in this article on Biblical Headship, since it could show that it means neither ‘boss’ nor ‘source of origin’, but the ‘unifier’. Secondly, it would be also instructive to examine the instructions to husbands, to elders and on ‘ruling’ from the Greek. There has been MUCH emphasis already placed in Christian writings on the wife’s submissive part - but what of the husband’s? - barely a mention. So I feel it is time to have a look.


We have in Ephesians 5:25-33 (using Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words )

Five times agape = love ~~~ paradoken huper = give up self on behalf of  ~~~ ektrepho = to nourish from out of ~~~ thalpo = from to soften by warmth, ie to cherish with tender love or foster with tender care ~~~ proskolleo = a strenghthened form of: to glue or cement together (wow!)

We have in 1 Pet 3:7-8 (again direct quotes from Vines)

sunoiko = dwell together ~~~ aponomo time = assign a valuing, honour (I will look in more detail at this) ~~~ sunkleronomos = co-heirs ~~~ homophronos = of one mind -  it implies moral interest or reflection, not mere unreasoning opinion ~~~ sympathos = to suffer with another, to be affected similarly ~~~ philadelphos = love as brothers ~~~ eusplanchnos = compassionate, tenderhearted, lit. of good heartedness ~~~ tapeinophronon = humble-minded, courteous.

time = a valuing, has nineteen beautiful applications in scripture!

They include an advantage given to others instead of claiming it for one’s self: a reward of patience in well doing: honour to be given BY SERVANTS TO masters: to be given BY HUSBANDS TO wives. The same root is in timeo = to honour the command given to children toward their parents in Eph 6:2, the practical outworking of it is in verse one… hupakouo = to listen, attend, to submit, to obey as used in 1 Pet 3:6 of Sarah to Abraham, but in verse 7 it is for husbands to ‘honour’ ie listen to, attend to, submit to, obey their wives!

In this way, is confirmed the injunction for ‘submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God’. Not only wives to husbands, but also husbands to wives IN THE FEAR OF GOD… ie seeking his ways and will in each decision, whoever brings it!

The Patriarchalist creed from the unjustified superposition of Gen 4:7 (command to ‘rule’ Sin which was crouching at Cain’s door and which ‘desired’ to have him) into Gen 3:16, holds that Eve’s ‘desire’ was to try to usurp authority over Adam, but God’s command to him was that he MUST NOT LET HER, instead he was to ‘RULE’ her. Many do not seem to realise that this consequence of patriarchy was fully paid for and permission for it rescinded at the cross. They also argue that the rank of superior Male authority was established even before the Fall as well. I have provided substantial biblical evidence that refutes these claims in the following articles:

Tripartite Redemption

Pronouncements in Eden

Harmony in Eden

Ezer kenedgo, Alone, Desire and For

If Patriarchy were still in force, then surely should not ALL the DIRECT, not just the inferred  instructions for husbands in the Epistles reiterate this?

Is there even a hint of it?

Is there a hint of dictat?

Is there a hint of giving orders?

Is there a hint of subjugating?

I will let you make your own answers.


The few references instructing a man about his responsibility towards his household are in 1 Tim 3:4,5 and 12 (NIV).

“(An overseer) must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)......Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.”

I think it is not by mistake that Paul uses no gender specific pronouns at all in the above passage, including verse 1, and reads literally,

“If anyone desires to be an overseer … the own house well-managing, children having in submission, with all dignity. If moreover one the own house to manage not knows, how the church of God will (he/she/it) care for?”

Interestingly, the WIFE is supposed to ‘rule/manage’ the household’ in 1 Tim 4:14, Lydia was responsible for hers (Acts 16:15) and this was clearly the job description of the virtuous wife in Proverbs, as well as being the financial manager and wage earner!! There are instances of men having responsibility for their households, too, for instance the Philippian jailor, but it is a non-biblical invention to say that ‘the man is the head of the home’. Scripture teaches that the woman is more usually responsible to manage her household.

More modern translations, like the NIV here correctly do not use the word ‘rule’ in verses 5 and 12, that the KJV does. In Greek it is proistemi = to stand before, to lead, to attend to (indicating care and diligence). It also has a sense of to maintain. Thus a good householder will tend to the needs of the servants, keep order and ensure harmonious running of affairs. That includes the modern servants of car, dishwasher, laundry washer, boiler etc… all needing regular servicing and maintenance!

Does it say ‘rule’ his wife and children? Give the orders?

There are actually no gender specific pronouns present in the Greek, either here or in any of the other places in the NT that speak of the qualifications for leadership, as I have shown in the linked study.


The modern church has evolved into a hierarchical model of layers of management, equivalent to a business corporation, necessitating accountability to a single ‘head pastor’ in most cases. This adopting of the Gentile Model, was expressly forbidden in three gospels by the true HEAD of the Church, everyone else being supposedly equal in ‘rank’ as brethren. For practical tasks, there should be accountability to a team leader, but for spiritual growth, there was intended to be a non-hierarchical organic giving of life and exhortation to each other. ALL, including the women, were meant to “let the Word of Christ dwell richly in them, teaching and admonishing ONE ANOTHER” (Col 3:16). The one man in the pulpit wielding absolute authority in all affairs of spiritual life and conduct, to whom everyone else meekly and unquestioningly submitted, was utterly alien to the churches that Peter and Paul established.

Within the first century Church, there were those with responsibility to be a good example to the flock in their way of life and faith. (Heb 13:7). This system of care, not hierarchy, is evident in the words chosen to describe their ‘style of leadership’ :-

Again from 1 Tim 3:4 an overseer is to epimeleomai = to take care (involving forethought and provision) of the church.

proistemi = to stand before, to lead, to attend to (as above) is used of the one who has received grace/anointing to lead, and instructed to do it with zeal or diligence in Rom 12:6,8. This appointment is only ‘according to the grace given,’ which is an act of sovereign choice by the Head of the Body; neither is there any gender specification given. Therefore women and wives can have equal responsibility to lead within the church as the men do. The noun derived from this verb is prostatis, by which Phoebe is identified in Rom 16:2 as ‘a leader’ of many including Paul.

hegomai = to lead, guide in Heb 13:7,17,24

poimenato = feed, shepherd in 1 Pet 5:2

katakurio = exercise lordship over is EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN in 1 Pet 5:3

archo = to rule, reign is likewise, NOT a command to leaders in the church

There is a specific, all encompassing phrase that sums up the attitude that leaders SHOULD have… but is sadly reversed in many churches of all shades of doctrine and some teach that husbands are required to have a say, or play a part by having priestly authority over their wives in their faith.

It is found in 2 Cor 1:24

“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” (NIV)

“But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.”  (NLT)

“Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand.” (KJV)

All pastors should heed this well, whether male or female!

In conclusion, God’s protecting and caring heart is encapsulated in the form of relationship that he endorses for His beloved children, New Creations, made in His image of Love. It is a far cry from the abusive spirit of control and manipulation that can be facilitated by a hierarchical establishment whether in a patriarchal marriage or in the majority of Western Churches. God’s grace is greater, however and despite the poor implementation, the Great Commission is still advancing. But I ask, could it be less hindered if we did it in the way that exegesis reveals God had really intended?

Shalom to you all.