Headship in the Home
The immorality surrounding pagan worship in Corinth led to confusion about the way in which men and women ought to relate in marriage, and in the church. Introducing this teaching, Paul defines the principle of headship. This is not to rank people in order of importance or merit, but to establish where responsibility lies. Even though the Lord Jesus Christ is as equally God as the Father and the Spirit, the Father has headship over the Son (1 Corinthians 15:28). In the same way, the husband has been appointed head over the wife: two people of equal worth, but deferring to the other while allowing the husband to be accountable for the family.
We do not know exactly what prompted this teaching. It may have been that the permissive Corinthian society was entering the church: or that the new freedom in Christ experienced by the wives had led some to disregard the headship principle in the church. The pagan temples demonstrated that religion meant power for women, as priestesses often controlled the finances, and the men through emotional manipulation.
Paul wanted the church to take a clear line to demonstrate that headship was important. Discipleship was meaningless without it. He wanted the women to serve their husbands and families, and also serve the Lord – not to use the church as a powerbase. So Paul taught that Christian women should demonstrate their willingness to submit to their husbands, and to respect the leadership of the church, by covering their hair.
This teaching has given rise to much debate about how Christians should practically use their heads as demonstration pieces of headship, by covering or nor covering. However, it is essential to grasp the principle. Headship does not alter equality (1 Corinthians 11:11) but it establishes a way of relating, instead of the loudest or most manipulative getting their way to the detriment of all. If the Lord Jesus was not ashamed to honour His Father as having headship over Him, we should do whatever is necessary to demonstrate that Christ has headship over everybody and the husband has headship over the wife and children. In the church headship is given to the leaders so that there might be order in the church.
© Dr Paul Adams