Posted in Headship

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q2

Question 2:

Who has the authority to place the limitations?


Rather than build up to the obvious answer I’ll just give it to you at the forefront. If the Church is Christ’s workmanship, if it was His righteous and holy life that purchased us and set us apart, then it makes perfect sense that He has the authority and power to set the limits of His Church’s activity.

To explain this the Bible appeals to a couple different analogies to draw this truth out. The first is in reference to Christ being the head. The second speaks of the Church as His beloved bride. Both references are uniquely tied to one another.

The Head…

From a practical standpoint the body is controlled by (ruled by) the Head. This is true of voluntary and non-voluntary responses. In our human bodies the head (brain/central nervous system) keeps life sustainable from breathing (lungs), blood flow (heart), temperature regulation, metabolism, and protective reflexes like attempting to stop a fall by putting out a hand or batting an eyelash closed when debris is incoming. Our ability to move (hands and fingers, feet and toes, etc.)  seeing and hearing to process information, feel with touch and emotion, tasting the goodness of life while also drawing in pleasing fragrances are all controlled aspects of the body by the head. Each part of the body is vitally important (although some to lesser degrees of honor than others—i.e., fingernail versus eyeball), but without the head are utterly useless. Life is sustained by the head. Life is preserved by the head. Life is made meaningful by the head.

Jesus Christ is called the Head of His body, the Church:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ…” (1Cor 11.3a).

“And [God the Father] put all things under his feet and gave him [Jesus Christ] as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1.22-23).

“Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4.15-16).

“…Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph 5.23b).

Therefore, the Head has authority to set the limits on the body to which it is attached.

The Husband…

In a similar way, Christ is identified as the Husband of the Bride—His Church. This analogous union between Christ and His people (the saints/children of God) is called a mystery (Eph 5.32) that has been revealed in this time at the advent and ascension of Him (Rom 16.25; Eph 1.9; Col 1.26-27) who sits at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2.33; Heb 10.12). Given our current feminist driven culture the meaning of Christ as the Husband of the Bride—His Church—will be somewhat skewed.

For Scripture reveals that just as the bride is under the husband, Jesus Christ shares this unique relationship with His people (Eph 5.23). Am I then saying that the husband has authority over his wife? Yes, for that is what the Scriptures teach. Though man and woman are equal before God in status as image bearers (Gen 1.27), the man is called the head of his wife:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1Cor 11.3; italics added).

This a functional headship where the role of the husband in the home is leadership. The husband has authority because it is God-given not because he lords over his wife. Which is stressed in another place:

“For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1Cor 11.8-9).

Again, this an issue of function and not status. As Paul explains a little later “…all things are from God” (1Cor 11.12). Both men and women share equality in this sense as image bearers, but are not equal in authority, roles, and responsibility. Like I said, not a particularly easy concept to convey in our feminist driven society. For such teaching will be taken as highly offensive. However, the reason “…why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head…” (the covering is symbolic of her husband) is “because of the angels [messengers]” (1Cor 11.10). The Greek term translated angels here is actually messengers, thus the bracketed section. A messenger from God conveys God’s will, His Word.

This, in light of the reference to the creation of the woman in vv. 8-9 (cf. Gen 2.21-25), signifies the responsibility that Adam had towards Eve in giving her God’s instruction (ff. Gen 2.16-17), which he failed to do. Instead of protecting his wife by standing firm upon God’s Word, the Lord indicts Adam for listening to his wife’s word instead (ff. Gen 2.17). Something that should not have been done for he had been given the role of authority as her head and was responsible for not keeping it.

What Jesus Christ did for His bride—the Church—was what Adam ought to have done. For the trustworthy Husband lays down (sacrifices) Himself for His bride:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing her of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy without blemish” (Eph 5.25-27).

By so honoring His wife Jesus demonstrates how greatly He loves, how much he desires to nourish and cherish her (see 5.28-29). And the wife or the Bride of Christ displays her love for the Lord by submitting to her husband (Eph 5.24). What is true of the human marriage out to be true in a greater sense with this supernatural union between Christ and His people. The bond of love, of deepest intimacy is meant here not some perverted notion that fools have been known to utter.

Therefore, the Husband has authority to set the limits of His bride’s (the Church’s) activity.

Response to question 3 forthcoming…

Image by <a href=”http://Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay“>Pete Linforth