In our modern world, the male headship principle is highly controversial. If one is not careful it can consume one’s mental and spiritual energy and time and cause great conflict in circumstances where other matters are of more importance. Hence, I and all should be wise and careful not to allow the controversy to paralyze us from being a witness of the good news of salvation through Christ by causing conflict and confusion in the midst of the congregation or other assembly. For we are all at different levels of spiritual maturity and yet see through the glass darkly. Love compels us to be patient with one another! In the end it is a matter of repentant personal responsibility for the individual to be obedient to the Word of God.
Yet, we ought not as a general rule think the male headship principle is unimportant in/to Christ and his body, the universal church, as expressed in regional/local churches. When critial opportunities to address the issue comes to us, we should not fear men but obey God rather than men as the apostles said in Acts 5:29.
Indeed, the male headship principle is important to God as expressed by his messengers through the Holy Spirit from Genesis to Revelation (e.g., Genesis 3:16-17; Isaiah 3:16-26; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-25; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; 1 Corinthians 14:33-38; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Timothy 3:4, 12; Titus 2:1-5).
The male headship principle means men are to be prominent and heard in the worship assembly anywhere and everywhere; and, women are to be non-prominent and silent in such assemblies except under expected rare conditions, e.g., when prophesying.
The male headship principle means females are to never have with respect to position, place, perception, assignment, or attitude spiritual authority, honor, or priviledge over a single male or group involving males in carrying out her ministerial function, publicly or privately.
One should observe that headship is not a matter of salvation but a matter of role. It is also not primarily an issue of value or competency or capability or intelligence or education of women; but, it is rather primarily a matter of God’s divine order. The male headship principle restricts/limits the roles females may assume and be assigned within the home and church. The headship principle generally has to do with making or being positioned to make the final decision (e.g., 1 Tim 2:11-12) especially where there is a matter of disagreement or conflict. Where there is agreement, headship is not an issue. Thus, limitation on organizational position/authority is applicable. The headship principle does not require total silence of females in the presence of males as the writer of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is the writer of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-38 such that the writer of 1 Corinthians 11 explicitly allows females to speak in the assembly with restrictions. The key is they are not allowed to speak as having spiritual authority over males in position/place or attitude. With respect to 1 Timothy 2 Paul appeals to creation and with respect to 1 Corinthians 14 Paul appeals to the law in verse 34 which has reference to the law of Moses in general and to Genesis in particular. Yet, 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians are example scriptures that show the male headship principle applies under the law of Christ.
This headship principle does not extend to every area of society especially considering the Proverbs 31 woman of biblical days as well as the number of non-spiritual functions/contributions females have rightly performed/made in society in yesteryear and even unto today.
One should observe that Galatians 3:28 in speaking of there being neither male nor female refers to salvation not role. How do I know that is true? Well the same person that writes Galatians 3 writes 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11; surely the Holy Spirit would not contradict himself.
In general, the male headship principle applies in the home and in called/announced/expected regular or periodic assemblies whether physical or virtual. It applies in the universal church and the local/regional church. It applies wherever and whenever there are two or more formally assembled in the name of Christ (Matthew 18:20). This principle applies whether such an assembly is in a building, on the internet, radio, television, or in a park or street corner. Merely viewing an assembly from a distance whether that assembly is physical or virtual does not make one a part of the assembly however. Only when one’s level of participation/presentation positions one as part of the assembly does the issue of male headship arise.
One should be mindful that titles of address have various meanings to include levels of authorities within various denominations and local/regional churches. Indeed, the same words such as pastor, elder, evangelist and others are used in secular society for various purposes. Indeed, the meaning of a word depends on the context in which it is been used and what the speaker/write means by it and what the hearer/reader accepts it to mean. Perhaps, this is one reason our all wise God avoids the use of titles of address in the scriptures when addressing people. Even Jesus is referred to by his first name as is Peter and Paul. Of course the use of first names only is cultural as there is nothing unbiblical about titles of address when properly used. My point is to be careful, loving, doctrinally sound but patient and not allow titles of address to cause divisions among God’s people.
Peter speaks of the wife as commanded to be in subjection to her husband (1 Peter 3:1). Paul speaks of the same (Ephesians 5:22-23); yet, Paul also speaks more generally of the female being in subjection to the male (1 Cor 11:1-3; 1 Tim 2:7, 11-15). The scriptures therefore speaks explicitly about the male headship principle in various contexts.
It would be dishonest and contradictory for me to say God is speaking through Paul with respect to those things I desire to be true and yet say God is not speaking through Paul with respect to those things I do not desire to be true.
So then with respect to 1 Cor 11:1-3 consider the following:
If God considered women to be equal to men role-wise in the assembly could he not have had Paul in 1 Cor 11:to say something like the following in response to the issue of headship in the assembly:
- Females are commanded to be in subjection to their husbands in their homes but in the assembly this headship doctrine does not apply with regard to any man.
- Or if God considered women to be equal to their husbands and other men everywhere could he not have had Paul to say something like the following in response to the issue of headship:
- Females are not commanded to be in subjection to their husbands or any man anywhere for they are in equal to men everywhere.
But of course, God did not have Paul to say such things as listed in the list above.
Male headship is the biblical norm for spiritual matters in the home, church, and nation in general. But this does not apply to non-spiritual matters and heading entities such as a computer business, construction company, or a non-profit organization whose mission is not primarily preaching and teaching of spiritual doctrines. Here non-profits include government entities since their primary role is not preaching and teaching of spiritual doctrines although they are to apply spiritual doctrines in their job capacity.
The scriptures establish that the husband is to honor his wife as unto the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7). Here weaker vessel refers to such things as physical strength capacity and easily deceived (2 Cor 11:3). Although Peter emphasizes the husband-wife relationship, this principle reasonably extends to the general male-female relationship.
Nothing in this document should be misconstrued as justifying tyranny or abuse of females by males or males by females. Indeed all forms of abuse to include but not limited to mental and physical abuse are forbidden by scripture. Occurrence of physical abuse is self-evident when the event occurs. Mental and emotional abuse may be more difficult to determine; but biblical love will prevent occurrence.
The scripture teaches all Christians, males and females, are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) and are therefore heralds of the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ. New Covenant preachers are heralds concerning Jesus Christ. So then males and females may preach in the sense of ambassadorship; males at the “clergy” and “laity” perspective and females at the “laity” perspective. Females are restricted to the “laity” perspective due to the biblcial male headship principle. This means females do not preach in a worship assembly except when prophesying (1 Cor 11:5) whether the assembly is in a home, in the streets, or in a set aside church building. For more info on preaching including prophecy see Of Preaching and Teaching.
Here we will only deal with the spiritual role of females concerning public preaching/speech/leadership. The male headship principle forbids females from exercising congregation level spiritual headship. In short, females may preach/speak/teach/lead publicly so long as they do not do so in a manner, position, title of address or forum that assigns or projects them as having congregation level headship or otherwise having spiritual authority or dominion or spiritual honor over men, especially their husbands.
The numerous references to women being silent in the assembly supports the patriarchal principle established by God in the New Covenant church just as it was in the Old Covenant church (1 Cor 14, 1 Tim 2). In fact this patriarchal principle begins in Genesis and continues through Revelation. The male headship principle is part of the patriarchal principle
This discussion of female role is not concerned with such activities as singing in the assembly or making announcements in the assembly to the extent that such activities do not involve headship/leadership functions which is the normal condition which renders such activities as proper for females in the assembly. Similarly, this discussion is not concerned with community meetings sponsored by a church whose assembly is intended to address community engagement and development including elements of societal justice of varying types. Such assemblies focus is not primarily on spiritual matters though they may involve application of spiritual doctrines. The structure and content of such church sponsored meetings should be carefully formulated.
This silence of women is not absolute but does mean that speech by females in the assembly is submissive, restricted, and rare. Prayer and prophecy are the two examples of permitted speech in the assembly by females. Yet both of these are to be done in word and action and position and perception as submissive having no actual or perceived authority over males. There must be no perception on the part of the congregation or anyone else that a female has authorities over males.
Since all assembly activities are to be Holy Spirit led whether through assignment of officials or directly through the individual it follows that prayer and prophecy by females would be rare else the congregation becomes rebellious against God by rendering the patriarchal principle ineffective and absent.
It is true that Paul in 1 Timothy 2 speaks of female silence in the assembly and not suffering females to teach or usurp authority over males. In this context the principles of silence and usurpation speaks to the prohibition of overtaking, overshadowing, and/or over-talking in a more than louder than manner such that more than and louder than are counter to the whole principle of subjection, its projection, pattern, and teaching thereof and thereby to generations younger, spiritually and naturally. Yet, this is not a complete silence and not a complete prohibition of teaching but a subjection silence and teaching. This is evidence by the same Paul words found in 1 Cor 11 where God through Paul does not forbid females from speaking in the case of praying and prophesizing (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17) in the assembly but establishes that they must do so with the understanding and attitude of subjection to male headship. Note that prophesizing is a special kind of preaching. Prophecy is delivering a message received directly from God; prophesizing is not simply setting forth of truths already established in the Bible.
So praying and prophesying in 1 Cor 11 is reconciled with silence elsewhere (e.g. 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2) given the rarity and the lack of actual or perceived authority over males. The patriarchal nature of God and assembly means prayer by females should also be rare. Since prophecy is usually instantaneous not being preplanned, scheduling a female to speak in the assembly should be rare. Any such scheduling should not be to preach the bible but should be concerning true prophecy. In the usual sense, preaching today that Jesus died on the cross is not prophecy for it is not a new Word from God; women are to preach or witness to such things but not as the primary message in an assembly. It may be a secondary message such as a woman teaching other women about being good wives (Titus 2) and men attends the teaching not as primary students.
So even if a female does not conform to the letter of the head covering symbolism of subjection she ought to do so in spirit and attitude no matter the organization position she holds in the assembly. Note that the head covering symbolism was a meaningful effective custom of that time (1 Cor 11:16); it may not be transgenerational and transcultural in application or effectiveness. However, the male headship principle is not a human established custom but a Holy Spirit established doctrine and is transgenerational and is transcultural. So Paul says the church custom is not that females pull off submissiveness to males as they were doing by pulling off their head covering symbolism. Paul says the church has no custom of females pulling off such symbolism so as to position themselves as equal or even superior in role to the males; of course, the particular symbolism custom was cultural but not the male headship principle.
Violation of these principles will promote degradation (home, church, society) due to the little leaven leavens the whole lump principle. In any case one should not make the head covering habit/custom or provision a habit/custom of contentiousness or being overly consumed by the matter whether for or against the head covering symbolism. Elliot Commentary on 1 Cor 11:16 aligns with my conclusion concerning the transgenerational and transcultural nature of the male headship principle but the cultural and generational nature of the head covering as an effective symbolism. We see that the sense of all the churches is also present in 1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 7:17, and 1 Corinthians 14:33-34
The male headship principle existed before the fall in Genesis 3; biblically, it yet exists today. This is evidenced by God creating the male from the dust of the ground but not the female. Instead the female was created from the male to be the helper to and in oneness/unity with the male. This same principle exists in the biblical doctrine that the taint of sin (i.e., sin nature) and primary responsibility for sin comes down through the male not the female (Romans 5:12, 19). It follows that God has ordained the male to be the spiritual head of the home, church, and society at large in order for the male to have the authority to fulfil this primary responsibility to avoid sin and lead his family to do the same (Joshua 24:15).
Although not a determinant alone, the biblical truth that the 12 tribes of Israel are named after only sons of Jacob/Israel contributes to the male headship principle even though Jacob had a daughter named Dinah. Furthermore, although not a determinant alone, the 12 apostles are also seemingly all men (Matthew 10:2-4). Also, the Bible speaks of apostles having a special place in the afterlife (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Revelation 21:12, 14). All of this also contributes to confirmation of the biblical male headship principle.
Finally, let me end with few points concerning the application of the male headship principle.There is no New-New Covenant just the New Covenant which incorporates certain parts of the Old Covenant. No modern day “apostle”, “bishop’, “pastor”, “elder” or other church/spiritual “minister” has the biblical authority to preach/teach anything that contradicts the foundational principles laid by Jesus and the faithful biblical apostles; otherwise another gospel and another bible is created (John 7:14-18; 8:31-32; Acts 2:41-42; Eph 2:18-22; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Cor 11:1-4; Gal 1:6-10; 1 John 4:1-6). No, not one has such authority. Indeed, biblical principles are transgenerational and transcultural (John 17:17-23).Some of the Holy Bible scriptures are difficult in the sense that we do not want to accept them as God’s truth! But Let’s Do It God’s Way Not Satanic Society’s Way for God knows a little leaven leavens the whole lump as he can see further down the road as to effect of unprofitable actions on the person, and person groups including the “Church”! Indeed, abitrary abortions (including husband has nothing to say about it, a clear violation of scripture), same sex marriages and transgenderism (males pretending to be females and vice versa), ramport fornication, divorce, dishonoring of parents, and neglect of underage children are at least to some major degree the result of Christians failure to conform to the biblical principles set forth herein. Particularly, it is a result of the “Pulpit” failure to boldly and uncompromisingly preach/teach such conformance. Preachers and all, let’s not be afraid to stand on the Word of God (Ezekiel 2:1-8; 3:17-21)! Males let’s take our God ordained place in the home and church (Gen 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:1-11; Ephesians 5:1-10, 21-33; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Cor 11:1-16). Most young females who are head of the household are out of biblical order; likewise, most young males who are not head of a marital household are out of biblical order, with very rare exceptions (Matthew 19:12; 1 Timothy 5:1-16). The “Pulpit” (physical or virtual, raised or floor level, called a platform or not) is a symbol of spiritual authority in the assembly of believers with respect to position and attitude. Any female who is in the “Pulpit” is out of biblical order, whether her husband is present in the “Pulpit” or not. There are no females in the Holy Bible with spiritual authority over a congregation or male. Not Deborah, not Hulda, not Anna, not Philipp daughters, not the women of 1 Cor 11. In particular, Deborah spoke to Barack privately the same way Hulda spoke to the King’s representative privately (2 Chronicles 34:24-29). Additionally, Deborah applied spiritual principles to judge interpersonal matters the same way modern day judges do in the courtroom. Females have the God assigned important role of being godly wives and teaching other females to be the same (Titus 2:3-5). None of the above prevents a female from being a witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in other biblically prescribed/permitted capacities. None of the above applies to a business activity whose focus is not preaching/teaching spiritual matters (e.g., Proverbs 31:10-31) though such activities like all activities at times involve the application of spiritual principles. Nothing herein should be misconstrued as justifying tyranny or abuse of females by males or males by females, anywhere. Any male who supports a violation of any of the above is out of biblical order. God of the Holy Bible says so; take it up with him! But hey we all have the liberty (Gal 5:13)to follow man instead of God; but God gives no human the right to so do. Some walked away from Jesus and Jesus said to those who remained, will you also walk away (John 6:66-67)? But Peter even after receiving the Holy Ghost, had to be corrected, so I am open to correction based on scripture rooted in God’s will not contradicting human will. Love for humans is not to have priority over love for God (Matthew 22:34-40).Yeah, this is for me to. Won’t let Satan’s tricks/traps cause me to change the Word of God to justify my sins of fleshly desires (2 Tim 4:1-5). Repentance is good for the pulpit and pew. For those who say look at him there he goes judging folks. Well I refer such people to Matthew 7:1-5 not just Matthew 7:1. I also refer such folks to John 7:24 where Jesus speaks and 1 Cor 5 where Paul by the Holy Spirit speaks.
Key/additional scriptures include Col 3:18-19; Eph 5:21-23, 24-26, 27-29, 30-32, 33; 1 Pet 3:5-7; 1 Cor 11:3, 7-9, 10-12; 1 Tim 2:13-15; Gen 2:7, 18-20, 21-23, 24-25.
For my article on the Pulpit click here.
A good reference by John McArthur on the issue of women preachers can be found at the following link. I do note for clarity on 1 Corinthian 11 concerning praying and prophesying in the assembly. An assembly is anywhere two or three are gathered together in Jesus name. So 1 Corinthians 11:5 applies in a church building as well as in the streets or parks or home as long as all comply with the male headship principle. But note this has to do with a spiritual assembly not things like doing work in a construction company. Video is Does the Bible Permit Women Preachers?.
There is a series of articles by Margaret Mowczko entitled “Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism”. As I understand it complementarianism is the opposite of egalitarianism. Complementarianism claims the biblical model establishes males and females have equal access to salvation but do not have equal access to roles in the home and the organized church. Egalitarianism claims the biblical model establishes males and females have equal to salvation but also have equal access to roles in the home and the organized church. On her site she cites one or more persons who hold that the Greek word translated head in scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 11 does not mean authority or rank but rather indicates origin or source. Indeed the word translated head there in other places refers to the natural head and has the sense of source or origin or that which is first or top. But even science says the natural head is the primary controlling or ruling part or authoritative part of the human body. Indeed, the man is the source or origin of the woman as Paul refers to in 1 Timothy 2:13. But like God as our source has authority over humans and as parents as the source of children has authority over children while in their house so it is that husbands have authority over wives and more generally men over women with respect to spiritual matters as set forth in scripture.
To God Be the Glory!