Ephesians 5:23: The Husband is the Head of the Wife

When the Bible wants to demonstrate the roles of men and women it does not begin with culture but with creation. The NT regularly references Adam and Eve when it explains the roles of men and women in the home and church, 1 Cor. 11:2-16; 1 Tim. 2:11-15. One of the things that Paul wants to prove by this is the fact that men are to be the head and women the helper. Paul uses phrases like, man was made first, or woman was made for the man. So let’s reflect on the Garden when God created men and women as we begin to establish how the creation account establishes the differences between men and women and in particular that men are to be the head.

Gen. 1 begins by giving us some general truths about men and women. That they are both made in God’s image; that they are both over creation; that they are both called to be fruitful and have dominion. Gen. 2:4-25 gives us those details which speak more about their complementarity. There is an asymmetry in their creation which Paul will draw on which highlights the differences between men and women. Adam is created outside the garden; Eve is created inside the garden. Adam is put over the garden; Eve is put under Adam within it. Man is made from the earth and is given the task of tending and keeping it; Eve is made from man and this reflects her main function of filling the earth. A man’s biology by his muscles and strength reflect the physical task that he is called to; the woman by her reproductive ability reflects her calling. Adam was made before Eve, a point Paul highlights, this is not a childish principle of ‘I had it first’ but rather a showing of Adam’s independent authority. He is put over the garden on his own showing that his authority is not equal or dependent upon Eve’s. When Eve is created she is created as a helper to the man not vice versa. When Paul says that woman was made for man, he is not saying that women become men’s possessions, no he is reflecting on this original act of Eve being brought to Adam as a helper. Adam exercised His authority not only independent of Eve by naming the animals but over Eve by naming her as well. Adam was given the charge not to eat from the tree independent of Eve; when God sought them after they had sinned he called for Adam; when God pronounced the curses in Gen. 3:16 the role of head is repeated though reflecting the impact of sin; and the consequences of the fall come upon the human race through Adam’s headship over mankind not Eve’s. Equal but different. Man in the head and the wife the helper. This is well established by the word of God, the NT then comes and gives a Holy Spirit inspired commentary on these verses reinforcing these truths and showing how they must be applied in the home and the church. There is a crisis in manhood and womanhood today but we have the word of God which gives us clear instruction in the confusion. Now we want to look at what headship doesn’t mean and then what it does mean. Our goal is to redeem headship and see it restored to God’s Edenic purposes in Christian marriages, in order that it might cause human flourishing for the glory of God.