Back to 2020 Church Weekly List

Vol. XVIII No. 2
11 October 2020


Elder J T Joseph

No area of Christian living has been as muddled as ‘headship’ in the context of the Christian Family.

As ‘people of the Book’, it is to the Bible that we must first turn for guidance. Note, then, the following: Genesis 2:18–23; 1 Peter 3:1–6.

Much of the confusion over the respective roles of the two (yes, two only) sexes stems either from sheer ignorance or else from a hidden agenda directed at promoting feminism and, in the process, discrediting traditional norms – a type of ‘anarchy’, if you will.

A key objective of the Feminist Movement is to usurp the traditional role of the man as ‘leader’ in the family and in society, and install in its place the ‘female’, relegating the ‘male’ to the undifferentiated mass of ‘followers’.

‘The Bible dismisses feminism – thus, the Bible must be discredited at all costs’, so say the Feminists. Indeed, the Feminist Movement will stop at nothing to achieve their objective – by fair means or foul, such is their aggressiveness.

We must therefore tread carefully, stating our terms of reference and clearly defining certain ‘trigger words’ such as, ‘MALE HEADSHIP’.

MALE HEADSHIP (which is thoroughly biblical) does NOT in any way entail ‘MALE DOMINATION’ (which is thoroughly unbiblical).

‘Male domination’ is the brute-force imposition of the man’s will (typically, the husband’s) upon the will of the woman (typically, the wife’s).

It is this ‘male domination movement’ that attempts to justify itself by asserting the ‘(putative) superiority of man over woman’, in the process unleashing much tragedy and suffering upon women and men alike.

It is most necessary, therefore, at the outset to pay heed to God’s perspective of the distinct roles of ‘man’ and ‘woman’. ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel [the sensitive nature with which women in general are endowed is more readily hurt or ‘damaged’ by the vicissitudes of life than the nature of men], and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered’ [a subtle hint of the importance of family worship] (1 Pet 3:7).

God never changes; thus, His definition of the roles of the husband and of the wife never needs to be updated. And at the outset, God declared that Man and Woman equally bear His image.

To bear His image means, to reflect the communicable attributes of God. This makes the human being quite unique, as may be seen in the creation of Adam and Eve.

Genesis 1:11, ‘And God said, Let the earth bring forth … and it was so.’

Genesis 1:20, ‘And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly…’ and it was so.

Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ [as a potter with clay].

Genesis 2:7, And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’

Note that man was ‘hand-crafted’ by God Himself, from primary or raw material.

Genesis 2:21, 22,‘And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.’ Note carefully that Woman also was ‘hand-crafted’ by God but from Adam, and not from primary or raw material as in the case of Adam.

The following considerations now engage our attention.

Why did God bring the woman, upon her being created, to the man?

If the senior vice-president (SVP) at your workplace should want to see you, would you expect him to walk over to your office-cubicle, or would you go post-haste to see him? You may actually be smarter than him, but that is quite irrelevant here. As an employee you are functionally subordinate to your SVP, and that difference is what drives you to go post-haste to his office.

This principle carries over to the God-ordained relations between husband and wife: she is functionally subordinate to him by design (God’s design) without being in any way inferior to the man.

It was Adam, indeed, who (correctly) acknowledged the unique nature of Woman in his declaration: ‘… this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’ (Gen 2:23).

What if God had fashioned woman from primary or raw material (e.g., the same red soil He had used in the moulding of Adam’s body), instead of parts from Adam’s body? Then there would functionally have been two ‘Adams’ – i.e., two decision-makers in the family, equal in authority, power and accountability in the sight of God.

Would the structure of the family have been stable with tworival leaders? The verdict of History is a categorical ‘No’! We would have found ourselves ‘locked’ into the scenario which developed in the Roman Catholic Church between AD 1378 and 1417, when the pope (in Italy – but not in Rome) and the antipope (in Avignon, France) claimed the papal throne at Rome. This schism in the Catholic Church was finally resolved after much politicking and scheming, but it seriously undermined the credibility of the Church.

Likewise for the family: two heads are emphatically not better than one. It would be a recipe for disaster.

By way of summary I leave you with two operative principles:

  1. Equality of man and woman, but only within the bounds of male headship in the family and in society, and excluding male or female domination over the complementary gender.
  2. Male headship (which is thoroughly biblical) DOES NOT in any way entail ‘male domination’ (which is thoroughly unbiblical).

May the LORD help us husbands and wives re-evaluate the conduct of our lives, and follow through as He directs us.


Rev Dr Timothy Tow

No man is an island to himself. Man is a gregarious animal, like sheep gathering into a flock. Nor can a Christian thrive without fellowship with another Christian.

So, also it is with the sacred bond of marriage. When God made man, male and female, He said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen 2:24). Matthew Henry says, “In marriage a man has more satisfaction who labours hard to maintain a family he loves than the miser has in his toil.”

Faithful friendship produces united strength and safety, “and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24). “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Eccl 4:9,10). Thus, when Joshua wanted to know the condition of Jericho which he was going to conquer, he sent two spies to do the job. Jesus sent 70 preachers, but two by two, that they might be a help one to another.

“Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” (Eccl 4:11). This refers to the mutual warmth between husband and wife in a cold wintry night. Spiritually speaking a couple with mutual consultation is wiser than a single person. A pastor who has a prudent wife to watch his steps is kept from stumbling. From experience, I have counselled husbands to thank God for wives who nag them, that they become more perfect. “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him” (Eccl 4:12a). Hence the saying, “Behind every man there is a woman.”

“[A]nd a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12b). Now, we know every rope is made up of three strands. Without the third strand, a twofold cord soon disintegrates. Who is the third cord? It is the Spirit of Christ. Whether it be between two friends or husband and wife, if Christ is the third cord that binds them, their strength will be greater than ever. Their combined strength with Christ as the third cord will not increase double but tenfold. “[O]ne [will] chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight” (Deut 32:30a).

Two are better than one, but one is better than nothing. If the one mentioned here is a devout Christian, then he or she is also good. I am referring to single ladies especially. I have observed some of them in the Church, being more advanced in years and being career women, they finally choose to serve the Lord. They give their lives to become missionaries. One single lady in this case is not only good, but very good!

How many a vacancy in the mission field is filled by women, because the men cannot be found. When I visited Ho Chi Minh City in 1995 I came to know a lady preacher there. During the Vietnam War she stood in the gap of nine vacant pulpits because the pastors of these nine churches had fled. She took care of all the nine churches to face up to the Communists. Because she was a saintly woman, the Communists respected her. This lady preacher was a classmate of Ng Sang Chiew when they studied together in Hong Kong in the same seminary. One woman, with God, won the day.

The amazing thing is that single women rather than men, have made good for the glory of God. In Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal 3:28). Certain leaders of the Reformed Faith have totally forbidden women from taking any leadership in the church to their own undoing. But we have every Bible pattern for us to follow which brings us good success.

“One, two, three, as happy as can be.” Two are better than one. Three are better than two. One is better than nothing! One can be good, and very good! By God’s appointment that one is a woman. Amen. [Life Weekly, 18 February 2001]

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