Is there support for universal male headship?

Is there support for universal male headship?

Before we continue with our verse by verse discussion through 1 Corinthians 11, I wanted to add a note about what some consider to be the universal role of male headship. In universal male headship the male is the head over every woman. Recently I got an email from a male apologist named Sandy Simpson who believes this way. He directed me to his online article that in part reads:


This verse is talking specifically about the husband and wife. But in a larger sense the head of the man is Christ, the head of the woman is man. The Bible teaches that Christ is the first head over man, the Christian husband the second head under Christ, with the elders of the church the third authority in the life of every Christian woman.

1 Corinthians 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Now I do respect Sandy a lot as he has worked hard to expose the aberrant teaching and false teachers that have crept into the church. Anytime someone has a heart for the body of Christ and wants to protect the sheep from being led astray by the wolves in our midst I can applaud them in their ministry. It is a thankless job and I appreciate Sandy for the hard work that he is doing. I have especially appreciated the DVDs that he has produced through his ministry one in particular called The New Apostolic Reformation which is a multi DVD set documenting the teachings and influence of the International Coalition of Apostles (New Apostolic Reformation) which came out of the Latter Rain movement and has infiltrated into our churches. The clips in the DVDs showing the teaching of the new “Apostles” and “Prophets” of this movement are eye-opening. My only criticism of the series as a DVD editor myself, is that some parts of the commentary are in need of good graphics, a change of scenery would also be helpful to keep it flowing and it needs a more eye-pleasing way to present some of the quotes. The words of the commentary are often scrolled in a single line across the bottom of the picture at a fast pace and it is impossible to read without getting sea-sick.

However, while I appreciate Sandy as a brother in Christ, I strongly disagree with him when he writes on his web site that 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches that a man is the “head” of every woman. Sandy makes it specific by applying this to the church where the elders of the church are each to be the head of every Christian woman.  Here is how that would come across as a picture:

Womens heads

But scripture doesn’t say that a woman has more than two heads. Jesus is her head as Jesus is the head of every member of the body of Christ and her husband is her head. Does scripture say that an unmarried woman has as her head every male? No it doesn’t. Does scripture say that an elder or leader in the church is the head over every woman? No, not all. To say “yes” would be reading into scripture. The “head” is a very special relationship and to put every male or every Christian male into the special “head” position with a female actually takes away that very special and unique relationship that the husband has with his wife.

One Pastor told me that he is the “covenantal head of the (local) church”. I was floored when I heard that! I asked him to show me from scripture where a Pastor was ever called the “head” of the church let alone the “covenantal head”. The “head” is indeed a covenant relationship but the covenant is with the bridegroom and his bride. Our bridegroom, Jesus Christ is in relationship with his bride as head and no human should ever claim that relationship even in a local church.

I asked this Pastor to show me from scripture where any man other than a husband or Jesus Christ, the husband of the church, is ever called “head”. I am still waiting. I don’t think he will find a scripture because I have never seen it.

Last post we talked about the meaning of “head” from 1 Corinthians 11 and how important it is to understand the meaning from the context. I would like to add that the importance of “head” in association to the “body” is always one of relationship. I sincerely believe that when men try to insert themselves by calling themselves “head” of all women when they are not in relationship as the woman’s husband, they have stepped outside the boundary of scripture.

If scripture wanted to tell us that a man is the head of all women, then Paul certainly would have said that. Instead Paul said “the man” is the head of a singular “woman“. Universal male headship may be a tradition, but we must test all of these traditions by scripture and this tradition is found without scriptural support.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

10 thoughts on “Is there support for universal male headship?

  1. Cheryl

    great stuff. clear and well presented. thanks.

    the way ‘head’ is traditionally connected with authority and men over (all) women simply cannot (as you have demonstrated) be proven from scripture.

    i found Sarah Sumner’s comments (Men and Women in the Church, p 159-164) on Ephesians 5:21-33 to be helpful in getting my hmind round some of these issues. This is the other passage where the husband is also described as head of the wife and this relationship is likened to Christ and his church (also described in other places as Christ, the groom and his Bride)… clearly a ‘marriage’ analogy. not ‘all’ men in authority over ‘all’ women. Sumner highlights that there are 3 distinct couplets presented in the passage, but all too often these have been mixed up and the true message twisted.

    Although the ‘pairs’ match up as below in the text:

    Wife: Husband:

    To be subject to husband To sacrifice himself
    for his wife

    Is the body of her husband The head of his wife

    To see that she respects To love his wife as her husband himself

    Often the ‘submission’ of the wife is falsely ‘connected’ to the headship of the husband. This is not what the passage teaches. the subjection or submission of the wife is ‘paralleled’ to the husbands selfless sacrificing for his wife! we must be very careful not to twist things and make them say what they do not!

    There is nothing about authority in Eph 5, just as there is nothing about authority (other than a woman’s own authority over her own physcial head) in 1 cor 11:2-16. Rather, the ONENESS and perfect unity (which i believe is how we are to mirror the unity of the trinity through the bond of marriage) is the point of the passage – Eph 5:31. i believe that 1 Cor 11 passage also stresses the importance of unity b/w men and women (husbands and wives)stressing that everything comes from GOD and even as the first woman came from the first man, so after that, all men have come from women! (1 Cor 11:12) It amazes me that people use verses 3-10 to somehow claim that men have a special leadership calling over women, but seem to ‘ignore’ verses 11-12 which turn such a claim on its head!

    God please help us to understand and implement practically the beautiful God-intended unity and balance in our male-female relationships designed at the point of humanity’s creation but lost at the Fall! After all, we are the ‘Redeemed’, right, so our relationships must be redeemed too!


  2. Cheryl,

    so sorry -the formatting didnt line up the 3 ‘couplets’ well when it put my post up on the site – sorry!

    bascially they should read like this:

    1) wife: To be subject to husband
    husband: to sacrifice himself for his wife

    2) wife: the body of he husband
    husband: the head of his wife

    3) wife: make sure she respects her husband
    husband: to love his wife as he loves himself

    Hope that format comes out better – i’ll click and ‘see’ if it does!


  3. Well-said Kerryn! The submission does parallel the husband’s sacrificial giving up of himself for her. The sacrifice cannot be effective for her unless she submits to his sacrifice. In the same way a teacher cannot teach unless the student submits to learn. There is such a special relationship between husband and wife that many have glossed over by insisting on a role of authority instead of sacrifice. Jesus’ example is the perfect example of a godly husband who lifts up his wife and sacrifices for her.

  4. Cheryl, This may be using faulty reasoning but I have always found this view of men being head over all women…very chaotic and confusing. Which is why I have always had concerns about this teaching. It just does not make sense. God is NOT the author of confusion or chaos.

    Think of what this implies. Elders would have authority over the wife as would the husband? Would other men in the church have authority over her, too? Are women to obey all men in the church? Where does this type of teaching end? What if the ‘elder’ is a false teacher? The questions are endless.

    Sounds more like woman as ‘child’.

    I really do think we are seeing the fruits of some of this chaos/confusion in churches today.

  5. Lin,

    Yes, I believe that you are right. The fruit of the teaching that every man is the “head” of every woman is that women are not encouraged to be mature and to make spiritual decisions for themselves. Instead they are encouraged to rely on men to make spiritual decisions for them. This flies in the face of Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor 14:20 and Eph 4:13-15 where we are all to press on to maturity. Sitting back and always letting someone else make the decisions for us does not promote maturity but rather keeps us in a childlike state of dependency. Hebrews 5:14 says “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” We must be able to practice discernment.

    Lastly Paul said in Phil. 1:19 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” Amen! Women as well as men in the body of Christ are given the authority to grow in knowledge and discernment.

  6. Good Article!

    BTW I’ve just ordered “The New Apostolic Reformation” Hope it is good.

    Keep on your good work! Look forward to see an article on the marriage relationship.

    In His amazing grace,

  7. Hi Martin,

    I think you will like the content of his DVDs although as I said the look of the presentation is somewhat lacking. I found the video clips especially interesting and informative regarding the movement that has infiltrated the church. If my memory serves me right Ted Haggart is also on a clip or two.

  8. It was quite good the content, I have ordered their book “Finish The race – A Study On Christian Maturity”.
    Also I found so many references to apologetics ministries and teachers. Also one reference to a man who some believe to be a prophet, Dave Hunt. Now I’m crawling to his ministry:

    Its quite good I think.

    In His love and grace,

  9. A little correction to the above “crawling to” -> “crawling through”.

    Also I disagree with two of the teachings on the DVD-set “The New Apostolic Reformation” and also in his book “Finish The race – A Study On Christian Maturity”:

    1. That a Christian can be eternally lost (get unsaved somehow and go to Hell)
    2. That Women cannot minister

    Anyway the rest seems to be good.

    Cheryl are you dialogging with Sandy about the Women issue?

    In His strong hand,

  10. Hi Martin,

    Dave Hunt is a very good apologist in my opinion. We will attending his conference this summer and then I will get to meet him in person.

    As far as Sandy Simpson and his DVD – yes there were things that I disagreed with too but on the whole his expose of the movement was very good. I contacted Sandy and asked if he would be willing to review WIM from an apologetic standpoint. I knew that he was against women teaching men so I was very interested to know how he would handle WIM. The first DVD he had areas of agreement but had not watched the other DVDs when I followed up with him. I have since emailed him again about the other DVDs and he said that we should agree to disagree and he wouldn’t answer me further. That was very disappointing to me. Sandy is used to picking apart teaching and showing where it is false and he has not even tried with my DVDs. My thought is that before he can say that we can agree to disagree at least he should be able to show me where I have “missed it” in scripture. He was unable to provide a refutation just like all the other Pastors/Apologists that I have sent the series to who are complementarian.

    I do understand that it is overwhelming for them to see so much evidence to support women teaching the bible to men. Yet an apologist’s heart (and I have one of those!) should be keen to refute the opposition’s points. The fact that he is choosing to not respond because he just wants to agree to disagree is very surprising to me to say the least. I can read complementarian books and almost instantly I am able to see the problems with their reasoning and the way they use scripture. I never read their books and just say that we will have to agree to disagree. The reason is because if their point is valid I am under obligation to consider it. If their point refutes mine then I must struggle with the passage to understand how my point more accurately fits the context and how their point cannot fit the context, the grammar and the sentence construction. If in the end, I can see how the bible refutes my view and that they view is faithful to scripture, then I must humble myself to change my view. That is doing my job as an apologist.

    Anyway, although I admire Sandy as an apologist and I greatly admire his love for God and his strong desire for truth, I cannot see how he and others could see me as wrong but then either cannot prove how I am wrong or choose to not open scriptures to me to show my errors. If they had evidence to prove that I am in a position of sinning against God just because I teach the bible to whomever wants to hear me, including men, then as brothers in Christ they should love me enough to show me where I am wrong. The fact that they don’t either means that I am not wrong or they don’t have enough love to do the hard work to disprove me. That is the way I see it as an apologist.

    I am so glad that you found links to other apologists. Some of these others have also been very helpful to me too especially Dave Hunt. I truly believe that every one has something that we can learn from other brothers in Christ even if they have some beliefs that I consider wrong. I want to love them in spite of our differences.

    Blessings to you Martin,

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