The original Greek word used for “submit” (Eph 5:22) supports this view of life-giving and supportive headship. The word is hupotasso. Its root meaning is a military term, “to draw up in order of battle; to form, array or marshal both troops and ships“. The word implies soldiers set up in proper order under a commanding officer. It is not about superiority or inferiority; rather, it is about each person fulfilling his or her appointed role for the good of all.
This is not only how a husband and wife (and family) should function. It is also how the Body of Christ is to function (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12:4-27). Each member serves the other, supplying what the Spirit has appointed them to give, with God as Lord over all.
SUBMISSION: FOUNDATION OF A HUSBAND’S AUTHORITY
How can a husband be a source and nourisher of life”? Most would assume that the first and primary role of headship is authority – but it is not! For the Christ-like husband, the first part of headship is submission.
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). The first step in fulfilling the biblical role of a husband is to receive and submit to Christ’s headship in your personal life. The only way for a husband to be a truly effective head of his wife and children is to live and function in daily surrender to Christ.
Christ’s authority while on earth began with His submission to God (John 5:19, 30; 12:49, 50; 14:10). Christ continues as Lord of the Church, fulfilling God the Father’s will until the consummation of the Church age (1 Cor 15:24-28). Christ’s servant role is the model for the husband’s role in his family. Just as Christ’s authority comes from His submission to God, so a husband’s authority grows out of his submission to Christ.
As mentioned previously, the issue of headship and submission does not in any way imply superiority and inferiority. Otherwise Christ, Who is submitted to God the Father, would be inferior. But this cannot be because Christ is fully God, just as our heavenly Father is fully God.
Christ serves the Church as its Head and Source of Life. Likewise, the husband is to serve the well being of his family. The Christian husband exercises authority over his wife and children as a personal representative of Christ. This great privilege of headship carries with it great responsibility.
The husband is to provide loving understanding, self-sacrificing, patient, God-honoring leadership to his family. As he prayerfully leads his family, he cannot follow his own fleshly desires. Instead, the husband is to sensitively and obediently follow God’s will – then, with grace, apply the principles of God’s Word in his family.
This requires a husband’s obedience to God from his heart, in everything from daily activities to big decisions – even when he doesn’t want to obey God or His Word! True biblical headship requires that a husband first surrender his will to God’s will. Even Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-36).