Are Christian husbands to be prophet, priest and king for their families? Since I’ve never read a verse that says anything instructing husbands in this fashion, I set out to see if this teaching is valid?
What is taught…
Here is the progression of thought. I’ll save my commentary for the end.
It starts with Ephesians 5:22-33. From these verses, it is concluded that a Christian husband is to act toward his wife in the same fashion that Christ acts (or has acted) toward the church.
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
- What does Christ do for the church? In Institutes, John Calvin sums up Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament types as prophet, priest and king. Calvin coined this triad phrase from his study in Hebrews.
- So, if a husband is to be Christ-like, he must also fulfill these Old Testament types for his wife and family.
- Old Testament practices, culture and stories are examined for husbandry examples to follow in today’s Christian marriages.
If a husband is to be the head of his wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the church, then as a husband he must understand the prophetic, priestly, and kingly roles he is to fulfill. (Bob Lepine, Building Strong Families, p 102)
Notice any redundancies? I believe you run into a few doctrinal problems when you follow this reasoning.
Some questions arise.
- Why isn’t Christ’s fulfillment of these roles enough for women and children that they require their husbands to double up? Is Christ not enough?
- How can a mere man fulfill the responsibilities that God himself had to insert himself into time to do the right way?
- What man would WANT to fill those roles, or imagine he COULD fill those roles for another?
- Why should a man who lives by grace revert to Old Testament types, when Christ completed all the necessary requirements of that law?
- What is wrong with women (that men are excluded from) that they need this “extra layer” of spiritual authority?
- Can you call this teaching Biblical if it is based on human reasoning?
Does Ephesians 5:22-33 apply?
I have so much to say about this passage, that a few paragraphs here will do you a disservice. So please understand, that my few words here are lacking to flesh my thoughts out in full. I believe this passage is clear. I also believe it will hurt no man or woman to obey its words completely…to take Jesus’ words to His disciples literally when he was washing their feet:
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 12)
All Christians should strive to emulate Christ in submission and love. Since the two (submission and love) are so close in practice, if wives and husbands are both living gracefully to each other, neither will be an issue. The heart of the gospel is the sacrifice of personal rights. It looks surprisingly the same for both genders. I’ll have to write on Ephesians 5, specifically, in its own post.
To keep on topic, I ask. Does Ephesians 5 instruct husbands to act as prophet, priest or king for their families? Not directly. It uses a metaphor that describes the priestly and prophetic role of Christ. Metaphors are tricky because they are so successful… the purpose of a metaphor is transfer the meaning of one phrase to another. But metaphors are not meant to be literal. To understand what it means, we start by asking what it doesn’t mean. I think we all agree that husbands do not literally become Christ. Husbands do not literally atone for their wives’ sin. Husbands are not the voice of God to their wives. Husbands do not have absolute authority over their wives’ lives. How do we know this? Because of clear passages elsewhere. So, attributing the roles of prophet, priest and king to husband is not accurate.
There are many clear passages that say Jesus’ work for the church is sufficient for all genders.
- There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28) Galatians teaches us to continue in grace. We do not revert back to the law after we believe. Under grace, in Christ there is no gender. There is no hierarchy. Even the priestly hierarchy was abolished/completed in Christ.
In explanation of what husband as prophet is to do for his wife, Lepine says,
Rather than ignoring theological and doctrinal issues, dismissing them as foolish or unnecessary, a husband should find himself wrestling with the issues raised in Scripture and should determine for his wife and his family what is right and true. (Building Strong Families, p. 106)
Should husbands grapple with Scripture? Yes! Does Jesus hold a husband responsible to determine for his wife what is true? No way. He has given His Spirit to all believers to instruct us through His word, not just men.
- Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24) Jesus teaches the woman at the well that she does not need the mediation of her husband or a temple. Not only does she believe, it is through her teaching/witness that others are saved. Women can directly go to Jesus.
- For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (1 Timothy 2:5) We fault the Catholics for putting a priest between us and Jesus. How is husband as priest any different at the core? (I realize it differs in practice.)
- Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25) Christ alone completed our need for priest regardless of our gender or age or race.
In explanation of what being a husband-head means, Lepine says,
“It doesn’t mean control, but a willingness to assume responsibility…Too many husbands assume that their spiritual leadership in this area will begin once the children are older. In truth it begins the day the spiritual responsibility for a young woman is passed from her father to her husband.” (Building Strong Families, p.101 and 103)
What is this spiritual responsibility? To be responsible is to be the one answerable for a thing. To be the one held accountable for something. The idea that certain people need someone else to be answerable for them or held accountable for them in the spiritual realms seems counter-gospel to me. It must seem off to Lepine as well, because he addresses the issue, but doesn’t answer it. He just re-asserts that men are “responsible” for the women under them.
The Bible teaches that all believers are part of a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9), and that there is no intermediary between man and God except for the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). Still, if a man aspires to be a godly husband, he will assume responsibility to oversee the spiritual condition of his wife. (Building Strong Families, p. 103)
- There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:9-11.. goodness its all over the whole book!) Every person is responsible for his or her own choices. A Jew is judged or rewarded based on his own faith, not because he belongs to the House of Israel. God does not favor men over women. Men are not held responsible for women. A women is responsible for herself, as is man.
Since the Bible never asks the husband to fulfill the roles of prophet, priest and king, what does it ask a husband to do? Love. Why must we place women in a different position under the spiritual authority of man and call it a biblical command? We shouldn’t place that burden on either gender. Christ alone is all we need.