As I tried to show in my last post, this whole thing of who's the boss? became an issue between male and female only after the fall and the entrance of sin. It was never a problem originally because there was only one boss. God Himself. Then that fiasco that culminated in Genesis 3:16 which is the description of what resulted between human and divine relationships. Down deep every fallen individual wants to be in charge of their own life. So the process of redemption began in time and on earth. [It had already had it's beginnings in eternity. Redemption is no after-thought with God.]
But, interestingly, God is now working with fallen humanity which eventually sets up a culture or society that is also fallen. It is within that context that God works to bring about His plan to restore relationships to their original plan and purpose. God accommodates Himself to the culture produced and, in many ways, even inspires His word [through men and centuries of time] using the words and the meaning of words that are within that fallen culture. His revelation progresses to the final word He gives in Christ Himself of course. [Hebrews 1:1] He defines the full picture of redemption and gives conclusive meaning to all the Father's plan and purposes that are to be re-established through Grace. ["This is my beloved Son..hear ye Him."]
This is illustrated well in the account of Israel's desire for a King. They wanted one. They got one. Saul. You remember that, I'm sure. Later God gave a better one..David..and the beat went on. Now remember, God's plan and purpose was always for Him to be their only Sovereign. But fallen culture/society [a collection of the life strategies of fallen people] produced something other. Even in a chosen nation like Israel. God worked within a Covenant relationship with her, for sure, but He had to shape, protect, and even condemn some 'bent out of shape' relationships with her along the way . But that's where God worked. Within that structure.
Priests? The same situation. A High Priest was needed to bring about redemption because of having to work with fallen humanity. Originally, God was Sovereign, Lord, King, High Priest, Ruler, you name it..He was it to His human creation. And, ultimately, Jesus would/will be seen as Lord, King, Master, High Priest. You name it, He is it. The human king is not. The husband is not. The pastor is not. [The father is NOT the Prophet, Priest or King of the New Covenant home Jesus is]. In the New Covenant, Grace restores those relationships to their original intention and, eternity, at His return, will only bring it all home. This must not be missed if we are to understand the New Testament.
That brings me to the illustration of all I've said that will help us the most, I think. It is the understanding of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 against the backdrop I've just given. It is there [because we unfortunately try to make a hierarchical interpretation of those passages fit with God's purpose in creation when it doesn't at all] that major confusion is set up in New Covenant relationships if we're not extremely careful.
We must remember that in scripture no one is commanded to "subject" anyone under them. Originally that was not intended and would violate God's plan. [This is why slavery is so abhorrent. It violates God's original plan and purpose for humanity although He worked within a fallen culture where it, unfortunately, was the norm often times. The same can be said of gender slavery.] It is certainly true that in the New Covenant kind of relationship we have in Christ, [a new culture/society] because of Grace, that forced subjection certainly isn't allowed. That would obviously violate the forbidding of such as commanded in Mark 10:42-44 and other places.
Well then what is it the passages in question [Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3] are saying? That is what we turn to now.
In Ephesians 5 and similar places where there is to a "subjecting" [serving--hupotasso] it is in the middle voice [Greek] which means to choose to serve. [In English we have the active and passive but the Greek is more intricate than that.] For the Church or Body of Christ, it is never by fiat or because of a demand by someone who is the ruler of someone else. There is but one Lord for all believers.
In fact, this whole section of Eph. 5 is not speaking about authority or rule at all or even "who's the boss." It is addressing a serving [subjecting] that is chosen from within the person doing the serving. In Ephesians 5:21 it is everyone choosing to serve each other. This refers to male and female, pastor and people, parents and children, anyone who is in Grace. Remember this is the New Covenant. [The new culture in Christ.] In verse 22 the word "submit" isn't even there. Verse 22 is connected to verse 21 [there were no verse/chapter divisions originally, as you know I'm sure] where it is used for all Christians toward each other as we've said.
It is only then that verse 22 describes the wife's serving of her husband, with verses 25-31 describing the husband's serving of his wife as Christ does the Church, and all this is an outgrowth of all being filled with the Spirit. [verse 18] It is this change of heart that comes because of Grace [remember that horrible thing of Genesis 3:16 where everyone wanted to be the 'boss'] that is being described and it continues to be described in chapter 6 of children to parents [a different word is used here] and slaves to their masters. They were to choose to serve in a different way. From the heart as to the Lord. The masters were to do likewise to the slaves.
Of course there were those in charge as the parents were of the children [that's why the different word] and masters were of their slaves. But, notice, there is a lesser inherent condition where one is in charge of another because of some unique lacking such as the maturity of children or the non-freedom of the slaves. If men are to be in charge of women in the family, what is it that is lacking in the female that makes male authority inherently needed? There is none. And in Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3 [or Genesis 1 and 2 for that matter] there is none indicated. It took the fall for the problem of lording it over to arise as reflected in fallen cultures. No ruling or authority meant here at all. It is serving that is at issue here. Not "authority."
The problem seems to stem from the meaning of the word "head" in this passage. It isn't speaking of "rule" or "authority." It is speaking of origination or source. If ruling or authority had been intended, the word [remember His revelation was given in that Greco/Roman culture not ours] "arche" [archon-Rom 13:3] meaning leader or ruler would have been used. Or even the word "exousea." [Rom 13:1-2] meaning "authority" would have said it. But the word is, indeed, "kephale." It meant to them the origination or source. [As God is to Christ and Christ is to the Church and the man is to the woman.] In fact, it's interesting to me the scriptures never declare the man to be the "head" of the family but the wife only. Both husband and wife are the source [head in the Greek way of thinking] of that family of the New Covenant. But had the "authority" or "rule" of Christ of the Church or the husband of the wife been intended other language would have been used. As, for example, in scripture, [because of their culture understanding it this way] to "rule," the feet are used metaphorically. "To be put under [some one's] feet." What did "head" mean to them? As I said...origination or source.
A side note of interest. In Colossians 2:10 we are told [told to all christians] "In Him you have been made complete and He is the head over all rule and authority." In verse 15 it is pointed out He, by His Cross work, has "disarmed all rulers and authorities." So...we are to not allow ourselves to be judged [a standard set and deemed violated by another] concerning food, drink, new moons sabbaths or such because, as verse 19 says, all of us are connected to the Head. [Christ] It is not saying He's the authority over all authorities or rulers. [Though He certainly is.] It's saying He is the source of all Authorities that exist. Now He has disarmed all and is the only source [head] of life, nourishment, [rule and authority too for that matter reversing that Genesis 3:16 mess] for all His people in the New Covenant established on Grace in Christ.
It is true that redeemed Christians are living in a fallen culture with established "rulers" authorities" and will until He returns and are to obey [serve] them. But it is inside out. It is a heart issue for us. Were we to operate the Church or family that way, [with rulers or authorities by virtue of position] we would be bringing our fallen culture into the meaning of scripture and not be letting scripture alone be our guide. You can see, I'm sure, that I do not believe the scriptures support a patriarchial approach to the family at all. You have to bring fallen culture in as a foundation for that kind of view. The sufficiency of the scripture is where I believe we ought to stand. Where Christ is our Head [source] AND Lord. [Boss]
That brings me to say this in conclusion. The cultural context in which the scriptures were inspired used language with their meaning not ours. I've said this ad-nauseam. To us, "head" means "boss" or "leader" or "one in charge." Not to them. It meant origination or source. It is trying to interpret the text with our cultural connotations rather than the original connotation of their language that gets us into hot water with the intended meaning of scripture it seems to me.
[ A final aside. I've read where someone said, though I can't remember who or where at the moment, that Aristotle believed the head was the source of male sperm and it traveled down the spine to the genitals. Plato believed the head was the seat of the soul which was, in his mind, a seed itself. He often used 'Kephale' to refer to the beginning of a story. Athena is said to have come from her father's [Zeus] head. No wonder Paul would use 'head' the way he did. It had the meaning of "source" to them and that WAS the truth God was speaking. Culture does impact scripture but let's be sure we know how, why, and which one is doing the impacting.]
More to come on the next post about this kind of stuff.