Scripture teaches the headship and leadership of husbands and fathers in families. Some derisively call this patriarchal - This word is a hot button today, so let’s defuse it with a definition. It is from Greek and simply means father rule. If father decides something regarding the family, that decision should be respected and carried out. This is not derived from Ozzie and Harriet, but from Scripture.
We see from Numbers 30 that the husband and father is spiritually responsible for the wife and children in his house. He has the right to overrule their intentions and decisions. Children, God gives you a father and a mother to lead you into joy and obedience. This won’t happen if you just do what you want to do. This household identity does not go away in the NT. Rather, we see Cornelius and Lydia’s households both following them spiritually in all being baptized when the head of the house converts to Christ.
Now, we have to qualify all of this, of course, but not in a way that undoes what we just said. 3 quick qualifications: 1. Fathers should not make decisions arbitrarily, quickly, rashly, without taking each individual into account, without seeking counsel from his wife and other men, depending on the issue. They should lead like Jesus does, gently, as we read in Isa 40. Just because dad is leading does not mean he is leading well.
2. Also, a father’s rule is not absolute. There are times the state or the church need to intervene. Just b/c the state today intervenes too quickly and wrongly, doesn’t mean we can say the state may never intervene. Men, for your wife and children to willingly submit to you, they need to see you submitting willingly, without complaining, to the state and to the church in their respective roles. [Example of this from Scripture] Cornelius and Lydia were heads of their households, but they submitted to baptism by the church. You don’t baptize yourself; you don’t administer the Lord’s Supper as a father. As your children see you seeking counsel from others in the church, they will imitate you, and start seeking counsel from you.
3. A widow or divorcee is a head of her own household, we see in Num 30:9 – her vows stand on their own. A widow or divorcee has the same household authority as her husband had, we see in Acts 16, where Lydia is converted and her whole household is baptized. This is why we welcome widows to our head of household meetings. They are not men-only meetings, though most household heads are men. We do not follow the ancient, secular practice of doubting or second-guessing a woman’s testimony or mental abilities. Man is not the head b/c he is innately superior, but b/c God made him first, and made her to be his helper.
These qualifications aside, father’s authority and office is real. You are to give definition and leadership to your family. “We are going to do this. We are not going to do that.” Leave details to your wife, where much is delegated to her. But don’t delegate everything automatically so that you are abdicating the burden to her. You are not just a figurehead. You are also not to dictate every last detail. You are a shepherd of your flock.
We are keen to apply this to heads of households in a variety of ways. Fathers, we are prone to just wander through life and let things happen. We must more intentionally lead our families into the Word, into prayer, into godliness. How are you doing this at your home? Our church calendar is meant to reinforce your responsibilities. We seek to train you in this role as head of your house at Kephale. We hold meetings later at night, so you have time to lead your family in devotions and be with them, before you come out. We try to keep the quantity of meetings per month to a minimum, as we don’t want to usurp your role of discipling your family.