How can a wife be her husband’s companion when he is the head of the household?


I was reading through some of the questions and came across the one which says, "Does a husband have the right to spank a wife?" While I do agree that there is no evidence or instruction regarding this subject in the Bible, I do have a problem with the word choice toward the end of the response. How can the husband/wife relationship be called "companions" when the Bible specifically states that the husband is the head of the wife, and she is charged with submitting to her husband? Likewise, the husband is charged with loving and protecting his wife. This is not a mere companionship of comradery. This relationship is based on self-sacrificing love, blessed by our Heavenly Father, with His authority granting headship and responsibility for both people. In my view, while the spanking question is not specifically provided for, a husbands authority over his wife is; therefore, she is subject to his correction (whether it be verbal or otherwise). The root of the word "discipline" is "disciple" (to teach). Is the husband not responsible to act as the priest of his own home and teach all under its roof? Such as in I Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24; I Corinthians 11:10; and Genesis 3:16-19.

[This question was sent by a female reader in case that makes a difference in how you view the question.]


You ask, "How can the husband/wife relationship be called 'companions'?" The wording is not my own. This is how the Bible describes the relationship. "Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:14), which was quoted in the previous answer. Companionship is the reason God created woman for man. "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him'" (Genesis 2:18). Solomon describes the adulterous woman as one "who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God" (Proverbs 2:17).

The concept of submission, as presented in the Bible, is not contradictory to the idea of companionship. For example, all Christians are equal: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27). In addition, Christians are to have love for one another: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Yet simultaneously Christians are to submit to each other: "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21). Hence, one can be companions and in submission to one another at the same time.

The idea is not all that difficult. Submission is basically putting someone else's needs and ideas before my own. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4). This passage is particularly interesting because it continues with the example of Jesus. Jesus was equal to God (Philippians 2:6; John 5:18), was one with the Father (John 10:30), and was God (John 1:1); yet, "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:7-8). Or as the Hebrew writer stated it, "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). The fact that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father did not mean he was less than the Father or that he was no longer one with the Father.

In the family, the husband is given headship. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22-24). (I Corinthians 11, by the way, deals with the authority of men over women, not husbands over wives.) Since this authority is granted to them by God, their authority is limited in the scope given to them. For example, a husband has no authority to demand that his wife violate God's law. He cannot ask her to steal, prostitute herself, or to lie on his behalf. God is the source of all authority and God has not given us permission to violate his laws.

While parents are to discipline their children (Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:5-12); I know of no verse that grants a husband the right to discipline his wife. There is a passage that states women who have questions about the worship service are to ask their husbands at home and not to speak during the worship (I Corinthians 14:34-35), but I know of no verse that designates the husband as the disciplinarian of his wife. There is a general verse that states: "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (I Timothy 2:12). Hence, men were given the teaching role when there is a mixed audience of men and women, but we would not expect that such a teacher would resort to spanking to make his point.

You make the point that "discipline" is derived from the word "disciple." Such is true in English, but the Bible was written in Greek. "Disciple" is translated from machetes(a student). "Discipline" as in physical chastisement (i.e. spanking) is translated from paideia (training by disciplinary correction). They are not related words in Greek. Fathers have specific authority given to them to train their children through disciplinary action, but you have not shown that a husband was given authority to train his wife by the same means. Proverbs tells us that "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15), thus explaining why spanking is sometimes necessary in raising children. The word of God does not state that the same is true of a wife. Therefore, I find no authority nor a need for such in the Scriptures.

Finally, you state that the husband is the priest of the family. That was true during the patriarchal age (before Moses). During the Mosaical age, descendants of Aaron were the priests for Israel. But during the Christian age, each individual Christian serves as a priest. "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4-5). The point Peter is making is that there is no longer a middleman between God and His people. We all can and do offer up worship to God directly. "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:15-16).

"Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7).

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