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HUSBANDS AS PRIESTS IN THE HOME:
A Different Gospel
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.( Gal 1:6,7)
There are many ‘different’ gospels being taught across the Christian world in this day. Paul wrote to the Galatians “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8) And he remonstrated with the Corinthians : “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2 Cor. 11:4)
One such perversion is the very common teaching that a husband or father has been ordained by God as the priest in his own family home. In its extreme form those who propagate this teaching state that a husband is ordained to be the ‘prophet, priest and king’ over his own family. In a brief internet search on this subject I even came across someone peddling the idea that a husband is the ‘high priest’ in the family home.* This false teaching is akin to the ‘covering’ doctrine which teaches that believers must be spiritually “covered” by someone in the church with more authority than themselves (e.g. pastor, apostle etc.) For more on the covering doctrine please see our article “Uncovering the Covering Doctrine” at our website.**
The idea of male headship in the home is based on an incorrect interpretation of the Greek word “kephale” in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23, which in its purest form conveys headship as the original source (as in the head of a river), not a chain of command as traditionally taught. This controversial issue has been well covered elsewhere ***. My purpose in this article is to focus on priesthood rather than headship.
There are two very good reasons why any sincere Christian, male or female, should find this doctrine of male domestic priesthood offensive to the gospel. The first one is that this teaching simply does not stand the test of scripture. It is based on a hierarchical view of Christian family life that demotes wives to junior partnership in the marriage relationship, when the New Testament clearly teaches that all believers, regardless of gender, are ‘joint heirs with Christ”.
There is , however, an even more important reason to be offended by this false teaching and to reject it totally. To teach that there is a priesthood solely based on gender and marital status is an affront to the unique and unequalled priesthood of Christ Himself who alone in the New Testament is named as Priest, High Priest, and Great High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb 4:6; 3:1; 4:15). Proponents of the ‘husband as priest in the home’ teaching clearly demonstrate their lack of understanding of Biblical priesthood and of the gospel they claim to serve. As there are absolutely no New Testament scriptures to support this false doctrine, those who teach it commonly cite the Old Testament Aaronic priesthood which was hierarchical in nature. Under the New Covenant, however, the old priesthood has passed away and a totally new priesthood, the Melchizadek priesthood, is operating. Indeed, even Jesus’ own priesthood would be rendered legally invalid under the old Aaronic priesthood because He was born from another tribe, Judah rather than Levi (Under the Old Covenant all priests were from the Tribe of Levi, see Numbers 1:49-54, 3:12, Hebrews 7).
What is Priesthood?
Under the Old Testament law, the priests were set apart by special consecration from the rest of Israel to exclusively minister to God (Ex. 29:44). Israel as a nation had been chosen and set apart from the other nations by God as a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:5,6). Within Israel the Levites were further set apart as the priestly tribe (Num. 3:12). And among the Levites it was from the family of Aaron that the High Priest was to be appointed. The main role of the High Priest was as a mediator between God and His people. He would oversee the Levitical priesthood and once a year He would enter the Holy of Holies with sacrificial blood to atone for and obtain God’s pardon for Israel’s sins since the last Day of Atonement. This Aaronic priesthood, however, was merely an imperfect and incomplete picture of that which was promised to come (Mal. 3:1,Hebrews 8:6-13).
We are not of the Old Covenant, we are of the New. We are not of Aaron, we are of Christ. Under the New Covenant ‘there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5) The New Testament teaches us that we have come ‘to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” (Heb. 12:24) Furthermore, “both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Heb. 2:11). Take note: “those who are being sanctified are all of one…..”. God’s people are one. There is no longer a special priestly tribe set apart with a specific consecration to mediate between God and His people. There is “He who sanctifies” and “those who are being sanctified”, who He calls His brethren, and we are one people with no special role based on external factors such as tribe, family, race or gender (Gal 3:28)
To assume a place of mediation between God and another believer based on some imagined ‘special priesthood’ is unscriptural and presumptuous. Those who teach and practice this are usurping Jesus’ exclusive role as Great High Priest under the New Covenant. Apparently it is only females who need this extra priestly mediation through their husbands (or fathers), which implies that the Blood of Christ is insufficient for you if you are a woman. Those who impose this teaching on women would do well to remember that Christ’s all-sufficient priesthood came at great cost: His own Blood. I have yet to meet any other human being who could equal that cost.
Nowhere at all does the New Testament make reference to a special priesthood role within the confines of marriage or home. What does the New Testament have to say about the believer’s priesthood then? Simply this:
The apostle Peter addressing the whole church:
“…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” ( 1 Peter 2:5 )
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Apostle John addressing the whole church:
“ To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood and has made us kings and priests**** to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen” (Rev. 1:5,6) (NKJV)
The twenty four elders who fall down before the Lamb:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests**** to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9, 10) (NKJV)
Those who teach men, women and children to observe an extra biblical ‘priesthood’ that is found nowhere under the New Covenant are teaching error. Their attitude is “never let the truth get in the way of a good tradition”.
Prophet, Priest and King?
Having dealt with the fact that there is no New Covenant priesthood based on gender or any other external factor, we will look briefly at the teaching that a husband is also a prophet and a king to his wife and family. If our understanding of the role of a prophet is one who is anointed by God to speak to God’s people on God’s behalf, it follows that a man who is a prophet to his family must have a special anointing to speak to his family on God’s behalf. That in itself would not be a problem if the teachers of this erroneous doctrine did not believe that this prophetic anointing is only available to males. It is a wonderful thing to receive and give a word from the Lord, or to share insights received directly from God’s heart with the ones you love. Jesus, speaking to His disciples, promised “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you (the church) into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13).
Under the Old Testament individuals were singled out by God (both men and women) as prophets who would speak truth to His people and guide them through His revealed will. Some of these were Samuel, Nathan, Deborah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Huldah, to name just a few. However, under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit has come, not to specific individuals, but to the entire church to speak that which He hears from the heart of God and to guide us, collectively and individually, into all truth. So again we see confusion among the proponents of this teaching between Old and New Covenants. The promise of the Spirit was given to the church, not to a certain section of the church based on gender (Acts 1:4, 2:33; 2:39) The teaching that a man has a special prophetic role over his family which is not available to his wife has no scriptural foundation. Rather the Bible teaches that all may hear from the Holy Spirit and all may prophesy (1 Cor. 14:31).
The New Testament is clear that God has poured out His Holy Spirit so that each one may hear directly and choose to obey. “ For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (children) of God” (Romans 8:14). It is clear from scripture that no such idea of a husband as ‘prophet priest and king’ was held in the early church. That is why Saphirra was called to account by Peter for her own decision to agree with her husband in lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-10). God is not unjust: if Ananias were her ‘prophet, priest and king’ she would have been expected to follow his leading and would have held no guilt of her own.
The church is called to be a prophetic community, and while I believe God does raise up individuals to function as New Testament prophets, such ones are sent by Christ for the express purpose of building up His church (Eph. 4:11-16). Scripture does not support the concept of only a husband being a prophet within the specific context of his marriage and family.
What then of kingship in the home? According to one proponent of the ‘husband as prophet, priest and king’ teaching, “God’s kind of husband/father is also a king (completing the trilogy of responsibilities). Old Testament Israel was theocratic, and yet God raised up kings (Saul, and then Davidic kings) to lovingly and wisely rule for God.”*****
Please check the scriptures for yourself. God did NOT want Israel to have any other king but Himself. He allowed them to have a human king because they had rejected His own Kingship over them. Furthermore He gave Israel a solemn warning that the king who reigned over them would cruelly oppress them (see 1 Samuel 8). Though there were kings such as David who sought to reign righteously over Israel, the majority, including Saul, did not do so.
The root of the ‘husband as priest and king in the home’ teaching lies in the view held by the Puritans that God has ordained a ‘divine order’ in state, church and home and has appointed delegated authority to each of them. According to respected author Sue Hyatt: “Each institution was divinely ruled by means of delegated authority: that is, in the same way that the head-of-state allegedly derived authority from God, the head-of-church derived authority from God, and the head-of-home derived authority from God. And the head (meaning ruler) of each of these had to be a man because, according to their theology, God had predestined man to rule!”******
Biblical kingship simply speaks of authority to rule spiritually. Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to His church (keys speak of authority) (Matt. 16:19). Under the New Covenant there certainly is a believer’s kingship that can belong to all disciples (see Romans 5:17, 1 Tim. 2:12, Revelation 5:10, 20:6, 22:5) This kingship is a reigning over creation and spiritual enemies. It is not a reigning over other disciples. Jesus made it very clear that His idea of rulership is not exercising authority over other believers (including wives) (Matt. 20:25-28). Biblical kingship is a spiritual attribute of the church, under the one true King of all Kings, Jesus Christ. The kingship espoused in the “husband as prophet, priest and king” teaching is an unscriptural domestically based rulership arising from a carnal understanding of spiritual authority that has no basis in New Testament scripture.
There is only One who has the right to claim the title of Prophet, Priest and King. He is the One to whom all knees will bow and the One whose Name shall be confessed by every tongue. Viewed under the light of scripture, the ‘husband as prophet, priest and king in the home’ teaching is nothing other than a different gospel which all sincere followers of the Lamb should reject and oppose. Under this false doctrine countless women and girls are subjugated daily and countless men labour under unrealistic, unscriptural expectations. There are many faithful, loving Christian men who sincerely desire to follow the Lord and nurture their families under His grace and sovereignty. I thank God for such brothers. The issue here is not with them. It is with those leaders who, rather than repent and turn from their error, continue, for whatever reason, to perpetuate a false gospel and impose it on those they supposedly lead.
May the Lord be glorified in His church!
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