I had a conversation recently in which someone said, "What is with this 'priest of the home' stuff that I keep hearing?"
What a good question! All right then, where is the scriptural basis for the husband serving as priest of the home? Have I missed it?
I am about to run the risk of being considered an arrogant feminist witch at worst, or a misguided and nitpicking female at best. I am speaking to my relatively conservative peers of an "evangelical" persuasion who pride themselves on being biblical and holding scripture in a high regard--our "all sufficient rule for faith and practice."
I must confess that I once taught this "husband equals priest of the home" idea. Actually I blush to recall that one of my "best" sermons included this concept. I preached that particular sermon in more than one place. Oddly, it was a long time before I noticed that this particular point of my sermon (about marriage) had no scripture reference. I am ashamed and embarrassed to note how easy it was to simply teach what I had been taught.
I just did a search for the topic of husband as priest of the home. I found numerous articles that stated "The Bible teaches the husband is the priest of the home" and NOT ONE listed even one scripture for this assertion. Is this "rightly dividing the Word of Truth?" Hardly!
The Old Testament speaks of the Aaronic and the Levitical priesthood. The priests were appointed to serve the Israelites. There is one instance of a priest in a home, but that is a rather bizarre story that shows just how mixed up things were during the time of the judges, a time when "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" (sounds like today). In Judges 17 a man named Micah appoints himself a young Levite to be his personal priest. The two men speak of "the Lord God' but Micah also casts an idol to worship. This is the only instance in scripture that speaks of a priest in the home. It did not go well.
In the New Testament, Peter writes about a holy priesthood that offers up spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2: 5) and a royal priesthood that is a chosen generation and a holy nation - the Lord's own special people (2:9). In both passages it is clear that the writer is speaking of all believers, not just the husbands. The introductory words of Revelation speak to those who were " loved and washed from sin...made...priests unto God..." Wouldn't you say that includes more than husbands?
When I ask about this concept of husband as priest, I am never given a scripture that states such a thing (because there isn't one), but I am usually told, "The Bible says the husband is the head of the home" or "God's plan is that the husband is the spiritual leader in the home." Those are questionable concepts, but I'll let it go for now except to note that the idea of husband as head of the home comes from Ephesians 5 where the husband is spoken of as the head of the wife.
I highly recommend "The Head of the Epistles" by Berkely and Alvera Mickelsen.
We from the "free church" tradition can be vehement in our denunciation of the idea that we need someone to stand before God on our behalf, usually citing the Epistle to the Hebrews for our belief that their is one mediator between God and mankind, and that is Jesus Christ. Since, as the author of Hebrews so eloquently demonstrates, we have Jesus as our High Priest, is there any need for a single priest in the home representing the family to God? Why should a husband functions as a "priest" for his wife and children? Can they not stand before God in the same way as he can?
A pastor friend recently remarked that he tells husbands that they should expect to be the first to have direction from God regarding family decisions or changes, since they are the priest and the head. Clearly this places the wife in a secondary and subordinate position. To place a wife in such a position threatens her growth, both spiritually and personally.
As Christian apologist Cheryl Schatz noted in an article on her blog, Women in Ministry: "By believing in the faulty doctrine that men are the sole priest in the home, many women have been taught that their husband is spiritually responsible for them. They think that if they love God and follow their husband’s spiritual lead that they will have no responsibility in the decisions made by their husbands.
Can we find an example in scripture for this? No!
Ms Schatz goes on to note something interesting about accountability. "In two of the best known examples of a husband not making wise spiritual decisions, Adam and Ananias (Acts 5:1), the wife was judged for her actions equally with the husband. There is no example of a husband called to account for his wife’s actions or a wife freed from spiritual responsibility because her husband made the original decision... God did not ask Adam what Eve had done even though Adam was there with Eve during her temptation (Genesis 3:6) and Sapphira was held equally responsible for her acceptance of her husband’s plan to deceive the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:9).
Christian wives are adults, not grown-up children. We need partners who will together guide the home and make decisions. Many tired and frustrated wives have said to me over the years, "I wish my husband would take his place as the spiritual leader." Upon further questioning it often becomes clear that the wife doesn't so much want a leader as a partner--a husband who will stand beside her as joint heirs of the grace of God (I Peter 3:7), a husband who is not afraid to be a strong man--in the best sense of what that can be. That doesn't mean she needs to be constantly led--as though being friends and lovers and partners is not enough.
A Christian husband has a responsibility to his wife. If he is a father he has responsibilities for his children. He is instructed to love, to be gentle and understanding, to be a man of godly character, to be sober and wise and to provide for the needs of his family.
Being the family's priest is not part of the biblical job description.