“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)
Again, we begin with “likewise” or the Greek work “homoios”, meaning “in the same way.” Just as the instruction to wives began this way, so does the instruction to husbands. Each of the instructions, though maybe with a different emphasis, points back to the example of Christ and the examples of submission that preceded. Christian husbands are to have submissive and sacrificial hearts. Just as Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and gave Himself for His church—His bride, so are husbands to consider the best for their wives and give themselves for them.
“… submitting to one another [all believers] out of reverence for Christ.” … “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” (Ephesians 5:21, 25–29, ESV)
The wife is not the head of the husband, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:23, and the husband is not called to submit to her in this way. But, the wife is chief in his heart, and husbands are called by God to give themselves fully for the wives. As husbands, we are to consider them, their desires, their needs, their hearts, their loves, and even their fears. We are to hear them fully and walk with them intimately. The picture of Ephesians 5 shows that husbands are to hold nothing good back, even as he knows and takes care of his own body. The Bible declares that the husband and wife are made one in marriage, and the husband is called to pay close attention to this oneness as he cherishes his wife, seeking to understand her fully and walk with her rightly.
This is in stark contrast to the reference in 1 Peter 3:1 where the husband is walking in disobedience to the Word. The husband is to be a man of the Word, who hides it in his heart and walks accordingly (Psalm 119:9,11), and who loves his wife according to the Word. Encapsulating all of this, Peter simply says that the husband is to walk with his wife in an understanding way. Seeking always to consider the heart, needs, fears and feelings of his wife, the husband is to walk appropriately in response. This is a huge task, and there is not a husband that will do this perfectly. But it is the most important human task given to husbands, and we are called to look to the example of our Lord as we grow daily in walking rightly.
Last week women were in the streets demanding recognition and equality. Peter tells us that husbands are to strive not just for the equality of their wives, but to honor them wives as the special gift given to them by God according to His perfect design. In God’s scheme of things there are no second class women. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, ESV) In the marriage relationship, this is to be evidenced in how husbands love their wives. I know that I have a long way to grow in this, and some days I don’t do too well, but I am so very thankful to God for the progress He has made and the wife He has given me that makes this so much easier and enjoyable as she has chosen to be the wife of the first verses of this chapter.
Peter went on to write that the husband is to respond to his wife in this way in recognition that she is the “weaker vessel.” Over the years, I have heard many sermons and read many articles on these two words and what they might mean. Most simply put, it is an observable reality that women are physically weaker and are emotionally different. In the world around us we have endless examples of women excelling in countless ways, and this verse is not intended to put them down. Rather, to declare that men and women are different by design. Sin has had a dramatic effect on our world and the way it functions. Women’s equality has been pushed to mean in all ways, but the Word of God says that men and women are uniquely different. God is not about reinforcing the ways of the world. He has a right way, and in His right way husbands are to honor their wives and tend to their special wiring and needs, recognizing by His design that we have been made uniquely male and female.
Together the husband and wife are to be united as co-equals in Christ with the husband as the head who cares for his wife and seeks to provide for her needs. This has nothing to do with inferiority or superiority, but God’s perfect design for the home. Marriage is intended to be the best relationship on earth that we can know. One author said marriage is “the best relationship earthly life has to offer. The husband must cultivate companionship and fellowship with his wife, Christian or not.” “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love….” (Ecclesiastes 9:9a, ESV)
To the husbands, Peter then gives a warning, “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” The Word of God says that the way husbands treat their wives is a big deal to God. When the most important human relationship we can know is strained, then so will our relationship be with God. The basic principle of Scripture is that if we know we have an open issue with a sister or brother in Christ we are to even leave our place of prayer and go deal with it. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23–24, NASB95) And, turning the table this is even true if the wife is herself disobedient to the Word as was referenced about the husband in 1 Peter 3:1.
Looking at the context of these verses on marriage is a sobering reminder that a good marriage takes work. It is not easy, but it is immensely rewarding. Trails and suffering will happen, but none of them are alien to our Lord who set Himself as our example, His Word as our guide, and gives His Spirit as our help.
“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;” (Ephesians 5:28, NASB95)