It is very easy to walk by sight and not by faith. It is very easy to think only in terms of what we can see and taste and touch. And even as believers it is easy to get so caught up in our lives here on this globe that we fail to live our lives with the proper perspective. But the Scriptures are constantly calling us to get our eyes up, to consider a greater story – The Great Story. The Deeds of the Lord and the Display of His Glory.
We get so fixated upon ourselves, our health, our work, our accomplishments, our marriages, our families, our influence, our cars and homes and cloths and food and friends and towns. Our lives are all we think about and worry about and dream about. Our experience of our life becomes the measure of all things, rather than letting Scripture be the measure against which we measure our lives and into which we mold and shape and conform or lives.
How easy it is to make ourselves the starting point and foundation and then to tack the gospel of the glory of God onto our lives, to include God into our story rather than seeing that it is we who are in His Story. This morning we will be talking about what it means to be a husbands and what it means to be a wife. We will be talking about marriage, but we will be called to understand that our roles in marriage and marriage itself – is not the starting point. It is not the foundation, it is not the most significant story. And in fact our marriages and our roles in them only find true significance when understood in the context of the Great Story of God.
1 Peter 3:7
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.
Look at verse 7. It begins,
This word “likewise” clues us in on the fact that Peter has not changed subjects, just the area of application. In verse one of chapter 3 Peter said, “Likewise wives…” Peter’s instructions to both husbands and wives are part of a consistent theme of instruction to the church.
So, as Peter turns to husbands, he is still speaking to chosen sojourners and elect exiles who are to keep their conduct among the unbelieving world so honorable that even as they are spoken about as evil doers, the unbelievers will see their good deeds and ask them for a reason for the hope that is in them.
Now, what Peter has done in the last few verse is to focus in on those in particularly difficult circumstances: citizens under the authority of the human government, slaves under the authority of their human masters, wives under the authority of their husbands, both believing and unbelieving. And he has done this to help the whole church see what it looks like to be an elect child of God and an exile in this world. It looks like submitting to governing authorities and masters and husbands. And ultimately, it looks like Jesus who walked the Calvary road without sin or retaliation – instead with expectant faith in His heavenly Father – even unto death.
Being a beloved child of the King of kings and Lord of lords does not mean we have the right to overthrow earthly authorities – it means we have the privilege of pointing them to the King by our unearthly hope expressed in respectful and pure conduct.
Verse 7 says, “likewise, husbands…” Peter is not changing subjects, just applications. He is still talking about what it looks like to be a new creation, a child of God, chosen to receive and eternal and glorious inheritance living still in this world. And even as he has focused on those in particularly difficult positions he is now compelled to turn to husbands for a moment (in just one verse) and to speak to them about what it looks like to live as husbands in this world as elect exiles waiting to receive their inheritance in Jesus Christ.
“Live with your wives in an understanding way…”
Or, “live with your wives according to knowledge…” the fact that Peter feels the need to say this indicates that some (more likely all) husbands are prone to living with their wives in a way that is not filled with understanding, that is not according to knowledge.
So Peter says, consider. Consider, think, understand. It is not just “don’t be stupid,” but live with understanding. What do we need to know as Christian husbands? What is it we need to understand?
What I’d like to do is try to summarize the rest of this verse in my own words before we walk through Peter;s so that we can look at each piece of his instruction in light of the whole. So if I were to try to summarize Peter’s thought to Christian husbands it would go like this:
You need to get your eyes up, up onto the greater story, the Great Story, the Reality, the True and Lasting Marriage between Christ and His church, the True Substance of what life is about and the True Substance of what your limited, earthly marriage is meant to point to. And having gotten your eyes up, live with your bride in view of that reality as each of you have a role to play in this picture until Christ returns. Because if you don’t live with your eyes up, one of the consequences of missing that Reality is not just that your marriage will struggle but that your prayers (your communion and communication with God) could become difficult, hindered, blocked, ineffective.
Now, let’s go through each piece of Peter’s instruction and unpack it. Peter says in verse 7,
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, [namely – here is how we do that] showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…”
So, the thing you need to know or understand is that your wife is “the weaker vessel,” and the way you live according to that knowledge is by showing honor to that weaker vessel.
I understand this idea of weaker vessel to refer, not to weakness emotionally or morally or intellectually, and not even weaker physically (even though that is often true and is in fact part of this parable, metaphor, etc), but rather I understand this idea of weaker vessel to be referring simply to their vulnerable position in this parable intended to picture Christ and the church.
The concept of marriage and the role of wife was invented by God. Wives have been fashioned by God as weaker vessels, just as husbands have been fashioned by God as the stronger vessel. Wives have the God given role of submission, a place of vulnerability. Peter says this means it is your role to honor her.
Weaker and stronger are categories that God designed. And he designed them to point us to Christ’s work. The ultimate purpose of marriage in this world is to give us a picture of what Jesus Christ has done, is doing, and will do for His beloved Bride, the church. The categories of weaker and stronger are categories that imply that the husband who is stronger is to serve his bride who is weaker by leading, protecting, and providing for her as Christ the stronger did for His bride the weaker. As Christ honors the church by laying His life down for her, husbands are to honor their own wives.
“…live with your wives…showing honor to the women as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life…”
Peter is putting this weaker vessel idea into its proper context. Peter is signaling that this life and our marriages are not all there is. There is a greater reality. Some have wrongly assumed that “the grace of life” is referring to the blessing of this life (i.e. honeymoon, children, companionship, etc). In my humble opinion, this is quite wrong.
Peter’s understanding of our inheritance clearly refers to what we have received in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”) Christian husbands and Christian wives are fellow heirs of an imperishable inheritance kept in heaven.
And as he said in verse 3, we have been born again to a living hope through Christ’s resurrection. The “grace of life” is the yet future life that each of us, men and women, husband and wife, will inherit by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Yes, we have already been made alive and partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), but the fullness of this inheritance is yet future when Christ appears (1 Peter 1:13).
Peter is telling us to get our eyes up onto the things that really matter. You husbands and you wives are fellow heirs of the grace of eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. This marriage is a vapor – that Marriage is eternal.
These means, for one thing, that there is no intrinsic value difference between men and women. There is no inheritance difference between husbands and wives. We are now in this world called by God to participate in a kind of parable, a kind of picture or metaphor, designed to demonstrate and point to a far greater reality that this life will give way to very soon. Husbands, Peter is calling us to live now with our wives with reference to that glorious reality.
Practically Worked Out
What would it look like to dwell with your wife in a way that is not according to knowledge and which does not consider both the greater reality of Christ and His bride and her vulnerable role in that parable?
1. It could look like an authoritarian dictatorship and “domineering.”
When we forget that this is not about us and our marriage is not an end in itself, husbands might use there position and power over their vulnerable brides is a domineering way, where she is not served as Christ served the Church and gave Himself for her that He might present her pure and clean.
She is not treasured, protected or provided for; she is used and trodden on and bullied. Her wisdom and insight, her knowledge and her strengths, her gifts and abilities are not fostered and freed to flourish because they are a threat to His. He sees himself as superior in every way: His judgements are more sound, his ideas are best, and his will is law. He uses His strength and position to force her instead of laying his life down in leading and protecting and serving her.
2. On the other hand, when we fail to dwell together acknowledging the greater reality to which our marriages are intended to point and the vulnerable position our wives play in that parable – conversely, it could look like a lack of leadership, a lack of sacrifice, a “lazy indifference.” In this case, she is not served as Christ served the church as He gave Himself for her that He might present her pure and clean. She is not served at all.
She is not protected and provided for; she is left to fend for herself and left to meet the challenges of life alone or as the primary initiator and spear head. She is left to meet challenges that her husband is all too willing to let her wrestle with alone or at best is willing only to lend a reluctant hand from time to time – but she must lead the charge as he sits back passively.
In both cases, the husband is not fulfilling his divine calling to lead as Christ led. He is not taking his God-given responsibility for Christ-like, humble, service seriously and is not leading, protecting, or providing in his home.
And in both cases he is not dwelling with her according to knowledge; he seems to have forgotten that his role as husband is to picture Christ’s love for His bride. Jesus did not come with a whip and a law to beat and to dominate his bride with the strength of His arm (that is reserved for his enemies), neither did He leave her on her own to fend for herself in this world. He took the initiative and the responsibility to lead, protect, and provide for His beloved bride as a servant – willing even to die that she might live and thrive and flourish.
But Peter is not quite done. When Husbands fail to get their eyes up there are serious consequences. Peter says, “…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…”
There are major consequences, mentioned here, when husbands do not keep their eyes fixed upon the greater, ultimate reality. There are serious consequences when husbands do not keep their eyes fixed upon the true purpose of their own marriage, as it is intended to be a kind of parable of the great marriage of Christ to the Church.
The consequence of failing to live with your wife according to that knowledge, that is acknowledging her vulnerable position in this parable, acknowledging the greater reality which will soon break forth and fulfill and bring this present age to completion and both of you into the fullness of the Reality of the True Marriage, the consequence of failing to live with this knowledge… is that your prayers (your communion and communication with God) may be hindered, disrupted, blocked.
What does it mean that your prayers may be hindered?
Hindered: “thwarted,” “become prevented in the progress or accomplishment of,” or “frustrated”.
And in this case prayer could refer only to petitions, but I think the application extends to all of our prayers (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication/petition).
Your dependance, communion, and communication with God your Father can be hindered or strengthened by the way you see (understand) who your wife really is – she is not first your wife – she is first a fellow heir of the Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
When we, husbands, get our eyes off of the greater reality of our (our own and our wife’s) life in Christ and the inheritance for which we are waiting and when we get our eyes off of Christ and His servant leadership and the way we are to picture Christ in our earthly marriages, our communion with God will be hindered. Both what we offer up to our Father and how He then responds to us.
Why would failing to dwell with your wives according to knowledge, show honor to her as the weaker vessel hinder our prayers?
Well, broadly, we know from other places in Scripture that our sobriety and selfishness directly effect our prayers:
1 Peter 4:7
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self- controlled and sober- minded for the sake of your prayers.”
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
But, let me just attempt to show specifically how dwelling with your wives without having your eyes up may affect your prayer life.
Adoration… Husbands, if we place ourselves in a passive role and really expose our wives to all the difficulties of life that we ourselves are called to take the lead in we will not adore Christ as we as husbands are meant to. (Follow me now) When a husband realizes that He is to walk the Calvary road for the good of His bride and as he begins to walk that road of suffering for her good and begins to feel the pains of selflessly serving his own bride that she might flourish he begins to better understand the grace of Christ and the sacrifice He made for you. If you bail out on your responsibility to leader her and care for her as Christ cared for you, you will will miss out on a divinely appointed means of appreciating and adoring what your Lord did for you. Your prayers adoration will be diminished.
Confession… If we place ourselves as the supreme authority in our marriages, with a domineering spirit – we will have a very hard time confessing our sins… to each other and to God. If we are not clothed with a humble leadership which acknowledges our own short coming and failures, recognizing that we ourselves are in need of grace and will inherit life by grace alone, we will not confess our sins. Prayers of confession will be hindered.
Thanksgiving… If we dwell as husbands and wives without getting our eyes up, out of the horizontal, if all we see in our marriage is earthly purposes and earthly benefits and fail to see that this marriage is a wonderful parable of something far greater and specifically if we as husbands fail to understand the role our wives play in this parable, we will not be as thankful for our wives, our marriages, or our circumstances as we would be. Our prayers of thanksgiving will be hindered.
Petition… And finally if we mistreat our wives and fail to understand our marriages rightly – our petitions will be starting on the wrong foot. How can we mistreat our neighbor and expect God to hear our petitions? Not to mention that when our minds are not fixed on the greater reality and the life to come our petitions will likely not be according to the will of God.
Marriage and Prayer are important
1 Peter 5:6-11
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen”
Let us be sober-minded and keep our eyes up upon the Lord of Glory and His wonderful work of redemption. Soon and very soon we are going to see the King our Husband. Let us live now in light of that Day. Let us not grow tired and weary. Let us not be foolish and earthly. Let us set our hope fully upon the grace to be brought to us when Christ appears. And husbands, honor your wives as Christ does His own bride.