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 (1 Peter 3:7).
Since Father’s Day is around the corner it might be a good time to hear a biblical word from the Lord to husbands and fathers. David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values said this about a good father: “A good father does these basic things: provides for his family, protects his family, and gives spiritual and moral guidance.” I would agree that a good father does all those things but I think there is something absent in the description. I would add that in order to be a good father you need to be a good husband first!
The best thing you can do as a father is to truly love your wife as Christ loved the church and heed by the grace of God the divinely inspired word that Peter expresses in the passage above. Men, your relationship to your wives and how you live with them is a first priority. The ordinary consequence of a good and faithful marriage with Christ at its center will be good and faithful children who will love and serve the Lord. There certainly are exceptions but this is the norm.
Peter is concerned that husbands realize that they are called to give both intelligent and tender leadership to their wives. Every man is inescapably answerable to God for what his home becomes. This is so because a husband is the head of his home no matter how he leads (1 Cor.11:3). He is not only commanded to be the head of his wife and home but to be a good head. He is either a good head who leads his wife and family in faithfulness to the commands of the Lord or he is a bad head who leads his family toward spiritual ruin and compromise. And as the head of his wife and family he must pastor his home with spiritual wisdom and compassionate care. In light of this, I’d like to look at the above verse by first, considering the motive for a husband’s ministry to his wife and second, the manner of that ministry.
The Motive for a Husband’s Ministry
I Peter 3:7 begins with the words “Husbands, likewise.” These words connect us to the preceding context in which Jesus submits to the will of His heavenly Father as He carries out the salvation of His people (2:21–25). On this ground servants are to render submission to their masters (2:18–20), wives are to yield to their husbands (3:16) and husbands are to lovingly submit themselves to caring for the needs of their wives. The word “likewise” bids us to look at the conduct of Christ and how He laid down his life for the salvation of His church.
Jesus knew the needs of His people and their helpless inability to save themselves. He gave His life in order to satisfy the demands of the righteous and holy God. Thus, Peter reminds husbands that our motivation for ministry to our wives is built upon God’s saving grace applied to us on the ground of Jesus’ work. Any command without this behind it has no more force than simple good advice. Because Jesus, as the suffering servant delivered us from our sin and because He has become the “Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls, husbands must live with their wives like Jesus lives with His church! This provides the motive for obediently hearing and doing what God says in our passage.
When we think about how our Savior writhed in anguish upon the cross under God’s just wrath against our sins and graciously delivered us – when we think about how God knows us and has compassion on us by providing a Savior who meets us at our most urgent need – when we think about Jesus, the Lord of the universe nailed to a tree, spilling His holy blood, bowing His sacred head in bitter heartache, becoming the Lord of our shame and sinful hearts, and healing us by His stripes – can we not then realize the honor and dignity of our calling to serve sacrificially the needs of our wives as Christ sacrificially served the true needs of His church! Thus the pattern by which we live in relationship to others and in particular our wives is built around the person and work of Jesus.
The Manner of the Husband’s Ministry
Having realized the importance of this passage from Peter concerning the motive for a husband’s ministry, now we see how Peter describes the manner in which husbands should live with their wives. He begins by explaining that husbands should live with their wives in an intelligent or “understanding” way. But what does Peter mean by this? Well, he certainly means that husbands should continuously seek to know what makes their wives tick. They should pursue the knowledge of their wives as much after saying “I do” as they did before they said “I do.” That is, we should all remember how we courted our wives before we married them. Do you remember way back then when you couldn’t get the thought of her out of your head? We need to continue that throughout our entire marriage.
A part of this understanding or knowledge is further expressed by the call to care for our wives by honoring them, being tender toward them, realizing that they are more delicate, and are co-equals before the Lord in their standing before Him as believers. The wife is not inferior because of her physical delicateness. This is the way the Lord has made her. She is to be protected and cared for, especially as one who is a joint heir of Jesus Christ.
To honor her is to praise her and to give preferential treatment to her. She has been chosen for the important role of the “weaker vessel.” Her role calls for special esteem! Certainly in terms of sheer physical ability a man is stronger than a woman and therefore husbands should be very careful that they do not use their physical strength to intimidate their wives. They are to employ their energies in being tender and gentle showing special tribute to their wives. For the husband to exploit the wife’s weakness is to risk the chastisement of the Lord and will turn the ear of the Lord deaf to a husband’s prayers.
However, the wife is not a weaker vessel simply because she is physically more delicate but because she assumes the role or takes on the mantle of weakness in relation to her husband as she submits to him in obedience to the Word of God. When we think of weakness we understand that to refer to a lack of power or position. For a wife to gently and quietly submit to her husband is to be weak and faint in the eyes of the world. Therefore, husbands need to especially demonstrate in word and deed great praise, admiration and reverence toward their wives because they have been assigned by God the “weaker” position in the marriage.
Furthermore, both believing husband and wife are “heirs of the grace of life.” They both belong to the Lord, they both know His saving grace and stand to inherit all that Christ has promised, therefore husbands must treat their wives not as inferiors, but as a joint heir with Christ. This is certainly a part of the knowledge or intelligent understanding with which a husband should relate to his wife.
But the knowledge or understanding that I believe overall is most important is the knowledge or understanding of the Scriptures. It is knowledge which is from above that is to be grasped by husbands if they are going to honor their wives and dwell with them to God’s praise. A husband is to know that wisdom concerning Christ, the gospel, and all that God has revealed, especially as that concerns marriage and family relationships. In Peter’s second letter the word knowledge is used repeatedly to refer to the knowledge of Christ and His revelation (2 Peter 1:3, 5–6; 3:18).
Thus, the central point of Peter’s command to husbands is this: Husbands must keep on dwelling with their wives in harmony with that revelation of God in Christ and His Word that belongs to the Christian believer. Since you are a Christian, and you know the Word of God, then apply that Word to your relationship with your wife! This seems to be the essence of what is being said.
Peter reminds us that the unbeliever is full of unbelief and ignorance which leads to slavery and foolishness—something which the believer has been delivered from (1 Peter 1:4; 2:15). Therefore every believing husband must strive to be a student of Scripture. He must be the pastor of his home who reads, explains, and applies the Scriptures in his relationship to his wife and in his leadership of the home and the training of his children. To heed this command, a husband has to be saturated by the Word of God. Husbands, are you students of Scripture? Does this command pinch a little? It should!
The sad fact of the matter is that so many husbands, even Christian husbands, are far away from the scriptural ideal of a husband who shepherds his home. Some husbands are little more than grown-up little boys who see their wives more as their mothers than their wives! They view their wives as someone who satisfies their physical needs, keeps them well fed and soothes their egos when they hurt.
Or, they reduce their role to that of a provider alone. The major concern for many husbands is to make a living, the wife’s job is to run the home. So the husband hurries himself off to work and is eager to acquire plenty of money so that he can provide the comforts of modern life for his family. Most men do a pretty good job at this and take this part of their responsibility very seriously, but this is lopsided leadership at best. Peter would tell us that there is more to husbandry than just earning a good living for our families.
What about it husbands, are you really working hard to study Scripture so that you can pastor your home effectively? Have you really understood from God’s Word the exalted place of weakness that your wife occupies and have you praised and venerated her for this? The best way to observe Father’s Day is to commit yourself by God’s grace to the pursuit of learning and understanding and applying God’s Word so that you dwell with your wife and family in harmony with that Word.
For most it would be utterly unacceptable to be pastored in the church by a preacher who did not know or give himself to the study of God’s Word. Likewise, it ought to be unacceptable and abhorrent to us as husbands, who are called to be pastors of our homes, to be less than diligent students of the Holy Scriptures!
Rev. Tim Perkins is the Pastor of the Cornerstone United Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.