Honoring Our Wives

January 24, 2021 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: First Peter

Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 3:7

 

This morning, we are only going to be looking at one verse, and I invite you to turn there with me. First Peter, chapter 3, verse 7. Let me give us all some time to find it, and then I’ll read it. You may also notice that the verse is printed in the notes page in the bulletin. First Peter 3:7. This is the word of God for us this morning.

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.

As most of you already know, these words addressed to husbands come after 6 verses that were addressed to the wives. The question these verses are answering is not: “How can I have the most enjoyable marriage?” The question being answered here is “How can I have the most effective marriage?”

I’m not saying God wants you to have a boring marriage, but we all need to remind ourselves that marriage is not an end in itself. God is the one who created marriage between a mand and a woman. It was His idea and His design. But it is also temporary.

In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul tells us that God’s design for marriage was that it be a pointer to something greater, something eternal. The marriage between a man and a woman is designed to be a picture and a pointer to the eternal love between Christ and His Church.

On the other side of this life, there will only be one marriage, and that is the eternal union between Christ, the bridegroom, and His people who are His bride. And until that day comes in all its fullness, human marriage glorifies God by pointing to it.

The driving force behind Peter’s instruction to those who are married is the glory of God. We know that because of First Peter chapter 2, verse 12. I’ve been repeating this verse almost every week since we’ve covered it because that is the verse out of which this entire section flows.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This was what led Peter to talk about citizens and slaves and wives, and now husbands. That’s why you have that word “likewise” at the beginning of our verse for today. It’s all under the umbrella of living for the glory of God.

As Christians, we want to live for the glory of God, and we want to see others come to know that glory as well. If that’s not on the radar of your life, something is very wrong with you spiritually. You’re either spiritually weak or spiritually dead, and both are serious issues.

Peter assumes the glory of God is a valid motivation for his instruction here. And the fact that Peter, being moved along by the Holy Spirit, would stop and address husbands tells us how large a role our marriage plays in our spiritual life. Men, God cares about what kind of husband you are. And He’s also aware of the types of temptations and limitations we face in this life.

Along the lines of our personal limitations, I think many of our wives would probably say that listening isn’t always a strength for us. So, maybe that’s why God decided to simply give us one verse. Who knows? Maybe only getting one verses aimed specifically at us means we ought to pay even more attention. And I hope that happens.

Guys, what is it that God expects from you as a husband in order that your marriage can work for God’s glory? In order that your marriage can be effective for eternity?

Let me give you two simple messages, right here from verse 7. And after that, there is one warning. For most of us, the messages aren’t going to be anything new, but the call is to apply these truths in our marriage. These messages need to make our marriages demonstrably different than the marriages in this world.

Here’s message number 1. Get ready. Your wife is not a man. You need to let that sink in. Your wife is not a man. Some of us might laugh at how basic this is, but it’s amazing how quickly we lose sight of this in everyday life. Gentlemen, your wife is not a man. She’s different. She’s a woman.

Verse 7 says that we are to live with our wives “in an understanding way.” Literally, in the Greek, it says, live with them according to knowledge. The opposite of knowledge is ignorance; you don’t understand something.

Rather than go through marriage foolishly and arrogantly assuming we can figure things out as we go along. We are called to go into marriage knowledgably. There are certain things we need to understand and remember as we go through this relationship. What kind of knowledge is Peter talking about?

Some people think Peter is talking about the knowledge or understanding of God’s design for human life. First Peter 1:14 says “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”

So, it’s possible that Peter is contrasting the ignorance of life before Christ with the knowledge of life with Christ. I think that’s important, but I don’t think that’s what Peter is aiming at.

I think the best understanding of the kind of knowledge Peter has in mind is what he mentions in this very verse. The ESV, along with the NIV, changes the word order from the Greek, and I think that obscures the message.

A more literal translation would say live with them “according to knowledge as a weaker vessel.” I believe the knowledge mentioned here is the awareness or the understanding of her weakness as a woman. I like the New English Translation, also known as the NET Bible. It says: “Husbands...treat your wives with consideration as the weaker partners.”

Keep this in mind, okay. Don’t forget it. Your wife is not a man. Peter refers to her here as “a weaker vessel.” Now, he’s not saying that husbands are strong and wives are weak. He say’s they are “weaker,” so, it would be more appropriately to say that husbands are weak and wives are weaker. There’s a little nod here to us husbands to remember our own frailties and weaknesses when we interact with our wives.

Now, another interpretive question that comes at this point is: What kind of weakness is Peter talking about?

Some people try to use this passage to make the case that women are spiritually weaker than men, and therefore more susceptible to sin. I don’t agree with that at all. Both men and women are prone to temptation and sin. And both husbands and wives can learn from one another.

Some people, when discussing this passage, bring up physical weakness, and they emphasize that in general women are physically weaker than men.

Another topic that comes up is the emotional difference between men and women, which, at least anecdotally, most of us understand.

Well, we need to acknowledge from the outset that Peter doesn’t explicitly unpack what he means when he says women are the weaker vessel.

Personally, though I might affirm that generally women are physically weaker than men or seem to be more emotional in some circumstances, I’m not sure that’s what Peter has in mind.

I think the weakness Peter has in mind has to do with their role in marriage, and possibly even in society. Peter has just finished instructing wives about their responsibility to submit to their husbands. That’s the role God has given them in marriage.

But that kind of role gives to a woman a certain vulnerability in that relationship. For you men, just think about the way you interact with your boss at work. Being in the submissive side of a relationship is challenging. It limits your options sometimes. It makes conversation difficult.

In the first century, the vulnerability of a woman was even more pronounced. She couldn’t own property generally. And she had few, if any, legal rights. That’s a vulnerable position to be in. It’s a position of weakness in the marriage and in society.

Well, Peter says to the husbands, don’t forget that. Your wife is not a man. Remember that there’s a certain fragility there that you don’t have. So, show her courtesy. Treat her with gentleness. Be considerate. Live with her in an understanding way. Remember, that she’s not like you. She’s not a man.

Your wife, gentlemen, is not “one of the guys.” You need to talk to her differently. You need to care for her. You need to protect her.

What an act of hypocrisy it would be for a man to complain about the way his boss at work treats him, and then turn right around and treat his wife the same way. We can’t let that happen.

Our wives need to be cared for. That word “vessel” was used metaphorically for a person, but in a literal sense, it referred to a container in the home that was fragile, that needed to be handled with care.

And rather than look down on our wives for whatever kind of weaknesses we believe they might have, we husbands need to recognize our own weaknesses and treat them with gentleness.

We might tell our sons, “Stop crying. Walk it off. Be a man. Forget about what happened.” But God calls us to a much more sensitive approach with our wives. That’s how he made them. Colossians 3 commands: “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

We don’t demean them for their sensitivities. Again, your wife is not a man. And being fragile, or weak, is not inherently wrong.

Guys, think about the other things in life that we treat, and expect other to treat, with care and concern. I keep my laptop and my phone on a table or a countertop because I don’t want my baby girl standing on it. I don’t my kids coming near them with a cup of water or milk. Some of you buy protective cases for that stuff.

Some of you maybe take excellent care of your car. It’s washed. It’s waxed. And if someone leans up against it, you say. “Hey, be careful! Those jeans have buttons on the back side. You’re gonna scratch the car!” We all know what it’s like to protect and care for something that is fragile. Fragility isn’t always a negative trait.

In dealing with this passage, one of my seminary professors used to talk about melamine plates. Do you guys know what that is? I didn’t know what that was, but now I have kids. Melamine is a hard, inexpensive plastic. If you have hard plastic plates at your house, and it says they are not for microwave use, that’s probably melamine.

We have a good number of them with cartoons on them, and that’s what we use for the kids to eat on. They’re tough. They’re durable. You can throw them like a frisbee. The opposite of that would be the fancy china that some of you bring out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We treat that stuff much different, right? It’s fragile, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. We take care of that stuff.

Gentlemen, may it never be said of us that we treat our phone or our laptops or our cars or our tools with more care and concern and tenderness than we treat our wives. That’s not how God would have it. You’re not being manly when you try to boss your wife around. You are being a fool.

There is no instruction in the Bible telling us men to make sure our wives stay in line. The command to submit is given to her. Our command is to love her and to sacrifice for her. Your wife’s weaknesses should lead you to live with her in an understanding way, to treat her with the appropriate care and compassion and courtesy and gentleness. Your wife is not a man.

Now, along with that message is this next one, and you need to keep this in mind as well. Your wife is not a man, and secondly, your wife is not inferior. She is not inferior.

Notice how the Apostle describes our wives. Look at verse 7 again. They are heirs with us of the grace of life. Other translations say they are co-heirs or fellow heirs with us. In the Greek it’s one compound word. She is a co-heir.

That would have been a very provocative statement in the first century because women generally couldn’t legally inherit property. Property was passed to the sons.

But Peter isn’t talking about inheriting property here. I believe he’s talking about our spiritual inheritance. I lean toward taking that phrase “the grace of life” as a reference to the grace we have in Jesus Christ.

Whether or not a man’s wife was saved, the assumption is that’s what the husband wants. And when a wife comes to salvation, she becomes a joint heir with her husband. Both of them are waiting for the same eternal inheritance in Jesus Christ. Both of them are recipients of Christ’s grace, present and future.

Don’t confuse the God-given roles of leadership and submission in the home, or in the church, with the God-given salvation that we have and that we’re waiting for. Men don’t have a privileged position before God when compared to women. We are all one in Christ.

Romans 8 says we are all fellow heirs with Christ. Our wives are made in the image of God, just like we are. Our wives come to salvation and eternal life through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, just like we do. We are all co-heirs of what First Peter 1:4 calls “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

Galatians 3:28 make our spiritual equality plain. Speaking of the means and the privileges of salvation, it says “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.”

There may be distinct roles in the home and in the church, but there is no such thing as a spiritual second class. There’s no such things as a Christian first class. Gentlemen, your believing wife is a sister in Christ. She is a daughter of the eternal king of heaven. So, how should we treat them? What does the verse say? We are to show them honor. We show them honor.

That’s not a one-time thing, like we throw them a banquet and then it’s over. That is to be the continual guiding principle in how we treat them. They are not inferior to us. They are to be treated with honor.

That word “honor” also means “value” or “price.” Peter used it back in chapter 1 when he talked about our precious faith. We treat valuable things with honor, don’t we? We esteem them. We treat them with respect and with care and with tenderness. It’s visible to others.

So, guys, ask yourself this question. And then ask your wife too. Do I communicate to my wife, in words and actions and attitudes, that I love her and that I esteem her? Does she know I value her? Does she know that she’s precious to me? Do I affirm her and exalt her?

Honor and flattery are two different things, okay. Don’t take this passage and run out of here saying, “I need to compliment my wife more.” It’s more than what you tell her with words. It’s what your life communicates.

Someone of you might recognize the name Shel Silverstein. He was a poet and a cartoonist, but he also wrote songs. One of those songs was made famous back in 1975 by a country singer named Tompall Glaser. The song was called “Put Another Log on the Fire.” It was a message from a husband to his wife. Here’s what it said:

Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe
and then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire.
And come and tell me why you’re leaving me.

 

Now, don’t I let you wash the car on Sunday?
Don’t I warn you when you’re getting fat?
Ain’t I gonna take you fishin’ with me someday?
Well a man can’t love a woman more than that.
Ain’t I always nice to your kid sister?
Don’t I take her driving every night?
So sit here at my feet,
‘cause I like you when you’re sweet,
and you know it ain’t feminine to fight.

 

We might laugh at that kind of extreme, but, guys, maybe we’re just as blind sometimes to the hypocrisy in how we treat our wives. Maybe we’re more like that than we think. We take our wives for granted. We don’t acknowledge their contribution. We don’t esteem them and honor them.

Do you value your wife? Are you making sacrifices for her wellbeing? Do you make her a priority in your life? Is it visible to others how much she matters to you? All of us can grow in this. And if we’re serious about it, we’ll talk to our wives about it, and we’ll talk to other men as well. These are the kinds of conversations that spur us on to love and good works.

Your wife is so much more than your wife. She is a personal gift to you from your Lord and Savior. And He has entrusted her to you for a limited time to love her with understanding and gentleness and honor.

Your wife is not a man. And yet, your wife is not inferior. Her life isn’t easy. And even if everyone around you is demeaning or teasing or insulting their wife, or even if they are saying you need to stand up to her, you need stand with Christ and you honor her.

You follow the example of Christ, and you place her interests above your own. In humility, you count her as more significant than you. You hold her up as precious. She is precious in God’s sight, and she can be nothing less in yours.

Now, as I said, our outline today includes two messages and one final warning. I think it’s fitting that the exhortation to the men include a warning. We’re men, we can handle that. We know what it is to have consequences for disobedience. Why is it so important that I, as a husband, seek to show my wife understanding and tenderness and compassion and honor? Why does that matter so much?

Let’s look at the verse one more time, giving our attention, now, to the final phrase.

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.

What is that saying? Gentlemen, this is how serious God takes this command for you to understand and to honor your wives. If you refuse to do this, God will block your prayers. That’s what it says.

Maybe it helps if I pose it as a rhetorical question: Why should God listen to you if you won’t listen to Him? Why would you expect God to listen to you when you won’t listen to Him?

Psalm 66:18 says “I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

In Matthew 5 Jesus warned us about the danger of going to worship when your relationship isn’t right with a brother or sister in the Lord.

Relationships matter to God. And in this instance, I would say it’s a form of divine discipline to push you to repentance. Maybe this husband is praying for the salvation of his wife. Maybe he’s praying for some kind of relief in a time of suffering or persecution. Either way, God says to the man, “Don’t come to me until you’ve dealt with the relationship between you and your wife.”

Think about that, guys. Could it be that some difficulty has come into your life or some prayer request has gone unanswered because you are not treating your wife the way God wants you to? That may not be the case, but you have to allow for the possibility. Think about it. Seek the Lord, and go to Him in repentance if necessary, and straighten things out with your wife.

Gentlemen, Jesus Christ cares about how we treat our wives. And just like we wouldn’t want our wives to be swept away by the culture saying they don’t need to submit, we don’t want to give way to the forces telling us we can be harsh or dismissive with our wives.

Here’s what Ephesians 5 says: 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.

Guys, to disregard our wives is to disregard our own lives. Don’t make that mistake. You want a fruitful marriage. You want a blessed marriage. You want to know that God is using you for His glory and to bring others to Himself.

So, love your wives. Cherish them. Live with them in an understanding way. Show her gentleness and courtesy and tenderness and compassion. Show her honor and esteem. Do it fer her sake. And do it for your own sake.

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