In the first paragraph of this chapter, Peter was writing to Christian women married to unsaved husbands. “Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” When Christians live like Christ, whether they are servants, wives, children, governors or pediatricians, they can influence those, who have not yet obeyed the word, to come to the Saviour.
Now in verse 7 Peter turns his attention to husbands. Are these the same husbands about whom he was speaking earlier? No, they are not. Those were lost men, not obedient to the word, and in fact not interested in hearing the Word of God. Just as the earlier exhortations were directed to Christian wives, these are directed toward Christian husbands. I know that it’s a foolish question: buy why? What is the purpose of this verse?
There has never been a perfect bridegroom despite what the bride might say on her wedding day. She quickly learns that even Christian husbands can be selfish, proud, opinionated exasperating sinners. For the next fifty years she may do her best to teach her spouse what she expects of him, but she will never be much more than partially successful. In order for there to be substantial improvement in the character of anyone, it has to be by the Lord. Isaiah, as we saw this morning, was a good prophet of God, preaching repentance to Israel, and pointing to the Messiah. But even he had to admit to imperfections when he came face to face with Jehovah. “Then said (Isaiah), Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips… for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” “Then flew one of the seraphims unto (him), having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar.” At that point there was a marked improvement in the preacher’s character.
My point is this: the best preacher, the best prophet, the best husband falls far below perfection. There is always sin to be eradicated; there is always room for improvement. There is always the need for Biblical “instruction in righteous that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
I am reasonably sure that Peter might have said, “Christian husbands, here are a few things to consider.” Every family and every family man has his own particular faults and failures which need to be addressed. But the Holy Spirit laid out five general items, which should be applied to every Christian husband. They are: knowledge, honor, support, companionship and prayer.
Let’s begin with KNOWLEDGE.
“Likewise, ye husbands, DWELL with them according to knowledge…” Could we assume that in some cases, the husband was saved at a point when the wife was not? Peter may not have been thinking specifically of this sort of case, but I don’t know, and it is a possibility. In that society, toward which America is falling closer and closer, husbands were putting aside their wives for the most incidental of things – poor cooking, poor house-keeping, bickering, even barrenness. The Lord, however, wants Christian men to be different and to live to a higher standard than general society. Even if that wife currently hates your Saviour, dwell with her in love and understanding, praying for her conversion. Don’t cast her aside because she has not seen Christ as you see Him.
When Peter says, “dwell with your wives according to knowledge…” is that the sort of thing he had in mind? I’m not sure we can be sure to what sort of knowledge Peter refers. He uses the common word for “knowledge” (“gnosis”), so that doesn’t give us any clues to his meaning. In my ignorance, I turned to the first commentaries to which I generally refer. A.T. Robertson quotes M.R. Vincent and says that husbands should live, “with an intelligent recognition of the nature of the marriage relation” (whatever that means). Jamieson, Fausset and Brown are slightly more clear: “Christian knowledge: appreciating the due relation of the sexes in the design of God, and acting with tenderness and forbearance accordingly: wisely: with wise consideration.” Then John Gill says “knowledge of themselves, and their wives, and the duties belonging to the conjugal state, and the laws of God and man respecting it; and according to their knowledge of the gospel and the Christian dispensation…” After that Gill says some things which have no support in the scripture, and which most men today would never say out loud because their wives might kill them.
Could it be that Peter was pointing to a simple but common problem in every marriage? A lack of recognition? A lack of awareness? Was it “a lack of practical knowledge?” Wake up husband; your wife has needs beyond more grocery money and a break from the kids once in a while. As confusing as the words of those commentaries seem to be, they are right. A Christian marriage is not all about the husband’s rights and privileges. Husbands, take a look at the marriage of Abraham and Sarah, David and his wives, and learn the lessons there. Study the marriage of Joseph and Mary, Ruth and Boaz, Aquila and Priscilla. That piece of paper you got when you were married, is not the sum and substance of all you need to know to make a marriage successful. Learn, know and understand the lessons which the scripture teach about the home and marriage relationship. And then extend those lessons into practical day-to-day duties of living with another human being.
The first specific which Peter mentions is HONOR.
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife…” How much do you know about that word? What is it to give honor? The Book of Romans uses the word in some verses which we quickly recognize. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” II Timothy 2:21 is another familiar verse – “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” And, of course, the Lord should be given the honor due unto His holy name. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” God alone “hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
Now let me take you to something new and fascinating. Seven of the first eight times this Greek word “honor” is used it is translated “price” or “sum” – as in money. That is the word which is used in I Corinthians 6:20 – “For ye are bought with a PRICE: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Have you every heard of an “honorarium?” An honorarium is a payment given for professional services which are often rendered without charge. Is I Timothy 5:17 speaking about an honorarium? “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” When Peter tells a husband to “honor” his wife, he is saying, recognize her value, and treat her accordingly.
There are foolish and ignorant people who try to say that women in the Bible were secondary citizens. They say that Christian women were mistreated and put down. But such is not the case. Perhaps in the heathen societies of the day, and even among the Jews, wives were not always well-treated, but that is not Christian doctrine nor Christian behaviour.
Husband, do you really want your marriage to work? Then work on it. Honor your wife as someone special. And of course give her all the love she deserves. Ephesians 5 – “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Peter’s second point was: Give her all the SUPPORT you can.
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel…” Notice the word “vessel.” It speaks of a container of some sort used to carry things. And before anyone jumps to conclusions it needs to be pointed out that I Thessalonians 4 says that men are vessels as well as women. And so does II Timothy 2:21, which I already quoted.
But, generally speaking wives are weaker vessels than their husbands. And the first thing that comes to my mind by way of an illustration is that nearly indestructible coffee cup that I use, versus some of the dainty and delicate tea cups in my wife’s glass enclosed cabinet. We have one or two vessels – coffee cups – which Judy doesn’t like to use, because they are so big and so heavy that when they are full she gets tired lifting them. On the other hand, I fear to use some of her china cups, because I’m afraid I’ll chip them on my teeth or even my lips. The one vessel is much weaker than the other, but they are both perfectly fine for their intended purpose. And either one could be used to carry tea or coffee.
We all recognize that there are great differences between people. There are people whose minds are extremely sharp, and others are not so much. Sadly, there are people whose faith is not as strong as others. And these things are true no matter what gender they might be. There are men who are extremely strong and healthy, but there are also men who are quite feeble. And there are women at my gym that I hope never try to mug me in some dark alley somewhere. They appear to be much stronger than I am.
Peter’s reference to weakness isn’t talking about intellect, strength of knowledge or even of faith. He is speaking in a general way about average physical abilities. Again, there are huge difference between individuals. But as a general rule the husband can open that new jar of pickles when the wife can not. Or that is what she wisely makes him think. And like it or not, quite often the man is stronger emotionally than his wife.
Again, that is not to say that one spouse is better or more important than the other despite the differences. What this is saying is that together they compliment each other. And when one is down the other needs to be there to help him up. Solomon rightly said, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
If you’ll bear with me, Peter’s next point speaks of WALKING HAND in HAND.
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life…” As you know, Mormons have some strange ideas about marriage on the other side of death. They talk about future multiple wives, physical intimacy and populating worlds with their children. Of course the Bible says nothing about such things. Sadly, I have known some Christians who had other strange ideas about heavenly marriages. And I am not smart enough to comment on some of that stuff, because I just haven’t got enough Biblical information on the subject.
But this I know: when a man has been made a child of God, that position comes the Lord’s inheritance. And, even though his wife has never preached a sermon in her life, other than at him, if she is a child of God, she too will have a share in God’s inheritance. I am convince they both will have one of those mansions of which the Saviour spoke in John 14. Some people believe they will share the same mansion, but I’m not smart enough to verify that. If your thoughts on the matter, either way, give you comfort, I’m not going to try to take that from you. All I know for sure is that both the Christian husband and the Christian wife are “heirs together of the grace of life.” Will they have an equal share of the same family inheritance? I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure.
Was Paul was thinking only of men in Romans 8? He says, “The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Two verses earlier he spoke of “sons of God,” but this verse uses the gender-neutral word “children.” “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” This morning I was going to have Bro. Bowles read Titus 3 for us but I forgot what I was doing, so I’ll read it now. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. That being justified by his grace, we should be made HEIRS according to the hope of eternal life.”
Every child of God is an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, so we should all peacefully get along. But when a husband and wife are both saved, they may have fifty years of walking together toward that great inheritance of God. That is a slightly different relationship then what you and I have as Christian friends. That husband and that wife should walk together serving the Lord hand in hand, supporting, encouraging and strengthening one another.
Peter’s last point is that the husband needs to be a MAN of PRAYER.
“ Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” Should husbands and wives pray together? Certainly they should, and far more often than any of us do it. But this is not talking about the wife’s prayer life or the mutual prayers of the Christian couple. “That your prayers be not hindered” husband. When that man is not behaving in the way that a Christian should, not only is he breaking the bonds of communion with his spouse, but he is also breaking the fellowship he needs with the Lord. God has placed conjugal agreement so high that if there is a problem in that area, He takes that problem to himself.
Why aren’t your prayers being answered? Is it because of problems you have created, and not corrected, with your spouse? Are you unjustly angry with her? Is she justly angry with you? Fix it. Kiss and make up. I Corinthians 7:3 – “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence; and likewise also the wife unto the husband.” Paul uses that same Greek word in Ephesians 6:7 – “With GOOD WILL doing service, as to the Lord, and not (as) to men.” And then he goes on, “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord…” Husband, if you are not rendering due benevolence – good will – to your wife, you should understand that God may withhold His good will toward you, and your prayers will fall to the ground ignored. Colossians 3:19 – “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Five verses later Paul adds, “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons.”
It is hard to live for Christ in a world which so hates our Saviour. We need all the help we can get. For example, we the fellowship and instruction we find in a Bible-preaching church. We need the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And we need the strength which comes from Christian friends and brethren.
But the greatest source of Christian strength, at least in a human sort of way, is a godly spouse. That marriage is a gift from heaven. So, “ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”