What’s a Husband to Do?
1 Peter 3:7
A husband shopping center (Husband Mart) has just opened, where a woman may go to choose a husband from among many men. The store is comprised of six floors, and the men increase in positive attributes as the shopper ascends the flights. There is, however, a catch. As you open the door to any floor, you may choose any man from that floor–but if you go up a floor, you cannot go back down except to exit the building.
So a woman goes to the shopping center to find a husband. On the first floor, the sign on the door reads, “Floor 1–These men have jobs.” The woman reads the sign and says to herself, “Well, that’s better than my last boyfriend, but I wonder what’s further up?” So up she goes.
The second floor sign reads, “Floor 2–These men have jobs and love kids.” The woman remarks to herself, “That’s great, but I wonder what’s further up?” And up she goes again. The third floor sign reads, “Floor 3–These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking.” She says, “Hmmm, better–but I wonder what’s upstairs?”
The fourth floor sign reads, “Floor 4–These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking and help with the housework.” The woman exclaims, “Wow! Very tempting. But there must be more further up!” And again she heads up another flight. The fifth floor sign reads, “Floor 5–These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak” . . . “Oh, mercy! But just think what’s next!” So up to the sixth floor she goes.
The sixth floor sign reads, “Floor 6–You are visitor 1 billion, 12 million, 3 hundred 45 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at Husband Mart and have a nice day.” I don’t think that’s true–the wives of this church have contented themselves with far less than the top floor.
So how do husbands and wives get to the place where their marriage reflects the Bible’s design–God’s best? The answer is found in 1 Peter 3:7. Turn there and take out your outline. This is a difficult time for the genuine Christians Peter writes. The government is beginning to turn against Christ followers. So Peter writes to encourage them to stand firm in grace. He says at the end of his letter in 1 Peter 5:12, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!”
So as Peter begins his letter in chapters 1 and 2, he says to live as one who has been given salvation. To stand firm in God’s grace every single day, live as one who deserves nothing but has been given everything. Mid-way through chapters 2 and 3, Peter shocks us by stating that submission is also crucial in order to stand firm in grace. In 2:13, he tells Christians to submit to an unfair government that is persecuting them. Then in 2:18, Peter tells slaves to submit to unjust masters, even if they’re harsh. And finally in 3:1, Peter tells wives to submit to their own husbands, even if they’re unsaved.
Then for six verses, Peter instructs married women how to be wives who glorify God. He invests more instruction to the wives, because they had the most difficult circumstances. The wives were saved, but some of their husbands were not. It was a tense situation. So Peter tells these wives from 2:21 to 25 to imitate Christ when it gets tough, then instructs them directly in verses 1 to 6.
And now in verse 7, after instructing wives how to live even under a husband who is unsaved, Peter now instructs Christian husbands how to treat their wives. God is reminding all husbands just how crucial their role is to the marriage relationship. And Peter laid a strong foundation in this letter. The current of this Earth is too strong for any marriage to be heavenly. The pull of the flesh is too great for any marriage not to be filled with the Spirit. The flow toward self-reliance is too vast to not depend solely upon the Word of God for direction.
Husbands and wives must turn to divine resources if your marriage is to glorify God, be a witness to the world, and be a joy to you. And that is what 1 Peter 3:7 can give to you believing husbands. What is a husband to do? Look at verse 7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Peter gives husbands five crucial keys to being a Christlike mate.
#1 IMITATE Christ as your model for marriage faithfully
Peter begins verse 7 with, “You husbands in the same way“–“in the same way” as who or what? Some think “in the same way” as the wives from verses 1 to 6. But Peter later talks about the wives in verse 7 as co-heirs with Christ! So Peter is not primarily talking to husbands of unbelieving wives. When Peter says, “you husbands in the same way,” he means like the wives, “you husbands in the same way” imitate Christ.
Reaching back to the powerful illustration of Christ at the end of chapter 2:21 to 25, Peter says, “in the same way” Christ behaved, you husbands live. Follow the example of Christ in your marriage. Listen to Peter describe how Christ responded to the unjust mistreatment He received at the hands of His own creation at the end of chapter 2–look at verses 21 to 23.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21 to 23).
No one has more authority than the King of all kings. No one has more power than the Creator of the universe. Yet look at how Christ responded to unfair treatment, cruel people and unjust suffering. Sinless, innocent, perfect Christ yielded to sinful, guilty, imperfect men. And Christ denied Himself without grumbling, without retaliating, without threatening and without doubting.
So husbands, in the same way, deny yourself–do not abuse your authority as head, do not bark orders, do not lose your temper, do not force obedience, but follow the example of Christ who died to self in your marriage. Does your wife know without a doubt, that you are completely and totally hers, continually– no competitors? That is your job–why?
The heart of a godly man is to imitate his Savior, following the example of the innocent one who suffered for our guilt, mimicking the perfect one who bore God’s hateful wrath for our sin, doing in a small way what Jesus Christ did for us in a big way. The only way any man here can hope to fulfill his role as a husband now or someday, is to keep his eyes focused on Christ and what Jesus did for us.
Men, you must put on glasses, and one of the lenses is Christ and the other lens is the Gospel. That is the only way you’ll know where to paddle and the only way you’ll resist the steady current of this world headed toward flesh-ville, proud-a-topia and selfish town. Imitate Christ as your model for marriage–remember Christ died for your sins and you need His grace every single day to live. “It is no longer I who live, but [what?] Christ lives in me.” Godly husbands are those who pursue Christ daily.
#2 KNOW your wife intimately
The average American couple spend 37 minutes per week together in actual communication. But God says to husbands in the next phrase of verse 7, “live with your wives in an understanding way.” That phrase literally means, dwell together in deep personal knowledge. Do you have an intimate personal knowledge of your wife? That only happens two ways–an intense study of the Word of God as it relates to people, and a deep personal study of your wife.
As you look at your wife, do you see her with a biblical lens? Made in God’s image, redeemed by God’s grace, she still battles with remaining sin. She’s a saint who still sins. That sweet hunk of Christian femininity is also AL Capone in a skirt. Do you have a biblical lens to see your wife accurately? Is it clear, or are you still angry when she sins, or hurt when she disappoints you, gives into fear or stops trusting?
Or do you graciously overlook her sin (since love covers a multitude of sins)? Or do you gently confront her disobedience? And most importantly, do you husbands provide a model of obedience worth following? You see, Peter says in verse 7, you need to “live with her,” which actually means dwell together.
The two Greek words are oikeo–dwell or house, and suun–together. And in this context, the participle dwell together is a command. All of your life is to be with her–with her in mind, with her in your heart, with her as your most essential relationship. Now get this–when Peter says dwell together with your wife, the apostle is commanding you husbands to be responsible for the close togetherness of your marriage. That’s not her job, it’s yours.
If there is drift, distance, or dullness, it is most often the husband’s fault. And if not, it is still your responsibility to fix it. Providing a good income should never be a substitute for sharing deeply in life together. The godly husband must understand every room in his wife’s heart and be sensitive to her needs.
And Peter adds, you husbands are to be students of your wife–“live with your wives in an understanding way.” Most guys feel they must know sports or must know work, or must know about money. But God says, you must know your wife intimately. The root word for “understanding way” is personal knowing–experiential, relational knowledge, best friend intimacy.
Peter is telling you husbands that your position of authority is not a license for insensitivity. Your first task as the head is to understand the wife God has entrusted to your leadership. A great coach knows his players and a great husband knows his wife. Our tendency is to be selfish–we try to fix things, provide a solution, then move on. But God says, dwell with her in deep personal knowledge. Become a student of your wife. Know her, model Christ, and . . .
#3 PROTECT your wife carefully
Peter adds this in verse 7, “as with someone weaker, since she is a woman.” Personally, I make a practice of reading the manufacturer labels attached to the products I purchase. You know, the little tag stuck on the product that says, “Don’t lick this device while it is plugged in”–good advice. It makes sense to listen to those who made the device.
And it makes sense to listen to the God who made woman. You’d better follow the manufacturer’s label stuck on every woman. And here is that label, verse 7, “as with someone weaker, since she is a woman“–meaning this: FRAGILE, handle with CARE!
The NAS translation leaves out the word vessel or pot–but vessel is in the Greek text, so the English should read, “as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman.” Plus, the word translated woman in this phrase is actually the word feminine, so it gives the phrase this sweet meaning, as with a weaker vessel, since she is the feminine one. Peter is giving you men three important truths from this phrase.
First Treat your wife (all women) with TENDERNESS–from weaker
Weaker is also translated sick, without strength, and powerless. Husbands, treat your wives with tenderness. God loves those who are weaker–would you agree? God is pleased to bless those who are weaker and those less honored in the eyes of the world. Remember what God said of you . . .
First Corinthians 1:26 and 27, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”
That’s me and that’s you–not wise, mighty, noble, but foolish, weak. First Corinthians 12:22, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” That’s us–weaker. Now just as submission doesn’t imply the inferiority of the one who submits, so the word weaker does not imply a wife is weaker in character or intellect to her husband.
I know my wife Jean is smarter than I am–I know it. We go to museums and she reads every plate of information and remembers everything she reads. I go to museums and look at the shiny blue objects and don’t remember where the snack shop is. Weaker doesn’t mean women are spiritually or intellectually inferior.
But since Peter is not specific, the context determines the meaning of weaker. So we can assume Peter means for husbands to not take advantage of your position of authority over your wife who functions in a submissive role to your headship. Husbands, never use your position of strength to control your wife.
Weaker could also be referring to physical strength. Now I know you have some amazingly strong, fast, enduring, workout mammas in this congregation. But for the most part, if men tried, they can usually overpower their wives physically. Husbands are to be protective and courteous providers to their wives and to all women in general. Don’t use your physical advantage as a justification to mistreat your wife. Plus, “as with someone weaker, since she is a woman” also teaches us to . . .
Second Treat your wife (all women) as FEMININE–from a woman
The phrase “since she is a woman” actually means the feminine one. It is a rare word that points to the femininity of women. God is saying, as you appreciate your wife’s femininity. The Greek word doesn’t mean woman, it means womanly. Peter is saying your wife is not a man and she is not a little girl–she is a woman. She is feminine.
Don’t whack her on the back after a good meal. Don’t give her a noogie cause you love her so much. Yes, you can tickle her, but protect your wife. Be polite, get doors, lift objects and open jars. And provide what she needs, care for her as your greatest treasure. Peter is saying, do not think of your wife as a common cooking pot, but as a beautiful, valuable, fragile, useful Ming vase. Treat her with TLC–protect your wife carefully.
#4 TREASURE your wife diligently
Notice the next phrase in verse 7, “show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life“–literally, assign her value as also co-inheritors of the favor of life. Peter says, “Here is your assignment.” The word show means to assign–assign her honor. It is present tense, so God is saying not just on her birthday, or Valentine’s day or your anniversary, but all the time.
Treat her as if she came with a high price tag. To honor means to give the amount at which something is valued. For kings, the more expensive the gift, the greater the honor. For husbands, to honor your wife is to treat her as if she was the most valuable gift you’ve ever received. Proverbs says it this way, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10).
Next to Christ, she is the one you treasure more than life. Why? Because she married you. You may be a saint cause of Christ, but you still sin. And after awhile, your wife can even smell your bad motives, your selfishness and your proud heart. And she still loves you? Of course you must honor her!
But the reason Peter gives to show her honor is she as a fellow heir–the wife’s position is one of being a co-inheritor, one who will inherit all the blessings that come with Christ with you. 2,000 years ago, typically only men received inheritance from the family, and often it is only the firstborn. But in Christ, a believing woman receives the same amazing inheritance that a believing man receives from Christ. Your Christian wife is rich–your believing babe is wealthy.
Would you agree with me, that at times in our culture the wealthy are treated better than the poor? I flew recently and heard, “First class Ambassador Club, please, at your leisure make your way to the red carpet and board the plane. Your champagne is chilled and our most attractive stewardess, bubbly Brittney, is waiting to greet you.
“Coach class–get back, you cattle. Steward Bubba has a whip and he’s gonna beat you, if you complain about our sardine seating. Plus, if you pay us your firstborn male child extra, maybe we will provide you with a raw fishhead as a snack.” Rich people are treated different in a lot of different ways.
And Peter is reminding you husbands–treat your wife as wealthy. She is a co-heir with Christ–she will inherit. She’s loaded! What does she inherit with you? Verse 7, “the grace of life.” Commentators agree that “the grace of life” here is a reference to marriage, calling marriage the best there is in life. “The grace of life” is not eternal life, but the best of this life. “The grace of life” is not Heaven, it is heaven on earth in relationship.
A non-Christian couple will never know the joy, oneness, love, intimacy, delight, grace and full life of a Christian couple. One of your most effective witnessing tools is your marriage. And marriage itself, with its oneness, forgiveness, intimacy, joys, companionship, and love is a reminder of God’s grace. Grace is not deserved, earned or worked for–it is freely given.
Living by grace is admitting each day, I am getting better than I deserve. It’s believing, any day I’m not in Hell is a pretty good day. Grace is undeserved favor from God. The grace of life is the expression of grace and abundant life manifested in a marriage relationship of a Christian couple. Only by turning to Christ alone can you experience the grace of life. Any marriage done God’s way, by God’s power, for God’s glory, is rich with life and grace. Finally, husbands . . .
#5 WORK at your marriage fearfully
Peter ends verse 7 with, “so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Notice the first two words–“so that.” Here Peter uses those words to describe not purpose, but a contemplative result, meaning this is what happens if you don’t work at your marriage. This is the consequence, this is what you reap when you sow indifference toward your bride.
Marriage done God’s way, in God’s strength, for God’s glory leads to the grace of life. But a neglected marriage, a husband who doesn’t work on his marriage continually, leads to the worst there is in this life for a believer. What is that? Your prayers will be hindered. Peter says the same thing just a few verses later–do you see it?
First Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” The way we live with our wife can clog our prayers.” Just like a clogged sink makes our life worse and grieves us. If we treat our wife poorly or do not work at our marriage, then our prayer life gets smelly and makes our life worse and grieves God.
The verb hindered is passive, meaning it is not something that you do, but something that God does to you as a part of His loving discipline to those husbands who don’t work at their marriage. And the verb hindered is present tense, meaning being hindered can be ongoing for a season. In a sense, God is saying to all believing husbands, you may be put in the doghouse for a season, for not treating your wife biblically.
The root word of hindered is very harsh–it means to cut down, to cut off, or to strike-but is used metaphorically in the New Testament to impede, hinder or render fruitless. Do you husbands understand what God is saying to husbands? Are you hearing God’s Word here? To take the time to maintain a good marriage is God’s will. To work on your marriage is serving God. To pursue your spouse is a spiritual activity pleasing in God’s sight.
You are actively serving Christ by working on your relationship. For believing husbands, your life can’t all be about career, TV, hobbies, sports, cars, food, working out, video games, or your kids. You actually are honoring Christ by honoring your wife. And you’re displeasing Christ by ignoring your wife.
There is so much more to say–I spent sixteen weeks on 1 Peter 3:1 to 7 and just gave you the high points. There is more here. But let me leave you with this challenge. How can I cultivate a renewed relationship with my spouse?
1 – Evaluate your AFFECTIONS
Next to Christ, is she your greatest joy, treasure, love, delight? If anything receives more of your affection than your bride, repent today and turn your heart towards her. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence–the grass is greener where you water it.
2 – Keep working at LOVING each other
As a believer, you have Christ’s love shed abroad in your hearts, and His love is infinite–bigger than you can imagine. Therefore, keep working at ways to show love to your spouse. This is not self-serving–it is spiritual work that pleases Christ. Keep working at loving each other. If you love Christ, you can love your spouse. Do you?
3 – Make regular TIME together and fight for it
You can’t love Christ without enjoying special time with Him and you can’t enjoy your spouse without regular time with her–a date night, at breakfast, before the kids get up or after they go to bed. But make regular time with your bride.
4 – SATURATE your marriage in Christ and His work
Start doing ministry together, where you study the Word together. And pray together–enjoy the Lord together, celebrate the Lord together. Remind each other of the Gospel and share the Gospel with each other often.