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How to Treat Your Wife Right:
The Mission of a Godly Husband
Show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life–1 Peter 3:7d
The story is told of a reporter who was overseas and was informed of a unique custom. This practice centered around a marriage gift to the father of a daughter. When a man wanted to marry a certain woman, the husband-to-be would present the father of the bride-to-be with a gift–the gift was to be a benefit to the family. Normally the gift was ten chickens, five goats, or one cow, or rarely the most expensive gift was two cows. But only the most attractive, the most skilled, most sought-after potential wives received two cows. No family ever received more.
The story continues of one family with five beautiful daughters, four of them were very pretty and one of them was more average. The fact that the first four daughters were all agreed upon for one and two cows was a topic of great conversation in the community. But there was also a lot of talk about the remaining average daughter who remained at home, grew quieter, developed a heart of service, yet continued to be unspoken for.
Until one day to the surprise of all, the richest man in the region, Johnny Lingo expressed an interest in the average daughter. What followed was of endless speculation as to what Johnny would present to her father. Everyone believed the dad would be content with a few goats or chickens, though because of Johnny’s wealth, maybe he’d offer one cow, which would be exceptional and surely accepted. But all were shocked and the story became legend, since no one had ever offered a gift like Johnny Lingo when he gave the father ten cows to secure his bride.
The reporter, who had seen pictures of the daughter before her marriage, then wrote of his visit with Johnny Lingo. He was welcomed to a comfortable home with a gracious host. The reporter asked him why he had paid ten cows for his wife, and Johnny quietly said, “I wanted my wife to know her worth to me.”
The writer was impressed by Johnny’s answer, but not as much as actually meeting his wife–the average-looking daughter. For the woman he met was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen–this could not be the average daughter, but it was. Her face glowed, her eyes danced, and she moved with grace as she served them both, then affectionately touched her husband’s shoulder. Everyone who saw them knew they loved each other deeply, even after five years of marriage. The only conclusion the reporter could reach as to the transformation of the average daughter into this gorgeous woman of grace was the “ten cow gift”–a gift far beyond what was required, a gift which convinced her of her true value to her husband.
Husbands, do you treat your bride like a “ten cow wife”? This is exactly what Peter calls husbands to do for their wives in 1 Peter 3. That doesn’t mean unlimited shopping at the mall, or giving her whatever car she wants–Peter is not saying to husbands to grant your wife her every wish, but . . .
To treat your bride with the HIGHEST VALUE
To see your wife as your GREATEST TREASURE
To speak to your partner with the GREATEST RESPECT
To listen to your spouse as your GREATEST COUNSELOR
To trust your bride as your SAFEST STEWARD
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 3:7d, take your outline, and listen to what Peter says, “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.” 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. How highly do you value your wife? Is that value demonstrated in daily normal life and actions? And can she tell that she is your greatest treasure above all?
Peter is talking to Christians who have most likely been kicked out of Rome and sent to the Black Sea region on the frontier. These believers are not sailing on calm seas, the wind is blowing, the waves are splashing water in the boat and there is a big storm brewing on the horizon. Their government and culture is about to turn against them as Christ-followers–persecution has come. So Peter prepares them in chapters 1 and 2 by calling them to daily live the Gospel–each day remembering that Jesus Christ lived, suffered and died for their sins on the cross.
Today, you daily recall that He took your place and bore the wrath of God on your behalf–24/7 remember that He caused you to be born again and gave you a new life now and eternal life forever with Him in heaven, your salvation.
Next in chapters 2 and 3, Peter tells these believers to submit, in verse 13 even to the unfair government that is persecuting them, in verse 18 for slaves even to harsh masters, and now in 3:1 for wives to unsaved and difficult husbands.
1 Remembering the gospel
2 Willingness to submit to everything but sin . . .
are crucial in order to stand firm in the faith when life gets hard or persecution begins.
Even though Peter does not instruct governmental authority on how they should treat its citizens, nor teach masters in authority how they should treat their slaves, God moves Peter to instruct husbands as heads in how they should treat their wives in verse 7. We’ve already learned from verse 7, you husbands are:
1 To FOLLOW Christ as your model for marriage
To be CHRIST-LIKE, from you husbands in the same way
2a To BUILD A HOME with your wife.
To be CONSIDERATE, from live with your wives
2b To KNOW your wife intimately.
To COMMUNE with her, from in an understanding way
3 To PROTECT your wife
To be CHIVALROUS, from as with someone weaker, since she is a woman
4 To TREASURE your wife
To be an intimate COMPANION, from and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life
Do you treat your wife like a ten-cow wife–beyond value? Even though a wife submits to you, godly husbands never treat their wives like slaves. What are you to do, husbands?
#1 The husband’s mission, “and show her honor”
The Greek word translated show means to assign–to assign her honor. That sounds like homework, doesn’t it? So here is a husband’s homework assignment–this is the husband’s job. God’s Word is defining a task given to all believing husbands. Your job is to show honor to your wife. In fact the Greek word show also has the idea of payment, to pay her honor. You husbands owe this to your bride. You men are in debt, and Peter is not talking about a loan or credit cards. Husbands have a debt to pay to your wife. You are to grant to your wife that which is appropriate in a marriage relationship. What do you owe her? Honor!
I have heard of men who don’t honor their wives. They say, “Hey, I told her I loved her once on our wedding day, and if anything changes I’ll let her know.” Or, “Hey, I like her cookin’,” or, “She smells nice.” Wrong! Show her honor is a present tense participle, which means you show her honor all the time, ongoing, continually paying her honor. The phrase “and show her honor” should be translated “and paying her honor continually” or “constantly pay her honor.”
You owe it to her every single day, not merely on her birthday, on your anniversary or Valentine’s Day, but you (active voice) do not wait for it to happen. You don’t wait for it to slip out of your mouth on special days, but you act–you choose, you make the decision to continually pay her the honor she is due. A husband’s mission is to pay his wife with honor part of her salary.
In verse 7, Peter has just said a woman is a weaker vessel and you are to live with her according to deep personal knowledge. Why? Get this–because that is how our Father treats us. Peter is commanding you husbands to treat your bride the way the Father treats His bride. Our Father knows us with intimate knowledge and He is often pleased to honor those who are weaker or less honored in the eyes of the world, right?
First Corinthians 1:26 to 27 says, “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.” Second Corinthians 12:10 adds, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Our Heavenly Father loves to honor the weak (so also should we) and godly husbands are to honor their wives, as a weaker vessel. Treat your wife the way God treats you–honor the weaker–that is God’s heart. The word honor sounds like you are to salute your wife—“Yes, ma’am.” The Greek word honor, timan, means the amount at which something is valued–the amount of the price. God tells you husbands to assign your wife a high price tag–ten cows.
You have friends who love their car–the reasons are many, even when it’s a junker. Sometimes guys love their car–why? They assign some attribute of that car the highest value. It represents their dreams, their ideal, their idea of cool—but they love that car. God wants you to honor your wife in the same way–that’s right, even if she’s a junker. You are to treat your wife like she is a ten-cow wife, she’s priceless.
Too many husbands make their wives feel worthless and unappreciated. They take their wives for granted, they intimidate, humiliate, criticize and put their wives down with jokes and disdain. Some husbands seek to control their wife as if she is a little child, while others might neglect their wife all together. But none of this is the behavior of a born again husband. The husband with a new heart wants to show his wife honor, to treat her as the greatest price. How valuable is she? Proverbs 31:10 says, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”
A Godly husband knows his wife deserves a special place of honor. How does he know? Because she married him–she married you. A Christian husband knows he is saved by God’s grace. He knows he is a saint who still battles with sin, and he honors his wife for putting up with a man such as himself. The older I get the more I wonder how anyone can put up with me. I truly marvel at Jean, my children, my elders and my church family. God’s grace is so powerful it can make the most broken sinful people be the closest possible friends. I’m not talking about overt defiant sin, but my heart.
So a husband speaks well of his wife and to his wife. He tells her she is loved and needed. He prizes her counsel and seeks her correction. He reminds her she is an indispensable part of his life. He honors her gifts and talents, he esteems her beauty, he delights in her friendship, he expresses trust in her actions, he praises her, thanks her, calls her and thinks about her. She is a special gift from the Lord to him and she is worth more than any possession, and valued far deeper than any love but Christ. In 2:17 we are instructed to honor all people, but here husbands are to especially honor their wives–do you? How do you honor? The Bible gives us some direction.
First Express and show appreciation for her
First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks.” Make it known verbally. Say thank you all throughout each day, in each situation. Find out what she does and then let her know how grateful you are for her efforts. Remember the hymn, Count Your Many Blessings? Well do it–name the ways you are thankful for her–honor her. When you are filled with the Spirit, you will be thankful.
Second Commit to faithfully pray for her
Colossians 4:2 says, “Be devoted in prayer.” Literally, to persist in, to busy oneself with and to engage in prayer. Carry a 3 x 5 card with you each day and pray for your wife at the top of your list. Your marriage will know nothing of the blessing of God until you commit to pray for your mate daily.
Third Avoid criticism of her at all costs
Honoring builds up, criticism tears down. This gets tough when you get older. One couple was driving on an out-of-state freeway and she was speeding and got pulled over. The policeman asked, “Going a little fast?” to which the lady replied, “Eh?” So her husband repeated the policeman’s question.
The officer then asked for her license, and again she said, “Eh?” Once more her husband repeated the request that the officer wanted to see her license. “Oh, you’re from Murrieta,” he said, and again, “Eh?” Her husband repeated, “He says you’re from Murrieta.”
“The crabbiest lady I ever met lives there,” the officer said. “Eh?” to which her husband replied, “He says he knows you.”
James 1:26 tells us, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” Then Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.” Criticism tears down, honoring others builds them up. You will never change others by criticizing, but you can through honor. Gracious gentle confrontation builds, criticism tears down.
Fourth Cultivate a listening ear to her
Learn how to listen, not hear, but listen. James 1:19 says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” One of the most damaging things in marriage is not the compulsion to talk, but the reluctance to listen. We love to control through speech and hate to submit by really listening. Too often wives say, “He doesn’t listen to me,” and husbands say, “She talks so much I get tired of trying to understand what she is saying.”
The problem is we think hearing is listening, and it’s not. Hearing is information collection, getting ready to answer, and taking in facts without feeling. Listening is trying to understand feelings, reading between the lines, seeking not to answer, but only seeking to help, serve, minister and edify. Cultivate a heart that wants to listen and you will honor your wife. Your mission husband, should you decide to accept it, and as a believer, you will–is to show her honor (verse 7).
#2 The wife’s position as a fellow heir
Literally, as also a co-inheritor or inheriting together with her–Peter is talking about the amazing position every Christian has because we are in Christ now. And he is describing the mind-blowing future inheritance we receive because we’ve been adopted into God’s family and now receive the inheritance of Christ.
Peter spoke of our inheritance back in 1 Peter 1:4, “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Peter says every genuine Christian, male and female, receives a death-proof (imperishable), sin-proof (undefiled) and time-proof (will not fade away) guaranteed future inheritance.
What do we receive? We receive all that Christ receives. Romans 8:17, “if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” As God’s children, we receive all that Christ receives. So with Him and for Him in ecstatic joy, we will possess the new heavens and new earth. We inherit all that God has for Christ–we’re co-heirs with Him.
So Peter says, show your wife honor as a fellow-heir to remind husbands that even though we have been given greater authority within marriage, our wives are still equal to us in spiritual privilege and eternal importance–they are co-heirs. Your wife is a fellow-heir. Do you see her that way?
Women in Rome did not share in worship–they didn’t get to go. Even in the Jewish synagogue, women had no share in the service. When wives were finally admitted to the synagogue, they were segregated from their husbands and hidden behind a screen. Adding to that injustice, only men received the inheritance from the family–from father to son, and mainly the firstborn son. But now in Christ, women not only have equal access to Christ, but also share in the same inheritance every believing man receives.
Galatians 3:28 does not speak of the role of women, but of this total equal access and equal privilege that women in Christ enjoy. Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Equal in spiritual privilege before God.
Paul is commanding you husbands to respect your wives as equal partners in the marriage. If your wife is an unbeliever, Peter says the path to win her to Christ is to cultivate companionship and friendship–in other words, to honor her, respect her and have fun. This requires you husbands to share your life with your wife and develop mutual interests. Husbands must work at discovering and pursuing those things you can do together. A godly husband knows one of the secrets of a happy relationship is finding commonality.
So what is Peter saying in verse 7? The wife is the weaker vessel in marriage, being in the submissive role to a husband’s authority, and generally being weaker physically than a man. But Peter also says the wife is not weaker spiritually, nor is she ripped off eternally. She is a co-heir with her husband in salvation, reward and eternal life.
Would you agree that rich people are treated better in our culture? I’m not being prejudiced here, just speaking the truth. “First class ambassador club, please at your leisure make your way to the red carpet and board the plane. Your champagne is chilled and ready, and our most attractive stewardess, bubbly Brittney is waiting to greet you.”
“Coach class, get back, you dogs–no stampeding, you cattle. Steward Bubba has a whip and he’s gonna beat you if you complain about our sardine seating. And when we have time, if we ever do, maybe we’ll give you a crust of stale bread and a raw fish head.” Rich people are treated differently in a lot of ways. And Peter is reminding you husbands just how wealthy your wife really is–she is a co-heir with Christ. She is going to inherit. And the point here for you husbands is to treat your wife as if she’s flying first class, because she is wealthy beyond what you and I can even imagine.
Men, you had better treat her right now, because she is going to be with you for all eternity, forever, in heaven, in perfection, through all of time, as a co-heir–she is very, very wealthy. Husbands should treasure their wives because they share in the same destiny and eternal inheritance in God’s plan. Think about it–a Christian wife’s value is a co-heir with Christ–that is far beyond a ten-cow wife, she is eternally rich. Verse 7d says, “Show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.”
#3 The couple’s joyous condition of the grace of life
In Greek it is literally of grace of life–your wife is a co-heir of grace and of life. Commentators agree that the grace of life here is a reference to marriage, calling marriage the best there is in life–the hot fudge on the sundae of life, the icing on the cake, the ice cream in your root beer, the syrup on your pancakes, the barbeque sauce on your baby backs. Hungry for lunch yet?
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. The grace of life is the expression of grace and abundant life manifested in the marriage relationship of a Christian couple. The grace of life is the true intimate friendship that belongs only to those who are co-heirs with Christ and thus one with each other the way God designed marriage.
Peter is saying that a couple in Christ can enjoy a relationship that the unsaved know nothing about and can only dream about. God is telling you Christian couples of the joyous condition you are in because of Christ. The grace of life is all that grace and abundant life in Christ can offer in relationship. The grace of life is a taste of the intimacy and joy and love and grace and life that the trinity is enjoying for all eternity.
A non-Christian couple will never know the joy, oneness, love, intimacy, delight, grace and full life of a Christian couple. No Christian married to a non-Christian (unequally yoked) will fully experience the grace of life God intended in marriage. Students and singles, do not settle for less than God’s best. Pursue being a man or woman who is undistracted in devotion to Christ from 1 Corinthians 7, then trust Him to bring a proven faithful spouse who will love Christ more than you. Only then can you experience the grace of life. Not any marriage, but marriage from Christ, by Christ and for Christ.
Wait for God’s best, because you will never experience the richest blessing of this life unless you do. Don’t settle for a nice guy or cute gal–be picky and hold out for a proven mate. In Rome, husbands were generally uninterested in friendship with their wives–they merely expected them to maintain the household and bear the children, Today marriages are for personal pleasure and fulfillment–what completes me, what is in it for me, how we can care for each other. But only genuine Christian marriage can be the grace of life.
Grace means getting what you don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what you do deserve. But grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense–God’s freely given gift. Grace is sometimes translated favor and God’s grace is a favor. Grace is not deserved, earned or worked for, it is given freely. 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 unearned, undeserved favor from God.
Therefore grace immediately makes us face our sin. Grace reminds us of our just condemnation for our sin–our certain eternity in hell because of our sin. Only when we see how sinful we are can we understand the grace of God’s undeserved forgiveness for our sin cleansing us from our sins and empowering us to overcome sin.
Grace reminds us our salvation was given as a free gift, yet a costly gift. Grace reminds me I didn’t earn anything from God or even choose to receive salvation without God’s love and initiation. And grace points to Christ who became a man, lived perfectly on this planet, then died for our sin in our place on the cross. Grace says we can only love God because He first loved us. Grace reminds us that we were indifferent, but Christ was caring. We were impure, but Christ was pure. We were guilty and Christ was innocent. We ignored, hated and defied God but Christ pursued, loved and redeemed us. We desired lesser things, but Christ desired us to be His children. We were ungracious to Christ, but Christ was super gracious to us.
Marriage is a taste of God’s grace in this life. Marriage is a picture of God’s graciousness to you and me. In our marriage we see our sin, we show our selfishness and display the remnants of our fleshly lust, anger and pride. But a believing marriage shows God’s unconditional grace, forgiveness and love toward each other. Marriage is a taste of God’s grace in this life. Marriage is the sweetness of God’s character in this life. Marriage is a picture of God’s relationship in this life.
When a couple dependently follows God’s Word in marriage, they will experience grace and life. God is not only gracious, but He is life. John 14:6 says, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” Christ is life. To live is Christ. God gave us life and promises His children abundant life and eternal life. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Only by turning to Christ alone can you experience a full, rich, deep, Christ-saturated life, and any marriage done God’s way, by God’s power, for God’s glory, is rich with life and grace. So what can we take away?
1 Honoring one another requires humility
This life is not for you, it is for Christ. And Christ is seen as He works through others around you. Therefore honor them. If you are one who doesn’t regularly thank a Sunday school teacher and bring treats, or thank your children’s teachers at school, or their coaches, leaders or others, you have an issue with pride. Those same types are those who don’t honor their wives–ultimately they honor no one but themselves. Valuing others only happens when you stop valuing yourself.
2 The sweetness of Christian relationships is only a taste
The most intimate relationship I have is Jean. She is my best friend, but she took a vow—she has to be. She is so godly that together we experience the grace of life. I have other relationships here in growing intimacy and they are sweet too, even with some I barely know. You all know me better than I know you, cause what you see here is me–that’s it. There is not much more to know, trust me. But all the best of this life, the sweetest relationships, are only a taste of what is coming–and that taste, that joy, that intimacy will be forever in heaven. Thank Christ for the taste and look forward to the banquet. Thank Christ for the splash now and look forward to the swim in heaven.
3 Only those in Christ can experience the grace of life
You can know about Christ, be a faithful church attender, study the Bible, pray, make a decision and not know Jesus Christ. You know about Christ, but you do not know Him personally. One of the ways you can tell whether you are a real believer and not a make-believer is your relationships, especially your marriage. If you are not able to forgive, to grow, to become more intimate, to enjoy life and taste God’s grace in relationship, then that can be an indication you are religious without a genuine relationship. In order to really know your spouse, you must know Christ. In order to grow to be one with your spouse, you must be one with Christ. In order to forgive your spouse, you must have been forgiven by Christ.
Hopefully for one or two or three of you today, the Spirit is speaking to your heart and pressing you to turn from your religion, turn from your sin, turn from doing things your way and in your own strength and to depend totally on Christ–to cry out to Jesus and trust in His sacrificial death on the cross for your sins to provide the way for God to save you. Do you really know God’s grace?