Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | November 6, 2011
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. (1 Peter 3:7)
This passage tells Christian husbands three things:
- How they should live with their wives
- How they should honor their wives
- The purpose for doing so
Let’s look first at…
How husbands should live with their wives
It says they should live with them in an understanding way as with a weaker vessel
…live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman
This passage says that wives – and all women – are what he calls “weaker vessels.” In (War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa Joshua S. Goldstein (Cambridge University Press, September 2001) the author writes,
Women are constitutionally stronger than men – they live longer and are more resilient against fatigue, illness, famine, childbirth (!), and so forth.
Yet, a 1982 study of men and women in the military demonstrated that men had a greater lifting capacity than women. The average lifting capacity for women soldiers was 66 pounds, versus 119 for men (80 percent higher). The difference in lifting capacity is especially critical at around 100–120 pounds. An Air Force test for lifting 110 pounds was passed by 68 percent of men and 1 percent of women.
There is a difference between men and women in speed as well. Among over 30,000 participants in the 1997 NYC marathon, the median woman ran 11 percent slower than the median man.
Peter writes that since wives are generally physically weaker, husbands should live with them – in an understanding way; literally, it says “according to knowledge.” In other words, we should use our heads as we live with our wives. We should keep in mind that there are physical differences between us.
This has many practical ramifications.
For example, it’s tempting to expect “the wife” to drop everything when we get home and bring us our robe and slippers and pipe. However, if we’re wise, we’ll remember that she’s tired too and has probably had as hard a day as we have whether she worked in the home or outside the home. So it’s unwise to expect the royal treatment upon our arrival. Only kings get the royal treatment because they have a harem of many wives who take turns bringing him his robe and slippers.
Another example – when it’s time to clean out the attic or garage or basement. Sometimes I impatiently wonder to myself, “Why doesn’t she pick up more boxes? Why do I seem to be doing all the heavy lifting?” Or worse, “Why doesn’t she do this herself when I’m at work? I have to remember that are physical differences between us.
A negative example – physical abuse. Husbands are more capable of physical abusebecause of their greater strength. They can, in a rage, overpower “the wife” or threaten the wife or break things or slam doors or put their fist through a wall more readily than the wife. How many stories have you heard of women who refused to call the police because their husband threatened bodily harm or worse if they did so. Col. 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.”
Husbands, if and when we are tempted to do any of these things, the phrase “live with them in an understanding way as with a weaker vessel” should pop into our minds and draw us up short.
Instead, we should use our greater strength to bless them as often as we can. Ask yourself, “What can I do to ease my wife’s load since she is weaker than I am?” Can you bring in the groceries more often, move those heavy boxes or that piece of furniture she’s been asking about for awhile, or bring up those things up from the basement or down from the attic?
This passage teaches husbands not only how to live in an understanding way, it also teaches us…
How husbands should honor their wives
It says husbands should honor them as fellow heirs of the grace of life
…and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life
This phrase tells us that our wives are our spiritual equals. Husbands and wives are fellow heirs of the grace of life. Though husbands and wives serve different functions in the home and in the church, we are equal in value in the sight of God. Gal 3:28 says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are fellow heirs, joint heirs, co-heirs, co-inheritors of the grace of life.
Our wives at one level are like spiritual sisters to us and we are like spiritual brothers to them in the great family of God. We will each inherit the grace of life – which here is a synonym for salvation – when Christ comes again. All who are in Christ – husbands and wives, slaves and free, Jew and Gentile, children, teens, young adults and seniors, will share in the inheritance Christ’s work on the cross earned for us.
My paternal grandfather, Theodore Sonnenberg of Holgate passed away in 1974. His wife, my grandmother, Amelia Sonnenberg died five years later in 1979. At that time their estate was inherited equally by their eight children, one of whom is my dad. Those eight children each had different circumstances, but were treated equally in the will. There were four sons and four daughters. Some were married, some were unmarried. Some had children and grandchildren and some had none. Some were more well-off, some were less well-off financially. However, the estate was divided equally among them. They were all co-heirs of the estate. An auction was held in which everything was sold to the highest bidder. If one of the heirs wanted a particular item, they had to bid with everyone else. But all the proceeds were divided up equally among them.
Likewise, husbands and wives will be treated equally in the resurrection. They are fellow heirs of the grace of life.
Why did Peter remind husbands of this? Because husbands are tempted to lord their authority over their wives. They are tempted to think that because they are appointed as the head of the home they are more valuable than she is.
But Peter says that since wives are fellow heirs, husbands should show them honor accordingly. Instead of treating her as a second class citizen in the kingdom, husbands should honor them as their equals. We have to work at this because we’re selfish. We naturally think more about ourselves than we do of her.
We need to keep in mind the example of Christ and Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5, “…husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word… In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.” (vv 26-29) We should be willing to give up our lives for them as Christ gave up his for the church, and we should love them as we love ourselves.
Following are some ideas to think about and put into action. This piece is called,
“Eight ways to honor your wife,” written by Mark Driscol (on PastorCharlieWallace.com, 24th March 2009).
- Honor her maritally.Take a wife honorably. Establish right priorities, and be a one woman man–absolutely faithful to your wife.
- Honor her physically.Be strong for your wife, not against Be physically protective of her and present with her.
- Honor her emotionally.Be emotionally present and intimate. Take her on dates. Listen empathetically to her when she needs to talk. Don’t try to fix her, just listen.
- Honor her verbally.Speak honorably to her. Speak honorably of her, when she is present and absent.
- Honor her financially.Provide for the financial needs of your family, organize your budget, and be generous towards your wife.
- Honor her practically.Consider her needs and how you can serve her.
- Honor her parentally.Be “Pastor Dad” by shepherding your children (praying with them, teaching them about Jesus, reading the Bible with them, etc.).
- Honor her spiritually.You initiate and lead prayer, reading the Bible with her, having spiritual chats and church attendance.
You may be thinking, “Yeah pastor, but you don’t know my wife. She’s a difficult person to live with let alone honoring her.” You know that passage in Proverbs about the quarrelsome wife who’s like a constant dripping on a rainy day? That’s her.”
We know several husbands of marriages of 50 plus years or more who have wives that could be considered “difficult,” “challenging,” “dripping,” or “over the top.” One husband in particular, we’ll call him Ryan. We’ll call his wife Trixie. She has suffered from insecurity and depression much of her adult life, yet he treats her with the utmost respect. Sure, he gets upset and angry with her sometimes like the rest of us. But most of the time, he is her greatest fan. He speaks to her lovingly and respectfully, is never condescending, he builds her up, he comforts her when she’s down and defends her against all comers. As a result, she has thrived in spite of great odds against her. We should do the same for our wives if we’re not doing so already.
So husbands should live with their wives in an understanding way as weaker vessels and should honor their wives as fellow heirs of the grace of life.
Finally, this passage tells husbands…
The purpose for doing so
It says the purpose is to not hinder your prayers, or, to prevent your prayers from being hindered.
…so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Initially, this sounds somewhat lame. You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal if my prayers are hindered?” But there’s more to it than you might think. The word translated hindered can also be translated “detained,” bored,” “tedious” or “weary.” Have you ever become bored or weary in your prayer life? Have you ever felt like your prayers were going nowhere? Could it have some relation to the way you and I are treating our wives?
Here’s what one commentator said about this phrase:
So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he “interrupts” his relationship with them when they are not doing so. No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife “in an understanding way, bestowing honor” on her. To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight. (Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, p. 146.)
John Piper, in a sermon on prayer notes that this concept is mentioned twice more in 1 Peter.
The second time it comes up is in the next paragraph in vv 10–12, Peter quotes Ps 34,
For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The third time it comes up is in chapter 4, verse 7. It says,
The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
Piper says the common thread seems to be that all three teach us not that praying helps us live right, but that living right helps us pray. Peter’s point in all three texts is that God has appointed a way for us to live which will help us pray. There are ways to live that hinder prayers and there is a way to live that helps prayer.
These passages teach that husbands, and all Christians, should to live in a way that does not hinder our prayers.
- It implies that prayers can be hindered. Our prayer life can be clogged, blocked.
- What blocks prayer is the way we live our lives—the way we relate to wives or husbands or kids or parents or colleagues or neighbors.
- Keeping open the way of prayer to God involves a conscious effort. In each of these texts Peter is telling us to do something so that our prayers will not be hindered.
In other words a free, open, real, satisfying life of prayer is not automatic. It doesn’t just happen to you while you are passive. If it did, these three texts would be pointless.
Why does it matter that your prayer life not be hindered?
You don’t want your prayers to be hindered because when your prayers are hindered, it means you are not connecting with God, and that God himself starts to seem distant and unreal.
- To wake up in the morning or to go to bed at night and to lie there and stare at the ceiling and think to yourself, “It’s not real. He’s not listening.”
- To try to form a prayer and feel utterly phony because your mind is so full of worldly stuff and earthly feelings and fleshly desires that a sweet, peaceful, confident communion with God in prayer seems about as possible as flying to the moon.
These can be terrifying experiences for a Christian who has known peace with God, and unhindered communion with him. (end of Piper)
I think we underestimate the importance of prayer in our lives. Think how important prayer was to Jesus. He knew that it was an essential source of spiritual life during his ministry. He prayed at his baptism. He spent whole nights alone in prayer, for example, the night before he chose the 12. He often awoke early to find a solitary place to pray. He prayed so often the disciples asked him to teach them to pray. He also he told them a parable to teach them that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He prayed before his Transfiguration. He prayed what we call the High Priestly prayer recorded in John 17 before the Last Supper. He prayed in the final hours before his trial. And he prayed on the cross before he took his last breath.
How much more important should our prayer lives be to us? If we think our prayer life is not essential to fruitful life and ministry we are mistaken. And if we are not concerned about our prayers being hindered, we are deceiving ourselves.
So we should live with our wives in such a way that are prayers are not hindered – because we need prayer, we need to stay connected to God to fulfill all that he has called us to do. Husbands should live their wives in an understanding way and should honor them as the fellow heirs of salvation that they are.
Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.