APRIL 27 – CHRISTIAN COUPLES: HEIRS TOGETHER OF THE GRACE OF LIFE

…Giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life….

1 PETER 3:7

The Scriptures teach that the Christian husband and wife are heirs together of the grace of life—that they are one in Jesus Christ, their Saviour!

I suppose there are many Christian husbands whose prayers are not being answered and they can think up a lot of reasons. But the fact is that thoughtless husbands are simply big, overbearing clods when it comes to consideration of their wives.

If the husband would get himself straightened out in his own mind and spirit and live with his wife according to knowledge, and treat her with the chivalry that belongs to her as the weaker vessel, remembering that she is actually his sister in Christ, his prayers would be answered in spite of the devil and all of the other reasons that he gives.

A husband’s spiritual problems do not lie in the Kremlin nor in the Vatican but in the heart of the man himself—in his attitude and inability to resist the temptation to grumble and growl and dominate!

There is no place for that kind of male rulership in any Christian home. What the Bible calls for is proper and kindly recognition of the true relationships of understanding and love, and the acceptance of a spirit of cooperation between the husband and wife.[1]


The Husband’s Responsibility

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. (3:7)

In the same way refers again to the duty of submission (2:13, 18; 3:1). This time it is the believing husband who submits to serve his wife. Husbands obey that duty by adhering to three basic responsibilities in caring for their wives’ needs: consideration, chivalry, and companionship.

consideration

live with your wives in an understanding way, (3:7a)

First, husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way, which means they must be considerate. Understanding speaks of being sensitive and considering the wife’s deepest physical and emotional needs. The word translated live (sunoikountes) means “dwelling together” and refers to living with someone in intimacy and cherishing them. Believing husbands must constantly nourish and cherish their wives in the bond of intimacy:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. (Eph. 5:25–28; cf. Prov. 5:18–19; 1 Cor. 7:3–5)

chivalry

as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; (3:7b)

A believing husband should also be chivalrous to his wife, realizing she is someone weaker, since she is a woman. Just as submission does not imply inherent inferiority for the ones who submit (see the discussion of verse 1 of this passage), so the word weaker does not mean the wife is intrinsically weaker in character or intellect than her husband. The word (rendered “weaker vessel” by the King James and New King James translators) also does not mean that women are spiritually inferior to men (cf. Gal. 3:28). It just means that women generally possess less physical strength than men. With that in mind, Christian husbands are the sacrificial providers and protectors of their wives (cf. 1 Sam. 1:4–5; Eph. 5:23, 25–26; Col. 3:19; 1 Tim. 5:8), whether or not the wives are believers.

companionship

and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (3:7c)

Third, the husband is to be a companion for his wife as a fellow heir sharing in the grace of life, which refers not to eternal life, but to the true and intimate friendship that belongs only to those who are possessors of God’s most blessed gift in this life—marriage. Peter labels marriage the grace of life because grace (charis) means “unmerited, undeserved favor” (cf. Rom. 1:5; 3:24; 5:15, 17; 12:3; 15:15; 2 Cor. 8:1; 9:8; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:2, 7; 4:7; 4:29; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 4:16; James 4:6). Marriage is a divine providence given to man regardless of his attitude toward the Giver. Intimate companionship in marriage, the richest blessing of this life, was a foreign concept to the Greco-Roman culture of Peter’s day. Husbands were generally uninterested in friendship with their wives, expecting them to merely maintain the household and bear children. In contrast, the Christian husband is to cultivate all the richness God designed into the grace of marriage by showing honor to his wife in loving consideration, chivalry, and companionship. So that his prayers will not be hindered is the reward God promises to the loving, caring husband (cf. Ps. 66:18; Isa. 59:2; John 9:31; James 4:3). The prayers in view may be specifically for the salvation of an unbelieving wife, but nothing in the text limits it to that. The warning is clearly given that if a husband in Christ is not fulfilling his responsibilities toward his wife, God may not answer his prayers. No more serious divine threat could be given to a believer than that—the interruption of all the promises of prayers heard and answered (cf. John 14:13–14). That is severe, cutting off the divine blessing, which shows how critical is Christian husbands’ loving care of their partners in this grace of life.

The key to having a positive witness to an unsaved spouse is living an exemplary Christian life as a faithful, submissive spouse. That obedience pleases God and provides the testimony that honors Jesus Christ before the unsaved partner.[2]


As a Husband in Relation to His Wife (3:7)

Now the apostle turns to husbands and shows the corresponding duties they must fulfill. They should live considerately with their wives, showing love, courtesy, and understanding. They should bestow the tender regard on their wives that is appropriate for members of the weaker sex.

In this day of the women’s liberation movement, the Bible might seem out of step with the times in speaking of women as the weaker vessels. But it is a simple fact of life that the average woman is weaker than the man physically. Also, generally speaking, she does not have the same power to control her emotions and is more frequently guided by emotional reactions than by rational, logical thought. The handling of deep theological problems is not characteristically her forte. And, in general, she is more dependent than the man.

But the fact that a woman is weaker in some ways does not mean that she is inferior to man; the Bible never suggests this. Neither does it mean that she might not actually be stronger, or more competent in some areas. As a matter of fact, women are generally more devoted to Christ than men. And they usually are better able to bear prolonged pain and adversity.

A man’s attitude toward his wife should recognize the fact that she is a fellow heir of the grace of life. This refers to a marriage in which both are believers. Though weaker than the man in some ways, the woman enjoys equal standing before God and shares equally the gift of everlasting life. Also she is more than her husband’s equal in bringing new physical life into the world.

When there is discord, prayers are hindered. Bigg says: “The sighs of the injured wife come between the husband’s prayers and God’s hearing.” Also it is very difficult for a couple to pray together when something is disrupting their fellowship. For the peace and welfare of the home it is important for the husband and wife to observe a few basic rules:

  1. Maintain absolute honesty in order to have a basis of mutual confidence.
  2. Keep lines of communication open. There must be a constant readiness to talk things out. When steam is allowed to build up in the boiler, an explosion is inevitable. Talking things out includes the willingness for each to say, “I am sorry” and to forgive—perhaps indefinitely.
  3. Overlook minor faults and idiosyncrasies. Love covers a multitude of sins. Don’t demand perfection in others when you are unable to produce it in yourself.
  4. Strive for unity in finances. Avoid overspending, installment buying, and the lust to keep up with the Joneses.
  5. Remember that love is a commandment, not an uncontrollable emotion. Love means all that is included in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is courteous, for instance; it will keep you from criticizing or contradicting your partner in front of others. Love will keep you from quarreling in front of your children, which could undermine their security. In these and a hundred other ways, love creates a happy atmosphere in the home and rules out strife and separations.[3]

7 Following his exhortations to wives, the writer addresses husbands. Four requirements are noted. The first of the four is strikingly suggestive, with the text literally reading, “living together according to knowledge” (synoikountes kata gnōsin), hence, “being considerate.” In the context of day-to-day marital relations, this imperative is sweeping. Living with a woman “according to knowledge” stands in marked contrast to living with a woman out of “sheer thoughtlessness” (so Barclay, 223). Waltner, 99, encompasses the full range of female needs when he writes that this exhortation “constitutes a call to respect the full personhood of the woman in a marriage relationship.”

Second, husbands are to “treat [their wives] with respect as the weaker partner” (hōs asthenesterō skeuei tō gynaikeiō). How the woman is “weaker” is the subject of varied—and fancied—explanation by commentators. Whether asthenēs (“weak,” GK 822) has physical, psychological, or emotional application is debatable but beside the point. Marshall, 103–4, strikes a reasonable balance: husbands, cognizant of the wives’ situation, are to treat them with courtesy; given their station, they are more vulnerable. Christian faith has a revolutionary effect not only on the way men treat women but also on how they view them. What is incontestable about the plight of married women in the ancient world is that they possessed no authority and influence beside their husbands. Hence, Christian husbands are doubly sensitive to this “weakness,” consequently treating them with timē, “honor” (NIV, “respect”; GK 5507). This social reality also explains why the verb hypotassō (“submit,” GK 5718), appearing in 2:13; 2:18; 3:1 (and later in 3:22; 5:5), is not used in 3:7, since husbands already exercise a natural social authority over their wives. This authority, in the Petrine scheme, must be accompanied by deference and courtesy. Husbands are to honor rather than exploit, since exploitation likely is the norm.

Third, husbands are to keep in mind that their wives are “heirs with [them] of the gracious gift of life” (synklēronomois charitos zōēs). If indeed wives, in the social scheme of antiquity, were without rights and considered of inferior status, Christian faith elevated the status of women, so that in Christ male and female are coequal (1 Co 12:13; Gal 3:28). The full blessing, peace, and welfare that arise from Christian faith are shared by both husband and wife. They are partners in the riches and benefits of the gospel (similarly, 2 Pe 1:1). There exist equality and complementarity within the social scheme of things.

The fourth quality issues out of the prior three. A husband who is inattentive to his wife, failing to show her consideration, honor, and respect, finds that a barrier is erected between him and his God. For this reason, husbands are to be attentive to the needs of their wives, “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Advice of a similar nature is given by Paul to the Corinthians in the sphere of marital relations (cf. 1 Co 7:4–5). Harmony in the relationship is predicated on a principle enunciated by Jesus: if our relationships are not right, we are to “leave [the] gift there in front of the altar” (Mt 5:24; cf. also 18:15) until the block has been removed. This is all the more applicable in marital union and is likely the principal rationale for calling men “everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer” (1 Ti 2:8; cf. 1 Co 11:29).[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 181–183). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2268–2269). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 328–329). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s