Honoring The Wife

January 8, 2017 / No. 3862

Dear Radio Friends,
In the next couple of broadcasts we consider the upright man’s calling toward his wife. Today we examine I Peter 3:7: “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.”
Give honor unto the wife, Peter instructs husbands. Does not Peter have that the wrong way around? Ought not wives show honor to their husbands? Does not Peter himself teach in the verses preceding this verse that the wife is to hold in reverence her husband? Why would Peter here teach that a husband is to show honor to his wife? It is to show the error of those husbands who lay heavy burdens on their wives and exploit them as if they are of lower status in marriage. It is true that a wife certainly must show honor to her husband for his God-given place in the marriage. But honor is not given only to those who are in authority. Honor, esteem, even respect—these do not rely on a person’s position of authority. Husbands are in duty bound to show honor to their wives.
There is something else that becomes evident in the instruction of Peter in this verse. Peter is addressing Christian husbands and wives. We mention this not because it is only in a marriage between two believers that the husband receives this calling. All husbands are commanded by God to treat their wives with tenderness, love, and respect. We mention this, rather, because the Christian husband has an additional reason to honor his wife. She is an heir together with him to the grace of life, Peter tells us. That is truly significant because a believing husband recognizes that in his wife. He loves that in his wife. And it is this fact that motivates him to show honor to his wife. So, Peter here addresses believing husbands about their believing wives. This injunction we consider.
I. Who She Is
After addressing the godly wife in the verses that precede our text, Peter turns to the godly husband. The injunction that he gives the husband is this: dwell with your wife according to knowledge. Live with your wife, treat your wife, deal with your wife, according to knowledge. In other words, knowledge must be the standard according to which you must live with your wife. The knowledge that the child of God possesses is substantially different from the common knowledge of men. Our knowledge is that of faith, that is, it is a knowledge by which we understand all things in the light of God and His Word. It is a knowledge that God has worked in our hearts by His grace, a knowledge by which we are made to understand the truth about God, about Christ, and about ourselves. And it is in this knowledge that godly husbands are enjoined to dwell with their wives.
This knowledge of faith includes an understanding of a godly husband’s place in the marriage as well as the place of his wife. The believing husband knows why God has created the woman and why God has brought to him his particular wife. This knowledge consists of two particulars that Peter points out in our text. The first is this: the wife is the weaker vessel. The man and woman in the marriage relationship are not equal. The man is stronger and the wife weaker. So Peter points out an inequality in the marriage bond.
But then, in the second place, he points out the equality that exists between husband and wife. They are heirs together of the grace of life. They are equals in salvation, grace, and eternal life. This is what every believing man must know about his wife. Now, we need to look at these in a little closer detail, of course.
Our wives, godly husbands, are the weaker vessel in our relationships. Now, there are those, on the one hand, that misinterpret this passage to mean that the wife is a weak, almost pathetic, little creature that has no strength in herself and must rely on the superior strength of her husband. On the other hand, there are those who chafe under the designation God gives women in this verse. In pride they refuse to bow before this Word of God. But the word “weaker” here in this verse means “weaker.” Neither can the meaning of this Word of God be interpreted differently because the woman is called a “vessel.” Some say that Peter here is talking only about the physical anatomy of a woman. She is weaker than a man physically. This is ordinarily true of course, but the term vessel makes reference to the woman in general—both physically and psychologically. In marriage there are two vessels that God unites together into one flesh: the male and the female. Of these two vessels the man is the stronger and the woman the weaker.
But this term “weaker,” remember, is not aimed at hurting a woman’s self-respect. That a woman is weaker does not mean that she has less wisdom, less spirituality, or less worth in marriage. We have already found that is not the case in our series of broadcasts on the virtuous woman! Rather the term “weaker” is spoken to a godly husband in order that he might realize that his wife is a precious, valuable, but fragile vase that can easily be broken by him. A harsh word, demeaning comments, brushing her aside as being of no account—these can break her! It can hurt her irreparably! She was created by God in such a way that she leans on her husband for support and strength. She is dependent on him for her life. To use Paul’s example of Christ and the church, just as the church leans on Christ and draws her life out of Christ, so also the wife draws her life and strength out of her husband. Both a husband and wife ought to know this. This is the knowledge according to which a godly husband must dwell with his wife. This at one and same time comforts the wife and warns the husband.
That is the first truth a husband must understand about his wife. The second is this: she is an heir together with him to the grace of life. Or, very simply, she is a co-heir with him in salvation. That is what the grace of life refers to. God is no respecter of persons when it comes to His grace. Just as a master merits nothing over a slave, or a Jew over a Gentile, so also a man merits nothing over a woman. Grace has no merit. It is the free, undeserved favor of God that He displays to those whom He wills. The husband is not greater than his wife, neither the wife greater than the husband, but, on the contrary, both are undeserving of God’s favor. Both of us, husbands and wives, are sinners deserving only condemnation, but God has shown us His grace. And by that grace He has freely given us life—life eternal, that is.
You see, we were lost in our sins and trespasses and subject therefore to death. In fact, from a spiritual point of view we lived in the midst of death. We not only were guilty before God because of sin, but we were wholly given over to the power of sin in our lives. But God’s grace is this: the power by which He freely delivered us from the guilt and hold of sin and made us partakers of life in Him. God’s grace is seen in the cross of Christ. By means of the cross, God graciously delivered us from the guilt and power of sin. Christ conquered for us sin and its power. Christ through His blood made us righteous who were guilty before God. We have been justified and sanctified through His powerful work. By means of this, Christ overcame the hold that sin and death had over us. And He earned for us the right to eternal life. It is that life that we have within us right now. The life of Christ even now is to be found in us. And we will live unto all eternity with God and with His Son Jesus Christ.
That is what believing husbands and wives must see in each other—they are heirs together with one another. Both a husband and wife share in the common misery of sin and both share in the blessed joy that Christ has saved them! Both of them are believers who have been incorporated into the family and household of God. A husband and wife are first and foremost brother and sister in the family of God! They both have been adopted by God. They both were given faith. And both of them have been promised the glory of eternal life in heaven. They are heirs to the possession that God has promised them. It is for this reason that both a man and his wife give honor to one another. They are one in salvation. This provides all the reason to dwell with each other according to knowledge.
II. Dwelling with Her
Now, with this in mind husbands are called to dwell with their wives. We ought to notice what is implied in this idea. The husband is called to dwell with his wife—to live with her, to spend time with her. That implies, in the first place, that the husband must seek in his wife the closest of all friendship and fellowship. Christ enters into a most intimate bond spiritually with His church. The husband is called to enter into the most intimate of bonds with his wife. She is to be the closest of all friends, the one to whom he tells his secrets—all his secrets, the one with whom he cries and laughs. He consults her in decisions and speaks to her of his hopes and desires. This is not a bond that lasts a year or two or three the most. It is a bond that a man enters into with his wife so that he dwells with her his entire lifetime. It must not be something that wears off in our middle-age years, so that we wander elsewhere for our friendship. A husband must always consciously dwell with his wife and make her the center of his life!
Also implied in this is the headship of a husband over his wife. The husband seeks to dwell with his wife. It is true that the wife also dwells with her husband. He must be the center of her life too. But it is the man that is given the command: dwell with her according to knowledge. This implies that the husband is called to establish and maintain the relationship. God holds him responsible for that. When the husband allows this to slip, he will be held accountable for that in the day of judgment! The husband must consciously exercise his headship. His is a weighty position in the marriage and the family as a whole.
Headship also implies rule. A husband is called by God to rule his home. Everything that has to do with rule is implied in his calling. The man must provide for his wife. He must see to it that she is cared for and that her needs are supplied. The husband is called to protect his wife and keep her, spiritually as well as in every other way. The husband is held responsible before God to instruct and guide his wife and home in the way of truth and righteousness. He must exercise his headship to see to it that his wife, together with him, walks circumspectly before God, always seeking His face. This means the husband leads in devotions—family worship. He sees to it that the family is in church on Sunday and his children trained properly in the Word of God. We must realize, husbands, that someday you and I are going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. And we will be asked: What did you do as the head of your marriage and home? What will you answer? All this is implied in dwelling with your wife according to knowledge.
Plus, all this has to do with honoring our wives. “Ye husbands, dwell with your wives, giving honor unto the wife.” What is implied in the term “honor” here in our text is that the wife is a precious possession. She is something highly valued. That does not mean that she is on a par with expensive furniture or crystal or what have you. She is not a possession in that sense of the word, of course. But what is emphasized here is that the wife is of extreme and immeasurable value. She is to her husband the most highly prized of all people. Her price is far above rubies. He that has a wife has a good thing. That is how a husband must always view his wife. He has received from God, in his wife, the most cherished possession of his life. And because she is so cherished, so valuable to him, he is called upon to honor her.
As we mentioned, this does not mean that he is called to hand over the rule of the home to her. On the contrary, the honor that must be given to the wife is that of deference, favor, love. We must give regard to the opinion and desires of the wife. We must be considerate of her and listen to what she says. In other words, a God-fearing husband does not treat his wife as a piece of dirt, ignoring her and degrading her, and even despising her. The husband may not simply go his own merry way with no regard for the needs and wants and cares of his wife. Some husbands can be that way, you know. They are so busy with their own pursuits that they have little regard for their wife. They spend their time at work or out with the guys. They come home late. And when they come home they care little about what goes on in the home and family or in the life of their own wife. There is little conversation that goes on. They simply cohabit the same house with their wives. Oh, maybe it was different at first when he was trying to woo her. When he dated her and perhaps was first married to her, his attitude was different. But as the years go by he forgets about her and acts like she does not even exist. That is wrong of a husband. He must always assign to his wife that place in his heart and life that holds her in high esteem. All other pursuits, all other desires must be pushed aside and the wife must take top priority in his life. In this way, the husband is to honor his wife.
Maybe this is the test that we ought to apply to ourselves, husbands. Ask yourselves: When I am finished with work, where do I enjoy going the most? Is the answer, home to my wife and children? Is that the place I would most want to be? If you honor your wife, if you love and cherish her as the most valuable person and thing in your life, then your answer will be home. If your heart lies elsewhere, you are not honoring your wife! If you dread going home, or when you get home you would rather turn to the TV or a computer screen, then you are doing dishonor to your wife!
We are to honor our wives! Why? Because the life of a godly, believing wife depends on her husband. She needs our attention and praise. That is the reward of a virtuous woman, you understand! Her husband rises up and calls her blessed! She needs the honor of her husband. We honor our wives also because they are heirs together with their husbands of the grace of life! She is that one person in the whole world that God binds together with her husband in such a way that she is his support and even his strength. We need the spiritual advice and wisdom that a godly wife can give us. We need her to anchor us in the truth. God has bound us together with our wives in order to keep us strong spiritually. That is why we are called to honor our wives, husbands. We need them! We need them just as much as, maybe even more than, they need us!
III. Blessed by Her
That is why a godly husband is truly blessed by his believing wife. No wonder Solomon writes in Proverbs 31:12, “She will do him good and not evil all her days.” If you were to read the rest of Proverbs 31 you would also find out just how a godly wife is a blessing to her husband. The most important way a wife is a blessing to her husband is stated in the last part of our text: she prays together with him. She is there with him in his home, and the two of them raise their prayers to God on each other’s behalf. She prays with her husband and for her husband. That is a constant means of blessing for him.
But when friction or disputes arise, and the husband fails to give honor to his wife, then his prayers and hers are hindered. How can one pray when the relationship between husband and wife is not right? When we are angry with each other? When we as husbands do our wives wrong, how can we pray? We cannot. Our prayers become shallow and ineffectual. But when the right relationship prevails in our marriage, then our prayers as individuals and as a couple rise up to God unhindered. Such, then, is the calling of the husband toward his wife. When it is right, we find a vibrant, warm, and happy marriage. God give us hearts that honor our wives.