Dear radio friends,
Today we continue our series on marriage. Turning our attention from the beauty of the Christian woman, we now consider the calling and dignity of the Christian husband.
We will take our study from the Word of God in I Peter 3:7. There we read: “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.”
In this section of I Peter, we have seen that the apostle is giving an appeal to practical Christian living. That appeal is placed before us in chapter 2:11, 12. Having expounded in chapters 1 and 2:1-10, the privileges of God’s grace brought to us, Peter then is burdened by the Spirit to admonish you and me to live to the glory of God in response to these privileges. The apostle begins by reminding us of our identity: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims. You have been brought out of a sinful world by the grace of God.” He continues negatively: “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” Then he says, positively, “have your conversation (that is, your walk of life) honest among the Gentiles (that is, the people of this world), that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The Word of God calls us, then, to a pattern of life which commends the gospel, a pattern of life that the world can see. This must be the great concern of the Christian: that our life commends the gospel.
But how are we to do that? Peter answers: by a life of submission to God’s authority. At I Peter 2:13 the apostle continues: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” The Word of God is saying that there is nothing that displays the power and the light of the gospel in our lives as does obedience to God, that our lives reflect a willing, eager obedience to Him. Nothing so displays the gospel as that – that in all times we take up His yoke upon us and we follow in obedience to Him.
Then Peter begins to work this submission out in its details. First, he applies it to the civil sphere. He says that we must submit to the king and to the governors. And he brings up the worst case: those who would persecute us for our faith in Christ. He then goes on to the sphere of work: servants, be subject to your masters. And here he brings up the worst case: also to those who are oppressive and forward to you.
Then he turns his attention to marriage. In chapter 3:1 he says, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.” And again he mentions the worst case, “that, if any obey not the word (that is, if any husband is not a believer, you still are in subjection to him so that that subjection may be used of God to win him over, if it be God’s will).” The apostle then, as you recall, goes on to describe the beauty of the Christian woman and uses examples to underscore and highlight that beauty.
Now in verse 7 we read, “Likewise, ye husbands.” That means this. The same principle of believing submission to the will of the Lord must be seen in you as a husband and as a man. How do I, as a married man, live to commend the power of the gospel in my life? God has talked to us. God has narrowed it down. God has said that we must be in submission before the state. God says that we must be submissive in our employment. God has said that the wife is to be in submission to her husband. Now, what about you, husband? What about you as a man? How are you going to live your calling as a pilgrim and a stranger, as one who abstains from fleshly lusts, as one who validates the beauty of the gospel? How do you do that? This is how you do it. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [your wife] 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.”
We might ask the question before we begin looking at this in some detail, What does this have to do with me? You say, I’m single and a young man and maybe I’m listening because Dad said I had to. Well, one day, if it be God’s will, you will marry. God will entrust to your care one of His daughters. There is nothing in the world that can help you be a husband, then. There is everything in the world that is aimed to make you hate what God says a husband is. How do you prepare for being a husband? Do you ever ask that question? This is how you prepare: by taking heed to God’s Word right here.
What about single girls and women? You say, What does this have to do with me – I’m a single girl? Well, what are you looking for in a husband? Do not look for the girth of his shoulders, the measurement of his biceps. Look for a man in whom these words are worked out, the Word of God. You have to understand, as a young lady, that a trip down the aisle of marriage and a happy reception after your marriage, and that marriage ceremony that you have been dreaming about – all of that is not going to change him. You have to understand that the man you marry is the man who says “I do.” And before you marry him, you have to see these things that God says must be in him before you marry him and before you allow your heart to go out to him.
What about children? Do you ask, Why should we listen? Why should we, as little children, boys and girls, fourth and fifth graders, why should we listen? Marriage is a long way off. Do you remember what we read in Psalm 1? “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” Would you grow up to be that blessed man and that blessed woman whose delight is in the law of God and is like the tree planted by the rivers of water? Or do you want to grow up to be like a dried, shriveled shrub in the Arizona desert? The Word of God says that it must shape your thinking right now as a boy or girl. It must shape your thinking about what marriage is, about what being a man is. You must not let the world do that. God’s Word must shape your thoughts.
So let us start a little bit into this verse today, and, Lord willing, we will conclude it next week.
Let us ask this question first of all: To whom is the apostle speaking? The objects of this Word of God are, very plainly, husbands. Not husbands, now, simply in the natural sense, but Christian husbands – men who are children of God who are also husbands, that is, in the married state. Let us underscore that, first of all.
Peter is addressing, or better, God is speaking to men who possess everything in Christ that has been described in chapters 1 and 2 of I Peter. They have, by the grace of God, according to chapter 1:3, been begotten again to a living hope by the resurrection of Christ. They, too, according to verse 4 of that chapter, have an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away. They, according to verse 5, are kept by the power of God through faith, ready to be revealed at the last day. And they, too, are being purified through the influences of trials and sufferings, through heaviness and manifold trials. Still more, according to verse 8 of that chapter, they love the unseen Christ, whom, having not seen, they love and rejoice with joy unspeakable. All that Peter, or rather, all that God says to husbands is predicated by all that He says about a Christian. Let us remember that.
As men, we live in a how-to age. Conferences are held, books are written on how to be a parent, how to be a husband. Workbooks are handed out and all the rest. Well, perhaps these books have value to a limited degree. But, beloved, let us remember that unless we have the life of a Christian, we cannot live the Christian life. The Christian life is not a set of precepts dropped down on top of you. But they are principles out of which the heart and soul touched by grace live. This Word of God comes to those in whom there is grace. And this grace has produced motives to obey the Word of God and has given power to obey the Word of God. The grace of God gives us the motive to obey what we are being taught here as husbands. The apostle says, “who, having not seen, ye love.” Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” You see, Peter does not seek to incite us as husbands to do this out of any human motivation. But he says, Now remember, you are those who have been drawn into the fellowship of Christ and love the Lord Christ. Now, for His sake, you must do these things.
Still more. Grace has given us the power to obey. Peter is not looking to us as men to rely upon our own resources, to connect somehow with those inner impulses in our hearts. Oh, no! The Word of God says that we have been purified. Our souls have been purified (I Pet. 1:22), through the Spirit unto obedience. That means that as we have been united to Christ by a true and living faith, and as the Spirit works in us, it is the grace of God, through the Spirit and the Word, which gives us the power in Christ to do these things – the power we receive through the Word and the power you receive when you are on your knees in prayer.
So, to whom does this Word of God come? It comes to men who want to be pleasing to God. It comes to men who want God to be glorified and, therefore, want to be the husband according to the Word of God. That is important. Any serious, sober consideration of this Word of God is going to reveal our shortcomings and our sin.
And is it not a wonderful thing that in marriage, as we get to know each other more and more and we see those secret sins and weaknesses, that we can live together and say frankly, to God’s praise and in love, there is no other explanation for him being this kind of husband, this faithful, loving husband, than the fact that God’s grace works it in him?
As we proceed in the text, we need to make a little clarification in the translation. I believe it is necessary to make this clarification in order that the Word of God might properly be understood. I do not do this because I believe that the version of the Bible, the King James Version, is not reliable. But I do this in order to make it very clear to express exactly what the Spirit writes to us. Really what we have here in verse 7 of I Peter 3 is two duties, each one given a reason attached to it. We may read the text this way: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them (that is the wife) according to knowledge, as unto the weaker vessel.” “Likewise, ye husbands, give honor unto the wife, as being heirs together of the grace of life.” There are, then, two duties here. Number 1, dwell with your wife and do that for this reason: that she is the weaker vessel. And number 2, give honor to your wife and do so for this motive: that you are heirs of the grace of life together with her.
Let us look first of all at the first duty. Dwell with your wife according to knowledge as unto the weaker vessel. The word “dwell” is a very beautiful word. It expresses all the uniqueness of a bond of love and intimacy and tenderness. We read that Abraham dwelt with Sarah in tents. The only time this word is used in the New Testament it means “to house with,” or “to live together in one house.” If we examine all that Scripture teaches about that word dwell, we see that it is expressing to us that exclusive and that unique bond of marriage. God dwells with His people. What does that mean? That means that He opens His heart to us, He talks to us, He shares His life with us, He delights in us in the covenant of His mercy and grace, He cherishes us, He cares for, protects, and feeds us. When God dwells with us that is a very close tie. Now when we dwell with our wives, that is the expression of a kindred, loving relationship of fellow pilgrims seeking the kingdom of God.
We need to emphasize here the physical aspect: Dwell with your wife. Are you home together? As a young couple, just married, are you home together? Or are you passing each other as one goes out and the other comes in? We live in a day of dual careers and business. Young couples hardly ever see each other, sometimes coming and going, living separate lives, except maybe on Saturday and Sunday when, at last, they get together. That separation affects the mentality of marriage or the mentality of going into marriage. We hear it said, “Well, neither one of us wants to be disturbed or hindered by the marriage in the pursuit of our careers.”
Now listen to the Word of God. Yes, it is true that a man should labor in the sweat of his face. And that involves many hours. But God also said, “Dwell with your wife. Be at home together regularly, night after night. And if that means that you lower your standard of living and live in a bungalow with two or three bedrooms and there are bunk beds for the kids rather than that large empty home (for that is what is being built all over the place – these great big homes with nobody in them), then that is what it means! Sacrifice the things of this world. The old couch will do.
Do we think that people in Peter’s day were less busy? Do we think that modern society has made this Word of God impractical? Are we living as Peter, as passing, pilgrim strangers, for the heavenly things? Dwell with your wife. That also means, cherish your wife, delight in her. If a husband does not find his delight to be with his wife, he will not be at home, he will be off with the boys. And if he is always off with the boys, there is something wrong. Proverbs 27:8, “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.” Dwell with your wife.
Now you must dwell with her, says the apostle, according to the knowledge that she is the weaker vessel -according to the standard, or corresponding to the knowledge or the understanding, that she is the weaker vessel. Understanding here refers to the mind of the child of God as it is enlightened by the truth, an understanding, then, of your wife, which has been gained from the Word of God. And let us underscore that first. You do not gain knowledge of what a woman is from pornography. You do not learn what a real woman is from TV sitcoms. You do not learn about a woman from the world and from the world’s magazines. Young men, do not! As you love Christ, and as you love your soul, do not! Do not take your conception of what a woman is from this world, but get on your knees and go to God in His Word who is the only one who can tell you. True knowledge is taken from God’s book, the Bible, revelation. No man can be a husband whose eyes are not looking to the Bible. If your eyes are looking elsewhere for the pattern of what a woman is, you are headed for trouble. And that knowledge of the Word of God is not static knowledge. It is a constantly growing knowledge.
We are going to stop at this point. I hope that your spiritual appetite is whetted and you are eager to come back next week as we return to I Peter 3:7 and the calling of the Christian husband to dwell with his wife. May the Lord be with you till then.
Let us pray.
Father, bless Thy Word to our hearts. Send it forth as a mighty power that we may be transformed in our thinking, not after the pattern of this world but after the pattern of Thy sure and wonderful Word. Amen.