God has graciously provided a massive incentive for the Christian husband to learn to love and honor his wife. Peter makes this unmistakably clear:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Pet 3:7).
A husband’s disobedience to God’s command to love and honor his wife results in an interruption of God’s prayer-answering power. This is a sober reminder.
A Weighty Principle
The biblical text cited above indicates that God elects to not listen to, or at least answer, the prayers of the harsh husband. This brings to our attention an oft-neglected, but weighty principle:
A person’s relationship with God is affected by his or her relationships with others.
As believers we are usually aware of the opposite truth—our relationship with God affects our relationships with people. However, we often fail to see how the state of our horizontal relationships affects our vertical relationship. Jesus reveals this in Matthew 5:23-24:
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
In the arena of marriage, the effectiveness of a husband’s prayers to God is greatly determined by the way he cares for his wife. “You husbands in the same way” links this exhortation to the previous ones addressed to citizens (2:13–17), servants (2:18), and wives; each called to a life of submission motivated by the desire to make the gospel visible as each imitates the example of Jesus (2:19–25). The teaching directed at husbands is a sober call to submit to God by being a considerate leader.
However, this is not a directive to the godly husband to relate to his wife in a manner that merely keeps “peace at any price.” To do so relinquishes his God-given responsibility for which he will one day give an account to God. Being a biblical husband is serious business. A faithful husband must lovingly lead his wife, which will require him to make decisions that do not make her happy and perhaps may even aggravate her at times. There is no escaping the Christian husband’s obligation to shepherd his wife toward holiness and obedience (Eph. 5:26). Therefore, in reality, the passive husband does not really love his wife as Christ loves the church. Instead, he loves himself, and fears his wife, more than he loves and fears God.
The challenge facing every husband who desires to be godly is to love his wife by both leading her confidently and loving her gently. Why? Not only because God has called us to this Jesus-like leadership, but also so that the spiritual influence we bring about through prayer may not be hindered. This challenging task is one which requires the empowering grace of God since every godly husband-in-the-making still wrestles daily with his own depravity. However, as we submit to the Lord—by walking in the Spirit, not the flesh—we will grow in this important role.
Husbands, We Must Understand Our Wives
Fellow husbands, to live with our wives “in an understanding way” means to dwell with them according to knowledge and consideration. The word translated “understanding” is gnosis, which can refer to Christian insight as well as tact. This is a clarion call to understand our wives. To live with them in ignorance is disobedience to God. The basis for this command is that the wife is “someone weaker,” which in some translations is rendered “weaker vessel.”
The word “vessel” is the translation of a word referring to a vessel used in the services of the temple (Mark 11:16), also to household utensils. The English word comes from a Latin word vassellum, the diminutive form of vas, a vase, the Latin words referring to a receptacle which covers and contains. Thus, the word comes to refer to an instrument whereby something is accomplished. The husband is to dwell with his wife, remembering that she is an instrument of God as well as the husband, a child of God to be used by Him to His glory. The husband must always keep in mind that she is the weaker instrument of the two, not morally or intellectually, but physically. Therefore, this attitude toward the wife on the part of the husband includes loving consideration of the wife in view of the fact that she is not physically as strong as he is (Wuest’s Word Studies).
God does not listen to husbands who “manhandle” their wives. To do so is to disobey God, misrepresent Jesus Christ, and grieve the Holy Spirit, all of which lead to the problem of unanswered prayer.
Husbands, We Must Honor Our Wives
Fellow husbands, we must also hold our wives in high esteem. In the culture of Peter’s day, women were considered inferior to men. For that reason, Peter’s command was a bold challenge to the unbiblical mindset of his day. Instead of treating his wife as a second-class citizen, the husband is here commanded to grant her “honor” (earlier translated “precious” in 1:19). To honor means to hold in high regard due to recognition of another person’s worth. In our day, it seems, some husbands may take better care of their automobiles and hunting rifles than they do their wives. It ought not to be this way!
A believing wife should be treated “as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Christian wives are equal in value and status before God. Christ died for them just as He died for us (Gal. 3:28). This does not eliminate our headship, or the distinct God-given role of the wife as submissive helper, but highlights how the gospel removes all superficial distinctions with regard to inheriting salvation. Each must come to God by faith in Christ, regardless of birth, gender, or social status. As a result, we must never treat our wife as if she is spiritually inferior to us, for she is not. She is a joint-heir with Christ!
If we are guilty of being inconsiderate, harsh, or dishonoring toward our wives, then we must repent of our disobedience to God, confess our sin to Him and to our wife, and learn to walk in obedience. God’s ears will again be opened to our prayers.
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Husbands, will you commit along with me to this ongoing process of becoming this kind of a husband? Will we see our prayers answered?