Nowhere is the Gospel more needed than in a marriage. Two sinners pledging their lives to one another is not exactly a recipe for satisfaction and blessing, but for the grace of God. Scripture tells us that marriage was intended by God to function as a living breathing illustration of the Gospel (Eph 5:22-33). What this means is that for a marriage to operate as the Lord intends for it to operate, a man and his wife must be breathing in the oxygen of the Gospel on a daily basis and actively pursuing ways to work its truths into their relationships with one another. This is especially true for husbands, given that they are called in Scripture to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). Husbands must take the lead in applying the truths of the Gospel to their marriage. But what does this look like? In this post I’d like to share five traits of Gospel-driven husbands, taken from God’s words addressed to them in 1 Peter 3:7.
That verse reads:
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 ESV)
This verse is God’s call to Christian husbands to be Gospel-driven husbands. To apply the truth of the Gospel of Christ to our roles as husbands. How should the realities of the Gospel shape the way a husband loves his wife? This verse lists five ways.
1.) He shares his life with her. (“husbands, live with your wives…”)
The first part of the command here to husbands is that they “live with” their wives, which refers to all aspects of the married relationship – from living in the same home to sharing the same bed in a sexual union. The idea here being that a husband is called to share the whole of his life with his wife. Brothers, spend time with your wives. Make yourself emotionally available to her. Reserve your sexual energies for her. Do life with her.
In the way that Jesus does with us, a Gospel-driven husband seeks to make it clear to his wife that his life is here; that he is there for her, ready to serve her, wanting to be her friend, eager to pray for her and seek God’s grace for her and with her.
This is because marriage is not about self-fulfillment, but is about self-giving and self-offering. It’s not about getting from another person what you desire; it’s about giving of yourself to another person as God commands and doing so for his glory. Marriages thrive and reflect God’s original intent when two people give of themselves selflessly to the other.
And husbands are called to lead the way in this. To set the example in this. To share the whole of their lives with their wives. To lay down their lives for the glory of God and the good of their neighbors, with neighbor #1 always and in every case being their wives.
2.) He seeks to know her well. (“live with your wives in an understanding way…”)
Literally the text reads, “live with your wives according to knowledge.” That’s the knowledge of your wife. You are to live with your wife in a way that is heavily seasoned with the personal knowledge of who she is, how she works, what she is dealing with, what she’s struggling with, and what she needs from you.
It has been said that women are a mystery. That may be true. It could also be that we men are a lazy when it comes to understanding them. In some sense, this is okay, except as it relates to one specific relationship; your relationship with your wife. Daniel Doriani said it well: “Husbands are scientists with a narrow field of inquiry.” So, some of the pressure is off, guys. We don’t need to understand women categorically. But if we are married (or if we ever intend to get married) we are called to understand our wives.
Now, there is a phrase that counselors use that might also help us here. The phrase “data gathering.” The idea (in counseling) is that you can’t give good, biblical, wise counsel without understanding what exactly and who exactly you are dealing with. It’s an idea rooted in Scripture, particularly the Proverbs (see Prov 18:2, 13, 15). To live and love people wisely, you must first seek “understanding.” This is true in life all around, but it applies especially in marriage, especially in our role as husbands. We simply cannot know what our wives need from us if we aren’t aware of what is going on in their lives or how they’re processing things.
And so, we have to apply ourselves to learning them. We have to be students of our wives. We have to learn them. To talk with them. To really listen to them. To invite them to share with us their joys and their struggles. To make it clear to them that we are not too busy or preoccupied to hear them out. And just in case we missed it; this takes work.
Because we’re called to live with our wives “according to knowledge,” it means that my responsibility as a husband extends far beyond the things I do outside of the home, which means that there is no place for an ongoing, characteristic pattern of passivity at home. Ongoing passivity at home – specifically here in marriage – is a sin.
The majority of commentators take this as a reference to physical strength and see Peter as noting that men are typically physically stronger and perhaps more intimidating than women. That certainly is a possible interpretation and an important consideration for men in any case. Yet, I wonder if the reference to a woman’s “weakness” is a bit broader than that. A simple translation of the text would say “as with a delicate object.” A “vessel” in the NT is often a reference to a “dish” or a “pot” (clay pot) or a household object of some kind. The word before that simply means weak, or breakable, or delicate. So, perhaps a modern rendition would be something like “fine china.”
Now, this would certainly address the physical differences between men and women, and confront men who would use their physical strength in any way to manipulate or control their wives. There is absolutely no place for that in marriage; let alone in a Christian marriage. Physical control, manipulation, abuse is the farthest thing from the example of Christ in a marriage.
And I should say, that if there are any readers of this post who use your physical superiority over your wife in any way; if you push her around, threaten her, abuse her, or manipulate her through physical force; brother, you need to straight up repent. You’re in sin. And by repent, I don’t just mean tell your wife that you’re “sorry.” I mean, you need to expose yourself. You need to make it known. Do not simply confess it to your wife (though you certainly need to do that), but confess it to men in your church; confess it to your pastors; and bring that sin out into the light. You need help. You need counseling. You need to be held accountable. You need to seriously repent. And truly, your soul is in eternal danger if you don’t.
But, Peter’s words also extend beyond the physical. Although it’s certainly true that a proper application of this verse would be to avoid abusing your wife; that’s just the beginning. Not abusing your wife is like the first step of year old baby; it’s the absolute least you could do.
Peter’s calling us to much more than that here. Treat your wives with great care all around, as you would with a delicate object. Be careful about how you treat her. Protect her. Be kind to her. Be considerate of her. Remember, Jesus could have destroyed you, but didn’t and won’t. Instead, he loves you faithfully, and bears with you in all your weaknesses. Let’s do the same with our wives.
4.) He honors her as his equal. (“showing honor to the woman…since they are heirs with you of the grace of life…”)
“Honor” is a very strong word. To “show honor” to your wife, is to treat her as one who is precious, both to God and to you. You make it clear to her and to others that she is valuable. You show appreciation for her. You tell her you love her. You “show” her that she is treasured.
Peter says that the Christian husband should honor his wife as a fellow heir of eternal life! As if she is a true equal and as if the ground upon which the two of them stand before God is level ground, because it is! A Gospel-driven husband demonstrates to his wife that he regards her as his equal in the most fundamental level. He, like her, is a creature made in the image of God. He, like her, is a sinner in need of grace.
You are to honor your wife as your spiritual equal, husband. Though you have different roles; though you are called to different responsibilities in the marriage; though you are called to lead and she (by and large) to submit to your leadership; she is your equal before God. And you’re called to treat her as such.
What that means is that our love for our wives must not be rooted in their loveliness or in the things that make us compatible, but in the reality of the Gospel – that just as God gave up his own Son for us, so did he give up his own Son for my bride. She is a “fellow heir of the grace of life.” How then could I treat her as something less than one who is dearly loved by God?
Prayer for your wife is the assumption of this verse. It is assumed that we will be praying for our wives – praying for God’s blessing upon them; upon our family. But here the scenario envisioned is that of a man who refuses to love his wife; who is not living with his wife in an understanding way (not just failing here and there, but utterly so); who is not treating her with great care; who is not honoring her as his equal; but who then goes to God in prayer expected blessing to come upon him and his family.
Peter says that God will not hear the prayers of the man who is not seeking to love his wife in these ways. God will purposefully ignore the prayers of a man who is not loving his wife.
The background is probably 1 Peter 3:12 and the background to that verse is Psalm 34. Peter lumps men who do not love their wives in the way commanded here into the same group classified in Psalm 34 as “those who do evil” (Psa 34:16) and “the wicked” (Psa 34:21). As God treats them, so he deals with men who refuse to follow the example that Jesus set for them in the way they treat their wives. To put it simply: The Lord will not hear the prayers of the man who believes that prayer is a more godly exercise than loving and caring for his wife.
Why is that? It is because the prayers of a man who refuses to love his wife are not prayers of genuine faith. They’re the fruit of hypocrisy and lifeless religion. And God refuses to bend his ear to hypocrites. He won’t play those games.
Rather, his ears are open to the righteous (1 Pet 3:12; Psalm 34:15); those who live according to his commands; those who seek to honor him; those who serve him; those who seek to live a genuinely godly life on the basis of his Word.
And my married brothers, there is no pursuit more godly or God-honoring than the pursuit to be a good, faithful, loving, gracious husband to your wife. There is no better way to display the greatness of the Gospel, the grace of God, and the love of Christ for his people, than to grow in loving your wife in these ways.