1 Peter 3:7. 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. (ESV)
Fathers are just as important to their children as mothers, even when they do not conform to sensitive New Man standards. Motherlessness is an incalculable sorrow in a child’s life. But the absence of a living father is the single greatest predictor for a child’s social and economic failure in adult life... Conversely, responsible fatherhood is the single greatest predictor for a child’s success. Girls without fathers are more likely to suffer low self-esteem, become pregnant out of marriage or embrace promiscuity, while boys without fathers are at risk for a multiplicity of poor outcomes, notably school dropout, gang membership and imprisonment.
When Peter wrote to the saints of Asia minor, he knew how important it was for the community of God to function in such a way that encouraged godliness. He begins in 1 Peter 3:7 to state something: “likewise/In the same way” which refers again to the duty of submission (2:13, 18; 3:1). Peter began the epistle talking about submission to Christ then we saw the application in three particular situations: 1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, (ESV), then applying to the modern context of the workplace: 1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. (ESV), and finally in 1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, (ESV). Now he is going to say how The Father as Husband will be with them in ways that are: Physical—“live/dwell with them.”, Intellectual—“in an understanding way/according to knowledge.”, Emotional—“showing/giving honor to the woman/wife” and Spiritual—“that your prayers be not hindered.” (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 411). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
For those married or planning on marriage, no doubt in your wedding you exchanged vows with your spouse. Marriage vows traditionally include the notions of affection ("love, comfort, keep"), faithfulness ("forsaking all others"), unconditionality ("for richer or for poorer", "in sickness and in health"), and permanence ("as long as we both shall live", "until death do us part"). As grand as these are, the standards that God indicates goes well beyond. As difficult as the calling has been for wives in submission, the demand for Husbands goes far and above.
For The Father as Husband who submits to serve his wife. Husbands obey that duty by adhering to three basic responsibilities in caring for their wives’ needs: 1) Consideration (1 Peter 3:7a), 2) Companionship (1 Peter 3:7b),and 3) Chivalry (1 Peter 3:7c).
The Father as Husband who submits to serve his wife in caring for her needs, does so through:
1) Consideration (1 Peter 3:7a)
1 Peter 3:7a 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). (ESV)
Illustration: Reverse Reasoning
Often when couples meet for premarital counselling, they are often entranced in a rosy fog of optimism. Blinded to the shortcomings, each sees only the other’s good points. But as the excitement of the new marriage wears off, they often drift to the opposite extreme and view these same traits as faults. Someone has called this “reverse reasoning,” giving the following examples: “She married him because he was ‘strong and masculine’ she divorced him because he was a very ‘dominating male.’ He married her because she was so ‘fragile and petite’ He divorced her because she was so ‘weak and helpless.’ She chose him because ‘he knew how to provide a good living’ She left him because ‘all he thought about was the business.’ He married her because she was ‘steady and sensible’ He divorced her because she was ‘boring and dull.’ (- H.G.B.Our Daily Bread, June 3)
• When the responsibilities of fatherhood are added to the obligations, unless a godly perspective and commitment drives the service of the father, the pressures and frustrations can easily overwhelm the task.
In 1 Peter 3:7 the husband is directed to “live with your wives”. Live (sunoikountes) which 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: Proverbs 5:18-19  Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (ESV). As the closest human relationship, the relationship to one’s spouse must be most carefully cherished if one wishes a close relationship with God (Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (p. 123). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
Please turn to Ephesians 5
In 1 Peter 3:7a, 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. Husbands, then, should live together with wives informed by the knowledge of God’s will, of what he demands them to do. (Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 160). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)
Understanding our spouses often takes a lifetime of searching. Well before we can figure out the intricacies of our spouse, we must look to the standard, as men, of care: What is the degree to which we are to love our wives?
Ephesians 5:25-28  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (ESV)
• Here we see how husbands are to love their wives in a self-sacrificial manner, following the example of Christ, who “gave himself up for” the church in loving self-sacrifice. Clearly the biblical picture of a husband laying down his life for his wife is directly opposed to any kind of male tyranny or oppression. The husband is bound by love to ensure that his wife finds their marriage a source of rich fulfillment and joyful service to the Lord. Notably, Paul devotes three times more space to the husband’s duty (nine verses) than to the wife’s (three verses). (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2272). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)
Illustration: Needs Are Different
Perhaps our understanding for marriage is to give our spouse what we feel is best. Dr. Willard Harley, a Massachusetts psychologist, surveyed the perceived basic needs of men and women in marriage and found that the perceived needs are completely different. According to Dr. Harley’s survey, The top five basic needs of the female in marriage are: 1. Affection, 2. Communication, 3. Openness/Honesty, 4. Financial Support, and 5. Family Commitment. The male’s top five basic needs are: 1. Sexual Fulfillment, 2. Recreational Companionship, 3. An Attractive Wife, 4. Domestic Support, 5. Admiration.Looking at both lists, it becomes obvious that if we give our spouses in relation to our perceived needs, hoping to receive the same in return, we will miss the mark every time. Therefore, instead of giving in relation to what we need, we must strive to give what our spouses need. (From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings, by Ed Young. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publ., 1994), pp. 120-121.
The Father as Husband who submits to serve his wife in caring for her needs, does so through:
2) Chivalry (1 Peter 3:7b)
1 Peter 3:7b (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). (ESV)
A believing husband and father should be one who is showing honour to the woman. This should be what is looked for in a prospective mate and what parents should train boys to do: honour/respect women. “Showing/treating” has a special significance. Classical Greek writers always used it in reference to what is due from one person to another. The giving of honor/respect to your wife is not simply a “nice guy” kind of thing to do. It is the husband’s recognition of her because it is her due. This emphasis is reiterated in the word “Honor/respect is sometimes translated as “price” or “precious.” It indicates value and esteem. It suggests the giving of honor/respect because a wife is precious to her husband (Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, p. 50). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
• How would treating a woman as precious with honor/respect look? Reflecting on the creation of woman: “Woman was created from the rib of a man. She was not made from his head to top him, Nor out of his feet to be trampled upon. But out of his side to be equal to him, Under his arm to be protected, And near his heart to be loved”. (Cedar, P. A., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1984). James / 1 & 2 Peter / Jude (Vol. 34, p. 157). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
Honour is expected in being chivalrous to his wife, realizing she is as some translations render: “someone weaker, since she is a woman”. Just as submission does not imply inherent inferiority for the ones who submit, 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). I have repeatedly mentioned this verse over the past weeks, but it must be front and center in understanding God’s regard to women in their worth before Him. Paul made it clear to the Galatians of the equal spiritual standing of all believers in Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (ESV) Paul clearly is not advocating the elimination of all distinctions nor the acceptability of same-sex marriage or homosexual relations (see Rom. 1:26–27). Rather, he teaches that old divisions and wrongful attitudes of superiority and inferiority are abolished, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. He does not take away the distinction between men and women but says they are “united,” joined together in “one” body, the church. The verse teaches unity within diversity but not sameness. (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2251). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)
Please turn to Colossians 3
In 1 Peter 3:7, when Paul describes the women as the “weaker vessel”, the word “vessel” refers to the physical body. Therefore, 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. Therefore, Peter’s exhortation indirectly addresses the issue of physical abuse. However, the immediate context makes it clear that the female is also weaker in the sense of social entitlement and empowerment. Peter teaches that men whose authority runs roughshod over their women, even with society’s full approval, will not be heard by God (Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (p. 209). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.).
Paul outlined God’s household expectations with the great responsibility for fathers in:
Colossians 3:18–25 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (ESV).
• As Paul wrote that, there was a tendency in the Roman world for men to rage bitterly against their wives and mistreat them. Because of their greater strength and louder voices, men in their sinful natures are prone to use harsh words, threats, unkindness, and even physical violence to intimidate their wives. As we have already seen in Ephesians 5, there is no room for even a hint of this in a Christian home; instead, husbands and fathers are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2299). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)
Illustration: The Fish Tank
Richard L. Dunagin tells a story that at their school carnival, our kids won four free goldfish (lucky us!), so out I went Saturday morning to find an aquarium. The first few I priced ranged from $40 to $70. Then I spotted it—right in the aisle: a discarded 10-gallon display tank, complete with gravel and filter—for a mere five bucks. Sold! Of course, it was nasty dirty, but the savings made the two hours of clean-up a breeze. Those four new fish looked great in their new home, at least for the first day. But by Sunday one had died. Too bad, but three remained. Monday morning revealed a second casualty, and by Monday night a third goldfish had gone belly up. We called in an expert, a member of our church who has a 30-gallon tank. It didn’t take him long to discover the problem: I had washed the tank with soap, an absolute no-no. My uninformed efforts had destroyed the very lives I was trying to protect. Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others, in our families we unfortunately use “killer soaps”—condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper. We think we’re doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear. (Richard L. Dunagin in Galaxie Software: 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press, 2002)
Finally, the Father as Husband who submits to serve his wife in caring for her needs, does so through:
3) Companionship (1 Peter 3:7a)
1 Peter 3:7c (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. (ESV)
The husband is to be a companion for his wife since they are heirs with you of 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 directly addresses the general Greco-Roman attitude of the inferiority of women by pointing out that the female also is a coheir of grace and therefore not excluded from the same privileges of grace enjoyed by the male. Being described as “heirs with you” (hos kai) may be read “as even a coheir.” This would then indicate that the husband is to treat his wife as if she were a sister in Christ. The unbelieving wife is to be accorded the same respect as a fellow Christian (since society would assume she shared her husband’s religion) with the hope of winning her to authentic faith. The believing wife, on the other hand, deserves to be treated as a fellow believer despite her gender. If she is a Christian, her status as a coheir levels the spiritual ground between the believing husband and believing wife, opening the door wider for social transformation. (Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (p. 207). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.).
Peter labels marriage the grace of life because grace (charis) means “unmerited, undeserved favour” (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 humanity regardless of thier 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. The love of the Christian partner will include something of the love of God himself for those who have not yet responded to his grace. The Christian partner who feels this love for an unconverted spouse is obligated to live in such a way as to commend the Christian faith to him or her (Marshall, I. H. (1991). 1 Peter (1 Pe 3:7). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
Please turn to Psalm 66
The final reason why such self-sacrificial service is necessary on behalf of the husband and father is so his “prayers may/will not be hindered” This is the reward God promises to the loving, caring husband (cf. Ps. 66:18; Isa. 59:2; John 9:31; James 4:3). Scripture warns repeatedly about this requirement. Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Finally, James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV). A husband who treats his wife in the wrong manner will himself be unfit and unable to pray, not to mention that he will likely have little inclination to pray. To put it another way, a husband’s spiritual health depends, in significant measure, on the way he treats his wife (Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, p. 51). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
The Psalmist linked service to God, holy conduct with our prayer lives:
Psalm 66:16–20. 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! (ESV).
• The OT insists that each member of the people must own the covenant for themselves; thus each one would have some report of what God has done for their soul (and not just for the people as a whole)…The one requirement is that the worshiper has not cherished (lit., “looked forward to,” “aimed for”) iniquity in their heart (v. 18). The term “iniquity” here (Hb. ’awen) refers to what is vile and abhorrent to God… Therefore, it would be a misinterpretation to read this as implying that absolute sinlessness is a condition for answered prayer; rather, it reminds the faithful to pray for God’s help in order to give him thanks and to serve him better (cf. James 4:3). In the context of marriage, 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). (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)
Illustration: A Better Plan
When in college Robert J , Morgan came across a poem written by a teenage girl looking for a husband. It was written as a prayer, and this is what she said: “Dear God, I pray all unafraid / As girls are wont to be I do not want a handsome man / But make him, Lord, like Thee. I do not need one big and strong / nor yet so very tall, Nor need he be some genius / or wealthy, Lord, at all; But let his head be high, dear God, / and let his eye be clear, His shoulders straight, whate’er his fate / whate’er his earthly sphere. And let his face have character, / a ruggedness of soul, And let his whole life show, dear God, / a singleness of goal. And when he comes / as he will come With quiet eyes aglow / I’ll know, dear Lord, That he’s the man / I prayed for long ago”. That girl’s name was Ruth Bell, and she later met and married—Billy Graham. Her life had a profound effect on one who so faithfully supported Billy Graham. (Morgan, Robert J.: Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, S. 540)
(Format note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (p. 181). Chicago: Moody Publishers.)