Godly Husbands Who Understand

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

1 Peter 3:7 | January 21 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
January 21
Godly Husbands Who Understand | 1 Peter 3:7
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Good of you to brave the rough winter weather this morning and make it here. That was fun, to get some snow. I know you’re blaming me for bringing it here, but the kids had fun to play in it, so thanks for making us feel at home, and we’re not complaining about 65 today. Some of you may be complaining internally right now, thinking “okay, that was really a wonderful first part of the service, but does this mean that my husband’s going to get just a little bitty sermon? ‘Cause I didn’t drag him here to get some meditation. I wanted the full, both barrels this morning.” So we’re going to see what we can do. I know that our time is already short, but perhaps the husbands’ attention spans are as well, so we will turn to 1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 7.

Yes, I know, the wives last week had six verses, the husbands have one. Not because men have less to learn about marriage, but because Peter’s primary concern in this whole section of his epistle is to address those who perhaps were without power, maybe even facing oppression. In fact, it’s striking that Peter says nothing here directed towards governing authorities, nothing in this section towards masters. Of these three categories, government, vocation, and marriage, it’s only with marriage that Peter stops to address those who are in what we think of as the position of authority. And so far from thinking that well, he’s only got one verse for the husbands, it’s unique that in this section he would say something, and what he has to say is more than enough for us to consider this morning.

Remember, we are doing this short, three-week series, last week focusing on wives, this week on husbands, and next week on singles.

1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 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.”

We see from this passage two things Christians ought to do, and then two reasons they ought to do them. So two obligations, and then two motivations.

So first, the first “ought,” husbands ought to live with their wives in an understanding way. You see that at the beginning of the verse. The Greek phrase is kata gnosis, according to knowledge. So husbands are to live with their wives according to knowledge. Now it’s hard to tell—does this man according to knowledge of God, or is it knowledge of their wives? Well, I think that it may be intentionally ambiguous and meant to cover both. Husbands ought to live with their wives kata gnosis, according to knowledge. So that means on the one hand knowledge of God. Husbands ought to understand God’s ways, His will, His purposes. Now certainly women also want to be well-versed in the Bible, growing in their understanding and discipleship, and yet in the home husbands in particular are given the responsibility to lead. Elsewhere, Paul will say that the husband is the head of the wife, he is the one, like Christ of the church, who is supposed to wash her clean with the Word. So men, how can you exercise this office of leadership in the home if you do not live with your wives according to knowledge, knowledge about God and the Bible?

Now, listen, men. You’re not stupid. You, you do a lot of things, and we have men in this church experts in all sorts of areas. We have a lot of men. You, you can name starting lineups in multiple sports. You know batting averages, you know statistics, you know more about fantasy football than real life. Okay? We have husbands here who know that. We have men here who know everything about fishing, hunting, you get up an insane hours of the day when it’s not even day and you go hide out in the cold so that you can kill things [laughter], okay? I can respect that. We have people here, men, you are experts in the latest music or movies or television. And we have men who are into the arts. We have men who know how to fix things and build things. You know what to do with drywall and band saws and table saws and circular saws… There are so many saws [laughter].

You know, you’re not like your pastor, you know how to do useful things with your hands. I remember my first church. All these, all these guys just grew up around the farm and they just knew how to do everything and they would, they would, you know, we’d go and they’d be doing and they’d give me something like “hey, Pastor, why don’t you, um, maybe you could change some light bulbs.” About the extent of it.

So you know, you are experts. You know how all that stuff works. You’re not like me when you go into Lowe’s or Home Depot and you say “please don’t ask me what I’m looking for, ’cause I have no idea. Looking for a little piece like this, and it likes sticks somewhere or does something. Can you find that?” But you’re and expert in it.

We have computer guys. You know all about pop servers and java script and C++, plus plus plus, or whatever those things mean. We have finance guys. You know about the market and mutual funds and day trading and insurance policy and housing bubbles. And we have car guys who know what carburetors are and alternator and know where to put the blinker fluid [laughter], and all of that stuff. That’s what I look for.

You’re experts. You are smart people. We got book guys who are always reading the latest thing and you know history and politics and culture. We got all sorts of people here. You know your stuff. Where are the Bible guys? I hope we have some of them, too.

If we had to take a Bible test, a Bible and theology test right now, and we were going to divide up, men and women, who’s putting money on the women? All of us. Now I know, it’s harder. We have some built-in limitations. Many men are working and sometimes traveling, sometimes traveling long distance to and from, you don’t have the opportunities, it’s not as easy to go to a Bible study at 10:00 in the morning or have one late at night. So there’s limitations.

Where are the men who will live with their wives, and we’re talking to single men, too, who will lead the way according to knowledge? Knowledge of God, and His Word. Almost always, in any college group, men and women, who’s up usually leading the way, diving into their Bibles, hungry to read the Word, reading the good stuff… Usually the women. In most churches, who is setting the pace with Bible studies and in the scriptures and praying and studying… It’s usually the women. That’s not to say to any of the women, “stop doing that,” it’s to say to the men that we have work to do.

Husbands, you don’t have to know more than your wives about the Bible. That’s not what this says. You don’t have to know more about God than your wives. Perhaps your wife had years and years of a head start and you’re trying to catch up. So it’s not about who has more of an IQ, it’s not about who can do better on a standardized test, but it is about your role, husbands, as leaders in the home. You must love and live with your wife according to knowledge.

Now this is anecdotal, but I would say in my 15+ years of ministry, while I’ve had some wives who say “Pastor, my husband is overbearing and my husband is nasty,” yeah, sometimes you hear that, but fare more often it’s been “Pastor, what do I do to get my husband to lead? I can’t get my husband to pray with me. I can’t get him to pray with the kids. I can’t get him just once or twice a week after dinner to say let’s pray, let’s read something.” No, it feels awkward for men, it feels too in touch with your emotions, or something, or some… You know, I have a good friend, he’s actually a pastor, he said “I don’t know why we always talk about emotions. I only got one.” And I didn’t dare ask what that was [laughter] and I won’t ask you, but some of us, it’s hard to do that. We feel awkward. We will be brave men in so many other areas, and then when it comes to just the simple act of “hey, before we get up from the table, I just wanted to read a chapter and pray.” Men, are you living with your wives according to knowledge, knowledge of God? Are you growing in knowledge of God and of His Word?

And then there other part of, I think it’s both, not only knowledge of God but knowledge of your wife. So this doesn’t come automatically. There is an interesting word here, woman, gynaikeios. Familiar root to it, gynaikes, which is the word for women, but here it’s a little different word, gynaikeios, which is the only time used in the New Testament. It’s a different word than woman or wife, though it’s translated here as woman, and that’s fair, but it really means “feminine one.” Gynaikeios. You need to learn to live with someone who is not like you, men. A feminine one. A wife is told to submit and respect her husband. She will follow his lead, defer at times, but the husband is told to understand his wife. So men, far from thinking, “well, all right, wooo, I just gotta understand and my wife has to submit, that’s really hard.”

You know, if you thing about it, which is harder? The woman can submit whether she can make sense of her husband or not. But the man cannot lead well if he does not bother to understand who he is leading and how she is best led. So the burden is on the husband to figure out his wife more than it is on the wife to figure out her husband. Men, you are given, I am given, the unique command to live with our wives, with our feminine ones, in an understanding way. So part of that is understanding that men and women are different.

It often means that the sort of way we challenge each other as men, correct one another as men, is not often the right way to do things with women. You get a group of men together and how do they communicate love? They communicate love by mocking each other. They communicate love by making fun of each other, they communicate love by lots of joking and jesting and pranking. Husbands, not going to work well. You need to understand that men and women are different.

The desire that many women, I know these are some generalizations, but many women have at the end of the day, as the husband is coming home and the wife asks as you walk in the door, “honey, how was your day?” Now, there’s a lot of right answers. Let me give you the wrong answer. The wrong answer is “fine.” Okay, “fine” needs to be followed up with several other sentences. My wife will give me the rundown of the day, when the kids took the naps, and who did what, and where they went, and that we’re out of diapers, and when she asks me “what did you do during the day?” she wants to hear more than it was “fine.” Men and women are different.

I read a book about 10 years ago, it would probably be hugely controversial now but it was called Taking Sex Differences Seriously. It wasn’t a Christian book; it was a physiological, biological, sociological book. Did you know that women have more neurons connecting the left and the right hemispheres of their brain then men do? Did you know that a 1-day-old female infant will respond more strongly to the sound of human distress than a 1-day-old male infant? So this isn’t just nurture or environment or this is how we socialize women, these are tests that show a 1-day-old infant. A 1-week baby girl can distinguish an infant crying from other noises where a 1-week-old boy cannot. It’s a biological fact. Higher levels, generally, of testosterone in men make men more assertive generally, competitive sometimes to a fault, sometimes eager to dominate, and if we do not understand that women are different than men, though everything in our cultures mitigates against that fundamental understanding, everything mitigates against it, everything in our culture says there is no difference. You can be one or the other, it’s all… The Bible says there is male, and there is female. They’re not the same.

Men, you must not only understand something about women. That’s relatively unimportant compared to actually understanding your wife. Do you know what she likes? Do you know who she is? Do you understand her frustrations? Do you understand why after coming home and being gone all day that when you’re home with your wife and she is talking to you and you’re doing this on your phone that that doesn’t count as really being home? Do you understand that a wife has different expectations?

One story that always stands out when we were expecting our firstborn, and my wife was painting the nursery, I came home and she asked me to come up and I don’t remember the whole story, she was, well, “what do you think of these stripes” she was making and I said “good.” “What do you think of the color?” “It’s blue, umm.” “What else?” “Nothing. I got nothing. That’s the end of my opinions about the colors of this room.” But she had read somewhere on the paint something about, you know, take precautions if you’re pregnant or nursing or fumes from paint, and so my wife was, you know, very nearing the end of her pregnancy and was very concerned about this. And I looked at it and I said something very comforting, like “it’ll be fine.” Which wasn’t the right response. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, and this, you know as a husband of a couple years, I have an 8-month-pregnant wife who’s breaking down in tears. Ever have those moments, men? You think I have no idea what’s going on? [laughter] What just happened?

Well, in typical fashion, she, she needed me not to come in and just say “that’s fine” and “let me look this up, I’m sure the incident rate is very low,” but to come and give her a hug and say “oh, are you scared? What are you worried about? I love you.” These are things that don’t naturally come easily to most men.

We need to understand our wives. We need to understand their faults, not to pounce on them, but to be patient with them. Maybe you think your wife is too type A or maybe she’s too laid back, or you think she’s too controlling, or too scatterbrained, or whatever extreme you think she is on. The Bible says live with her in an understanding way. It doesn’t say husband, you’re the head of the household therefore your mission in life is to fix all those things about your wife that you don’t like. Instead, it says deal patiently, gently, tenderly with your wife, whether you think she deserves it or not.

And let me add one other thing. The husband, the husband is to lead the way in forgiveness. You get into fights sometimes. It even happens to pastors. And you have, maybe when you get mad at each other you get really hot or maybe you get really icy cold and there’s just a freeze that sets in, and you know that she’s mad at you and you know that you’re kind of mad at her. Husbands, you ought to be, I should be, the first person in that situation to begin to thaw the ice. To lead in an understanding way with our wife and say “can we talk about that?”

I like what I heard John Piper say one time that the husband is the one who is so often saying the word “let’s”; let’s talk about that, let’s go on a date, let’s find a place for dinner, let’s get a sitter, let’s pray, let’s read a book, let’s go to church, let’s sign up for this, let’s go on vacation. The husband is leading the way so often by saying the word “let’s,” and in particular to say “let’s talk about this, that we might seek some understanding.” You ever, usually find that if, if you’re willing to just put the first bit of ice to melt, that your wife will come an inch to you, and then you can walk a foot toward her, and then she will come another foot toward you. Husbands, you’re the head of the house. You take that first step. Husbands ought to live with their wives in an understanding way.

Here’s the second thing husbands ought to do. Husbands ought to show honor to the woman as a weaker vessel. Okay, so what does this mean? A weaker vessel? It sticks out here and maybe we don’t like it. What does it mean? Well, it doesn’t mean women are intellectually weaker or spiritually weaker or in their personhood somehow lesser. Scripture says none of these things. I don’t think it even means that women are physically weaker, though that is certainly generally the case biologically and there would be reason for the husband to deal gently with his wife who may be in a position of physical weakness relative to him, but I don’t think that’s mainly what’s in mind.

Think of the context. The context her is wives submitting to their husbands, and then verse, “wives, don’t fear anything that is frightening,” like a harsh husband, that’s frightening. Peter’s concern therefore, coming on the heels of verse 6, is that husbands not take advantage of this authority. So when he says “pay attention to your wife, live with them, honor them as weaker vessels,” it is a command to the husband, remember, not to the wife. It does not say “wives, remember you’re weaker vessels, know your place.” That’s not what it’s about. The point, rather, is to honor the woman as the weaker vessel. As one who in God’s economy has the relative position of weakness, the one who submits, the one who like Sarah calls Abraham “lord.” That is a position of relative weakness.

And so the command to the husband is you do not exploit that, you do not oppress that, you honor the one who is in that position. You know, there is only one other time when this comparative form of weaker, that word, that adjective, is used in the New Testament. Here it is in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12: “The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker, so that’s the only other time that this word is used, are indispensable and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable, we bestow the greater honor. So there Paul’s analogy is you think the parts of the body that are weaker are weak, fine, but then they deserve greater honor, greater respect. It’s the same argument that he’s making here.

Husbands, your wife is likely not as strong as you, physically, and so you never, ever, ever threaten, strike. Husbands, your wife may be perhaps more sensitive, and so you take extra to be considerate. Husbands, if you come home from work and your wife is frazzled, frustrated, worn out by kids or perhaps her own work, you don’t get frustrated or impatient with her, you show her extra kindness, sympathy, and support.

What we see here is the wife’s submission is never an excuse for the husband to be harsh, abusive, or tyrannical. And I can tell you if there are men behaving that way toward their wives, the pastors and the elders will deal with it. Deal with it firmly and strongly, because it is unacceptable. The wife’s position of weakness is all the more reason for the husband to treat her like a queen, to honor her as a weaker vessel. That’s what it means, to bestow great honor.

Now perhaps there was something that, that sometimes felt repressive in days gone by with maybe the sort of way that women were honored and chivalry, perhaps sometimes it felt condescending, but look, we’ve lost something good and something biblical, that’s to say women, and wives in particular of their husbands, are meant to be protected, they’re meant to be respected, they’re meant to be honored.

I will say, growing up as a northerner, I learned a very bad habit of not opening the door for anyone. I came down here years ago for a meeting at RTS and Ligon Duncan came around and opened the door for me. I thought, “I don’t even do that for my wife! Must be in some different part of the country.” It’s good, just a small way. Nothing in the Bible that says you have to open a door for a woman or for your wife, but the Bible does say we ought to find ways to show honor for the weaker vessel.

I asked the women last week does your husband know you respect him, and so this week I ask the men a similar question: Do your wives feel honored by you? Do you convey to them in word and in attitude that you consider it a great honor to be married to them? Have you made clear that you honor their intelligence, you honor their opinions? Do you make them feel that the work that they do is honorable?

Now again, this isn’t the position that everyone is, but for many, you will have a husband who is going to work, climbing mountains, going on trips, you know, fighting battles, climbing ladders, and he will have people along the way to honor what he does. A wife and a mother will rarely have people to honor what she does. She will have very little by way of that immediate satisfaction. Her work will not even seem important to many people. One of my pet peeves is that Christian colleges, I’ve never seen a Christian college or university highlight a stay-at-home mom in their alumni magazine. Never. Even though, you know, statistics would say that’s what a vast majority of the people who go to their colleges are doing, but you would never put that front and center as this is a worthwhile way to use your Christian education.

Mark 10: Jesus says that you know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them, but it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Sarah may have called Abraham lord, but this was no excuse for Abraham to lord his authority over Sarah. This is the Christian principle. Those who seem to be least, or last, are the ones God considers worthy of the most honor.

If nothing else, husbands, perhaps sometime after church, perhaps sometime this afternoon, you sit down with your wife or just passing in the kitchen, and say “do you know how happy I am to be married to you? Do you know how privileged I am to have you for my wife? ” Does your wife, men, feel honored? That is your responsibility, and mine.

So these are the two oughts. Husbands ought to live with their wives in an understanding way, and husbands ought to honor their wives as the weaker vessel. But Peter doesn’t stop with two oughts, he gives two motivations, two reasons.

First, husbands ought to do these things because their wives are co-heirs of the grace of life. You see that? Since they are heirs with you of the grace of life. You don’t find this kind of language in Greco-Roman literature. You may find in literature that women were deemed to be weaker in some sense, but you don’t find that therefore they ought be honored, and you certainly don’t find this language, that they are co-heirs.

In most ancient creation myths, the woman was not put on equal footing with the man, but distinctively in the Judeo-Christian religion, we have the woman coming from the man, from his side, and both male and female being created in the image of God. We’re so used to that we don’t even know how radical and revolutionary that is, that not just men are in the image of God and women sort of just do a lot of stuff and take care of kids in the world, that’s how many ancient Greeks and Romans saw it. Sure, women way maybe to be honored if she were chaste and in her place, but here we have Judaism and Christianity saying male and female equally, ontologically, in the image of God and heirs with you of the grace of life.

So the woman is made in God’s image. And if she is a Christian woman, Jesus died for her every bit as He died for the Christian husband. The Holy Spirit has shed His grace on her as much as on him. The Father is preparing a room for her in glory as much as for him.

So the wife may be tempted to think at times why should I respect my husband and to submit to him? He’s no saint. And that’s true, but you do so because of his position of authority, whether he’s earned it or not, and conversely the husband may be tempted to think well why should I honor my wife and be patient with her? She’s no saint, she’s not deserving of this honor. And even if that’s true, you still do so by virtue of the position that she has been given as your co-heir of eternal life. If you’re a Christian, she’s a Christian, Jesus died for her. Jesus is preparing a room for her. You are going to the same place. You’re not going to heaven for men, which is really awesome, and heaven for women, where they gotta work all the time, same place you’re going.

And men, if we believe, good Reformed Christian, we believe in justification by faith alone. If you believe that you’re an heir of eternal life by faith alone, you didn’t do anything to earn it, they why do so many of us insist that our wives be justified by their works? And it can go both ways, husbands and wives. We live with this great doctrine of justification by faith alone, and then we get into the marriage relationship and say “well, you’re not going to be right with me until you earn it, and I saw what you did last week and you have a lot of work to do before you make that up.” We’re happy to be justified by faith alone with God, and we want our spouses to be justified by great meritorious works. No, you honor your wife, men. You understand your wife because she is a co-heir of the grace of life.

And then second, finally, we do these things, you see at the end of verse 7, “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” That’s a strange phrase. Now first of all, you see that it assumes, men, it assumes, men that you are praying. If your prayers are going to be hindered, then you’re a praying husband.

I love the stories, I love the stories I hear, of someone who, and I have heard them before, say I got out of bed as a kid and I saw my dad sitting in that chair, that was the Bible chair. And he was there with his prayer cards, he was there with the Bible, every morning. Whether you’ve got a Bible chair, or you’re up and you’re out to the office before the kids see you, I hope, men, you’re giving your kids an opportunity to have some story like that, of seeing not just mom rush off to Bible studies, not just mom doing her Anchor studies at night, but dad praying, dad pursuing hard after Christ, dad stopping the family in the middle of the day to pray about something, dad coming up at night to bed to pray, dad coming and asking for forgiveness before his kids, or dad saying I’m sorry I didn’t treat your wife as I should have, dad setting an example in prayer and godliness.

Men, are you praying for your wife? Praying over your wife? Praying with your wife? Many men say there are not many things that feel more awkward for some reason than praying with your wife. It may feel that way at first, so is learning to ski, or to shoot a bow, or to speak another language, or to change the oil in your car, but you figured it out. If you don’t know what to pray, pray the Lord’s Prayer or read a psalm or get a prayer book or use a daily devotional. Or just say Lord, I don’t know what to say, help me.

We will have no lasting ministry without prayer and we will have no lasting effect on our families apart from prayer, which makes this so scary, husbands. You know, we often say well God hears all prayers. Well, ish. He’s omniscient, He’s not hard of hearing. He knows what people are saying. But when the Bible says He hears our prayers, it means He hears them for the sake of Jesus and he receives them gladly. This says there are prayers that you pray that God doesn’t hear. They’re hindered. Now He knows you’re praying them, but as far as being received by Him? Now we think of it well, maybe you’re not a Christian or maybe you have unrepented sin. Here it says the way you treat your wife has a direct bearing on how God hears your prayers.

One commentator says husbands who ignore the command to honor their wives will find that their prayers are hindered, which means that God will refuse to answer their prayers. God does not bless with His favor those how are in a position of authority and abuse those who are under them by mistreating them.

1 Peter 4:7: The end of all things is at hand, therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Husbands, if you lack love and understanding towards your wife, there is a ceiling above your head when you pray. If you are cruel, petty, disinterested, dishonoring to your wife, no matter how much you pray, there is a ceiling and your prayers, just they’re hitting against that ceiling. They’re hindered. There’s an obstacle. They’re not getting to the throne of grace. Because God says that’s a man who doesn’t really understand. That’s a man who doesn’t really get it. That’s a man who doesn’t understand Me and how I operate and how I show grace to weaker people, if he can’t honor his own wife, and if he doesn’t get it, then I don’t get it.

Do you see, men, that this is not just helpful marriage advice? A few communication tips for getting along? But this is a reflection of what you believe and know and understand about God. Men, do you believe God’s Word that you are the head of the household and that your wife is to be submissive? You say, “oh, yes.” Well, then, it is no reason for harshness but rather an incentive to honor your wife as the weaker vessel and treat her with tenderness.

I’ve always said that the central message in complementarianism, which is a big word that means men and women are given different roles in the home but they complement one another, I’ve always said the big message in complementarianism is not “women, sit down,” it’s “men, stand up.” That’s the message.

Do you believe that everyone who believes in Christ is saved by grace and not by works? Then live it out with your wife.

Do you believe that God has a privileged place in heaven for your wife as much as for you? That she is an heir of the same grace of life? Do you believe in your very heart of hearts that she is in every way your equal and deserves to be treated with understanding and dignity? And do you understand, men, that God answers prayers, and loves it when we pray, but our prayers will be hindered if we do not honor and love our wives?

So let us as men put and pay more attention to the obstacles that may be in the way of our prayers. Men, how you treat your wife is not some secondary or tertiary issue. It says everything about what you know and believe about God. For some of us men this is really a call first of all to get right with God, and maybe some of us to see we don’t really know God. We’ve been going through the motions, we’ve been letting our wives do all the heavy lifting for us, and we need to get serious about this. And God will give you the grace that you need. You are co-heirs of the grace of life.

Isn’t this good news? There’s more grace, more grace, if you would but come to Christ and say “help me, that I might be a better husband and even more so that I may follow hard after You.”

Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, help us to grow. If we feel conviction of sin, do not leave us, but bring us to the foot of the cross to find forgiveness and help in time of need. May Christ Covenant be a church marked, marked by strong, sensitive, godly, self-sacrificing, courageous men, who love their wives, who love single, married, children, women, of all ages, and lead the way in following hard after You. We pray it for Your sake and for ours. Amen.