You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.1 Peter 3:7(NASB)
Peter spent a significant part of his letter covering Christian conduct and the respect that believers should show towards one another and the community at large. He also gave clear guidelines when dealing with those having governmental authority. "Honour all people, love the brotherhood, fear God and honour the king," is his comprehensive charge.
Having dealt with society at large, he moved on to Christian slaves and the behaviour and attitude they should have towards their masters, before addressing the relationship between a husband and his wife. Peter instructs servants to be submissive to their masters, irrespective of whether they are good and gentle men or unreasonable overlords who cause their slaves unjust suffering.
He reminds them of Christ's teaching that there is no reward for being nice to those that are good to you. And he used Christ's own suffering as the perfect example of someone who when reviled, did not revile in return... and when suffering, did not respond with threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.
It was in this context of godly submission in the midst of suffering, that Peter moved from the conduct of slaves to the conduct of wives and their husbands, and for six whole verses he addresses the virtues of a godly wife, before attending to the conduct of Christian husbands. The possible reason that Peter gave his extended instructions to wives, is because they may have been married to a pagan husband prior to salvation and whose attitude towards women would be very different from that of Christian men.
Just as citizens were to defer to the government and slaves to their masters, so wives were called to submit to their husbands. There is no way that Peter is suggesting that wives are inferior to their husbands or that women have a lower status than men. However, God implemented a clear and unchangeable order in the universe, in nations, in societies, and within families. Just as Christ submitted to His heavenly Father, so wives are to reflect His humility through submission to their own husbands.
When Peter penned his instructions about the corresponding conduct of husbands towards their wives, the beautiful order that God instituted when He created man in His own image, becomes clear, "You husbands," he wrote, "in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman. Show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."
A Christian husband is expected to be understanding toward his wife and show her love, consideration, and courtesy. There is no question that men should treat their wives as second-class citizens, but as one who shares equality in the eyes of God and becomes a helpmeet that compliments his word, his work, and his will.
Peter explains that women are the weaker sex and should be shown special consideration by their physically stronger spouse. However, in the current climate where woman unwisely demand full (or greater) equality with men, Peter's premise would be challenged and rejected. But this demonstrates that the foolishness of our ungodly society has refused to honour God's declared order and denies the One who created them. They have gone their own evil way and muddied the God-given differences between men and women - between a husband and his wife.
Weakness does not imply inferiority and nowhere in the Bible is this concept ever implied, which is why Christian husbands just like Christian wives are to live together in an understanding way. A husband is to treat his wife as someone who is weaker, because she is a woman and to show her honour as a fellow heir, "so that your prayers will not be hindered."
We are told elsewhere, that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free... but that we are all one in Christ. We all enjoy the same gift of grace through faith and all are forgiven of our sins and have received eternal life. The rules and regulations that govern God's order are neither tedious nor unfair, and Peter even points out that when a husband is treating his wife as God ordained, his fellowship with the Father will be strengthened.
When Christian marriages maintain God's order, fellowship with the Father flourishes. And when we are in close communion with God, we are able to live and pray in spirit and in truth. When a husband and wife follow God's order, 1 Corinthians 13 becomes the bedrock upon which their marriage is founded. When a Christian man honours his wife as a fellow heir of grace, he will manifest godly love and will show understanding, patience, kindness, and honour to his spouse.
When God's order is followed, a husband will not fall prey to jealousy or arrogance, nor will he act unbecomingly, but will rejoice in righteousness and truth. He will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things - for Christ's sake.
How wonderful it is to know that Christian marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church. How beautiful it would be if all Christian marriages of today reflected the instructions Peter gave to husbands and wives in this passage on godly conduct.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the wise instructions Peter gives on the role of husbands and wives in his extended passage on godly conduct within Christian marriages. I hold up Christian couples throughout the world and pray that both husbands and their wives would seek to honour one another in their complimentary roles. May wives be ready and willing to submit to their husbands just as Christ submitted his life to His heavenly Father, and I pray that husbands would fulfil their God-given order as the head of the family, show love and understanding to their wife, and demonstrate to a fallen world the beauty of God's order. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.