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.”
Today we continue our study of 1 Peter looking at how Christians are to live honorably among non-Christians and stand firm for Christ in their marriages and we come in the course of our study to Peter’s instructions for Christians husbands. Having established that wives are to be under the authority of their husbands in the marital relationship and what that means, Peter now explains to husbands how their authority is to be exercised.
1 Peter 3:7 says that husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way, specifically explaining, that Christian men are to honor them as the “weaker vessel” in the relationship. As we consider what the weaker vessel is we need to understand what Peter does not have in mind namely that women are somehow less than men in any way, shape or form. As 1 Peter 3:7 explains, wives are co-heirs with their husbands in the grace of God.
Now that we’ve cleared the air regarding men and women being equal before the Lord let’s also discover what he means by the phrase “weaker vessel.” Peter has in mind first, physical weakness, since men are physically stronger than most women and could use their strength against their wives. Next, Peter also may have in mind, responding to the idea in his day how women were viewed in that society as weaker in dignity than men. This view continues into our day with the objectification of women in our society which testifies that this remains an issue for people today. Peter may lastly be speaking of women having lesser authority in the marital relationship.
Peter recognizes that it can be tempting for many men to exercise their God-given authority in an abusive, cruel, and demeaning way. Men and women are equal in dignity, value, and worth, but distinct in function and role. In keeping with the biblical teaching on the dignity of both men and women, he calls husbands to honor their wives as the weaker vessel. Far from taking advantage of their own physical power, objecting their wives, or using their authority in a cruel or demeaning way, husbands instead respect their wives and exercise leadership lovingly and considerately. When this is done, the prayers of the couple are not hindered.
In other places in the Bible, husbands are told to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25). 1 Peter 3:7 tells readers that this is accomplished when husbands respect and honor their wives by seeing them not as opponents or arguments to be won but as co-heirs in the grace of God. John Calvin explains, “for nothing destroys the friendship of life more than contempt; nor can we really love any but those whom we esteem; for love must be connected with respect.” If you are a married man, remind your wife today (and every day thereafter) in word and deed how much you love and respect her.