“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 Peter 3:7
The gospel of the Lord Jesus holds forth a high view of marriage and its holy callings as husbands and wives. Christians, having renewed hearts and minds, are given the great privilege of recognizing, experiencing, and reflecting the wisdom, love, and faithfulness of God in holy marriage. But this does not come easily nor automatically; we must consistently grow in it by the sanctifying power of the Spirit and the Word.
The passage quoted above is directed to Christian husbands. Peter instructs us to “live with [our] wives in an understanding way, showing honor….” Men, we are told to get to know our wives and respond accordingly. Therefore, we are to spend significant time with them in order to know them so that we may be understanding of them. In other words, the Lord has assigned us homework: study your wife. Get to know her. Learn her fears and weaknesses, strengths and abilities, likes and dislikes. Grow in understanding her emotionally, intellectually, sexually, and spiritually. We are to become consistent and proficient in communicating love to her the way she needs. We must humble ourselves in this, seeking to show honor to our wives since she is the “weaker vessel.” Simply put, as Christian husbands we are to use our God-given authority to selflessly build up and honor our wives, rather than our own egos.
Peter, then gives husbands two reasons for loving their wives this way. Firstly, our wives are co-heirs of “the grace of life.” Though we have differing roles in marriage, we have the same standing in Christ. Men, we should love our wives well because she is a daughter of the Father, a sister of the Lord Jesus, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and a member of the church. Together, we confess one faith, one baptism, one hope, one Lord, and one God and Father of us all. Our wives are co-heirs of the grace of life.
Secondly, we are to understand and honor our wives so that our prayers are not hindered. Men, selfishness, carelessness, laziness, and neglect in marriage negatively affects our communion with God and effectiveness for Him. Our prayers will be hindered by not loving our wives well. The Lord is not pleased when we disgrace the very ones He has graced.
Who is adequate for these things? The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak. The calling of a Christian husband is impossible in our own strength. Thankfully, God has not left us to our own strength. The power to be Christian husbands is found in the previous chapter: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Pet 2:24) Like every other responsibility we have as Christians, the power for obedience and faithfulness is found in the life-giving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippines 2:5-8
Let’s reflect just a moment on the humility of Christ:
1. He was equal with the Father and Spirit, but, for a time, willing to live below that equality. “He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” The author of Hebrews writes, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus….” (Heb 2:9)
2. Possessing the full rights and privileges of divine Sonship, He willing chose not to excercise them.
3. Being fully God, He was willing to also be fully man, taking to himself something that He wasn’t in order to identify with what we are.
4. As a man, He came as a servant. He didn’t take the highest position but the lowest. Though a King, yet He took the form of a servant.
5. Though He was the Word of Life (Jn 1:1-4), He submitted to the sentence of death. And not just any death, but death by crucifixion. To the Greek, a criminal’s death; to the Jew, a God-cursed death. But to us who believe, it was a sin-forgiving, wrath-absorbing, soul-saving death!
Such is the amazing humility of Christ, and this is the type of humility we are called to reflect. A humility that seeks to serve the purposes of God. A humility that is self-effacing, looking “not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Now, since we are called to have and reflect Christ’s humility, we ought to expect the Lord to give us opportunities to show His humility. These opportunities present themselves in the home, in the church, in the work place, and in our daily dealings in the public.
In these various spheres of life, we will be given the opportunity to humbly:
1. Refuse to exercise our rights when wronged.
2. Resist the desire to always be seen as right, prove ourselves, and insist on our own way.
3. Identify with others in their weakness and suffering, even though their condition is not our fault.
4. Receive moments of unfairness, betrayal, scorn, and hatred in order to let the glory of Christ shine through.
5. Die to ourselves daily, so that the life and power of Christ may be seen.
This type of humility is not natural nor easy. In fact, it had to be manifested in Christ so that it could be reflected by us. He is the Source of our ability to live a life of humility. And there really is no better way to live, for in Christ, a life lived in humility ends in glory.
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…” 2 Tim 2:11,12
In 2 Kings 14 we read the account of Judah’s King Amaziah. The chronicler tells us that “he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” (v. 3) He seems to have started well. When “the royal power was firmly in his hand” (v. 5) he dealt with the enemies of his assassinated father (2 Kings 12:19-21) according to the Law of the Lord. He justly executed the conspirators, but unlike a common practice of the day, he did not punish their children. Honorably, the king obeyed the Lord’s command (vv. 5,6). As D.A. Carson noted, King Amaziah was “a good man.”
But he was still a man, and therefore, capable of a hard fall. And that’s exactly what happened. In verses 8-14 we read the tragic account of Amaziah’s foolish decision to declare war with Israel. Though Israel’s own king tried to warn him, King Amaziah wouldn’t listen, and he led Judah into defeat and shame.
How do good men come to make such rash and horrible decisions? Pride! Though the Bible doesn’t come right out and state that pride was the cause of Amaziah’s fall, it does hint at it. Verse 7 tells of a victory that King Amaziah experienced over the Edomites and verse 8 begins with, “Then Amaziah….” It seems, then, that the success of verse 7 went to the king’s head. He was ailing from a “fat head.” Pride had sprung up and spread through his soul. And the result was disastrous! It always is.
This is why the apostle Paul would write, “So to keep me from becoming conceited….a thorn was given me in the flesh… to keep me from becoming conceited… For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:7, 10) Unlike King Amaziah, Paul knew his own propensity for pride. He learned that strength can actually be our weakness and that weakness can actually be our strength, for Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
Don’t get me wrong, we should rejoice in the successes the Lord grants us. But we dare not take them as our own. And, just as we can humbly rejoice in success, we ought also to humbly rejoice in our weaknesses, recognizing the sanctifying grace of Christ that keeps us from pride’s destruction.
“Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor 10:12
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.