The Ambassador’s Submission in Marriage Part 2: A Word to Husbands (1 Peter 3:7)
The title of our series in 1 Peter is “Hope for the living: growing when the going gets tough.” Peter is writing to encourage believers who are suffering under Emperor Nero, a tyrant of a man who sought to kill Christians without a conscience of any sort. The Word of God through Peter is not for believers to survive under these circumstances, but how to thrive. It is when the going gets tough that we start growing. And we have been seeing that God is more interested in seeing us conforming to Christ than giving us comfortable circumstances.
One of the ways God conforms us into the image of Jesus is through marriage. If you want to grow in Christ, get married and then if you really want to grow, have children (always in that order). I call marriage sanctification level 1 and children sanctification level 2. Then someone once asked me “What do you call being a single girl and living with your parents?” That is a level all on its own!
The theme from 1 Pet. 2:13 to 3:7 has been submission and though it sounds so negative, we have been learning that if we adopt the proper mindset that we are ambassadors for the Lord Jesus, bringing living hope to others in every circumstance, submission is something we would do gladly.
So last week, we ended with submission for wives. Today we look at husbands. Again, this does not mean all women tune out or single men tune out. Either you know a husband or a man that needs prayer for these things or you are a husband or a man who needs to hear this. There is only one verse today, but it is a rich, nice, big piece of steak that we will need to cut up into bite size pieces.
Before we sink our teeth in, I want us to look at one verse in Genesis 3:16. This verse is located in the paragraph detailing the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve upon mankind. One of the consequences of sin is a tainted relationship between man and wife. God had designed their relationship to be a dance; with the man leading, the woman following, working together to rule over the creation. But now sin has crept in and the woman will seek to control the husband and the husband will try to be a tyrant over her. So get this: Instead of working together to rule over what God had given them, man and woman try to rule over each other instead. The two who reigned as one, will attempt to rule each other.
But thank the Lord that redemption has come for us in Jesus Christ. God Himself has come like a bridegroom for us, His bride, and has not only become our example, but also our enabler for marriage. And because of that, we can have hope, living hope! So our best days in our marriage do not have to be behind us, but ahead of us by God’s grace! And we cannot be ambassadors of living hope to the world around us, if we are not seeking to be ambassadors in our own marriage. And men, God does not want us to be passive about it. God is calling us to follow Him and not the patterns we may have from our family or images the culture has presented to us about what a husband and man should be. And may the Spirit of God help us and enable us to be all that He asks us to be, as we submit to His control and leadership of our own lives.
Back to 1 Peter 3. So the title of the message today is “The Ambassador’s Submission in Marriage” Part 2. We talked about wives’ submission in marriage and today, we will talk about the husband’s submission in marriage. Notice Peter starts off with “likewise.” He doesn’t exempt husbands from submission either. Wait, a husband submits in marriage? Well, he’s not talking about submission to the wives’ authority or headship, but take note: a husband submits in marriage to the wife’s needs. This is where our submission as an ambassador of the Lord comes in.
Did you notice how long the section is for the wife and how short the section is for the husband? I laughed initially, thinking that’s because women have a lot of questions and they need six verses to talk about it. Guys usually think: “Give me the bottom line. What do you want me to do exactly?” and that can be done in one verse. Well, I don’t think that’s why Peter does this however. I think the disproportion is only because the wives situation in Peter’s day, especially when they were living with an unbelieving husband. This was a huge problem and Peter took some time to help them. Paul, on the other hand, has very little command to the wives and long sections for the husbands in Eph. 5:22-33. Regardless of the length, this one verse, like I said, has a lot to say to husbands. This would have been revolutionary to that culture that saw women as property, but such is the power of the gospel that came to transform lives and man-made systems!
I think Christian husbands should have a two-part motto. What does God require of Christian husbands? Jot this down, men: God calls Christian husbands to love like the Savior and lead like a servant. Husbands, will you wife call you a servant leader? There is absolutely no greater compliment you can ever receive than for your wife to call you that! Well, how do I get there? Peter gives us four ways to do that. Let’s start with this:
I. Invest time intentionally (1 Pet. 3:7a)
Peter says, “Husbands, live with your wives.” “Live with your wives.” Not live with your girlfriend, right? Or live with your fiancé right? Live with your wives! Actually, “live with” is more than just sharing the same address. It means “’dwelling together’ and refers to living with someone in intimacy and cherishing them. It is a word that often has physical intimacy involved, but it covers everything that married life entails. It means make a home for your wife. It means do life with this person. Share life with this person. How do you get better and better at something? The issue is time.
If you want to love like a Savior and lead like a servant in your marriage, men, it will take time. And if women generally nag, it is because men often neglect. You wooed her, you won her, you wed her and then you neglect her. That is wickedness. A woman walks up the aisle in her wedding ceremony and she thinks this is the beginning of a never-ending relationship, a journey to start together. “I am going to share my life with this person!” she thinks. But most often, men sees it in terms of completing a goal. “We did it!” And after the ceremony is over, he’s ready to move on to other things, like his career and hobbies. And that often then begins the neglect of his marriage. Walter Trobisch said, “Marriage is not an achievement which is finished. It is a dynamic process between two people, a relation which is constantly being changed, which grows or dies.” And if you are not investing time in your marriage, it is dying and you do not even realize it!
Men, make a home for your wives. This takes intentional time. The idea here is to be together so that you intertwine your lives. As Simone Signoret observed, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.”
My old pastor used to say, 15 minutes a day, one evening a week, one day a month and one weekend a year…take that time to invest in your marriage with that guideline consistently. Obviously we cannot keep all of it all of the time due to family and work, but the point is take time to invest in your marriage. Take at least 15 minutes to sincerely talk with your wife. Take one day a week to go out together. Take one day a month just to be together alone. Take one weekend a year to invest in your marriage. This may mean to go to a marriage conference once a year or once every two years. Go through a book together. Do something intentional.
Do you know why? If oneness is the goal of marriage, it does not happen automatically. You have to work at it. And if you are not working at it, you will not have oneness, you will have isolation. And you do not need to work at isolation. Just do nothing for your marriage. Neglect it. And don’t wait for your wife to say, “Let’s work on the marriage.” Leadership is taking initiative. You take initiative. Notice I did not say, “Spend time with your wife.” You don’t spend time with your wife, you invest time with her. Just like you don’t spend time with God, you invest time with Him. Being with your wife is not an expense, it is an investment into your family, your children, your ministry and your legacy you will leave behind. Do you want to love like the Savior and lead like a servant? Invest intentionally.
II. Study her intently (1 Pet. 3:7b)
Secondly, notice “in an understanding way.” Other translations say, “considerately” or my favorite, “according to knowledge.” Well what kind of “knowledge” is he talking about? Reading books about women and marriage, what Scripture says about women and marriage is good, but it is not just informational knowledge, but experiential knowledge. “Understanding” here means “…being sensitive and considering the wife’s deepest physical and emotional needs.” It means go to school on your wife. Your wife would want nothing more than you getting your PhD on her! Why do you need to study her? Because she is complicated! Because women are complex!
Newsflash: men and women are different. In one study, a survey was taken to find out what was man’s number one leisure activity. It was sex. The same survey revealed: the one number one leisure activity for women was reading! We are different! Women have different needs, different perspective and different ways of dealing with things and so we need to study up and learn!
In Song of Solomon 4:3 in one translation, the lover says to his beloved: “Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.” One pastor once said if you open up a pomegranate, you find that it has many sections inside, little ones and big ones. He said that’s what a woman’s mind is like. It is complex with many sections, big and small. I was thinking, “well, if women are pomegranates, men are like coconuts! Hard on the exterior, and when they finally open all you get is water that spills out!
So there are lots to study from a woman. It is not studying your alphabet, it is studying organic chemistry or quantum physics or rocket science. Get to know what makes her tick, figure out how her mind works, and learn what her gifts are, her desires, her talents, her hopes and dreams. If you need to carry a 3 x 5 card and write down, “My wife hates it when…” or “My wife likes it when…” do it! I mean, we know how to study. We know silly sports trivia and yet we don’t know when our wife wears a new outfit. We have to study her. My old pastor would say, “It’s not hard. Go stand in front of her closet and look at her outfits. When a new one shows up, take note of it!”
Your wife is different from my wife, so I can’t tell you what you need to study from your wife. I can only speak from my experience. For example, in studying my wife, I have learned that she does not want any practical gifts. So Jenny loves her back scratched. I guess her back is always itchy for some reason. So one anniversary (and no, it wasn’t this year, but the first year of our wedding anniversary), I thought, “Wow, what a great gift idea would it be if I got Jenny a back scratcher! So she can scratch her own back whenever she wanted to!” So when she opened my gift, I almost lost my right eye because she was about to hit me with it! Yes, bad idea, fellas. So fail. Failed in studying my wife! So I wrote down in my journal that night, “Do not get her a backscratcher, be her backscratcher.” Study your wives!
Jenny’s pretty good about sharing her feelings, but every once in a while I can tell by her face something’s wrong. And so I will go and ask her, “What’s wrong?” And sometimes she’ll say, “Nothing.” From studying Jenny I have learned and still learning that “nothing” never means nothing. Write that down. Sometimes “nothing” means, “You’re an idiot if you don’t know.” Or “nothing” could mean, “Pursue me and try to get it out of me.” Or “nothing” means “I really don’t know. Help me figure it out.” See, it’s complicated, but study your wives gentlemen! I have learned also that women hate pseudo-listening and selective listening. Men, we are watching television, reading the paper, on the smartphone or on the computer and our wives want to talk. And we keep doing what we are doing and do not listen. Or we pretend to listen or we listen selectively. That is not going to help you in passing this class. Study her. And I am at a D- from an F in studying Jenny in six years, but if I want to love like the Savior and lead like a servant, I have to invest time with my wife purposefully and study her intently. Thirdly,
III. Honor her carefully (1 Pet. 3:7c)
Notice the next phrase: “showing honor to her.” Bob Deffinbaugh says, “To honor someone is to attribute value to them, to esteem them as having value. To dishonor someone is to view them as having little, lesser, or no value (seeMatthew 5:22; James 2:1-6). Honor often has to do with value, but it also has to do with importance.” So “honor” here indicates value and esteem. You honor her not because it is a “nice guy” thing to do, but because she is precious to you. She is valuable to you. She means something to you. Proverbs 31:28: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Do you?
Why should you honor her? Here Peter says, “as the weaker vessel.” Vessel is used in Scripture referring to the human body. Paul says we are jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). We are all vessels or clay jars. This image is used because God first made man out of the dust of the ground. It is similar to our word “vase.” This particular word was used of priceless, fragile china. It was also used of sacred vessels used in the temple for the worship of God.
Peter says, women are the “weaker vessel.” WeakER implying what? Men are weak and women are weaker, obviously not intellectually, spiritually or emotionally or any way, but generally speaking, physically. Peter’s point is that you don’t take your best china and toss it around like a paper plate. It is valuable to you. It is worth something to you so you treat it with honor.
If you do not honor your wives, men, who will? Who really sees all that she is and does for the family? Most of what she does is hidden from view. Who else knows and values what your wife does? Your children may not fully perceive it and thank her. The neighbors don’t know. If she works, only her employer sees her performance at her job and nothing more. It is our job to honor our wives.
I have always been blessed by the story of Dr. of Robertson McQuilkin, the beloved former president of Columbia Bible College, and his wife, Muriel, who suffers from the advanced ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. In March 1990 Dr. McQuilkin announced his resignation in a letter with these words:
My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just “discontent.” She is filled with fear — even terror — that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.
Perhaps it would help you to understand if I shared with you what I shared at the time of the announcement of my resignation in chapel. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health … till death do us part.” So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me — her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”
That is what I call a man honoring his bride. Do you think his honor just happened? Absolutely not! He worked at loving his wife like Christ loved the church. So honor your wife carefully. She is precious, fine, china. She is not a paper plate. The Bible says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Prov. 3:27). I think it is in our power men to honor our wives. How do you honor them? We can do it now, not just when they get Alzheimers. For example, I do not think it is wrong to honor them in front of the children. See how much mom does for us guys? See how much she prays. Let’s thank God for her! Honor her in front of parents, especially hers. Honor her by not joining in degrading stories or jokes about women. Walk away. Honor her by changing the channel or looking away when there is anything on television that puts down women or treats them as mere sexual objects. Your wife will feel honored when you do that. She wants to know that she matters, that her life counts and we must honor our wives. Does your wife know that you feel that about her men? A couple more things here:
IV. Disclose your heart openly (1 Pet. 3:7d)
Peter gives another reason to honor: “since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.” The idea is that every good and perfect gift has come to us from God (Jam. 1:17). All gifts are good gifts given to us and when you got married, it became no longer me, but we. No longer mine, but ours. Really, everything is God’s and we are simply the stewards or managers and He is the owner. We are one. Oneness! That is the idea here. But what is the one thing of ours men that our wives want? No, more than our wallets……she wants us! We wants our companionship and our hearts.
So Peter is saying honor your wife by working at surrendering yourself, your heart and sharing it with her. Husbands and wives work at sharing finances, time and everything they have with each other, but this is the one thing husbands don’t like to share with their wives: their heart. Marriage is not only giving over everything you have, it is also giving over everything you are. Are you giving what you have to your wife or who you are? By the way, are you partners or competitors in marriage? If you want to be partners, you have to work at self-disclosure, men.
Self-disclosure is really hard with men. Not only do they not know how to do it, they don’t want to do it. I certainly did not know how to do it, really until in college a little bit and more now in marriage. Men, we have to open up with our wives. I cannot begin to tell you how many times Jenny has to be like, “What are you thinking?” She wants to know me so badly. She wants my companionship. A lot of that may be personality, but men, if we are going to grow in our marriage, love like the Savior and lead like a servant and honor our wives as a joint heir of the grace of life, we have to work at this.
Jot this down: five levels of communication (from Family Life). Level one is cliché. Honey, get the remote, I want to watch the news. Get me some water, etc. Level 2 is fact, sharing what you know. Did you hear that Obama is speaking on the oil spill today? Level 3 is opinion, sharing what you think. I think Obama is doing a really bad job in dealing with the oil spill. Level 4 is emotion, sharing what you feel. It makes me really angry that nothing is being done to plug the leak! I’m leaving this country! Level 5 is transparency, sharing who you are. Actually, I should tell you, I’ve been working for BP for the last two years.
And as you work on going down the communication levels, you grow in oneness. You grow in trust, commitment and friendship. I think most women are able to get down to levels 4 and 5 pretty frequently and easily, while most men hang out in levels 1 and 2. This is why you throw 5 women in a room who are strangers and they come out an hour later, crying, hugging and sharing life stories. You put five men in a room and come back in an hour and one is dead, one has left the room, one is sleeping and the other two are sharing sports stories! Most women are so good relationally and that’s why their sins are where their strengths are most of the time. Men, on the other hand, are physical beings (and as a result we struggle with sexual sin more). But I am always amazed at how women can see the heart behind issues and work at relating and sharing openly. But men can work at this!
Robert Lewis makes an interesting observation: “Have you ever wondered why soap operas are so popular, even addictive to many homemakers? Have you ever noticed how many romance novels are targeted toward women in supermarkets and bookstores? Those things feed on a woman’s powerful need for companionship. They create a fantasy that supplies what she may lack in real life. In a powerful way, they exploit her imagination, conjuring up all kinds of highly romantic images in which two people deeply experience one another’s lives. Have you ever watched a soap opera, men? It just goes on and on, day after day. Over time, you get to know all the characters—all their feelings, thoughts, motives, ambitions, failures. In fact, everything about them is exposed. And it never ends, does it? The revelations just keep going deeper and deeper. There is a powerful lesson here: that’s exactly how most women desire to relate to their husbands. They seek to experience life with their men in a deep, intimate, never-ending way. There’s no particular goal in mind; they want to cherish the experience of the relationship. Being is more satisfying than doing. That mystifies most men.”
Men, we are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Sacrificial love. And you might say, “Well I would die for my wife! I am ready to sacrifice for her!” Alright Mr. Macho, how about you start with opening up about who you are first? Self-disclosure comes from sacrifice. It is not easy to open up. Here are some ways I was blessed by early on in my own growth to help to start to open up: “Sometimes I’m afraid that….” Or “What you do that blesses me a lot is….” Or “The hardest times for me are…” Start there. Work with one of those statements over a meal and see where the Lord takes your marriage! You want to love like the Savior and lead like a servant? Work at disclosing your heart openly.
If you are listening to this and you are a husband and if the Lord is speaking to you about this and you choose to do nothing, there are serious consequences. Peter says if you do not want to work on investing time intentionally, studying her intently, honoring her carefully and disclosing your heart openly, then do not think God is ready to answer your prayers. Peter Davids writes, “As the closest human relationship, the relationship to one’s spouse must be most carefully cherished if one wishes a close relationship with God.” 
See the word “hindered.” It “is a military term for an army digging a trench in a road to stop the enemy’s advance. It describes what Satan will do in your spiritual life. If husbands do not take this seriously, Satan will dig a trench and your prayers will never get through.” This hit me hard. What am I if God is not hearing my prayers? How can I do anything in life? I better get to work on this!
This is different from what we usually hear in Scripture, which is that praying helps us live right. This is true. However, Peter is saying the opposite is true as well, that living right helps us pray. I guess we need to pray to help us live right so that we can pray more effectively! You cannot separate it. Here Peter is assuming you pray. Isn’t it interesting that Peter ends with the prayer life? Husbands, loving like Christ did in your marriage is not just difficult, it is impossible without God’s help and if you are sitting around on this and not doing anything about it, we are in serious trouble!
Peter is addressing the husband’s prayer life because God calls us men to a priest in our home. What is the #1 job of a priest? It is to bring your family to God. It is initiating prayer times. It is initiating times in the Word. And it is impossible to be a priest if you are not connected to the Great High Priest. So if you neglect your marriage, do not assume God is going to bless you anywhere else in your life. One of the ways that has helped me disclose my heart to Jenny more and more is my prayer life. It is hard not to be open before God right? I mean He knows everything. I can’t fake it being with Him. And the more I work at prayer, the more easier I can disclose myself to my wife and be honest with her and vice versa. And as I disclose myself to my wife, study her, invest time with her, honor her, the more I want to pray. It is interconnected. Disclose your heart openly to your wives.
I want to end here. Pastor Stephen Cole shares a true story about a man’s own journey. Tom and his wife were struggling in their marriage and right before they were going on a vacation, Tom “made a private vow to try to be a loving, giving, unselfish husband for the two weeks of the family’s vacation. He worked hard at noticing his wife, of attending to her needs, of doing what she wanted to do, even if he really rather would have done something else. It went great. Toward the end of the time, he made a new vow to keep on choosing to love his wife like this.
But on the last night of the vacation, his wife was obviously upset. Finally she blurted, “Tom, do you know something I don’t?” “What do you mean?” he asked. “Well … that checkup I had several weeks ago … our doctor … did he tell you something about me? Tom, you’ve been so good to me … am I dying?” It took a moment for it all to sink in. Then Tom burst out laughing, took her in his arms, and said, “No, honey, you’re not dying; I’m just starting to live.” (Tom Anderson, “How Love Came Back,” Reader’s Digest [10/86], pp. 129- 130.)
Perhaps we all need to treat our wives as though they are going to die! We need to start living, men. I read a great quote from Pastor Craig Groeschel this past week: “Do not fear failure, but succeeding at things that don’t matter.” Has your failure in marriage led you to be successful in things that don’t matter? The beauty of grace is that His mercies are new every morning. We may need to come to our wives and confess some things. But first we need to come to our Great Bridegroom and confess to Him. Put our small in His mighty hand to live as servant leaders and loving like the Savior. We cannot afford to neglect our marriages. Are you moving toward isolation or oneness? How are you doing in these areas? Let’s turn from succeeding at things that do not matter (at the end of the day) to be the man God calls us to be in one thing that does matter, which is to lead to our wives and our families in love and servant leadership. Let’s come to Him to ask Him to lead us as we lead our families, by His grace and for His glory.
Hamilton, V. P. (1990). The Book of Genesis. Chapters 1-17. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (202). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
MacArthur, J. (181).
Lewis, Robert and Hendricks, William (1998). Rocking the Roles: Building a Win-Win Marriage (82). Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press.
Hughes, R. K. (2001). Disciplines of a Godly Man (10th anniversary ed.; rev. ed.) (40). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
Cole, Stephen. “Understanding and Honoring your wife.” http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/092792m.pdf accessed 6 August 2010.
MacArthur, J. (181).
Lewis and Hendricks (79).
Pritchard, Ray. “Unhindered prayers.” http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2005-02-13-Unhindered-Prayers/ accessed 6 August 2010.
Deffinbaugh, Bob. Obligations of Christian Husbands to their Wives. http://bible.org/seriespage/obligations-christian-husbands-their-wives-1-peter-37 accessed 6 August 2010.
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
Hughes, R. K. (32-34).
Lewis and Hendricks, 81-82.
Davids, P. H. (123).
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
Cole, Stephen. Ibid.