There’s an old story about an English professor who was trying to illustrate how differently men and women think. So the professor wrote these 5 words on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate them correctly: “Woman without her man is a savage.” As you might imagine, the men and the women took two different roads when it came to their punctuation.
The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is a savage.”
The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is a savage.”
It’s not hard to understand that even when men and women speak the same language, and write the same words, they can mean two very different things. I imagine that every husband will struggle at times to understand his wife and speak her language. Men and women just don’t seem to see eye to eye. Yet Genesis 2:24 says that marriage brings a man and a woman together and that the two would become one flesh. The Hebrew word for flesh used in Genesis 2:24 is referring to the totality of who you are. In other words, spouses share total oneness. That oneness includes sexual, emotional, and even mental oneness. It is being one in purpose and focus, living life in sync according to God’s design.
Unfortunately because of sin, living out God’s design is not easy or common in today’s world — even in the church. We need divine help as husbands to understand and love our wives. Thankfully, God’s Word provides that.
In this article (part 2 of our “Holy Matrimony” series), I’ve laid out three truths based on 1 Peter 3:7, along with applications, that can help husbands love their wives in a way that reflects Christ.
Here they are:
1. A Godly Husband Knows His Wife
1 Peter 3:7a “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way,“
The idea of “knowing” one’s wife comes from the phrase: “in an understanding way”, and the word “understanding” is an important concept here. It’s a Greek word that means “knowledgeable about something or someone”. Used here, this is a call for husbands to get a Ph.D. in their wives. That means knowing her strengths, weaknesses, fears, passions, doubts, joys, gifts, desires, concerns, comforts, discomforts, proclivities, and more.
But this concept is not just basic trivia knowledge about your wife. Think about how effective we can be at loving our wives if our knowledge goes beyond just facts about them and includes leading and loving them with a robust knowledge about our God. I’m talking about a husband who is a resident theologian, who can shepherd and lead his wife with the Word of God, addressing both the victories and the challenges in her life with Scripture knowledge. His understanding isn’t merely empathy for her feelings, it includes answers for her mind.
But there is more to apply here. The word used in 1 Peter 3:7 for understanding/knowledge is used 8 times in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the O.T.) and references the totality of marital relations including references to sexual relations.
Peter H. Davids commentates that a husband’s knowledge of his wife includes “personal insight that leads to loving and considerate care, whether in the bedroom or in other activities of marriage. This means a husband is understanding and loving towards his wife in the most intimate ways, never abusing her command from God to submit, and never abusing her into submission in any way, shape, or form.
In his book, The Fulfilled Family, John MacArthur writes: “The husband’s headship carries a greater degree of responsibility, not necessarily a higher greater a degree of privilege.” A godly husband takes responsibility for knowing his wife and putting that knowledge into action. This is when we as husbands are most like Christ. When we read passages like Ephesians 5:22-30, and Colossians 3:19, it becomes obvious that loving our wives like Jesus is the ultimate goal.
In today’s world, we’ll find men who do a great job loving themselves, keeping themselves fit, staying rested, playing golf, and enjoying guy time. None of that is sinful! In fact, it is pretty healthy. But a Christian man does well to take inventory of his life and his wife. Are you well loved, well kept, and well cared for, while your wife falls apart at the seams? Or do you also use your time, wisdom, and opportunities, to bless and benefit her? Do you love her as you love yourself? Do you care for her as you care for yourself? Do you encourage her like you want to be encouraged? Do you understand her the way you want to be understood? If you get to the heart of those questions, it will change your marriage, and maybe even your life.
2. A Godly Husband Honors His Wife
1 Peter 3:7b “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life,“
The Greek word for “honor” that Peter uses here is a word that means “respect, reverence, and placing a high value on something or someone.” A godly husband does this and doesn’t leave his chivalry outside the door, remembering that the wife is the “weaker vessel”. That phrase tends to be a hot button phrase for feminists who roar over the strength of women in child-bearing and intellect. But if we kept it simple and textual, generally speaking, women are physically weaker than men. Physical strength is most assuredly the primary emphasis of what Peter is getting at. At that time, as it is now, abuse was not uncommon in marriage. Non-Christian men would physically, sexually, and verbally abuse their wives. A godly husband does not use his physical dominance to exploit his wife, force himself upon her, and punish her into submission. Instead, he esteems and honors her, protecting her physically. A godly husband knows that his wife is physically more vulnerable and still spiritually equal. Spiritual equality is seen in the statement “since they are heirs with you of the grace of the life.” This is the perfect picture of how God’s designed roles for men and women in marriage do not change God’s divine reward for all believers regardless of being men or women.
Let’s not leave this point at mere information. Let’s talk transformation. If she is a spiritual equal, and a co-inheritor of the grace of life, that means she is highly valuable in God’s sight. There are enough men in this world who dishonor women and treat their cars better than their wives. Christian men are called to be different. This means she isn’t the “old ball and chain.” She is not the “nag, hag, bag, or broad.” Godly men do not use such vulgar terms to describe their spiritual equal. She isn’t second-rate or second class.
David Chadwick uses the analogy of Guardian and Gardener in his book, 8 Great Ways to Honor Your Wife.
The guardian is the spiritual protector. This is a husband who builds the walls of spiritual protection around his wife and home by using God’s Word brick by brick. But he doesn’t just build the wall, he walks the wall. He is always watching for spiritual threats and places the Devil would attack. He knows the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in his wife, sees threats from far away, and isn’t lazy when spiritual war comes to the gates of his home.
The gardener is the spiritual cultivator. He tills the soil of his wife’s heart, helping to pull the weeds and plant the seeds. He nurtures her growth and waters her life with the Word of God. He prays over her while she sleeps, encourages her while she is awake, and gives her what every garden needs as much as sunlight, water, and seed: time. The world will call a husband to manly pursuits. The flesh will call a husband to primarily honor himself. But the godly husband puts off the flesh, puts on his armor, and leads her with chivalry & faith.
3. A Godly Husband Fears the Lord
1 Peter 3:7c “so that your prayers may not be hindered“
After two commands to understand and honor, we have a condition that reminds Christian husbands to fear the Lord. God takes the treatment of His daughter so seriously that your prayer life suffers when you make her suffer. That word “hindered” means to be “thwarted” and is the picture of someone’s progress being stifled. It’s the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 to describe Satan stopping Paul from being able to see the church there. Since we know that prayer is one of the power sources of marriage and the Christian life, the Christian husband who chooses not to act like one, is cutting off the power source to his spiritual life. This is a man who is all show, no go. He can turn the key in prayer all he wants but the engine doesn’t start. What a sobering reality! Such truth shakes the Christian man from insensitive treatment and dishonor of their wife.
This ultimatum may seem harsh but it is a providential gift for Christian marriage and Christian husbands. Think about how this can shape and impact our marriages and remember the whole picture here:
- The wife is commanded to submit.
- The man is physically stronger and put in a position of headship in the marriage.
- He is to exercise that privileged responsibility with a fear of the Lord.
- There are consequences if he doesn’t and the Lord has given a divine ultimatum.
But do we just do things because we are threatened? No. That’s not the right heart. Yet something is defined as “serious” by the seriousness of the results. In like manner, God chose to breathe out His Word on this subject in such a way that divinely threatens a man with negative results if he doesn’t treat His daughter the right way.
What is more deflating to male confidence than knowing God isn’t even hearing you until you start treating her right? Again, this is the kindness of God through discipline.
If you ever wonder why your prayers for provision, open doors, wisdom, guidance, blessing, or any other prayers seem to be constantly unanswered then it may be wise as a rule of thumb to double-check how you treat your wife.
I hope this article challenges you to take inventory of your life and your wife. What has she been expressing that you’ve been ignoring? How are you at being guardian and gardener? Are the walls of Scripture fortifying your marriage and home? Are you alert and on guard, walking the walls as a spiritual protector? Are you gently tilling the soil of her heart through prayer, conversation, and the Word? Are you planting seeds of truth, love, encouragement? Does she have your time, your patience, your kindness, and your commitment?
If she does, I bet you have one incredible prayer life.