Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Giving Honor to the Wife (1 Peter 3:8)

 Ward Cleaver, the ideal husband...well, at least on TV...

7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Having addressed slaves and then wives, St. Peter now turns to husbands, giving a very concise command that carries with it an implicit threat. His use of the word “likewise” implies that like slaves and wives, husbands must also submit to others, even though that submission gets acted out differently (compare St. Paul’s words to husbands and wives in Eph. 5:22-33, which are essentially the same as St. Peter’s). Specifically, husbands’ submission to their wives must be expressed by dwelling with them with understanding and giving them honor.

The phrase that is translated as “with understanding” in the NKJV literally means “according to knowledge.” But to what knowledge does St. Peter refer? “The phrase according to knowledge (Gr. kata gnosin) probably refers to the husband’s knowledge of God, a usage consistent with other New Testament uses of the term knowledge (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:1f; Col. 2:3), and not his knowledge of his wife. That is, the husband’s behavior towards the wife must reflect his knowledge of God and His demands, for a Christian husband should live differently from a pagan one” (86).

Rather than trying to dominate his wife, a Christian husband should give her honor. He should honor her wishes, her needs, and her desires. The wife must get a vote. And this honor should be given as to a “weaker vessel.” This phrase of St. Peter’s is very controversial, as some have assumed that he is preaching the complete superiority of males over females. This is not true, as FF explains: “In what does this weakness consist? Surely not in weakness of mind or of character, though ancient pagan opinion said so. Rather this weakness consists in extra vulnerability, and husbands must respond to this by protecting their wives and caring for them in love.” (86).

One reason why Christian wives are due honor is because they are “heirs together of the grace of life,” that is, of Christ’s salvation. “In the age to come, they will inherit the same Kingdom, and the honor he now gives her recognizes this” (Farley, 86).

Note also that the last phrase in St. Peter’s exhortation to husbands contains a warning: if husbands do not treat their wives as he commands, their prayers will be hindered. A husband cannot mistreat their wives and then expect God to answer his prayers.


charlene said...

Father James,
In today's and yesterday's posts, you and Father Farley have given a very thoughtful and loving interpretation to these verses. This is the first interpretation I have ever heard that I could appreciate. So often the wife's role is taken out of context. Thank you for taking the time to expose the beauty of the Word for us.
By the way, I have been calling Bob "Honey" for 44 years.
do you think that might be a modern substitute for "lord" or am I pushing the envelope there? As to being a "quiet" wife, Bob would tell you I'd best pray really hard for God's mercy.

Dennis Justison said...

Where I live, these verses and others in Ephesians, are often used to make the wife a doormat. How can any Christian want to do that? Maybe this reveals the constant battle between pride and being humble and really surrendering to the Lord. Good teaching helps us to overcome some of our less than good attitudes and ways of living. Thanks Father!