Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 3:1-7
I had said last week that we are going to linger for a few weeks on the 1 Peter 3:1-7 regarding husbands and wives. So I want you to turn there. Look at vs 1, “In the same way, you wives, be subject to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” We spoke about the teaching in the Bible to a life of submission, which requires us as believers to submit to a number of people: government, employers, elders, and of course wives to husbands. Now we also saw that wives, though submissive to their own husbands, are not asked to be submissive to men. True, men are given specific roles, if they are gifted in things such as eldering and teaching, and Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12 that women are not to teach men. So we know there are gender distinctions among men and women. So, wives are to follow the leading of their husbands. And in these two principles we gave, Peter highlighted both the attitude of submission and the action of submission. In other words, it is not just a belief that does not show itself in action, nor is it just an outside action that does not come from a heartfelt devotion. And of course, this kind of difficult obedience for the Christian wife is only possible if she has placed her hope and trust in the Lord. Wives, the greater you lean on your husbands, the more you are learning to trust Christ.
Well, I promised I would get to husbands this morning. And I will, as we will speak to both husbands and wives this morning. So let’s pray, and then we will begin. Lord, would You guide us this morning? Grant to us biblical insight into such an important topic that influences of course our marriages. But also impacts our families, our church life, our witness, and our obedience. And might we not be convicted by my thoughts, or own opinions, but may we be challenged this morning by Your truth. For we ask this in the name of Christ, amen.
I have been involved in marriage counseling for a number of years, both pre-marriage and to existing married couples. And I have learned in counseling to always listen, to never just start giving out advice without first trying to understand. Sometimes this is best done by sitting down with a couple and listening. And after a time to think and pray and maybe ask someone else for advice to get back to them later with some thoughts. And marriage counseling is never too simplistic as sometimes difficulties can be a little complex. But I would say this, that after looking at much of the Scriptures, I do believe there are two vital principles that the Bible is asking of both husbands and wives. And for each they are both different. Let me share with you a few very important verses among many. 1 Peter 3:1, “wives be subject to your own husbands.” 1 Peter 3:7, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way.” Ephesians 5:25, “husbands, love your wives.” Ephesians 5:33, “and wives, see to it that you respect your husband.” Now let me give these principles to you and then we will address them. The two key principles given to wives, I would suggest are respect and submission. And the two key principles given to men, love and understanding.
We concluded last week with the reminder in the Bible of the response that is natural for a woman in regards to following her husband’s leadership, as part of the curse placed upon women is that she will desire the leadership role in marriage. Listen to what John MacArthur wrote:
“Just as the woman and her seed will engage in a war with Satan … the man and the woman will face struggles in their relationship. Sin has turned the harmonious system of God-ordained roles into distasteful struggles of self-will … [H]usbands and wives will need God’s help in getting along as a result.”
John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible 21.
There is a curse placed on this relationship, that when the Bible gives men the responsibility to lead, and woman the responsibility to follow, the natural tendency is for women to desire the role of leadership. She wants it, “I want to be in charge.” And therefore, the man will then try to dominate and suppress. So how does this play out in a typical relationship? It often raises its ugly head by the woman trying to control or manipulate the relationship. Or the man to try to dominate and rule or in some cases, “do nothing.” Yet we said in week number one, that there is little doubt that the husband is supposed to lead, and the wife is supposed to submit to that leadership. And we could talk about one hundred marriages, and most will likely rise or fall on this issue.
Another problem in this relationship is the differences between men and women. Some of you have read about women being like spaghetti and men being like waffles. This means that women will think about numerous circumstances at the same time, as spaghetti noodles are intertwined with each other, that so many things can be racing through a woman’s mind. I get this as sometimes Anne will mention something that has absolutely nothing to do with what we were just talking about. And I am thinking, why were you thinking of that? And men are like waffles, as often the parts of their lives are segregated into different compartments. Because when I am playing hockey, I am playing hockey. When I am at work, I’m at work. When I am preaching this morning, I am not thinking about anything else. And when you ask a man what he is thinking about, and he says, “nothing,” he might be actually telling the truth, that is his nothing box. But when a woman is thinking and doing something, she can also be thinking about many things all over the map. So we have the curse placed upon us. And the fact that men and women are just different, adds to the truth that our work is cut out for us. And therefore, to move us to really good marriages, which is ultimately a really good relationship. Principle #1
- A Husband Loving His Wife
The Bible says directly to husbands, that he is to love his wife. Ephesians 5:25, “husbands love your wives.” Ephesians 5:28, “husbands ought also to love their own wives.” Ephesians 5:33, “husbands to love his own wife.” Colossians 3:18, “husbands love your wives.” The biblical word here is agapaō. Which is the most giving love used in the Bible, it is an unconditional, unbreakable love, and is the same love used to describe the love of Christ for the church. And the reason I say this is one of the primary responsibilities of a husband is because the Bible gives these four direct commands to love, and each time it is the word agapaō. In contrast, and I don’t want to burst your bubble men, but do you know how many times the Bible commands wives to love their husbands? Once! And it is in connection with the kids, come on! Titus 2:4, “instruct the young women … to love their husbands, to love their children.” So older women don’t even have to love their husbands at all. No! Just kidding! And to make matters even worse men, do you know what Greek word is used for love? Philao. And do you know what philao love means? Friendship love. It is actually used at times in Greek to “wish someone well.” So this is really fair. Men, we are to love our wives until our death unconditionally, an unbreakable love, to serve her, provide for her, and look after her. And wives are to wish their husbands well. Have a great day!
Seriously, let me explain as I do not want to overstate this or understate this, but let me speak first to husbands. We cannot lose sight of the fact men, that we are commanded in the Bible to love our wives unconditionally. Therefore this love cannot be dependent upon what a wife gives in return, because that is what unconditional love means. Therefore a husband’s love must be the lifelong driving force in a marriage. And I would even suggest that this focus to love exceeds the necessity for husbands to lead. I will explain later. And the difficulty with this kind of love is that by nature, men are not given to love as easily as women. Women have this nurturing quality about them. Just watch your kids when they scape their knee. Who do they run to? Mom. Kids, who do you go to when you have a stomach ache? Dad! No, Mom! In fact, who are the highest percentage of care-givers in society? Statistics tell us that it is 90% woman. I am going to guess for the most part men, that someday when you are sick and dying, it will be your wife who will care for you until the day you die.
So men, this is a reminder of a great responsibility, that you need to love your wife, care for her, provide for her, and to keep your focus on her, as our tendency as men at times is to focus on other things. And we can often have opinions of what others should do, or what the government should do, and society’s struggles, and often miss the problems in our own homes. And this is why Paul said that it is better to remain unmarried, because when a man commits to a woman in marriage, the assumption is, is that much of his time and energy will be towards his wife. In other words, if you are not willing to make this kind of commitment, don’t get married. That this agape love is an unconditional love. Therefore it is not earned, it is not withdrawn, it is not conditional on behavior, and it is an unbreakable love.
Now I wish to add that a woman is commanded to philao-love her husband, not fillet him. Friendship, the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia (comes from philao). And by the way, close friendships are the desire of most women. This is why in a dating relationship a woman will want to be with a man, talk together, and go out for coffee together. In a wife’s marriage, she can love dearly, yet she needs to be reminded to demonstrate friendship love. A husband might get asked at work, “does your wife love you?” Absolutely. “Does she like you?” Well not today. Ask her kids. “Does Mommy love you?” Mommy loves us dearly. “Does she like you?” Not today, we were bad, and she didn’t really like me yesterday either. And this is not one of the two primary things I wish to address here with wives, but it is a reminder to wives to be friendly and pleasant and kind, philao love, even when days are hard and hectic and tiring. Yet the main thrust here is that agape love of the husband toward his wife. This can never be overstated. Now this leads us to the #2 principle for husbands:
- A Husband Understanding His Wife
1 Peter 3:7, “husbands live with your wives in an understanding way.” And then look what the Lord says right after, verses we will get to in a few weeks. Verse 8, “Now to sum up, all of you be like-minded, sympathetic, brotherly, tender-hearted, and humble in spirit.” This demonstrates such a caring love, doesn’t it? Kind and sympathetic. As Ephesians 5 says to care for her as you would yourself. Therefore husbands we cannot be distant or independent. And our culture wants to fight with this one. As we have been prone to be taught that we need our own space. But that is not the idea here in this passage. Maybe we all need to go on a vacation with our spouse in a one-room cottage. And the need here for husbands to understand our wives needs. Her fears, feelings, concerns, anxieties, goals, dreams, and desires. Which means husbands must listen. Because understanding women is extremely difficult. But how can we truly love someone who we do not listen to or understand, as often the number one cry from a wife is that her husband does not understand me! Therefore this would dictate how we would talk about her privately and in public. How we would treat her in front of the children. This requires a carefulness, as I believe there is room for joking and kidding, but be careful.
I tease my daughters all the time, but not in the same way as my sons. And not in the same way amongst my daughters, as they are not all at the same confident level. My daughter Nikki’s sister Katrina is very confident. She used to be in our youth group. Anne and I saw her after we had not seen her in a number of years and she said, “Mr. Ottaway, you have not changed a bit.” I said, thank you, Katrina! And then she said, “that’s because you have always looked old.” So I too joke with her, but still with great care! This understanding also includes being a gentleman, courteous, and tender. Words such as chivalry, as the husband is stronger physically and emotionally. “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel” (vs 7). And therefore that care in giving strength and protection, a caring love. And this also includes the understanding of the commitment which was made at the altar. That you have become one body, you are inseparable, and therefore she is to be treasured. A physical relationship that is not shared with anyone else. A husband is to be understanding. And now to wives:
- A Wife Submitting to Her Husband’s Leadership
I don’t want to spend a lot of time here as we spoke about this last week. But I do want to highlight it as one of two major responsibilities of a wife, and in connection with husband leadership. When a wife does not submit to her husband, ultimately it means that she will try to manipulate him. And a husband will often respond with one of two reactions. He will get very angry and demand his wife follow him, or he may throw his hands up and give up and say, fine you lead. Therefore, I would suggest that the responsibility for the husband to lead should not be the driving force, as there is so much that goes into this principle of wife submission and husband leadership. There are three things that ought to encourage husband leadership: the husband’s love, the husband’s understanding, and the wife’s willingness to follow. Because in reality wives, if your husband loves you and is striving to care for you and understand you. Is this not the type of husband you want to follow? Because if a husband loves and understands, there ought to be a driving force within him that makes plain his need to lead and care and provide and to look after.
Now I need to warn here that leaning on your husband to lead, is not the same thing as forcing him to lead, as this is something that he will have to learn. Example, a young couple get married, and after being married, the woman learns more and more about husband leadership, and wants desperately for her husband to lead. So, she decides (manipulation) to make him a leader, because she feels this is the kind of biblical marriage she wants. In fact, we even hear at times from biblical teachers, that if your husband is not a leader than make him a leader. Now I would struggle with this as it makes the husband the project in the family. In other words, “I am going to change him into something really great!” But if he is viewed this way she might start asking him to pray, or expecting him to take charge and sometimes in front of people.
We were having supper a number of years ago at a young married couple’s house. And the husband was a great guy and did his best to lead his family, but he was somewhat shy. And after we had supper she pushed a Bible toward him and said, “here, you do the devotion.” Now if I was the young husband (and you have a pastor and his wife there), I would probably want to crawl under the table and die. What in reality is she doing? She actually is trying to control him. Here you lead! And sometimes in a marriage, a wife will spend fifty years trying to make her husband a leader, when he is not a leader, or at least the kind of leader she is expecting.
This priority to lead causes us to place many regimented expectations on a husband that the Bible does not, and it also makes many husbands view themselves as failures, only because they do not see themselves as leaders, or at least the typical understanding that we may have on husband leadership. All I am suggesting is that we loosen up on this one, as I feel the Bible gives us some freedom here. As there is no strict outline of what a leader looks like. Good to have freedom to learn to be a good husband. I believe that we would do much better to lay aside some of those expectations, or even typical roles of Mom and Dad that we have been given by tradition or maybe by your own experience growing up, because the Bible certainly does not go there.
Many have grown up with a Dad who led a daily family devotion at the supper table, or the wife’s Dad did this. And this is excellent and many Dads lead extremely effective in this way. However, my own experience was with a Dad who did not do that, but who effectively led in many other ways. More the Deuteronomy 6 pattern of speaking about the Lord when you get up, sit down, play, go to work, go to bed. So we spoke of spiritual things all that time, but we did not have a traditional family devotion. And I would find it very difficult if Anne expected me to be something I am not. Husband, if you are loving your spouse, pleasing your wife, understanding your wife, and the key here, if you are growing spiritually and desire that she would grow, you will begin to fulfill your role to lead.
- A Wife Respecting Her Husband
In Ephesians 5:33, it says that a wife is to respect her husband. There is a major emphasis here, as it is commanded right after that a husband is to love his wife. The Greek word translated respect phobeō, means to reverence, to be struck with awe! Now husbands, we like that! Struck with awe. See, this is how Anne views me every morning, she is struck with awe! Seriously wives, when you respect your husbands, we tend to eat that up! In Song of Solomon it said that the wife was captivated by her husband. This really speaks to a deep devotion of the wife for her husband. I believe there is good health in a marriage when a wife senses that need to be devoted. Sort of the thought that he is my man, hopelessly devoted. And this respect shows up in many areas. That I speak highly of him in front of our children, in public, with my friends. That I do not nag at him. This also comes into play in the whole area of trust that we mentioned a number of weeks ago, that a wife does not speak to others about her husband in a negative way.
A husband loving his wife, a husband understanding his wife, a wife submitting to her husband, a wife respecting her husband. Well, we have one more week on this topic, as next week we will try to summarize much of this and discover how to have a perfect marriage. Let’s pray. Father, we thank You for the joy of marriage. Would You continue to mould us into a people who desire to be obedient to You in this blessed relationship? For we ask this in Christ’s name, amen.
We have been looking at four key principles in how to do marriage well. And that is great, but here is the challenge, to keep in my lane as a husband or a wife, in keeping my focus on what the Lord has asked of me, as these commands we are given in regards to marriage are all unconditional commands, In other words, they are not dependent upon the other spouse doing their role well. Easier if he or she does, yes; dependent, no. As I believe that when I stand before God someday and am rewarded for my service to Christ, the question I will be asked as a husband is not, did Anne follow you or did she respect you? No, the question I will be asked is, did you love Anne? Did you try to understand Anne? And Anne will not be asked, did he love you or understand you? No, it will be, did you follow Mark, and did you respect Mark? That Anne follows me and respects me is not my responsibility, that is her obedience to Christ. That I love Anne and try to understand Anne is not her responsibility, that is my obedience to Christ. And you might say, “Mark, you don’t know what I am going through.” Well, don’t argue with me, you need to argue with Peter, and therefore, ultimately, you have an argument with God. Listen, I know this is not easy, and I know that some situations are far more difficult than others, but this is the truth, because this is the Word of the Lord. And all God’s people said, amen.