Husbands commit sin when they don’t treat their wives well. In Isaiah 59:1-2 we read,
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
The prayers of the children of Israel were not being heard by God because they were in apostasy. They were asking why the Lord wasn’t delivering them from their oppressors. It was their sins that was in the way.
The apostle Peter addresses the husbands and punctuates his address with the same gravity as Isaiah (1 Peter 3:7). He writes:
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
Having one’s prayers hindered is tantamount to losing one’s salvation since forgiveness is gained partly through prayer for the Christian (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:7-9). With the gravity of the situation well-noted let’s look at what Peter says to husbands so that we can avoid having our prayers hindered.
We are to dwell with our wives “according to knowledge” or knowledgeably. In context we should understand this as referring to the knowledge that the wife is the weaker vessel and that she is a fellow-heir of the grace of life. In practical terms, a man may treat his wife harshly, more like a male slave than a wife, placing on her heavy physical loads she was not meant to bear. The opposite of knowledgeably would be ignorantly or stupidly. Peter calls on husbands to be considerate of their wives noting their physical frailties and taking excessive burdens from them.
Often, in the Bible, we are shown what honor is by examples of dishonor. We are commanded to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Eph. 6:1-3) but the “how” of it is given in terms of things not to do. The man who strikes father and mother is worthy of death. The man who withholds financial support in old age, calling it “corban” is breaking the command of God and is worse than an infidel (Mark 7:10-13; 1 Tim. 5:8). We may understand how to honor our wives by recognizing that there is no honor in abuse. In context this refers to undue physical burdens but may refer just as easily to verbal and other kinds of physical abuse.
Peter says husband and wife are heirs together. Heirs together both receive the same inheritance. Both have access to it or benefit from it, both have rule over it, equally. The grace of life may refer to spiritual life or physical. I tend to believe Peter is writing about physical life here. A husband may act as if the entire purpose of a wife is to serve him; that the wife has no life of her own. This man’s prayers are hindered.
Peter cautions husbands, whether ancient or modern, to show great care in how they treat their wives. A man’s spiritual well-being is at stake. A wife is to be honored, not used, she is to be cherished, protected and considered.
By G. E. Watkins
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