The Weaker Vessel

1 Peter 3:7 "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

God has called both husbands and wives to live with a respectful and submissive spirit towards each other. 1 Peter 3:7 must be looked at in context in order to understand the intent. In 1 Peter 2, God is telling us to be submissive to secular authorities. This theme continues on in chapter 3 speaking to wives in verse 1 and then to husbands in verse 7, regarding submission and respect. The use of the word “likewise” in both of these verses shows the heart of God is for both men and women to honor each other. It points to a pattern of examples regarding submission. 

Highlighting that women are shown as a weaker vessel here can be a slippery slope that leads to misunderstanding and offense if it is not given the proper commentary. It is important to have a base knowledge and understanding that God created women by design, physically weaker and more emotionally delicate. As with anything in life, there are always going to be exceptions. In general though, this is what you will find in cultures all across the world. Contrary to certain feminist ideals or secular principles, this is not a degrading or disgraceful quality. This is a God-given virtue that allows husbands to hold dear, cherish, and serve their spouse with an appropriate tenderness. 

Historically, women have been disadvantaged and mistreated in societies. They have not always been given the same entitlements as men. This is an encouragement from Peter, teaching men to do something very counter-cultural: to esteem women. The latter part of this verse shows us that we are coheirs in the grace of life. We share in God’s blessings. This can only truly be realized in healthy relationships. A dysfunctional marriage, not based on the Word of God, will only distort Scripture and cause division. Healthy marriages begin with trust and respect. Men should lead the way in serving their spouse by:

  • Cultivating and building a space of understanding. We need to communicate our feelings clearly and with love. 
  • Creating a home of honor and love. Prefer her wants and needs above your own. Honor her passions and desires. 
  • Loving through selflessly serving (Ephesians 5:25). Follow Christ’s example of how he loved the church. 

As Christians, we are urged and entrusted to not take advantage of our spouse.  If we love our spouse as Christ loves the church, then there is no fear of abuse. There is no fear of distorting what true biblical submission is. Seek to affirm and honor each other. Follow the example of Christ, and you will see God’s goodness declared in your marriage.

*Listen to Pastor Boyd's sermon, "Joyfully Sojourning Together, Pt.2."