2017-7-16 Relative Duties: Husbands and Wives

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          July 16, 2017

“Relative Duties: Husbands and Wives”
Text: 1 Peter 3:1-7

We continue this week, as we have throughout this series from 1 Peter, to see a number of true things.  We see that this world is not wholly friendly to our Christian profession and practice.  Perhaps this was always true in our land, but it is certainly more evident today than formerly.  We also see that this world is not our final home.  We continue to be strangers, aliens, pilgrims, and exiles as we relate to the world system around us.  We see, in light of the foregoing, how we are to conduct ourselves in this world.  God calls His redeemed in Christ to forsake a certain set of outlooks and behaviors in favor of another set of outlooks and behaviors—and we learn of this in this brief letter.  In short, we see how we are to look like the living stones that we are—in the spiritual house that God builds, with Christ as the Cornerstone.

We continue seeing these things as we consider the relative duties incumbent upon husbands and wives.  Let us give our attention to the Word written—that we may glorify the risen Christ, the Word living.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Apostle Peter’s Spirit-led instruction contains six verses directed to Christian ladies, but only one to Christian men.  Do not infer, though, that ladies carry a burden six-fold that of men from this text; the responsibility falls equally upon each—and each shall need the powerful aid of the Holy Spirit to comply.  First, we look at God’s words, through Peter, to Christian ladies.  The command here is simple to understand—but, as we noted last year, hard to observe: Be subject to your own husbands.[1]  This squares with Scripture elsewhere.  Paul writes to the Ephesian Christian households, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).  He writes similarly to the Christian homes at Colosse, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as it fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).

This command, be it ever so naturally difficult in the best of circumstances, is enjoined here particularly upon wives in a most difficult situation—whose husbands neither believe the Gospel nor obey it.  Yet Peter, obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit, enjoins submission of wives to such husbands.  There is often a blessed end to this (and this may mitigate the difficulty of compliance somewhat), namely, that those husbands may in time both believe the Gospel and obey it—and this without a word from the wives, as God gives the husbands eyes to see their wives’ excellent bearing and conduct.

Here is further good news for Christian ladies striving to comply with God’s command here: God adorns you in this.  The beauty of a lady in Christ lies not principally in external adornments—such as jewelry, hair style, clothing (these from our text), and anything that cries, “Look at me and esteem me highly because of what you see on the outside.”  The beauty of a lady in Christ lies principally in the internal adornments that God gives to her.  These internal adornments take two forms: first, a gentle and quiet spirit, and, second, submission to husbands out of reverence for Christ.

Peter says, in effect, that a gentle, quiet spirit in a believing lady is imperishable (or unfading, as in some translations) beauty.  One with a gentle spirit is neither harsh nor abrasive toward others.  A Christian wife who can resist the temptation to treat her husband with harshness or abrasiveness pleases God and serves her husband well.  Moreover, one with a quiet spirit is neither loud nor brash.  A husband who need not endure loudness and brashness from his wife is a blessed man indeed.  Some ladies in Christ come by such lovely traits as gentleness and quietness of spirit more easily than others, to be sure, but all need the grace of God to grow it.  May He do this for you, elect ladies in Christ, and may you know God’s blessing in your souls even as you husbands shall in theirs.

Peter, led by the Spirit, invokes Sarah, wife of Abraham (see Genesis 12-23), as an example of submission to her husband.  She followed Abraham as he followed God, and she respected him, thus complying with Paul’s directive almost two millennia later—that the woman must respect the husband, even as the husband must love the wife (cf. Ephesians 5:33).  Following in Sarah’s steps in these ways, plus doing good and resisting fear, is precious in God’s sight and brings blessing to the Christian wife.

Finally, Peter turns to address Christian gentlemen.  He tells them—and, recall, Peter himself had a believing wife—to live with their wives in an understanding way (literally according to knowledge).  Christian husbands need relate to their wives knowing how God made her as a lady: acknowledging, applauding, and responding favorably to those ways in which she is not like him—maybe nothing like him.  Furthermore, each individual Christian husband must relate to his wife knowing her particular make-up, her likes and dislikes, her strengths and challenges, and so forth.  It takes a lifetime to understand a wife—and maybe the mystery of her increases with the understanding—yet we  Christian husbands remain called to live with her in an understanding way.

God calls Christian husbands, additionally, to show honor to your wives—particularly in view of her being the weaker partner.  This likely refers to physical strength generally—and, with some exceptional cases of ladies’ physical strength (and of men’s diminished strength) noted, the case generally holds.  The world says, “Exalt the stronger, and prey upon the weaker.”  We say no such thing in Christian marriage.  Husbands honor their wives along this line when they handle the matters that would tax or overtax her strength.

Here is more fuel for Christian husbands to honor their wives: If they be in Christ, then they too are heirs of God and joint-heirs of abundant, eternal life in Him (cf. Romans 8:17).  Never forget, beloved, that despite difference in form and function between women and men, they are equal in value before God.  More than this, they share both in Christ’s redemption from sin and in the restoration of all things at the end of this present age.  We shall dwell together for all eternity, to use Tedd Tripp’s phrase, in mutuality as the people of God; hence, let’s get some practice now.[2]

Fellow Christian husband, if you yet need any further inducement to comply with this seventh verse, then consider one in the negative: If we fail to comply with the teaching in this verse, then our prayers will be hindered.  My fellow brethren, none of wants this.  If you cherish the temptation that you would like to hazard this, then I assure you again that you do not want this.  The silence of God toward us, when God withdraws the sense of His presence and pleasure from us, is one of the worst things imaginable—and His outright displeasure is only slightly less bad.  You do not want this, and neither do I.  Happily, we avoid this sad state when, by God’s power and grace, we comply with this verse.  Moreover, in our compliance, our wives’ compliance with the first six verses is less—maybe much less—difficult for her.

If our marriages, beloved Christians, are as this passage directs—marriages of mutual care, mutual concern, and mutual honor—then the world, estranged from and at times hostile toward God, will notice.  Some from the world, noting us, in God’s good providence, will want marriages like we have, will want the Christ Who has us, and will, thus, be saved—to abundant, eternal life, just as we are.  May the Lord bless us each and all as He conforms us by His Spirit to His Word.  AMEN.

[1] This refers to the sermon preached in April 2016 at Cornerstone EPC, from Ephesians 5:22-33 entitled “Men, the Onus Is on Us.”

[2] Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

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