Peter’s 1st Letter to Christians in a Pagan Society – 09 (“Submission in the Home – Duties of a Husband”)

Kobus at John Bunyan’s gravesite at Bunhill Grounds, London (Des. 2015)





[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 07 February 2021)]


We looked at 1 Pet.3:1-7 last week and we emphasised the woman’s role in marriage. We saw that God declared that it was not good for man to be alone and therefore He made a helper for him that would fit him. We also saw that she was similar to Adam but also different. She was created to help and assist the man in his calling to fill and rule over the earth – she had to become one with him as a loving friend and helper.

I also said that the husband and father must take the lead and not the woman. The man must set the example and take the lead on all spheres of marriage and family life.

When we read 1 Pet.3:1-7, we do not read about specific consequences that the woman might experience in not obeying, but we do read that they will be blessed in obeying. It is very different when it comes to the man. The man will experience a negative spiritual consequence if not taking his leadership seriously. We read that his prayers would not be heard. What a devastating consequence. Let’s read 1 Pet.3:1-7 again.


1 Pet.3:1-7 (ESV) ~ “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure behaviour. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour 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.”


We will be looking at the man’s role in more detail today. We will use the following points as directives to guide us through this topic:

  • God’s Pattern for Marriage
  • Christian Husbands
  • Exercising Headship

Scripture stresses that marriage is a God-ordained institution and can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. In this God-ordained institution, the husband is pledged to love and care for his wife. Scripture contains many examples, both good and bad, of how husbands behaved. The ultimate examples of a good husband in Scripture is God as the husband of Israel and Jesus Christ as the church’s Bridegroom.

  • God as a Husband: We read the following in Is.54:5 ~ “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” We see a similar description of God as a husband in Jer.31:32 ~ “…not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.” Just listen how beautiful does Ezekiel describe this “husbandship” of God to us in Ezek.16:8 ~ “When I passed by you again and saw you behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.” The promise that God symbolically gave to Israel in this prophecy was that He pledged His faithfulness to Jerusalem and took her as His own like a husband would take his wife as his own.
  • Jesus Christ as a Bridegroom: In Rev.19:7-9, John describes Jesus as our husband ~ “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” Here again, Jesus confirms that He will love us and provide for us – He will encourage and support and help us to grow in our sanctification so that we cantruly call ourselves the Bride of Christ.

Matt.9:14-15 ~ “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the Bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’” “The Bridegroom will be taken away from you.” In the case of Christ as husband and the church as the bride, the conjugal union (marriage union) is shown to be a spiritual oneness, a vital communion of heart as well as of body, in which it finds its consummation (unification in the marriage). Marriage is, therefore, a holy appointment of God; a union between man and woman (not man and man and not woman and woman), this is shown in Gen.2:25 ~ “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Their bodies were sanctified by the Spirit and shame only first entered with sin, which destroyed the normal relation of the spirit to the body, turning the sacred ordinance of God into sensual impulses and the flesh’s lust.

  • Adam, the First Husband: We have already seen that Adam was the first husband when God instituted the marriage in 2:20–24. God intended husband and wife to be a spiritual, functional unity, walking in integrity, serving God, and keeping His commandments together. When this harmony is operative, society prospers under God’s hand. The marriage covenant of God forms the root of that tender love with which the man loves the woman as himself, and by which marriage becomes a type of the fellowship of love and life, which exists between the Lord and His Church (cf. Eph. 5:32). Matthew Henry says, “The marriage of the woman to Adam was the most honourable marriage that ever was, in which God Himself had all along an immediate hand. Marriages (they say) are made in heaven: we are sure this was, for the man, the woman, the match, were all God’s work; He, by His power, made them both, and now, by His ordinance, made them one.”

It is clear then from what we’ve seen up to now, that marriage is a holy, God-ordained institution, where the husband must pledge his faithfulness to his wife and take her as his own. They will then become one with bodies sanctified by the Spirit. The man will love his wife and he will provide for her in all spheres of life. He will encourage and support and help her to grow in her sanctification so that she can genuinely be called (together with her husband) “Bride of Christ.”

We even see all of this manifested in the case of Adam and Eve before the Fall – Adam and Eve as husband and wife, were intended to be a spiritual, functional unity, walking in integrity, serving God, and keeping His commandments together.


Peter has expanded in chapter 3, vv.1-6 of what is to be expected from women. In v.7 with the word “likewise,”he goes back to 2:17 where exhortations are addressed generally to all the saints. In 2:18–25, Christian household slaves are addressed, in 3:1-6, Christian wives, and now in 3:7, Christian husbands.

In this one powerful verse, Peter clarifies that Christian husbands as in the case with slaves and wives have specific obligations to their position of authority and responsibility. However, in contrast to the previous six verses, Peter assumes that Christian husbands have believing spouses.

In light of the images that we got from “God as a husband” and “Christ as Bridegroom,” Peter says that husbands must likewise, reflect Christ’s character in their marriage relationship with their wives.

  • Duties of a Husband: Peter starts in v.7 by telling husbands that they must live with their wives “in an understanding way,” which is translated in Greek as “νῶσις” (“kata in”) which means “to consider” (more lit., “according to knowledge” or “with understanding”) and points out that husbands should understand and be considerate of their wives’ spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. Paul also elaborated on the husband’s responsibility to protect and care for his wife when he says in Eph.5:28-30 ~ “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…, (and then these words…)just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

Apart from the fact that husbands should live with their wives in an understanding way, Peter, emphasises that their wives are “weaker vessels.” The phrase likely refers to physical build and strength of women overall. Such a contrast was especially obvious in the labour-intensive culture of those days. The context does not suggest any spiritual, intellectual, or moral inferiority since both male and female were created in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:26–27).

Apart from the fact that husbands must live with their wives in an understanding way because their wives are “weaker vessels,” they must also do this because the wives (remember I said earlier that Peter assumes that the men that he addresses here – have wife’s that are believers) are also “heirs with (them) of the grace of life.” What Peter is saying here is that the husband should pay due honour to the wife because she is a joint-heir with him of the grace of life, eternal life, and God’s gift. That is, he is to remember that Christ died for her as well as for him. Her soul is just as precious in the sight of God as his is. Furthermore, “giving honour” also means that the husband must respect his wife’s feelings, thinking, and desires. He may not agree with her ideas, but he must respect it. The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not only make her happy, but will also grow himself and help his children live in a home that honours God.

Unlike Peter’s admonition to wives in 1 Pet.3:1-6, he includes an explicit warning in v.7 against husbands – viz. a failure to treat their wives with understanding will destroy their prayer lives.

Peter assumed that husbands and wives would pray together. Often, they do not; and this is the reason for much failure and unhappiness. If unconverted people can have happy homes without prayer (and many do), how much happier Christian homes would be with prayer! In fact, it is the prayer life of a couple that indicates how things are going in the home. If something is wrong, their prayers will be hindered.

Peter warns husbands to pay their wives honour so that their prayers are not hindered. The word “hindered” in the Greek text means literally “to cut in, to interrupt.” In his commentary on 1 Peter, John Calvin says that God cannot be rightly called upon unless our minds are calm and peaceable. Among strifes and contentions, there is no place for prayer. Peter indeed addresses the husband and the wife, when he bids them be at peace with one another so that they might pray with one mind to God. We may hence gather a general doctrine – that no one ought to come to God except he is united to his brethren. This ought to restrain all domestic quarrels and strifes, so that each one of the family may pray to God.

  • Behaviour of a Husband: Apart from what we’ve already looked at, there is another crucial aspect that I must also emphasise:
  • Mark 10:6-8 ~ “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two but one flesh” (cf. Matt.19:4-6). Jesus emphasises four crucial aspects of marriage here and they are inseparable from each other.
  • First, the man must leave (“forsake”) both of his parents and hold fast (“stick to”) his wife. Leaving his parents does, however, not mean that he must forget them. No, he must still honour them, be loyal to them, love them and care for them, but this honouring, loyalty, love, caring, etc. must now not be to the detriment of his wife – his priority – his first responsibility and focus must now be his wife.
  • The term “one flesh” comes from the Genesis account of the creation of Eve. Gen.2:21-24describes the process by which God created Eve from a rib taken from Adam’s side as he slept. Adam recognised that Eve was part of him – they were, in fact, “one flesh.” The term “one flesh” means that just as our bodies are one whole entity and cannot be divided into pieces and still be a whole, so God intended it to be with the marriage relationship. There are no longer two entities (two individuals), but now there is one entity (a married couple).
  • Thirdly, the husband must “stick” to his wife in a wilful and lasting way. The idea of a covenant or contract is implied. The husband’s commitment must be ironclad (e. so firm or secure as to be unbreakable – binding).
  • Finally, the two will become one flesh. This speaks of their exclusive sexual bond, but also speaks of their family relationship. As one flesh, the husband and wife will become family to each other, with all of the legal and relationship rights and privileges that come with being so closely connected.

Paul says in Eph.5:23 ~ “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.” The implication of this verse is not only that the woman must submit to the husband’s authority, but that the husband will take up his responsibility and be the man the Lord expects from him to be.

  • As Jesus Christ rules as head of the church: We read in Eph.5:25 ~ “…as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour,” this means that men are to lead their wives. We all know what Christ did for the church. It was Christ who did the hard work of laying down the foundation, building and even sanctifying the church through His death. Similarly, husbands are to lead their wives the same way Jesus did -by serving and sacrificing. The leadership God calls husbands into is in the context of service and love, pointing our family always to the one true Ruler of the home. The first step husbands must take to be effective in the way they lead their families is to experience the love, grace and power of God, and then let it trickle down to their families – he must prioritise his relationship with God; otherwise, he won’t be in a position to rule as head of his family successfully.
  • Sanctifying his wife: This has further implications for the husband – Eph.5:26 ~ “…that he (the husband) might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” To “sanctify” means to set apart or make holy. A godly husband who shows love for his wife helps her grow spiritually. This requires both love for one’s wife and the serious commitment to helping her and, of course, it requires a husband to be personally committed to the serious study of the Word himself. The principle is clear: a wife’s spiritual growth can best be enhanced by a godly husband who shows love to her.
  • Fathers are heads of their families: Paul addresses the second household relationship, viz. parents and children. He gives a general instruction to each and provides a supporting rationale for each. As in the commands in 1 Pet.3:18–20 and 1 Pet.3:22-4:1, the weaker party is called to obey, but the stronger party’s power is checked by ensuring the well-being of the more vulnerable.

Paul also says in Col.3:21 ~ “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Paul clarifies that fathers (and mothers) must make it as easy as possible for children to obey. It is very easy to provoke or embitter children by agitating them and expecting unreasonable demands. This will only make them discouraged. Praise for well-doing rather than constant criticism will, along with loving discipline (cf. Heb. 12:7), help rear children in… “…the training and instruction of the Lord” as Eph.6:4 says. The Greek here suggests the idea of nurturing the children and helping them to flourish (cf. Eph.5:29). Parents are, therefore, entrusted with the minds, feelings, and bodies of tender bearers of the divine image (children are also created according to the image of God). Accordingly, children do not exist for parents, but parents for children – to help them come into their own personhood before God. A child’s will must be shaped through training and correction and shaping the mind through teaching and admonition.

In this whole process of child rearing (upbringing), the father must play a leading role because he, as head of his family, takes primary responsibility for his child’s upbringing  1 Tim.3:4 ~ “He (the father) must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” A father must see that his children respect the Lord and their parents and grow to be examples as all Christians should.

1 Tim.3:1 says, ~ “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” Paul’s specific focus here was on the children. The most reliable (though not infallible) means of determining the quality of a man’s potential leadership (for eldership or deaconship) is by examining his children’s behaviour. Do they respect their father enough to submit to his leadership? Proper respect (lit., “with all gravity”) may refer, however, not to the children’s submission, but to how the father exercises his authority.


I realise that much more can be said about each of these points that I’ve mentioned today. Many more points can also be added, but let me conclude with this:

  • Young (and older) unmarried men weigh this before you take up the massive responsibility of marriage.
  • Married men, take stock of how you are handling your marriage and house.
  • Married woman (apart from last week’s teaching), keep your man accountable to these principles from the Word.
  • Unmarried ladies – Look for a husband who has and apply these qualities, otherwise as the saying says, “count on your skirts and run.”

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