Sermon Text: 1 Peter 3:7
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé

Men, Marriage, & Gospel-Masculinity

For the last 3 weeks, the Apostle has been grabbing onto specific groups of Christians—citizens, slaves, wives—and speaking directly into the heart of their weakness. For each group, he identifies some kind of regular, common temptation for that group, then calls them to gospel-shaped living in the face of that temptation.

This morning, he does the same for Christian husbands, before he will turn in the rest of this section to address all of us together, God’s gathered church. So men, this morning our brother Peter takes us to school. He’s going to press into areas maybe we’d rather not look at. And he’s going to do it because he is for us and because he loves us.

I love pastor Douglas Jones’ definition of masculinity, that masculinity is a collection of all those characteristics which flow from delighting in and sacrificing strength for goodness. That’s precisely what we are going to aim our lives at together this morning.

Some of you are very godly men; men I would delight to tell my sons, “Imitate that guy. See the way he treats his wife? See how he provides? Do you see how that man worships the Lord? Do you see how he conducts his business? Imitate him.” I am deeply thankful to be raising sons where I can say that of many gathered here week after week. Some of you are mature, growing, humble, a good vintage of masculinity that’s been aging and rounding out for many decades in God’s wine cellar. 

And some of us men are not there. Some of us come immature, not self-controlled. Some of us come this morning weighted with habitual sins, clinging immaturity, uncontrolled tongues, unchecked lusts. Many of us are ashamed of our weakness and sin and failure, even in the very areas where the Lord wants to press into this morning.

And so what I want you to know right now, up front, is that all of God’s words are freedom, that he delights to free us, that he is for you, brothers, and that he disciplines those whom he deeply loves, loves as a Brother and a Father and Savior. Listen to this, from Hebrews 2:10–15,

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

And again, “I will put my trust in him.”
And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

-Hebrews 2:10–15

Jesus is not ashamed to call you brothers. Why? Because even now, you are clean. You are justified. Jesus is not just Lord, but Justifier—we are his holy sons because of his justifying grace. And what he intends to do—did you catch this?—is to bring us to glory. To bring his sons to glory

So that’s where this text is pointed, it’s a big compass bearing fixed on glory, and our brother is taking us there. Look with me at our text, 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.

-1 Peter 3:7

That Key First Word

The first thing we need to do with this text is to make sure we don’t fail to do the most important thing in this passage, which is to understand the potency of the very first word. The difference between Christianity and simple good marriage advice is wrapped up in this single word.

“Likewise,” means “in the same way.” So, “In the same way, husbands, live like this...” In the same way as what? In the same way that Peter described a few sentences ago, 1 Peter 2:21–25,

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” -1 Peter 2:21–25

Through the promised suffering and subsequent glories of our Lord Jesus Christ, heralded by prophets and priests and poets and shepherds in the Old Testament Scriptures, God has taken away our sin, our reproach, and our shame, and raised us to new life with Christ by faith.

He died on the cross to pay the just penalty for our injustice, bearing the very wrath of God for our sin. On the third day, he rose from the dead, victorious over it. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he is reigning until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 

And in his reign, he is saving a people from every nation and tongue and people, calling them by his Spirit to new life, new birth, new everything. He has taken our hearts of lifeless stone—dead, rebellious hearts, numb to God’s gracious Word—and put in us hearts of flesh, with his own Law written on it the way that the commandments were written on tablets of stone and given to Moses. 

And our Father has put his Spirit in us and called us now to walk after that same pattern of suffering and subsequent glory as his Son. He is calling our marriages, our parenting, our working, our resting—all of our lives—to be pressed into that form; to be pressed into the shape of death to self that life could flow out of our lives like springs.

And he has given us his Word to help us see through the layers of blindness wrought by our sin and see clearly what this life looks like.

So listen: Do we need help? Do we our marriages need help? Do we as husbands and wives need help to learn how to live together and bear fruit? Do we need instruction, teaching, reproof? Yes! 

Without the strong help of new birth, of new hearts, of the Spirit of God, no other help will do. But God in his grace has given us a cascading river of strong help. The headwaters are his regenerating, resurrecting grace—the dead, alive! The unjust, just! The self-worshiping, reoriented and resurrected to right worship!

And then as part of his help, he gives us instruction in his Word. Make no mistake, this kind of instruction is no separate thing from God’s grace. No, it is a part of his love for us, of his care for us, that he instructs us.

So this is no impotent self-help. God can do what self-help, weakened by the flesh, could never do—make new men and new marriages and new legacies of grace. Believe that this morning, and let’s lean into his instruction this morning with thirsty hearts for this instructing grace.

That instruction comes for the married brothers from our brother Peter in three parts:

1. Husbands, deeply know your wife and live with her according to that knowing.

2. Husbands, do not dishonor your wife as the world dishonors its women—failing to honor the glory of her femininity. Honor your wife as a woman; honor the glories of her femininity.

3. Husbands, do not dishonor your wife as the world dishonors its women—treating her as lower than yourself. She is your co-heir with Christ, created in the image of God.

Know Your Wife

The first instruction Peter directs towards married men in the church is to “ with your wives in an understanding way.”

As we’ve seen in this whole section of instruction, Peter is speaking into weakness. His instruction is targeted at the general proclivities, temptations, and weakness of the group he’s addressing. So the first question we should ask to help us understand what it means to live with your wife in an understanding way is to ask, “What pattern of male weakness is this speaking into?”

What weakness is this speaking into?

The force of the language Peter uses, to live with understanding, is to literally to “ with your wives according to knowledge.”

This language of knowing is powerfully relational in the Scriptures. It’s much, much deeper than mere intellectual understanding. To know someone is such an intimate sort of thing that it’s often used as shorthand for the sexual relationship of husband and wife. 

So when Peter says, “ with your wife according to knowledge,” he’s urging a man to make a careful study of his wife, to learn her. The implication is that husbands do not walk into marriage knowing all he needs to know.

He is to be a humble student of his wife and of the Lord’s instruction for how to live with her. He is designed to pursue her, win her, study her, cherish her according to that very personal, relational knowing and then to love her and live with her in accordance with that knowledge. 

So what male weakness does this instruction speak into? To put it simply and obviously, men are prone to not live with this kind of careful understanding and relational knowing.

See, from the Garden forward, men were called to be workers and keepers, that is, to go out of our homes to work soil and corporations into fruitfulness, to cultivate families and flocks and cultures and cities from the soil and treasures of God’s resource-rich creation. 

So the masculine calling is a calling that leans often outward from the home. And so sin, which always perverts the good things in God’s world like a parasite, twists that outward calling into wickedness. Men now tend to abdicate their shepherding, cultivating work in their marriage and home, neglecting home and obsessively building kingdoms at work and in hobbies.

Work is profoundly good. Hobbies are profoundly good. Both were God’s idea. But we men are prone to neglect our people for things, when the Lord would have us cultivate the things in the service of our people. Remember, masculinity is the collection of those characteristics which delight in sacrificing strength in the service of the good.

And so if you remember, last week I talked about how sin corrupts feminine beauty, which is supposed to preach and invite and be given away for the sake of fruitfulness—and how sin makes women who cling to the beauty rather than give it away for fruitfulness, and so become silly. That looks like 45, 50-year-old women desperately trying to cling to a 20-year-old body rather than leaning into the glory of a body that has borne children, that has been used for good.

The male version of this sin can look something like this: A man loves his things. He loves his lawn, his car, his computer, his golf game—whatever. And on the surface, people may consider this man very masculine; he knows how to perform proper maintenance on his home and car and how to keep his yard looking great and his career flourishing.

But he’s actually a failure of a man and not at all a good model of masculinity. Why? Because he’s not cultivating those things to be given away in the service of his wife and kids and grandkids. No, he’s serving himself, building a monument to his own glory.

He’s the man who can’t stand his wife or kids touching his things. Who can’t stand his wife intruding on his hobbies or his home-maintenance. He’s got to work, work, work, because his work is idol-worship, and idols are never satisfied.

He’s not sacrificing strength in service of the good! Now, the godly man can care about all of that, but he cares about them in order to better care about his people. And so when his wife interrupts his work, he doesn’t rage, he smiles. 

When kids interrupt his car maintenance or dig a hole in his lawn or mess up his computer, he doesn’t rage, he smiles. He thanks God for a fruitful home with lots of people to serve.

And if you give into that temptation, brothers, you cannot obey Peter’s instruction here to deeply know your wife and serve her with understanding in accordance with that knowing. She has to be the focus of your relational knowing and care, not an afterthought or a side-project to get to once you finish the “important” things.

What would a home look if a husband was obedient to this command?

It looks like a man who knows his wife, studies her, and serves her in accordance with that knowledge. Who cultivates the soil of career and home and hobbies, not for the sake of himself, but to serve his people.

Honor Your Wife

Number two, Peter calls us to live with this kind of understanding, “... showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.” What does that mean? What Peter is doing is contrasting the nature of masculinity and femininity and calling a man to treat his wife in accordance with her creational, feminine glory.

She is a weaker vessel, a weaker instrument. The language is like the language of a serving vessel or a tool. The contrast is implicitly something like, “Men are an instrument of work like a hammer; women are a tool, an instrument of work like a cello.” 

She is built differently than you are. She isn’t built for precisely the same kind of thing that you were. Men, your were created for laboring and strength in cultivation. Your wife was created for laboring and strength in nurturing and caring.

We could sum it up or restate his instruction like this, “Husband, treat your wife like a woman.” Husbands, do not dishonor your wife as the world does—failing to honor the glory of her femininity. Honor your wife as a woman—honor the glories of her femininity.

What weakness is this speaking into?

What male weakness is this speaking into? Like we’ve already seen, male sin often tends towards abdication, but it often also runs to the other pole of sin, that of domination.

Again, we have to see what men were created for and then see how sin has parasitically perverted that design. Men were created to be tough. To be protectors. To not just work creation—that’s cultivation, work, vocation, provision—but to keep it as wall. That language of keeping is to protect from enemies. It’s giving away strength and blood to protect those in your care.

And what sin does is that it turns that aggressive, strong, persistent masculine toughness, that keeping and protecting— inward. Rather than a protector, he becomes an abuser. Rather than protecting his wife and kids from enemies and dangers and snares and wolves, he becomes he danger they need protecting from.

This looks like the aggressive, physically, sexually, verbally abusive man, to be sure. But it looks as well like the man who is chronically short with his people. It looks like the man who is chronically angry, rough. It looks like a man who does not inspire his wife and kids to entrust themselves to his protection, to see him as a haven of safety, but rather view him as a predator to fear.

What would a home look if a husband was obedient to this command?

It would look like a man who treats his wife as a woman! It looks like a man treating his wife with tenderness and patience—physically, sexually, relationally, emotionally. It looks like a man who is safe, whom a woman can entrust herself to without fear.

Do Not Lower Your Wife

And lastly, Peter warns his brothers against a related error, to treat his wife as lesser than himself. He says that we are to how honor to our wives as the weaker vessel, “...since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

What weakness is this speaking into?

The temptation, and I think it’s one Peter anticipates, is to hear that your wife is different from you, that femininity is fundamentally a different sort of thing than masculinity, that she is in some sense the weaker vessel, and to rush to a conclusion that has been pandemic in human culture from the Fall to today—namely, that women are lesser than men. 

Live with them like this because they are no lesser thing from you. Don’t mistake authority to lead and headship for ontological superiority. Men are prone to believe themselves superior and so to treat women as property or objects. 

Our culture, which thinks itself very sophisticated and very progressive, is the worst of all. Want to kill your baby girl in the womb in the name of women’s rights? No problem at all; go right ahead. Want to watch dehumanizing videos of someone’s daughter doing evil things? No problem. That’s on the house.

It’s the Christians, who are often accused of being sexist and anti-woman, who have historically fought for the elevation and equal value of women. Look at this passage! Peter rebukes the man who claims superiority over his wife!

A Warning and a Call

Lastly, I want to point to the warning that is built into this text. Peter calls us to live with our wives in imitation of the gospel, with patient, Christ-imitating, self-crucifying love “ that your prayers may not be hindered.”

This is a warning. The warning isn’t that the Lord will close his ears to your prayers if you live with your wife as a tyrant, as a harsh, abusive, man. I have two questions that I’d like for all of us to consider together in light of this warning.

1. Men, do you even have prayers to hinder?

The judgment of God not hearing your prayers here is supposed to be like, “Oh no! Anything but that! Please, take my money, my house, my car, my job—but don’t stop hearing my prayers!”

Is that your reaction? Or is it like, “Meh. Didn’t need those anyway.” Are we praying? Are you praying big, bold, desperate prayers? Are you asking God for your kid’s souls, your wife’s flourishing, your home’s fruitfulness? For your church? For your city? For your neighbors?

2. What today do I need to bring to the Lord for help and confess to my wife?

Do you need to do business with the Lord before you come and take communion this morning? Do you need to confess to him that you have not loved your wife as you ought, that you have been harsh, that you have not been safe?

Do you need to confess to the Lord that you have been slack in your care and pursuit of her? Do you need to turn from your selfishness? Are there idols that you have been worshiping and demanding your family to worship that you need to flip on their heads, things you need to use and give away in service of your people rather than using your people to serve your things?

Do you need to ask for your wife’s forgiveness? Do you need to humble yourself and admit weakness and fault? Pride is like a brittle, dry bone—it is easily broken. Real strength can get low. It can confess. Why? Because authentic masculinity rests in the finished work of Christ. So listen… 

You have nothing to fear in coming to the Lord. He is faithful and just in his great love for us, brothers. We are weak. We are dust. He knows our frame. He is patient. His love is steadfast and it endures forever. Come to him for grace and he will strengthen you in that same grace for all endurance and patience with joy.