Pastor Skip Heitzig guides us through First and Second Peter in the series Rock Solid.
First Peter, chapter 3, and we're going to be looking in a moment at verse 7. In ancient times fortresses were built with walls of stone and fortifications, gates. And the idea was that all who resided within the confines of that fortress were kept safe. Typically fortresses had four sides: one facing north, south, east, and west. A marriage is similar to that. A marriage is designed to keep the occupants of that marriage safe, those who reside within its walls to be kept safe. For that to happen it takes an enormous amount of commitment.
And consider the plight of a young husband who has been married now just one year, and he writes with some trouble, but he writes this letter in the vernacular of the computer world. He writes the letter to tech support, saying: "Dear Tech Support, last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 5.0 to Wife 1.0. I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child processing that took up lots of space and valuable resources. In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other programs, and now monitors all other system activity." [laughter]
"Applications such as Poker Night 10.3, Football 5.0, Hunting and Fishing 7.5, and Racing 3.6, I can't seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while attempting to run my favorite applications. I think I'm thinking about going back to Girlfriend 5.0, but the uninstall doesn't work on Wife 1.0. Please help!" Signed, "Troubled User." The letter comes back: "Dear Troubled User, this is a very common problem. Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 5.0 to Wife 1.0 thinking that it's just a utilities and entertainment program."
"Oh, no. Wife 1.0 is an operating system and is designed by its creator to run everything. [laughter] It's impossible to uninstall or purge the program files from the system once installed. Wife 1.0 is designed not to allow this. Look in your Wife 1.0 Manual under Warnings-Alimony/Child Support. I suggest installing the background application called Yes Dear to alleviate the software augmentation. The best course of action is to enter the command C:\APOLOGIZE, because ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway. [light applause]
Well, I'm glad five of you liked that. [laughter] The title of this message is "The Four-Sided Fortress of a Husband's Love." And I'm going to give you four applicational principles based on this text that form a fortress to protect those within the four-sided fortress of a husband's love. What's interesting about the text is the word "love" doesn't even appear in the text, although it is a very apt and powerful description of how a husband's love ought to operate. Now before we jump into our text this morning, I want to say something based upon thirty-plus years of observing marriages and counseling couples before they're married, while they're married, and sometimes after they're married.
I made a very important discovery I want to share with you based on that. Here it is: I believe all humans on earth are incompatible with all other humans on earth. Mutual incompatibility is for every single person, just give them enough time, because we're all sinners. We're all fallen individuals. We all have quirks in our personality. We have odd habits and strange behaviors. And when two people get married, they approach the marriage altar with a picture in their minds of the perfect partner. The trouble is they marry an imperfect person. So they're left with the option of 'A'. tear up the picture and accept the person, or tear up the person and accept the picture.
As one person put it, Robert Anderson: "In any marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find and continue to find grounds for marriage." So, ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you grounds for marriage, and a good marriage based upon the role of the husband in verse 7. But, it's not just the husband, we take the whole package together. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to begin with verse one and work down for context sake to verse 7.
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward---arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel---rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
As I mentioned, there are four sides to this fortress. And here's the first principle, the first side: Submission is mutual. It's mutual. Notice how the verse begins, verse 7, "Husbands, likewise"---stop right there. "Likewise" is a word that takes you back to the theme that Peter has been dealing with all along, which is the theme of submission. Right? That's what we've been looking at week after week in the last several weeks here in our study in First Peter. And we mentioned that the key verse is back chapter 2, verse 12, "That your conduct would be honorable among the Gentiles." The unbelieving world is watching.
"Therefore," in verse 13 of chapter 2 he says, "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man." Look down at verse 18, "Servants, be submissive to your masters." Go down to chapter 3, verse 1, "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands." You follow the theme? We submit as citizens to government, we submit as servants to masters, wives submit to their husbands, and then now notice verse 7, "Husbands, likewise." Now, I will say that husbands do not submit in the same way that citizens do to a government or servants to a master or wives to a husband, but there is a level of submission that takes place mutually between husband and wife.
And I want you to see how that is to be. So turn back a couple of books in your New Testament to the book of Ephesians, chapter 5. Probably the most famous passage of Scripture on marriage in the New Testament, Ephesians, chapter 5. As you're turning to that passage, I want you to know that most teachings I have heard on marriage out of Ephesians 5 begin in the wrong place. Most of them believe that the chapter has a flow to it, and that the flow of the family as a topic begins in verse 22 of chapter 5 where it says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." That's where the series on marriage generally begins.
That's unfortunate, it is unfair relationally, it is out of context biblically, it is therefore wrong theologically. It does not begin there. Back up one verse and you'll see where it begins. "Submitting to one another in the fear of God." "Submitting to one another," mutually, "in the fear of God." That's the thought. After that thought is introduced, Paul then gives four examples of submission: an example for the wife, an example for the husband, example for children, and an example for servants. So notice, "Submitting to one another in the fear of God," followed by, "Wives, submit to your own husbands."
Okay, I'm going to give you a news flash---many husbands do not know this because verse 22 is their life verse. [laughter] They've memorized it: "Wives, submit to your husbands." I know many homes where husbands know verse 22 and not verse 21. But in verse 22, you see where it says, "Wives, submit"? The word "submit" does not exist in the original text. In the Greek language it is not there. It is implied, thus translators wrote it in there, but it actually begins in verse 21, "Submitting to one another in the fear of God."
Then it says literally, "Wives, to your own husbands"; and then down in verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives"; and then in chapter 6, verse 1, "Children, obey your parents"; then in verse 5 of chapter 6, "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters." So you see, submission isn't just for the wife, it's for the wife, the husband, children, servants. There are four examples of submission. Now, I know, some of you guys are thinking, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Skip, are you telling me that I, as a husband, submit to my wife?" In a manner of speaking, yes. And I want you to see how you are to submit.
Look back at verse 25 of Ephesians 5. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her." Listen, there is no greater act of submission than the willingness to die for another person. Jesus on the cross was the world's greatest demonstration of submission. He submitted to the will of the Father, he submitted to the need of mankind needing the forgiveness of sins. That is a profound act of submission. Doesn't mean that the husband stops being the leader. Certainly in any organization, whether governmentally or at the workplace or in the home, somebody needs to makes the decision.
And, yes, the husband is the head of the home. I had a woman come up to me and say, "Well, he may be the head of the home, but I'm the neck that turns the head." [laughter] Okay, have fun with that one. [laughter] Here's an illustration that I found helpful. There was a guy driving his car out in a country road, and he came to a very narrow bridge on a narrow road. In front of him was the sign Yield. So he thought, "Okay, that's my job to yield for oncoming traffic." So he slows down to a stop, peers over to see if anybody's coming.
It's all clear, so he goes ahead. Later on that afternoon he comes back over the same bridge, and on that side of the bridge was another sign that said Yield. So he thought, "That's funny, I thought the yield sign was on the first side that I came in on this morning." So, as he went across the bridge he looked back to make sure, and sure enough, on both sides of the bridge was the sign Yield. The point being is this: you want to avoid a head-on collision? Both drivers need to yield. In a relationship you can be stubborn, but both drivers relationally need to yield.
Certainly the husband must make, I believe, the final decision, even though it's not right, as we saw last week with Abraham and Sarah. But, nonetheless, there is a yielding process that must take place. William Hendriksen said, "When grace changes the heart, submission out of fear changes to submission out of love." So submission is mutual. That's the first side of the fortress. Let's move to the second side, the second principle: Consideration is essential. Still in verse 7, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them," that is, dwell, live with your wives, notice, "with understanding."
Understanding, it's simple, understand what God's purpose for marriage is. Understand what your role as a husband and her role as a wife is. And above and beyond all things, understand her. I believe that husbands should be lifelong students their wives. They need to understand them. I need to become a Lenya-ologist [laughter] having studied her so well. Because I have to know her well if I'm going to love her well. Understanding, dwell with them with that knowledge and understanding. You know the primary text in Genesis, chapter 2, it says, "It is not good that man should be alone."
So God says, here's God's solution, "I'm gonna make a helper," here's the word, "comparable to him," comparable, suitable, a counterpart, if you will. "I'm going to make a helper as a counterpart to him." Actually in the Hebrew it says, "I am going to make a helper like opposite him." That's an interesting way to put it: like him, but opposite to him. And the translation, by the way, suggests polarity, just like you have a north pole, you need a south pole, because otherwise that planet is going to go nuts. You need a balance, the north pole to the south pole.
So men and women are different and similar, "like opposite." Yeah, we're the same species, but we are on different wavelengths. One book on brain physiology states this: "Men are different from women. They are equal only in their common membership of the same species, humankind. But to maintain that they are the same in aptitude and skill and behavior is to build a society on a biological and scientific lie." The book goes on to say, "Men and women are different because their brains are different." Not better, not interior, not superior---different.
And one of the keys to a happy marriage is that you understand that. "Dwell with them with understanding." Men and women differ in so many different areas: basal metabolism, skeletal makeup, blood composition, heart rate. There are other differences. For example, in a conversation a woman when she speaks will maintain direct eye contact for an average of twelve seconds; a man in a conversation will maintain direct eye contact for an average of three seconds. Also, women tend to find their identity in close relationships; not men, they find their identity in what they do, their vocation.
A woman will worry about her future until she gets her husband; a man will never worry about his future until he finds a wife. [laughter] And there are communication differences. For example, Harvard University did a study of little kids on a playground, they monitored the noises they make, they tape-recorded them. And they discovered in listening to little kids' playground conversations that the sounds that came out of little girls' mouths were actually recognizable words. Whereas the noises that came out of little boys' mouths, 60 percent were recognizable words, 40 percent were sound effects: Vroom! Bam! Buzzzz! Whaaa! [laughter]
And let me just tell you something, as you get older things really don't change. [laughter] I'm here to tell you. Men still like the bottom line, just cut to the chase. What are you trying to say? We don't want details. Right, men? You know what women want? Details, details, and more details. [laughter] One of the reasons why, perhaps, is communication experts tell us the average woman speaks 25,000 words a day. The average man speaks around 12,500 words per day, just under half. Now what does that mean in marital terms? It means when he comes home in the evening, gals, he's already used up 12,495 words. You got five left.
You, on the other hand, you're just getting started. [laughter] And he's wondering, "How come she talks so much?" And she's thinking, "He never says anything." [laughter] Understanding that will help. Somebody asked Albert Einstein's wife, "Do you understand the theory of relativity?" She smiled and said, "No, but I understand Dr. Einstein." I guess I would ask Dr. Einstein, "Hey, Einstein, do you understand your wife?" Because that's the meaning of the passage. "Husbands, dwell with them with understanding."
Submission is mutual, consideration is essential, here's the third wall of this fortress: Cooperation is practical. Same verse, "Giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life." You know when it says, "giving honor," you know what it means? It means to assess or assign, assign someone a place of honor, to assess that they have value, and to assign that value to that person. "Honor" is a word that means price or precious or priceless. It means that a husband should treat her with respect and courtesy and kindness.
And how about this word: chivalry. Remember that word? Let's bring that baby back, chivalry, opening doors for women. [applause] Yeah, some of you are going, "That actually happened?" I knew a guy who said he opened his girlfriend's door for her, but then they got married and he closed the door on her. [laughter] It was a strange thing. I would not recommend that. Chivalry. I heard about a man who was walking into an office building, and as he was walking toward the entrance he saw a young lady walking toward the same entrance at a brisk pace.
So he walked very fast to open the door for her. And as he opened the door for her---she was a little bit more modern and liberated. And she kind of in a gruffly way said, "Don't open the door for me just because I'm a woman." And he smiled and said, "I'm not. I'm opening the door, ma'am, just because I'm a gentleman." So let that be a part of you, just honor, treat her with honor. Gary Smalley who has written many books on marriage and relationships said, "After interviewing hundreds of wives and daughters, there is one consistent plea that is commonly asked by them of all of their fathers and their husbands."
Here it is, here it is: "Please be comforting, instead of lecturing and criticizing." It's the one thing overwhelmingly in these interviews these gals wanted. "Please be comforting instead of lecturing and criticizing." Gary Smalley said, "This was so important to them that their eyes would actually light up with just the thought that their husbands might learn this responsibility." Now, there's a phrase after "giving honor to the wife," and I want you to notice what it says. If I don't deal with this, and I'm going to deal with it very, very cautiously, but you need to know what it means.
It says, "Giving honor to the wife, as to"---what? Go ahead, what does it say? "Weaker vessel"? Now, can I just say, do not go home husbands and, like, say, "Hello, weaker vessel. What's for lunch weaker vessel? " [laughter] Not a good strategy. So you need to know what it means. First of all, you need to know what it doesn't mean. When it says, "weaker vessel," it doesn't mean that a wife, that a woman is weaker intellectually. It doesn't mean that. It does not mean that a woman, that a wife is weaker emotionally either.
In fact, I wouldn't say, would you not agree, that women are generally more mature on an emotional level. They are able to talk about their emotions. They are able to describe and articulate what they feel. You know, most men if you ask them, "What do you think about that?" They'll tell you. But if you ask them this question: "How does that make you feel?" They will not know how to answer you. It's just like deer in the headlights. [laughter]. Like a non sequitur, like, "I don't know." You ask a woman how that makes her feel, she is ready to tell you. So, they are mature emotionally.
When it says, "weaker vessel," it does not mean intellectually, it does not mean emotionally, and it does not mean spiritually. And I'm here to tell you as a pastor for over thirty years, that when it comes to spiritual things, women are right there ready to volunteer. One article that I read entitled "Women Are the Backbone of Religious Congregations in America" stated: "Women are 57 percent more likely to participate in Sunday school, 39 percent more likely to have daily devotions, 33 percent more likely to volunteer at church, and 29 percent more likely to share their faith with somebody else."
So if he says "weaker vessel," and he doesn't mean intellectually or emotionally or spiritually; what does he mean? It's quite simple really. He simply means on a physical level. Physiologically, generally, women don't have the physical strength that men have. In fact, that is shown scientifically: a woman's blood contains more water and 20 percent fewer red blood cells which supply oxygen to the body, which accounts for the fact that she will tire more easily and be more prone to faint. Now, that's generally speaking. You might say, "No. I can whip my boyfriend. I lift weights." Okay, but generally speaking, weaker vessel.
Now, let me move away from this as quickly as I can [laughter] and say, men, don't you think we need to know our wives so well that we know the soft spots in their character? Just like when a newborn is brought home, the father and mother know the soft spots, the fontanels on that babies head, those little soft spots where the bones haven't fused and come together yet. I think that if a man understands: "There's soft spots in my wife's character, there's things she struggles with, there's fears that she has, there's people I need to keep away from her because they want to attack. I need to offer strength in those areas where there's weakness."
Let me put it this way: treat your wife like fine china, not like paper plates; treat them like silverware, not plasticware. Or as one country sage put it, "If a man has enough horse sense to treat his wife like a thoroughbred, she'll never turn into a nag." Good, practical stuff. And then he says, "And, and as being heirs together of the grace of life." That's companionship. That's why I say cooperation is practical. You're companions. You're "heirs together." Now, some commentators think that this means purely in the physical sense: they share life together, they share marriage together, they share a home together, they produce life (i.e., their children).
Others believe this is speaking on a spiritual level: eternal life, everlasting life. They share that, that's true. If you're a believing husband and a believing wife, both are true. You're doing life together and you're anticipating together eternal life. So you could look at that as meaning Jesus died for her as much as he died for you, gentlemen, that her soul is as precious to him as your soul. So keep that in mind when you're treating her however you treat her, you're dealing with a child of God, a daughter of the living God.
I've always loved what Matthew Henry said, he said, "Woman was not taken from man's head to be above him, she was not taken from his feet to be walked on by him, but she was taken from his side to be close to him, from under his arm to be protected by him, from near to his heart to be loved by him." Husbands, remember this: your wife doesn't want more things, she wants more of you. And we need to hear that---Your wife doesn't want more things, she wants more of you.
Now, I know, some of you guys are thinking, "You haven't seen my wife shop." [laughter] But I contend that the reason she's really good at shopping is because you're not giving her what she really wants, and that's not things, that's you, that's your honor, that's your esteem, that's your input, that's your companionship as heirs together of the grace of life. Now, it brings me to the final and fourth side of the fortress, and that is this: Division is unprofitable. There's one final little phrase, little strophe of this verse that he leaves to the end.
I'm glad he leaves it to the end, because it answers a question. You know, you could be listening to this message, reading this verse, and you're going, "Yeah, you know what? I've heard this before, and it's good, good stuff. I agree with it, but is it really that important? Is it that paramount?" I'm glad you asked that question, because notice how it ends: "That your prayers may not be hindered." Now, look at it all together: "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered."
Would that seem to imply that your prayers could be hindered if you don't treat her that way? That the sounds logical to me, and it's theological as well. The word "hinder" means to cut in or to interrupt. It's a military term of somebody trying to blow up a road so that an enemy can't advance toward you on that road. And here's the point of Peter using it, I believe: Satan's desire is to throw a trench in the road between you and God and the communication, effective communication that you would have toward God. He wants to interrupt that. Remember what Jesus said to Peter? "Peter, Satan wants to sift you like wheat." I think that's true of every husband here---Satan wants to sift you like wheat.
So what is it, what is it that could hinder from your prayers being answered? Well, actually there's one special sin that will do that. You know what it is? Unforgiveness. You want to stop up your spiritual effectiveness, just try unforgiveness on for size. Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you. If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you." Never go to sleep at night without forgiving each other for whatever you need to forgive each other for, and there's probably a list.
Forgiveness. I'll break this down to one salient principle, this last little wall: evasion of husbandly duty will bring interruption to heavenly bounty. Evasion of husbandly duty will invite an interruption to heavenly bounty or blessing. You want to see God's blessing stop, as a husband fail to do these things. So I'm---I'm pleading with you. If you've got a little picture in your mind of the perfect partner, tear it up now and accept the imperfect person. You're married to an imperfect person, and can I just say, so is your spouse. And we fail, and that's why, that's why we need to forgive and honor and esteem and yield, because that is a fortress designed to keep safe the inhabitants.
Father, all of these things that are so practical we also find difficult for a simple reason, we're humans. We have a sin nature. It's hard for us to swallow our pride. It's hard for us to say "I'm sorry," I forgive you," or "Please, forgive me." And so, Lord, I just pray that your Spirit would just extend great mercy and grace in our relationships. I pray for every husband and wife relationship that is here, as well as every single man and woman as they at some point probably want to enter into a meaningful marriage relationship, give them hope and strength, in Jesus' name, amen.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.