“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
Likewise, ye husbands!
Dwell with them according to knowledge!
Most fitting instruction is it which the apostle gives to complete his exhortation relative to the marital state!
Having spoken of the true beauty of the Christian wife, as consisting in her subjection to her husband in the fear of the Lord, the apostle now directs a word to the Christian husband.
They are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge!
But what does this mean?
It should be clearly understood that to dwell with their wives includes more than merely to have spiritual fellowship with them. O, indeed, it means this, too. For when Christian men and women marry in the Lord, it is a union of two who are bound together in the love of the Lord. There will therefore be a spiritual union of spiritual fellowship which they shall experience together with the Lord. Without this spiritual fellowship there can not be any real union. It is basic for the Christian home, and for the realization of a proper Christian marriage. Marriage should therefore be much more than a mere natural, fleshly tie.
However, this dwelling of husbands with their wives must include also all that pertains to the natural relationship. Included is the building of a home, the rearing of a family, the provision of the material needs, etc.
To do this, husbands should not live outside of the home. They should not be strangers to their wives and children. They should not send them support from a distance. Rather, they must have fellowship with them naturally, physically, and spiritually. This fellowship implies a mutually intimate relation. It involves the wife as well as the husband. And this means that the wife is not to act as an iceberg towards her husband, never inviting his embraces, treating him like a foreigner intruding upon her privacy, letting him feel that he is no better than a government agency providing her with the necessities of life. On the other hand, it means that the husband especially must seek to cultivate a warm, congenial, intimate fellowship in every sense of the word, naturally, physically, and spiritually. It stands to reason that the husband who is to do this must not be a stranger to his wife and to the children which may come out of such fellowship. In this materialistic age there are husbands, and sometimes even Christian husbands, who imagine that if they provide a place of shelter, the necessary food and clothing for their wives and children, they have done all that is expected of them. But this is a serious error. Such a husband is no better than a divorced man who by the court is ordered to send alimony and sufficient up-keep for his family. Today there are husbands who will take jobs far from home, even in other cities where they can make more money, but who see their wives and children maybe once a week or once a month. The apostle in the text is not suggesting that a husband provide a house and the physical necessities of life, but that he build a home. There is a vast difference between a house and a home. It is the latter which will be the fruit of the intimate fellowship the apostle is suggesting.
Dwell with them according to knowledge!
How sad it is when the husband is a fool! What a spectacle he makes of himself when he conducts himself in the home as one who is empty-headed, a know-nothing. How sad, too, when the wife alone appears to have the knowledge necessary to regulate the affairs of the home; when she possesses better judgment than he, especially in things concerning the marriage relation; when the wife simply takes over, makes all the decisions, and the husband has nothing to say.
On the other hand, how sad it is, too, when the husband is a “know it all”; when he considers his wife to be no more than a piece of furniture to decorate his home; when he treats her as a slave that must bow to his every beck and call; and in the sacred intimate marriage relation looks upon her as a machine which, when it is worn out, may easily be replaced by another.
The apostle insists that the Christian husband must dwell with his wife according to knowledge. He must know how to treat her with respect. He must stand in the proper attitude towards her. He must know her in love, not with mere carnal infatuation, but with the love which proceeds from the love of God, which is spread abroad in his heart.
As with the weaker vessel!
This belongs with the foregoing, not with that which follows in the text. The first part of the text therefore may be translated thus: “Ye men, likewise, are dwelling according to knowledge as with the weaker vessel, the wifely one.”
The wife is the weaker vessel, generally speaking, in every respect. Not only is she a different vessel than the man, but normally also the weaker of the two. The man is supposed to be the stronger in body, in mind, and in will. As we suggested above, there may be exceptions to this. A man may be effeminate, while his wife is masculine, strong as or stronger physically and mentally than the man. But this is abnormal. From the purely human and physical point of view, the woman is the weaker vessel. And the man must also act as the stronger towards his wife, who is the weaker vessel. This does not mean that he is to tyrannize over her, treat her with brute strength as a master over a slave. Not at all! But the very opposite will be true,—he will know that she is the weaker, and therefore treat her accordingly, as a man of understanding.
Moreover, he will bestow honor upon her as being co-heir of the grace of life!
Here, undoubtedly, the apostle points up that from a spiritual point of view there is equality. By the grace of God they together are heirs of the grace of life.
An heir is one who is destined to receive a legacy, a possession which is gratuitously granted by a testator. Here God is the Testator Who has willed to give the grace of eternal life to all His people, male and female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile. This the man with his strength cannot give to his wife, but both the Christian husband and Christian wife are given this grace by God in His mercy and love. This grace of life is merited for them by the perfect obedience of Christ their Lord; and bequeathed to them by God out of pure and sovereign grace. It is the grace of eternal life, which they possess now in principle, and in the day of Christ in heavenly perfection. When a husband and a wife are married in the Lord, they are deeply conscious of this grace, which they observe also in one another. And the apostle stresses the point that when a man dwells in the house of knowledge, he will honor his wife as co-heir with him of this grace.
The thought that the Christian husband and wife are co-heirs of the grace of life makes the marital relation most meaningful. It clearly shows that a Christian marriage has a higher purpose than the mere satisfaction of earthly and natural desire. Nor is the end of marriage simply intended to be a temporary arrangement for the procreation of children. O, to be sure, marriage is intended by God to be a temporary arrangement, for they are neither married or given in marriage in heaven. And it is also surely true that marriage is divinely intended for the satisfaction of human desire and the procreation of children. But there is much more! It must be emphasized that marriage is also a spiritual arrangement, in which the Christian couple seeks to typify the true spiritual relationship that exists between Christ and His Church, between Christ the Bridegroom, and the Church His bride. Surely when the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and when the Christian husband and wife who. are now co-heirs of the grace of life shall come to the full possession of that life in heavenly glory, then they shall no longer be husband and wife. Then they will possess the grace of life perfectly and eternally as individual heirs. But now, while they are on the earth, and living in their marital state, they must consider themselves as co-heirs of this grace. Of this they will also be deeply conscious in their relation to one another. When the husband considers this that his wife is his spiritual equal, and that she with him is an heir of eternal life, then he will honour his weaker vessel and hold her in respect not only as his wife but as a child of God.
How blessed to so dwell in the house of knowledge!
Such dwelling will indeed have a salutary effect!
Of this the apostle speaks in the last part of the text—that your prayers be not hindered.
Prayers here, of course, refer especially to their prayers together, their prayers in the home, in the marital relation. It is most essential for the well-being of the marital relation that husband and wife pray together. O, indeed, there is room for private and individual prayers. Prayer, which is a grace as well as a spiritual art, which may be developed with constant and faithful use, is the opening of the soul before God as it gives expression to its sense of blessing and need. Each individual Christian uses this spiritual art according as he develops spiritually and senses ever more deeply his dependence upon God, from Whom all blessings flow, his sins and short-comings, which humble him before his God. If he is truly spiritual, he will seek often the quiet of the inner chamber to bow humbly before the throne of grace. Just as essential it is that husband and wife, even before they become husband and wife, learn to pray together. They are to live together, no longer as mere individuals, but as one in the Lord. They have common needs, they experience common blessings, they serve the same God. They have the common task of bringing up the children God may give them in the fear of the Lord. God will sometimes send them the rod of affliction which they will share together. They soon experience that after the unforgettable happiness of their wedding day, that joy is often dampened by the sad experiences of their wedded life. Even the marriage form reminds them before their marriage “Whereas married persons are generally, and by reason of sin, subject to many troubles and afflictions,” that wedded life is not always a happy wedding day. Then how wonderful it is when together they may send to the throne of grace their cry for help in time of need.
In order that they may continue to pray together, it is essential that the marital relation be not disturbed, is not violated in any sense or to any degree.
It stands to reason that if the wife does not live in submission to her own husband, if she is not constantly and faithfully emulating the good example of Sara, who called Abraham her lord; or, if the husband is not dwelling with her in the house of knowledge, and honoring her as co-heir with him of the grace of life, then they will not be able to pray together. And when they cannot pray together, the marital relation is in trouble.
Someone has said, “the family which prays together, stays together.” There is no reason to doubt this.
Doing this, the God-fearing husband and wife will experience the blessedness the Lord intended they should have, when He brought them together.
And so also, they will fulfill in the most beautiful sense the high spiritual purpose God had in mind when He brought them together,—namely, to show forth the true unity that subsists in the believer’s relation and the church’s relation to Christ.