Context Matters: The Weaker Vessel

It behooves husbands to ensure they understand what is expected of them.

The first observation we ought to make regarding the command to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 is the first word, “likewise.” We must ask a critical interpretive question: “Likewise to what?” That is, what is this command to husbands like? How is this command similar to that which came before?

 

Though it may be unpopular to say it out loud in public these days, the Bible commands husbands to show honor to their wives “as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). The reason for this is dramatic (“since they are heirs with you of the grace of life”), and the cost of failure is steep (“so that your prayers may not be hindered”). So it behooves husbands to ensure they understand what is expected of them. And the context should help.

Context matters. When we learn to read the Bible properly—and not merely as a collection of isolated instructions—we’ll find that some of the commands have more to say than we may have realized.

Likewise

The first observation we ought to make regarding the command to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 is the first word, “likewise.” We must ask a critical interpretive question: “Likewise to what?” That is, what is this command to husbands like? How is this command similar to that which came before?

So we back up in the text and examine the commands to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6, regarding subjection to husbands, doing good, and not fearing. Because these instructions also begin with the word “likewise,” we must again ask “likewise to what?”

Backing up further, we have a paragraph filled with commands to servants (1 Peter 2:18-25) to be subject to masters and do good regardless of what suffering it may bring. The incentive for such subjection and good behavior is the example of Jesus Christ who himself bore our sins. But what provoked these instructions to servants?

Going back another paragraph, we find the broad command to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pet 2:13-17), and to silence those who call us evildoers by proving ourselves good-doers. But we should observe that this paragraph is not the first one to introduce these ideas either.

Moving back just one more paragraph, the author directly addresses his audience as “beloved” (1 Peter 2:11-12). And he urges them to act honorably and enable those who consider them evildoers to see their good deeds.

Pulling the Section Together

Looking ahead, we see the next use of the address, “beloved,” comes in 1 Peter 4:12. And the verses following the command to husbands (1 Peter 3:8-4:11) all continue the larger theme of doing good and not evil, with respect to how we treat one another. The rest of the letter’s body (1 Peter 4:12-5:11) shifts from exhorting people to do good to shaping their perspective when suffering for having done such good. All this data suggests that 1 Peter 2:11-4:11 is a unified section of the letter.

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