Paul addresses the issue of yieldingness in this sequence: wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants, masters (Eph 5:21-6:9). No one has the right of way. Peter's list is shorter: servants, wives, husbands (1Pet 2:18-3:7). But, Peter adds an intensifier to both the command to the wife and that to the husband, "In the same way." Our first question must be, "In the same way as what?"
If you have read the text quoted at the end of each of the devotionals in this series and noticed the emphasis, you know that a wife is to submit to her husband just as the servant is to submit to the unreasonable master and consequently, the husband is to live with the wife in an understanding way and honor her in the same manner as the wife and servant perform their obligations—whether she is good or bad, sweet or a terror.
The older translations say that the servant must be in subjection not only to the good and gentle master, but also to the "froward." A strange word that really underlines the extent of one's subjection. Satan answered God that he had been "going to and fro in the earth" (Job 1:7 KJV). I have been blessed with supervisors who were "to-ward" me and getting the job done. I have been cursed with a few that were opposite or "fro-ward" in their attitude about me. My obligation before God to both types is to submit. We men tend to find this much easier to accept in 1Pet 3:1 than we do in 1Pet 3:7. We wish to exercise our headship and cause her to conform to our desires. Instead, we must use our headship to yield in a way that will draw her in toward becoming the wife God wants her to be. Remember the last lesson, God never told the husband that he was the head of the wife. He commanded the husband to love the wife.
God's instructions through Peter are to "dwell with your wives according to knowledge." That is without question the hardest command in the Bible. Numberless jokes have been told about the difficulty of understanding women, but for God this is no joke. He expects the husband to work at it until he understands his wife. Our biblical examples of married life are few: clueless Elkanah who was unaware of or ignored the tensions in his own house (1Sam 1:8); Jacob who did not realize that Leah was the godly wife until the later years of their marriage (Gen 49:31); David who cut through Michal's complaint to the contempt in her heart (2Sam 6:16). We are left to make our subjection to the needs of our woman into the concrete examples of God's principles.
We cannot treat this as a minor matter. If we fail to honor our wives as this verse commands, our prayers will be hindered. I NEED my prayers for forgiveness to get through loud and clear. No doubt we already understand that women are different and what would honor one man's wife would not be a blip on the radar for another's wife. If this makes no sense to you, read "The Five Love Languages" 3 times, the last one with your wife, chapter by chapter with discussion between you about every page. Men, we must consider our woman and her personality and her character with a view to helping her as the weaker vessel, with the goal of her salvation. And, our own salvation depends on our ability to do so. (Unless you think you can make it without prayer!)
Just as being a help to you will be different for your wife than had she married a man in a different profession with a different personality, dwelling with her according to knowledge is unique to you two. When we consider all that Christ did for his bride, we should at the least be willing to read books to learn about women and to learn to improve our relationship. We should learn to do things we are not comfortable with for her. We should meditate on her emotional needs and ways to adjust to fulfil them. Above all, we should listen. And, if this seems too great a task, remember, "Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ (Eph 5:21).
Some men only notice when their wives start screaming and crying and throwing pots and pans. Then they are shocked for they had no clue there was a problem. If the wife is too godly to act that way, the husband continues in a clueless way grinding her spirit to nothing. How can a man claim to follow the Savior who became one of us in order to intercede for us, yet not listen to his bride? If God purposed the church to be Christ's bride before creation, should not each man be gathering data and purposing to create in his wife the parallel to the Church (Eph 3:10-11)? Is not the goal to become one, and can that be accomplished without mutual effort? What if Jesus listened to our prayers the way we notice our wives' problems, complaints, and desires? In fact, 1 Pet 3:7 promises exactly that!
Jesus gave himself up to set apart the church to be a present for himself (Eph 5:25-27). His mission was to cleanse the church to be without spot and blemish, a holy bride to himself. To accomplish this he first became whatever it took on his part, servant, flesh, human (Phil 2, Jn 1). Then he began to shape the church: he did not browbeat or demand; he washed her with water and the word. He thoughtfully fashioned words that would transform her into the present he desired for himself. God through Paul commands husbands to do the same for their wives.
If husbands believe their role is merely to be the provider, they are carnal, having little spiritual understanding. Physically providing food and shelter is the least of his duties. Giving honor to her as the weaker vessel means to work with her spiritually to build her up to walk beside her husband spiritually. He must know her spiritual and emotional weaknesses and help strengthen her and protect her as "heirs with you of the grace of life." He must meditate and thoughtfully fashion words that will transform her into the present to himself that he wishes her to be. He cannot do this with force but only with the same self-sacrificing kind of love Christ used to transform the church.
It is a shame on husbands that in many (if not most) families, it is the wife who is the spiritual leader: she helps the children with their Bible lessons, she makes certain all are ready for church on time, she insists that nothing interfere with church, she reminds him that he has a certain duty this Sunday so he can prepare. He simply attends. Such a one is not a head like Jesus is head, no matter how bossy he is. [Ignoring these duties to preach and teach the gospel is no less carnal than failing them for other reasons.]
That ceremony did not make you a husband. However many years "on the job" has not made you a husband either. Only the considered imitation of the love of Christ for the church will make you the husband of your wife.
Dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman…as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life. (1 Pet 3:7)
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. (1Pet 2:18).
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, (1Pet 3:1).
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1Pet 3:7).