Sunday 27th of June 2021

Marital Sins

Elder Wesley



Grab your Bible and head to Genesis chapter 2. The evangelical world has a glut of teaching about marriage. Conferences, books, blogs, podcasts, counseling, couples workbooks, etc. Evangelicals are obsessed with marriage, but it's been well said by one pastor that our obsession with marriage is a sign of our marital sickness, he says, "our obsession with marriage is morbid...we are like a terminal cancer patient fervently searching for alternative treatment methods hoping against hope that something can be done." In other words, Christians are obsessed with marriage because we have bad marriages. We're desperate for solutions, strategies, and insights that will repair what we feel to be broken. We're right about the brokenness, but we've been wrong about the solution.

We've imbibed our culture's hyper-psychologized frame of reference wherein we diagnose every problem in terms of psychological categories. So if you have a tiff in your marriage and you see a counselor they'll want to make sure that you understand how your past has shaped you into the person you are today and how that informs the way that you relate to your spouse. They'll want you and your spouse to understand each other's love languages so that you're putting the proper fuel into each other's tanks. They'll want you to practice communication techniques to make sure that you're both aware of how the other truly feels in a given a moment. Basically, they want to give you an education in relational psychology. In truth, it's an idea borrowed from the secularists which assumes that better education will mean better human beings. This of course ignores the nature of man as taught by Scripture.

The psychological approach has reigned in Christian circles for the last 40 years or so and the fruit of it's reign is lots of divorces. It turns out that us understanding our spouses psychological particularities in more detail doesn't make us sin against them any less, nor does knowing of more emotionally satisfying ways to serve them make us less inclined to serve ourselves instead. For the most part, the problem in our marriages is not intellectual, educational, psychological; it's moral. Someone has sinned or is sinning and needs to confess and repent. We love psychological categories because its more comfortable than the moral categories we receive from Scripture. If everything boils down to psychology and personality types and understanding one another's differences, then nobody has to confess their sin, they just need another marriage seminar led by a PhD- preferably on a cruise ship.

I'm not saying that the insights offered from the psychological paradigm are all unhelpful or unwelcome- even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time, but I want to be very clear that our primary problem is not that we lack psychological understanding of ourselves and our spouse. There were many happy and holy marriages before that discipline had the influence that it has today. Our primary problem is that we know what to do, but we won't do it. I'm not seeking to be reductionistic, I'm aware that there is real relational complexity in this room, but I'm arguing that it isn't psychological complexity- it is the complexity that arises in our life's and in our relationships when we disobey God. Sin makes marriage complicated and messy, and there is only one way to deal with sin effectively. The cross of Jesus Christ which invites us to freely confession, repent, forgive, and be forgiven.

It is the Gospel which must shape, reform, and transform our marriages if the mess we've made of our marriages is to be picked up. So, the plan for the morning is to identity the most common areas of marital sin so that we can assess whether or not we are sinning in those ways, and if we are, we'll confess, repent, find forgiveness, and move forward in God's grace.


Genesis 2:24-25

[24] Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. [25] And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

In the martial union, the masculine and the feminine come together as one. This is here described as a beautiful thing. A man leaves his father and his mother and holds fast to his wife, and they become one flesh- they are naked and unashamed.

The word here for naked means more than physical nakedness. It connotes transparency. Adam and Eve were naked before one another in every way, that is, they knew one another fully and were known by one another fully, and yet without shame. The first part of that is not particularly striking. Every married person knows that transparency becomes all but inescapable when you share a home and a life with another person. They see the reality of who you are. Your poor character when you're under stress. Your impatience when the kids are trying. Your immature reactions when you don't get your way. The people you live with, particularly your spouse, see the reality of you...transparency- nakedness. That's a given.

What's striking about Genesis 2:25 is not the transparency but the lack of shame. Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve had nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, neither had done or said anything that could be weaponized by their spouse and used against them- they carried no guilt, therefore, there was no possibility of shame. But now, when the masculine and feminine come together, the nakedness or transparency occurs, but the unashamed part has been compromised. We're weak, sinful, fallen, and guilty... and our spouses, because they are also weak, sinful, fallen, and guilty like to shame us for our weakness, sinfulness, fallenness, and guilt in an effort to draw the attention away from their weakness, sinfulness, fallenness, and guilt because no one wants to experience shame. After sin, the coming together of male and female is less of a complimentarian concert of compatibility and more of a contentious cacophony of competing masculine and feminine notes, with each one trying to play the lead.

The maintenance of the transparency and the brokenness of the unashamedness is seen almost immediately in Genesis 3 isn't it? Adam goes from constructing spontaneous sonnets for Eve, "this at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman!" To, "well God, this woman that You gave me!"

See, the fundamental problem in our marriages is our failure to take responsibility and to confess and repent of our sin. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent, no one says, "I'm sorry, I sinned, please forgive me." I'm convinced that the problem with modern Christian marriages is that we are dead set on fixing our marriages, when we should be dead set on confessing the sins that broke them. And, don't miss this, forgiving the spouse who sinned against us. The hyper-psychologized approach to marital problems doesn't take you there, the Gospel does. Confession, repentance, and forgiveness- there is no graduation from these and no God honoring marriage can exist without their constant practice.

So there are sins that the unmarried and married alike commit, like lying, coveting, sinning in anger, etc... but there are also sins that only married people can commit, like failing to lead your wife spiritually, or withholding sexual intimacy from your husband. And with that comment, everyone is questioning family integrated worship. Today, we'll focus on those sins which are specific to married people, but first, a little bit more work in laying the foundation. Stay in Genesis, just flip to chapter 3 and find verse 16. This is after Adam and Eve have sinned and God is meting out consequences for it- here is what He says to the woman:

Genesis 3:16

[16] To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you."

"Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you." Translators quibble over this verse, some translating it, "your desire shall be for you husband, but he shall rule over you," meaning your desire shall be for your husband's position of authority, but he will rule over you. Others render it as the ESV does here, "your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you." Either way the essential meaning is the same. The woman will desire to lead the relationship and the household, but she is not permitted to. That role belongs to her husband.

Now we need to be careful here, because modern commentators with strong social motivations want to look at this verse and say, "Look, male headship in the home is part of the curse for sin! The woman is told that man will rule over her as part of the curse, that means that the more Christlike we're becoming, the less we'll need male headship because we'll be beating back the curse..." I don't have time to enumerate all of the problems with that, so I'll just point out that the New Testament anchors the male headship doctrine in the text of Genesis prior to the fall. In 1 Timothy 2:12-13 Paul says, "I don't permit a woman to teach of exercise authority over a man..." why? "For the man was created first then the woman..." Paul is looking to God's creative pattern prior to the fall as setting the standard for the familial, ecclesiastical, and societal hierarchy. Man is created first indicated his primacy as it relates to authority.

Beyond that, as Pastor Luke already taught us, Genesis shows very clearly that the woman was created for the man, she is made from the man, she is brought to the man, and she is named by the man. You do not get to name someone that you do not have authority over. So, it is just exegetically dishonest to act is if male headship is not established until after Adam and Eve sin. The inspired New Testament authors assert that the doctrine emerges from Genesis chapter 2, not in the curse section of chapter 3.

So if the curse in Genesis 3:16 isn't the male headship, since that already existed as part of God's creative order, what is the curse as it relates to that headship? It is the woman's new and negative response to that headship as well as the man's new penchant for misusing it.

In Genesis 3:16, God is telling us what sins to look out for in our marriages. As wives, be looking out for your resistance to the leadership of your husband, and as husbands, be looking out for your tendency to mishandle your leadership role. We'll come to those sins shortly.

Look now at Genesis 3:17 as God turns to the man:

Genesis 3:17-19

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; [18] thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. [19] By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

As we've discussed, man is called to build and to guard. He is a cultivator and a protector. We may think that his curse for sin would be his deposition, the loss of his leadership role, but in God's wisdom, it isn't. Think about it with me. Adam is only in this situation because he sought to depose himself, choosing to be led by Eve rather than to lead her, so God's response to Adam's sin was not to give him the deposition he wanted, but to make his assumption of responsibility all the more difficult.

Now everything that Adam tries to lead, cultivate, and guard is going to fight against and resist him. Hence the thorns and thistles with which he'll have to contend in cultivating the earth, and the thorns and thistles in the heart of his wife with which he must contend as he leads her. Remember? "Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you..." there is no longer a natural and glad submission in the woman toward her man, the thorns of rebellion have grown, just the like the earth is no longer primed for easy growth but now requires more arduous labor. The woman's contentiousness is part of his curse, and the contentiousness itself is part of hers. So, the man must lead though he doesn't particularly want to, and the woman must be led though, now, she'd rather lead.

This lays a foundation upon which to understand the sins that are routinely committed in marriage. We'll look first at women's sins in marriage and then at men's, because remember, your primary marital problem is not psychological or educational, it is moral. We must identify our sin, and repent of it. So, three sins that our wives commit:

  • Unsubmissively taking control through emotional manipulation.

  • Disrespectfully treating their husbands as their equals instead of as their heads (yes, I phrased it provocatively on purpose and I will explain myself). (Eph. 5)

  • Withholding regular sexual intimacy. (1 Cor. 7:1-5)

So, unsubmissive wives taking control through emotional manipulation. We see that this is a proclivity of the woman as part of the curse for sin in Genesis 3:16, but how is it that women, as the weaker sex could possibly seek to wrestle leadership away from their husbands, the stronger sex? Well, since women can't dominate their husbands physically, they seek to dominate them emotionally and sexually, both of which boil down to tactics of manipulation.

Women seek to gain control and leadership of their environments by making others, or in this case, their husbands, beholden to their emotions. They won't practice self-control with their emotions, not because they can't, but because they'd rather control you than themselves. This is true of both men and women who are unduly expressive of their emotions, but it is more rampant in women than in men. Any time you find someone who simply must display their emotional reaction to a situation, you've got someone who is trying to make their emotional state authoritative over, and in control of, said situation. This is the way that those without authority try to influence and manipulate those who have it.

This is what's happening when a man makes a decision for his household and his wife disagrees, but instead of gently and respectfully appealing to him with her concerns, she instead makes him pay for his decision through making the entire household miserable because she's upset. Her body language, demeanor, tone, patterns of speech, etc... all become ammunition that she aims at her husband to ensure that his home is no longer a refugee but an emotional war zone. If she's not happy, she certainly won't let him be happy. She'll withhold the peace that God commands her to work into the home in 1 Peter 3:5, until he recants or relents by relinquishing control, bending to her will, despite the fact that she is expressly commanded in Scripture to bend to his (Eph. 5:24).

Other sinful wives accomplish the same feat, but depending on the temperament of their husband may be able to get away with doing it more brazenly. The benefit of the emotional manipulation tactic is that since you haven't expressed yourself verbally, you can deny everything you're clearly doing, because you haven't done it out loud. Other women are more forthright and simply nag their husbands, wearing them down with their attitudes and their words until he bends to her will. Proverbs speaks of this kind of woman:

Proverbs 21:19

[19] It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

Proverbs 25:24

[24] It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 27:15-16

[15] A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; [16] to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand.

In other words, if a woman is upset with you, since she is weaker than you she won't fight you physically, she'll seek to wear you down mentally and emotionally until you give her what she wants for the sake of your sanity. This is how she'll seek to take control of the man whom she's called to submit to. And this is why maintaining the feminine demeanor we discussed last week is so challenging because it cuts against your fleshly impulse in every way.

When he does something you think is wrong, or insists on a decision with which you disagree, or whatever, everything in you seeks to take authority and steer the ship, and the way that you want to do it is through your response to the leadership thats been asserted. You want your demeanor to communicate your discontentment in order to pressure your husband to bend to your will rather than you bending to His as Scripture commands.

Where this sin is committed it should be confessed and repented of, not excused by pointing to the sin of the husband that may have preceeded it. In my office I've had many a woman say, "well sure, I'm not particularly submissive, but...." then she begins to list all of the stupid things her husband has done that in her mind justify her attempt to take control. I've often told these women, "I'm not saying that you didn't marry an idiot, I'm saying that you're bad decision isn't justification for disobeying God."

And at any rate, God tells the woman how to be a helper to a husband who is not the man that he should be.

1 Peter 3:1

[1] Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives...

Ladies, did you hear that? You don't reform your husband by treating him like your rival, you get used by God to reform him by showing him respect. A woman has been gifted by God to respect a man into becoming a respectable man, but silly, rebellious, 21st century women don't realize the power of their submission and respect, so they, to quote Proverbs 14, in foolishness tear down their homes with their own hands. Modern women choose to satisfy their lust for control instead of helping their husbands become men who are worthy of their submission by offering their submission. And if you're sitting there thinking, "that doesn't work," just remember who it is that you're disagreeing with.

Alright, next, disrespectful wives who treat their husbands like their equals instead of as their heads. There is a single point of equality among men and women, and that is their worth. The Bible settles the issue of the ontological equality or equality of worth between the man and the woman in Genesis chapter 1 and verse 27- So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Both man and woman are made in the image of God and all of the worth bound up in that image marks them both. No one is disputing that, no one is questioning or challenging that, no one is even intimating in the slightest of ways that that is not the case. And the only reason that I need to say that out loud is because you'll be distracted if I don't. Everyone knows this, everyone embraces this, we are not at all in danger of lowering the value placed upon women in 21st century America, so let's go ahead and stop pretending that I'm on a slippery slope of some kind.

Everyone heartily asserts and affirms the ontological equality of men and women, but here is what no one is talking about: ontological worth is the only category in which male/female equality can be accurately spoken of. Are men and women equal physically? No. Are men and women equal mentally? No. And that sounds offensive despite the fact that it's obvious, listen to me, the word equal means the same. Do men and women think the same? No! Are men and women equal in household rank? No. The husband is placed in authority over his wife. They are not equal, that is, they are not the same. They are physically different, they are mentally different, they are hierarchically different. Men and women are not equal. I want you to shout it from the rooftops! I want you to teach it to your children! I want you to offend all of your liberal friends! I want you, as followers of Christ, to stop being offended by His design and His Word and instead embrace it as the beautiful thing that it is! The beauty of man and woman coming together is that we are not the same. It is our inequality that constitutes the beauty.

We've been thoroughly poisoned by the dogma of egalitarianism which is why my framing of this second sin triggered you. But after a moments reflection, little is more obvious than the fact that men and women are not equal. If they are, send your daughters into combat while your sons stay at home. Put your wife on the scaffolding 30 stories up while you fold the laundry. Listen, that's where this "equalism" is taking us...right back to Genesis chapter 3 where the one was fashioned by God to protect and provide looks at his gentle helper and sends her to slay the dragon that was assigned to him. Reject this nonsense.

A century ago, I wouldn't have had to extend this sermon by 5 minutes in order to cover something so remedial, but this is where we are. So, disrespectful wives, treating their husbands as their equals rather than as their heads.

Ephesians 5:33

[33] ...let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Why is a wife to respect her husband? Because he outranks her. He is head, she is helper. Now, I've had women tell me that they didn't really know how or what it meant to respect their husbands. And in a sense I know what they mean. We have a tendency to think of marriage and family in purely romantic terms. Two people who are overwhelmed with affection for one another get married and have children with whom they are likewise overwhelmed with affection and the purpose of the whole thing is the warm fuzzy feeling that everyone gets from all of this affection. In that scheme, there is nothing specific that the family is supposed to accomplish or produce, there is no mission associated with marriage and family, so why would you need a leader and a helper? Affection requires no hierarchy, you just feel and enjoy it.

But God has in fact created marriage and family for a purpose. There is an aim, there is a mission to be accomplished, that mission is to glorify God, reflect the Gospel of Christ, and train up godly seed. And everyone knows, if you're organizing a group of people to accomplish a mission, you must have a leader. So, I understand why modern people struggle with these truths; it is because we've redefined marriage in such a way as to have removed it's mission which allows us to remove any need for a leadership structure.

But once you become a relatively biblically literate Christian it is understood that there is a mission for the marriage and the family and that God has made the husband the captain, who is tasked with seeing that that mission is accomplished. The woman then knows exactly what it means to respect her husband, because we all know how to respect those who are in authority over us. Most women have been in the workforce which means that most women have had a boss who was a man. And they showed that man respect without anyone having to coach her on how to do it. There was a way that she spoke to him and there was a way that she wouldn't dare speak to him. There was body language she would display when she was asked to do something that she didn't want to do and there was body language that she wouldn't dare display. She knew exactly what respect entailed. The problem with modern Christian wives is not that they do not know how to show respect to their husbands, it is that they are ready and willing to offer it to any man except the one that God commands she give it to.

Some of you speak condescendingly to your husbands, some of you roll your eyes at him, some of you employ combative tones. Would you speak to and interact with your boss that way? Well, biblically, when you speak to and interact with your husband that way, that is precisely what you've done as God has put him in authority over you. These things aren't complicated or cryptic so Christian wives are all the more without excuse for their persistent sin in this area.

When this sin is committed, it should be confessed and repented of, not excused because you believe that he deserved it. Your husband's sin or incompetence does not suspend the command that God has given you to show him respect.

Third sin for wives, withholding regular sexual intimacy. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 [1] Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." [2] But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. [3] The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. [4] For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. [5] Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

This text prescribes frequent sexual intimacy for husbands and wives. We are to give ourselves to one another regualrly. You don't have authority over your body sexually, your spouse does- that one cuts both ways. It's explicit in the text. That means that when the sexual advance is made, it is received and responded to favorably, not rejected or dismissed. You aren't to make the other person feel as if they're inconveniencing you.

One of our primary losses in our current culture is the loss of a sense of duty, particularly as it relates to marriage. Have you been to a restaurant and gotten the impression that the server was inconvenienced by your decision to dine there? "What can I get you to drink?" ::said in unenthusiastic, inconvenienced voice:: Well...I'm sorry for interrupting your instagram scroll while you're at work. We've got no sense of duty. Do your job, do it well, do it heartily as to the Lord, not for men.

Now, Scripture prescribes, commands, regular sexual intimacy, and many Christian wives simply disobey God. But notice, this is the language of duty- "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband." We're talking about rights that must be respected. Sex is, in Scripture, a marital duty, not simply a, "eh, if you feel like it..."

Last thing here so that I don't belabor a sensitive point or wander into impropriety. Verse 5 says, "Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Verse 5 is telling us that a marriage requires, needs sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy keeps a couple close, it knits us together, causes us to cohere, and maintains our oneness. Paul's argument here is that when sex becomes less frequent space between a husband and wife grows, and he says that Satan will fill that space.

So, wives particularly, must come to see sex as a marital necessity. I've often used this analogy- sex is to a marriage what basic nutrients are to the body. Your relationship needs it, whether you feel it or not. In 2018 I had my doctor do some bloodwork just see how things were going for me physically. The results came back and he told me that I had an iron deficiency which could be affecting my energy levels. My body needed iron, but you know, I never once woke up and thought to myself, "you know what I'm craving today? Some iron..." The need is present even if the craving is not. In the same way, your marriage needs sex, whether you particularly feel a craving for it or not.

Infrequent or unenthusiastic sex in marriage, is sin. Where this sin is committed, it should be confessed and repented of, not excused by pointing to the sins that your husband has been committing which may have dampened your desire for him. His pile of sins is not helped by you throwing yours on top of it.

Men, now we turn to Three sins of husbands:

-Passive husbands not giving their wives anything to submit to because they've given their strength to her (Proverbs 31:3)

-Theologically anemic men whose wives pass them in the faith such that the wife is better positioned to wash him with the word than he is to wash her (1 Cor. 14)

-Tyrannical or harsh men who won't submit themselves to the nature of the woman they are leading (that was phrased in such a way as to trigger everyone who wasn't trigged by the statement that men and women aren't equal, again, I'll explain myself) (1 Peter 3:7)

So, passive husbands who won't give their wives anything to submit to because they've given functional leadership over to her, generally, in exchange for emotional peace. Let's look at Proverbs 31 verses 1-3.

Proverbs 31:1-3

[1] The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him: [2] What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows? [3] Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.*

We talk in our culture about the Proverbs 31 woman, but there is a Proverbs 31 man first. A man whom we are counseled not to be, that being the kind of man who gives his strength to women. This is a mothers instruction for her son. King Lemuel's mother, knows women... she knows Genesis 3:16. She knows the subtle and not so subtle ways that women seek to wrestle leadership away from their men. And she tells her son, don't fall for it. Don't give up your strength, your position, your authority just because she's pouty, launching emotional attacks, withholding intimacy, or whatever feminine strategy may be employed to wrangle the man's leadership from him and put him into submission to his wife.

This wise mother makes her son privy to the wiles of women. Mother's, take note of this and teach your sons what they could never know about women, lest you tell them. Get good at identifying your own feminine sins, so that you can prepare your sons to lead women who will commit the same sins against them. Men. You will be called to lead your wives and your families in directions that they do not want to go. Maybe it's a financial decision. Maybe it's a wardrobe decision that you make for your daughters. Maybe it's a move. Do not give your strength to your wife, acquiescing to her desires, not because they are right and she's helped you see it, but because you don't want to deal with her bad attitude. Don't be a coward, be a leader. Men often fail to fight the battles in their homes because they're afraid of their wife's reaction- that is the man who has given his strength to a woman.

Next sin for husbands: Theologically anemic men whose wives pass them in the faith such that the wife is better positioned to wash him with the word than he is to wash her.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

[34] the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. [35] If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

A wife's primary pastor and Bible teacher is her husband. That's another reason why last week I refrained from getting more specific in the sermon about femininity. I'm going to teach the principles and do broad application, but ultimately I'm not called to apply these truths to your home situation and parse all of those particulars, heads of the household are. So I'm not going to say, "the husband is the head of the household and he is its leader, now let me tell you exactly what to do..." No, here's the Word, here's what it means, now, men of God lead your homes in obedience to that Word.

But you know what it takes for a man to be his wife's pastor and Bible teacher, right? Study, prayer, work, and deep thought. I've often seen wives who are desperate to be led by their husbands, but their husbands can't teach them anything because they don't study anything. They aren't in prayer. They aren't thinking deeply about God's commands for the family and processing how those commands are supposed to be lived out today. In fact, what I'm used to seeing is wives passing their husbands in biblical understanding such that she has is better equipped for household leadership than he is. Husbands, don't let your wives pass you in spiritual development and biblical understanding, you're supposed to be able to teach her.

Last one: Tyrannical or harsh men who won't submit themselves to the nature of the woman they are leading.

1 Peter 3:7

[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.

"Living with your wives in an understanding way..." The word translated understanding here is "gnosis" from which we get our English word, knowledge.

"...showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel..." In short, this text is commanding a husband to know his wife's weaknesses so that he knows how to and how not to use his strength. Your knowledge of her weakness must inform how you lead her. In other words, you don't get to lead her how you want to, you must submit to how God made her and lead her accordingly. You're supposed to lead her, not break her, so handle with care.

Husbands are the craftsman who are supposed to lead and shape our wives into a more beautiful, more pure picture of God's grace. This is the task assigned to the husband in Ephesians 5:25 and following. We're told that just like Christ will present the Church, His bride, back to the Father in brilliant glory without spot or wrinkle, so husbands will be called on to present our wives back to the Father, and He is expecting them to be in better condition for having been under our pastoral care and leadership.

Some men, even godly men, who feel the pressure and weight of this, set themselves to work on their wives without a proper understanding of their wives. So they lead with a heavy hand- big on pronouncements, house rules, and inflexible standards for the household, but low on patiently shepherding everyone in the house into a glad understanding of those pronouncements, rules, and standards- and certainly not open to receiving feedback regarding them. The heavy handed leader understands that he has been called to build up his wife and his household, but he's not considered well the sensitivities of the people he's building up.

Perhaps this quote will be of use: "Every wise craftsman who seeks to exercise true dominion in the world knows that he must respect the nature of the material he is using. The craftsman does not just exercise authority; he also submits to the nature of his material."

The material you're building with determines the tools and the approach that you use. You handle glass differently than rough cut lumber. But some men fail to honor their wife's weakness and so damage her because, in his zeal to build, he didn't consider the nature of his building material. Men are not permitted to use the strength of their bodies or the strength of their position to harm their wives, only to help them and build them up. God is so serious about this that He says that if you fail on this point that your prayers will be hindered.

I bring this up not because I have seen it a lot, but because I anticipate that in an environment like the one that God is shaping here, we may begin to. Any time you're doing something for the first time you'll start out doing it badly. Most of us men, didn't see, haven't experienced, and haven't tried exercising real biblical headship, and ladies, I'm sorry, but that means that to start, we'll be bad at it. We'll hear a sermon or read a passage of Scripture that fires us up and God will lay something on our hearts for our household and we'll come home, give you a three minute run down of it and make a new law for you to institute with the kids.

We'll get our hands on some works by the Puritans, see how solid and tight their biblical arguments are, and we'll be like, "alright, babe, I want you throw away the homeschool curriculum we just bought- it's garbage. I don't want the kids reading anything written after 1740."

We'll fail at first. We'll move too quickly, we'll not give you enough time and instruction. We'll not really listen when you respectfully offer a dissenting opinion. We'll confuse our little a authority with upper case a authority. But, the Lord will show us. Our brothers will rebuke us. Our God will correct us. And we will grow into craftsman who really know how to build the people God has entrusted to us.

And men, if we're going to receive that grace from our wives as we are learning to lead them, be ready to extend that grace to her, because the likelihood that she saw submission, respect, and domesticity faithfully lived out and modeled is low. When you're just learning something, you do it poorly. We will all stumble in this, but we know what to do when we stumble because we have a Gospel- Confess, repent, forgive, be forgiven.