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Message #10: “The Saints as Sanctified Spouses”

I want to read the passage, verses 1-7, from the New American Standard Version. “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, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be external only — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, and putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow-heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” It is interesting in this passage that of the seven verses, Peter devotes six of them to the wives. I am not sure whether that was because he was a married man and felt that the wife needed more counsel than the men. It is interesting that in the Ephesians 5 passage, Paul who was not married at least at the time when he wrote this, there is debate whether he might have been previously married and his wife died, but in the twelve verses in Ephesians 5 that Paul devotes to the husband and wife, he devotes nine and a half of them to the husband and just two and a half to the wives. The proportion sort of switches there in case you want to argue this in terms of quantity. When you study the Word of God, not just in terms of quantity but in terms of quality, you will find that each has very similar things to say. I like to use what might be called pithy sayings or expressions that help you to remember things. You have often heard the expression, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” I have a saying for your wives, “A word to the wives is submission.” That’s what the Word of God teaches. In a sense, if you don’t get anything else from this this morning, just remember that. That is taught both by Peter and by Paul, and elsewhere in the Word of God. “Likewise, ye wives be in subjection (or be submissive as the New American Standard has) to your own husbands.”
I want you to see here in this Word for the wives four things. First, your attitude. A submissive attitude. This is because God has ordained order in the universe. This order, I believe, derives from the Trinity Itself. There is order within the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son is submissive to the Father, the Holy Spirit is submissive to the Son and to the Father. By the way, you do not ever notice in the Scriptures that the Father submits Himself to the Son. He is always in charge. There is order in the Trinity. There is also designated order within the home whether we like it or not. It is set forth in the Word of God. For example, in I Corinthians 11:3, “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” I have had a number of tangles through the years with Jehovah Witnesses, and they can foul you up pretty quickly on the Trinity if you don’t understand what’s involved in the Trinity. They will take you to passages where Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I.” Some Christians in trying to counter that say yes, that’s true during the incarnation, but then they’ll take you over to I Corinthians 15 where eventually the Son is going to be subject to the Father in eternity. Well, how do you deal with that? The Father is greater than the Son in the matter of position, not in Person or quality or quantity or anything like that but simply by His actual position within the Trinity; and that’s true when Jesus was here on earth. It was true before He came to earth, and it’s going to be true throughout eternity. Don’t just try to slop it off and say well, it was during the incarnation. There has been orders in the Trinity throughout all eternity and there will be. There is to be order within the home. Just as there is one designated Head within the Trinity, there is one designated head within the home. Just as the Father is Head in the Trinity, and Jesus Christ is submissive to Him, the Head of Christ is God, and that’s God the Father, so the head of the home is the man. This does not mean that the man is called to lord it over the wife but it does mean that positionally, he has that position of authority and responsibility within the home and out of that authority the woman is to be submissive, to submit. You are to submit to your own husband. I have heard a number of speakers recently emphasize that because Paul says the same thing, that the wife is to submit, as Ephesians 5:22 says, to your own husbands. You know the amazing thing that I have discovered is that sometimes wives are much more responsive to and submissive to other husbands. Submit yourselves to your own husband, not somebody else’s but your own. That’s an attitude of submission that derives from the Biblical principle of authority within the home. I am going to have something to say to the men later, so don’t think that they are getting off free because I am saving the best for last. These guys are really going to get it. I am going to watch the watch so that I have time to sock it to them.
Second, their actions. Your attitude, one of submission. Rely upon your husband and respond to your husband. “If any obey not the word”— Here the case would be if you have a believing wife and an unbelieving husband, the wife is still to submit and respond to her husband. The authority has not changed. A similar thing is taught over in I Corinthians 7, and by the way, it’s from this verse that I derive the title for today’s message. I Corinthians 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife (that’s where I got that “Sanctified Spouses”), and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband (that is the believing husband); else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.” In other words, if the holy influence exerted upon a home when even just one of the spouses is a believer, the Christian wife is to exert this holy influence in the home by the way she conducts herself by her manner of life. In the King James, it says by the conversation of the wives. That doesn’t mean just your talk. It means the way you behave, by your manner of life. “While they behold your chaste conversation or manner of life, coupled with fear,” that is, responding to the husband in the proper role relationship of the wife in the home. One of the tendencies of a wife is to nag. Now I don’t say that unkindly but it’s just a natural thing. Sometimes Christian wives will end up nagging their unsaved husbands and he gets so sick of hearing about going to church and spiritual things, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. Now I heard of a woman that having read this passage and understanding the Word of God, took this position. She said, “My husband is not saved, and he has not heaven to look forward to like I do, and so I am going to try to make heaven on earth for him while he is here because he doesn’t have a heaven to look forward to.” So she said, “I am going to do just everything that I can to make life as best for him as I possibly can.” You know what happened? It was not too long before that fellow got saved. She didn’t nag him. She was kind to him and did all that she could to make life beautiful for him. I like to read William Barkley. I don’t agree with everything that he says, but I like the way he puts certain things. For example, on the earlier portion that we studied over in chapter two, the emphasis of the light. He says, “The strongest missionary force in the world is a Christian life.” On this passage concerning the wives, he entitles this section, “The Silent Preaching of a Lovely Life.” That’s what it is. That is what Peter is emphasizing here that the wives are by their very behavior to demonstrate a message to their unsaved husbands of the reality of life in Christ.
Thirdly, their adorning. “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.” Some say that you shouldn’t do any of that. Well, someone has pointed out that if you do that you don’t wear any apparel. In reality, what the emphasis is is that your whole concern should not just be on externals but upon the inner spirit, “the meekness of a quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price.” I will add this, however, that man looks on the outward appearance. I believe that a Christian wife should maintain her appearance in a careful and considerate fashion, and I believe that she should be to whatever extent she is able, good for her husband to look upon. I think that so many times even Christian wives are ready to impress other men, but they have long since given up trying to impress their husband. I will have a word for men about that later. This is a word to the wives right now. Don’t forget about your adorning but don’t make it the primary thing. Someone has said that women were born before mirrors, and they have been before them ever since. I think that you have to be careful of that, that you don’t spend too much time before the mirror. I really believe that the evidence of a pleasant and quiet disposition is even going to help your appearance and this is a good thing. It is a good thing for a man to have a wife that he can look to and find some pleasantness there, a meek and quiet spirit. Then the fourth thing, the address or the addressing that a wife uses for her husband. He refers back to Sarah. It says in verse 5, “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands, Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” I am not saying that you have to call your husband your lord and master and that sort of thing. I do believe, however, that within the home there ought to be the evidence of respect and reverence for your husband. After our children were a couple of years old, my wife and I came to the view from Scripture, as well as from practical experience, that it was never a good policy for us to criticize others before our children or to try to tear down each other before our children but rather to treat each other with respect before them.
Some of you know that I am the last of thirteen children and I will say this, that I have never heard my mother in all the years that she lived to speak unkindly or disrespectfully of my dad. Nor did I ever hear dad speak disrespectfully of mom. I tell you what that helped to do for us. It helped us to respect them even more. Now what they said in private I don’t know. They might have had a few words then and I am sure that they probably did, but I think that it’s important the way you address each other in the home with terms of proper endearment. In our home when the children were growing up, we made it a policy not even to call each other by our first names because we wanted to teach our children respect for mother and dad, and we used those terms and I think something of that is implicit in what is said here. I am not for the so-called casualness of home relationships now that some of them are trying to promote. I believe that there is a place for respect within the home, and I believe that the wife ought to demonstrate this. If you go back to the Ephesians passage, I’d like you to turn there for just a few moments. In Ephesians 5 beginning at verse 22 Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says,”Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the church; (This is a positional thing, but then it works out to a practical thing.) and He is the Savior of the body.” Then he goes on to speak to the husbands at rather great length. When you come down to the last verse of Ephesians 5 it says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; (and then the final word to the wives) and the wife, see that she reverence her husband.” I think that that is the very same thing that Peter has in mind here in I Peter 3:6, that even in your address and attitude toward your husband there should be a spirit of reverence for him. I believe that he will also then reciprocate that to you. There is much more that could be said about wives and there is more said in the Scriptures; but I think this is sufficient to suggest that in attitude, action, adorning, and even in address in the home, the way we speak to each other. The wife ought to rely on her husband, she ought to respond to him, she ought to relate to him, and she ought to respect and reverence him.
A hint to the husband— Just one verse here. There are more elsewhere in the Word of God. If a word to the wives is submission, a hint to the husbands is “love.” While Peter does not come right out and use that word here, it lies under, beneath and in and through all that he says here in verse 7, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered.” Paul does use that word “love” when he writes concerning husbands in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.” Just as there were four things concerning the word to the wives, I find that in this one verse four things concerning a hint to the husband. First, be concerned about your wife. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, (or understanding).” I will say this. I don’t think, men, where you will ever get to the place where you will actually understand your wife. If you think that you are going to do that, maybe in eternity we might; but while here on earth, I don’t think that we are ever fully going to understand them. That doesn’t mean that we can’t treat them with understanding. I think that there ought to be the evidence of concern for our wives, for their physical welfare, for their emotional and social welfare, and for their spiritual welfare. Indeed, we ought to nourish and cherish them. There are two demands that most of us have. The demand for hunger and the demand when we hurt. Nourish meets the hunger side, and cherish helps the hurts. We are exhorted to do that by Paul when he indicates in Ephesians 5:29, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church;” and we are to love and take care of our wives in the same way, to nourish and cherish them. A number of years ago the Lord really convicted me about trying to impress other people. Now we all make an impression because we are types. We make an impression. Don’t say that you are not trying to impress people. You will anyway. I’ll tell you, there is one person in this world next to the Lord that I want to impress and I’ll tell you who it is. It’s my wife. I really want to impress her in the right way. I want to do for her and be to her all that I possibly can, because I love her. There are many definitions for “love.” Some of them are stupid and silly like the one, “Love is a feeling that you feel when you feel you have a feeling you feel you never felt before.” That, of course, is just feeling love. I like the definition that I head George Slavin give years ago, “Love is a continual desire for oneness.” God had a continual desire for oneness with the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He wanted us to be one with Him, so He gave His Son. I think that we ought to have that in regard to our wives. I will say this immediately, there are very few perfect wives just as there are very few perfect husbands. I heard Clarence Mason say one time, “If you marry a lemon, squeeze her.” Well, I’d like to improve on that. I’d like to say, “If you marry a lemon help her and then you have lemonade.” Help her. “Dwell with them according to knowledge.” Be concerned about them and be considerate of them, giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel.
In spite of all the women’s lib teaching and all the rest of this, I still believe what the Bible says rather than what psychologists or sociologists say. I think that basically the woman, at least temperamentally, is the weaker vessel. I know that you can show me insurance statistics that they live longer and all the rest of that, and that’s undoubtedly true in our culture; but nevertheless, I think that a wife is temperamentally suited to rely upon her husband. This is why last year when I was ministering here and my wife was in the midst of difficulty with our daughter and her getting her radiation treatments, that I discovered that when I had been away one night that neither my wife or my daughter had slept all that night. I determined after that that I would drive the fifty miles from here to there, back and forth, as I did last year for the rest of the week. Why? Because she was the “weaker vessel.” She needed the support, the emotional support that I could give her just by being there during that night, even though I did get in maybe late and get up and leave early. The fact that I was there gave them both a certain amount of support that they needed, and I will say this that I think sometimes even men of God in the ministry fail to recognize this. They think that by just ministering to others, that they can neglect their family. I tell you, you will do it to your own peril and to your own detriment. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times that you have to be separated. We have done this many times, but I think that there are crucial times when your first responsibility is to your wife at home as the “weaker vessel.” Then be cooperative. One of the most beautiful statements in the Word of God concerning the husband and wife is this expression, “Heirs together of the grace of life.” While there is this relationship of responsibility within the home for the husband in relation to the wife, you are both heirs together of the grace of life; and in that respect, you are on the same plane before the Lord. I would urge and admonish young people to keep the spiritual dimension in their relationships with girlfriends. One thing that my wife and I did even when we were courting, we concluded every date with prayer together, and now through these years when I am home we make a practice of concluding every day together in prayer. I was talking to Dr. Boice last night about the disparity of husbands and wives in relation to going to bed. This is a very practical thing; but my friend, Henry Brandt, who is a Christian psychologist, years ago conducted a survey on this and he found in many, many places that he went, he didn’t find one husband and wife that were temperamentally suited to go to bed at exactly the same time. One went to bed early and the other late. I see you laughing. I’m not going to ask for a survey here, but I know it was that way in my home. My dad went to bed at 9:00 p.m. no matter who was there, didn’t matter who. He said,” Goodnight.” He said, “Mom will be up to all hours and stay as long as you want, but I am going to bed.” Dad died at the age of 74 and Mom lived to be 83. Last year after we had gotten the word about our daughter, we held together before the Lord literally and spiritually in prayer and laid hold of God; and we drew upon the fact that we are heirs together of the grace of life. With this, be consecrated that “your prayers be not hindered.” I think, husbands, you ought to maintain such a relationship with your wife that at any time you can pray together. There is something wrong if you cannot pray together with your wife. Maybe you ought to spend more time praying together rather than arguing together. I think that this is one of the good things having determined years ago that we would pray at the end of our day together, ending the day together before the Lord with the right attitude toward each other and toward Him. We have our family devotions in the evening in the summer, due to the varied schedules of each of our family members; but in the winter with normal schedules, we have our family devotions at breakfast time. I think that prayer should extend into the family and the reading of the Word. We do something in our home that I’ve never read anywhere. After having read the Word and before we have prayer, we each share what we got individually from the Word of God. I believe, from what it says in Ecclesiastes, a threefold cord is not easily broken. “. . . Being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered.” I want to add a very practical word, and you wives will like this and your husbands will chase me out. I was going to leave right after this and go back to Lancaster, but I am going to stay this afternoon and I’ll face the music from any of you.
I came up with a habit which I have been cultivating for a number of years now. I happen to handle the money in my home, even when my wife was earning more money than I was when I went to college. I still handled the money then; and now that I am earning a little more than she does, I handle the money. I made it a practice that when my wife asked for $5 from me, in addition to what I give her every week, I always give her $10. When she asks for $10 I give her $20. She hasn’t yet asked me for $20, but I’d have to try to scrounge up $40. Why do you do a stupid thing like that? This ties in with what I said from the beginning. I found that men, after they are married, will spend money and time on other projects and things and even other people; but when it comes to their wives, they turn short on funds and short on temper. I tell you there is one person I want to impress, that it’s my wife.
There is a spiritual dimension to what I do too. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. You know what I’ve found that my Savior has always done for me? “Exceeding abundantly above all” that which I could ask or think. It is out of that spiritual dimension, in a very tangible way that I want to do for my wife—exceeding abundantly above that which she could ask or think. Now that’s a practical thing, and I’m not saying that you have to do this. The Lord leads each of us in different ways. I think also that we have to give not only of our money but of our time to our wives. I think that this will enrich your life spiritually, and it will cause a stability in your home. Unfortunately, there has been an emphasis by psychologists in recent years upon loving our children and making that the primary love in our home. May I tell you that that is not Biblical. Your first love is not to be for your children. It is to be for each other, husband and wife. Then out of that comes the love for the children. We never had a question where Mom or Dad’s first love rested. It didn’t rest with one of us— it rested with them. It was out of the strength of that stability that we derived stability in our home, because we knew that they first loved each other. Someone has said that the best thing that a dad can do for his children is to be a wonderful husband to their mother. That’s important. We conclude with that as a hint to the husbands. Love your wives. To the wives, submit— graciously, willingly, not because you are compelled but because you want to.

As it was delivered at
Dr. Stuart E. Lease
July 8, 1976

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