The Weaker Vessel


By: Gen. Jim -- 4/24/24    

My text today is taken from 1 Peter 3:7: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, & as being heirs together of the grace of life...” (KJV)

In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition [of the marriage relation], honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker, but [realizing that you] are joint heirs of the grace...” -Amp. Bible

For the background of vs.7, read vss.1-6. What we find is 1 Pet. 3 is writing about 2 different dispensations, the Old Test. & the New Test.: “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well...’ -vs.7 brings us into the N.T. era – the era of the gospel where the curse has been broken, grace replaced the Law. (see Gal. 3:24-29).

Vs.18 says, “There is [now no distinction], neither Jew nor Greek...slave or free...male & female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The old law of men over women was cancelled! Male dominance was canceled! “Even as Sara (Sarah) obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Pet. 3:6) imply that she acknowledged his SUPERIORITY, & her own SUBJECTION to him, in the order of God (under the curse - “... your desire shall be for your husband, & he shall RULE over you” -Gen. 3:16). The punishment for Eve’s transgression was SUBJECTION & painful childbearing, see our target vss. in 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

According to men who deny women the right to minister, the woman’s conduct in the fall is, according to Genesis, a primary reason for her universal, timeless SUBORDINATE relationship! But Gal. 3:28 broke that curse! According to Clement of Alexandria the woman should blush for shame that she was of the same gender as Eve. Tertullian wrote along the same lines.

According to ignorance on the part of many men, women are lesser than men in church, home, & society. But Jesus’ death & resurrection changed this “male only” order. While the Bible contains paradoxes, perplexities, & problems (but not contradictions!), the message in the N.T. is clear: “For He Himself is our peace who has made both one, & has BROKEN DOWN the middle wall of separation... so as to create in Himself ONE NEW MAN from the Two” (male/female) (see Eph. 2:14,15).

Going back to our text in 1 Peter 3, as Abraham is represented the father of all his male believing descendants, so Sarah is represented as the mother of all her believing female posterity. While Peter states that the female is the “weaker” vessel, he did not mean “lesser,” only weaker in the physical, not spiritual.

Happy is the husband & wife that are EQUAL in Christ Jesus. Men are supposed to give HONOR to their wives... “as being heirs together.”

Men/husbands are to be the “head,” i.e. “source” of the woman, using their physical strength in her behalf... as provider & support, not as superior. The word (Gk.) τιμή, honor, signifies maintenance as well as respect; maintain, provide for the wife. The old saying ‘The female has what the man wants – beauty & delicacy. The male has what the female wants – courage & strength.” But all this has changed many men are effeminate/homos & the women are mannish/lesbians.

N.T. Women = O.T. Sarah?

This is the way the misogynist male sees it. They want to keep the female sex under the O.T. Law/tradition. Sarah was the wife/mother “par excellence” of the Hebrew race – but let's face it, today’s wife/mother does not come easily to a modern woman, pagan or Christian. While I reject the idea that a woman is inferior/lesser to a man, I also reject the idea that a woman is supposed to rule over the man, i.e. to be a Jezebel! While the male/man may be the “head of the house” (in the true sense of the word “head”), he is not to be a bully, nor an Ahab! With the false teaching we’ve been examining, both man/woman - husband/wife have their personal responsibilities in a marriage. He has no right to act like or be the dictator/tyrant - nor is she. While it may be right for the Christian woman to be obedient, but not humiliatingly submissive, so the man/husband may be the “head,” i.e. “provider” but not arbitrarily authoritarian – both together are to be ONE, joint heirs of grace, and therefore equal in the fundamental relationships of life. This joint heirship is the declaration of woman’s emancipation – same goes for church/society.

A church, home, & society can only operate when males /females respect each other. Peter has little to say about rights, but much about duties. The modern home/church/society is OUT of ORDER! People are OBSESSED with “rights.”

The modern church/family has nearly lost Christian chivalry, while the ancient world agreed that woman was “the weaker sex,” not so today. Women have become Jezebels personified!

Plato wrote in Republic (v.475 A), “Lighter tasks are to be given to women than to men because of the weakness of their sex.”

1 Peter 3:1

... Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands...” Here Peter is writing about unsaved husbands who are not believers in the Christian doctrine: the Christian wife is to be affectionate, obedient as much as possible, hoping to win him over to Christ by her holy conduct, i.e., “chaste conversation.” She is instructed to be of a “quiet spirit” (vs.4), not in looking pretty (vs.3) as did the women of old, e.g. Greeks/Romans et al. The beauty Peter was referring to was the inner beauty of the heart (vs.4). Modesty was better than gold or silver or pearls.

Men or women not born-again are still under the curse of the fall.

The Gk. word “hesuchios,” an adjective used here to describe a quiet & peaceful life (1 Pet. 3:4). this adj. describes “a meek & quiet spirit which is precious in God’s sight,” while the verb occurs in 1 Thes. 4:11 to indicate a conversation, aka lifestyle which is quiet, orderly, & industrious. The word, says Gk. scholars, is important because in 1 Tim. 2:11,12 the noun form will be applied to women, & most translators understand it to mean that women should keep SILENT! But in 1 Tim. 2:2, it has to do with quality of life. They point out that it implies compliance with the “law” rather than resistance & harmony with one’s neighbors rather than wrangling & hostility. So, the word “hesuchia” may be applied to 1 Tim. 2:11,12.

Prof. Catherine Kroegan says this Gk. word, “hesuchia” (1 Tim. 2:3,4) is a hint of the wrong doctrines which keep people from arriving at the knowledge of truth. The phrase “knowledge of truth” occurs 4 times in the Pastorals. The foolish women who are led astray by the false teachers are always learning & never able to come to a knowledge of the Truth (2 Tim. 3:6,7). In 2 Tim. 2:25 the author advises that the servant of God must not engage in argumentation but rather teach those opposed to the orthodox message with meekness. Paul sticks to his theme of providing TRUTH as an antidote to ERROR, Peter calls upon the Christian women to be in subjection unto their own husbands – not to the fads of the day of dress & frippery. Peter goes to great care in addressing this unsaved husband/saved wife. She is to be subject to his needs, not her needs (or lust of adorning herself, putting herself under the power of outward beauty).

Nearly all pagan women of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia et al. adorned themselves outwardly but had no beauty inwardly. Luxury & pride was the ruling forces in ancient times. Women were instructed to be in subjection to their husbands, not to the fads of the times.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215) had alot to say in his writing concerning women in general & wives in particular. He writes: “The wife who loves her husband must be furnished for the pilgrimage similarly to her husband. A fair provision for the journey to heaven belongs to those who bear simplicity with chaste seriousness.” - 195, 2. 281.

In his comment on 1 Pet. 3 concerning dress, he writes: “The labor of their own hands... adds genuine beauty to women... They should not bring non-ornamental adornment made by others, which is vulgar & flashy. Rather, she should bring adornment of every good woman – clothing supplied & woven by her own hands... it is never suitable for women whose lives are framed according to God, to appear arrayed in things bought from the market... a wife who clothes herself is a most beautiful thing” - 195, 2. 287. He adds: “A wife of excellence is a woman of worth... A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” - 195, 2. 287. He goes on to write: “She should not deck & adorn herself beyond what is becoming...” 195, 2. 379.

Clement made it known that a wife should “... earnestly aim at virtue, gaining her husband’s consent... She should never do anything against his will...” But he adds, “... with the exception of that is reckoned as necessary to virtue & salvation.” - 195, 2. 432.

Some call 1 Peter 3:1,2 the silent preaching of a lovely life (wife). One noted Scottish N.T. scholar had written that in every sphere of ancient civilization, women had little if no rights at all. Under Jewish law a woman was a “thing;” she was OWNED by her husband – Christian or pagan. In Greek civilization the duty of the woman was to remain indoors & to be OBEDIENT to her hubby. Under Roman law a woman had no rights. Before marriage she remained under the patria potestar, i.e. the father’s power. If a woman was caught in adultery, the husband had the right to kill her without a trial. This was the world in which the N.T. church was born. You can see why the woman/women were the subject of discussions. Much is said in the N.T. - under grace – about how a woman/wife/minister should act.

The word “submission” did not mean a cowardly submission but, as some scholars have written, it was a voluntary selflessness; not a submission of fear but of love for Christ. Judaism, Roman, Greek culture all around when Christianity was born. It was in full force when Gal. 3:28 was written: “There is neither Jew nor Greek... neither slave nor free... neither male nor female.” The Greeks divided all men into two classes, Greeks & barbarians; the Jews (under Judaism) called all others “goyim.” The woman or wife was the property of her husband, & her status ranked with slaves & children. In every way, woman was inferior to man. (see Josephus, Against Apion II.24). The Gospel of Christ changed the status of the woman/wife... slowly. Paul’s concept of “equality” & “unity” in Christ was an incipient revolution. The Talmud taught, with the incongruity of man’s ancient thanksgiving that he had “not been born a woman.”

Racial heritage, social status, gender would not keep a person from receiving eternal life in Christ. When Paul declared all Christians are “one person” (eîs, masculine) in Christ, he does not mean that they lose their individuality; there is diversity in unity. (1 Cor. 12-14).

Back to 1 Peter 3

The ancient moralists condemned undue luxury as much as the Christian church. Look at some of these modern preachers/teachers of today – very expensive clothing, jewels and all, both males & females. Some spend large sums of $$ on their attires, on their homes & travels etc. Some men borderline the effeminate & some women, the mannish. (if not outright homos & lesbians).

So, just where is the spirit of holiness & purity in all this? Where is the adornment/submission to Christ? On the other extreme we have the tattooed, pierced ministers with their blue jeans (torn at the knees to show that they spend a lot of time on their knees in prayer – HA!). These are just as FAKE as the prosperity perverts.

So, my dear readers, our goal as believers should be to please our God, not ourselves. Luxury & extravagance should not be our goal to attain to, but inward beauty. Peter was warning the Christian wife not to display outward beauty to win her hubby over to Christ, but to adorn herself inwardly with a submissive spirit, with a quiet spirit.

Isaiah wrote about various female adornments that threatens judgment. Look up these verses, 3:18-24. Those were cultural adornments but the condonement of such things reaches into today’s world as well. Peoples of today are obsessed with clothing, jewelry, tattoos, hair-dos or no hair-at-all etc... while the virtues of life are trashed.

Peter starts chapter 3 with, “Likewise,” which refers back to 2:18: “Servants, be submissive (or subject) to your masters...” Servants (Gk. οἰκεταί) means household servants, who were normally slaves! As already stated, slavery was common in basically all cultures, but eventually went out over time. The only way slavery could have ended in ancient times was by a head-on rebellion! Am I saying that the wife of an unregenerated husband was a slave? Well, yes, in one sense. Remember Peter was writing to the exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, & Bithynia. These were Christians that made up part of “True Israel.” Ancient Jew’s who rejected the Messiah remained “Old Israel” or “cultural Judaism.” Peter’s Epistle (chapter 3) related to them (women/wives) that a Christian wife will obey her husband (according to cultural Israel), even if he is a pagan, hoping to win him for Christ by her godly conduct. Peter also wrote to the husbands, “... dwell with them (Christian wives) according to knowledge, giving unto the weaker vessel...,” which he addressed to the Christian husbands.

So, Peter addressed both the Christian wife & Christian husband. The latter was not to treat his wife as under the Jewish Talmud or paganism. The new life in Christ made both male/female equal!

One N.T. scholar comments on 3:1-7: “Peter does not talk like a modern sex equalitarian; but there breathes through his advice the very spirit of Christian chivalry.”


There are many examples where pagan husbands were won to Christ by submissive wives. Some big ones were Clavis, King of France, through his wife Clotilda, & Ethelbert of Kent, through his wife Bertha. There is an old saying “The silence often of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails.”

Notice, Peter says zero about “inferiority” & “superiority:” “respect” was what Peter emphasized as well as submission (so long as the submission does not run counter to Christian convictions). In Christ there is no male/female - both are/were equal in God’s sight. However, there was/is a difference in functions between the sexes which Christian faith does not eradicate. The “weaker vessel” does not imply inferior, spiritually speaking, nor morally/ethically/politically/intellectually any weaker than himself.

Before I close, there were some women in the Church that were not honorable: Sapphira (Acts 4:36-5:11). She acted foolishly (along with her hubby, Ananias): both lied & sinned deliberately (Acts 4:31-33), hence, died under the judgment of God!

The 5 foolish virgins (Mt. 25:1-13) failed to keep alive & alert, hence, slumbered, not watching & waiting for the bridegroom.

The adulterous woman (Jn. 8:1-11) gives us the view of O.T. law vs N.T. grace. Jesus told her not to “sin no more” but forgave her.

Herodias, wife of her half-uncle Herod Philip, but she lusted after Herod Antipas, his half-brother (Mk. 6:14-29).

The sinful woman (Lk. 7:36-50) showed great love for Jesus and her faith in Him saved her.

Jesus showed mercy & grace to women, unlike Judaism's harsh & unloving law.                                   _______________________________________________________________

Back To Article Index