Understanding the Weaker Vessel
When Paul talks in the Bible about marriage, I struggle with his words because he was a bachelor. What does he know about the subject? Peter, on the other hand, was married so I give more credence to what he says on the subject. Even so I struggle a bit when he talks about women as the weaker vessel in 1 Peter 3:7.
This verse is specifically about husbands and wives. It’s part of a longer passage that talks about the marriage relationship. Let’s breakdown what Peter says.
The Weaker Vessel
In looking at multiple versions of this verse, most use the phrase weaker vessel. It offends my sensibilities because I strive to view men and women as equals. Some verses clarify that this weakness refers to physical characteristics, which I understand to be true, even if I don’t want to dwell on it.
The Message translation doesn’t use the phrase weaker vessel. Instead. it says, “as women they lack some of your advantages” (1 Peter 3:7, MSG).
The Expanded Bible clarifies this even further using the phrase as “the less empowered one” and explains that in the society of that time, women tended to have less power and authority (1 Peter 3:7, EXB).
Can we expand our understanding of this teaching beyond marriage to produce a general principle? Or is that taking the verse out of context?
If we choose to extend Peter’s instructions beyond marriage, we should all—men and women—take care in how we treat others who may be a weaker vessel to us: those who lack our advantages, who aren’t as empowered, and who possessed less authority.
As we do so we promote a God-honoring justice.
Joint Heirs with Jesus
Not only is this verse about husbands and wives, but it also refers to a Christ-centered marriage. Husbands and wives who follow Jesus are his heirs.
Some translations say co-heirs or joint heirs. The rendering I appreciate most, however, is that we are equal partners (1 Peter 3:7, NLT).
So That Your Prayers May Not Be Hindered
The outcome of husbands treating their wives properly, as joint heirs with Jesus, is a more effective prayer life. In this way, Peter gives a command with a promise: treat your spouse well and your prayers won’t be hindered. Other renderings say “blocked” (1 Peter 3:7, CJB) and “ineffective” (1 Peter 3:7, AMP).
Putting this all together, when husbands treat their wives properly—when everyone treats everyone else with respect—our prayers will be more effective.
Don’t we all want a more vibrant, effective prayer life? Then we should take care how we treat others.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.