Peter calls wives the weaker vessel. Is that out-dated analysis, offensive sexisim, or just generally true? John Piper looks at the Bible and our society in search for an answer. Understanding Peter rightly will help men honor women well.
Principle for Bible Reading
The biblical authors sometimes use words (even in our English translations) that are not used as often or in the same way today. For instance, Peter calls wives the “weaker vessel” in 1 Peter 3:7. We often pass over words like this too quickly, without stopping to ask enough questions about what the author really means and why they are using that particular word.
- When Peter calls the wife the “weaker vessel,” what do you think he means? Does Paul’s use of the same word in 2 Corinthians 4:7 affect your answer?
- Do you see examples in secular society that suggest women are, generally speaking, considered the weaker of the genders?
- Now, read Ephesians 5:23–29. How does Paul’s version of the same call confirm or clarify what Peter says to husbands?
The Weaker “Vessel”? (02:44–05:06)
- How is the honoring of our wives shaped by the fact that she is “the weaker vessel”? (1 Peter 3:7)
- Why is a woman called a “vessel” (1 Peter 3:7)? For her to be the “weaker vessel” men and women both must be vessels.
- Is “vessel” referring to sexual anatomy? Probably not, because that would have no bearing on Paul’s argument here.
- “Vessel” probably means body, as in 2 Corinthians 4:7.
- Therefore, Peter is simply saying in 1 Peter 3:7 that, in general, the woman will have the weaker body.
Peter’s Point in Today’s World (05:06–08:15)
- This point would have had a more immediate and obvious relevance in Peter’s day than it may today. But it’s still generally true, and therefore relevant today.
- For instance, there are no sports in the Olympics that pit men against women.
- There is also an NBA and a WNBA, acknowledging that men are generally larger and stronger. The same is true in golf and tennis.
- Beyond sports, only 3% of construction workers, 13% of police, and 15% of military are women.
- Almost everyone would say that generally men have a genetic physical advantage (strength and stamina).
Weakness and Honor (08:15–11:30)
- If women are generally the weaker vessel, how does that effect the way we “honor” them? (1 Peter 3:7)
- To honor means to esteem, to show worth, and to praise.
- This knowledge would work itself out in protection, provision, leadership, and initiative.
- Paul makes the same point in Ephesians 5:23–29. Husbands are the sacrificial head of their wives (leadership, protection, and initiative).