In the third chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle Peter says this:
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Pet. 3:12).
This verse is found right after the section where the apostle Peter taught us about marriage. In the first part of this chapter, he had said that wives ought to honor and respect their husbands fully, and that husbands ought to live with their wives with knowledge, and to do so in a way that honors their wives. While in the verses that follow he has widened the scope of his discussion, what he says here is still immediately relevant to the question of how a Christian man and a Christian woman should live together.
In the earlier passage, he had said that men should treat their wives right, lest their prayers be hindered. Here, just a few verses down, he brings the same point about answered prayer up again. God listens to the prayers of a righteous man, and He does this because His eyes are on that man. God watches a man, and on the basis of what He sees, He listens to that man’s prayer. Or not.
Now if you are an omniscient God, and you are watching someone to see what is in his heart, when would you take special note of what he is doing? Right—you would take special note of how a man lives in his family. What is he like at home?
This is a word that makes all of us flinch. The problem with this is not a matter of righteousness. We all know instinctively in our hearts that we ought to treat one another better than we do, and this especially concerns husbands to wives, and wives to husbands. The problem is that we are a broken race—we are maimed, we are crippled. We know the right thing to do, but in the provocation of the moment, we do not do it.
But there is good news. There is gospel. When God looks into a marriage to see how a man and his wife are doing there, if He were to do this with a view toward finding fault, no husband and no wife would ever survive that audit. So why did Peter bother to give instructions to husbands and wives at all? And why, in this verse, does he assume that there is even such a thing as a righteous man?
The answer is that we can be righteous, but this is only possible by faith alone. Only Jesus was the perfect man, and the only way for us to have His righteousness credited to us is to believe in the God who offers it to us. When He offers us the obedience of Jesus Christ, a Christian man and a Christian woman have the great privilege of receiving as a gift the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). These good works are not the payment we make in order to obtain God’s favor. No, they are the result of God’s favor, given to us freely, and all charged to the account of the Lord Jesus.
In short, a good and godly marriage is a gift that God gives to us. Because Jesus lived perfectly, and because He died on the cross for the sins of all who trust in Him, God bestows a good life on His people. One of the central aspects of this good life is the centerpiece of a good marriage. A good marriage is not something we get as a result of our striving, or laboring, or working, or peddling harder. It is the gift of God, and is something that Christ earned. If someone has a good marriage, Christ earned it, and then gave it to him and to her. And God does not just give the results—He gives the actions that produce those results.
One of the central good works that God gives to husbands is the task of mimicking the love that God showed to us when Christ died on the cross. Husbands, love your wives, Paul says, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. One of the central good works that God gives to wives is the task of embodying the response of the Church to the Lord Jesus, rendering respect and honor. Husbands are called to take the initiative of laying down their lives for their wives, and to do so without complaint. Wives are called to lay down their lives for their husbands in response, and to do so without complaint.
So Jerry, the Lord Jesus purchased your married life for you. He has bought it all, and is now returning it to you so that you might be a steward of that great gift. It is not enough for you to simply receive the gift that God gives, you must care for it the way He says to care for it. You are here today because you love your bride, and you are prepared to take vows in line with that love. But love is no static thing—it is alive. Because it is alive, it has to be nourished in order to grow. The Bible teaches that love flourishes when it is fed by sacrifice. This is what the Lord Jesus did for us. This is how we came into new life. This is why we are able to grow in that life. So imitate that. Copy it. Meditate on it. The Bible says that you have genuine authority in your home, but never forget that the only kind of true authority that the Bible knows of is the kind that bleeds for others. Your authority is considerable, but only as it flows in imitation of Christ. You have the authority to die for your bride.
Chantelle, the Lord Jesus has purchased your married life for you as well. You are a steward of God’s grace every bit as much as Jerry is . . . but it is grace with a different shape. God gave him the gift of initiating, and you the grace of responding. God gave him the providing the raw material, and you the grace of glorifying it. God gave him you, and you have the privilege of adorning that gift. I know that you know the kindness of God. I know that you feel the weight of His grace upon you at this moment—for that is what it is, the weight of grace and glory. Grasping is vain, but surrender brings peace. As Jerry surrenders to God in giving himself away for you, so you also surrender to God in giving yourself away for him.
This is a great mystery, a central mystery of marriage. How can two people gives themselves away completely, and then, after the gift is given and gone, both of them have twice as much as they began with? That is the mystery that is bounded and surrounded by the vows that will be exchanged in just a few moments.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.