Biblical Marriage: More Egalitarian Than We Thought


"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not not good for the man to be alone; I shall make a partner [helpmate] suited to him." Genesis2,18

"Now you, my friends, like Issac, are children of God's promise, [Abraham's faith seed]. Galatians4,28

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it, to consecrate it by water and word." Ephesians5,25

"There is here a great truth, which I take to refer to Christ and to the church [sacrificial love of husband for a wife]. 33 But it applies also to each one of you: the husband must love his wife as his very self, and the wife must show respect for her husband." [Ephesians5,33].

"Is it too much to ask / I want a comfortable bed / that won't hurt my back / food to fill me up / And warm clothes and all that stuff." Passionate Kisses, Lucinda Williams, Rough Trade Records, 1987, later recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1993, for which they both won Grammy's.

Key Text Today:

"Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex [physically], since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life- so that nothing may hinder your prayers." (NRSV) 1Peter3,7

I've  preached about marriage several times now.

There was "Dating and Matchmaking and Marriage God's Way" Preaching Hour N. 101 back in November of 2011.

Then 1Peter3,1ff where biblical marriage is part of the social code of Roman wives winning over their husbands to faith in November 2013, Preaching Hours 165-66.

Then Preaching Hour N. 180 "Mutual Submission in The Church, Family And Marriage" in May of 2014 from Ephesians5.

In these we talked about man subjects such as the one spouse God appoints or grant by way of lot, some still waiting (1Corinthians7,17) We talked about the code of believing spouse sanctifying the unbelieving spouse (1Corinthians 7,14 and 1Peter3,1ff). We also preached about mutual submission and loving sacrificial service, (Ephesians5) and "the Five Love Languages" pioneered by Gary Chapman in 1995.

Maybe you remembered something of these love languages? Once folks realize what language you want and your spouse wants. After that, it's bingo. Can anyone remember the five?

1. Word's of affirmation; 2. Acts of Service; 3. Quality Time; 4. Giving Gifts; 5. Physical Touch.

What's your love language? That's the question we eligible Christians should be asking not "what's your sign?" No horoscopes, no mediums, go to a prophet if you need a word from God! Or, better yet get baptized in the Spirit, and become one, 'would that all of God's people were prophets.'

We're going to wade into the tumultuous marital waters again today from a different aspect, the equality of the parties. This is "egalitarianism." This is a fancy word meaning equality. Now I'm not saying that there is no headship of husbands in marriage, or submission by wives (1Peter3,1-6). I'm not saying that mutual summission and sacrificial love by both parties is not important. I'm not saying that the biblical baseline structure of Christian marriage is not important (Ephesians5,21-29).

It is.

But perhaps you'll agree that there are other gospel aspects of marriage too like its biblically egalitarian nature. Perhaps, this has been too infrequently preached. So today's message is "1Peter3,7: Biblical Marriage: More Egalitarian Than We Thought."

Yes, we often hear the law and commandments aspect of marriage, I'm all for that, but not as much about the egalitarian aspects of it

The most famous egalitarian faith based verse in the whole bible is Galatians3,28. Here Paul is chastizing the foolish Galatians who sort of want to go back to the Mosaic law and get all snooty and hierarchical and clerical, and also fall back on a nationalistic and cultural-religious class system that is still practiced today in the Lord's church. They had forgotten the egalitarian nature of the biggest bible concepts like sin and grace, and one faith, and one Lord, and one baptism. Innstead they wanted to make a fleshy set of new man made Christian laws, so they could Lord it over the gentiles, and make them second class citizens and subjects to their superior rules:

26 It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus [risen]. 27 Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment [white baptismal garments, same for eveybody]. 28 There is no such thing as Jew or Greek, slave and freeman, male and female; for you are all one person in Christ Jesus. 29 So if you belong to Christ, you are the 'issue' of Abraham [a faith seed issue, one and the same issue] and heirs by virtue of the promise [Genesis12,2]

Our text today is 1Peter3,7 which says that both husband and wife share a great power given by God and shared with Him, the power to bring new life into creation. This is probably not the majority interpretation of this verse which deems it to say that both a husband and wife share in eternal life. I'm siding with the Anglican Scholar Charles Ellicott (1819-1905) who points out that 1Peter3,7 as does it's prior corrollary 1Peter3,1 likely includes one spouse who is a believer and one who isn't. So if we're talking about one spouse who belives and one who doesn't, we're not talking about them being joint heirs of salvation, but joint creators with God in their procreative capacity.

We note here with this focus on one unbelieving spouse that both the Apostles Peter an Paul went out of their way to establish that the new Christian church isn't out to upset the established institution of marriage, and the holy status of all children within it.

So at 1Peter3,1 it's the husband who might not believe, and the wife does, so its about the wife's faith duties. So its likely that at 1Peter3,7 we're talking about a believing husband and a non believing wife, that is about his faith duties towards her.

And yet and still Peter affords the unbelieving wife here in this verse 7 a great egalitarian status in that she too is a fellow bearer of the procreative power with her husband and God. This is about as egalitarian as it gets, egalitarian with God! Yes, dare we preach God's word, in this procreational sense, the bible here depicts the man and woman in a marriage as co-equal parties with each other and God as they create new life. 

That's some high egalitarian cotton!

I hadn't expected to come back to this marriage subject, since what do I know, but when the Lord speaks we are supposed to obey and let his word build something right and good. As Psalm 33,6 puts it "The word of the Lord created the heavens; all the host of heaven was formed at his command." 

So we pray that the Lord would create something good out of His preached word today, in Jesus Name.

Egalitarianism, the idea that all people are equal in their human worth, is a biblical notion. Poor or rich, male or female, physcially challenged or way fit, black or white, we're all, in the human sense, equal.

This is so, if we keep some sense of our shared humanity anyway. If we don't become beasts. If we don't fritter away our humanity by hatreds and a zombie state of greed and overconsumption.

Again even today not everybody accepts secular or biblical egalitarianism. It assumes a certain minimum standard of humanity, a certain raised mininum. It also demmands a certain human hope and optimism. The Holocaust and genocides and religious crusades past and present would never happen or have happened if humanity actually embraced Christian biblical egalitarianism.

Our egalitarianism comes from Genesis1,27:

"God created human beings in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Both men and women are made in God's image, that is we are spiritual beings capable of not only thought, but Spiritually knowing each other, and knowing God, in a Spiritual way through faith.

Genesis1,28 expands on this likeness and speaks of of creative powers and our dominion as higher beings made in the Lord's likeness: "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves on the earth." 

So egalitarianism did not come from the 18th and 19th century Enlightenment period. What was the cry of the French Revolution? "Liberte, egalite, fraternite" - this slogan is perhaps more popularly memorable than Genesis 1,27-28, Galatians3,28 and Acts4,32-35 but our sveral thousand year old bible is the inspirational source of this slogan.

Let's sample Acts4,32-35 for some good egalitarian bible verses so we get the idea and then later we can apply it to marriage:

"The whole company of believers was united in heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own; everything was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and all were held in high esteem. 34 There was never a needy person among them, because those who had property in land or houses would sell it, bring the proceeds of the sale, and 35 lay them at the feet of the apostles, to be distributed to any who were in need."

Acts here is all the way egalitarian. Wouldn't that be great? Young or old, rich or poor, Jew or gentile, we have faith, we all get water baptized, then Holy Ghost baptized, and become new human creations, temples of the Holy Ghost, members of his royal priesthood, praise God.

Our marriages and churches and faith today could use a healthy dose of this initial church egalitarianism. It would break down the class divides and gender politics and human coldness that characterize so many Christian churches, and it would likely make marriages better too.

Now divorce statistics are sobering and very interesting. I don't want to bore you or coerce you with statistics. I'm just going to mention one statistic, one that is uncontested: two out of three divorces are initiated by women (Brinig and Allen "These Boots Are Made For Walking. Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women?" 2000,

By a two to one margin women want out and get out way more than the men. Why?

I don't know exactly, but the fact is that at some point they get fed up with husbands that don't show understanding and consideration and honor and then take liberties with other woman.

The English Baptist commentator of the 17th century John Gill cautions against getting too high and mighty before your wife. He quotes a popular saying of the Jews:

"if thy wife be short of stature, bow thyself, and whisper to her." (, 1Peter3,7, John Gill)

In other words, yes God made most women physically weaker and more sensitive than men and men physically stronger and less sensitive, but that doesn't mean we becomes bulls in a china shop. That doesn't mean we brak the fine vase just because that the way we are. 

Not all divorces filed by women happen from high handedness of the husband, but this is the stereotypical way. The women get fed up with the running around, and before the husband is ready to change, he gets served with papers.

Oh what a sad day that is.

Now consider this- could some small part of this indisputable fact, that women file two out of three divorces, stem from the fact that we rarely preach about the egalitarian aspects of marriage, the higher or holy aspects of it. We preach submission and sacrificial love and mutual service, and that's good, but perhaps these sort of received as new laws and commandments but without a changed heart fit for marriage. 

The great apostle John G. Lake in a sermon on "The Sabbath" helps us turn our sense of marriage away from teuotonic rights and duties and commandments and churchiness and towards "loving one another, as I have loved you." John 15,12

This is sort of a long quote, and Lake is preaching about the sabbath not marriage, but the Lord is telling me that 'The Preaching Hour' audience stands ready to be challenged and to apply the following to marriage:

"When we live in the Son of God we have come beyond the shphere of the commandment, for the law was made for the unlawful and unholy, for murderers of fathers and mothers, for whoremongers, etc. (1Timothy1,9-10). Upon our statute books today there are no doubt a thousand laws that you and I know nothing about, and we care less. Why? They are of no interest to us. We hardly pay any attention to the law of murder, nor can we tell the details because of the fact that being sons of God we are living in love and are not interested in what the law says of murder. There is no murder in our hearts. Blessed be God! We have passed on.

And so the Christian who has enterered into Christ Jesus and is abiding in Him and is a pssessor of the Holy Ghost, has moved beyond the regime of the law and commandments. They are of no value to him. He lives in obedience to one law and one commandment, the Eleventh. This includes all the rest in one: "That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John15,12). Blessed be His Name.

Henry Drummond, I believe it is, in his "Greatest Thing in the World" gives an illustration that is so fitting. He says that he visits a friend's home. He finds that he and his wife have lived together in the most beautiful unity for many years. But a friend of his is still anxious that he shall be a strict observer of the law , and he [the "friend"] sits down and writes a code of rules for the government of this man and wife who have always lived to gether in unity. He says, "Thou shalt not kill her. Thou shalt not bear false witness against her. Thou shalt not steal from her" and so on through the other commandments. He [the husband] takes it up and laughs. Of what value is such a code to him? Has he not for all the years past been giving to his wife his heart's affection [emphasis added] that makes it impossible for such things to enter his soul?

["giving to his wife his heart's affection..." that is he is affording her a status and importance and equality.] 

And there is just that much difference between the Christian standard and the standard of the law. May God help us that we shall not take backward steps but realize our positions as sons of God. We shall live in Him and abide in the Holy Ghost and realize the freedom of sons, not the bondage of servants. Blessed be His Name. Nevertheless, to the man outside Christ the commandment still stands. As our statute books today the law of murder applies to the man who commits murder, but the man in Christ has passed beyond that sphere. "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of any holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ"  [Colossians2,16-17]. Blessed be His Name! (John G. Lake: HIs Life, His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith, KCP, 1996, p.169)

So, yes we teach and follow the structure of Christian marriage, but our actions and the love in our hearts are not necessarily informed by just words and doctrine, as if a new Mosaic law, but the new law of Jesus, the new life of the body is of Christ, wherein our standards have been raised above law. We have been called out of common fallen life, and are now defined as redeemed people. So, we don't have beat up each other with what feels like a new law and new commandments.

Yes, it's good to know and accept the ground rules of marriage, the mutual submissions and the mutual sacrifices, but only Jesus living inside us can show us and empower us to love our spouse as we love ourselves. Only if we raise our sights as faithful individuals, made one "flesh" in marriage (Mark10,8), because we both have a resurrectional faith in our one risen Lord.

Is our preaching on Christian marriage approaching the freedom, equality and loftiness the bible gives it, or do we need to further realize that it is more egalitarian than we previously thought?

Please turn to Matthew 7,1-5, a well known scripture that the Lord wants me to equate to the knowledge and understanding required of a husband in marriage according to 1Peter3,7.

To my mind, before the Lord showed me, this Matthew 7,1-5 had nothing to do with marriage:

"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged [what husband, or man, doesn't know that already?], and the measure you give will be measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck [the little speck] in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."

One of commentators on 1Peter3,7, the already mentioned Br. Ellicott translates the NRSV's "show consideration as "dwell according to knowledge- this phrase, which is like an adverb, such as 'scientifically, intelligently' means that the husband is to study and enter into the whole bearings of the case, to take everything into account. Husband and wife will not get on together smoothly at haphazard, without pains taken to understand the situtation." (

So when it comes to a husband tempted to push around his wife in some form, physically or emotionally or otherwise, the standard is "dwell according to full knowledge, and gentleness, concern, and upkeep, and all the rest.

No wonder Paul said it would be easier to stay unmarried! (1Corinthians7,25-28)

Let's examine the ten problem areas where the husband is going to exercise this full knowledge and gentleness. These ten are according to Cathy Meyer, who is in the marriage and divorce business, as a "Divorce Support Expert":

1. Money Problems- finances, debt, spending;

2. Children, discipline, diet, parenting;

3. Sex, frequency, quantity, quality, infidelity;

4. Time apart, out of sync, long commutes;

5. Household responsibilities, equitable housework, dividing chores;

6. Friends: not all are helpful;

7. Irritating habits;

8. family;

9. Expectations;

10. Personality conflicts.

This is quite a thorough list, but any one of these could sink a marriage.

How could any Christian husband even come close to overcoming any one of these problems without a raised sense, unless he begins to sees his wife as his co-creative equal, as his beloved, and as the one God gave him to be that co-creator, according to 1Peter3,7.

How much preaching about mutual submission and sacrifice at church is going to meet the ten areas just mentioned?

But there is still good news. God made us in his Spiritual image. God made us co-creators of new life. He gave Adam a helpmate. Who could be against a helpmate? A helpmate might help us understand a few things about oursleves and marriage and occasionally what's running through the mind of like half the population. 

The point is here is about Holy Ghost understanding. We know that we need more than doctrine, rules and words on paper, when it comes to relationships and marriage. We need practical and Holy Ghost informed wisdom to raise our minds and souls and bodies, and all we are, to the standards of God at 1Peter3,7.

The Lord's standard of marriage is more egalitarian than we men might have imgained. We have to realize that both our wives and husbands are faith children according to the promise made to Abraham. We might want the easier stuff of rules and laws, but if that's the spirit we bring to the marriage we might become more like children of Hagar, children of court ordered child support, children of court ordered custody and visitation, rather than children of Sarah. Galatians 4,21-25:

"Tell me you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. 23 One, the child of a slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise [Genesis 18,9, Genesis12]. 24 Now this is an allegory [an old story that has present application]: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar, is Mount Sinai in Arabia [where Mosaic law was given] and corresponds to the present Jerusalem [that has little or no faith], for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the other woman [Sarah] corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother."

No woman could have a marraige much worse than Sarah. She's childless and the future looks to be more of the same. So she agrees to allow her servant girl Hagar to lie with har Abraham (Genesis16,2). And then when Ismael is born, she goes half mad with jealousy of Hagar. She's in the depths of envy and depression. But then God makes her laugh, and gives her Issac. So her egalitarian self, according to 1Peter3,7, gave Abraham and all Israel, a birthright.

Praise Jesus, out of God's sheer grace she bears the honor and mark of faithful Jerusalem.

She is the free woman, the woman who laughed at the promise, but got the promise anyway, and so she is afforded by the Apostle Paul as "our mother.'

Or think of Rebecca who carried on the birthright of Abraham's seed. When Abraham's servant came looking for her at the well as a wife for Issac, so he would not have to marry a Canaanite, she cuaght on as quick as could be. She put on those gifted bracelets and nose ring right away, Genesis 24,46.

Abraham's servant then told her daddy Bethuel and her uncle Laban, and they both wanted to be protective and have her wait for Issac to come to her. But she spoke her own mind and wanted to go right away to meet Issac (24,57-58).

And then these same men didn't forbid her, egalitarian sister that she was, instead they blessed her:

"may you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes." Verse 60

Sounds sort of high minded and egalitarian to me.

Then when the two meet it's also interesting and instructive as to the egalitarian nature of biblical marriage.

Who spied out the situation first, Issac or Rebekah?

Verse 63 tells us Issac is out meditating on his walk, and she sees him first, and then she asks Abraham's servant who is, the one her eyes had already landed on!

On the story goes. 

So then by Verse 65, after she knows he's the one, then she takes her veil and covers her face, to make herself all the more attractive.

Egalitarian indeed!

Or, Egalitarian plus!

Could we say every bit Issac's equal?

That's my message. 

1Peter3,7 is quite a verse. It's one of many that builds on the egalitarian priciples of Christian biblical revelation. It challenges us men to become fully and aware human beings and treat our wives and womenfolk  accordingly. It speaks of men and women being co-creators of new life when the miracle faith babies come, which every baby is.

And likewise the word at Genesis1,27-28 says that both men and women are made in God's Spiritual image. Our New Testament scriptures define both the female and male body as temples of the Holy Ghost (1Corinthians6,19) and define all baptized in the Spirit folks as royal priests (1Peter2,5and9).

Our bible also reminds us that Sarah and Rebekah were afforded great status and equality by God, and in their marriage too, not to mention Prisca, and Lydia,  who might have had Christian marriages somewhat more egalitarian than we thought.

Willa Cather and "Neighbor Rosicky":

Matchmaking, Dating, and Marriage God's way:












Preaching Hour TV weekly on Cox PATV Channel 15 in Cheshire, Southington and Meriden CT and on VCAM Channel 15 10pm Fridays in Burlington VT.



Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.