My daughter Joy, who is 26 years old, asked me to summarize for her what I say at the conference about Peter's reference to a wife as the "weaker vessel."
The importance of this phrase cannot be overlooked. Some in the secular feminist movement reject Orthodox Christianity because of the phrase "weaker vessel" (KJV) used by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:7 about wives. The whole verse says, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered" (NASB). Because of the description of the wife as "weaker" some feminists dismiss the legitimacy of the Bible. To them, the Bible errors. The Bible deviates from truth when implying a husband is the stronger sex. To state that the wife is weaker infuriates some people because this position fails to know and understand women and fails to honor women as equals.
But let's look at what Peter is saying. Peter is making several significant points.
1. In using the word "weaker" he is making a comparative statement not a qualitative statement. In other words, he is not saying that a wife is weak (a qualitative statement) but is saying that she is weaker (a comparative statement).
2. Peter is comparing the wife to her husband not to all humankind. In other words, she is weaker in relationship to one person, her husband, not to all people or all men.
3. To Peter the wife is weaker to her husband in only two areas. In the first area, when the husband refuses to live with his wife in an understanding way since she is a woman. In other words, a wife feels vulnerable and victimized when a husband shouts, "Because you are a woman no one could understand you." In the second area, when the husband refuses to honor his wife as a fellow heir the grace of life since she is a woman. In other words, a wife feels vulnerable and victimized when a husband shouts, "Because you are a woman there's no way I'm going to treat you as an equal. As a woman, you are less than equal."
4. Peter reveals that God does not listen to a husband's prayers when he refuses to live with his wife in an understanding way since she is a woman and when he refuses to honor his wife as an equal though she is a woman. This husband's prayers are "hindered.".
This begs the question: is there any difference between what Peter is writing and what the feminist movement has espoused over the decades? Has not the feminist movement done everything in its power to ensure that women are understood as women and honored as equals with men, and refuse to listen to men who argue against these two things?
When it comes to marriage, do not the feminists expect a husband to empathetically understand the femininity of his wife and to honorably treat her as his equal? Do not the feminists believe that when a husband refuses to do these two things he is victimizing his wife because of her vulnerabilities in these two areas?
Also, if a husband refused to understand his wife as a woman and refused to honor her as an equal though she was a woman, would not the feminist shout, "We will not listen to you Mr. husband nor respond to you. You have no credibility to us"? Of course, and so does God. God says to the husband that he won't listen to his prayers due to misunderstanding and dishonoring his wife. As the husband doesn't have a "prayer" with his wife when he treats her this way, nor does this husband have a prayer with God!
God's Word parallels the concerns of most feminists yet some of these feminists wrongly interpreted the apostle Peter's phrase "weaker vessel" and rejected the orthodox faith. Sadly, some evangelicals aligned themselves with the secular feminists to such an extent that these evangelicals only read Jesus and avoided the apostles Paul and Peter who they believe hold to chauvinistic views. Fortunately, when some of these folks hear what I just wrote, they change their opinion of Peter. They realize Peter espoused two major tenets of feminism before the feminists! They return to the reading of his epistles, and also Paul's epistles. They realize that orthodox Christianity is not the problem. The problem lies with the unorthodox males who defy God's word to husbands.