We should note that Peter connects the requirements of husbands with the practice of submission (he begins with ‘likewise’). So their taking on of the role of leadership in the family is not optional; rather it is an expression of obedience to God, which means that a refusal to take it on is disobedience to his revealed will.
The way husbands show submission to God is by living with their wives in an understanding way. The term ‘understanding’ combines the necessities of knowledge and considerateness. What gives them this understanding? The answer is the Word of God meditated on prayerfully and continually. One of the details that a husband should be looking for as he reads the Bible is guidance as to how he can help his wife.
At a basic level, living with their wives indicates that husbands should be at home (rather than out with the boys) and that they should live at home in an intelligent way. Peter mentions three features that husbands should think about constantly.
First, they show honour to their wives by remembering their weakness. By weakness, Peter could be referring to physical weakness (usually a husband is stronger than his wife and he should be always ready to provide for her and protect her). He could also be referring to social weakness (at that time, the status of women was not high, but in the church and in a Christian family the wives were to be respected). Again, he could be referring to personal weaknesses that a particular wife may have (she may not have a high IQ, for example). Or Peter could be referring to her voluntary weakness in that she freely submits to her husband and he should not abuse her submission (which seems to me to be the likely option).
Husbands show honour in several ways. The concept of honour includes praising their wives before others, commending the contributions of their wives, expecting them to do a great deal of value within their household, and many other positive activities.
Peter also reminds husbands of the spiritual equality between husbands and wives – they are heirs together of the grace of life. This could refer to the grace of sanctification or to the grace of glorification. Either and both are true, and are reminders to the husband that his wife is and will yet be greatly blessed by God. I suppose the danger being highlighted here is the danger of letting society’s values diminish spiritual blessings – in society the wife was dependent on the husband, in the spiritual life both husband and wife are dependent on God.
Peter closes his exhortation to husbands by warning them that unchristian behaviour towards their wives will result in unanswered prayers. This is a call to be careful about all things in the domestic world. His warning should cause husbands to engage in heart-searching about how they treat their wives.
The obvious, overall comment that can be made of Peter’s teaching here is that it is a call to be counter-cultural, to show to society what a God-blessed relationship is like.