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My question is pretty straightforward. I'm wondering what "the grace of life" refers to in this verse:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV)

The two main options I can see are that it refers to 1) eternal life (since the word "heirs" seems to anticipate something still in the future) or to 2) marriage (from the context just above this verse discussing how women should live with their unbelieving husbands).

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Everyone keeps saying "Paul" but we're talking about Peter here FYI lol –  user799 Oct 10 '12 at 18:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Another answer gives a good analysis of the Greek in his answer, but I find his conclusion to be quite surprising on the basis of what he said.

Life in the New Testament (and in a more hidden way, in the old) overwhelmingly speaks of eternal life; that is, the eternal communion with God into which we enter by grace through Jesus Christ. Where do I even begin to cite for that? I want to quote the entire Gospel of John right here!

Moreover (which Dan seems to acknowledge) heir has to do with the hope (as Soldarnal points out in the question) of receiving the grace of God (eternal life). Once again, this usage is overwhelming in the New Testament, and once again, in a more hidden way, in the Old.

In combination, this is a powerful argument. I would charge any one you to find an example of when heir, grace, and life in conjunction, or even two of them in conjunction, mean anything other than the hope of eternal life.

But think about the logic of this passage. If Peter says, "Treat your wife in an understanding way; after all, she's your wife," that is an okay argument, but really is not very strong. But "Treat your wife in an understanding way. She has as much claim to the kingdom of God as you do—and more than you if you treat her wrongly, for then you forfeit your own claim," is an extremely weighty argument. Whereas the first is an appeal to common sense, which are badly muted by sin and a sinful culture, the second is a powerful theological appeal. Any man who abuses his wife knows that she's his wife. But if she is his equal before God, bought with the blood of Christ, loved by God in the same way as he is, and following the logic out to its necessary conclusion, equally human (revolutionary in the ancient world), equally made in the image of God—that is far more powerful.

The grace of life is certainly eternal life.

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After rereading the passage, I don't see how I came to my initial conclusion, either. I fully agree with you. –  Dan Dec 19 '12 at 20:49

The phrase "συγκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς" (fellow heirs of [the] grace of life) in this passage is very interesting. The apostle Paul elsewhere uses συγκληρονόμος to indicate that children of God are "fellow heirs" with Christ (Romans 8:17), so it is certainly possible that eternal life is the meaning here. But I'm leaning towards marriage in this passage. Here's why:

Lexical study reveals that the root word is κληρονόμος, simply meaning "heir," or "one who is to inherit something." When κληρονόμος is given the prefix συν-, which is a preposition literally meaning "with" or "joined together in tight identification," it implies the joint nature of being an heir, thus some translations render the word as "co-heir." In other places where we are "co-heirs" of eternal life, the context typically makes it clear that we are co-heirs with Christ. However in this case, the context is that of a marriage between a husband and a wife. Also, the exhortation appears to be directed at husbands, namely that their prayers may be hindered if they do not honor their wives in the context of their marriage. Because of this context, it is my opinion that being "co-heirs of [the] grace of life" here refers to marriage.

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You raise a good point about the tight connection. It seems to me still a very strange use of "heir", though, which conveys sonship. (Just thinking out loud.) –  Soldarnal Feb 17 '12 at 18:31
    
While heirs typically were sons in NT times, I don't think we can make the blanket statement that scriptural use of the word always implies sonship. Case in point, are women co-heirs of eternal life with Christ? I believe so, yes. Unless you believe that women's only hope of salvation is through a man, as some do (I do not believe this). –  Dan Feb 17 '12 at 20:39
    
Yeah, didn't mean to limit it to sons; obviously there are the daughters of Zelophehad, etc.. I just mean there is a familial connection to the giver of the inheritance. –  Soldarnal Feb 17 '12 at 21:17

The context is, obviously, marriage, and specifically a husband and wife being co-heirs. It seems more in keeping with the context to look at this as grace that strengthens and favors a husband and wife to serve together. One of the purposes of marriage is service: we serve empowered by God's grace, my walk and service will influence and effect that of my spouse, we are called to serve not only one another but to serve others together. With those statements before me, I consider, How would treating my wife callously, indifferently, disrespectfully, impact the service God has called me - and us - to? So it seems to me to be an exhortation to (in this case) the husband to respect, cherish and appreciate his wife, among other reasons because she is his help in service to the church and world. As an extension of that, Peter points out that if you are having conflicts with your wife, praying together will be difficult and prayer without needed confession and repentance will make your prayer, to say the least, hindered.

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While I appreciate your response, this is not a Christian site. My downvote is because of the presumption that your readers share your faith ('we serve empowered by God' grace...', '...the service God has called...us...to...', '...if you are having conflicts...', etc.). Please edit this so that your answer focuses on the text and not on its theological application, which is expected here. We're a little different from other sites. Thanks, –  Dan Jan 16 at 2:49
    
Welcome to BH-SE! I encourage you to fill out your profile page so folks can get to know you. Your user name automatically posts at the bottom of your questions/answers and links to your profile page. Please also read through the pages of the "help" drop down box on the top right of this page. This will assist you in acclimating to the unique characteristics of the forum. Also, to assist you, there is a "?" icon to the right of answer boxes, a help link at the bottom right of the comment boxes. Finally, on the "Ask a Question" page, there is an help box to the right. Again, welcome! –  user2027 Feb 14 at 22:26

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