1 Peter 3:1-7 Husbands and Wives, Heirs Together WC McCarter
Read the creation story from Gen 1:1, 26-28; 2:7-8, 18-25. From the very beginning of human history, God was creating and ordaining. One of the very first human institutions, was the covenant of marriage, and it was ordained by Almighty God. God created men and women; He ordained marriage by bringing Adam and Eve together (which was part of the design for procreation); He gave more directives for marriage in the Law of Moses; He rebuked hard-heartedness and taught more about marriage in the person of Jesus Christ; and, finally, He inspired His apostles to write down profound truths and mysteries concerning the institution of marriage. In the New Testament we find many sections concerning the covenant of marriage—how Christian marriage resembles Christ’s relationship with the church; how our homes are to be structured in light of cultural structures; fornication, adultery,
Let’s talk a moment about the culture’s view of manhood and womanhood and how a biblical complementarian view is by far in the minority. There are two major views: (1) Egalitarianism—there should be no distinction between genders, and (2) Complementarianism—there are God-ordained gender roles that wonderfully fit together in the home and church. There are so many ways to go about this topic, and there is much that needs to be said. Let us take a look at our passage in First Peter today and come back to this subject soon.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Wives, Submit to Your Husbands (1-2)
Peter is doing two things in the first two verses: (1) he is speaking to wives in general about how they are to relate to their husbands in the home, and (2) he is speaking to women who are married to unbelieving men.
Let’s take the first point: Peter says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands.” This is certainly in keeping with the rest of the New Testament (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18). The two great apostles, and we may assume the other apostles and the early church, were in agreement on this issue. To reinterpret this teaching or to completely ignore it, is to make a grave mistake which causes many other problems in the handling of God’s word. This is also in keeping with the illustration that is used in the passage of Sarah’s submission to Abraham. The context of that narrative is Sarah’s laughter at God’s promise of a child in Gen 18:12, but the point that Peter is making is that even in the midst of flippancy and laughter, Sarah maintains great respect for her husband. We will come back to this in a moment. Lastly, let us affirm that Peter’s teaching here is also in keeping with the order of creation. The Genesis account shows that God created Eve to be a helpmate to Adam. Together they were created in the image of God, equal in the eyes of God but with different roles according to gender.
Notice that Peter says, “Wives, likewise. . . .” He fits this teaching within a larger context of how all Christians are to submit to certain structures in the culture, workplace, and home. Citizens, employees, wives, and husbands all have certain roles and newfound meaning in relation to those around them on the basis of Christ’s humility, submission, sacrifice, and resurrection. In verse one specifically Peter instructs women to submit to “your own husband.” Thus, we are not talking about all women submitting to all men. There is something special about gender roles in the home. Male headship is assumed, and will be addressed in verse seven, and female support of the headship is affirmed.
Next, we may turn to the second point: Peter wants to help Christian wives who are married to unbelieving husbands. Wives in the Roman culture were expected to follow whatever religion their husband had chosen. Christianity was viewed as insubordinate because women were invited to abandon their previous religious system and trust in Christ no matter if their husbands believed or not. The same is true today that was true of the first century—many women have put their trust in Christ while their husbands have not. Now, everyone wants their loved one to come to a saving knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ. So, what is a wife to do when her husband does not believe? Should she take an aggressive evangelistic approach—constantly warning him, reading him Scripture, badgering him to come to church?
Peter’s answer to that is, No. He affirms a more passive approach, a word-less approach. This is not a general evangelistic strategy for all of us. The sentiment from Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words” is not biblical. We are commanded to open our mouths and share the Good News. Yet, for the woman who is marries to an unbelieving husband, she is instructed to convince him of the truth of Christianity by her conduct. It was highly appropriate for a wife to submit to her husband in this way in hopes that the wife’s quiet and gentle submission would reflect well on the church and bring about his conversion. Submission certainly is a way that the godly woman brings her unbelieving husband to the Faith.
Fear, we have already discussed, is first and foremost a healthy fear of God that puts everything in proper perspective. The wife should respect and honor her husband primarily with her faith in the Lord in mind. So, as we have already seen, Paul says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” So, the evangelistic plan for a woman married to an unbeliever is reasonable submission to his leadership (as much as possible while still obeying Christ), quietness and gentleness, surely private prayer for him, and pure conduct. That makes a world of difference. Now, make a mental note, this is not a guarantee that the man will be converted. This is not a guarantee, but Peter teaches that this is the godly approach. This is the best way to bring about his conversion to Christ.
Adorn the Heart (3-6)
Women were often viewed in the first century as constantly seductive. The wealthier women would dress up in order to manipulate the men around them. Of course, that is not so different today. We also know that men often flaunted their wealth and status by buying elaborate clothing and jewelry for their wives. While the women are called to reasonably submit to their husbands, they are not to count their beauty as merely outward. This does not mean that they cannot wear jewelry at all. It means that they are not to set their minds on or find their identity in external things.
This is in keeping with what the Scripture teaches about holy women. The most famous of passages concerning a godly woman is Proverbs 31. The wisdom of that passage says in verse 25, “Strength and honor are her clothing,” and in verse 30 we are told, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” You see, the definition of a holy woman begins with, “She hopes/trusts in God.” Look at verse five—the holy women of former times trust in God and adorned themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit. She does not put her hope in her outward appearance. She does not put her trust in her jewelry. She does not ultimately put her hope in her husband. She puts her hope in the Lord.
To be gentle and quiet was a standard virtue in the culture and was also seen as important in the Christian community but with a slight difference—keeping a gentle and quiet spirit is precious (of great worth) not only in the sight of the husband and the community but, most importantly, in God’s sight.
Sarah’s example of willing submission comes from Gen 18:12. The word “lord” does not mean master as if the woman is seen as a slave. The term is simply one of respect much like the word “sir.” The point is, as we noted before, that Sarah thought of her husband respectfully.
There would have been the potential of husbands attempting to intimidate or manipulate their wives into leaving the Faith, but Peter tells the women to continue to do what is right and to have no fear. So, we see another virtue, Christian women are to be fearless.
Husbands, Honor Your Wives (7)
Peter now turns to husbands for only a brief statement, and he assumes that their wives are believers. Rather than lording over his wife like many of the pagans, Christian men were to live with them with understanding, that is, being considerate of their wives and showing respect to them. While men in the first century were not held accountable for how they treated their wives—they could be harsh, abusive, adulterous, divorce them for almost anything, etc.—Christian men were instructed to love, honor, cherish, appreciate, and understand their wives, viewing them as equals in the grace of life.
Women are seen in two ways here:
(1) As weaker vessels (or, weaker partners). Women are seen as generally weaker, physically speaking, than their male counterparts and are thus more vulnerable. This may also refer to their lower status in the Roman world. Now, mark it down, the New Testament never describes women as inferior to men in mind or morals. Women are always seen as equals in capabilities.
(2) As heirs with their husbands of the grace of life. Men and Women are always seen in the New Testament as equal heirs to the benefits of Christ.
Lastly, Peter suggests that a husband who is not considerate and honoring of his wife will have an issue with God. Our heavenly Father will not hear the prayers of a man who takes advantage of his wife.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) The wives are not instructed to submit to their husbands to the point of compromising their Christian convictions. After all, they are told to trust in God and to do good.
(2) Women, stop trying to do it all. Expect your husband to lead. Want him to lead. Encourage him to lead.
(3) Discuss how relevant the discussion of biblical manhood and womanhood is: (a) the problem of radical feminity (b) the problem of the homosexual lifestyle (c) the problem of fatherlessness à teen pregnancy, abortion, gangs, boys who grow up to be abusive, etc.