1 Peter 3:1-7
There is enough matter in these seven verses to offend most people today.
These words were addressed to husbands and wives who were not perfect people living in a perfect world.
Rather, these words came to Christians (saved people who still do wrong things) who were living in very difficult circumstances.
Just before this section of Peter are words about the duty of Christians to submit to the laws of the land and to employers. The main reason for this was to silence the voice of foolish prejudice. Christians are not to give people any legitimate ground to criticise their Lord and Saviour or that way of life to which he calls people.
By living good lives we are to silence their ignorant talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and about our of trusting him.
Faith in Jesus Christ is not a licence to do whatever we like, but rather, by doing real good, by suffering for doing what is right, we open a way to tell others about our Saviour.
The life of faith in Jesus Christ is one of service. Peter says we are to live as slaves of God.
In this, the Lord Jesus Christ gives us his own example of doing good and suffering for it.
How he did not bad mouth those who mistreated him.
- He did not deceive anyone to avoid responsibility.
- He did not threaten anyone who threatened.
- He committed himself to God who judges justly.
- He bore our sins; he took punishment we deserved, He healed us.
- We had done wrong, he brought us back to God.
It is in this context that Peter then writes:
‘Likewise (in the same way) wives, keep on submitting to your own husbands’
A wife who submits to her husband is imitating Christ in that he submitted to his father for our salvation.
I make this point up front to let you know that submission is not a mindless or weak thing.
The Greek word for ‘submit’ literally means to ‘arrange under’. From the ‘arrange’ part of that word we get our idea of ‘tactics’.
Military tactics, to be successful, require intelligence and courage.
Christian submission, to bring about its desired end, also require intelligence and courage.
Peter says that wives are to keep on submitting to their own husbands. They are to keep on using their intelligence and courage to arrange themselves under the authority of their own husbands. Here he implies perseverance. Submission is not a one-off, “I’ve-done- my-duty-and-I’m-over-it” sort of thing.
It is a long-term, day by day thing, just like everything else in the Christian life.
We read of the Lord Jesus, how he submitted to his parents as a child, how he submitted to the Law of God daily, without fail, his whole life long. He submitted to the cross and shame of bearing our sins. He completed the job that the Father had given him.
Submission is hard work, but Peter says that it is pleasing to God — even if it is not necessarily always pleasing to husbands.
One of the big disincentives for a wife to submit to her husband is often the very husband to whom she is to submit. But the Holy Spirit says that EVEN IF some husbands are disobedient to the word, their believing wives might, without a word, gain their husbands.
Men, we might have thought we were safe in the first six verses of this chapter, but it is not so. We have as much responsibility to be obedient to the word as our wives do.
If we think your wives are struggling to submit to our leading in anything, we need to ask ourselves how well we are leading by example. Are we obedient to the word — are we trusting Jesus Christ for now and eternity?
Are we submitting to his word regarding our responsibilities as a husband? We’ll get to the details of this in a moment or two, but in the meantime, we husbands are not to make the lives of our wives burdensome because we are disobedient to the Word of God.
Firstly, how might a Christian women find themselves married to a husband who is disobedient to the word?
- the marriage occurred before the woman became a Christian and the husband remains (at the moment) without trust in Christ.
- the man deceived the woman regarding his true attitude toward Jesus until after the marriage and had now thrown off any pretence of obedience.
- a Christian woman might decide to marry a man who is not a Christian in the hope of influencing him toward faith in Christ. This is not recommended, but it sometimes happens.
- they both believe in Christ, but for whatever reason the husband is in a bad place in his Christian walk. Though a Christian, he has become disobedient to the word.
But what does it mean that wives might gain their disobedient husbands without a word?
Does it mean that a wife is never to speak to her husband about Jesus. No. Of course wives may and ought speak to their husbands about Christ. But Peter seems to be saying that wives are to make their actions speak louder and longer than their words.
What Peter does not want is the message of Christianity to become a point of bitter argument between husband and wife.
By her submission, by following her husband’s lead in daily affairs, and by respecting him, wives display the fruit of a Christian life. When a husband sees this day after day, he sees Christianity in action.
This Christian submission might be used by God to
- lessen a husband’s bad attitude toward the wife’s desire to go to church and actively serve others for Christ’s sake.
- bring a husband to a point where he is ready to listen to the Gospel
- remind the husband of what he himself ought to be doing as a follower of Christ.
(Continued in Part 2)