1 Peter 3:1-7 (Part 1)

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)

1 Peter 3:1-7 (Part 2)

1 Peter 3:1-7

[From part 1]

In verse 3, Peter is not giving fashion tips. He is not telling Christian woman to wear a sugar-bag and sandals.

What he is doing is pointing out the obvious.

Real beauty is found in one’s attitude — the hidden person of the heart — not in physical appearance. If you want to enhance your attractiveness, don’t spend all your time working on a facade.

Just think about some Hollywood marriages — all the outward beauty you could ask for, but ‘partners’ stay together only until the next pretty man or woman comes along.

So when Peter commends an incorruptible life that is characterised by ‘a gentle and quite spirit’, which is pleasing to God, he is commending the imitation of Christ, who

did no sin, or was there deceit in his words, who when reviled did not revile in return, did not threaten but committed himself to God who judges justly…

We men need to recognise true beauty when we see it. And we are to see this beauty in the lives and persons of our wives who trust and follow Jesus Christ.

So, husbands, when a super-model or some starlet or whatever appears suddenly on the TV, our attitude of mind ought to be something like — ‘none of my business’.

Now Peter, I think, uses a very pointed example to press this whole matter of submission home. That of Abraham and Sarah.

‘For thus once (i.e., in the past) did the holy woman who hoped in God keep on submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him, Lord.’

This is a very interesting example for Peter to have chosen. Notice that Sarah respected and submitted to Abraham who was not a perfect husband.

  • He almost gave her away twice to save his own skin
  • He fathered a child by a woman not his wife

And these three incidents occurred after God declared Abraham to be justified by faith.

In other words, as a Christian man, Abraham messed up big time.

The mess ups occurred, not because they failed to have Christian marriage counselling, but be because Abraham particularly failed to keep in mind who God is and what the good news is.

He was not obedient to the word.

The message that Abraham was given was that he and Sarah would have a child. This child would bring a blessing to the whole world. The reference was ultimately to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The almighty one who made heaven and earth had told him so.

Yet, before he had a child, he became afraid that he might be killed by an Egyptian King and then by a Canaanite king and, so he tried to bribe each of them with his wife.

God rescued Sarah, twice, from Abraham’s foolish behaviour.

Again, after waiting years for a baby that didn’t come, Sarah suggested that Abraham could father a child for them by her maid. Abraham ought to have said ‘NO WAY’.

Abraham ought to have taken the lead in light of the Good News, but He didn’t, and trouble came of it. Nevertheless, Sarah, that holy woman, respected and submitted to her own husband despite his many serious failings.

She is an example of a sinner/saint following the pattern that Jesus has left us.  Peter says that Christian wives are to follow Sarah’s example like daughters.  They are to do good and trust themselves to God, not fearing any terror.

Why? Because Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen for your eternal safety.

Another, less certain, reason is that her husband ought to be obedience to the word.

(Continued in Part 3)

1 Peter 3:1-7 (Part 3)

1 Peter 3:1-7

[From part 2]

Wives are to do good and trust themselves to God, not fearing any terror.

Why? Because Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen for your eternal safety.

Another, less certain, reason is that her husband ought to be obedient to the word.

‘Likewise (in the same way — i.e. as followers of Jesus Christ who suffered for us) men, keep on dwelling with your wives according to knowledge, as with the weaker vessel.’

Husbands are not to stray from home. They are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge.

Now Men, our wives submission is not an excuse for us to be rat-bags.

My parents were not Christians. My mum and dad divorced when I was five years old. Mum told me years later that there was a time before the divorce, while dad was in full employment, during which the Salvation Army provided food for herself and five young children.

My dad hadn’t got into husband mode. He still wanted to live like a single man going out with the boys. He failed to provide adequately for his family.

We who are husbands are to dwell with our wives. To support them as best we can.

We ought to know them better than we know any other human being. We shouldn’t have a best friend outside of our home. Every other human being must come second after our wives.

We are to live with them as with the ‘weaker’ vessel.

This does not mean ‘weaker’ in mind or character or morals as some unhappy people used to imagine. Why the ‘weaker’ vessel?

First ‘weaker’ refers to the physical fact that men tend to be stronger than their wives. We men are to understand this and to keep ourselves under control.

Men can be angry people sometimes. We are to control our tempers. We must not give way to out-bursts of rage. Some men are violent toward their wives. This must not happen with us. A man who trusts Jesus Christ must not do such a thing. Paul tells us that a husband is to treat their wives as Christ did the church.

Christ died to ensure the safety of his beloved.

Husband ought to have the same determination in supporting and protecting their wives.

Now, our God is not ignorant of the fact that some husbands are more obviously dysfunctional than other husbands.

The example of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, is to the point (1 Samuel 25).

David, before his became king, was an outlaw. He was chased all over the country-side by Saul who wanted David dead.

David in the meantime was doing what Saul ought to have been doing. Protecting Israelites from their enemies.

David had been protecting Nabal and his large household for months, but Nabal was a drunkard and a fool. He refused to give David any supplies in return for all his help. David was on his way to visit Nabal, and he wasn’t happy.

Abigail disobeyed her husband’s command, and took enough food and wine for David and his men and by that act prevented a disaster. Abigail, the bible tells us, was an intelligent woman.

She was commended for her actions.

Abigail protected her family but it involved an act of disobedience. An act of defiance to an unjust and foolishly abused authority.

There are times when wives are now placed in similar situations today by foolish husbands.

Submission is an act of intelligence and courage. But sometimes a wife needs to use those same qualities in resisting unjust and dangerous misuse of authority for the safety of herself and her children.

A second way in which the wife is a ‘weaker’ vessel is because of passages like 1 Peter 3. God has placed men in a position of power. Wives are told to submit to their own husbands.

Our saviour God placed our wives under our authority. We must keep this in mind.  We are not to take advantage of our wives just because ‘I’m the Boss, God says so’.

Our wives’ safety, needs, and desires must be extremely important to us. We should listen carefully to what our wives say to us.

Husbands are not founts of all wisdom. Wives deal with things each day that we know little of, things about which we need to know if good decisions are going to be made.

We are to dwell with our wives according to knowledge.

We are to support, protect and love our wives, or die in the attempt (repeat that)

We also need to recognise that we are heirs together of the grace of life.

Christ Jesus has lived a life of submission, has died our death for us, and has risen again to give everlasting life to sinful people like us. We have this promise before us. We are to live as people who have hope, who have everything in Christ.

Wives are not to submit to their husbands because their husbands are so good, nor are husbands to love and support their wives because their wives are submissive.

It is not a tit for tat arrangement. Wives are to submit to their own husbands because Christ, who is their saviour and example, has called them to it.

Husbands are to love and protect their own wives because Christ who is their saviour and example has called them to it.

Peter says that husbands and wives are ‘heirs together of the grace of life’. Husbands and wives are brothers and sisters in Christ and so are under double obligation to care for and love one another.

This love is to be nurtured so that ‘our prayers might not be hindered’. Trouble in the house can mess with our spiritual life as nothing else can.

We have every reason to respond to the mercy of God in the ways he reveals in his word.

God help us.