1 Peter 3:1-6 ~ 20090308~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/08 1 Peter 3:1-6 God honoring Conduct; Wives Submit to your Husbands
Peter is written to those who have become aliens to their culture because of their newfound faith in Jesus. Their values and morals and actions and attitudes are radically different from the community in which they live. They have a transformed world view. They live life in a revolutionary counter-cultural way. They are to pattern their lives around the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter's instructions are as shocking and counter-cultural today as they were to his first century readers in Roman occupied Asia Minor. So I want us to prepare to have our culture and our ideas and our values confronted and challenged and shaped by God's true word.
2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 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.
The first thing Peter says is 'likewise' or 'in the same way'. And if we look back at the context, we've seen that Peter is addressing his readers in the context of their relationship to the people that live around them:
2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
And he is speaking evangelistically - our purpose in life is to 'proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light' (2:9). Our proclamation in this context is primarily through our conduct; we must live in such a way among unbelievers that they 'see our good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation'. He has specifically addressed us as citizens being subject to our governing authorities (2:13-17), and he has addressed household servants or employees being subject to our masters, particularly in the difficult situation when those masters are unjust and crooked (2:18-20). Peter reminds us that it is our calling as followers of Christ to suffer like he did. He holds up Jesus as our example of how to respond when suffering unjustly (2:21-25). Now he proceeds to the relationship of wives to their husbands, particularly unbelieving husbands (3:1-6).
He says 'even if some do not obey the word'. Disobedience to the word is another way of saying that they rejected the good news:
So this command applies to all Christian wives, even those with unbelieving husbands. The command is clear; 'wives, be subject to your own husbands'. Is this some carry over from the dark ages that equates a wife with a house slave who lives in servile fear and unquestioning obedience to a domineering male? Is this something that is so wrapped up in an unenlightened first century foreign culture that it has no relevance for us today other than a historical footnote in the biblical text?
Keep in mind that this is coming from Peter. Many people view Paul as a male chauvinist pig that undervalued women, but this is from Peter, and we know from the bible that Peter was a married man. Jesus healed his mother-in-law in
Matthew 8:14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother–in–law lying sick with a fever.
and Paul said in
1Corinthians 9:5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?
that Peter was taking his wife along with him in his missionary endeavors. I wonder if Peter had his wife look over his manuscript and give him suggestions as he wrote these words.
I do not believe this is irrelevant and obsolete. I am convinced that this is God's authoritative word and wise instruction for us today as much as it was for Peter's readers. I believe this is God's wise and good instruction for us to live differently than the culture around us for our own good and for the glory of his great name. So let's look at what he has to say to us with minds eager to learn and hearts eager to obey.
The command is for wives to be subject to their own husband. The word 'be subject' or 'submit' is the same word found in 2:13 of citizens to ruling authorities and in 2:18 of slaves to their masters. There is an authority structure that God has built in to the marriage relationship. If this is not clear enough, we see what he is instructing by the example he gives in verses 5 & 6. He holds up the holy women of old who submitted to their husbands like Sarah who obeyed Abraham. Submission is illustrated by obedience to her husband. To submit is to yield or surrender to the will or authority of another
Stay with me. Let's keep the focus and purpose in mind. Back in 2:12 we are told to keep our conduct among unbelievers honorable so that they will see our good deeds and glorify God by turning to him. Now wives in particular are told to act in a specific way so that their unbelieving husbands will be won to Christ by their conduct. The purpose is a silent proclamation of the glory of God. There is a word play between the husbands who are disobedient to the word and the wordless witness of the wife that is ultimately persuasive. Sometimes the best witness is a wordless witness. Rarely is a husband nagged into the kingdom. The language implies that the husband heard the word of the gospel and rejected it while his wife embraced it. He knows the message but needs persuasive evidence of its power lived out in the life of someone close to him.
Before we go any farther, we need to clarify something. How does one get into this situation where the wife is a believer and the husband is not? Peter is not recommending this arrangement. If you are single, the bible does not permit you to get involved in a relationship with an unbeliever. If you're contemplating that course of action, we have some people here who are in that situation and I'm sure they would share with you the hurt and heartache that is involved. Don't go there! What happened here, was the gospel was being preached for the first time in this pagan culture, and there were women who heard the message and embraced Christ but their husbands did not. This in itself was radical in that culture. Plutarch said "A wife should not acquire her own friends, but should make her husband's friends her own. The gods are the first and most significant friends. For this reason, it is proper for a wife to recognize only those gods whom her husband worships and to shut the door to superstitious cults and strange superstitions." [Conj. Praec. 19, Mor. 140D; from Schreiner, p.153]
This gives us a hint at what this kind of submission is NOT. We are not talking about a doormat 'whatever you say honey' kind of submission. This is not a passive leave your brains at the altar and go along with whatever he says because he's smarter than me kind of submission. These women had heard the gospel and embraced Christ independent of their husbands. On the most significant issue in the world, these women disagreed with their husbands and would not bend. Nor does Peter encourage them to bend. Rather, he encourages them to strategize to win their husband to Christ. This is bold and this is daring and this is totally counter-cultural. Peter is affirming that these women are right and that their husbands are disobedient and wrong and need to be converted.
So let's look at his strategy. Verse 2 says 'when they see your respectful and pure conduct'. Literally this could be translated 'as they observe your pure conduct in fear'. Everywhere in Peter, fear is directed toward God alone and never toward man. They will observe your pure conduct in the fear of God. The good conduct of the wife is motivated not out of respect for her husband but from her relationship with God. Out of a desire to please God, she maintains her purity. The fact that her husband is not a believer does not sever her marriage covenant and set her free to flirt with the men at church. Out of her fear of God, she maintains her purity. This purity is motivated not out of respect for the husband but for God, but it benefits the unbelieving husband and he will notice it.
Next Peter addresses the issue of beauty. Beauty was a big deal in that culture, and it is a big deal in our culture. Almost every sidebar advertisement I see on the internet shows what you can look like with this new wonder treatment. Eat these berries and you can drop four sizes. Follow this rule for a flatter stomach. Try this cream and wipe away the wrinkles. Here's how the celebrities do it. Hair, jewelry, clothes, fashion. Stop! All those things are external. The focus of our whole society is about 1/8" deep and lasts about 2 minutes in a windstorm. Peter says 'Do not let your adorning be external'. And he gives three examples that were relevant then and are still relevant two thousand years later: hair, gold jewelry, clothes. Peter is not forbidding you to braid your hair. He's not forbidding you from wearing gold. If that were the case, then it would follow that he was also forbidding you from wearing clothing. Fix your hair. Wear a ring. Put on some clothes. There's nothing wrong or sinful about any of that. Peter is drawing a contrast. That's not where your beauty comes from. Genuine lasting beauty comes from the inside. How much time do you spend in front of the mirror trying to beautify the external and how much time do you spend in the mirror of God's word seeking to have your inner person transformed? By the way, this is addressed specifically to women, but this is applicable to all of us, is it not? 'Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit'. This is good news. Fixing up the externals is expensive and it doesn't last. What Peter is talking about is imperishable beauty. My mom used to give herself a 'permanent' every few months. She even gave me one once. Thank God it wasn't 'permanent'. This is good news. Peter has talked about our 'inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you' (1:4) and that 'the tested genuineness of our faith' is 'more precious than gold that perishes' (1:7); he says we were ransomed 'not with perishable things such as silver and gold' (1:18) and that we 'have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable' (1:23). Now he tells us that we can adorn ourselves with a beauty that is imperishable. Here's what this imperishable inner beauty consists of. You don't have to sign up for nine monthly payments of $39.95 to get the secret. Here it is: a gentle and quiet spirit. When you hear 'gentle' don't think 'wimp'. Think Jesus. Think strength under control. This is the same word translated 'meek' in Matthew 5:5
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Jesus said of himself:
Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
So Peter is not saying be a doormat; be a wimp; he is saying be like Jesus. Gentle and quiet. Quietness does not refer to silence, but to a demeanor of peace or calmness; not agitated or disturbed.
These characteristics are not only attractive to an unbelieving husband, but God views them as lavish or expensive. God himself views this kind of attitude as rare and extremely valuable.
Now Peter brings in the Old Testament illustration. 'this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.' You could make a long list of women who are praised for their virtue in the Old Testament. They are called 'holy women' or women set apart for God. We have no photographs of Sarah. We have no idea what kind of hairstyle she wore. Old pictures can be embarrassing. I can't believe we dressed like that and thought that hairstyle looked good! But the inner beauty of these Old Testament saints shines through the narrative. She still looks good after thousands of years! Sarah is in her 70's and the leaders pointed her out to the Pharaoh, who took her into his harem because of her beauty (Gen.12). Years later she's a 90 year old lady and is brought into the harem of another king (Gen.20). Sarah is an encouraging example, because she didn't start out that great. She made some stupid mistakes. Hagar. Ishmael. But she grew in her faith and her inner beauty. She is a great example of a wife's submission to an unbelieving and disobedient husband, because there were several occasions where Abraham, although he is known as the father of the faithful, acted out of fear and made some stupid decisions. Twice he passed his wife off as his sister, and put her integrity in jeopardy. She submitted to his foolish plan and kept trusting in God to protect her and keep his promises. It's very interesting what Peter picks out of the Genesis narrative to highlight her attitude. He pulls one word out of Genesis 18:12. This is where God shows up at Abraham's tent and tells him that he's going to have a son with his aged wife Sarah. Sarah is listening in the tent and laughs to herself at the thought. She says:
Genesis 18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
This seems at first glance like a random thing to pick for a text. But as we look closer, this is a vulnerable moment where here private thoughts are laid bare, and even in her disbelief of the promise of God, in her inner thought life, she was in the habit of addressing her husband with a term of respect and honor.
And Peter gets to the core of the issue. They hoped in God. Sarah's hope was not in Abraham. He let her down over and over again. Her hope was in God. Nothing can shake this kind of woman. Her character is defined by her hope in God. God, not her husband is where she finds her strength and protection and future. Because of that, wherever conscience allows, she can gladly submit to her husband's authority, confident that God will reward those who put their trust in him.
We are called sons of Abraham through faith (Rom.4:16; Gal.3:29)
Here, women who follow Sarah's example of submission to her husband out of fear of the Lord are called 'children of Sarah', if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Again it is demonstrated that submission is not out of fear of the man. A woman who refuses to worship her husband's gods and chooses to follow Christ may have much to fear. But she is not to fear her husband or the disapproval of society. Rather, her submission is an act of freedom and strength, demonstrating that she fears God and that her hope is in God. She can boldly do good in order to bring glory to God and put God on display in a persuasive way in the hopes that she will win her husband without a word to faith in Christ.
Hope in God. Proclaim the excellencies of him who called you. Conduct yourselves in such a way that unbelievers see your good works and come to glorify God by embracing him as Lord and Savior.