NOT WHAT YOU THINK

January 14, 2017

 (1 Peter 3:1-7)

(1)Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, (2) when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (3)Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. (4)Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (5)For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, (6)like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (7)Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. [1 Peter 3:1-7, NIV]

This is a magnificent text for understanding God’s plan for an ideal marriage. In a few verses Peter describes the complementary responsibilities of husbands and wives and guards against common abuses.

I. Directions to Wives

A. What Submission Does Not Mean

Because there is much misunderstanding today about what the Bible means when it says that wives are to “be submissive” to their husbands, this text is very helpful for correcting wrong understandings and practices. While Peter tells wives to “be submissive” to their husbands, the text also gives several indications of what such submission does not mean.

  • 1. Submission does not mean putting a husband in the place of Christ.

The whole context assumes that allegiance to Christ takes priority over all human allegiance. The larger section begins, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2:13), and affirms that the Christian life above all means that we should look to Christ and follow in his steps (2:21).

  • 2. Submission does not mean giving up independent thought.

Peter speaks directly to wives, not to the husbands so that they can tell their wives what he says. Peter assumes that they will hear, ponder, understand, and respond to God’s Word themselves. Moreover, Peter knows that some wives have chosen Christ even though their husbands have not, and this was good for them to do. They have thought the matter through and departed from their husbands’ way of thinking on this issue of supreme importance in life.

  • 3. Submission does not mean a wife should give up efforts to influence and guide her husband.

The Christian wife should try to influence her husband to become a Christian. Peter helps her to do this; he does not tell her not to.

  • 4. Submission does not mean a wife should give in to every demand of her husband.

If he should say, “Stop being a Christian, be like me,” she will have to humbly say, “I cannot. My conscience must answer to a higher authority.” If he should tell her to steal, or lie, or do something else contrary to the clear moral teachings of Scripture, she must refuse, thereby following Peter’s command to maintain good conduct among the Gentiles (1 Peter 2:12). Moreover, the word hagnos, chaste (RSV, NASB; the NIV has “purity”) means pure, free from moral defilement, and serves as another reminder that the submission Peter commands must never go so far as to include obedience to demands to do something that is morally wrong.

This is consistent with other parts of Scripture where God’s people have disobeyed some human authority and have been approved by God for so doing. Consider, for example, the Hebrew midwives in Egypt (Exodus 1:17), Esther before King Xerxes (Esther 4:16), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:13-18), the prophet Daniel (Daniel 6:10-14), the apostles (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29), and Moses’ parents (Hebrews 11:23). The principle to be drawn from all these passages is to obey except when it would be sin to obey, which is consistent with Peter’s general statement that it is “for the Lord’s sake” (2:13) that all our submission to lesser authority is to be given.

  • 5. Submission is not based on lesser intelligence or competence.

In fact, where there is a Christian wife with a non-Christian husband, she is shown to have greater spiritual insight than he does—she has seen the truth of Christianity, and he has not.

  • 6. Submission does not mean being fearful or timid.

Peter tells wives to “not give way to fear” (verse 6). Thus the reference to the wife as the “weaker partner” (verse 7) cannot be due to any inherent lack of inner strength or courage in the face of danger or threat.

  • 7. Submission is not inconsistent with equality in Christ.

We must remember that submission in regard to authority is often consistent with equality in importance, dignity, and honor—Jesus was subject both to His parents and to God the Father, and Christians who are highly honored in God’s sight are still commanded to be subject to unbelieving government authorities and masters. Thus the command to wives to be subject to their husbands should never be taken to imply inferior personhood or spirituality, or lesser importance. Indeed, Peter affirms just the opposite: wives are “heirs with you of the gracious gift of life” (verse 7).

It is important to note the relationship between this passage and Galatians 3:28-29:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

This text is often played off against submission as if the “neither … male nor female” in Galatians 3:28 ruled out any commands for submission within marriage. But 1 Peter 3:1-7 shows that the apostolic pattern of thought in Scripture did not feel any tension between a call for wives to submit to their husbands (verse 1) and a clear declaration that husbands and wives are joint heirs of the grace of life (verse 7). This is Peter’s way of saying, “There is neither male nor female …” you are all one in Christ Jesus, and the context shows that it is not inconsistent with female submission and male headship in marriage. Submission in role and equality in dignity and importance stand side-by-side in apostolic thought. In fact, the parallel between Galatians 3:28-29 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 is even closer when we see the theme of being “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29) compared to the theme of being daughters of Sarah in 1 Peter 3:6.

A wife’s submission to her husband therefore is more like the submission of Christ to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28), the submission of one to another who is equal in importance and essence.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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