A Big Time Controversy

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Peter just spoke of submission that is an unworldly attitude because we are to follow an unworldly example. Now, he tackles one of the most unpopular topics in the Bible, but one that needs to be understood in the context of Christian living.

Take a look at 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Peter starts off with some instructions to wives. “In the same way” refers to the previous verses Peter just talked about for servants. Peter is not saying that wives are to be servants or slaves. Many men would like to stop here, but you have to take what Peter is saying in the context of the whole book. Just as servants are to be submissive to their masters, “you wives be submissive to your own husbands.” Some people twist this verse to suit their needs. Peter is not saying that wives are to be punching bags for their husbands. Peter is not saying that wives are dumb or that wives are not as smart as their husbands. Peter is not saying that wives cannot voice their opinion on matters of the household. Peter is not saying that husbands are to be rulers or dictators and wives are to be slaves.

Peter is saying that wives are to, “be submissive to their own husbands.” Submissive means to yield or surrender to the will or authority of another. There must be a hierarchy in the home. There must be a chain of command. Someone must be in charge. Eph. 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” Peter is making a comparison of positional authority with respect to the husband and Jesus. Jesus is the head of the church. The husband is the head of the wife. There are limits to this submission. Peter does not require women in general to submit to men in general. The submission is to a woman’s own husband. There is a reason for wives to be submissive to their own husbands. We’ve already mentioned that there must be someone in charge. A household cannot run by itself. Everyone can’t be in charge. The buck must stop with someone. The Lord designed it to be the husband.

The reason or answer to this politically incorrect teaching is found in the second part of verse 1. Peter is talking about saved women who are married to unsaved men. Don’t misunderstand though. Peter is not saying that Christian women should marry lost men with the hopes of converting them later. This would be contrary to Paul’s teachings about marriage in 2 Cor. 6:14. It must be assumed that the women Peter is addressing women that were saved after they got married. Statistically, this is true. Women are more likely to be saved then men: 44% of women versus 35% of men. Women are more likely to read the Bible, women are more likely to participate in a small group, women are more likely to pray. The bottom line is women are more likely than men to accept the truth of Christianity. Submission of a wife to a husband is not dependent upon his godliness. Some may have the attitude of, “I’ll submit when he becomes the husband he should be.” That’s not what the verse is telling wives to do. One purpose of the submission displayed by a Christian woman is, “so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” That they may be won without a word.  That means that the wife is not preaching to them about going to church, needing to be saved, etc. The idea is that the husband watches the behavior of the wife, her attitude, her respect for him, everything about her. He watches her and he may respond to the truth.  This is not a guarantee. The truth is that sometimes men see God as a competitor for their wife’s affection and time. This can happen in a Christian marriage, but it can be particularly stressful in a mixed marriage.

Peter moves from behavior to personal appearance in v. 3. Don’t focus on outward appearance. Peter is not saying that a wife should neglect her appearance, but that shouldn’t be what drives her. What is on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside. It is the, “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” This is what matters to God. This is what is going to lend itself to win their husbands to accept the truth of God’s Word that Peter talked about in vs. 1 and 2. Instead of working to improve the outside, spend time on the inside. What is on the inside lasts forever. The outward appearance begins to break down after a while. Take time to make the inside beautiful. That’s what matters to God. Peter finishes his instructions to wives by giving an Old Testament example in vs. 5 and 6 and mentions Abraham and Sarah.

That was instructions to the wives, now Peter gives instructions to husbands. V. 7 says, You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Notice Peter says, “In the same way.”  Just like servants, just like wives, husbands are to follow Christ in humble love and compassion. While wives are to be submissive, husbands are to honor their wives in an understanding way. An understanding way literally means according to knowledge. The husband must live with his wife as one who knows her needs, understands the delicacy of her nature and her feelings. Remember what Peter wrote in 1:14; “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” Knowledge of God distinguishes pagan lust from Christian love. It is that saving knowledge that enables the husband to love his wife, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:24)

Peter describes the wife as the weaker vessel or instrument. I believe this is a reference to her physical body. I don’t think Peter is talking about mental or moral capacity. Peter refers to the husband and wife and being a, “fellow heir of the grace of life.” She is no less important than the husband.  She may be weaker physically, but she is not weaker spiritually for in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) She is a living stone being built in a spiritual house. This passage contains a very important truth regarding women that I don’t want you to miss. Under every other system of religion except Christianity, the woman is considered inferior to the man. Christianity teaches that the woman is every way the man’s equal. She is entitled to all the hopes and promises that being a child of God imparts. She is as redeemed as he is. She can pray directly to God through Jesus Christ just as he can. She can hear from the Holy Spirit just as he can. She will be elevated to the same rank and privileges in heaven. The consequences of failing to honor your wife are written in the last part of v. 7. Husbands are to honor their wives so their prayers are not hindered. Hindered in this verse means blocked or rendered ineffective. Husbands, failure to honor your wife in all aspects can literally block your prayer life.

Instructions to wives, instructions to husbands. What will you do with them?


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