1 Peter 3:1-7

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1 Peter 3:1-7
Our passage tonight is from the third chapter of 1 Peter. When we were in the second chapter of this book I kept saying 2 Peter instead of 1 Peter chapter 2. Now that we’ve finally made it to the third chapter perhaps I’ll get past that.
In chapter 2, Peter started a subject that is continued in chapter 3. That subject is submission. First, Peter says we are to submit ourselves to the government authorities that are over us. Second, he said that we are to submit to our bosses who are over us. Peter said the reason for this submission is because God has placed them over us and that we might be witnesses for the gospel in how we respond to them. Peter is going to make one more application concerning submission and this one might be the hardest of all to talk about. Peter is going to talk about submission in the home. Specifically, he tells wives to submit to their husbands. I’m sure you know that this is not a very popular topic in the secular world today and sometimes not even among Christians.
A few years ago a congressman made news when he wrote a book in which he cited the Bible and addressed family relations. He said that in a marriage a wife should voluntarily submit to her husband though she is not inferior to him. She should voluntarily submit to him while he lovingly leads and sacrifice for his wife. I probably don’t have to tell you what kinds of backlash he received for writing that. Non-Christians especially don’t want to hear that. They don’t like that “S” word – submit. Yet that’s exactly what we find in the Bible. We find it in Ephesians 5 that we’ll eventually get to one Sunday morning and we find it in our text tonight from 1 Peter 3 as Peter addresses the subject of marriage.
Sadly, marriage bears the brunt of a lot of humor, and in many respects for good reason. Here’s a few interesting quotes about marriage.
Mae West said: “Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution yet.”
Rita Rudner said: “I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They've experienced pain and bought jewelry.”
Helen Rowland said; “In olden times, sacrifices were made at the altar, a practice that still continues.”
There’s a story of the boss who was complaining in a staff meeting that he wasn't getting any respect. The next day, he brought a small sign that read “I'm the Boss!” and taped it to his office door. Later that day when he returned from lunch, he found that someone had taped a note to the sign that said: “Your wife called. She wants her sign back!”
A preschooler was sitting with her parents on the couch one evening. The little girl said to her dad: “Daddy, you're the boss of the house, right?” Her father proudly replied, “Yes, honey, I am the boss of the family.” Then the little girl added: “Cause Mommy put you in charge, right Daddy?”
Before we continue with 1 Peter let’s turn to Genesis 2. In Genesis 1 we read that God created us male and female and in Genesis 2 we read that he created us for marriage. When God created us the man and woman he designed them to play certain roles in their marriage. If they had the exact same roles then one of them wasn’t really needed. But God made men and women differently. We read in Genesis 2:
Genesis 2:18-21 18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.
We’re told that God made Eve to be a helper for Adam. I think many today would take that word helper in a negative light. And I am also sure there have been men who have taken that to mean that their wives are their servants. However, we need to know that the word helper occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament and fifteen of them are about God helping people. This should certainly help us to understand that women are not servants, nor are they inferior. I think Matthew Henry put it well in his commentary on this passage when he noted God didn’t take her from the head to be his superior, or from his foot to be his inferior, but God took her from his side to be equal with him, to be along with him.
If you haven’t done so already, open you Bible and turn to 1 Peter 3. We must admit that marriage isn’t easy. Marriage requires a lot of effort and adjustment. Thankfully, God has given us marriage instructions in his word. And we find some of those instructions here in 1 Peter.
Peter wrote:
1 Peter 3:1-2 1 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own 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.
The phrase “in the same way” refers us back to the overall context of the previous verses in chapter 2 that talked about submitting to those who have authority over us: government and to bosses. Twice Peter now talks about wives submitting to their husbands.
Remember, the word “submit” was a military term that means “to order under.” It literally means “to arrange in formation under the commander.” Submission is simply the recognition of God’s authority in our lives and ordering ourselves under God’s will. Submission does not imply any moral, intellectual, or spiritual inferiority in the family, workplace, or society in general. But it is God’s design for roles necessary for our well-being. Commanding officers are not necessarily superior in character to the troops under them, but their authority is vital to the proper functioning of the unit. Even Jesus submitted himself to the Father, but in no way was inferior to the Father. There is nothing degrading about submitting to authority or accepting God’s order. Instead, it is the first step toward real fulfillment of what God has created us to be. Paul wrote to the Ephesians telling them that God had ordained the husband to be the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. Headship is not dictatorship. Instead, headship is the loving exercise of divine authority under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
One further comment we should make about this passage from Peter is that he is addressing a marriage of unequal yoke. That’s the term Paul used to describe the marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. The yoke or marital bond isn’t equal because they are both believers.
At that time is was assumed the wife would follow the religious inclinations of her husband. She did whatever her husband did. So in this instance where the wife is a believer and her husband is not, what was she to do? There would have been pressure from the state, from the community, and from her husband. Should she just leave her unbelieving husband? That’s what some would suggest, but it’s not what God’s word advises. As hard as it might have been to hear, the New Testament says something else.
Zig Ziglar had this advice about marriage:
I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person. I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make that marriage happy and successful. I’ll be the first to admit that it is possible that you did marry the wrong person. However, if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all.
He could have gotten that advice from Peter who suggested that wives have an opportunity to evangelize their unbelieving husbands by the way they act towards their husbands. They can, without even saying a word, be a godly influence.
The radio preacher James Vernon McGee told the story of a woman who brought her unbelieving husband to church every Sunday hoping he would give his life to Christ. When the husband didn’t respond to the preacher’s invitation she would sit at the breakfast table that next Monday morning weeping and telling him how she wished he would become a Christian. Every evening when he would return from work, she would tearfully preach to him some more. McGee said he asked her, “How would you like to have dinner every evening and breakfast every morning with a weeping and preaching wife?” He then suggested that the woman take a one year moratorium from weeping and preaching to the husband about the Lord. The woman was really surprised and asked, “You don’t want me to witness to my husband?” McGee replied, “Oh, yes, I want you to witness, but I want you to start preaching a wordless sermon.”
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words” and they really do. The woman agreed to give his method a try. McGee says that he and the wife were both surprised that within six months the man became a Christian.
Although it doesn’t always work out so nicely and quickly, I think I can guarantee that rarely will a husband be won to Christ by a wife who regularly pushes, preaches and nags. A loving, gracious, and submissive attitude is the most effective evangelistic tool believing wives have.
Peter continued his instruction to wives:
1 Peter 3:3-6 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, 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 adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Peter is encouraging Christian wives not to major in external decoration, but to focus on internal character. Sadly, we live in a world obsessed with looks.
Perhaps you remember the old commercial for Canon cameras that said, “Image is everything.” The sad truth is too many people have bought into that lie. Even Christians have believed the world on this matter. It’s not what’s on the outside that’s most important. Images fade. Proof of that can be found in Canon’s ads. They originally used American tennis player Andre Agassi as their spokesman. At that time he had this wild and crazy punk hair style. Today he’s completely bald. Images fade. What’s on the outside never stays the same. What’s most important is character. As Martin Luther King said:
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
We need to work harder at strongly and clearly communicating that we value the real beauty of a person’s heart and soul and character more than looks. As David Owens accurately put it:
Glamour is artificial and external; true beauty is real and internal. Glamour is something a person can put on and take off, but true beauty is always present. Glamour is corruptible; it decays and fades. True beauty from the heart grows more wonderful as the years pass.
Or as Solomon put it:
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
So is Peter saying that Christian women should never dress up, wear make-up, or jewelry? Some had interpreted these verses to mean that, but I don’t think that’s what Peter was trying to say. I don’t think he means that a Christian woman should neglect herself and never try to look her best. He is simply trying to communicate that outward adornment and physical things should not be what are most important. Just as an unbelieving husband will never be won over by a nagging wife, neither will he be won over by her looks. He’ll be won over by her character and attitude.
Did you notice what God considers the best dressed woman to look like?
1 Peter 3:3-4 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, 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.
Peter closes this section by pointing to Sarah as an example of a godly, submissive wife, who obeyed Abraham and call him her lord. I don’t think most husbands are looking to be called lord, but the attitude of love and respect behind the words of Sarah should certainly be present. The believing wife who submits to Christ and to her husband, and who cultivates a gentle and quiet spirit will never have to be afraid for she will be living inside God’s will and will receive God’s blessing.
Peter then turns our attention away from the wives and toward what God has to say to the husbands and all the wives said, “It’s about time!” It’s interesting, isn’t it that Peter spends six verses on the wives and only one on the husbands. Is that because the wives have more to correct, or that husbands need it to be kept simple? Paul almost reverses this in his letter to the Ephesians, spending three verses on wives and eight on husbands. We look at those verses later one Sunday morning. So what instructions did Peter give to husbands?
1 Peter 3:7 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.
Notice that same phrase “In the same way.” Our role as husbands is to be carried out in submission to God, just like wives, employees, and citizens are to be in submission to God and to those in authority over them. Everyone has someone they are to submit to.
The one word that summarizes what Peter has to say to husbands about their relationship with their wife is “considerate.” Some versions translate the word “considerate” as “live with your wives in an understanding way.” Because husbands are to be the head of their wives and to love them as Christ loves the church (as Paul says), then they must be sensitive and consider their wives deepest physical and emotional needs. I’m don’t think any husband can ever completely know and understand his wife’s moods and feelings, needs and fears, hopes and dreams, but he needs to try. They need to learn to listen with their ears and their hearts.
Peter said that this consideration includes a respect for their wives that recognizes two things. First, they must recognize that their wives are the weaker partner. That doesn’t mean that they are weaker morally, spiritually, or intellectually. As one commentator wrote:
This weakness has to do with both her physical strength and her emotional makeup. This weakness is like the fragile nature of fine china. We should handle our wives like an expensive, beautiful, fragile vase.
Many men never come to understand how their harshness and inconsideration destroys their wives and their marriage.
Second, we must recognize that they are co-heirs with us of salvation. Wives are their husband’s spiritual partners and equals. God’s rewards and blessings eternally will be shared alike. In spite of the fact that husbands may be called on to be the heads of their wives and leaders in their homes, husbands are in no way superior to their wives in this world or in the next. So wives must never be treated as inferior, but should be treated with consideration and respect and honor.
There are many very important reasons for husbands to obey the Lord and treat their wives appropriately, but Peter only mentions one – so that nothing will hinder our prayers. How a man treats his wife is a spiritual matter between the man and God. When a husband mistreats his wife, his fellowship with the Lord is broken and his prayers are powerless. Can you think of many more serious divine threats that can be given, then the interruption of the promise of prayers being heard and answered? The threat by God to shut off his divine blessings shows just how critical it is for a Christian husband to be lovingly considerate and respectful of his wife.
The story is told of a preacher who visited a fourth-grade Sunday school class to teach about marriage. He asked the class, “What does God say about marriage?” Immediately one boy replied, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
There are many other important things that God has said about marriage. God said,
Genesis 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
And Jesus said:
Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
God instructs husbands to love their wives with consideration and respect, and for wives to submit to their husbands. If husbands and wives will trust and obey the Lord’s instructions then they will have an enriching experience in marriage. If not, then they will miss God’s best and rob each other of many blessings.
Jeff Strite describes his home life growing up this way:
I loved my Dad, but he wasn’t always a godly man. Not that he was a “bad” man, he was just a “man’s man.” He could handle himself in any and every situation. He’d been a great basketball player and a great baseball player, and he could handle himself in just about any fight. He figured “what do I need God for?” and so he rarely went to church or bothered much to pray. But mom did. Mom was a faithful Christian and went to church just about every time the doors opened. And it made Dad jealous. He didn’t like sharing his wife with God.
So one day he figured on a way to maybe “guilt” her into backing off her faith. He asked her “Martha, would you be happy in heaven if I were in hell?” Mom knew what he was asking and why. She thought for a moment and then replied: “Lowell, would you really be comfortable in hell if I were there with you?”
That simple answer shook Dad. He’d never thought of it that way before. Then one day, not so long after that, Dad went to church and went down front during the invitation and surrendered himself to Jesus. Mom said that on the way home, Dad pulled the car off to the side of the road and began to weep uncontrollably. He was grieving for how much he had missed. In time Dad became an Elder and when he died he knew exactly where he was going.
Jeff continues:
Mom had loved Dad into heaven. She didn’t nag him. She didn’t guilt him. She didn’t argue with him. She loved him into heaven. And that is the objective of every Christian husband or wife. You don’t want to leave your spouse behind. You want them to join you in heaven. But you can’t get into heaven until you belong to Jesus yourself.
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