1 Peter – 1 Peter 3:1-7 – 7 of 18
As wonderful as marriage can be, it requires a lot of give and take to love one another in a way that honors God and our spouse. The end of 1 Peter 2 challenged us to respond in a God honoring way when treated unfairly, and the key term throughout this entire section is the word “submit.” This Greek term has military roots, meaning “to fall in rank under the authority of another…to subject oneself for the purpose of obeying or pleasing another.” Peter tells us that such submission honors God and advances His purposes in the world. Biblical submission, properly understood, isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength. Today we will be looking the unjust treatment that sometimes exists in marriage.
Peter addresses the situation in which a wife has becomes a Christian while her spouse remains an unbeliever. She experiences push-back from him—or worse: the Roman cultural expectation was that wives take on the faith of their husbands (in this case, Zeus)! But Christians cannot do that—it’s idolatry. How should the Christian wife relate to her unbelieving husband who is upset about all of this? One of Peter’s big appeals is that Christians act in a way that puts to shame those who slander the Christian lifestyle (2:12; 3:16). This commendable lifestyle will help hostile unbelievers applaud Christian genuineness (2:12). Our example is Jesus Christ who, being the Son of God, has higher status than anyone—yet he had washed Peter’s feet like a domestic slave (John 13:5-8). It is Christ’s example that Peter calls us to follow in all the relationships of life. We need not be concerned about maintaining our rights. Jesus trusted his Father, the righteous Judge, to do that; and so should we.
Peter’s advice to Christian wives whose husbands are “disobedient to the Bible” is not to be argumentative. Instead of trying to badger him into the Kingdom she should live in such a beautiful way, that her life becomes a persuasive sermon. Of course, she will also make a verbal case for the faith (3:15). Peter encourages Christian wives to pursue a kind of adornment that goes beyond the external to the hidden person of the heart—a gentle and quiet spirit (3:1-4). I have seen so many unbelieving husbands come to faith through their wives’ faithful witness. A gentle and quiet spirit is Christlike; remember, Jesus described himself as “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). Peter says that Sarah also is a role model for this (3:5-6; cf. Genesis 18:12. “Lord” was often used in Hebrew culture for a polite address, as we use the term “sir”). But respectfully submitting to an ungodly husband can be a fearful thing. In extreme cases, he may demand that you abandon your faith, in which case you must obey God rather than him. But “doing what is right” would also include the regular practice of Christian disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, and worshiping with other believers). As a wife grows in Christlikeness, she will become a better wife, a better mother, a better citizen.
In v. 7 Peter turns his attention to the Christian husband, whose wife may or may not be a believer. He makes two strong commands:  “live with your wives in an understanding way” (literally, “according to knowledge”). Husbands must become experts on their wives, studying them intently. What are her deep-seated concerns and fears—and how will you help her work through them in the safety and security of your love? What are her hopes and dreams—and where appropriate, how will you help her realize them? What are her strengths and weaknesses (spiritually, emotionally, and physically)? How will you praise her in her strengths, and help her in the areas of weakness?
Husbands, treat your wives gently! Like a piece of fine china, she is valuable, but vulnerable. Provide her with physical care and protection. And of course, husbands must never use their greater physical strength to intimidate their wives verbally or physically. No Christian man should ever do such a thing, but it happens way too often—and we should be ashamed. Peter’s second command to husbands is:  “Show your wives honor” (respecting their feelings, opinions, and desires). She is a fellow heir of eternal life. Peter says that a failure to love our wives results in God ignoring our prayers (3:7). Have you given up on God because he never seems to respond to your prayers? Do you want a vital, vibrant powerful prayer life—where God answers your prayers? Then honor your wife. Live with her in an understanding way.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Husbands – study to know your wife well, and then treat her with respect and care.
- Wives – if you’re in a difficult marriage, “adorn” yourself with godly submission, and trust God to get through to your husband.
- For help with your marriage in any way please get in touch with our counseling ministry.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)