Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 3:1-6
Turn to 1 Peter 3.
“In the same way, you wives, be subject to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,2 as they observe your pure conduct with fear.3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on garments;4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible quality of a lowly and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands,6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children if you do good, not fearing any intimidation” (1 Peter 3:1-6).
I am glad you are here this morning so that I can tell you something that you are probably not aware of. One, that we can struggle with submission at times; and two, there are some differences between husbands and wives. Does anyone ever struggle with submission? Because I have been thinking as we have been studying 1 Peter, that Christianity is all about submission. Upcoming in 1 Peter 5:5, “young men be subject to your elders;” 1 Peter 2:13, Christian be subject to government; 1 Peter 2:18, Christian be subject to your masters, employers; and 1 Peter 3:1, “wives, in the same way, be subject to your husbands.” As somehow this submission falls under our role as a slave of Christ, for we have been purchased by Christ and therefore have become His slave. And ultimately, if understood properly, this becomes the greatest joy of every human being. As we learn the benefits of belonging to Him, love, joy, peace, eternal life, eternal blessing, that’s freedom! Now wives, if you think there is some unfairness this morning in Peter in addressing you, we will get to husbands next week. In fact, I may hang around vs 1-7 for a while, as there is so much here.
Wife submission is one of those Bible teachings which is greatly misunderstood in the world and often in the church. Therefore, we sometimes like to soften this passage to make it a little more palatable to us in the church and to the culture. When churches lean toward a liberal direction often it is things such as a literal understanding of the Bible that are the first things to go. Truths such as 6-day creation, true Old Testament stories such as Jonah and the whale and others, and the long lives of early OT characters. But not far behind that is the biblical teaching regarding gender roles, husband headship, men pastors, men elders, and that women would not teach men. These are biblical truths that are being questioned constantly, and being relegated by Christian liberals to be a cultural preference from Bible times. And therefore, not necessarily are they to be a constant principle throughout church history. Yet that kind of understanding places us as the authority over the Scriptures, when we actually are to place ourselves under the authority of the Scriptures. And in this passage before us this morning, it is difficult to not see the firm line which Peter gives here in gender roles.
The Greek word “hypotassō” translated submit, literally means to “place oneself under” or “to be obedient to.” And this is not a stand-alone passage. Not that God has to say something more than once to get our attention. But Titus 2:5 says, wives, be subject to your own husbands. Colossians 3:18, wives be subject to your husbands. And of course, the classic passage, if you will turn there quickly is Ephesians 5:22. I want to show you something that is very interesting. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The actual word “submit” or to be “subject to” is not in this passage. If you have a New American Standard Bible or a Legacy Standard, you will notice it is in italics meaning that it is not in the original. Therefore, the rendering in Greek is literally (vs 21), “and being subject to one another in the fear of Christ, (vs 22) Wives to your own husbands.” This eliminates the break in these two verses. Being subject to one another in the fear of Christ, wives to your own husbands. This presents a very important biblical truth, because it ties these two truths together without interruption, that if a wife fears the Lord, she will submit to her husband. So, Principles from 1 Peter 3:1-6 …
- A wife is to be submissive to her husband … not men (attitude)
“In the same way, you wives, be subject to your own husbands” (vs 1a). It is important here that we understand and therefore teach that women are not submissive to men. Peter has reminded us in his book that all of us are submissive to government, employers, and (ch 5) to elders, this has nothing to do with men over women. So we need to see what this statement says and what it does not say, and it does not say wives or women are to be submissive to men. But what does it say? Wives, be submissive to your own husband, even if he is disobedient to the Word. Here again, we see that Peter does not differentiate between good or bad husbands, just as he did not differentiate between good or bad employers, nor between good or bad governments. Now we understand that the overlying principle of course is that a wife cannot be disobedient to the Lord, for if her husband asks her to do something that is sinful, she cannot obey him, but must obey the Lord.
But why is Peter teaching this? Not why is the husband the head? As that is a whole other teaching found in the Bible that is not in this passage. But why should a wife do this? Well, Peter tells us here (vs 1), that he may be won without a word. We should be learning by now in our study that somehow God uses willing submission to convict the hearts of unbelievers. In other words, that a believing wife would be willing to follow an unbelieving husband, can have the effect of him coming to the Lord, even without a word, even without nagging at him, wow! This is also true of the believing citizen, who is willing to follow an unbelieving government. What effect would that have? In other words, what would the influence on society be if the church was known as being submissive? If the view of the church by society was that these people are the most obedient people, the most submissive, that they are respectful, they are honest, and they pray for the government. Yet, yet, if the Bible teaches something differently they obey God ahead of government. And they are even willing to be persecuted for the sake of Christ.
See there is such a consistency here to the Scriptures. When we studied the Christian’s response to government, point number four was that we are to respect government, and then Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:33 says that a husband is to “love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” This always seems to be the biblical pattern. That God has created order and to those we are to be submissive to, includes obedience and respect. This displays before the word that a Christian is truly different, that a Christian employee is truly different, and that a Christian wife is truly different. So that answers the why the submission? That it is obedience to Christ and in this case that the unbelieving husband might be won over. So, let us look at the qualities, that are part of her character that help in this. Well, there are two things which are mentioned here, which Peter describes as things which (vs 4) are precious in the sight of God.
There is something very unique about the purity among woman. I am sure that many would say this about their moms, that they would look to their mothers as someone who exemplified purity. For there is a general purity to woman. Many have understood women to be the ones who often hold the culture together, as it has been men down through history in a failing culture, who are often the first to dive down to a more sinful level. And notice it says that a husband (vs 2) watches her pure conduct with fear, a word which means to be very respectful, as it is convicting to husbands to see self-control, to see borders, and to see restraint. Therefore, the living out of this type of pure life is to be very respected by the husband and is extremely valuable in a marriage relationship and family. It is also interesting that in Ephesians 5, Paul instructs a husband to protect the purity of his wife. Ephesians 5:26, “so that he might sanctify her.” This is a challenge to a husband to make sure that his wife is not placed in positions of compromise, a carefulness of where you might go or watch or talk about or wear. When I was managing a kitchen department, our pastor’s wife applied to work in sales. And after I interviewed her, her husband, our pastor called me, asking about the conditions of the work environment. He was concerned about maybe rough contractors, but I was able to assure him that the vast majority of our clientele was husbands and wives. All he was concerned about was the well-being of his wife, a good thing. Wives there is a great blessedness placed on you to be pure, and there is a challenge to husbands to protect this purity. Precious to God is purity. The second thing which is precious to God is:
- Spiritual Depth
Peter’s emphasis here is that a wife should place a higher priority on the inside character rather than the outside adornment. Now that women are better looking than men is obvious, and there is nothing wrong in making oneself look good, as many women in the Bible are described physically as beautiful. Job’s daughters were described as the most beautiful in all the land. Yet the obvious teaching here is that there needs to be a priority with wives of spiritual depth, and a lowly and quiet spirit. These are qualities that Peter says (vs 4) are hidden in the heart. In other words, these are things which are part of this woman. These are spiritual qualities that have been built into her heart. Things that take time and thought and study. Because an inward heart as spoken of here, is a heart that thinks before responding, a heart that considers feelings, something that men are often not near as good at. A heart that is exhibited by a “lowly and quiet spirit.” These words “lowly and quiet” emphasize the character of being meek, and submissive, and highlight the quality of patience. It demonstrates a strong confidence in God, even during a difficult situation.
A few weeks ago, we saw the spiritual depth of Christ, as He stood before His accusers with full confidence in what His Father was doing, just as a Christian wife goes through the highs and lows of life with a confidence in the what the Lord is accomplishing. We are living at a time of less and less thinkers. We are living in a season of more wastefulness with the gift of time the Lord has given us, and here is a great emphasis made towards women to be people who desire depth in truth and character. In our quick response world, the church is desperately in need of far more spiritual thinking and far less quick response. A word that could be put here for quiet (Greek word hay-soo’-khee-os) is tranquil. The idea of resting in God through the calm and the storms.
“For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.”
1 Pet 3:5-6a
- A wife is to follow the leading of her husband (action)
You may think that point number one and number two are the same, yet I notice a different emphasis here. The first point, a wife is to be submissive to her husband is the proper attitude; while this point, to follow the leading of her husband is more the practical application of that attitude, so that it becomes an action. Because Peter gives to us an example of someone who displayed her attitude toward her husband, that of Sarah towards Abraham. For Sarah displayed this respectful submission through the words she used. Now it is not really necessary to call husbands “lord” in our culture, yet her actions indicated her respect for Abraham.
There is much talk in Christian circles about a husband “leading” his family. When Paul speaks about the choice of an elder, he speaks of a man who (1 Tim 3:4) leads his children well, and is a topic that we are going to talk about next Sunday, husband leadership. Yet a greater topic in the Bible is not so much husband leadership, but a wife’s willingness to follow. Therefore, I would not say to you, wives that your husband must be some kind of great leader, though that is helpful, yet that is not required, for the passage does not say that. No, the requirement is that you are willing to follow. I am not sure whether Abraham was a great leader in his family all the time or not. He does not seem to be when he lies about Sarah and gets her in the predicament that she found herself in Egypt. But she still calls him “lord,” and a “lord” is someone you follow. So whether he leads well or not, a wife’s role is to lean on him for direction.
Now, this does not mean that husbands and wives do not discuss things. It does not mean that you do not express your fears or concerns. But it does mean that you are willing, though hard at times, to allow your husband to make the decision. And here Sarah had not only an attitude of submission, but she also displayed this attitude by action. And the reason this is so important is that it puts our beliefs to action. Place yourself in the person of Sarah. “Hey, hubby Abe, when you start making some good decisions, I will start calling you lord, I’ll start following you. No, Sarah’s heart attitude displayed itself in an outward action toward her husband. Wives, what can you do to demonstrate that you are willing to follow the leading of your husband? There could even be another struggle that wives may have. “I will follow him because I have to. “ No, for the Bible addresses both attitude towards him and action in following him.
- A wife is to place her hope in Christ
Peter ends here by saying, (vs 6) not fearing any intimidation. Some of your Bibles will say, “do not fear anything that is frightening.” What a wife is doing when she entrusts herself to her husband’s leading, and especially when married to an unbeliever or a struggling Christian, is that she is ultimately entrusting herself to the Lord, as a holy woman (vs 5) who hopes in God. In other words, the world says this about him, at times my human heart says this about him, maybe even my Christian friends say this about him, but the Bible says that I am to follow him in both attitude and action. Often when Anne and I are doing marriage counseling, we stress the importance of each husband and each wife being obedient to the Lord, even when their spouse is not. And this comes into play much in the whole matter of submission. Submissive to an evil government, submission to a crooked employer, and here, submission to a disobedient husband. Our practical side wants the passage to say something like, wives be subject to your husband if he is a strong Christian, and even if he is not a Christian, but is still wise and kind and gentle, then follow him. But submission is not that. Verse one, be submissive to him, even if he is disobedient to the Word.
If the world was in church this morning, they would be appalled at this message, and I would understand why. For why would a wife place herself under the leadership of her husband? For what makes him the leader and her the follower? And for that matter, why would we respect a government that takes a direction often in opposition to what we hold dear? So the world would have many questions about how we are to live as Christians, I think we understand that. And we know that the answer is not in the world. For the world has numerous problems and questions that it cannot answer. As the direction of our world today is uncovering countless questions which will have to be answered over the next number of years. For the fall-out of unwise choices in recent days, will have a great impact on our society, that is without question. Yet here is the difference, and here is the answer. It’s becoming a slave of Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:22 says, “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.” Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “you are not your own.”
See, when a person gives his heart and life to Christ, he turns his life over to Jesus Christ, as a slave, all rights, and Christ now takes control of him. And when Christ has control, Christ says to submit to certain people in your lives, and one of them is wives to husbands. Well, we have much more to talk about when considering verses 1-7 here over these next few weeks, as we will look to more next Sunday. (pray) Lord, would You continue to mold and make us, that we would be a people who are known to be submission, slaves of Christ. A people who serve Christ. A people who honour Christ. Amen.
It is interesting that in Genesis 3, as part of the curse given to Adam and Eve for their disobedience, it says in verse 16 that the woman’s desire will be for her husband. Now this is not a complimentary term, for it is part of the curse, as it has a very negative connotation. It is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 4 when God is speaking to Cain and his thoughts of murdering Abel. In verse 7 God says to Cain, “sin is lying at the door and its desire is for you.” And the desire of Eve for Adam is not about her loving or respecting him, but is her desire to have his role as leader in their relationship. So understand this wives, your position of submission will not come easy. For it fights against your very sin nature. It goes against your natural feelings. Yet what helps you with this is the understanding that your submission is in obedience to that of a slave of Jesus Christ. You know, when Anne follows my weak leadership, in a sense she is not following me, she is following Christ. And wives, when you follow the sometimes weak leadership of your husband, you are following Christ, who is the ultimate Lord of your life.
When I was going into ministry at age forty-eight up to Blind River, Anne and I had a difficult decision to make. We lived in Chatham with our four boys and had grown up there as a family with our parents. And I remember standing in the driveway as we pulled away, and we both broke down, hugged each other, and bawled. It was a great day! But it was a decision we had to make. And what made the decision so much more difficult was that I knew that if I decided to take this ministry position to go eight hours north, Anne would follow. And she did, for we were in Blind River together! Frankly coming here was much easier. I remember being at work at Peoples and getting a phone call from Larry asking about the possibility of coming to Elim. I immediately called Anne and she said, “I think we should go!” See, Anne gave her thoughts, but she still leaned on me to make the final decision. So Anne is still following me around.
But, we are not putting husbands on this high pedestal. No, Christ is on the pedestal, for He is on the throne. And when following that leadership is hard because husbands do not always lead that well or because your own human nature fights against it, it forces you, wives, to trust Christ, doesn’t it? And to you young unmarried woman, look for a husband that you can follow, for in following him, you are fulfilling your role as a slave of Christ. The great theologian Jonathan Edwards said:
“I have been before God, and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am not, in any respect, my own. I can challenge no right in this understanding, this will, these affections, which are in me. Neither have I any right to this body, or any of its members: no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, these ears, this smell, or this taste. I have given myself clear away, and have not retained anything, as my own. I gave myself to God … and told him, that I gave myself wholly to him. I have given every power to him, so that for the future, I’ll challenge no right in myself, in no respect whatever. I have expressly promised him, and I do now promise Almighty God.”
Wives, as the Apostle wrote that you are slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Then offer yourselves as slaves of Christ, and therefore be subject to your own husband. For this is the proper obedience, because this is the Word of the Lord. And all God’s people said, amen.