1 Peter 3:1-7 Husbands and Wives

In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming.

Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (HCSB)

Let me start by saying this passage challenges us and rubs some people the wrong way. However, a correct interpretation and understanding should eliminate any concerns the reader may have. This passage is split into two parts. The first, covering verses 1–6, pertaining to the wife. The second part, verse 7, relates to the husband.

Verses 1-6

Verse 1

Let’s note some key points in the first verse.

  • By starting with, “In the same way,” does not mean that Peter is comparing the husband/wife relationship in identical terms with the master/slave relationship. Not only is that a wrong interpretation, but it also perverts the idea of a man and woman becoming “one flesh” in the marriage covenant. Wives submitting to their husbands doesn’t mean inequality before God.
    • Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no ‘male and female’; you are all one in the Messiah, Jesus. I must make one note regarding this passage as it’s been hijacked by the LGBTQ community to justify same-sex marriage and to include anything that is not male/female. This passage doesn’t support more than two sexes or more than two sexualities.
      • Genesis 5:2a  He created them male and female.
      • God never changes, and His Word never changes. There are men and women…period.
    • Ephesians 5:22-33.
    • Colossians 3:18  Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
    • Titus 2:4-5 so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered.
    • Just as wives submit to their husbands, Christ submitted to the Father 1 Corinthians 15:28 And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son  Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.
  • The word “submit” does not mean that wives blindly follow their husbands. If their husband wants them to do anything contrary to Scripture, the wife has an obligation not to obey in those circumstances. Each Christian has an obligation first to God’s commands and then to earthly commands. If those two sets of commands don’t agree, follow Scripture.
  • Not all of the wives being addressed here have Christian husbands. Regardless of whether their husband was a believer or not, wives are expected to submit to their husband, except in the circumstances listed above.

Verse 2

This verse explains how unbelieving husbands are won to the faith. This is a short verse, but there are a couple of essential points.

  • The old adage “actions speak louder than words” applies here. Unbelieving husbands may tune out or ignore wives who witness with words. However, they may be drawn by the Christ-like lives of the wives.
  • The word “reverent” is understood in Greek to be “in fear.” But the fear is not towards the husband; it is towards God. The actions of the wives should be in reverent fear (respect) towards God. Wives submit to their husbands because of their relationship with and trust in God.
  • As in verse 1, this submission should never include doing anything against Scripture.

Verse 3

A few points about this verse.

  • A woman’s inward beauty should always outshine outward beauty. It is the character and love of God that are most important.
  • Peter is not prohibiting styling hair, nice clothes, or wearing jewelry. He is directing them not to spend too much on their outward appearance.
  • In today’s society, clothing can easily be an issue that conflicts with Peter’s instructions.
    • The need for expensive or name-brand clothing, when less expensive clothing, would suffice.
    • The wear of immodest or revealing clothing. I have personally seen some outfits at church that cause me to shake my head in disbelief, wonder what the wife was thinking (or not thinking), and how the husband could allow his wife to wear that particular outfit to church.

Verse 4

As noted in the discussion on verse 3, it is the inner beauty that is most important. Wives should focus on their relationship with God and their identity in Jesus, the inner self. Gentleness and a quiet spirit are characteristics of godly behavior that will draw husbands to faith in Jesus.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees,  for man sees what is visible,  but the Lord sees the heart.”

Verses 5-6

These two verses provide historical examples of women who submitted to their husbands.

  • Sarah
  • Just as Isaac and Jacob were considered patriarchs because of the tie to Abraham, the following women could also be considered matriarchs because of the connection to Sarah.
    • Rebecca
    • Rachel
    • Leah

Verse 5 also explains why they submitted to their husbands.

  • Not because they were inferior intellectually or spiritually.
  • Because they were confident that God would reward those who placed their trust in Him.
  • These women adorned themselves with the virtues of a gentle and quiet spirit and not focusing on the external.

Verse 6 gets more specific, and we should note the following implied characteristics.

  • Wives should submit to the leadership of their husbands. As always, being faithful and obedient to Scripture takes priority over obeying a wayward husband.
    • This could result in persecution from the unbelieving husband towards the believing wife.
    • Peter is encouraging them, in these circumstances, to place their trust and faith in God.
  • Paul also addresses issues of marital responsibility and care between the husband and the wife.
    • 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
    • We must be careful not to distort or twist this passage. In no way should marital sexual relations be forced on one of the partners or for them to be encouraged to do anything they aren’t comfortable with. God created sexual relations to be a beautiful and mutually satisfying act between a husband and wife. Anything that would make one of the partners uncomfortable stains the experience.

Verse 7

Husbands are to treat their wives with understanding, according to God’s will.

  • Wives are physically weaker (in most cases).
  • Both are heirs of the grace of eternal life.
  • Both will reside in heaven together.
  • Failure to follow these instructions will result in prayers that are hindered or not answered. God does not bless those in a position of authority who abuse those under them.
  • A husband who lives according to God’s requirement shows respect to his wife.

Before starting the applications, let’s summarize some key points and thoughts regarding this passage.

  • As Christian couples, where do we get our examples and guidance from?
    • From the world.
      • Hollywood examples.
      • Secular advice books.
      • Non-Christian counseling.
    • From the Bible and Jesus.
      • Willing submission.
      • Willing obedience.
      • Desire to serve the other.
  • Historical/cultural setting.
    • The world of the original hearers of this message lived in a male-dominated society.
    • Abuse was not uncommon.
    • Because of this, good behavior would be more effective than engaging in dialogue from the wife to the husband.

Even though the passage is heavily weighted with more instructions towards the wife, the applications will be balanced.

Applications.

  • Are our clothing and accessories modest and respectful, or is it expensive and extravagant?
  • Do we let our actions speak for our convictions and beliefs, or do we sound like a clanging gong?
  • If you are married or engaged to be married, use the following questions as an evaluation tool.
    • Are you partners or competitors?
    • Are you helping each other become more Christ-like?
    • Do you depend on the externals or the internals, the artificial or the real?
    • Do you understand each other better through time?
    • Are you sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas, or do you take each other for granted?
    • Are you seeing God answer your prayers?
    • Are you enriched because of your marriage or robbing each other of God’s blessings?
  • Periodically going through these questions will almost certainly enrich and strengthen your relationship.

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