Chapter 3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel- 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered (NKJV)
This is a frequently quoted passage of scripture in secular texts. It is usually quoting Peter as being an archetype anti-feminist, and illustrates one point why the church (little "c") no longer has a place in the modern world. However, the world does not distinguish between the instructions of God, and how people who claim to be Christian, interprets the same. In the same way the world does not understand the difference between religion, and being a follower of Christ.
However, today, I plan to look at how we, as God's children, His elect, should read this text, and apply it to our lives. I urge all today to recognise that God is highlighting, further, the relationship that should exist in the Christian marriage, and how both husband and wife ought to be, and how we can learn from these words, the bottom line in Christian marriage behaviour. Despite the obvious reference to wives, then husbands, neither can be, nor should be, ignoring the other's instructions, nor assume that it does not apply to you. In context, the verse sits within the whole biblical principles of Christian life not as a separate entity. The context in brief can be seen in two different passages, the first, chapter one of Peter we studied only a few weeks back:
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
The second point coming from Luke 22 starting with verse 24:
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors' but not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
So, as foundations for this study, there are these two contextual points to be considered as we go into the text, the first "be holy", the second "to serve".
The second word written in this passage in Peter is the word 'likewise'. The passage, therefore, is a continuation on from the previous statements seen earlier in this book, including how the believer should act towards those in authority at a state level, then as we saw last week, as a worker or a slave. We are now entering the home and the marriage relationship. Likewise is strong in its tone, meaning that all else that has gone before, in instruction, is valid, and now this next portion of scripture has the same level of applicability. Therefore, 'in the same manner' this portion of instruction that is following "Wives, likewise" is to be followed. The same word and therefore, meaning, is repeated when Peter turns to the husband.
The second item to note is the context of this passage for wives. This passage has special instructions for the wife of one who is not a believer, or one who has drifted from the truth. However, it is not exclusively so, and as such is not a passage to be ignored by the saved couple. It is worth noting that this passage is not condoning marriage to a non-believer by a Christian woman. This would contradict other passages that strongly oppose the marriage of a believer to a non-believer, as we can see in:
2 Corinthians 6:14: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
We know that God has no contradictions in His word, rather man makes a mess of it! This passage therefore, would be for the wife who has been saved, whilst in a marriage, and her husband is not.
On a different note, one could also read into this passage the higher plane of husbands and wives, for us, the bride of Christ, and our submission to him.
Submission is a contentious topic in this modern world, but it need not be, when taken in context, and both parties are holy in their living, serving, Christlike. It does not mean door-mat, nor does it mean inferior. However, it does mean that God has placed each person in a specific space, as with master and slave, king and nation, there is a place for wives in relationship with their husbands, though I quickly point out that that this passage is certainly not at the same level for example as master and slave. This passage is stating the purpose for a special relationship that God instituted into the marriage. The concept is rooted back in Genesis, and restated at least three other times, so must be important:
Submission does not open the door for the husband to become the commanding officer. Husbands and wives need to work together, discuss together, be a team. God however, places the husband as the head of the house, and as stated in Ephesians, the husband is to be to his wife as Christ is to the church, and therefore, submission for the wife is something she can come to gladly, even as we ought to come gladly to do the will of God, and obey His word. It was interesting to note in yesterday's Advertiser an article that explained the inherited differences between boys and girls in learning and relationships at school age. Man is catching on that God did create both male and female, and made them different for different purposes and reasons.
So, if the wife is to be submissive, what is Peter's next instruction - without a word. So are women to remain silent in the marriage? Obviously not. Can they have an opinion - absolutely. This passage is aimed at one specific reason to be without a word - that of saving their husbands. We all know that the more a man is told to do something, the more likely they will dig their heels in! Peter is basically saying to the wife, your place is not to preach, as it were, to the husband in order to save him. However, it is noteworthy to read an almost identical passage in Corinthians. Though Peter is speaking to the wives, the instructions should not be lost on the husband with a non-believing wife that of without a word.
Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
How does one become saved? The Bible has some very specific information on this, and tying this information into this instruction being given here, we can see how the two fit together. With this knowledge, we can see that this instruction is nothing to do with domination, superiority, nor other interpretations that abuse this passage. We see that God's wisdom knows the heart of both man and woman, and often the only way to change a spouse is to let someone else do it - in this case the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament prophets knew, as we see in Lamentations 3:26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord - note the 'wait quietly'. Or
1 Corinthians 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. In this passage we are studying, Peter is indicating that planting a seed may be done in silence, through action and deed, and does not need to include words rather conduct that does not waver from holiness.
A story we have heard before illustrates this well, so I thought that I would recount it, as I think that that this offers a living example. George Müller told of a wealthy German whose wife was a devout believer. This man was a heavy drinker, spending late nights in the tavern. She would send the servants to bed, stay up till he returned, receive him kindly, and never scold him or complain. At times she would even have to undress him and put him to bed.
One night in the tavern he said to his cronies, "I bet if we go to my house, my wife will be sitting up, waiting for me. She'll come to the door, give us a royal welcome, and even make supper for us, if I ask her."
They were skeptical at first, but decided to go along and see. Sure enough, she came to the door, received them courteously, and willingly agreed to make supper for them without the slightest trace of resentment. After serving them, she went off to her room. As soon as she had left, one of the men began to condemn the husband. "What kind of a man are you to treat such a good woman so miserably?" The accuser got up without finishing his supper and left the house. Another did the same and another till they had all departed without eating the meal.
Within a half hour, the husband became deeply convicted of his wickedness, and especially of his heartless treatment of his wife. He went to his wife's room, asked her to pray for him, repented of his sins, and surrendered to Christ. From that time on, he became a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus. Won without a word!
George Müller advised:
Don't be discouraged if you have to suffer from unconverted relatives. Perhaps very shortly the Lord may give you the desire of your heart, and answer your prayer for them. But in the meantime, seek to commend the truth, not by reproaching them on account of their behavior toward you, but by manifesting toward them the meekness, gentleness and kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ ,
Peter is not content to let the lesson end at this point. He adds to this:
Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel- 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
Commentaries are divided on this point. Some are hard-line, stating that Peter is saying that women must not braid their hair, wear gold, nor wear fine apparel. Others are not so hard-line. For a start, Peter says 'Do not let your adornment be merely outward'. It does not state - do not wear or do. Rather, if you are willing to dress up the physical appearance, the inner person needs to match. Certainly, there is a hint that adornment should be in context of the humble person, however, it is not saying make yourself stand out by wearing the most dull and boring grey, or black, without jewelry. 1 Timothy 2:9 states:
the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Does one's clothes fit that of a modest person professing godliness? The modern fashions are often neither modest, nor Godly. We can see here then, that the passage is stating - take care. Peter is speaking more of the inner person, rather than the outer but is noting that the inner must at least match the outer. He wants us to be gentle, quiet, beautiful on the inside, and gives the highest emphasis possible to this statement - "which is very precious in the sight of God'.
Peter adds a post-script to this instruction, highlighting to the women reading this epistle that they can find examples in the Old Testament texts that illustrate what he is saying.
For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
This is a curious text, as the woman wearing various articles of jewelry was an accepted practice. Indeed, Abraham's servant when finding Rebecca for Isaac gave her much jewelry, as told in Genesis 24:22: the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold ,...
However, the curiousness of this text of Peter's can be overcome when looking at the immediate prior text, which states: the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Now we can see that Peter was noting that there were lives from the Old Testament that had this form of beauty, a beauty within. Peter also subtlety indicates that these women were not perfect either, but despite the human imperfectness they were worthy illustrations of this truth. When Sarah was quoted as calling Abraham lord, it was not to him - she was talking to herself at that stage, without audience, so the passage is an indication of how she saw him, despite her disbelief of what had just been told of her - that she would have a child. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? Genesis 18:12.
It is also interesting to note that whist Sarah obeyed Abraham, with a willingness to call him lord, without fear in a terror sense, we can also see this story about Sarah and Abraham's relationship, and God's upholding of the exchange:
Genesis 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac. And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son.
But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed."
Peter now moves on with instruction for the husbands:
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Here it is also fascinating to see that the world only reads two words of this verse - weaker vessel, and acclaims Peter to be anti-women. However, Peter is stating a somewhat different idea, one that could be loosely translated as: 'the wife is not one of the lads, she is a woman and needs to be treated as such, cherished, cared for, loved, honored, and understood'. I won't go into the differences between male and female, but to say again as before, God created both, and he created them both for specific purposes, and without one the other cannot survive. This notion is upheld here and clearly visible, in that God calls the husband and wife 'heirs together' a sure fact that God sees the equality in the relationship, though within different spheres of living together, each with their place, their role, and their relationship with each other and God as head. Further to this, God gave us each other as "heirs together of the grace of life" a phrase that really brings the wow factor into the marriage relationship. The "grace of life" is how it is described, and how amazing is that?
Next we can see that if the two do not walk as God as instructed, prayers will be hindered. What Peter is stating here is a major point. Walk poorly as a married couple, and your communication with God will also be poorly. If the husband or wife has trouble with their partner, watch out, you'll suddenly find yourself lacking in your spiritual life, as prayer is the lifeline, the ability of ours to be able to commune with God.
In summary, we see a special passage, not only for a saved wife and unsaved husband, but for all married couples, and the strength of creating an unique relationship, bonded together with love for each other, neither uncomfortable within the role, the wife always feeling cherished and loved, the husband being as the head, as Christ is the head of the Church. The final verse I want to finish on we will see the week after next, but it pulls the whole instruction together:
8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
I think that the point I want all to leave here with, as a warning to us all, if those of us who are married, are having problems with our relationship, God will hinder our prayers, and if that happens, our relationship with God, and the blessings that brings will also be hindered.