A Challenge to Wives
1 Peter 3:1-6
You are in the locker room of a golf club and a mobile phone on a bench rings. A man engages the hands-free speaker function and begins to talk. Like always, everyone else in the room stops to listen in. “Hello” . . . “Honey, it’s me. Are you at the club?” . . . “Yes” . . . “I am at the shops now and found this beautiful leather coat. It’s only $2,000–is it okay if I buy it?” . . . “Sure, go ahead if you like it that much.”
“I also stopped by the Lexus dealership and saw the new models. I saw one I really liked.” . . . “How much?” . . . “$ 90,000” . . . “OK. But for that price, I want it with all the options.” . . . “Great! Oh, and one more thing. The house I wanted last year is back on the market. They’re asking $ 980,000” . . . “Well, go ahead and give them an offer of $900,000. They will probably take it–but if not, we can go the extra $80,000 if it’s really a pretty good deal.”
“Okay! I’ll see you later. I love you so much!” . . . “Bye! I love you, too.” The man hangs up. The other men in the locker room are staring at him in astonishment, mouths agape. He then turns and asks, “Anyone know who this phone belongs to?” I know, you hope that never happens to you–and if your wife is anything like the women who are living out the scripture in 1 Peter 3:1 to 6, it won’t happen to you.
These verses contain a detailed description of the authentic godly wife. Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 3 and listen to the description of a genuine Christian wife. “In the same way, you wives, be submissive 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 behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle 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 submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (1 Peter 3:1-6).
Peter is writing to Christians who’re experiencing stormy seas. The waves of persecution are foaming and a hurricane is due to hit. Peter wants his readers to stand firm in God’s grace–be a rock of grace in the midst of a sea of persecution. And Peter takes an offensive position. Peter wants unbelievers to see God’s grace lived out so some might come to repentance. So stand firm in grace.
Peter prepares them in chapters 1 and 2 by calling them to daily remember their salvation–to live the Gospel each day, remembering that Jesus Christ lived, suffered and died for their sins on the cross. Then in chapters 2 and 3, Peter says standing firm in grace involves the humble actions of submission.
Christians only stand firm in grace when they submit to their God-assigned authorities. In 2:13, even to the unjust government that is persecuting them. In 2:18, for slaves to submit even to unfair, harsh masters. And now in 3:1, for wives to submit even to unsaved, difficult husbands. Peter shares the steps a born again wife is to take in order to stand firm in grace and have her life point to the reality of Christ and the salvation Christ alone brings, so she might be the tool to win her husband to Christ if he is unsaved.
What are wives to do? Look at 1 Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands.” Peter is saying . . .
#1 Let Christ and His Cross motivate your SUBMISSION to your husband Verse 1a
The New Testament is filled with examples and commands to submit. Jesus submitted to His parents as a boy in Luke 2, church members submit to church leaders in 1 Corinthians 16, Christians submit to God in James 4, and wives are to submit to their own husbands in Colossians 3, Titus 2, Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3.
Submission is ranking yourself under your husband like a soldier does his sergeant. It’s honoring his authority and following his lead. Submission is the character of heart to follow a husband’s authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership. Submission is an attitude that says, “I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for us and lead with love.”
When Peter tells wives to submit, he uses a word that means to submit in everything but sin. Submission here is to be ongoing, present tense–literally, be the wife who is continually subjecting yourself to your mate. And the word submission in verse 1 is middle voice, reminding a husband it is not you who subjects your wife, but God is clearly telling wives to submit yourself to your husband.
Now you may have been married long enough to realize that your marriage license was really only a learner’s permit. And what started out feeling like a romantic horse drawn sleigh ride on a wintry day under a blanket when you got married, and it ended up feeling more like a toboggan ride down a triple diamond mogul hill that was roped off cause it was too dangerous.
Like all experienced Christian couples know, the husband’s role of headship and the wife’s role of submission is not easy. In this context, Christian citizens are to submit to a persecuting government in 2:13, and slaves are to submit to harsh masters in 2:18, and wives now are to submit even if their husbands are unsaved.
The common thread in all three examples is unfair treatment, not getting what you want, experiencing unjust suffering. Our normal, sinful response to unjust treatment is to fight fire with fire. If others use their position to mistreat us, we will try to hurt them back. Peter understood this impulse to fight back. Citizens want to rebel from the government and disobey the emperor Nero. Slaves will seek to hurt their harsh masters. And wives will disrespect, manipulate or dishonor their husbands. So Peter adjusts our thinking on submission two ways in verse 1.
First By Christ’s CHARACTER
The marriage relationship of oneness and authority submission is all based upon the Trinity. Marriage is designed to put God on display. Submission does not mean inferiority–submission is imitating Christ’s character, enjoying the oneness of the Trinity and modeling the submission of Christ to the Father in the Trinity. But the submission of verse 1 is also . . .
Second By Christ’s EXAMPLE
Look at how Peter begins verse 1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive.” In the same way is likewise–you wives likewise be subject to your own husbands. Wow–submit similar to Christ. Submit like Christ submitted. Some have said “in the same way” is referring to the same way citizens submit to government and slaves submit to masters.
Peter is saying submit like Christ did. Just like Christ was silent under unjust treatment, Peter will say, “Wives, be silent under an unsaved husband–submit the same way as Christ did when He submitted Himself to the unjust suffering of the cross”–which is what Peter just described in verses 21 to 25 of chapter 2.
Look there–Peter used our Lord as the example of submission to follow. Sinless, innocent, perfect Christ submitted to sinful, guilty, imperfect men. And notice in verses 23 and 24, Christ submitted without grumbling, without retaliating, without threatening and without doubting. Peter says, let Christ and the cross motivate your submission–not to every man, but verse 1 says to your own husband.
Literally, the text says to own man–to your own man. “He’s my man, and he’s the one I am submitted to. I am not to be in submission to every man, but my man.” We don’t get it in our culture, but back then, without a man over you as a woman, either a father or husband, you were subject to starvation and all kinds of danger–you needed protection.
So God says to your own man–that’s the object of submission. The Greek word own is used to describe belonging to another, like not public land but private land–meaning he’s your man, privately owned, exclusive to you and no one else. So a wife submits to her husband because submission imitates Christ’s example on the cross.
But how can a submissive wife impact a husband who has not yet submitted himself to Christ for salvation?
#2 LIVE God’s Word to impact your husband Verses 1b to 2
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive 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 behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Verses 1 to 6 are not merely for wives of unsaved husbands. Peter describes the possibility of some of the husbands being lost, with his phrase, “so that even if any of them.”
Peter is not saying all the husbands are unsaved, but some are. And Peter describes these men as disobedient. It is a word Peter uses three times in this letter to describe the unsaved. Here in verse 1 the Greek word disobedient is a factual, ongoing, present tense pattern, describing a man who does not follow Christ, is disobedient to God’s Word and must be won to Christ by the power of the Gospel of grace lived out through a wife’s lifestyle.
Some women get married unsaved then come to Christ, some are believers and disobediently marry a non-Christian, others become surprised and wake up one day as a Christian married to a non-Christian. Most young Christian gals 18 to 24 want to marry a combo man. A combo man is a future husband who is a combination of the best qualities of Brad Pitt and John MacArthur–Bible-saturated and a hunk. When they get to 25, they want a man who’s active in church. At 30, someone who goes to church. At 35, someone who knows where a church is. At 40, someone who can spell the word “church”.
Here is the key for singles wanting to find the right mate. Marry someone who loves Christ more than you and has proven that love for Christ with faithful fruitfulness over time. They are proven. Provenness is massive affection for Christ demonstrated over time. Once you’re married, 1 Corinthians 7 says remain as you are–do not send your non-Christian wife or unsaved husband away.
So if you wives are married to a non-Christian husband, then Peter says live God’s Word to impact them for the Gospel. That means forgiving them like Christ forgives them. Loving them sacrificially like Christ loves you. Delighting in them as your head, the way Christ delights in you. And fulfilling your role as a woman to her husband in every way.
Your husband is disobedient to God’s Word, so the assumption of verse 1 is the saved wife will be obedient to God’s Word. It is only those wives who are obedient to the Word of God who are submissive to Christ. It is only wives who are submissive to Christ who can be submissive to their husbands. Plus, only those wives who are obedient to the Word of God whom God will use to possibly lead their unsaved husband to the Gospel of Christ.
The verb “they may be won” is future tense. Peter wants Christian wives to continue hoping in the future, that they might be the instrument God uses to win their husband to Christ. God is offering hope here–not a guarantee, but the passive voice in the verb “they may be won.” Peter reminds us, God is the one who must save the husband. Saved wives can be God’s effective tool, but God must save.
So how are wives to live God’s Word to become that effective tool to impact their husband? Look at the end of verses 1 and 2, “they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Simply stated, focus on your walk over your talk. Actions speak louder than what? Words. Unsaved husbands are to be won without a word.
Peter uses a play on words–the husband who is disobedient to the Word of God is going to be won without a spoken word. Stop lippin’ and start livin’. Stop sharing, and start showing. Become a silent preacher through the loveliness of your behavior–have him rethink his beliefs. Through the beauty of your conduct, have him notice Christ. Refuse to make talking your primary witness. Peter here is shouting at you! Are you listening?
Do not forget what Peter just said about Christ. “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Peter makes a powerful point–Jesus didn’t use talk in the midst of His suffering. And Peter says in verse 21, this was to be an example to us to follow.
Stop speaking and start showing, conduct over communication, lifestyle over lecture. “He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats.” The rest of the passage, verses 2 to 6 loudly shouts for you to be quiet, to use behavior, internals and character, as your strongest witness. Don’t nag an unsaved spouse with truth–bomb him with love and shoot him with kindness. Learn to enjoy your spouse, delight in your spouse and erve your spouse.
God wants your conduct to point to Christ. Minimize the witness of your words and maximize the witness of your ways. The Greek word behavior in verses 1 and 2 has to do with observable moving about and demeanor–your facial expression, your eyes brightening when you see your spouse, your smile, being encouraging and affectionate.
And Peter helps you in verse 2 to know which two behaviors are most important. And as it turns out, they are the two behaviors husbands bring up most in marital counseling. Look at verse 2, “as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”
“Chaste” is primarily used as physical purity–you save yourself for one man only. Then once married, you give yourself exclusively, from the heart, to only one man. You take care of your husband physically–1 Corinthians 7:2 to 5 commands a wife and husband four times to take care of each other’s physical needs in marriage.
And that is not an easy assignment for a woman married to an indifferent, unsaved, possibly brutish husband. But it is that observable conduct on the part of a godly wife that God will use to win that unsaved husband to Christ. Along with the second most important behavior in verse 2 which is “respect”. This word is used 93 times in the New Testament and is translated fear, be afraid or respect.
It has to do with thinking of your husband as being great, or as a person deserving to be honored–like Sarah blows us all away in verse 6 by calling Abraham lord. The fear of verse 2 is a kind of awe–wives in awe of their husbands. You won’t find this respect on a sitcom or in the media, but it is a powerful tool for God to use in a marriage and as a witness.
Wives, if you want to honor Christ and taste the blessings of a biblical marriage, then respect your husband until he is respectable. Most men would rather be respected than loved. Live God’s Word to impact your husband–don’t just say it, show it. What else is a woman to do?
#3 Prioritize your CHARACTER over your CLOTHING Verses 3 to 4
Look at verse 3, “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.” Peter isn’t saying, “Don’t braid your hair,” nor is he saying, “Don’t wear jewelry.” Otherwise, in Greek he’d also be saying, “Don’t wear dresses.” The braiding of the hair is referring to elaborate hairdos, and wearing gold jewelry is wearing so much gold jewelry that you look like Mr. T–not two or four earrings, but twenty earrings, not one ring but rings on every finger, and not one bracelet, but forty. So much so that when they walked, they jingled–the Bible says they tinkle.
Many women 2,000 years ago in the Roman Empire had very little to pass the time. They could not hold public office, or be in the priesthood, or compete in games, or have a job in public. And many had slaves for the kids and house. So many women devoted all their time to their appearance and their dress. They had too much time. Added to that is the natural, fleshly tendency of a woman to get what she wants by flaunting her beauty and using her outward appearance as a weapon.
Instead of putting her trust in God, she trusts in her looks to gain love, attention, care and power by the way she dresses. So Peter says, “don’t let your adornment be merely external.” Adornment is the Greek word kosmos where we get our English word cosmetics, surface issues. Don’t find your greatest joy in feeling sexy, surface–find your joy in the approval of your God, internal.
Don’t you wish you could say to singles, prior to marriage–“Instead of valuing gorgeous eyes, an hourglass figure and pouty lips, a great smile–I wish you would value a woman of character–as Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
You don’t marry a body, you marry a person–if that person doesn’t not have biblical character, they’ll make a terrible spouse. But if they have genuine, tested, proven biblical character, they will make a tremendous spouse. Don’t let your appearance be merely surface, external, outward. A godly wife does not focus her life on clothing and appearance. A godly wife focuses more on character.
Look at verse 4, “But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” It is not wrong to do your hair or wear jewelry–the point is that outward adornment should not be your primary pre-occupation. Verse 4 says, “Let it be, not what others think about you, but what God thinks about you that motivates you.” The deep quality of the internal you–the new heart, the new creation, the new person Christ alone sees.
Turn to 1 Samuel 16. You remember what the Lord said to Samuel as he reviewed Jesses impressive, muscle-bound sons, the older brothers of David? First Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
Yes, friends–eat good, work out, sleep properly, watch your weight. But make certain you focus more on your heart before God. Peter reminds his readers, just like this world is going to end, so is this body. But your inner man, the hidden man is, verse 4, imperishable. This will last forever–it can’t be destroyed.
Look at your old pictures–go back to the 80’s, 70’s, 60’s and you will groan at how you looked and what you wore! Moustache-clown! God doesn’t want our lives focused on passing, earthly fashions, but on heavenly, eternal qualities. Verse 4 also says imperishable quality. Since imperishable is an adjective, a noun must be supplied–NASB says “imperishable quality“, but I like the ESV better here. It says “imperishable beauty“.
Christian women, do not make earthly beauty your passion, verse 3. But make lasting, eternal, unfading beauty your passion, verse 4. Fashion will change, your physical looks will change, so what true, eternal beauty in a woman can never be taken from her? Verse 4, “A gentle and quiet spirit.”
Gentle is the compassionate way she treats others around her. And quiet is her heart which is at peace, even when married to a brutish, unsaved man in a persecuted culture. She shows strength under control–gentleness. And she is calm in a crisis–quiet. A heart-beautiful woman, who by the way will always be beautiful externally too, since her heart leaks out in her appearance, is not all about cosmetics and clothing, but Christ and the cross.
Verse 4 says this quality is valued by God–precious in His sight. Literally, Peter says God continually treasures a gentle and quiet heart. God prizes this quality in women, He respects this in wives. The world prizes garb and goop on your face. Christ prizes character and Christlikeness in your heart. What do you prize most of all? And finally . . .
#4 Imitate the MODELS God has given you Verses 5 to 6
Some wives might ask, is this normal for wives to act this way? Is this what God has expected of women since the beginning? Yes. Verses 5 and 6, “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Peter is wisely using the Old Testament as His authority and as a motivation for wives in the first century and wives today to live out verses 1 to 6. Verse 5, “Holy women,” meaning women who have been made members of God’s chosen family, now set apart for God alone, are those who hope in God.
She does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband or boyfriend or date, or just some interest. Or put her hope in herself, or put her hope in her family, or put her hope in her looks or skills or wealth, or anything or anyone else. She puts all her hope in God alone. These wives did not submit to their husbands because they believed their husbands were intellectually superior to them, or spiritually more deep. But they submitted to their husbands because they were confident that God would reward all those who put their hope and trust in Him.
Hope is reaching up, hanging onto and resting in God. Hope is putting all your greatest desires in Him. Hope is trusting in God’s promises, relying on His Word, taking your stand on truth, and following His commands over all others. Hope is confidence that this life is fleeting and temporary, but eternity is forever and permanent. Hope is a quiet confidence in God, which produces a gentle and quiet spirit, enabling a woman to submit to her husband’s authority without any fear that their submission will ultimately be harmful to her well-being or her family.
Verse 6, gorgeous Sarah was so confident in God, she actually submitted to Abraham when he lied–not once, but twice about her not being his wife, because Abe was afraid. Peter says Sarah called her husband the liar lord, and obeyed him, manifesting respect and submission in all things.
And like Peter’s persecuted and pressured wives, you too will prove to be a godly woman (saved), if you follow God’s Word (do what is right) and not give into a woman’s greatest struggle, fear. You live out the truth and don’t allow your feelings to stop you from being obedient. Is that you? I could go on and on–which is what the preacher says when he runs out of material . . . or runs out of time. Allow me to give you four closing thoughts . . .
1 Singles, you are preparing the road you will walk tomorrow, by how you live today. You don’t suddenly become a godly woman or a godly man when you walk down the aisle and say, “I do.”
2 When you suffer or are lonely, like Peter’s audience in this letter, the clothes covering your soul are taken off, exposing the real you. When God blesses you with those kind of trials, don’t panic, don’t feel sorry for yourself, but put all your hope in God.
3 No one can live these truths unless they have turned from their sin and now depend on Christ alone for salvation.
Only those who have surrendered to Christ by believing He is God who became a man, lived a perfect life, then offered Himself to die in our place on the cross, take the punishment for sin we deserved, rose from the dead, and is the only way His children can be made right with Him now and forever–can live these truths.
Some of you here need to stop trying and turn to Christ for salvation.
4 Many Christian husbands do not make it easy for their wives to actually like them. A lot of Christian men are slobs, stink and are too rough (tickling is okay, noogies are not). Husbands need to work at being attractive and lovable to their wives. Every genuinely saved woman in this room wants to live verses 1 to 6. But you men can make it easier by living out verse 7.
What does verse 7 say? Come back . . . next week.
PANEL for Women–1 Peter 3:1 to 6
- What should singles be doing now to become the ultimate women? How should they be pursuing purity?
- How do you daily deny yourself and come under submission to your husband?
- How do you initiate intimacy with your husband?
- And how do you enjoy intimacy, even when you don’t want to but he wants to?
- How can you encourage single ladies to look for the right man–one who is proven?
- How would you encourage young women to “like” their husbands?