1 Peter, Bible Studies

Peter Addresses Husbands and Wives (1 Peter 3:1-7)

In the passage, Husbands are to be the leaders in their homes (cf. Eph. 5:22–33Col. 3:18–19), and wives are to be subject to (cf. 1 Pet. 3:5–6) and follow their leadership.  If a wife has an unbelieving husband who is disobedient to God’s Holy Word, she should not try to pressure him into converting.  Instead, her godly conduct will testify without a word to the truth of the gospel.

Scripture never says that women in general are to be subject to men in general, but it does affirm male headship in the home.  We see that Peter hoped that submission and godly behavior would become the means by which unbelieving husbands would be converted to the Christian faith.  However, this type of submission is different from the submission of citizens to the government and slaves to their masters.  Voluntary submission is in view here.  Husbands do not have the responsibility to ensure that wives submit to them, like the government and masters do.

However, it is similar in certain ways because just as slaves are to submit to morally bankrupt masters, so Christian wives are called on to submit to unbelieving husbands.  Peter’s main point is that the good conduct of wives should stem from their relationship with God.  Wives do not submit in order to satisfy a husband’s vanity or to promote his reputation.  Neither do they submit to show how godly they are, nor to avoid conflict, nor to impress the neighbors, nor to manipulate their husbands, and not even because she thinks he is wise.  She submits because of her relationship with and trust in God.

In verses 3 and 4, peter gives us advice that was quite typical for during this time-period.  In these verses, we see that wives should reject expensive attire and flashy and expensive hairstyles and necklaces and earrings.  God desires inner beauty consisting of a gentle and quiet spirit.  What matters to God is not what people look like on the outside, but their godly character.  In other words, what a person is on the inside does not remain hidden, but manifests itself in the way wives behave in everyday life.  In particular, women should strive for a gentle and quiet spirit.  Physical beauty and clothes will fade away, but a woman of God is more precious than gold.

In verses 5 and 6, we see that Peter makes an appeal to godly women of the Old Testament era.  Such women obeyed and respected their husbands and focused on inner beauty.  The most important comment in this verse is that these women “put their hope in God.”  This comment is instructive, for it informs us that these women did not submit to their husbands because they believed their husbands were superior to them intellectually or spiritually.  They submitted to their husbands because they were confident that God would reward all those who put their trust in Him.

This has been a major them in the book of 1 Peter.  It is the hope in the return of Jesus Christ that brings consolation in persecution, and believers are to set their hop completely on the future revelation of Jesus Christ.  Such hope characterized the lives of the women of old, for they continued to hope in God during the vicissitudes of human existence.  These women were known for their inner beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit, not for their external beauty. (Schreiner, 2003)

In verse 6, we get a specific example of an Old Testament woman that displayed both a gentle and quiet spirit.  Sarah obeyed Abraham.  Peter describes Sarah’s submission in terms of obedience.  Such obedience does not mean the relationship between husbands and wives is like that of parents and children, but it does show that a wife is to follow her husband’s direction and leadership.  In the culture of her day, Sarah expressed her submission by respectfully referring to Abraham as lord (see Gen. 18:12).  Do not fear.  Peter calls on wives to model themselves after such godly women, not fearing that harm will come to them, but trusting God as Sarah did.

Why is it important for both teenage boy and girls to study this passage?

Are men and women equal?

Scripture also affirms the equality of man and woman as being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27; cf. 1 Pet. 3:7).

Is there any exceptions for a wife’s submission to her husband?

We can also conclude from this that the submission of wives is not absolute.  If husbands require wives to disobey moral norms or follow another religion, then wives should disobey.

In verse 7, Peter now turns his attention away from the wives and now to the husbands.  Peter tells men to show honor to their wives as the weaker vessel.  What is he saying?  What he is not saying is that your wife is of lesser value.  This is clear, because he says for you to show her honor.  She is not of lesser value and she is not morally or spiritually weaker than you.  What we believe Peter has in mind here is just sheer physical weakness compared to the strength of a man.

We all know this to be generally true, of course there is some exceptions, like women that train for the power lifting in the Olympics, obviously they are the exceptions.  For example, if Kaley and I are lying in bed at night and we hear a noise, I do not say to Kaley, hey will you go check that out.  You all would mock me relentlessly if I did that and for good cause, because you naturally know that it is the man’s job to protect the house.

Therefore, how do you honor her as a weaker vessel?  Well, you do not take advantage of your strength.  You treat her with care.  You do not lay hands on her to hurt her, nor do you use your mere physical presence to intimidate her.  You might be stronger than her physically, but Peter says treat her with honor.

For example growing up we had two kinds of plates cheap durable plastic ones and the ones that were on display in the cabinet in the dining room.  The plastic ones you could do anything with.  In fact, on days that we would eat outside by the pool the plates often doubled as bases for a baseball game.  If one was to break it was no big deal you just threw it away and got another one.

However, the plates that were on display in the dining room cabinet, you better not even go within touching distance of them.  They were weak and we treated them with care.  We do not even use them.  Not because they are of lesser value, it is because they are of greater value.  We treat these plates with more care, not less.  We honor their value by treating them with special care and not being negligent.

Too many men treat their wives as one of the boys, durable and able to handle a lot of wear and tear.  But your future wife is not one of the boys.  You will need to honor here by treating her as a weaker vessel.  By not taking advantage of your greater physical strength, but giving her special care and attention.  Husbands are urged to treat their wives with knowledge, according to the will of God.  Women are physically weaker, and the wise husband considers the biological difference between his wife and him in the relationship.

Husbands should honor their wives because they are coheirs of the heavenly destiny.  The seriousness of giving honor upon one’s wife is evident, in that husbands who refuse to do so will find that their prayers are hindered, which means that God will refuse to answer their prayers.  God does not bless with his favor those who are in positions of authority and abuse those who are under them by mistreating them.

So what is the big deal about not getting your prayers answered?  Does that not just mean I will not get that bass boat I have been wanting?  What it means is God is cutting of communication from you.  That means you will no longer feel God’s presence or have him working in your life.  God is going to treat you like an unbeliever until you come back into repentance.  (Stinson & Dumas, 2011)

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