1 Peter: An Apologetic For Resident Aliens 3:1-7
1 Peter 3:1-7: Husbands and Wives
“1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives—2when they see your respectful and pure conduct.3Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands,6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.7Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
As is the case with many of the writings in the NT (especially Paul’s), the first part focuses heavily on identity, and then the writing turns to the rhythms of life. As Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians, one clear way we can display God’s glory is through our families (see Ephesians 5:32). This is so important to God that He made it a clear requirement that Elders are able to manage their own homes, since the church body is like a family (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5). It is also true that throughout scripture, the husband and wife relationship has been used as an image of God’s relationship with His people. Books like Song of Solomon and Hosea demonstrate both the positive and negative aspects of the marital relationship in relation to God’s covenant with His people. Marriage is just that – a covenant, which is what God established between Himself and His people. Also, God’s image is at stake. He created humans in His image, and maleness and femaleness is a reflection on that image as separate and distinct, yet unified and equal, taking on different but equally important roles for His Glory. This makes our marriage an important witness to the world. I believe we often read our own cultural ideas into passages like this, but I think many objections to the marital roles God established to reflect His glory are a result of believing in our own individual rights, and not a thorough obedience to His revealed word. I believe that the godhead itself is the foundation for understanding the roles that God gave to His family. Within the godhead (Trinity) we see that there is one being (essence) yet three distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). In that community, we see absolute unity and equality of person and being, but submission for the sake of the mission in the godhead itself (see 1 Corinthians 11:1-3). We best reflect that Trinitarian God when we mirror unity in our families. Thus, women are to be “subject” to their husbands and adorn themselves with a godly status in Christ rather than with what the world defines as beauty. The idea of “subjection” is a horrible idea in our western, individualistic culture, but the word “subject” is the Greek word hupotasso, which conveys the military idea of aligning oneself under someone else for the sake of unity and mission. The military concept is a good one because lower ranks are asked to submit to those of superior rank in order to maintain unity and successfully carry out the mission. 1st Peter is a book about putting yourself aside for the sake of the mission, but we continue to fight passages like this in favor of our own rights. This passage does not denigrate women, or infer that they are of less value than men, but it emphasizes that God has called them to submit for the sake of the mission. Christ Himself submits to His Father, yet He is co-equal with the Father in essence. There is no difference in the gospel (Galatians 3:28), but God has created men and women wonderfully different in order to carry out the mission in our families and churches. As Christian men, we are called to love our wives and treat them well (see too Ephesians 5:25-29). We are called to sacrifice ourselves for them! Again, our rights are to be placed aside for the sake of our wives, and who is our example? Jesus Christ. Do we really think His bride (the Church) is a bargain?? Peter reminds us that when we fail to treat our wives as beautiful women of God, our prayers are hindered. This is an issue that God wants us to take care of before we ask anything of Him.
- Why are women called to “subject” themselves to their husbands?
- What does Peter mean by the “weaker vessel?”
- Why is God so concerned with the women’s inner beauty?
- What does Peter’s emphasis on inner beauty have to say to the way we judge beauty in our own culture?
- As a woman, how are you submitting to your husband and adorning yourself with inner beauty?
- As a man, how are you honoring your wife, and trying to understand her?