As 1 Peter moves into what we have identified as the third chapter of this letter, he addresses the third category in which he calls us to be submissive. First, he spoke of submission to the ruling authorities. Next, he addressed submission as slaves. And now he looks at submission within the context of marriage.
Take a look at this passage for yourself in 1 Peter 3:1-2.
In Peter’s instructions concerning marriage, he looks at the role of both partners, the husband and the wife, and encourages both in the area of submission to one another. He addresses the wife first of all.
In our modern, egalitarian culture, we have come to believe that men and women are equal in every aspect of life. Our culture states that there are no differences between men and women, husbands and wives, regardless of context. And when it comes to marriage, almost every trace of male authority, or headship in the home, is being systematically erased.
However, Peter’s instructions concerning submission within marriage create a bit of a problem with that view. Peter sees obvious differences between the two genders, and addresses each one differently. And first of all, he encourages Christian women to be submissive to their husbands. Peter’s remarks here about headship in the home have largely been rejected in our society as being archaic and no longer culturally relevant. But just because a culture has rejected an idea does not make it right. Peter’s words here are still as relevant to our culture as they were to the culture in which he wrote amost two thousand years ago.
Peter begins this section with a command for wives to be submissive to their husbands. This may have been a direct address to a common problem in Peter’s day, just as it is in our own, of a lack of submission to one another, especially in such an intimate relationship as a marriage. But what is worth noting here is that this is not a blanket statement of Peter stating wives in general should be submissive to husbands in general. He makes it very personal when he states that wives should be submissive to their own husbands.
And why would they not be? In a healthy marriage, both partners are to look out for the needs and interests of each other. A healthy marriage is not a relationship that is centered around self. It is centered around each other. Peter states clearly that a wife should have that kind of attitude toward her husband.
Peter’s next statement gives an excellent example of why this is so important. So far, the entire letter has been focused on impacting the lives of non-Christians. Peter states that in an unequal marriage, where one is a believer and the other is not, the faith of the believer can make a significant impact on the non-believer.
In Peter’s time, a believing wife would have been rejecting the false gods of her husband and her culture. Peter knows that her stance as a believer could lead her husband to the cross. However, it should be clear that Peter did not expect a wife’s submission to lead to a denial of Christ. Her strength and firm faith would provide a strong example to her husband, and could win him over to Christ.
Peter’s final phrase here is a critical element. An unbelieving husband may scoff and refuse to listen to the message of the gospel. But he may easily see and respond to that gospel as he continually, daily, witnesses the example of his wife. Such an example is a very powerful thing!
This truth is still very relevant today. There are many homes in our nation and around the world that are divided, with one believing in Christ, and the other rejecting him. Peter’s words here offer great hope that the differences can be reconciled and that Christ may become the leader of the home entirely. And that is worth longing for, praying for, and fighting for.
Question: How well do you and your spouse do when it comes to the idea of submitting to one another, especially in the context of marriage? What can you do to gain strength in this area? You can leave a comment by clicking here.