Peter appeals to history as he continues his discussion of submission within marriage. Take a look at his example in 1 Peter 3:5-6.
Peter looks to the past, and to the women listed in the Scriptures as an example of how submission is to play out in the realm of marriage.
While the NIV makes this text easy to read, it actually doesn’t translate it the most clearly. Other translations bring out the structure of Peter’s statement here much better. For example, the NRSV states it like this:
The holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands.
That allows us to see the structure of Peter’s statement, and not just our own adjusted interpretation. The main point behind all of this is the attitude of submission. And what Peter is emphasizing in this passage is the idea of adornment. Many of the women that came from pagan backgrounds were accustomed to much outward adornment. Peter says that the inner adornment, the attitude of the heart, is much more to be preferred.
Peter continues his instructions on submission in marriage,and sets some standards for beauty that are both amazing and controversial. This is true in our culture, and was likely true in his as well. You can see his standards in 1 Peter 3:3-4.
Peter is in the middle of his third area of submission, the area of marriage. Beginning with wives (he will address husbands shortly), he gives some standards about beauty, and how wives should strive for it. It’s helpful to note, that while this is applicable to all women, it is in the context of a passage specifically addressed to believing wives. Often, in our culture, when someone disagrees with this passage, they are coming from a different point of view than those to whom Peter is writing.
Peter equates beauty with modesty it seems,and does so much like Isaiah did a few centuries earlier, in Isaiah 3:16-24. Paul states something similar in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 as well. In our culture of exposure, many disagree with this. Their words are worth listening to and following, but at the same time, they should not be taken out of context either. Many mistakenly believe that Peter, along with Paul and Isaiah, are advocating the elimination of all outer adornment. But that is not the case; rather it means overly extravagant or ostentatious adornment.
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.
These final two verses of 1 Peter 2 are very encouraging, and present the message of the gospel in a nutshell: We were sinners, and the sacrifice of Christ restored us into a right relationship with God.
You can see this passage for yourself in 1 Peter 2:24-25.
Peter gives his readers, both those who were his contemporaries as well as later readers, some very encouraging words as he finishes up this section of suffering unjustly. Remember, this is in the context of submission, and more specifically, his instructions to those who were slaves. He gives the ultimate example for them in the suffering of Jesus Christ. And although this was written to slaves, the principles hold true for any of us.
Jesus is the example that we should follow. And what Jesus accomplished through his unjust suffering restored us into a relationship with our Creator. What could be more encouraging than that?
Peter finishes this section with a look at the death of Christ, which he willingly experienced in order to make us righteous. He presents the message of the gospel as simply and succinctly as it can be presented: Christ bore our sins on the cross. He died for those sins, in order to make me righteous. That’s good news!
This final section of Peter’s second chapter is a great summary of the message of the Gospel. Christ suffered on our behalf, so that we could enjoy eternity with God. That suffering was intense, and yet he bore it without complaint. That is the message of Easter!
You can see this week’s passage in 1 Peter 2:23.
As we read this, we must remember the context: Peter is writing this to believing slaves, who faced unjust treatment by their masters. Peter encourages them to stand firm, submitting to their authority, and uses this example of the suffering of Christ to underline his point. However, this lesson is applicable to us all.
Following the pattern of Christ is the challenge slaves were faced with in this time period, especially if they were believers and their master was not. Peter encourages them by using the example that Jesus set as a call for them to follow. Jesus suffered without retaliation. He accepted their insults. He took the punishment and the beatings, and the scourging, and the mockery, and finally the cross, without striking back, or getting even, or even threatening.
He suffered because he trusted the Father. Peter explains that in this passage, in the latter half. Jesus entrusted himself to God and his will, because he knew that God’s plan was perfect, and that , in the end, it would result in salvation for all those who also placed their trust in the Father.
As 2017 begins, we couldn’t be in a better spot in 1 Peter than this passage. What better way to begin the New Year than with a reminder of what Christ sacrificed on my behalf?
You can see this reminder for yourself in 1 Peter 2:21-22.
Peter makes a very clear statement here, completing his thoughts from the previous passage, where he addresses slaves, and encourages them to be submissive. Because of their status as slaves, they will probably face unjust suffering. But Peter encourages them with the ultimate example, that Christ suffered unjustly as well, and for their sake.
But, as with much of Peter’s writings, it carries weight far beyond just this immediate context, and gives us a principle to hold on to also.
Peter pulls no punches here. His though begins with “To this you were called…” Two words stand out in this phrase. First is the word “called.” Peter has spent some significant time in this letter speaking about the Christian’s calling, and about the One who does the calling. What he is stating here is that this is not just something we happened to stumble upon. We have been specifically called, and the goal of the calling is holiness, according to 1:15.
The second word that stands out is the word “this.” To this we have been called. To what? To suffering. We are called to patiently endure it when we face unjust suffering. My first thought is why? Why not just avoid it? Because this carries me closer to the goal of becoming like Christ. It creates holiness within me.
In this week’s passage from 1 Peter 2, Peter continues his thoughts on how slaves are to act in relation to their masters, especially those masters who may treat them harshly.
You can see this passage for yourself in 1 Peter 2:19-20.
Peter has been addressing those who are in the unfortunate circumstances of slavery. He is specifically addressing those slaves who are believers, or have become believers, in slavery. His main thrust of this passage is for them to submit to their masters, because, in reality, they are serving Christ, and the outflow of that is how they serve their earthly masters.
But the question he knows that they will have is this: What if the master is a harsh man, and treats them severely?
Peter shows in this passage that the true mettle of the believing slave is tested in this situation. Peter knows that some slaves will experience harsh words, and others will experience beatings and other physical abuse. He connects this to persecution, the only connection to physical persecution in the entire letter.
We know from history that physical persecution was growing, especially as the Roman Empire grew more and more decadent. And even though Peter doesn’t directly mention it more than in just this one instance, it was commonplace, and spreading.