SUGGESTED SCRIPTURE READING- 1 Peter 3: 1-19
FOCAL PASSAGE——– Wives and Husbands
In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live 2 when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.
7 Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.
This passage is one that has been misquoted, misinterpreted and abused by many, often to support an opinion of the role of husbands and wives that is totally incorrect and unbiblical. I will confess I asked my wife for help on this one, and as usual she came through. She said she had learned over the years, that this passage refers to obedience to God, and is an example of how Christ lived His life on earth.
The word “submit”, in verse 1, should not by any means be interpreted to mean inferior. Wives are to be submissive to husbands in the sense that Jesus was submissive while on earth. He taught that we should submit to human authority and He showed it in his actions. Does that mean that He was inferior in any way? ABSOLUTELY NOT! He led people to Himself through humility, showing loving kindness in everything he did. Peter was especially concerned for those women who were married to unbelievers, stating that these Christ like qualities would be more influential in bringing her husband to God than anything she might say.
Verse 3 has been taken out of context as well. The emphasis here is on the woman’s heart, not with what she wears or chooses to adorn herself. It doesn’t mean she should abstain from giving attention to her personal appearance, but simply that this should not be her (or anyone’s) primary focus. He contrasted God’s values to our own.
Often when this passage is quoted, little notice is given to verse 7. Let’s talk about the term “weaker vessel” for a moment. Again, by comparing a wife to a weaker vessel, Peter was not saying that wives or women are inferior to husbands or that they are weaker in every sense. Most of us are aware that in many marriages the wife is the stronger person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, morally, socially, and sometimes even physically. Nevertheless, men typically choose women that are not as muscular or as physically strong as they are. Husbands should be mindful of this and act accordingly. One commentary I read put it this way:
“In view of this, husbands need to treat their wives with special consideration.
Both the husband and the wife are vessels, but husbands are more typically similar to iron skillets whereas wives resemble china vases, being more delicate. They are equally important but different.”
I like the “fine china” analysis. After 39 years of marriage, I still like to open the car door for my wife. It’s something my mom taught me right before my first date. Does it mean she’s too weak to open it herself? Of course not! If you could see her boss her 1,000 pound horse around, you would know better. It’s a simple act showing respect and honor for the person God gave me to share my life.
Peter followed these passages by banishing any implication of inferiority with a reminder that a wife is a fellow-heir of God’s grace…every bit as much as the husband. He emphasizes this importance by saying that a husband who does not treat his wife with honor will not have his prayers answered the way he otherwise could. WOW! In other words selfishness and egotism in marriage will hinder a man’s relationship with God as well as with his own wife.
Peter concluded this series of instructions by telling us we should take this “mutual” love and respect of a husband and wife and share it with those around us, living our lives in a way that would make others want to be like us…and like Jesus. This doesn’t remove us from the obligation to verbally share Christ with others. I often hear people say, “Well, I like to witness by the way I live…I don’t have to tell people about Jesus”. That’s a cop out. Jesus said “go and tell”, not “be quiet and be seen”. If you doubt that, look further in the chapter and read verse 15. That being said, in addition, verses 8 and 9 tell us to live a life that also speaks for itself:
“ 8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.”
How fitting that Peter would conclude this particular instruction with the following Psalm. God’s word speaks for itself:
“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help.” Psalm 34:15