Sunday 21 March
1 Peter chapter 3 verse 1 - 7
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Called to Submit to God
In today’s culture, even in the UK, we are still learning how to talk about women and how to treat them appropriately. It’s a very sad day when anyone suggests that woman need to not put themselves in danger, when the clear culprit is men who behave in an evil and selfish driven fashion towards them or sadly towards children either.
My family unit of seven, had only one female, my mother in it. She showed us a mother’s love and taught us to never treat anyone wrongly – but dare I say especially women. I guess her influence lies behind my inherent desire to protect children and women and any others who are vulnerable in any way. Yet I know that there will be some women who would suggest my thinking is a bit sexist, “as if women are weaker and need protecting” – but that takes us nicely to this 3rd chapter of 1 Peter – which talks about woman being the weaker sex. Please don’t draw your conclusions before I preach through these verses in full and be gentle with me – I am a humble preacher called by God.
After Paul’s 1st word wives in verse 1, we have the phrase “in the same way be submissive”. So, it’s a continuation of the previous theme back in chapter 2 verses 11-13 “As aliens and strangers of the world… live such good lives that pagans” see your excellent behaviour in action – so that “you bring glory to God (my paraphrases).
The overarching theme is submitting to God, so let’s keep that in our minds as we continue.
I already mentioned that phrase in verse 1 “in the same way be submissive” saying it was a link phrase back to chapter 2, submit to rulers and later on in chapter 2 verse 18 we were called to submit to our employers or slave masters in Paul’s day. By chapter 2 verse 23 we were told that Jesus did not retaliate or hit out but trusted Himself to God who judges justly as the quintessential example of submission. Now it is wives in chapter 3 verse 1, and by verse 7 it's husbands who are told “in the same way to be submissive”. In chapter 5 the elders of the church who are to submit, and the young men. So, this one theme lies behind all who are addressed and the submission is the same concept for each group mentioned. Submitting to one another is a Christian standard.
So Christian women submitting to their husband next: a loyal loving wife and her husband’s relationship cannot be compared to a slave with their master – the relationships are very very different indeed. So, wives are not slaves to their husbands, although the way some wives work tirelessly for their men and children, you could argue that it is pretty similar – but they do so out of devotion and love, rather than under any orders. Submission is also not permission to have things lorded over you – and that cuts both ways too of course. verse 19
Next, one of the questions Paul is answering here is what happens when a wife has an unconverted husband. This mostly would happen when a wife becomes a Christian after she is married since we are not supposed to marry unbelievers as Christians 2 Corinthians 6 verse 14. The answer is the unconverted husband should be so impressed by his Christian wife that he wants to bring glory to God and become one with his God and his wife in harmony and completeness. By verses 3 and 4 the crux is made and a later example is given in verse 5 and 6.
The woman in this instance is to have a beautiful inner self. It’s not about fine clothes or expensive lotions and jewellery – sorry ladies, though some of you might like these kinds of things. A deeply spiritual Christian wife is the very best a man could hope for, as is a deeply spiritual Christian husband being the best a Christian wife could also. It is their individual relationship with God that brings so much more love into their marriage – I have known this personally – it is an unsurpassable relationship between two people, a man and a woman.
A relationship with no moodiness, no huffs, no manipulations to get our own way – what is there not to like when that cuts both ways?
So, beauty is more than skin deep, it is soul deep…
The example of Sarah not giving way to fear because she trusts God in her relationship is easy to take on now that we understand the kind of relationship a Christian marriage ought to be. Though it might be possible to worry about the daft decisions a husband or wife might make on their own – an impulse purchase, an ill-thought-out decision etc. Making decisions together in love gives balance and removes most of the other kind of fears that are relevant here.
Now I have left what I think as the last contentious words to this point as we move on to how husbands are to behave towards their wives – “weaker partner”. It is clear that this is a generalisation, since some women are stronger than their husbands in every respect. They can be physically stronger, mentally stronger, morally stronger, psychologically stronger etc. Generally, though, most are typically physically weaker, and I believe this is included just to highlight that we are made differently but complementary. In my marriage I fixed the cars; we shared heavy lifting of chicken coops; Gail looked after the children’s education and went to all the parent evenings; I sorted out insurance and holiday destinations and accommodation, she planned our days when we got there by including the children in our decisions etc. So, the term weaker is simply a generalisation and for a Christian couple, the two become one, means we are in it together 50 – 50 to make that 100% that makes us one.
Husbands then, in the same way, are to be considerate, and respectful towards their wives. Partners and heirs together letting nothing hinder enjoying life and marriage together, physically, mentally, morally, emotionally, and of course spiritually as you pray together. The cleverly disguised phrase in verse 7 is “as you live with your wives”. This really means as you know your wife in the most intimate way possible. And husbands are to do so with the utmost consideration possible.
I think that this is a truly deep spiritual intimacy as well as the physical side of things that many people understand – I guess that is why people who crave the physical, without the spiritual being entwined lose so much, and perhaps that is why so many of these relationships ultimately fail.
In the wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes 4 verses 9-12 it says,
'Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken' (1 Husband, 1 wife and God – three strands)
To have the best marriage, it takes a Christian husband, a Christian wife and God right in the centre of things – praying, listening, working together for God’s glory – and the rewards are fantastic.
I am wondering how many of us have this sort of marriage. Is your husband or wife such a delight? Is your partner unconverted and you pray fervently that your example will persuade them to become a Christian too?
None of us are perfect, but we strive on to be good witnesses in order that we can bring glory to God and be good witnesses to others who may just see the spark of God in the centre of our lives – because we submit to Him ultimately and in our other relationships to bring him the praise that is due His total submission for us, on Calvary’s cross