Husbands Treat Your Wives as Equals, Wives Be Submissive To Your Husbands
Section 3.5 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 3:1-7)
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Peter transitions here in a manner that warrants most Biblical translators to include this passage as the start of the third chapter of the First Letter of Peter. However, the flow of thought and subject appears to flow from the previous sub-sections, so I have included this passage and the ones that follow in the third major section of the letter. Peter has gone from the general to the specific, addressing subjects that are most common and familiar to the everyday citizen of Rome and those who dwell among them. Having gone from respecting the human institutions of government to the worlds of slave and master, Peter now goes into the personal relationships between husband and wife. Sadly, this passage is taken out of context by those who attack the Biblical Judeo-Christian Worldview, taking it out of context in order to suggest that our way of life is sexist and somehow promoting the abuse of women by their husbands. As we review this passage, it should become quite clear how off the mark such individuals are. (Honestly, reading the passage itself should make it clear to the objective reader that such people are incorrect in their critique.)
Peter begins “In the same way…” What is this referring too given the previous sub-section? The previous sub-section was regarding the relationship of the slave to the master and the honoring of the master even when they are cruel. Just as Christ suffered for us, we must be willing to suffer for Christ. Just as it has been pointed out in 1 Peter 2:12; 2:15; and 2:8, the act of remaining true to Christ and obedient to His example will bring others to glorify God and will put the slanderers in their place, so too we see the idea being demonstrated here. We see Peter here calling upon wives specifically to be submissive to their husbands, “…so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word…” they may be “won” by how they behave. There is a tremendous amount of significant points being made manifest here, so let us break this down a bit in context.
It is common knowledge (or so it seems) that during the first century within the Roman Empire, women did not have much significance or importance in the home. They were often considered the property of their husbands and they held little sway in the community in mattes of public policy and the administration of justice. However, we are seeing here the constantly repeated theme of the importance and vital nature of the wife in keeping their husbands in line with God. The first thing to realize is that Peter is calling out those husbands who “…are disobedient to the word…” This is important in light of the criticism of Christianity as being oppressive toward women. If a man is doing something wrong to His wife, He is not being obedient to the word. Given the initial reference to the previous sub-sections regarding slaves to cruel masters, it is clear that Peter is making this point. Those husbands who are cruel to their wives are being disobedient to the word. So, we see that at the very beginning of this section, Peter is calling out the men of these congregations who are not treating their wives appropriately.
The next point to comprehend here is that Peter is openly addressing the women of these congregations. He is lifting them up in their status as having power over their husbands through their personal behavior. “…they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” By saying that a woman does not even have to say a word, but simply behave in obedience to God, in order to bring their husbands to obedience is empowering women tremendously. Peter is telling women, clearly, that they are important. Their role as wife is so important, that just their simple chaste and respectful behavior can sway their husbands to faith. This is not a statement of degradation or oppression of women. On the contrary, it is a mighty statement of uplifting praise and empowerment of women.
Peter continues by giving some relatable guidance in how they should carry themselves. The ancient world had women competing with one another with what they would adorn themselves with. Much of the concepts of beauty at the time in relation to women was around how they would style their hair, what ornaments they would wear, and what clothing they would put on. Do I really need to point out the relevance of this today? Peter tells the wives that they should, “…let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit…” that they “adorn” themselves with. The NASB translation hits the nail on the head with this translation as it says “Your adornment must not be merely external…” Women who do enjoy making their appearance as beautiful as they can are not committing a sin. Many women enjoy doing everything they can to bring out their beauty in order to please their husbands, seeking the praise and acceptance of their husbands only in doing so. There is nothing wrong with this at all. What Peter is saying here, however, is what we all know is true today. Wheat women must focus on is on making that “hidden person of the heart” become the most desired and well known thing about themselves. Peter gives women extraordinary praise and empowerment by adding, “…which is precious in the sight of God.”
Peter goes on to give them a connection to the most revered and respected woman in the Hebraic context, that being Sarah, the wife of Abraham, the father of their nation. Relating his guidance to Sarah, “…the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves…” Peter points out that, “…you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” This point may also bring a recall to the previous sub-sections regarding being patient and trusting of God while enduring suffering. Peter is giving high praises to women, encouraging to stay true to God through obedience to their husband. This includes viewing their husbands as Sarah did, “…just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…” Through doing so, these women can greatly influence their husbands and through their significant and vital role as wife, bring their husbands into obedience to Christ through their behavior.
To further clarify the truth that women are not some how enslaved or degraded by the Christian worldview, we can now review what is included in this passage but frequently overlooked by the anti-Christian critics of our day. Peter now addresses the husbands of the congregations. He begins with “You husbands in the same way…” This would suggest that everything that has been told to the women, is also expected of the men. Peter tells them that they must, “…live with your wives in an understanding way…” He means by this that the men must understand what the role of the woman is as defined in the previous sentences. He includes, “…as with someone weaker, since she is a woman…” This, of course, is an immediate cause for alarm and vehement “calling out” by the anti-Christian critics and feminist absolutists. How dare Peter call women weaker! This goes to prove the oppression of women by Christians!
Honestly, must we allow such bitter people to discredit all that is said because of Peter’s pointing out something so important? The husband is to treat his wife as someone who is weaker in the greater context of being obedient to God. As men of God, we are to treat all with dignity and respect, and to treat them with respect to who they are as a person. For women, it is obvious that the average woman is weaker than men, not in any condescending and belittling way, but in the way that men are supposed to care for them. Husbands are to treat their wives as though they are weaker, even if they are not, it makes no difference. Men must acknowledge that the women in their lives are equal to them in the eyes of God. “…and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life…” Explain to me how a worldview that calls for the oppression of women would tell its men to care for their women as though they are weaker, requiring tenderness and love, and as equals. This passage provides the clear teaching of the Bible in its entirety in a manner that is so clear it is absolutely astounding that individuals are able to so drastically pervert it in order to paint our way of life as oppressive to women and get away with it.
Peter completes the section with a tremendously important warning to the men. If they do not do these things, their prayers will not be heard. “…show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” This would send a clear message to those who understand that their prayers will be answered by Christ when one lives in obedience to God. Should a man fail to view his wife as an equal heir to the grace of life, his prayers will not be answered. That is to say, if a husband does not tenderly care for his wife, he is disobeying God. How can it be made any more clear than that?
The importance of this passage to our modern times is very clear. The behavior of both men and women has not changed, neither has our views of one another. God is calling each of us to put obedience to God first. This obedience, within the context of marriage, places the husband in the role of caretaker and decision maker, and the wife in the role of counselor and example. The Christian man is obligated to care for his wife as we are called to care for the weak. We are to lift them up, make them strong, be there for them in their weaknesses and to support them in their strengths. As women of God, they are to be obedient to their husbands, living their lives in such a manner as to constantly remind their husband of their obligation to God through them. Together, the husband and wife support each other as equals, helping to keep each other on the righteous path through faith in God, and in one another.