The Ultimate Example of Submission

Dr. Todd Gray

We just celebrated Mother’s Day, and it’s important to know what Christ says about mothers and wives and how we can apply those principles today.

In 1 Peter chapter 3, Peter says, “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 behavior of their wives [NIV].”

Peter says that wives respect their husbands through submission. As soon as we utter those words in modern society, it makes people upset. I believe we need to take a step back and look at the context.

Understanding the Context

We’re two thousand years removed from this passage. It seems outdated and it might even be offensive to you. But we need to understand the significance of Peter discussing household instructions towards wives.

When Peter writes to wives, it comes in the context of women having very little to say in their society. It doesn’t mean it was right, or that he approved, but Peter was dealing with the Greco-Roman society.

Outside of her husband and home, friendships would have been frowned upon. When Peter addressed wives directly it was astonishing at the time. He speaks to them and not through the vehicle of the husband, but to them directly. The fact that he assumed that they should have a faith that existed outside of their husband would have been contrary to societal expectations.

Peter was challenging the social norms and it wasn’t easy for him. For us, it can also be a challenge today for different reasons.

The Challenge of Being a Christian Today

Christians are often accused of upsetting public disorder with this God that they worship with high moral expectations. New Testament scholar, Karen Jobes, says Peter was trying to both uphold and subvert the social order. We also subvert the social order in the name of the Gospel. It’s a challenge today as it was then.

Society blends the lines. We have to clarify the lines without being dismissive or oppressive and that’s difficult.

Peter doesn’t go into great detail about what respect and submission looks like in the home, he simply states that respect and submission are necessary for wives. Ephesians 5 says it’s out of reverence for Christ and following your savior’s example. It’s in obedience to Christ.

Submission should be a wonderful thing in our lives. Sometimes that submission is hard for me, but I honor Christ by doing it anyway the best way that I can.

The principle that Peter’s talking about still applies.

Obeying the Lord Through Submission

Couples, you can apply submission for the glory of God to your home. You might say, pastor, that’s nice, but I need some clear examples of what that might look like today.

I can explain what it means in the context, but the daily application has to be worked out. But I can tell you what it looks like in my family.

 We’re a work in progress. Tammy and I are equal in worth and value before God for our salvation. But I also know that she and I have different roles. I know that I am called to lead, protect, provide and spiritually guide my home. That’s my duty. And Tammy knows that she has to support me and nurture our home. We do this together.

A vast majority of the time when we decide on our home, we make what I would call a combined decision. Many times, her idea is better. So, we make a combined decision to do it her way.

When Submission Gets Complicated

What happens when you don’t agree? On rare occasions, when we don’t agree and we stay on opposite sides of the issue, my wife chooses to submit. Out of respect for me, and her honor for her Savior, she submits to my decision. Because she trusts her Savior more than me.

Clear warning: it can’t be forced and it cannot be manipulated. The moment you try to force submission, it’s not submission. Submission has to be given out of love for Christ. Because that’s the example Jesus gave us.

Peter continues saying that many wives have unbelieving husbands, and Peter says that by her honoring behavior, through her respect and submission, even to her unbelieving husband, he might be won over to the Gospel.

That’s hard to believe, but I’ve seen it happen in my own family. It’s the good testimony for Christ. Peter simply wanted a wife to represent Christ in her home to her husband with good and respectful behavior.

Moms and wives, I submit to you the same. I pray that you would desire the same that Peter calls you to and that God may be glorified.

I can guarantee you this: the greatest thing that you can do for your children is to let them watch you love and respect their father. Let them watch you honor your husband. God will do miraculous things with that.

What the Bible Says About Beauty

Peter speaks to the women about their external beauty. Girls, single women, wives, and mothers alike, he says in verses 3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self… [NIV].”

However you express your external beauty today, let it be your inner beauty that’s most important to you. 

I have a daughter. I’ve become increasingly aware of society’s pressure for her to seek external beauty and it’s a terrible thing. Judging from Peter’s words, it’s always been that way. He gives me a passage that I so desperately want my daughter to understand. Beauty is more than external qualities.

What matters the most, Peter says, is your value to God. He looks to your heart. Peter is placing value where it should be; on a woman’s mind, on a woman’s spirit, the whole person.

Moms, you must teach this to your daughters to seek inner beauty instead of giving in to the most modern trends of clothing or behavior. Show them how to love themselves, show them how to value other women instead of comparing themselves to other women. God intricately stitched them together in His image.

But how far is too far in submission?

This submission has its limits. For example, it doesn’t apply to a violent husband. We see no support of such things in this passage of scripture, nor do we see it in scripture. If you’re in an abusive situation, leave immediately. Find somewhere safe for you and your children. Contact the church for help.

Submission is not under oppression. Weak men preying on women to feel better about their inadequacies is not Biblical.

Your husband needs to respect you and love you the way Jesus intended it. Husbands, Peter says, be considerate and honor your wives.  

Giving Husbands Room to Lead

Wives, honor Christ by respecting your husband’s. Would you take the challenge of giving him leeway to lead your family? And pray for him because he’s going to mess up. He’s going to need your grace and the grace of God. But he will become a wonderful spiritual leader for your home.

Husbands, if you want a wife that respects your leadership, you need to be the kind of husband that knows his wife. You need to be the kind of husband that considers his wife before he considers himself.

The Bible is clear, husbands have four key roles in my home: the priest, the prophet, the provider, and the protector. Do I have to do that alone? No. But the buck stops with me for those responsibilities. Peter also reminds the husbands that they should honor their wives. Her worth and value are the same as yours, and she deserves to be treated as such.

Honoring the Wives and Mothers in Our Lives

Today, families can show appreciation and love for the women God has placed in their lives.

Husbands, there are many things you can do. What about making your wife her favorite dinner and cleaning up afterward? What about if you go on a lunch or dinner date to her favorite spot? You can buy her a beautiful gift.

Think of your mother, mother-in-law, and spiritual mothers in your life.  A card or a small gift would go a long way. Consideration can go far beyond Mother’s Day.

Jesus Christ is both the basis and the model for all Christian living, whether you’re a man or woman, whether it’s inside the home or outside the home, we are all to follow in his steps. It starts with obedience.