Dr. Zach Crook

1 Peter 3 presents a passage that has stirred discussion among believers for decades. The concept of biblical submission is uncomfortable, but we have to approach the text with an open mind and set aside any preconceived notions we have as 21st-century Americans. 

God’s Word has a lot to say about marriage, and we must allow it to speak to us. Although some of the language may seem outdated or unfamiliar, we can’t tune it out. Instead, let’s allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts and teach us. And even though the focus is on marriage, there are universal truths we can glean from this text that apply to all of us.

The Context of Biblical Submission

In this passage, Peter addresses the churches scattered throughout modern-day Turkey and Asia. Specifically, he is writing to a church that’s adhering to values that are vastly different from those of the Roman Empire and its culture. 

Peter’s message began by explaining that, as Christians, we must live differently than others due to our living hope in Jesus Christ. We are called to live wholly set apart and to act in a way that points people to Christ. 

Before this, Peter discussed the idea of submitting to authority. He stated that the government and other authorities are actually gifts given to us by God to bring order to a chaotic world. 

By living in submission to the authority God has placed above us, we can be effective, positive reflections of Christ. Next Peter discusses the importance of God’s order in marriage and the home. 

The Importance of Mutual Submission

In our society, there is a prevalent culture of divorce. One way Peter suggests we can be powerful Christian witnesses is by having marriages in which husbands and wives both serve each other as Christ served the church. 

This mutual submission is attractive to those around us who see a couple living like this. Peter’s instruction for wives to submit to their husbands is preceded by the phrase “in the same way.” 

Peter is referring to his earlier teachings on submission. He reminds us of what Jesus did for us, leaving us an example to follow. This is relevant to both husbands and wives. 

Peter encourages us to model ourselves after Christ’s example of serving us by willingly going to the cross and shedding his blood to pay for our sins. 

Submission Empowers Spouses to Model the Gospel

The instruction for wives to submit to their husbands can make us uncomfortable in modern-day America.When we hear the word “submit,” it can be difficult to understand what that really means in the context of marriage. 

However, it’s important to remember that marriage is an institution created by God. God orders things for two reasons: to reveal Himself and to bring order to the chaos of the world. One way God created order in a marriage is by giving men a leadership role in the home. This doesn’t mean women can’t lead in other areas, such as the workplace or government. 

Additionally, wives are not told to submit because they are inferior to their husbands; in fact, verse seven says husbands and wives are co-heirs of the grace of life. Ultimately, marriage is a reflection of the Gospel and should demonstrate the love, sacrifice, and servant leadership exemplified by Christ.

We Submit Because Christ Modeled Submission

God created both men and women in his image, which means there is no hint of inferiority between the two. The roles that men and women play in marriage do not imply inequality, but rather a difference in the situations and contexts they face. 

In the home, wives are called to submit to the leadership of their husbands, just as Jesus submitted himself to the will of His Father. This type of submission, born of humility and devotion, is not forced, but given willingly. Peter emphasizes that this submission can be an attractive witness to unbelievers. 

Biblical Submission Is Not Oppression or Inferiority

In the Roman Empire, women had no rights, and no value. Husbands could have affairs without any consequences. If a divorce occurred, the husband would receive everything, including the home and children.Therefore, it is crucial to understand the importance submission had in the marriage relationship. 

That’s why the gospel’s message was incredibly compelling, especially to women and slaves, who were seen as unimportant. Jesus’ message that all people were worth His blood and sacrifice made a significant impact on the Roman Empire. Many important people, including wives of government officials, gave their hearts to Christ. 

Peter’s message was specifically directed to those wives whose husbands were not saved, stating that their actions and lifestyle could soften their husband’s hearts to the Gospel without ever speaking a word. 

Not only is this message still applicable in marriage today, but it’s also sound advice for anyone who interacts with nonbelievers. By living selflessly and lovingly, we can be reflections of God’s love to others.

Humility Accentuates Inner Beauty

Peter instructs women not to base their beauty on external things such as fancy hairstyles or jewelry made of gold, but rather on the qualities of their heart, specifically the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is highly valued in the eyes of God. The Bible says holy women in the past who put their hope in God also adorned themselves in this way. 

The word adorn comes from the Greek word “cosmos,” which actually means to order. Peter is not advocating a fundamentalist approach in which women are forbidden from braiding their hair or wearing makeup and jewelry. Rather, he is urging the church to consider what they want to be known for, and the message their appearance sends to the world. 

In today’s culture, it is easy to focus solely on physical attractiveness and use it as a way to influence others. But Peter emphasizes that what should define us is not what we wear on the outside, but what’s inside our hearts is what really matters. 

To support this, he gives the Old Testament example of Sarah, who adorned herself in this way and submitted to her husband, Abraham. Peter urges us to be like Sarah and not be afraid or intimidated when God calls us to do something, but to imagine ourselves in Sarah’s shoes when God called Abraham to leave his country with only his faith in God and his family. 

Peter states that submission is not something to be feared, but rather a spiritual act of serving one’s spouse and following God’s call for their family. This is how God instructs wives to submit to their husbands.

Biblical Sacrifice Extends to God-Fearing Husbands

Peter then transitions to wisdom for husbands, emphasizing that there’s a whole lot packed in one verse. He tells husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, just like Jesus served us. Peter stresses that it’s the husband’s responsibility to learn as much as he can about his spouse and to lovingly care for them. Peter encourages husbands to understand their wives and show them honor as co-heirs of the grace of life. Peter’s message for husbands is to serve their wives in the same way that Jesus served us. 

Are Women Really the Weaker Vessels?

In this passage, Peter explains why he refers to wives as the “weaker partner” or “weaker vessel.” He clarifies that this is not related to intelligence, capacity for leadership, or wisdom. Instead, it is a physical reality that women are generally weaker than men. Thus, Peter urges husbands to honor and provide for their wives as co-heirs of the grace of life.

Peter reminds us that a Christ-centered marriage has two important benefits. First, when husbands live with their wives in an understanding way and show them respect, their prayers will not be hindered. Peter emphasizes that husbands need to sacrificially love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church. Secondly, a Christ-centered marriage has a positive impact on the couple’s witness to others. When husbands and wives honor and serve each other in this way, they are a powerful testimony to the love of Christ.

Next Steps

Just as Peter states that husbands and wives should both serve and love their spouses in order to please God and avoid hindering their prayers, this same principle applies to all relationships. 

We need to make things right with others and treat them with kindness since they are made in the image of God just as we are. When we serve sacrificially and put others’ needs above our own, we become a powerful witness of the Gospel, especially in a society where divorce is so prevalent. 

This idea of living in a way of kindness and serving others applies not just to marriage, but also to life in general. By living for Jesus and serving others, people who take notice may ask about our faith, and we should be ready to explain the hope we have in Christ. 

We should strive to love and serve in all our relationships, pointing others to Christ’s incredible act of sacrificial love on the cross. Let’s spend this week worshiping, serving, and directing others to Christ through our marriages and relationships.