1 PETER SERIES – NR 5
Theme: Victory in marriage
Scripture: 1 Peter 3: 1 – 7
The apostle Peter is still continuing to show how Christians must and can live for Christ within a hostile world – by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the first century Christians were cruelly persecuted because – amongst others – they refused to call the Roman Emperor Claudius “lord” or “god”. The Apostle Peter writes therefore to remind them of their living hope in Christ and to encourage them to persevere.
Within the context of our present time, persecution of Christians is not necessarily so evident, but more subtle. The pressure is always on Christians to conform and to accept non-Christian and unbiblical viewpoints and lifestyles… or else….. Particularly on the level of sexuality and gender and marriage there is great pressure to conform. To show how much the church already has conformed we can simply point out how effortless “Christians” accept as “normal” the co-habitation of unmarried couples because “times have changed“. That which Scripture sees as fornication, adultery and immorality, is acceptable today. But in the heart where the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work and where Scripture is becoming most important, such a soul awakens and suddenly wants to cease with a life of compromise.
In chapter 2 the Apostle Peter referred to two areas in life where Christians are persecuted and where they have to live victoriously, namely the social community and the workplace. In chapter 3 he mentions another two: marriage and the local church. The passage of Scripture that we study today focuses upon marriage.
If a Christian-believer wishes to be a successful witness for the Lord Jesus Christ in society, it is absolutely imperative to subject to the ORDER which God has instituted – that is what the Apostle already said in chapter 2.
But, what now (for example) in a marriage where the wife is a reborn Christian and the husband is not? Women are not in any way inferior to men as was the case in the culture of that time. In the ancient Greco-Roman of that time the wife was the husband’s property with very few rights. They were on the same level as slaves.
No, says the Holy Spirit through the Apostolic pen: Christian wives are not inferior to Christian husbands. A Christian wife can live with her Christian husband’s leadership without being a drudge. Just as unlikely as it is that a Christian is inferior to the authorities – even a godless authority – by subjecting himself to that authority’s rule.
In Christ, women are not subordinate to men and less-human than men. In Christ they are equal. And yet, God sets a specific order in marriage concerning leadership. It is like any team which must have a captain to function at all!
God determined that the husband should be the captain of the marriage-team. And the wife submit herself to it. In Ephesians 5 Paul shows that it is an earthly picture of Christ’s relationship to His church – where Christ is the captain and the church loves Him. The church is not inferior to Him or His drudge. It is all about roles. Husband and wife are equal in Christ and have certain roles within the marriage and church. Although man and woman are equal in Christ, the woman must not have a role in the church where she has authority over the man (that is the apostolic teaching in 1 Tim 2:12). There is therefore a difference in their roles. The same applies in marriage. Husband and wife are equal in Christ, but have different roles. The wife is not intended to take leadership in the marriage.
But when a Christian wife’s husband is not a believer, it can be tough. The Apostle encourages such a woman not to consider divorce. And that correlates with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 7:13-16.
Peter also encourages such wives not to preach to their husbands. That means to continuously moan and nag about their need to be saved. “Without words” they may be won over, he is saying. He is also not encouraging her to claim her rights. SUBMIT is the exact opposite disposition. Yes, the most powerful evangelism instrument a Christian wife has is her conduct in life. That is what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pen of the Apostle. A consistently God-fearing example in the power of the Holy Spirit MAY (not SHALL) win over the husband for Christ, he is saying. Conduct in life and consequential behaviour speak very loudly and are indisputable. And it can be an instrument in the hand of God.
That in short is the teaching of verses 1-2.
But verses 3-4 sounds like a difficult issue. Read it again.
Is the Holy Spirit saying in these verses that a Christian wife is not allowed to go to a hairdresser, wear pretty clothes and wear no rings or any jewellery? How must we understand this portion of teaching?
No, remember the CONTEXT! The Apostle Peter is talking about the way in which a Christian wife should behave towards her non-Christian husband and how the Lord may win over the husband’s heart. And THAT happens through the wife’s inner beauty and her conduct in life and not through external adornment and beauty (which agrees with 1 Tim 2:9-10). All texts of Scripture must be read within the given context.
Peter is not speaking out AGAINST the outward appearance. He is speaking about WHERE the Christian wife’s focus should be in order to win her husband over for the Lord. And THAT certainly does not happen through her makeup or hairstyle or diamond rings! Those things are not the true beauty which has any value with the living God!
That does not mean that the outward appearance must or should be neglected. It is also important, but the inner heart – that is where the LORD’S eyes see and look. That is where His interest is focused. The HEART is very valuable to Him. Which is of course in line with what we read in Proverbs 31.
The Christian wife is not forbidden to have her hair done or to wear jewellery or fashionable clothing. Outward ornamentation is in any case a cultural issue which differs from place to place. What is acceptable in one culture, is not acceptable in another culture. The Apostle is simply saying that the Christian wife should not define her beauty in outward appearance, not draw unnecessary attention to herself, nor dress and make up in a way which dishonours the Lord and draws the focus of men to herself. The Holy Spirit – who dwells in the true Christian – is a very sensitive Person and must not under any circumstances be grieved. Everything must take place in step with the Spirit and the Word.
If it pleases Him, the Lord can use the wife’s inner beauty to speak to the unsaved husband. The beauty of the inner person is of far greater value than gold, says the Spirit of the Lord. Make-up and a 2 carat diamond ring must be completely overshadowed by inner beauty of modesty, humility and a gentle and quiet spirit. Such things are of great worth in God’s eyes. GREAT value. It is precious to Him. Very special. Also in the case of a husband, this inner spirit is of great worth before God.
It is of course a very hard message to listen to, because we all know that it is far easier to adorn outwardly than to adorn inwardly! Inward transformation takes a lifetime of walking with God, making the most of one’s time, prayer and crucifying of the natural man.
It is not here about MAN’S so-called ability, but about the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit‘s fulfilment and power. The inner beauty that is talked of here is nothing else but the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit which HE produces in the life of one who walks with the Lord!
What the Apostle is actually saying here, is that a Christian wife must daily set herself to submit to the authority of Christ by His Spirit! Stop trying by yourself and surrender! Trust Him! Look up to Him! Expect Him! Hope in Him!
In the 21st century these words of the living God sound foreign. Actually it sounds very strange to the fallen nature and heart of man, even in whatever century! It simply cuts AGAINST the grain of the person who is outside of paradise. But, Jesus said THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE (John 8:32). The truth the Apostle Peter teaches here is that the reborn wife’s inner beauty can be the instrument which God will use to win over the unsaved husband’s heart. And if God says that it is so, then it is so! And it sets free!
Part of it is the submission to the captaincy of the husband in marriage as set out in verses 1-2. In OT-times believing wives did exactly that. For example Sarah who referred to Abraham as her lord and respected his leadership. She did not deride Abraham and ridicule him at the thought that she – at such a great age – would become pregnant. She treated him with respect.
To the Christian wife who is married to an unsaved husband, these instructions can feel frightening and threatening, because to what lengths can such a man not go? Should she now submit herself to the “leadership” of a husband who curses and abuses and draws her into sin or even ill-treats her? The Apostle is saying to those wives: Do not give way to fear or something that could possibly threaten you. Verses 5-6. Do not allow fear to enter. Do NOT follow the husband’s leadership into sin and that which is against the will of God, but do what is right (verse 6).
That is a very important instruction in verse 6. The Christian wife who is married to an unsaved, unrepentant husband who by godless behaviour instils fear and menace, and thereby violates the marriage, must not allow herself to be frightened and threatened and bullied. It is not THEREIN that she continues to follow such a husband’s leadership.
The unsaved husband who is without Christ, knows and realises very well that the believing wife cannot and must not and shall not follow him into godlessness. It is not all wives who have a spiritually devout and pious husband as Sarah had in Abraham!
What Peter is saying is that there must be a main focus of principle in the heart of the saved wife: Namely to obey their husbands and follow their leadership in everything that is not against the Lord. They must not in principle, right from the beginning, be rebellious. It is THIS heartbeat of the wife which the Lord can use to work in the heart of the unsaved husband, because it is a very powerful silent witness!
But – according to Eph 5:21 submission is also the HUSBAND’S privilege in the marriage! Submit to ONE ANOTHER, says the Apostle Paul in that verse. Where both husband and wife (both in-Christ-believers) are SERVANTS in the marriage. To be submissive is so typical of people in whom the Holy Spirit has taken over the steering wheel.
BUT: In the Christian marriage, the husband does not submit to the leadership/captaincy of the wife, because God determined that the HUSBAND must and shall be the captain of the team. Husband and wife therefore were given different roles.
Although the husband is the captain, his responsibility is to submit to the loving duty to take his wife into account concerning everything, be sensitive to her needs, fears and feelings, to step back and put her first in everything. The way the Christian husband takes the lead, is by putting her first. He must therefore put his own needs and feelings UNDER hers – whether she is a Christian or not.
Listen how the Holy Spirit puts it through Peter’s pen: The Christian-believer husband must be responsible and considerate and treat her with respect. That indeed is how Christ feels and behaves towards His church, says Eph 5. And the marriage of believers is an earthly picture of Christ’s relationship with His church, where the church has a continuous need of the heavenly Bridegroom’s provision and protection.
According to Ephesians 5:28 the wife is not spiritually inferior or subordinate to the husband, but she is physically weaker and therefore she has a need for protection and honour.
This Biblical and Godly marriage-relationship is the best kind of relationship which this earthly life can offer to humans – and it is a gracious gift from God – it is not just something thought up by humans or a cultural phenomenon.
Should the believing husband NOT live according to these principles, and his wife must sigh and suffer under his wrongful and unbiblical treatment, his prayers can suffer great harm – says the Apostle – which means that his relationship with the Lord will be harmed by his sinful lifestyle. Prayer represents our relationship to God. Prayer is symbolic of a Christian’s total relationship to God. The Christian husband’s behaviour towards his wife has therefore everything to do with his spiritual life, and his unbiblical behaviour towards his wife will hinder his life with God – without a doubt. This is something we should take careful notice of.
Of everything said in these 7 verses, we can clearly see that God’s standards are not the standards of modern South Africa, and certainly not the standards of the post-modern culture. It shows us how non-Christian ways of thinking and conduct have made inroads into the church, and it helps us to repent and to turn back to the Truth and be better witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Translated by Marthie Wilson