1 Peter #9 1 Peter 3:1-7 Spouse: Advice for Troubled Marriages

1 Peter #9  1 Peter 3:1-7 Spouse: Advice for Troubled Marriages

It was a troubling time to be a believer when Peter wrote to congregations in what today is Modern-Day Turkey.  Because of their new allegiances when they bent their knee to the Lordship of Jesus, Christ's followers were ostracized.  To overcome this prejudice Peter exhorts them to be good citizens and good neighbors.  Win the naysayers over with exemplary conduct. Let your love show. That’s what living a holy life is all about.


Until the world changes do not be surprised if your loving behavior is met with suffering.  Recall Jesus healed people on the Sabbath and was accused of being in league with the devil.  Your loving service to the people in this world may not be well received.  At times it seems as if no good deed goes unpunished.  Unjust suffering is distress brought upon you while doing good, doing what is right, and doing God’s will.  Believers are called to endure unjust suffering, entrusting the entire situation to God, following the example Jesus left for Christians.


In the home, the gods of the patriarch were the gods of the family.  It was expected that every member of the household would pay due diligence to the deity of the father or husband.  This could create some tension in the home if not everyone in the family sincerely followed Jesus, much more so, when the head of the house, rejected this new cult of Christianity.


Peter addresses how to overcome the inevitable difficulties that occur when one spouse is a believer and the other is not.  So if you find yourself in what Paul called an unequally yoked marital situation, chapter 3 verses 1 through 7 offer solid advice on how to deal with believers and non-believers in the same household.


1 Peter 3:1-7 (MSG)

The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated 2 by your life of holy beauty. 3 What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes— 4 but your inner disposition.


Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. 5 The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way and were good, loyal wives to their husbands. 6 Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham, would address him as "my dear husband." You'll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same, unanxious and unintimidated.

7 The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don't run aground.


“That same goes for you wives.”  What goes?  What goes is the same advice Peter gives to slaves.  Live an exemplary life, and endure unjust suffering.  Unjust suffering is doing good resulting in some kind of punishment.  Before we look into the first century you need to know that is not a command for wives to allow themselves to be abused by their husbands.  Physical and emotional abuse in any form is not following God’s will.  Abuse in all its forms is not to be tolerated within the family of God. Peter’s instruction is to help wives with unbelieving husbands and husbands with unbelieving wives win their spouse to Christ.

“In the first century Roman Empire, the family stood on a patriarchal system.  The husband was to be the head of the household and the primary decision-maker. He was also responsible for the financial well-being of the household and the education and upbringing of the children. The wife's role was to manage the household, raise the children, and support her husband's decisions. The husband had legal control over the wife and children, including the power to divorce and sell them into slavery. The relationship was typically one of male dominance, with the husband having more power and authority than the wife” (AI, Jan 2023). The gods of the patriarch are the gods of the family.  What the father believed the family was expected to believe.

If a wife became a believer that situation had the potential of creating a lot of tension in the home. Peter tells the wife how to defuse this tension avoiding unnecessary conflict (Powers p.105). “Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. Captivate your husband by your life of holy beauty, with your inner disposition.”  “It is by the silent preaching of the loveliness of her life that she must break down the barriers of prejudice and hostility, and win her husband for her new Master” (Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT). Love is hard to argue against. You know that when it comes to human relationships, love is seeking to meet their need at the cost of personal sacrifice.  This love is selfless and Christ-full.   The husband that won't obey the Word of God is won without a word of God. 


Peter writes “What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes…” This is an interesting observation that seems to have transcended time.  Lucius Valerius Datus was a Roman politician, and governor of Roman-occupied Egypt, he wrote: “Why should men grudge women their ornaments and their dress? Women cannot hold public offices, or priesthoods, or gain triumphs; they have no public occupations. What, then, can they do but devote their time to adornment and to dress?" (Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT).  Commenting on Datus’ opinion William Barclay wrote:  “Undue interest in self-adornment was then, as it still is, a sign that the person who indulged in it had no greater things to occupy her mind” (Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT).  There is nothing wrong with dressing for success, it's overindulgence, the preoccupation with outward beauty, making the image the priority, that is called into question.  Believing wives are not going to seduce their unbelieving husbands out of conflict. 


Peter’s instruction is not a call to dowdiness. There is no Christian dress code here. Rather believing wives let the inner beauty of an exemplary life shine through into beautiful behavior. True beauty comes from within, from the hidden part of the human heart, outward appearance is not a trustworthy gauge of true beauty (Powers 107). 


Three behaviors radiate inward beauty: gentleness, a quiet spirit, and submission.  A gentle inner attitude is not selfishly assertive, but rather is considerate of, in this case, considerate of her husband.  A quiet inner attitude is one that calmly bears disturbances and refuses to create them, such a spirit refuses to engage in drama.  A submissive inner attitude requires a little more explanation. Sarah, the wife of Abraham is emphasized as an example of submission.  Submission is about respect, it is not about being a doormat or allowing yourself to be mistreated.  In marriage, the wife will have her own opinions and concerns that are often different from her husband’s.  She sees things through the feminine.  To submit means that she expresses her different viewpoints and gives her advice, or even argues a point but she does so respectfully.   Make no mistake, the feminine is as strong and valiant as the masculine. Sarah obeyed Abraham’s decisions in that she submitted to what Abraham thought best and then trusted God to see them through “in uncertain, unpleasant, and even dangerous situations” ( Grudem p.141).  The story in Genesis 20 tells of a bad decision made by Abraham and how Sarah was protected by God from the consequences. 


I have brilliant ideas all the time.  Incredibly wise decisions are just what I do.  Sherri will tell me “Mike that is a great solution,” and she will highlight the superb in my plan.  Then she’ll add, but have you considered, and suddenly I feel compelled to amend my proposal or strategy.  Seldom has she said, “that’s the stupidest idea in history.”   If she states her case but I’m sticking with my position she says, “go ahead do whatever you think” which is “women speak” for “you’re going to regret this.”  The reason that I have discerned for the wife to be submissive, not docile, not subservient, is because, within the Kingdom economy, God holds the male accountable for the family’s well-being while seeing husband and wife as equal partners. Again, what is meant by this exhortation for wives to be submissive is that God holds the husband accountable, the designated head of the house.  The submissive wife states her ideas, beliefs, and concerns, and then entrusts God with the outcome.  Sherri has told me from time to time, “I can’t wait to see how God gets you out of this one.”


In a patriarchal male-dominated culture what Peter has written is counterculture.  With few exceptions, under the law, women were considered property.  The wife had to accept the religion of her husband.  In Christ, the wife has the personal freedom to make her own decisions concerning the faith.  If she decided to be a Christ follower, and that decision met with her husband's opposition, she was to demonstrate that being a Christian made her a better wife than she was before.


One of the reasons Peter has written is to assure gentile Christians that they are included in God’s promises to Abraham.  That assurance is given once again by writing: believing wives are Sarah’s children when they live exemplary lives.  As wives live as daughters of Abraham they are empowered to do so without anxiety and fear of their unbelieving husbands. Living out the faith creates an environment that is conducive to facilitating the conversion of their pagan spouse.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this will happen. 


Having instructed believing wives Peter now turns his attention to believing husbands. Verse 7: “The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don't run aground.”


What goes the same for husbands? What goes is the same advice Peter gives to slaves and wives:   Live an exemplary life.  Remember a wife was expected to adopt the religion of her husband, so if the husband converted, the whole family converted (John 4:53; Acts 16:31, 18:8). This might have been difficult for the pagan wife.  We hear stories about pastors’ kids being dragged to church as soon as they can leave the church all because they didn’t get to choose if they would participate or not.  We can imagine similar situations if you were forced to believe something that you didn’t.  But people respond positively to love.  So the believing husband was to honor and cherish his wife, engaging in behavior that demonstrates his love for her.  In the culture husbands and wives were not equal. When Peter writes that in Christ, they are equal, that also would be a revolutionary thought.  “The superior status of men in secular society does not carry over into the Christian community.  God considers men and women as equals (Mark 12:25; Galatians 3:2)” (Powers p. 111).  She is not inferior in any way, not personally or spiritually.  The husband is to elevate his wife, creating an environment in which she learns that she is not property, but rather a precious individual, that her contributions to him and her family are indispensable, that she has worth because of who she is, and that she is a priority in her husband’s life.  One of the tools for doing this is the husband being understanding, empathic, and considerate of her feelings.  A Christian husband has the responsibility of knowing his wife, her hopes, her dreams, her joys, and her fears. This is a husband’s love, seeking to meet the need of his wife at the cost of a personal sacrifice, call it unselfish devotion.  In the Kingdom economy what goes on inside the home is the man’s responsibility, intimacy, encouragement, romance, laughter, and devotion to God are his to establish and grow.   He is to provide, protect, nurture, and love.  This is how a husband lives an exemplary life for his wife.  If he does not, he handicaps his faith, and his relationship with God, resulting in hindered prayers, and the marital relationship deteriorates.  This is exactly the opposite of what God wants for you and your spouse.


Peter is helping us understand what it means to live an exemplary life, a life of holiness in the home. Wives submit.  We can also say it this way:  “Wives respect.” Husbands honor. We can also say it this way” “Husbands love.” Putting respect and love, submission, and honoring into practice is to live an exemplary life in the private sector, and in the family, this is how you live a holy life within the home.  It’s living the yes, living that bent knee to the Lordship of Jesus, it’s being a disciple. Marriages have turned from disaster to delight when spouses are determined to do the will of God.  It is God’s will that your marriage honors Him.  God empowers you to do His will.   It’s your choice to do so.  


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