Sometimes we can find ourselves asking, “Why are we reading letters written to people almost 2000 years ago? What does it have to do with me?” But the more we look at the truth written by Peter and others, we more and more find that those principles are timeless. That it was relevant then, and it is relevant now.
In chapter three, there is a word that is often misunderstood. When Peter speaks of “submission” of wives to husbands. Many times it is often misunderstood as a reason to not exemplify women, or as a reason to rule over women. But submission here is to understand an authority structure and we can live out our relationship with God in that structure. We have spoken of this in regards to civilians and government, slaves and masters, and employee and employer.
What this chapter emphasizes about the roles that we each have in live. The life of a husband is one of responsibility and caring. Caring for the land, job, and family. And for wives to submit to husbands as to the Lord. And as Jesus sacrificed himself for the church, husbands are suppose to sacrifice for their wives. Both roles are self sacrificing.
In this passage, it speaks to wives who might be married to unbelieving husbands. That not only by her godly words, but by her godly actions, God will have an inroad to her husband. That the stumbling block of the word (that Peter describes in ) might actually not be needed to reach them if the wife’s actions and behavior is godly.
Peter notes that it is the purity and reverence of the wife’s life as the means in which they will reach their husbands. So many times we see unbelievers scoff godly action as a show or fake. But by day-in and day-out godly behavior, those arguments become void. When they see your real purity and reverence it will begin to impact them.
Here Peter is simply saying that women need to not put their beauty in the outward appearance. What you wear, jewelry, or styles are not real beauty. But it is inward beauty reflecting a gentle and quiet spirit of great worth. This does not mean that women are to not speak or to stay quiet. The word gentle means “strength under control”. But a strong yet under control reflection of a confidence in God.
The difference in the world is that godly women do not want to try to be beautiful to culture. But instead they want to live in the beauty of their relationship between them and God. Not determined by their husband, or culture, but is defined by God.
Peter speaks of past holy women, such as Sarah, who submits to God and let that relationship rule their lives. Sarah had difficult marriage to Abraham, but God protected her as she lived for Him in those situations.
Peter then turns to men as husbands. Husbands are to live our lives with our first thoughts in situations being of our wives. To put our wives first in all things. Husbands are to “respect as the weaker partner”. This rightly says that they are not the weaker, but we are to treat them as such. Not to use them as weaker, but as a precious gift.
Imagine two plates used for meals. One is a common paper plate and the other is fine china. Both are able to hold food and used in meals. But we treat each differently. The fine china is handled with care, used carefully, washed gently, and kept safe. This is how husbands are to treat their wives. As a special vessel of great importance.
But Peter then notes that God will hinder our prayers if we do not treat our wives well. This statement was a shock in the time it was written, because men had become use to treating wives poorly. And today, just as then, we are told that the prayers of men who act unholy towards their wives will hinder their prayers.
So husbands and wives are to live for each other. One flesh in all things.
3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, (ESV)
2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (ESV)
2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (ESV)
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (ESV)
5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (ESV)
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (ESV)