Passage – 1 Peter 3:1-7
On the occasion of their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1997, the Queen said this of Prince Philip- “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.” Who would have thought at the time that they’d have another 23 years of marriage! In celebrating the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, it’s impossible to ignore the example that he and Her Majesty set to us all in marriage. As an institution however, marriage is in decline. In 1940, 471,000 marriages took place in the UK and in 2016 the figure was 243,000. Couples are also tying the knot later in life. In 1958, the average age of men marrying was 22.6 and women 20.2. By 2018, the average age was almost 30 and 28 respectively. Marriage has also been redefined by our culture with traditional roles jettisoned. In addition, same-sex marriage is now accepted as the norm by many. This week we turn to Peter’s first letter to see what God has to say about marriage. Although culturally out of sync, we’ll see that marriage is more spiritual than we think.
Wives submit to your husbands for the sake of their salvation (v1-6)
“Wives, in the same way” (as Christ) “be submissive to your husbands”. This isn’t very 21stC, but it was the norm in Peter’s day. His was a culture that didn’t respect women like ours does and the husband would often have ruled the family with an iron fist. In Creation (Gen 2) and in the New Testament (1 Tim 2; 1 Cor 11) we read of the husband as the leader and the wife as his helper. This may not be popular, but it is God’s order for marriage. There is a purpose for a wife’s submission- “so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives.”(v1) In Roman culture, the faith of the husband would’ve been the faith of the household. It seems that many women had become Christians and were courageously living out their faith in a household that was hostile. Her submission to her husband is ultimately for his salvation. That hoped-for conversion wouldn’t come about by her preaching, but her Godly behaviour. Look at v2-4. “when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”In Roman culture (like ours) great emphasis was placed on outward appearance, but Peter says that this should not be the case. It’s the inner beauty that’ll have the most impact upon an unbelieving husband. A gentle and quiet spirit suggests not being bad tempered or quarrelsome; restless and demanding; not picking faults and fights. “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”The behaviour Peter highlights is not that of calling your husband ‘master’ like Sarah, but rather by being submissive. An unbelieving husband may give his Christian wife a hard time for her faith in Christ but she models her love for Christ by continuing to submit to him. Application- Firstly, to those women who aren’t married. The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is always to be sought above outward appearance as it puts Christ on display for all to see. Secondly, to those women who are in an abusive marriage. Peter isn’t saying, because of Christ, you’re to just hang in there. These situations require deeper counsel and I would advise you seek God’s counsel with trusted members of your church.Lastly, to those women who are married to men who don’t believe in Christ, we pray that your husband sees your Godly behaviour and deep within there’s a conviction that this is right and the Gospel is true. Marriage is more spiritual than we think, as it can impact a person’s eternal destiny.
Husbands care for your wives for the sake of your walk with God (v7).
There are six verses addressed to wives and only one to husbands, but what Peter says to husbands is even more counter cultural. The #MeToo campaign of a few years ago exposed the abusive sexual behaviour of many men. What was exposed was truly awful, but it was not a new thing. In Peter’s day it was sadly commonplace for a husband to be abusive towards his wife. This is the backdrop to Peter’s instruction. “Husbands, in the same way (as Christ) be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect”.That is radically different behaviour than most other men in society. To be “considerate” means to have knowledge of your wife, or as we say, know how she ticks. The husband is also to treat his wife “with respect”, which means tohonour her. Peter then gives two reasons why? Firstly, because they are “the weaker partner” by which he simply means weaker physically and not in any other way. Secondly, because they’re “heirs with you of the gracious gift of life”. A husband and wife are assigned different roles in marriage by God, but they’re equal before God. She is his sister in Christ, and he’s to encourage her in her walk with the Lord. Peter then gives the purpose for this Godly conduct of the husband- “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”Marriage is more spiritual than we think, in that marriage reflects the health of a person’s walk with God. Husbands, if you desire a close relationship with God then cherish your wife; look after her; treat her with honour. Sadly, I’ve witnessed Christian husbands who are doctrinally sound but spiritually abusive towards their wives. That man, for all his outward appearances, is not enjoying a close walk with the Lord, because the Lord is metaphorically putting his hands over his ears and saying to him as he prays- I’m not listening! Application. Firstly,to those men who are not married. The Godly way to treat all women is with consideration and respect. If she is a fellow Christian, then you need to keep in mind that she is also your sister in Christ. If you are attracted to her, you must treat her with absolute purity. Secondly,if you have treated your wife abusively (physically, emotionally, economically, psychologically, spiritually) and not cared for her like you should have done, the sooner you face up to this the better. It will have damaged your family and hampered your walk with God. Lastly, the leadership role that God has assigned to men in the family, is something that we’re to take very seriously. One of the best bits of advice I was given once about marriage was this- Good leaders are good listeners! God has given our wives great wisdom and we must listen to them.