This sermon is really Part 3 of a series on submission or “being subject to” someone. And, for those of you with chapter subtitles in your Bible you can see that it has to do with husbands and wives. Here in Chapter 3, we are told to look back to the example set by Christ by:
- Putting ourselves under submission to authorities as this is the will of God.
- Looking to Jesus as our perfect example to follow/imitate.
- Entrusting ourselves completely to Our Heavenly Father, just like Jesus did.
Peter is taking these principles and the example of Jesus, pushing them into the corners of all our relationships — particularly the most thorny ones. And, the thorniest of our relationships tend to be with the people we spend the most time together. It makes sense, as we consider that surely these people should know us and know our needs…but somehow they fail too in meeting all our expectations.
For both husbands and wives, Peter begins his exhortation with “likewise”, which means that both the wife and husband are under the same authority and are supposed to follow the same example. Husbands and wives are NOT different from this perspective. And, as this section, closes in verse 7, Peter emphasizes that the man and woman are joint heirs in Christ. The glorious inheritance that Peter has talked about earlier is the same for both. The salvation is the same for both. As Paul says in his letter to the Galatians 3:28, in Christ there is neither male nor female in this regard.
At the same time, the “likewise” is followed by two very different sets of commands. The wife is exhorted to be subject to her husband and the husband is commanded to live with understanding and honor his wife. Like Paul’s words to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5, the commands are tailored to each based on their role in the marriage.
To the wives, Peter says that if you submit to your husband you are positioning yourself to expect God to work in your husband’s heart. Similarly, husbands are exhorted that if they live with their wives with understanding, their prayers will not be hindered. God’s commands always come with promises.
Wives, be submissive to your husbands
Here Peter’s command for submission is limited by the possessive pronoun “their”. This means that the wife is only commanded to be submissive to her husband not men in general. When you married, you did so complete with public vows. And, if it was a Christian wedding, those vows would have included a promise to obey. Now for those young ladies considering marriage, this should be an admonition to choose wisely a man who you respect (better yet, one your parents also respect!). It will make obeying this command a joy.
Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
The emphasis on the heart over external adornment is strengthened as Peter continues with this verse. There is an aspect of our obedience that can be partially hidden. I say partially, because it is hardly possible to disguise ‘feelings’ of antipathy from getting onto the surface somehow. Nothing looks worse than a forced smile covering a heart full of hatred. This is where we get terms like “giving lip service” instead of heart obedience. We don’t want this in our kids, and God doesn’t want it in us.
So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
The Scriptures point out several narrative interactions that we can look at. We see in these excerpts, Sarah obeying Abraham in his a simple and foolish commands. At the same time we see Sarah making her mind known to Abraham. My point here is not to draw specific commands for the wives of our generation, but to highlight what Peter exhorts — namely to consider Sarah and women like her as models to imitate. This is more of an orientation an allegiance than something that can be bottled up in a specific list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. If you are “aiming” to model Christ, and are seeking to walk as Jesus walked. The pattern to trace, to follow, is to call your husband “Lord” like Sarah. And, the heart attitude covering this pattern is joy.
Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives.
The term “considerately”, means that the husband should live with ‘understanding’ with his wife. He must learn what her needs are and then provide for those needs. Given the differences and complexity of the sexes, he will a lifetime of learning, but that doesn’t mean he has time to fritter away. He can get a lot done early by working at it. Think of the 80/20 rule. This message is not to point to every detail but to say — get after it. Many good books are out there. You’re the man. Take the initiative to pick one up and read it together with her — don’t wait to stumble over the books she leaves in your way hoping to get your attention.
Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” As Christians, our failures need not remain chains halting our progress. If you are not doing or have not been doing what Peter exhorts in this passage, you can leave the chains of sin and guilt behind. You can go on without losing enthusiasm. Confess your failure and repent (turn) to God for grace. This act of humility is where God will meet you and lift you up.