1 Peter 3:1-7 Christian Marriage
The story is told of two women who escaped from prison. They were running, and of course, when the guards discovered that they had escaped, they went after them with dogs to follow their scent and to track them down. The two women heard the barking in the distance and knew the guards and dogs were closing in. Panicking and needing to do something, the first lady decided to climb a tree and hide. The second lady decided to follow her lead and she climbed a tree located about fifty feet away.
The dogs arrived and picked up the scent at the first tree. They began to jump up on the tree and bark loudly. The first lady up the tree was of course panicking because she had been located, but ingeniously, she began to make cooing sounds: “Coo, coo, coo.” The prison guard jerked the dog back from the tree and said, “Come on, let’s go, it’s nothing but a dumb bird up there.” She had deflected the dog.
When the guards and the dogs arrived at the second tree, they picked up the scent of the second woman. Now, the second woman heard what the first woman had done. So she began to think, “What sound can I make to throw off the scent of the dogs?” She thought for a minute as the dogs jumped on the tree and then it hit her. She said, “Moo, moo, moo.” Cows don’t live in trees.
When you’re confused on your role, you wind up making the wrong noise, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. A lot of women are making a lot of noise complaining about their husbands and complaining about what’s wrong with their man, when they have forsaken and neglected their biblical roles. They are mooing when they ought to be cooing.1
We are going to talk about Christian marriage. It isn’t just about the role of women. In Ephesians 5, Paul speaks three times to the husband and one time to the wife. In 1 Peter 3, Peter speaks three times to the wife and one time to the husband. In context, these newly converted women were still married to men who were not Christians. How does a Christian wife live out a Christian marriage to those who do not know Christ? Here, there are three credentials which Christian wives show in a Christian marriage
CREDENTIALS OF A CHRISTIAN WIFE
A wife’s conduct:
“In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.” (1 Peter 3:1-2, HCSB)
Peter shows the way to win the husband both negatively and positively. Negatively, it is without the word, meaning “not with verbal pleas.” In other words, the wife should not spend her time preaching to her husband; she is not to have her very own pulpit ministry in the home. But positively, husbands must be gained [or won] by the behavior of their wives. It is the wife’s actions (her behavior) not her words that will ultimately win him to the Lord—if he is to be won.2
While it is true that the salvation comes by hearing the gospel, John Calvin makes an interesting point about a wife’s conduct:
Peter’s words are not to be so understood as though a holy life alone could lead the unbelieving to Christ, but that it softens and pacifies their minds, so that they might have less dislike to religion; for as bad examples create offenses, so good ones afford no small help. Then Peter shows that wives by a holy and pious life could do so much as to prepare their husbands, without speaking to them on religion, to embrace the faith of Christ.3
A wife’s character:
“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” (1 Peter 3:3-4, HCSB)
The Greek word translated “adorn” is kosmos, which means “ordered universe,” and from which we get our word “cosmetic,” so here Peter is speaking of an order not of the outward appearance, but an order in the inner person. “Don’t make clothes, jewelry, or the way you fix your hair the center of your universe or your top priority,” says Peter. If you do, you’re missing God’s best for you.4
Christian character is revealed by how you present yourself, not by what you wear. It is not the outside as much as the inside that counts. Peter is making less of a fashion statement and more about a faith statement.
A wife’s coaching:
On television today, you have a variety of reality contest shows that have three elements: (1) the contestants, (2) the judges, and (3) the mentors. On The Voice on NBC, the judges pick their contestants, then they put them against each other. As they go through a process of elimination, they are mentored by the judges and an outside musical personality – this musician is like a coach – someone the contestants look up to.
Other shows follow this format: Project Runway, which has been on for quite some time uses a similar format. Recently, Fashion Star was on NBC with an ingenious twist. You had the judges and the mentors. The judges offered money for your clothing line and if you won, the clothing line went on sale that night. Ingenious idea. Other shows include The Face, Top Chef, Restaurant Impossible. In just about any genre of television, you can find this format being used.
The point is that the mentors help the contestants to win. They don’t judge them. They help them. In the same way, we need women who are willing to help wives make it in a Christian marriage, just like the “holy women” in the past, and just like Sarah.
“For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming.” (1 Peter 3:5-6, HCSB)
Peter also pointed to Sarah as a model for Christian wives to follow. To be sure, Sarah was not perfect; but she proved to be a good helpmeet to Abraham, and she is one of the few women named in Hebrews 11.5
The story is pertinent because in reaching back to this particular event, Peter is saying that Sarah called Abraham “lord” at the very point she was having a hard time believing his vision. How needed is the submissive spirit of Sarah today. The wife who hears the vision, the dream, the call of her husband, is tempted to say, “No way. You’re too old. You’re untrained. You’re not qualified enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not skilled enough. Forget it!”6
Christian women need to look to Godly Christian women in their lives who teach them how to live out a Christian marriage. Today, we have very few Christian female coaches helping women to learn how to submit to a husband who may seem less spiritual then themselves. Wives have examples from the Scriptures who can teach them about how to live as a Godly wife. Wives should also have Godly women who can help coach them to love and live in a Christian marriage.
“Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, HCSB)
In this section, Peter reminds the husbands that the way they treat their wives affects their spiritual life. Here are three commitments which the husband provides the wife.
COMMITMENTS OF A CHRISTIAN HUSBAND
As Peter wrote to the Christian husbands, he reminded them of four areas of responsibility in their relationship with their mates: (1) physical, (2) intellectual, (3) emotional, and (4) spiritual.
A husband’s courtship:
“Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives…” (1 Peter 3:7, HCSB)
The husband’s first commitment is the physical commitment. He is expected to court his wife. Courting doesn’t end with dating. This continues through the rest of life. Husbands are expected to physically live with their wife.
A husband’s care:
“Husbands…with an understanding of their weaker nature…” (1 Peter 3:7, HCSB)
The husband’s second responsibility in a Christian marriage is to care for his wife. This is the intellectual responsibility. She is a precious person, who God has given to the husband’s care. She is weak in that God says that she needs to the help of the husband. The word woman here is where we get our gynecologist, and it means that this particular weakness was a woman’s weakness. Instead of abusing that weakness, husbands are expected to compensate for that weakness and help the wife. That takes getting to know the person.
In my premarital counseling as a pastor, I often gave the couple pads of paper and asked them to write down the three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually, the prospective bride made her list immediately; the man would sit and ponder. And usually the girl was right but the man wrong! 7
A husband’s courtesy:
“Husbands…yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life…” (1 Peter 3:7, HCSB)
The third responsibility of a husband in a Christian marriage according to these verses is to give the wife courtesy or honor. This is where the husband fulfills the emotional needs of the wife. In Ephesians 5, husbands are told to love the wives and wives are told to respect the husband. Here, Peter says that women are to show their love by their conduct and character and husbands are told to honor or respect his wife. The reason is because they are co-heirs. They are equal partners in the Christian life. In a Christian marriage, two become one. One doesn’t rule over the other. One doesn’t overbear the other. Two become equally one. It is a point of courtesy which the husband must give to the wife. Yes, the husband has the role of leading the wife. He is in one sense the head of the household. But good Christian husbands don’t have to prove that they are the head of the household. All they have to do is give honor to the wife and other people will notice who leads the home.
A husbands’s call:
“Husbands…so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, HCSB)
The fourth and final responsibility of a husband in a Christian marriage is the spiritual responsibility. This verse reveals the interrelated connectedness between the spiritual and the relational. If I as a Christian husband develop the relationship with my wife, God will look down on me with favor and answer my prayers. When I am not treating my wife properly, God turns His ear away from my petitions. That is a very powerful image for us to be reminded as husbands. We need to take our Christian marriage seriously.
1 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More Than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 342–343.
2 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 352.
3 John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 95–96.
4 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1560.
5 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 408.
6 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1561.
7 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 410.