Read the Passage: 1 Peter 3:1-12
Guidelines for Wives (3:1–6)
Submission is a concept that is incorporated into the dynamics of every human relationship, including: the state/citizen relationship, the employer/employee relationship, the slave/master relationship, the pastor/layman relationship, the parent/child relationship, the husband/wife relationship, and the God/believer relationship. After discussing the state/citizen relationship and the slave/master relationship in 1 Pet. 2:13–25, Peter turns to the husband/wife relationship in 1 Pet. 3:1–7. Perhaps surprisingly, in addressing the relationship between a believing wife and an unbelieving husband—that is, one who “does not obey the word” (1 Pet. 3:1)—Peter commands submission, noting that such action may result in the salvation of lost husbands when they “observe your chaste conduct accompanies by fear” (1 Pet. 3:2).
In 1 Pet. 3:3–4 the apostle notes how a submissive wife could lead her husband to salvation “without a word” (1 Pet. 3:1), that is, “with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). The thought here is that there is something inherently attractive and Christ-like in submission. Therefore, Peter urges his female readers to not spend too much time cultivating external beauty (i.e., “arranging of the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel” [1 Pet. 3:3]), but rather to work on the internal. Peter’s command is very similar to Paul’s in his letter to Timothy, “I desire that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness, with good works” (1 Tim. 2:9–10).
In 1 Pet. 3:5–6 the apostle appeals to the historical example of “the holy women who trusted in God” (1 Pet. 3:5). Specifically, Peter mentions Sarah. The apostle’s point here is not that Abraham and the other husbands of the holy women were unbelievers; rather, Peter is noting that if submission was displayed by those who were married to godly men such as the patriarchs, how much more Christ-like will it be for women who are married to unbelieving husbands to manifest submission. Peter’s argument may seem counter-intuitive, as it is one from lesser to greater. Here Peter also notes that wives should not be “afraid with any terror” (1 Pet. 3:6) regarding submission. Of course, submission does not extend to a husband trying to coerce his wife to sin, a husband keeping his wife from righteousness, or a husband harming or abusing his wife in any manner whatsoever. Note that submission is mainly an attitude.
Guidelines for Husbands (3:7)
After addressing the role of wives in 1 Pet. 3:1–6, logically Peter moved on in 1 Pet. 3:7 to address the role of husbands. Contextually, Peter is probably addressing believing husbands who are married to unbelieving wives, as this is the compliment to the context of 1 Pet. 3:1–6. Peter writes that just as a believing wife was to submit to her unbelieving husband, so a believing husband was to give honor to the unbelieving wife—that is, he is to lead, to provide for, and to protect his wife. Indeed, Peter notes that to fail to do so would mean that his prayers—likely to be understood as prayers for the salvation of his wife—would be hindered. This is not to be understood as some type of divine curse, but of the husband undercutting his own prayers by his actions. The gender roles that Christ has made us to fulfill are tied to our flourishing or lack of flourishing, for God makes us to do what He tell us to do.
Guidelines for All (3:8–12)
In 1 Pet. 3:8–12 Peter leaves his discussion of marriage and gives instructions to all of his readers, namely the church. Here the apostle writes, “All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:8–9). Peter then goes on to quote Ps. 34:12–16, from the Septuagint, in support of this directive. The grand theme here is that when we fulfill the roles God has given to us, things will go well for all. Christians are told to cultivate a loving heart (3:8), to not retaliate but to bless (3:9), to refrain from deceit (3:10), and to shun evil and seek peace (3:11). The one who exhibits such character will have their prayers heard by the Lord (3:12).
- Why are the topics of submission and suffering often avoided, and even viewed as being unbiblical, in many churches?
- How can a wife’s submission lead to the salvation of her husband? How important is the institution of marriage for God’s unfolding plan?
- What are the implications of Peter’s command regarding a female’s outward appearance? Do most women, even Christian women, follow these guidelines?
- What does Peter mean in warning husbands that their prayers might be hindered if they fail to honor their wives?
- How can believers manifest the unity Peter call for in 1 Pet. 3:8–12, even with difficult brethren?