Peter’s focus in this section is to explore how chapter 2:11-12 is lived out. Peter’s hope is that we will live out our faithfulness for the watching world to see God’s character and that it would even bring some to faith. One of the arenas this is lived out is in our marriage relationships, which is why Peter focuses on wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6 and then husbands in 3:7. This week we will focus on Peter’s encouragement to wives.
1. Read 1 Peter 3:1-6 a few times. Write down 10-15 observations from the passage (example: who he is talking to, contrasts he makes and important word choices).
Talking about submission, even in marriage, is a very difficult concept for us today. Let’s observe a few things from the passage before we move on…
- First, look at verse 1, Peter calls wives to submit to their own husbands and not to just any or all men, and to do so voluntarily.
- Notice, how Peter uses the word “conduct” in verse 2; this is one of the words Peter uses to talk about our transformed life in Christ so he is focusing on living our faithfulness to God as a means of our submission to a husband’s leadership.
- Peter also focuses on uplifting the position of women in society. He does this first by highlighting that a woman’s worth is not in her outward appearance and second by pointing to their equality in their personhood by focusing on their inner being (3:3-4).
- Finally, notice that a wife’s submission to her husband’s leadership is not for her husband’s sake or the sake of others but for God’s. We see that in the word “respectful” (3:2, ESV) which is actually the Greek word for “fear”. Fear is a term that Peter only uses to describe out relationship with God in his letter.
- To summarize, Peter is calling wives to an attitude of following and respecting their husband’s leadership for the Lord’s sake, not because of inferiority, but as a way to model God’s character and faithfulness.
2. Read Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul adds some insight for us into what kind of submission Peter is talking about here. Paul tells us that our marriage relationships actually model the gospel and theologically we submit or lead as a way to represent Christ and the church. If husbands represent Christ, how should their leadership look like? If wives represent the church, how does their “followership” look? Do you think a marriage where the husband is leading like Christ and the wife is following like the church would look beautiful and compelling to the watching world? Do you think there would be a lot of conflict in that kind of marriage? Do you think that “submission” would be easy or difficult when the husband is leading like Christ?
Yet, Peter is not describing this situation is he?*
3. Re-read 1 Peter 3:1. What is the specific context Peter is calling wives to submit in?
(Note “obeying the word” could mean that they are not believers, or it could mean they are disobedient and in sin by not living out the gospel in their homes. Either way it describes a difficult situation for Christian wives).
4. What is Peter’s encouragement for wives in this situation?
On paper, this passage could seem repressive compared to our cultural standards, but in Peter’s time and place he actually uplifts women and at the same time focuses on the power of godly character.
5. Look at 1 Peter 3:3-4. What are the two types of adornment Peter describes? Which one do you think was more valued in the Roman Empire?
6. Peter describes a situation where outward beauty, fancy hair, expensive clothing and jewelry were the measure of one’s value. Do you feel like there is a temptation in our culture to focus on those things as a means for women to find their value and worth?
(Note, that depending on which statistics you look at on average American women spend $8 a day on facial products. But take heart, Californians, you’re among the thriftiest and quickest at $5 a day and an average of 3 minutes to get ready.)
7. Peter is not telling Christian wives to look frumpy and not care about their appearance, but he is calling Christians wives to consider where they’re investing their energies. Are they adorning things that moth and rust destroy or to invest in internal adornment of a gentle and quiet (literally “well-ordered” or “restful”) spirit. How does this uplift the dignity of women?
It seems like one temptation in a 1 Peter 3:1 marriage will be to find one’s value in outward appearance and maybe even invest your energies there to try to fix things or find your value. Peter instead corrects Christian wives and reminds them of the power of a transformed heart and life (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).
8. Imagine a tense marriage scenario where the husband is unbelieving or disobedient to God’s word in his relationship to his wife. How would living out these verses demonstrate the gospel and be disarming of the tension in the marriage?
9. Read 1 Peter 3:5-6. Peter uses Sarah as an example of a wife who submitted to her husband and followed his leadership even when things seemed crazy… like leaving your homeland and clinging to a promise of having a son in your old age. The reference to Sarah calling Abraham “Lord” points to this. In Genesis 18:12, Sarah heard the angel’s promise of the birth of Isaac and laughed at the audacity of it. In one moment she calls Abraham “Lord” and in the next breath “old”. If you read through the story of Sarah and Abraham you see this interplay of them imperfectly clinging to God’s promise and Sarah following her husband’s leadership as they follow God.
According to verse 5, where should Christian wives put their hope?
How would a wife in the 1 Peter 3:1 situation be tempted to put their hope in their husband over God? What are some of negative consequences of that misplaced hope?
Join us Sunday August 19 at 9:00 or 10:45 as we explore this passage as a church.
*in no way does this passage condone any sort of verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse in marriage. Submission is not a call to abuse. Please reach out to any of our staff, pastors or elders if you are being harmed. Likewise, the church has free marriage counseling and resources and we’d love to help you walk with Christ in growing in your marriage.