Getting submission right — 1 Peter 3:1-3
by John Ditty Sunday School Lesson
There are two words that can strike terror into hearts of preachers across our land. Yet for all who say God has called them to a lifetime of preaching these two words must be addressed.
You’re wondering what these words are, aren’t you? How could two simple words cause restlessness nights and sweaty palms?
In a word: response.
It is not the words that cause the angst but the possible reaction on the part of those who hear them. Still wondering what the words are? Well here they are in all their dread and danger…tithe and submit. It’s scary just typing them.
Of course the above thoughts are all in jest. On the other hand, these words can cause some consternation on behalf of the one presenting them whether to a small group or a large congregation. Why is this? Perhaps it is because both words hit us at points of conflict in our lives. One has to do with money, the other with relationships and both with selfishness versus selflessness.
In this study of 1 Peter, the apostle does not touch on the former but has much to say about the latter. Peter spends almost half of his words talking of the topic of getting along with others in ways that honor Christ. He has written of a Christian’s relationship with God, other believers, the government, their employer, and in this study, his or her spouse.
As you read 1 Peter 3:1-7, listen for the hot button that when pushed will often heat up a conversation. Here’s what the Lord has to say as passed on through the apostle: “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, 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. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
Let’s glean three challenges from these seven verses. The first two build upon the word submit. Remember this word describes “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, and carrying a burden.” Here Peter is addressing wives and here is when the word takes on its scary side.
Submit itself is not scary but the sometimes confrontational response can be. The word doesn’t fit will in a culture that values individualism and personal goals and achievements over against team work and the betterment of others; again the difference between selfish and selfless.
The first challenge has a powerful motivation behind it. Why should a wife voluntarily give in, cooperate and allow her husband to lead? Peter says it is a witness in actions that may bring a non-believing husband to faith in Christ. What could be more important than to have the one she loves most come to know the One who changes eternity?
Christ was willing to give His life for so humanity could have a chance to live theirs with God. Surely a wife could give up control or the desire to be the leader in order for her husband to see Christ in her and desire to have Christ in him (vv.1-2). Peter writes that this is a better way to change a husband so he will treat his wife as she should be treated. It will work better than trying to win him over with her outward beauty (vv.3-4).
The second challenge, again directed to the wife, is to submit to her husband for this is pleasing to God (vv.4 and 6). One of the strongest desires of a Christian must be to act in ways that please the Lord. God sees great value in a woman whose spirit is “gentle and quiet.”
He knows that these attributes are effective in introducing other to Jesus. God says that the wife who lives this way is His honored servant just Sarah was.
It is at this point a wife may remind the preacher of the codger she is married to. To this, God reminds her of Abraham and Sarah. Wives, take some time to study this couple. In so doing you will find that Abraham may not have been the easiest man to live with.
He was always on the move, sometimes didn’t claim his wife as his wife, asked her to lie to keep him alive, and even had another woman. But she honored her husband and the world is still talking about Sarah and her faith. Wife how does that compare with your situation?
The third challenge is for husbands. Simply put, “Husband, cherish your wife.” Peter calls her a weaker partner meaning she needs her husband to protect her from being broken, as one protects a fragile, priceless heirloom. The husband must put himself between his wife and danger.
He must be willing to die so she can live. He must see her as the wonderful gift from God that she is. If he does not, then his relationship with God is wrong (v.7).
Husband, if you treat your wife in this way do you suppose it makes it much easier for her to honor God by treating you the right way. And isn’t this the goal of Christian husband, to aid his wife to be the best believer that she can be?
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