Peter… Regarding Wives and Husbands

23 Dec

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Peter spent considerably more time writing about the expected behavior of wives (1Peter 3:1-6) than he did for husbands (1Peter 3:7). Why would he do that? It was probably because women were in a more vulnerable position than men. In Roman life it was expected that women adopt the religion of their husbands. If a believing wife’s husband was an unbeliever, it would be quite a peculiarity in their society, if she didn’t embrace his religion. Even pagan wives were expected to adopt the Christian faith, if her husband was Christian (cf. Acts 16:30-33), because that was the custom. Therefore, the believing wife in an unbelieving household needed more care in Peter’s epistle. She needed to be encouraged in a manner that gave her peace over what she had done, versus what she was expected to do.[1]

Peter pointed to the women patriarchs, particularly Sarah, as examples for believing women of the 1st century AD who had unbelieving husbands. In Genesis 18:12 Sarah refers to Abraham as lord. While I don’t believe Sarah’s manner was to address Abraham as “My lord”, I do think Sarah referred to Abraham as the head of his household in the same manner as we sometimes today say a man’s home is his castle. The term lord had as much to do with Abraham being the protector of his household as the master of it. He went to war to protect his family, made treaties with powerful men, moved from one area to another, left the house of his father etc. all for the sake of his family. Sarah knew this and respected Abraham for doing so, and embraced the life he provided for her.

Sarah’s submission to Abraham also placed her in danger from time to time (Genesis 12:13-15; 20:2), just as might occur to a believing wife having an unbelieving husband in the 1st century AD. However, Sarah left her cause in the hands of God who delivered her from those who took her as a possession (Genesis 12:17, 20; 20:3, 14), and believing wives of the 1st century AD could expect the same of God, as long as their fear of how their husbands might take advantage of their submissive behavior (1Peter 3:6). Allowing oneself to be vulnerable is not an easy task, but if one places the outcome in God’s hands, one can expect God to act on one’s behalf.

It is evident that Peter’s command to believing husbands is also characterized by submission (1Peter 3:7). The term likewise at the beginning of this verse shows the husband’s responsibility to his wife is **similar** to her responsibility toward him. He cannot be an indiscriminant master or lord when it comes to his wife. If the whole of her obedience involves submission then Peter’s likewise **must** point to her husband’s submission to her in some manner. Otherwise, what good is Christ’s example (1Peter 2:21-25), if the husband concerns himself only with his own authority or position in the household?

A husband’s ignorance would harm his submissive wife. Every believing husband is responsible for how he behaves toward his wife. He must seek the Lord’s help to appreciate and value his wife properly. Otherwise, he will needlessly and foolishly abuse the woman he claims to love and protect. A submissive wife is an honorable vessel (1Thessalonians 4:4; cf. Acts 9:15). However, she has chosen to be in submission, a weaker, social position. Such a position invites harm upon itself, if it is placed under the power of a husband who doesn’t appreciate or value his wife.

The wife’s position of submission is a chosen one for the sake of the Gospel. It is not to be understood as a position of less value than that the husband socially enjoys. In Christ there is neither male nor female. Both are joint heirs with Christ, showing equality. Moreover, the prayers of an abusive husband will be “cut off” (1Peter 3:7). This same word is used by Jesus in Matthew 5:30 and 18:8. It is also used by Paul in Romans 11:22, 24. The sense is that a man’s prayers will be as useless in God’s sight as Esau’s was after he sold his birthright (cf. Hebrews 12:16-17). Similarly, a man’s hopes will not be realized in his family, if he does not appreciate the position of his wife. The bottom line is, if a man has a wife and desires a close relationship with God, he had better learn how to appreciate and value her.


[1] This is the last of a series of related studies: Haustafel or Household Codes; The Gospel and Household Affairs; and Concerning Wives Submitting. The New Testament expects mutual submission from believers, but even when one member of a two party relationship is disobedient or an unbeliever, the believer is expected to adopt a lower position in an effort to woo the other party into a correct relationship with Christ.

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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Epistles of Peter


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