The First Letter of Peter: Chapter 3:1-7

Study No.11: (1 Peter 3: 1-7)

In times of persecution it is vitally important, and an integral part of our spiritual survival, that the family unit is spiritually cemented together, and especially between a believing husband and wife as co-heirs and receptors of the grace of God. If marriage and the family are not strong in the local assembly of believers then it is more susceptible to collapsing when persecution comes. In these last days the Lord Jesus said it would be very difficult for families to stay together and that in times of persecution even family members would betray one another to save their own lives in this world (Luke 21:16).

As we read in the Book of Proverbs; “Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12). Three stands of rope tightly woven together is a very strong rope and cannot be pulled apart easily. In a Christian marriage where both the man and his wife are totally committed to the Lord Jesus then He is that third strand that holds the couple together through the difficult times that we all face as believers whether married or not. As we will see even in a case where you have a believing spouse married to a non-believing spouse you still have the third cord. There is still hope for that marriage even though the two are unequally yoked spiritually.

From Peter’s letter it would seem that there were believing women in the assemblies who were married to unbelieving husbands. The apostle Peter does not tell the believing wife to leave her unsaved husband but to work hard at winning them to faith in the Lord Jesus, not by preaching at them or by lecturing them but by setting an example to them in a loving commitment to them. Peter knew that the solidarity of marriage provided a strong foundation against spiritual attacks.

We also need to understand that when you have an abusive situation for example where the wife is physically beaten by her husband and he refuses to change or to repent and be saved she is not bound to stay living with him under the same roof while he remains unsaved and a wife beater. She should keep praying for him of course that he will be saved. However, if he chooses to leave the marriage as an unbeliever and refuses to be reconciled to her she is not bound in such circumstances to stay single for the rest of her life, but if she does remarry he must be a believer. The same would apply to a believing husband married to an unbelieving wife who leaves her husband refusing to be reconciled. In such circumstances he is not bound to stay married to her but if he marries again she must be a believer (1 Corinthians 7:15).

God heals marriages today and this is His desire but there must be a willingness on behalf of the estranged couple, as an act of trust in God, to open themselves to being reconciled trusting in God’s power to heal the relationship and enable them to persevere in it with the help of the blessed Holy Spirit. In the context of his letter Peter has in mind primarily the difficult time of persecution that would be unleashed with ferocity upon the believing assemblies and the pressure that would be on marriages. Peter has advice for both a wife and her husband especially in a situation where her husband is not a believer.

Exposition: (1 Peter 3:1-7)

(Vs.1-2) “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

Now to be submissive wife does not mean to be a slave to her husband but respecting and honouring him as the head of the house and to support him in every way possible whether he is a believer or not. Even though the husband may not be a believer God’s ordained divine order for marriage remains the same. The husband is the head of the wife and she must respect this mandate from God for marriage. When a husband and wife are in the Lord they are to work at their marriage, and even the best of marriages takes work and perseverance, and both are responsible before the Lord to maintain the solidarity of the marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Now a believing wife married to an unbelieving husband who lives with her and the marriage is solid Peter tells us that in that marriage a wife will win over her husband, not by preaching at him all the time or by lecturing him, but by showing him the love of the Lord Jesus in their marriage relationship. The husband will come to believe in the Lord Jesus when they experience for themselves the Word of God being demonstrated in the life of his wife. Two things Peter mentions about the wife’s conduct.

Firstly, he mentions “purity” which is revealed in their loyalty to their husband, pure in their desires for him alone, consistent in their feelings and their thoughts and in their actions towards their husband. They are to be pure in their motives, genuinely caring for their husband’s welfare and diligent in maintaining a well-ordered home. She needs to be open and transparent with her husband and not manipulative but desire his well-being. Even in a disagreement the wife needs to submit to her husband, however, a wise, considerate and sensitive husband will always be open to the wisdom of his wife because often they are able to help their husband in making difficult decisions that affect the home and family.

As it is written; “a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14). She is careful or wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense. In a solid marriage where the husband and wife are working together the man may be at the steering wheel of the ship but at times the wife will nudge the rudder to keep the ship on its intended course. God’s plan is that the wife is to be a help mate for her husband and a husband who genuinely cares for his wife will respond to her wisdom and insight. It is not manipulation or control, but in her submission exercising wisdom which will be appreciated by her husband who loves her and knows she loves him, even if he is an unbeliever who loves his saved wife.

Secondly; Peter mentions “reverence” for the Lord Jesus and for His Word and by showing her husband her faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord. By due diligence and consistency in her prayers and study of God’s Word her husband will see her godly attitude to life and by this attitude will win him over to saving faith in the Lord Jesus. A believing wife who seeks to win her husband to saving faith in the Lord Jesus will succeed as the Holy Spirit does His convicting and converting work in her unsaved husband and she is the instrument through which the blessed Holy Spirit works.

(Vs.3) “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes.”

Now Peter is not telling women that they should not wear makeup or wear any jewellery at all, or not to make themselves physically attractive to their husbands or not to wear beautiful clothes. However he is telling them not to be pre-occupied with these outward adornments which unsaved women in the world use to lure men such as the street prostitutes, or those who flaunt their bodies before men. Furthermore, Peter is not saying that a wife should not make herself sexually appealing to her husband as the Bible says that the marriage bed is undefiled and the Jewish people say the Shekinah glory hovers over the marriage bed. God is not against the excitement of sexual relations within a marriage.

The apostle Peter is saying that the better part of a saved wife winning her unsaved husband to the Lord Jesus should not depend on an outward physical appearance and adornments only.  What happens in a marriage where a wife or a husband becomes sexually dysfunctional? Does the marriage cease to exist? It may well fail if the bond is only based on physical appearance or gratification. In such cases the husband or the wife need to find other ways of expressing intimacy and in this area the blessed Holy Spirit, the comforter, is on hand to facilitate fulfilment for both the husband and the wife in such circumstances. There has to be something deeper to hold the marriage together than sexual intimacy alone. Now Peter goes on to address the godly women not to be preoccupied with outward adornments.

(Vs.4) “Instead, 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.”

Many unsaved women in this world and even some within the assemblies of believers rely upon outward appearances to win men over. In many ‘modern’ churches these days there are younger ladies who dress provocatively and in many cases do not realise the effect it can have on men in the fellowship. As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Of course there is nothing wrong with women in a local assembly making themselves attractive and wearing nice dresses or smart outfits or nice jewellery and even make-up, but they are to dress modestly and focus on the inward qualities of character more than just relying only upon external beauty.  A wife adorned with a quiet and gentle inner spirit will bring great comfort and a sense of security into a man’s life. Over time as he ages he will come to appreciate the inner qualities his wife has and that outward beauty fades over time. You can have a beautifully decorated cake with icing on the top but if the ingredients are not good, neither is the cake! This quiet and gentle inner spirit of a saved wife will be valued by her saved husband or even if he is unsaved but recognises and appreciates these qualities in his wife.

Outer beauty fades but inner beauty never dies, especially when the married couple have cultivated and nurtured their relationship with the help of the blessed Holy Spirit. If a believing wife possesses the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit then any man whom is genuinely interested in a secure and solid relationship will respond more quickly. He may go to his work place and see and interact with other women and some that are physically attractive, yet he knows that at home he has a wife that surpasses them all (Proverbs 31:10-12, 27-30).

Having said this, a wife and a husband also need to learn how to satisfy each other sexually as well. Rabbi the apostle Paul also writes about this matter; “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual consent and for a time, so you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again, so that Satan will not tempt you through your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:4-5). We live in a world where sexual images are coming at us through movies, the television, through magazines, and the internet. Even in the work place men many women and men dress and conduct themselves in a provocative manner and Satan will use these things to cause us as believers to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the blood of Jesus to spiritually preserve us and keep us from going further in our thoughts in such matters.

Temptation is always present in this area and even the godliest of men and women are not exempt from temptation and falling into sin, as we see in the lives of men and women in the Bible and down through Church history. Someone has said you can’t stop the birds from flying overhead but you can stop them from nestling in your hair. In a believer’s marriage there will be times when a situation requires prayer, or that arises when sexual intimacy is not possible, and for a time it will be difficult to abstain.

However, both the husband and the wife must not deprive each other of sexual relations indefinitely when it is possible to have them  If they do not come together then Satan will do his wicked and sensual work on that couple (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). The gentle and quiet spirit of a godly woman who loves God and loves her husband appropriately and according to the teaching of God’s Word will never fade and it is of great value in God’s sight. Peter now goes on to mention how the godly women in the past used to behave towards their husbands.

(Vs.5-6) “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

Abraham’s wife Sarah was a strong, independent woman with a strong will yet she still submitted to Abraham as the head of their family. She was not perfect of course and wanting the best for her husband pushed him into a relationship with Hagar which did not work out well for them. However, she was faithful to her spouse Abraham and acknowledged him as her head and covering. In a marriage where both are saved a wife can be of great value to a man if she is endowed with godly wisdom, yet in any human relationship there will be times of disagreement and friction and misunderstanding yet a godly wife will not desert her husband even when they have a difference of opinion or difficulties within their relationship, or are facing a very difficult situation or circumstance.

A wife that submits to her husband does right in God’s sight and if she does not give into fear and act in the flesh, then she will be successful as a supportive wife to her husband. Even in the case of Isaac and Rebekah and in the case of Jacob and Rachel there were times when their relationship was tested but they stayed together and that by the calling of God which is irrevocable (Romans 11:29). In any marriage both the believing husband and his believing wife must be committed to each other and walking together in step with the Holy Spirit. Having said this there are cases where, within the providence of God and in certain circumstances, a man and a women may marry where one is saved and the other is not saved, yet in the marriage the unbelieving spouse gets saved. This situation can be within the permissive will of God and He allows it for His purposes in their lives as a couple, however, this is a rare exception but not the norm for a believer.

(Vs.7) “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.”

Now Peter also gives advice to husbands in the assemblies. They are to be considerate, to consider her needs, her desires, her feelings, her cherished dreams, be sensitive to her weaknesses and to consider her advice and to listen to what she says. He is to affirm her abilities, her gifts and to frequently compliment her as well as protect her and watch over her as the weaker partner in the marriage. Now a woman is more susceptible to spiritual seduction and can be easily swayed in certain circumstances while the man is stronger in this matter, and we see this in what happened with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Having said this, Eve was deceived but Adam wasn’t but listened to his wife and was more culpable because he knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it! Even though Adam missed it big time as did Eve, never the less God has ordained that elders should be men and not women (1 Timothy 2:11-14; 3:2) (Titus 1:5-9). Having said this, does not mean that women should not be gifted in teaching as the gifts of the Spirit are for men and maidservants of the Lord in the Body of Messiah (Acts 2:18). In the Bible there are husband and wife teams such as Deborah and Barak and Aquila and Pricilla and we see this husband and wife ministry team exemplified in the officers of the Salvation Army. Having said this does not lay aside the teaching of God’s Word related to the roles of husbands and wives within marriage and ministry in the wider Body of Messiah.

Now God has given both men and women certain spiritual sensors. The believing husband may be at work and making decisions and working hard at what he does and this is especially true with those pastors and elders who have spiritual oversight of the local assemblies.  However, the wife may be at home, and after dealing with the children or when they have gone to school and she is alone in the home, in the quietness of that home, be spending time with God and His Word and receiving wisdom from Him concerning her life and ministry and that of her husband, being under the covering and authority of her husband, and she is more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Such a woman will be very valuable in keeping the spiritual equilibrium in the home and a tremendous support to her husband whether he is at work or in the ministry.

Prayers can be hindered when a wife and husband do not fulfil their God appointed roles within a marriage. God has endowed the man and his wife with different qualities and gifts that complement each other. In God’s sight they are inheritors of the gracious gift of life and together will have a very powerful and effective prayer life (Matthew 18:19-20). A submissive and respectful wife  and a considerate husband whose inner spirit is fused together by the Spirit of God make the strongest rope that cannot be easily torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The believing wife then is to submit to respect and to honour her husband as her head. The Messiah is the head of her husband and he has the higher responsibility before God to love His wife in the same way that Messiah loved His Body, the faithful Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Go to Study No. 12