GOD’S PLAN FOR A WOMAN AND A MAN
1 Peter 3:1-7
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 25, 2013
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
-- 1 Peter 3:1-7, ESV
Simon Peter’s life showed tremendous courage in the face of great danger. It certainly required a great deal of courage for him, a man, to take on the dangerous task of telling women what to do, in general or in a marriage. His words on wives and husbands parallel Paul’s, another man. But remember, both Peter and Paul were special men inspired by the Holy Spirit to write these words. They should be studied and taken to heart by any woman or man, married or single, who desires to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.
The setting of these verses, like all of the New Testament, was an era when there was no equality whatsoever between the sexes. It was a firmly patriarchal society in which men ruled. Women and children were virtually considered as property. Because of this cultural condition, many (even some with a very high view of Scripture) consider this text outdated and irrelevant.
I beg to differ, however, and submit that these verses on submission are as relevant today as they have ever been, perhaps even more so. This is not a man’s plan, nor a culture’s plan, but God’s plan for a woman and a man in Christian marriage. The fact that the roles described seem so out of date make them stand out as an even bolder witness for Christ in our day and age.
Both the section for wives (vs. 1-6) and husbands (vs. 7) begin with the word “likewise.” This ties the text into the context which began at 2:13, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” Government is a human institution, and Christians are to be submissive to governing bodies even when they are led by corrupt heads like the evil emperor Nero or the incompetent governor Pilate. Vocation is a human calling and institution. Christians should submit to their employers, even in a situation as strident and unseemly as slavery. And marriage is a human institution, and Christians involved in holy matrimony, women and men, must submit first to God and then to one another (ref. Ephesians 5:21) in order to make a marriage bring glory to God and good to all family members involved. Together, wives and husbands bear the responsibility of making marriage work. Yet their specific assignments to this end slightly differ.
Wives are Called to “Be Subject”
Christian wives are called to “be subject,” or submissive, or subordinate, to their husbands as if he were superior to them. Not here nor anywhere else in the Bible does it say that husbands are superior to wives, nor men over women for that matter. Nero was not superior to Simon Peter (quite the contrary actually), yet Simon Peter was compelled by Jesus Christ to submit to Nero unless Nero’s government ordered Simon Peter to do something that was completely contrary to the will and word of God. So it is with wives and husbands. Christian wives are called to let the husband be in charge, or at least think that he is in charge.
Why? Because you are never more like Christ than when you are serving someone else. The combination of strength and submission is meekness, and the meek shall inherit the earth (ref. Matthew 5:5). Christian womanhood and wifehood gives women the opportunity to display meekness, a definite Christ-like character, that can save a family, strengthen a church, broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ, and make a home seem like a heaven on earth. Is it easy? No, because good and godly things are never easy. Is it necessary? Yes, especially when you find yourself married to an unbeliever.
“Do not obey” and do not believe are synonymous in Scripture. You cannot consider yourself a true believer in Christ if you are not truly obedient to Christ. Obedience does not save you, but saved people are obedient. So when a believing wife has a husband who “does not obey,” the way to perhaps win him to Jesus is “without a word.” A submissive spirit, also synonymous with a Christ-like spirit, is the best witness a believing wife has to influence her unbelieving husband. In situations where you are this close to someone words too often lead to arguments. But no husband can argue with a wife who sweetly submits to his needs while at the same time never compromising her faith in Jesus Christ.
God feels so strongly about this kind of character that He stresses it should be the Christian wives “adorning,” or clothing, that shines brighter than any ordinary clothing she can buy and wear. Don’t worry ladies, God is not outlawing shopping for great clothes, jewelry, or makeup. He is just saying that character is more important than clothing in a marriage relationship, and in any other relationship for that matter. Character is what counts for Christ.
“Do not fear” showing such a submissive character. Most husbands will be better husbands to you for it, and as previously admonished, some who do not believe may actually believe because of it. Modernists and feminists will mock you for it, but you never need to fear the ridicule of anyone when you are living in the proper fear of the Lord.
“Be subject to your own husbands” like wife and mother Maria in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Let your husband be the head of the home. Just remember you are the neck. With God’s spirit and a submissive spunk, you can turn him any way you want.
Husbands are Called to “Live With”
“Likewise,” Christians who are husbands are not free from the command of submission. There are realms in society in which they must demonstrate a submissive spirit. There are areas in marriage where they must be mutually submissive to their wives, too. But the emphasis for males from Simon Peter is not to “be subject” but to “live with.”
“Live with” means provide a good living and happy home for your wife and children. A Christian husbands greatest responsibility beyond being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ is to be a faithful provider for his wife and family. You are not independent and you should always live as if their lives depended on you. Make the necessary sacrifices for them, lead by example, and fulfill your basic charge as a husband.
“In an understanding way” literally means according to knowledge, experiential knowledge, most importantly of God’s word and God’s will. Not every man is called to be a pastor, but every husband is the pastor in his own home. He is to be a spiritual man who provides uncompromising spiritual leadership. This means you will never be a fine husband until you first commit yourself to being a faithful Christian.
“As the weaker vessel” always catches our eyes. Remember, Jesus is no thief, but He said He would come again as a thief in the night. Women are not weaker than men (and in most cases are stronger spiritually). But a husband is to love a wife by honoring her and protecting her as if she needed him at every turn. She can open the door for herself, but you should do it. She can clean out the garage and take out the trash by herself, but you should do it. She can take care of herself in most situations, but you should make her know you would lay down your life to defend and protect her.
Provider, pastor, protector -- that is a lot of roles packed into just one verse. And they are to be carried out by treating her as your equal, as “heirs with you of the grace of life.” Otherwise, you are living in sin, and sin is the only thing that can hinder prayers.
All are Called to Follow Christ
Before this section started, Simon Peter did not ask all persons except wives and husbands to leave the room. So, there must be something here for everybody, not just married couples. I hope so, because there are always a lot of widowed, divorced, single, and small people in the church. What does this say to all of us who desire to follow the Lord Jesus Christ?
For people in or entering into message, the meanings are obvious. For children and teenagers, pay attention, you will most likely need this advice some day. For the widowed there is comfort, hopefully in the memory of a life lived for Christ. For the divorced there is comfort and grace, comfort in the fact you were faithful even though your marriage fell apart; and, grace if you caused a divorce and will come to Christ in repentance and faith. For those called to be single, you may not be a part of an actual human marriage, but as a believer in Christ you are part of the greatest marriage of them all.
Though Peter is not as explicit as Paul, the Apostles all taught that marriage on earth is a spiritual picture of Christ and His bride, the church. We may not all be called to be someone’s wife or husband, but we are all called to be submissive, strong, faithful followers of the Lord.
In the scenario painted by Peter on marriage, great emphasis (six out of seven verses) is placed on the responsibility of the wife. She is to walk beside and behind her husband, just not ahead. She is to submit to his leadership, except in the case where he may lead away from God’s express word and will. She also deserves to expect that he will be that provider, pastor, and protector to safeguard her spiritual growth and well-being.
Ecclesia is a feminine noun. The Church is a wife. Throughout history, she has often not been a very good one. But one member of one church can make a great difference. If they will trust that Jesus truly is the perfect provider, pastor, and protector, if they will love and obey Him with all of the heart, mind, and soul, if they and the other members of the bridal party will seek to be faithful in all things, then this contagious spirit can catapult a church into becoming a blessing to her Lord by making His name great and glorious in community.
God did not call us to be prideful, self-willed, or independent. He does not command us to seek to be famous, rich, or successful. God called us to be faithful. To the married, the best thing anyone can ever say about you is that you are a faithful wife or husband. To all of us, the best thing that can ever be said about any of us is that we are faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, God’s plan for every woman and man is to be faithful to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, by being faithful to the word of God in His church.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org