A very common concern in life is what to do about a bad husband who is clearly going to Hell.
(1 Cor 6:9 KJV) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
The Bible clearly says that a good Christian wife can influence, change her husband for the good by her own good behavior.. and why hasn’t she yet?
1 Peter 3: 1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
” Peter surely forbids a wife to nag her husband with the gospel. This can be blatant or subtle, but it is nevertheless something the husband is keenly aware of and strongly resists. Proverbs indicates that this tendency to nag is one which tempts us all, but especially the wife.
A foolish son is destruction to his father, And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping (Proverbs 19:13).
Second, Peter forbids debate. While nagging may be one method one might use to persuade another, arguing is another. Nagging, by my definition, is simply trying to wear another down by repeating the same things over and over (some folks even try this on God in their prayer life, see Matthew 6:7). Debate is the effort to change another’s mind by continually approaching the discussion from a different point of view, by trying any and every line of argument.
Third, Peter forbids those subtle forms of persuasion which may produce natural responses but fail to produce supernatural conversion. Jesus warned about carefully prepared presentations of the gospel rather than a reliance upon the Holy Spirit (Luke 21:12-15). The apostle Paul is especially sensitive to human forms of persuasion, which he sees as contrary to the way the Spirit works to convince and convert the lost (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
In 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, and Jude, we are warned about false teachers who appeal to fleshly lusts rather than the impulses of the Spirit. I believe a woman may have an even greater danger in this area than men. Women may seek to use flattery to persuade and may even employ seductive wiles on her husband.
To deliver you from the strange woman, From the adulteress who flatters with her words (Proverbs 2:16).To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress (Proverbs 6:24).
Delilah’s seduction was the downfall of Samson. One does not seduce another into the kingdom of God, though some most certainly seduce others into error (see Revelation 2:20-22). Using this kind of speech may not be offensive to her husband, but it is certainly inconsistent with the gospel.
Peter’s instruction is not merely negative, forbidding Christian wives to verbally pressure their husbands to come to faith in Christ. Rather, in place of her words, wives are to witness to their husbands through their works. Husbands should be able to observe that their wives are different than they were before they came to faith. They should especially be characterized by a behavior which is chaste and respectful. The remaining four verses spell out the meaning of these words, but let us at least come to a preliminary definition of them.
The word “respectful” is literally “fear” as the marginal note in the New American Standard Bible indicates. The “fear” called for here seems to be the wife’s “fear” or respect for her husband rather than her fear of God, though both are certainly required of her (see 1 Peter 1:17; 2:17; Ephesians 5:33).
The word “chaste” is employed a number of times in the New Testament, often with a meaning broader than just sexual purity.89 However, here I believe sexual purity is a prominent part of Peter’s meaning.90 A wife may influence her husband in many ways to control or at least manipulate him. Making your husband jealous is one way which is often considered not only clever but acceptable. Chastity is pressed beyond its limits when this form of manipulation is practiced. In some cases, the wife may not wish to control her husband as much as to gain the attention and admiration or another man. This is also clearly out of bounds. The wife’s feminine charms are for the glory and enjoyment of her husband and no other. Peter calls the wife to live by the highest moral standards, not merely by those of the culture in which she lives.
The Ultimate Beauty (3:3-4)
3 And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;91 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
The problem of looking on outward appearances is not restricted only to women:
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God [sees] not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15; see also Matthew 6:1ff.).
In both the Old and New Testaments, however, outward adornment became an obsession and therefore a matter for rebuke and instruction:
16 Moreover, the LORD said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud, and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps, and tinkle the bangles on their feet, 17 therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the LORD will make their foreheads bare.” 18 In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of [their] anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19 dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, 20 headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21 finger rings, nose rings, 22 festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, 23 hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans, and veils. 24 Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. 25 Your men will fall by the sword, and your mighty ones in battle (Isaiah 3:16-25).
9 Likewise, [I want] women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
In the days in which Peter lived, those with the means to do so went to great extremes in dress, cosmetics, and hair styling to look good to others:
Ornate hairstyles were prevalent in the high society of the Roman world:
‘Curl climbs on top of curl and over the forehead there arose something which at its best looked like the chef d’oeuvre of a master pastry cook and, at its worst, like a dry sponge. At the back the hair was plaited, and the braids arranged in a coil which looks like basketwork.’92
While outward appearances affect every believer, male or female (see Matthew 6; and 23:5-6), Peter particularly instructs married women about their priorities concerning true beauty. There is nothing wrong with dressing in a way that pleases one’s mate. It is no sin to be well-dressed (see Proverbs 31:22). But it is wrong to be preoccupied with outward appearances at the expense of inward beauty. A beautiful woman who lacks inner beauty and character is, according to Proverbs, like a pig with a gold ring in its nose.
[As] a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, [So is] a beautiful woman who lacks discretion (Proverbs 11:22).
Not only is it wrong for a woman (or a man) to place too high a value on external appearances, it is likewise evil to seek man’s approval rather than to strive to please God. That which pleases God is a “gentle and quiet spirit.” This is hardly the contemporary estimate of the ideal woman. Our culture teaches women to practice assertiveness and aggressiveness and outer beauty, rather than to acquire a gentle and quiet spirit.
Why is modest apparel and a “gentle and quiet spirit” pleasing to God? What does this have to do with submission, the major topic of our text? Biblical submission is more than most Christians think. Many Christians are resistant to the biblical teaching of the submission of the wife to her husband. And even those who accept this teaching may think of submission primarily in terms of obeying their husband, of following his leadership.
The submission of the wife to her husband certainly includes honoring him and obeying him, whether this is popular thought or not. But the submission of the wife to her husband is much more than this. Creation requires the submission of the wife to her husband (1 Corinthians 11:7-12), as does the fall (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:12-15). It is necessitated by the picture marriage is to portray about the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). It is to demonstrate the headship of Christ over the church (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).
The headship of Christ involves more than His authority and rule over the church. It includes the fact that He is the source of the church, that the church was brought forth through Him. It also involves the supremacy and preeminence of Christ. The glory is to be His, not ours. We are here for His glory. The glory of God must be one of our guiding goals and principles (1 Corinthians 10:31).
When the woman ceases to act with a “quiet and gentle spirit,” she begins to promote herself and bring attention to herself. Rather than being the glory of her husband, she steals the glory from him. The same is true of her attire. She may never utter a word publicly, but she may dress in a way which causes every eye to be fixed on her. To do so is to cast aside the headship of her husband and the submission required of her. No wonder Peter and Paul speak of a woman’s dress and demeanor.
But a woman can attract just as much attention to herself by looking sloppy and unkempt as she can by being “dressed to kill.” Whenever a woman attracts attention to herself rather than to her husband, she has failed to grasp and obey the biblical teaching on submission.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells [them,] And supplies belts to the tradesmen. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband [also,] and he praises her, [saying:] 29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, [But] a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:23-31).
The Example of Holy Women of Old
5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.93
A “gentle and quiet spirit” is totally the opposite of the spirit of the contentious wife of Proverbs (see Proverbs 21:9, 19). The spirit or disposition which underlies submission is of crucial importance. Peter turns our attention to the “holy women of old,” not to remind us of how they dressed but to point to their submissive spirit, their source of true beauty. Notice these women were submissive to their “own” husbands, not because their trust was in their husbands but because their hope was in God. They trusted God to work through their husbands and to work in spite of them. Their hope, like every Old Testament saint (see Hebrews 11), was not in this life but in the kingdom of God to come. Their hope was in God alone who would bring it to pass.
Sarah is the one woman Peter identifies by name. Quite frankly, I would never have picked Sarah for she always seemed to be a kind of feminine counterpart to Lot. As I read Genesis 16 and 21, I find Sarah a little hard to like. She, like Lot and every other saint, was not a perfect saint. But she did exemplify the submissive spirit of which Peter speaks.
Peter refers to Sarah calling Abraham “lord,” as recorded the one time in Genesis:
9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold, in the tent.” 10 And he said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear [a child,] when I am [so] old?’ 14 “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 Sarah denied [it] however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh” (Genesis 18:9-15).
Sarah may have called Abraham lord at other times, but this instance is especially noteworthy. Peter has been contrasting inner beauty with outer adornment and the beauty of a “gentle and quiet spirit.” This passage in Genesis illustrates Sarah’s spirit.
The angels have come to Abraham’s camp and been invited to stay for a meal. They then announce to Abraham that at this time next year Sarah will have a son. Sarah seems to have been eavesdropping, for when she heard the prophecy of a son, she laughed to herself. The words recorded in Genesis 18:12 are the words Sarah thought to herself. She did not speak them aloud, although the Lord was aware that she laughed inwardly.
Most of us speak respectfully to someone’s face, even if hypocritically. But Sarah spoke to herself calling Abraham “lord,” indicating the way she really thought of him. In her mind, Abraham was not “the old man,” but her master, her lord. And she, as it were, was his servant. In her heart, she was submissive to her husband, which made her a beautiful woman and an example for all to follow.
Abraham is sometimes referred to as the “father” of those who believe in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile by birth (see Romans 4:11-12; Galatians 3:7, 16, 29; Hebrews 2:16). Here, Sarah is called the “mother” of all those women who walk in her footsteps and who respect and obey their husbands: “and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
If I understand the passage correctly, “without being frightened by any fear” parallels the earlier expression of a “gentle and quiet spirit.” Some Christian psychiatrists speak of the “typical hysterical female,” a characterization I am not certain I like. Peter talks about the godly Christian wife as being exactly the opposite. She is not hysterical or panic-stricken about the future,94 for her hope is fixed on God. She calmly and quietly submits to her husband,95 knowing God’s purposes will be achieved because of or in spite of her husband.
Can you imagine leaving your homeland, your family, and all of your friends to go to a place God has not even yet revealed (see Genesis 12:1-3)? How many times did Abraham come to his wife to tell her God had instructed him to do what appeared to be foolish? As far as I can tell, Sarah was never present when God gave Abraham his instructions (except this one time in Genesis 18). It could have been a most terrifying thing to have been married to Abraham and follow him without being frightened by any fear. But Sarah did submit to Abraham, first in her spirit, and then on a day-by-day basis.96 For this, she became an example of godly submission to all of us.
A few years ago, I would hardly have felt the necessity of stressing a point which seems all too apparent, but in today’s culture I must stress it: God requires wives to submit to their husbands. The submission of the wife to her husband was established at the time of the creation of man and then at the fall. It is not merely an Old Testament requirement but a New Testament imperative. Paul taught it, and so did Peter. It is clear from our Lord’s practice that He agreed. The cross does not overrule or override the need for submission. In 1 Peter, the cross is not only an example of submission, it serves as the basis, the means and the motivation. Peter’s teaching on the submission of the wife to her husband follows immediately upon his teaching of the submission of servants to their masters, and especially of Christ to the will of the Father, which led to His death on the cross as the great “Suffering Servant.” As Peter addresses Christian wives, he begins with the words, “in like manner.” One cannot avoid the fact that in this age, as in all others of the past, the wife is to be in submission to her husband.
Does our culture bristle at this thought? This is just one more way the Christian will stand apart from others and one more reason why our “doing good” will be evil spoken of by unbelievers. Submission to one’s husband is one of the many ways in which the Christian may suffer for the sake of Christ and to the glory of God. Such submission is required under favorable conditions, and even in adverse circumstances such as when the husband is an unbeliever and refuses to obey the gospel by submitting to Jesus Christ for salvation. The submissiveness of the wife to her husband may bring about his salvation which most certainly pleases God. Does submission appear to limit one’s happiness and fulfillment in this life? It may, but the Christian wife has her hope in God, and she willingly accepts suffering in this life assured of the glory to come.
While this may not sound all that good in theory, I assure you it is even more difficult to practice. More often than I wish to admit, I find Christians turning their backs on Peter’s teaching. They believe a wife should not have to put up with an abusive husband. When they do so, they are thinking according to the mold of our culture rather than the mind of Christ.
Suppose one of your very good friend confides that her husband is cruel and “abusive” to her. She is a Christian; he is not. She wonders what she should do and asks for your advice. Do you turn to the Bible, or do you give “your opinion?” And if you turn to the Bible, is this text one of the first you show her? It should be. It calls on the Christian to suffer unjustly, to the glory of God and for the salvation of those who are lost. Is a “dysfunctional marriage” pleasant? No. Is it an excuse to bail out? Peter gives us the answer, although it is not one we want to hear. Who of us wants to suffer?
Peter’s words about submission and suffering should give us a different perspective on suffering. We are a generation of so-called “victims.” The very excellent book entitled, No God, But God, contains a chapter by Os Guinness entitled, “More Victimized Than Thou.”97 We have become a generation of victims, not victors. Peter will have none of this “victim” mentality. I used to say our culture sought to replace HOPE with HYPE. That is no longer the case. Now, our secular culture seeks to redefine HOPE so that it becomes nothing more than COPE. We are not called to be “copers;” we are called to suffer for Christ’s sake so that we will be overcomers. Let us shed the victim mindset as something which comes from the pit.
This passage cuts to the heart of a growing crisis in America—the disproportionate emphasis on appearance. Peter does not sanction a blatant disregard for good health and caring for one’s body, and neither does Paul (see 1 Timothy 4:7-8). Physical appearance has become the dominant driving force in the lives of many women. I cannot help but think the epidemic of eating disorders is rooted in a failure to understand and apply the principles Peter lays down in this text. Skinny women “feel” fat, and so they refuse the nourishment their bodies need. They are never skinny enough to fit the image of the perfect body, and yet often little attention is given to the inner beauty of which Peter speaks. Let us see Peter’s words as very relevant to our thinking and conduct, for they are.
Peter certainly challenges us to think more carefully and precisely about evangelism. We think of evangelism as being virtually synonymous with our speech. We must proclaim the gospel, for men and women are saved only as they hear and respond to the good news of salvation in Christ. And yet Peter makes it clear that there is a time to be still. We do not convert people by wearing down their resistance. We do not convert people by our persuasive powers. Our lives are to be consistent with the gospel we preach. After the lost have heard of Christ, they must see Him in us. That is the connection which Peter makes between the “Suffering Servant” in 1 Peter 2:21-25 and the suffering of His servants in this entire section. It may very well be our suffering rather than our success in speaking which God uses to draw the lost to Himself. If this is so, it is consistent with the experience of others such as the apostle Paul (see 1 Thessalonians 1 and 2).
Our lesson has primarily been addressed to those who have already trusted in Jesus Christ. Peter has been speaking to Christian wives. He has made it clear that those who have come to Christ must live like Christ. Just as He suffered for us, we are now called to suffer, as He did, to God’s glory and for the salvation of others. But just as it is true that coming to Christ often results in suffering, it is also true that suffering may bring us to Christ. Listen to these words spoken by our Lord at the outset of His ministry:
1 And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 And opening His mouth He [began] to teach them, saying, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:1-6).
Has suffering brought you to the end of yourself? Has it caused you to look to the Lord Jesus for salvation? Jesus came to minister to those in need. If that is your plight, then there is hope—in Him. He suffered and died so that your sins could be forgiven and so that you might have eternal life. May God open your heart to trust in Him, who turns suffering to joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:6-8).”
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