Christlike Submission for Wives and Husbands
Last week in our series through 1 Peter, we saw that holy living in the midst of trials includes submitting to the authorities God has placed in our lives. In 1 Peter 3:1-7, Peter continues that same thought line and applies the principle of humble submission to marriage, both in the lives of wives and in the lives of husbands.
Submission in the Lives of Wives
First Peter 3:1 states, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands.” We might ask, “In the same way as what?” The short answer is, in the same way as what was previously mentioned in 1 Peter 2:13-25.
· In the same way we’re called to submit to our governmental authorities.
· In the same way we’re called to submit to our employers.
· Ultimately, in the same way we’re called to follow the example of Jesus’ own humble submission.
Peter is encouraging wives to submit to their husbands in a way that emulates Jesus—with Christlike meekness and gentleness. Paul shares a similar directive in Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” When Paul writes this, he does so on the heels of telling all the Christians in Ephesus to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Truly, we’re talking about a basic Christian principle to mutually submit to one another. This isn’t something only wives do; this is something all Christians do to emulate Jesus in their daily living. It’s way Paul tells us in Philippians 2:3 to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” As we see in this week’s text, Peter runs with this basic Christian principle, and he applies it to the lives of all wives.
I also want to be careful here and explain what this kind of submission does not mean.
Ladies, this does not mean that if your husband asks you to abandon your faith in Christ, you should do so. This does not mean that if your husband asks you to sin, you should do so. This does not mean you must always agree with your husband and never present a different view. This does not mean that if your husband is unfaithful to you, that you have no biblical options. This does not mean that if your husband is abusive towards you, that you must remain quietly in a home that forces daily cruelty upon you.
Gentlemen, this does not mean it is your job to enforce these verses at home. We are not meant to be the police of 1 Peter 3:1. This also does not mean your wife is inferior to you. There is sometimes the assumption that submission equals inferiority, but this is a false assumption. For proof, just look to Jesus. Being God, he submitted to Governor Pontius Pilate and to the Jewish leaders of his day as he quietly went to the cross. In no way does Jesus’ submission imply that he is inferior to the individuals who condemned him to death. Submission does not equal inferiority; our wives stand alongside us as equal image-bearers of God.
As we strive to apply the principle of Christlike submission to our own marriages, we must be careful to understand what it means and what it doesn’t mean. And because the principle might be challenging to apply in our own culture, we would do well to also be encouraged by the several motives Peter provides for pursuing submission.
A First Motive for Wives
Notice the rest of the first verse, all the way through the second verse: “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” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Ladies, the way you live your lives at home with your husbands has the potential to impact your husbands for all eternity. Of course, Peter isn’t guaranteeing that if your husband is not a believer he will surely be saved through your example, but he is providing a great motive: Your meek behavior can potentially serve to help your husband understand and respond to the gospel. And what a wonderful motive that is!
A couple of weeks ago we saw Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:12. See them again: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Some men, as they enter heaven and give God glory, will owe their salvation not just to Jesus for his great love and sacrifice, but to their own wives, as well—for their good work of emulating Jesus through their humble submission, their quiet meekness, and their gentle living.
Men, if you’re a follower of Jesus because your own wife first exemplified him to you, you have been greatly blessed by your wife, and you have lots to be thankful for.
A Second Motive for Wives
Peter continues: “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” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Certainly, Peter’s aim here is not for women to stop adorning themselves externally. He’s simply comparing external beauty to inner beauty, and highlighting that inner beauty is much more important, especially as it emulates the beauty of Christ. For wives who do reflect the beauty of Christ through their own humility, it results in God considering you precious in his sight. What a great motive! Your Christlike submission in your marriage is of great value before the eyes of the Lord!
Men, if your wife strives to reflect the inward beauty of Christ in her daily living, you have been blessed with a wife whose inner beauty never fades—who is more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). Let her know how beautiful she is to you, honor her, and praise her (Proverbs 31:28-31).
A Third Motive for Wives
Peter writes: “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” (1 Peter 3:5-6).
Peter raises the example of Sarah, who humbly called her husband lord. It’s interesting that she did this in a moment that wasn’t her greatest (Genesis 18:9-14), but she displayed the beauty of submission, nonetheless. Ladies, when you to emulate Jesus in your relationships with your husbands, there is a third reward: being called a daughter of Sarah, the once-childless wife whom Paul refers to as a woman “of promise” who will inherit a great inheritance (Galatians 4:27-31). What a beautiful motive! Being called a daughter of Sarah is being assured of an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade… kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
Submission in the Lives of Husbands
As we turn to the final verse for this week, we see Peter transition his directive to married men. He states, “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” (1 Peter 3:7).
Of course, when Peter writes “In the same way,” he is once again pointing to the principle of submission. He is calling all husbands to love their wives with Christlike humility, gentleness, and care, in such a way that shows they consider their wives to be more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3). Paul gives similar instruction in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
The call is clear: Christian husbands are to emulate Jesus to their wives through sacrificial love and submission. And Peter provides two motives for doing so. Emulate Jesus to your wife:
1. Because she is your co-heir of God’s grace.
2. So that your prayers won’t be hindered.
We’ve been reminded of the basic Christian principle of submitting to one another, and we’ve applied it to marriage. Wives: display Christlike submission to your husbands. Husbands: live in humble love and care for your wives. Wives and husbands: emulate Jesus, who displayed great beauty in submissively giving up his life for the sake of ours.
With love for you in Christ,