March 12 - 1 Peter 3:1-7

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

1 Peter 3:1-7 – Wives and Husbands

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. 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. 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. 

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.

These words might seem difficult and offensive to women when we first look at them. But we must understand this passage within the context of the society in which Peter was writing as well as read deeply into what they say. New Testament women were still in the middle of a transformation of status. We can see by Peter's words that there was already a loosening of the bindings that held a woman in a subordinate role to her husband. She was doing things that even fifty years earlier would have not been allowed. Peter was dealing with those who were going too far for their culture.

But, we must also take into account Paul's words from Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew no Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," and the fact that women played very important roles in the early Church. Christianity equalized men and women. They were (and are) equal in the sight of God.

That being said, submission does not necessarily bring about inequality. Remember - Jesus is in submission to the Father and yet He is equal. Peter reminds the women who read this letter that inner beauty is much more important than outward trappings. No one would truly disagree with that assertion.

Peter writes again of the contrast between the imperishable (unfading beauty) and the perishable. These are things that are important and will last far longer than a person's life. The hidden person of the heart transforms into the person who lives through into eternity.

By the time he turns to the husbands, notice that he uses the same phrase "in the same way."  This implies a sense of equality. Again, just as he did with slaves, women who were not given any respect in the secular world of the day, received not only respect from Peter, but were given expectations and privileges.  The woman's role was expanded beyond that of a dominated housewife. The husband now is to look at his wife as a co-heir with him to the Kingdom. Any mistreatment on his part will also hinder his prayer life.

On the face of this, Peter spends more time describing exactly what a woman is to do, but his words to husbands are quite blunt and straightforward. Holiness was part of the social aspect of their lives.  They were called to pray at the temple and to pray in public. Being disrespectful of their wives closed off that part of their lives.

Holiness in the home - what a concept!