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TEXT: I Peter 3:1-7
SUBJECT: I Peter #8: Submission is Good, Part II
If you think the Bible is a conservative book, you ought to read it! By definition, a conservative is happy about the way things are and wants to keep them that way. Liberals, on the other hand, are less happy about the way things are, and want to reform slowly reform them. Only the radical has the vision--and the guts--to say, 'Everything needs changing!' and the change required is so great than no army or political party, magazine, newspaper, cable network, or blogger can produce it!
Only God can set things right, because only He can effect what we all need, a New Birth, a New Creation, a Resurrection from the Dead! The Church is not called to tinker with the world, but, to--
Turn the world upside down.
As one of the first leaders of the Church, this was Peter's calling, and nowhere does he do it more effectively than in the middle part of his First Epistle. From 2:13 to 3:7, he emphasizes and repeatedly tells us what we won't hear anywhere else:
Submission is Good.
It is good for a citizen to submit to the civil authorities; it is good for an employee to submit to the boss; it is good for a wife to submit to her husband. In all three examples, Peter uses the word, 'submit'. Then, in 3:7, he doesn't use the word, but he very much urges husband to submit to their wives.
A wife who submits to her husband will be called a doormat; an employee who submits to the boss will be called a bootlicker; a citizen who submits to the government will be called, 'part of the problem'. But Peter sees these people--not as victims or fools or weaklings--but as disciples of Christ, doing just what they saw their Master do before them.
This is radicalism! Compared to Peter, Karl Marx and Che Guevara, Huey Newton, and Jane Fonda were all conservatives, wanting only to replace one set of human values with another. Peter wants to abolish human values and put in their place, the Kingdom of God!
Submission is Good! That was the title of my last sermon, and of this one as well. Last time, we studied submission in the state and workplace; today, we'll come closer to home, seeing what it means to be a disciple of Christ in the home and church.
LIKEWISE YOU WIVES, BE SUBMISSIVE TO YOUR OWN HUSBANDS
The first word of Chapter 3 is likewise, a word that might also be translated, 'in the same way'. This connects it to something, of course, but what is it? Wayne Gruden, a scholar I very much admire says it connects the duty of wives to that of citizens and slaves. From a technical standpoint, this is possible.
I think, however, that it connects the wife's duty to a closer antecedent, and that is the example of Jesus Christ, who in the last few verses of Chapter 2 is presented, not only as a Savior, but also as our example when it comes to submission. Though He is Lord of all, He humbled Himself and became the Servant of all, accepting the harsh treatment of unworthy authorities.
It is He--I think--that Peter wants all of us--and wives in particular--to think of when we submit to human authorities. The example of Christ shows that a wife can submit to her husband's authority without losing her dignity.
This is what she's called to do--
It is worth noting here that Peter is talking directly to wives, and not to their husbands. He doesn't tell husbands to 'subjugate their wives' or 'take control of the family'. He wants wives to volunteer their submission, to accept and live under their husbands' authority.
What does this look like? Well, it doesn't look like victimhood! It doesn't make a wife craven and needy and helpless and all the other stereotypes so often linked to the man's leadership in the home. It looks like Christ, who, at the same time, was both the world's most dignified and submissive Man.
As for the details, being submissive to your own husband, means at least two things: (1) respect, and whenever possible, (2) cooperation.
I chose the word, 'cooperation' instead of the most common 'obedience' because a wife is not her husband's subject or slave or even his child. She is his partner, Peter says in v.7, but she's also the partner who defers to her husband's wishes whenever possible. This means discussion is good--even when husband and wife don't see eye-to-eye. But it also means that the wife lets her husband have the last word. He may be wrong more often than right, but God has called him to lead the family--and the Christian wife accepts the will of Heaven.
(And, I might add, she does it with a good attitude). She's not an 'I told you so' kind of person; not the kind of person who puts her husband's faults on parade every chance she gets. She speaks kindly to him--and about him! She's the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31, about whom it's said--
The law of kindness is upon her tongue.
Her words are a healing balm, not a bee sting! This is what God calls every Christian wife to be. He doesn't call every Christian woman to be a wife, but if she's married, He wants her to be this kind of wife.
THAT IF SOME DO NOT OBEY THE WORD, THEY MAY WITHOUT THE WORD BE WON
Submission is never easy; never the natural thing to do. We all prefer our own way to the wishes of other people, and this goes for men as well as women. And so, Peter 'sweetens the deal' by telling wives that being submissive to their husband will likely have a positive effect on their men--
That if some do not obey the word, they may, without the word be won by the conduct of their wives.
This is not an absolute promise that applies to all Christian wives married to unsaved husbands. Not every man is won to Christ, either by his wife's words or her life. But, Peter says, 'godliness at home will enhance the wife's witness as nothing else can'. In other words, you're not going to nag your husband into the Kingdom, or 'self-righteous' him in either! It's not the sanctimonious and quarrelsome wife who's likely to win her husband to Christ, but the godly wife, and godliness includes respect and cooperation!
TWO KINDS OF BEAUTY
This should be the godly wife's priority--not beauty, not fashion, not thinness, not young-looking hair! But the kind of beauty that God approves of, which v.4 calls--
A meek and quiet spirit.
I hope I don't need to say this, but I probably ought to. Several years ago, I knew two Christian women who took the verses with the most wooden literalness, believing that Christian women ought to be as physically unattractive as possible, wearing the least flattering clothes and hardly combing their hair!
This, they thought of as 'spiritual'; in fact, it is Gnostic, the belief that material things are either evil in themselves or of no consequence whatsoever. They went too far, of course, but their extremism doesn't cancel the fact that Peter wants Christians wives to care more about inner beauty than outer, to spend more time straightening out their souls than straightening out their hair!
Only a handful of women in the Bible are described as physically beautiful, and Sarah--Abraham's wife--is one of them. But Peter brings her up, not as an example of a woman who aged gracefully, or who kept her figure, but as a wife who respected and submitted to her husband. (And if you read the whole story of their marriage, you'll see there was plenty in Abraham not to respect). Yet she respected him in her heart, and showed it by the way she spoke to him.
And so, what kind of wife is the Christian woman to be? She's to be a submissive wife, a woman who loves her husband enough to live a godly life in the home, to be the kind of wives he needs--and not the kind he deserves!
LIKEWISE YOU HUSBANDS
In v.7, Peter turns to the Christian husband, and tells us what kind of men we ought to be in the home. The first thing you notice is the disparity between the two duties. Peter spends six verses on the wives, and only one of the husbands. Some have taken this to mean he was having a bigger problem with bad wives than bad husband, but I don't believe this.
Reading the whole passage several times, I got the impression that it was simply a matter of numbers. There were more Christian wives married to ungodly men than the other way around. And so, Peter spends most of his time addressing the sisters. But if he uses fewer words for the men, he doesn't let us off the hook one bit!
As before, he starts with the word, likewise, which means that husbands also need to follow the example of Christ in the home.
What does this mean? My favorite scholar/preacher, Ed Clowney put it this ways--
Although the husband does not fulfil the same role in relation to his wife, as his wife does to him, there is a fundamental identity of attitudes: both are servants of God seeking to serve others for Christ's sake.
His key words are 'identity of attitudes'. The husband's attitude toward his wife should be the same as the wife's toward her husband. In other words, he ought to put her welfare above his own. Peter doesn't call this 'submission', but that's what he means. The Christian husband is to put his wife first, to serve her with respect and love.
Peter fleshes this out in a few ways:
Firstly, he tells us to dwell with our wives according to knowledge. This means to 'consider her and not just yourself'; to 'be considerate' all the time, even when you're tired or grouchy or been abused at work, or when she doesn't agree with you.
Secondly, he tells us to, give her honor. In English, this seems to say, 'respect her' and we ought to do that. But Peter goes deeper than that. The word translated 'honor' actually means 'precious' or 'preciousness'. It means our wives are to be dear to us, precious, beloved, and not just used as a cook and a maid, or a second income, no less a concubine!
Thirdly, we're to remember she is the weaker vessel. In context, I believe the word vessel means 'a vessel of the Holy Spirit', and so we should care for her as we'd care for a pot holding the most precious treasure. As for the weaker part, it means we should not take advantage of the areas in her life that are weaker than our own. For most couples, this means, the man must not physically intimidate his wife, or exploit her because she can't make a living without him, or trample on her feelings and insecurities.
When both husband and wife are Christians, this especially means, we mustn't play the Submission Card on our wives, humiliating and bullying them with a cruel and self-serving abuse of God's Word.
Finally, Christian husbands are to remember that they're not spiritually better than their wives, that both believing husband and wife are equally--
Heirs together of the grace of life.
Both are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
As I said earlier, submitting to another person is never easy; we'd all rather submit to ourselves and make others do the same. If submitting to a king or a boss is hard, it's even harder to submit to someone you know as well as your husband or wife. It was Charles DeGaulle, who said--
No man is hero to his valet.
Your husband or wife knows you even better than your valet (if you're lucky enough to have one!). He or she has seen us at our worst, at our most childish, our most selfish, our most unspiritual! They've heard us say bad words and talk like a fool! They've seen us chicken out and play the hypocrite. If he wanted to, every husband or wife could produce a damning dossier on every other.
If it's hard to submit to God, it's even harder to submit to a sinner. But this is what Jesus Christ has called us to do--every husband or wife to do--no matter how unworthy your spouse it!
How can He reasonably expect us to do it?
He can expect us to do it because He Himself did it first. It is quite possible that you're a far better person than your husband is, but your superiority to him is nothing compared to the superiority Christ had over all the authorities in His life, from His parents to Pontius Pilate. Yet, He submitted Himself to them all--and set an example for us all.
Peter tells us how He did it. Jesus could submit Himself to unworthy authorities because He had first submitted Himself to God. If God has appointed Joseph and Mary to be His parents and Pilate to be His judge, Jesus will submit to their authority, knowing that God will pass judgment on them all.
For the time being 'who's right and who's wrong' is muddled. But the Day is coming when the muddle of life will become crystal clear in the light of Divine Judgment. You don't have to vindicate yourself, to prove yourself right and your husband wrong, because God will do that in due time--and you can wait for Him.
More importantly, you don't have to justify yourself or to save your husband from himself, because God has already justified you, and He can save even the most sinful and foolish husband.
The real reason we don't like giving in to others is because we're afraid it will rob us our dignity. But this cannot be done! Because, being in Christ, we can no longer lose our dignity than He can lose His!
Let us remember both our Savior's example, and His exaltation. Follow the one now, and enjoy the other forever.
God bless you, everyone. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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