If you would, open your Bibles with me to 1st Peter chapter 3. I’ve asked Kelly Jackson, who is one of our deacons, to come and read this for us. If you didn’t bring a Bible today, we have some there for you in the pews. In fact, if you need a good Bible, or know someone who might need one—feel free to take that Bible home with you today. There’s no catch. We’d just love for you to have that or give it away. 1 Peter 3:1-7. Kelly, take it away.
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, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 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.
Thank you, Kelly. It was four years ago when the men’s razor business “Gillette” put out a commercial on toxic masculinity. Some of you may remember that. It featured a bunch of dads saying things like, “Boys will be boys.” That was their excuse for their sons bullying or even making inappropriate comments about girls. The commercial actually ended up being quite controversial. Some thought it was blowing a problem out of proportion. Others thought it didn’t go far enough with the statement it was making.
No matter your take on that commercial, if you even remember it—our culture has always had something to say about manhood and womanhood. And right now, we live in unusual times. What our culture has to say about manhood and womanhood could not be further from the truth. Certainly, as Christians, I hope we would be against bullying and against womanizing. We believe in treating people with respect, as individuals made in the image of God. Perhaps, that’s where we can be on board with some of these efforts to fight against this so-called “toxic masculinity.”
But where our culture has gone wrong is with the assumption that men and women are essentially the same. In fact, even in the church, there has been a willing ignorance or even open rebellion against what the Bible teaches us about manhood and womanhood.
It’s absolutely true that the vast majority of following Christ is the same for men and for women. The fruit of the Spirit, as an example, are for all of us as Christians. We’re all to pursue the fruit of the Spirit. We’re all to pursue loving God above all else and reaching those around us for Jesus. But, when it comes to the home, there are a few differences in how husbands and wives follow Jesus. That’s what Peter is getting at in these verses. Here’s how I want to organize our time, very simply: Three foundational truths of biblical manhood and womanhood in marriage.
Three Foundational Truths of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood within Marriage
- Husbands and wives are absolutely equal.
This is one of the most common misunderstandings about what God shows us in his Word. That even though husbands and wives have different roles within the marriage covenant, they are absolutely equal. I realize the first thought when you hear, “Wives, be subject to your husbands”—some of you may struggle with that. Not only what it means, exactly, but just the general concept altogether.
But we have to keep in mind that men and woman, husbands and wives, are absolutely equal. Not only do we know this from all the way back in Genesis chapter 1, but we know that from right here in 1st Peter. In the command to husbands in verse 7, Peter calls wives “heirs with you of the grace of life.” This indestructible and undefiled inheritance awaiting us, that we read about earlier in 1st Peter a few weeks ago—that’s for all of God’s children. Our adoption into the family of God is the same for men and for women.
So even though wives are called to submit to their husbands, which we’ll talk about in a moment, submission does not mean inferiority. You can write that down if you like. Submission does not mean inferiority. It does not mean less important! Think about how this word, “submission”, has been used over the last few weeks. We’ve been called to submit to human governing authorities, even secular authorities. Surely submitting to the governing authorities does not mean we are inferior to them, especially in God’s eyes.
We’ve been called to submit to our employers, our masters. Certainly, that does not mean we are less important than or inferior to our employers, especially in God’s eyes! Here’s an even more blatant example to prove this point: Jesus Christ subjected Himself to God the Father. You can read 1 Corinthians 15:28. You can read countless other times throughout the gospels when Jesus says that he’s here to do the will of his Father who sent Him.
Surely, we wouldn’t argue that the God the Son is inferior to God the Father. Surely we wouldn’t that he’s less important. This might be a good lens that you can look through with what we’re about to look at. A wife’s submission to her husband is like the submission of Christ to God the Father. Ok? In other words, husbands and wives are completely equal in God’s eyes. No matter who tells you that this can’t be with what we’re about to look at, it is absolutely true according to God’s Word. Husbands and wives, men and women are equally important and valuable to God. The second foundational truth of Biblical manhood and womanhood in marriage:
- Wives are called to submit to their husbands.
That’s the command given in verse 1. The first question we have to ask is, what does that mean? Well, let me try and give a very simple definition for submission. Here it is: Submission means willingly accepting the leadership and authority of your husband in your marriage. Peter gives us a bit more explanation in verses 3-5. “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.”
You can see there the beauty in how Peter describes submission! He says these external adornments like jewelry and clothing and braided hair have limited value, temporary value! There’s nothing necessarily wrong with them; that’s not the point here. But women who hope in God—their adornment is internal and eternal. In the hidden person of the heart, in other words who you truly are, you have the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.
Now, let’s look at what that means. A gentle and quiet spirit is not something that is distinctly feminine in the New Testament. Does that make sense? This spirit of gentleness and even meekness is not limited to women or wives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul urges this quiet spirit for all Christians. Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:29 as “gentle and humble in heart.” So this quietness does not mean not speaking or that you can’t have strong convictions or even voice those convictions. What this quiet spirit means for all Christians is that we are ultimately submitted to God. We are not here for our own selfish ambitions. We defer to God’s ambitions. We desire his leadership.
So why does Peter tell wives specifically to have a gentle and quiet spirit? Because under this primary umbrella of submission to God, under which we all live—a smaller umbrella of protection and order is submission to your husband. To quote one theologian: “The role of wife is an opportunity to display Christian love and humility in a distinctive way.” In the similar way that as Christians, we do not insist on our own way, but instead submit to God’s—Christian wives do not insist on their own way, but instead submit to their husband’s. A gentle and quiet spirit for a wife means not demanding your own way. Not being selfishly assertive, but instead submitting to your husband.
Now listen: Your reaction to hearing all this may not be positive. I recognize that this is so counter-cultural, and counter-“feminist” in many ways, counter-egalitarian. But listen, Peter tells us in verse 4 that this gentle and quiet spirit of the wife is very precious in the sight of God. This is not oppression, as many would immediately label it. This is not about husbands getting whatever they want, as we’re going to see in just a moment. This is about recognizing God’s good and precious plan for husbands and wives in marriage.
Let me say something for those of you who are wives or who may one day be wives: this kind of submission to your husband only comes with a genuine trust in God to supply your needs. Do you believe that God will supply your every need? Because the more you do, the more you will be able to submit to God’s plan for your marriage.
Do you trust God enough to affirm your husband’s calling to lead even when you disagree with him? Because I’m going to push you a bit further here. My job as your pastor is to give you what the Word says, whether we like it or respond to it well or not. So my prayer this week has been that I can present this, letting God speak for himself. And not apologizing for Him, or defending Him. Just giving the Word. With that in mind, the example Peter uses here is Abraham’s wife, Sarah. He writes in verse 6, “as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” Now, that isn’t lord with a capital “L”. Husbands are not Jesus to their wives. But that word means Sarah recognized her husband’s authority and responsibility. And therefore she obeyed him. I know that might be difficult to grasp, but that’s what the Word says.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have independent thought. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t influence your husband. Of course you should, as Sarah obviously influenced Abraham. That’s why in Genesis 1, God told Abraham to listen to his wife! Of course there’s influence. And of course there are limitations to this submission. As we’ve mentioned the past two weeks, these umbrellas of submission fall under the ultimate submission to God. If your husband ever asks you or tells you to do something that is clearly against God’s Word, or is unethical, or even goes against your conscious (as it’s formed by the Word of God)—you must NOT submit. Why? Because God is God; your husband is not.
But, within the parameters of God’s Word, and as you seek to be a voice in decision-making for your home, do you recognize and willingly submit to the leader that God has placed in your home, however imperfect he may be?
I know this is unpopular. It certainly does not fit within our culture. To many, it is outrageous, even in the church. But there is no excuse for dismissing God’s Word just because it doesn’t fit within the culture. Or because it doesn’t fit within our preconceived notions of what marriage is supposed to be. And I recognize this may be new for some of you. It’s ok to struggle with this. But please: Do. Not. Dismiss it. Number 3- the third crucial truth of biblical manhood and womanhood within the covenant of marriage:
- Husbands are called to lead their wives with honor and understanding.
Verse 7: “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.” So, what do we see here?
We see honor and we see understanding. Right off the bat, this destroys any justification for harsh or domineering authority. We do see that here, right? The biblical model for marriage does not allow for a husband to lord their authority over the wife in a domineering way. It’s quite the opposite! We’re to honor our wives. Publicly and privately, we’re called to show them honor as the weaker vessel. So what does that mean? “Weaker vessel”?
Peter doesn’t explain further what he means by “weaker vessel.” But most commentators seem to bring up a few things. First, there’s the obvious physical difference between men and women. Generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women. So, we live with them and honor them, certainly by never taking advantage physically. We don’t mock them for being weaker, we certainly don’t ever get physical and abusive. Anything like that is indefensible for anyone, but especially believers in Christ.
But weaker by comparison likely also refers to the weaker authority. In other words, it goes right back to the wife’s calling to submit. As husbands, we don’t lord our authority over them. We don’t bully them. We don’t push them around. Honestly, if you ever have to demand submission, there is likely a real problem with your leadership. We honor them by living with them in an understanding way. We’re patient, and caring, and loving, and sensitive to their thoughts and needs and feelings, both physical and emotional.
We do not misuse our God-given responsibility for selfish purposes. Instead, we use our responsibility as leaders in the home to honor and care for our wives. I think the New International Version does a bad job translating this word. It says that we show them respect. Certainly, respect is part of it. But that’s not strong enough. We honor them. We lift them up. The word there literally means preciousness. To honor them means that we recognize just how precious they are not only as our wives, but as children of God! As co-heirs with Christ!
They are precious, and we must treat them as precious. Again, both publicly and privately. Not just in front of people, because we know that’s what we’re supposed to do. But privately, in our homes. One-on-one, we honor them and care for them. And if you don’t think this is serious, take note of the warning Peter gives at the end of verse 7.
He says, “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Listen very carefully, for those of you who are husbands or one day may be husbands: If you fail to honor your wife, your fellowship with God will suffer. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you; that doesn’t mean that you lose your identity in Christ. If you’ve repented from your sin and believed upon Christ to save you; you’re a child of God, bought with the blood of Christ. Period. But actively sinning against God will bring about his discipline. We know from Hebrews 12:6 that God disciplines those he loves. Part of that discipline is our prayers being hindered.
That word there, “hindered,” is a strong word. It means your prayers may be blocked. They will lose their effectiveness. That is no small or insignificant warning. Wayne Grudem puts it like this: “So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he ‘interrupts’ his relationships with them when they are not doing so.” I hope that sobers us, as husbands. We must take this seriously.
Why this is all of this so important? That we aim for this kind of model for marriage? Because biblical submission, and biblical honor and understanding—show us a beautiful, complementary picture of marriage. Ultimately, it shows us a picture of the gospel, doesn’t it? Did you notice what Peter wrote at the beginning of this passage? “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.”
This is especially noteworthy for those of you who have husbands who aren’t believers in Christ. That’s what he means there by “some who do not obey the word.” Your most impactful witness you can give them may not be a presentation of the gospel out of your mouth. Certainly, I hope those opportunities come. But even unbelieving husbands can be so impacted by your respect for their leadership that they consider Christ. Isn’t that amazing?
For all of us, this is what it looks like to follow Jesus in our marriages. This isn’t optional. These are commands. They’re not conditional! “Wives, submit to your husbands IF he’s the perfect husband. Husbands, honor your wives as long as they meet your expectations.” No!
Marriage is a covenant! It’s a promise of the wife to respect and follow the husband’s leadership. It’s a promise of the husband to love and serve like Jesus Christ and provide Godly leadership in the home. We see this model given more than once in the New Testament. Another wonderful example is Ephesians 5:22-33. These are the joyful, God-given responsibilities we have in a Christ-Centered marriage.
For those of you in a marriage where your husband or wife doesn’t get this, or maybe they don’t know Jesus, you can still find great joy in being a Christ-centered husband or wife. And as we saw today, maybe one of the greatest ways to show your spouse the Gospel is by living out these verses. Show him the Gospel in the way you respect his leadership. Show her the gospel in the way you honor and care for her.
Whether you’re married to a Christian or not, and no matter how far along you or your spouse may be on this journey, you can directly affect the faith of your spouse by showing them the beauty of the Gospel in your marriage. You can also show the entire world around you a picture of the love and care God has for us in Jesus!
It is remarkably wonderful and good that God placed into the very fabric of human society a picture of the gospel. That’s what marriage is. I want to ask you this morning to make sure that that picture is as clear as can be. This is a lifelong endeavor. I know that even after only 12 years of marriage. But, today, examine your marriage openly and honestly. Ask God, ask your spouse even, to help you clear up this picture of the gospel in your marriage.
Before I pray and get to your questions, let me quote from Edmond Clowney: “Marriage is not a sacrament conveying divine grace, but it is the human relationship that God has designed to mirror the love of Christ for the church, and the love of the church for Christ.”