Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Submission and Respect

October 5th, 2008 by Vic

Bible Reference: 1 Peter 3:1-7

The majesty of Truth in Peter’s first letter has been expressed in many ways. We have a great God. We have a great salvation, a great inheritance, a great example. We are to do good and respect all people. We were saved to serve not sit. Christ set the example. His life reflected the nature of His heart. He kept entrusting Himself to God (2:23).

In chapter 3, Peter continues the theme of respect to the marriage relationship. When one spouse becomes a Christian and the other does not, there are usually problems. Christianity causes problems. In Peter’s day the problem was much greater if the wife became a Christian first, so he addresses the wives first.

Peter is writing to Jews in a Roman world. Under traditional Jewish law, wives had very few rights. Under no circumstances could a wife leave her husband, but a husband could divorce his wife for a very small displeasure if he returned the dowry. For a wife to change religions was a disgrace to the husband and a reason for divorce.

In the Roman world, the woman was to see as little, know as little, and hear as little as possible. She could have no mind of her own. She had no legal rights except those of a child. She was either under her father’s power or under her husband’s power all her life. She was considered weaker than a man in all respects. The common presumption in Roman society was that a wife would adopt her husband’s religion.

One Roman killed his wife for drinking wine without his permission. One divorced his wife because she went outside without her veil. Another divorced his wife for going to the public games without him. Another killed his wife for infidelity. The wife was not to think for herself.

Now think about the radical change that the teachings of Jesus would make. Love is a higher law than Rome. Christians are all equal at the foot of the cross. Men and women are all God’s children. God so loved the world that whosoever… Both men and women can come before Him and reason and think. He invites everyone to know him.

Now listen to what Peter tells the wives. He does not tell them to leave their husbands. He does not tell them to take a stand and give their testimony or drag their husband to church. He does not tell them to pretend that nothing happened.

1. “In the same way” What is Peter comparing this to? The example of Christ. The teachings in chapter 2 need to be understood to understand what is about to be said. And this same adverb is used in verse 7 when Peter talks to the Christian husbands. As Jesus respected all people, as Jesus loved all people, as Jesus entrusted Himself to God, as Jesus was willing to suffer, as Jesus went about doing good, in the same way.

Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so send I you”. Do we feel sent as Jesus felt sent? Do we trust God as Jesus trusted? Do we live as Jesus lived? Peter says, “In the same way … as Jesus submitted…”

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Peter says, “In the same way.” Our guide for daily conduct is Jesus, not the world. We can follow in His steps. He lived in a body just like ours.

2. “Wives” Peter is talking to Christian wives who have found dignity, freedom, and self-worth in Jesus. They may be having doubts about staying married to heathen husbands. But Christianity does not give us freedom from physical obligations. We are still subject to the laws of God, nature and man. Just because you change your home address does not mean that all the bills sent to your last address have been canceled. Jesus said, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” Obey the laws of the land.

Spiritually my sins can be forgiven and the guilt is gone, but I still need to make some restitution, I still may suffer from the scars of sins. I may have to return some things I have stolen. I may have some bills to pay that are not legally mine. My clean heart (His temple) will gradually make a change in my visible life. By the power at work within me I can live a holy life, blameless before God.

3. “Keep submitting yourselves” This word literally means, “to place under”. Like a jeweler places a watch under glass or a mother places a child under blankets or I place myself under an umbrella. The word itself does not suggest value relationships, only external position. We are equals. Who is more valuable, the child or blanket? Me or my umbrella? Respect your husbands regardless of their value.

In verse 6, Peter points to the one time that Sarah called Abraham, ‘Lord’. When Sarah heard the promise of a son, she laughed and said that she and Abraham were too old to have children. But on that occasion she preserved the respect she had for Abraham by calling him Lord while at the same time laughing about his age. We Oregonians have that kind of humor.

In verse 5 when Peter refers to the other holy women, remember how Rebecca deceived her husband. Also the patriarchs were God-fearers and Peter is writing to wives whose husbands are unbelievers, so the application is only regarding the attitude of the wives, not the total situation. It is also interesting to note that there were more times when Abraham obeyed the voice of Sarah than Sarah obeyed the voice of Abraham.

In 1 Peter 3:1 the tense of the verb requires that the subject act upon herself. No outside force can make the wife submit. She is free in Christ, but like Christ she must respect all of life, even her unbelieving husband.

No one could make Christ submit or respect anyone. He said, “He came to serve and give His life.” He laid down His life. No one could take it. He chose to submit himself to the injustice of this world. Jesus placed Himself under Jewish authority even though it was selfish and corrupt.

4. “to your own” (idiois) No other man is part of this admonition. We are only talking of your relation to your husband, no other man.

5. “husbands” This is the man that is part of God’s plan for your life. God intends to use your unique circumstances to make you the person he wants you to be.

While Peter is primarily writing to wives and husbands, the main teachings will apply to all Christians. All Christians are to have a reverent and pure conduct, the imperishable quality of a humble and quiet spirit. All Christians are to do good and let nothing frighten them. Christians respect one another.

6. “so that even” There is a reason Peter is saying this. Some of the husbands had heard about Christianity but were not being persuaded by the word of the gospel. They were not listening to reason and were being obstinate. If they are not persuaded by the living Word of God, they will not be persuaded by anything the wives would say. Maybe they would be persuaded by a new way of life.

Literally Peter says, “through the wives’ way of life without a word they may be won.” These husbands apparently had heard the Word and did not need more words from their wives; they needed a behavior that spoke louder than words. Matt. 5:2 says, “He opened His mouth, and taught them.” The inference is that Jesus also taught them with His mouth closed. Our neighbors need a Christianity that speaks louder than words.

Here Peter is telling the wives to “Follow in His steps.” Our way of life should not conflict with what we say. What Jesus said and what He did were the same. What we say and what we do should never contradict. Practice what you preach is not a Biblical statement, but it is a Biblical ideal demonstrated for us in Jesus.

What is the purpose for submission? So your husbands become followers of Jesus. There is no command here for Christian wives to submit to Christian husbands. It can be applied to that, but first you must understand the meaning of what Peter says.

Is there any other reason why wives should submit themselves to their own husbands? Does Peter say submit yourselves because you were created second? Does Peter say submit yourselves because your culture requires it? That would mean that the Christian wives would have to give up their Christianity and go back to paganism. What does Peter say? And what does he not say?

This word submission is better understood if translated respect or defer. Don’t let any preacher or church, don’t let any person, don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold. You are free in Christ. You are free to become all things to all men that you may win some. You are free to submit to your own husband even though he may not deserve it. Even though you are his equal. You are to show respect to him even though he is not a Christian.

Many have used Eph. 5:22-24 as a springboard to elevate the roll of men and subjugate the woman to inactivity in the church. They have neglected to read verses 21 and 32. They have missed the real meaning of Paul’s teaching and have therefore, made an inaccurate application.

It is important to see what Peter and Paul say, why they say it, and what they mean by what they say.

The Greek word ‘anastrophe’ (behavior) occurs in verse 1 and here again in verse 2. It was also used in 1:15. Peter wants us to have a holy way of life. “Just as…” How was Christ holy?

In verse 1, we saw that holy behavior does not involve words. In verse 2 it is something that is seen. Literally it reads,

Beholding your attitude of reverence and your holy behavior.

The husbands do not see the wives’ submission. They see their reverence and holy behavior.

Submission or deference is not something you can visibly demonstrate, but holiness is. Submission can be misinterpreted to mean cowardice, weakness, or lack of initiative. Jesus was criticized for all of those. Only you will know if you are following the steps of Jesus. But people see how you live it out.

In verse 3-6 Peter clarifies holiness as a way of life. It is trusting in God and doing good.

Which should not be the external…

Peter says you can’t change a non-Christian spouse by focusing on externals. This applies to all relationships. The submission he talks about must be unseen. A visible submission may hinder your respect. So verse 3 says,

Your holy way of life should not be cosmetic.

Or more literally,

Which should not be the external braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of external cosmetics.

This is an excellent verse to practice your Bible interpretation principles on. It says don’t braid your hair, don’t wear jewelry and don’t wear unnecessary outer garments. That seems pretty plain. If the Bible says, don’t wear jewelry, why are many of us wearing rings?

So why does Peter include verse 3? Why did he put this sentence between verse 2 and 4? It would have read smoother without it.

He put it here because this is the way they had lived before. All their self-respect and value was measured by their outward beauty. They were to please their husbands by being ornaments. They were to be seen and not heard. It was the fashionable thing to do. Now as Christians they know that is not true.

Peter uses 3 verbal nouns:

1. external braiding was an elaborate, time consuming effort that occupied the ladies who were not allowed to develop their mental potential. Artificiality and extravagance were common in that day. You are more important than your hair style.

2. Wearing of gold emphasized the multiplicity. Wearing jewelry was not forbidden, but the extravagance and elaborate display was not appropriate for Christians. Your jewelry should not detract from who you are.

3. Putting on outer cosmetics is a Greek phrase for outer clothing. These were the clothes not necessary for protection, modesty, and good taste, but were meant to impress and attract attention to ones self. The word cosmos means ordered system.

I think Peter is saying, if you want to live holy lives don’t conform to the world. If you are a Christian, don’t depend on the externals to please your husband.

But instead of the outward extravagance, put on the hidden personality of the heart which is incorruptible. It is that selfless and quiet spirit of self-confidence which is in God’s sight very precious.

Attend to your hidden self, not the externals. God can use very ugly vessels to carry very precious truth.

“Husbands, in the same way” This is the same adverb Peter started with in verse one. Christianity has a reciprocal ethic. We are all God’s children and what we have we have received. We are all stewards of the grace we have received (4:10).

Husbands are to live holy lives in the same way their wives live holy lives. Now in the culture of that day it was no problem if a husband became a Christian before his wife did, so Peter does not say too much. If the husband became a Christian first, the wife had to follow. She may not want to be a Christian. She may want to continue to worship in the pagan temple. What should the husband do?

“Be living with according to knowledge” The standard by which you should live with a non-Christian wife is not the standard of this world, but according to intelligent understanding. Use your head. Think about the example of Jesus. In contrast to the standards of this world, use your mind in your marriage relationship. Don’t live with your wife because of some emotional impulses or some ulterior motives, but with rational knowledge.

Husbands do you try to understand your wives? Has your knowledge grown? It should. Do you understand why wives are easier to get along with some days than others? You should.

Peter says you should understand your wife as a precious vessel. You are both vessels that contain the gift of life. But you should understand her as the more fragile and precious vessel. She was God’s special creation. More complicated than man, more sensitive than man, different than man, a fragile vessel. She was the improved model.

Treating with respect and honor as joint-heirs of the grace of life.

Do you realize how radical this statement was in the Jewish and Roman culture? Men had total authority over their wives. Wouldn’t it be easier to get a divorce and marry a Christian? But Peter does not give this option. He seems to believe that God can help us change our world and overcome evil with good.

Peter says the husband and wife are partners, joint-heirs. We each have our strengths; we each have our weaknesses according to the grace we have received. The grace of physical life is shared as one in love. The grace of our spiritual life makes us unique, but we each have received a measure of grace from God when we are born again.

Do you know why you need to respect your wife. Because your relationship with your wife affects your relationship to God. If you are not treating your wife properly, your relation with God is broken.

Remember, Peter does not talk to individuals. He is writing to churches and he gives us some general principles to apply to our lives.

In our country today that provides equality for men and women, what would Peter say? He would probably not have to give separate instructions. He would tell us all to live holy lives. He would say: show respect to each other, love deeply, trust God completely, and do good.

Some of you may have some frayed relationships. Maybe some of you kids have not treated your folks with respect, maybe you parents have not treated your kids with respect. The Bible says, respect, give dignity to one another. When we respect one another we learn from one another.

This Scripture has been talking to wives and husbands, but it can be applied to many relationships. Would the people in your life see your conduct as reverent and pure? Do you have an imperishable humble and quiet spirit? Do you respect people and creation?

Any damaged relationship with other people or creation will damage our relationship to God. To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

If the Lord has given you knowledge of something you should do, do it as soon as possible. Don’t allow anything to hinder your relationship with God.

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