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1 Peter 3 Part 1: The Heart of a Godly Wife
1 Peter 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:22-33 Be not discouraged but lean on the Word of God for wisdom and understanding and submit!
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”
1 Peter 3:1-2 NASB1995
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We have arrived at the first verses in 1 Peter 3. I confess to having felt some discouragement about the precepts in 1 Peter as I have been writing about them (more about that discouragement later, with a testimony of how God knows the right time to give me hope). As I noted in the last few devotionals, my stubborn anti-authoritarian tendencies and self-centeredness have made it difficult for me to honor those in authority in my life and to set aside those tendencies. Yes, I’ve prayed about it, which is why my testimony timing is so interesting. Oh, and this may be a bit long.
Let’s tell a little story about little old me. Way back in 1979, Steve and I were engaged and getting ready for our wedding. We had a meeting with the two pastors at the Lutheran church I grew up in to discuss vows and Bible readings, etc. By this point in my life (post undergraduate engineering degree), my faith was barely hanging on by a slim thread and Steve didn’t go to church at all, which was why my childhood church was the default location for our wedding. I had also stopped going to that same childhood church, telling my Mom it was too far to drive there on Sundays (not true). I was a newly-graduated engineer and was asserting my feminist tendencies as a young engineer at a local utility company; I moved to the Aerospace company I’ve mentioned before in 1981. I’m a lot like my dear late Mom: she was bossy and overly sensitive to criticism, so her only daughter emulates those traits quite well. The Holy Spirit has a LOT to work against, but, thankfully, He is all-powerful.
The two pastors at that church were both senior pastors with years and years of service in what was at that time a very conservative Lutheran tradition. I immediately jumped into action at our meeting, telling them that I certainly did NOT want to hear any of those dreadful verses by Paul on how women should submit to their husbands. At that time, I probably wasn’t even aware that 1 Peter had a similar theme, as that small epistle was not explored very often in our church year. I was not reading a Bible much anymore, anyway, as I was moving away from faith. The two pastors nodded at my little tirade and took down my requests. We didn’t tell the pastors that we were living together at that time before our marriage, something that really grieved my Mom and Dad. We feared they might refuse to do the ceremony (well, at least we knew it was wrong at the time, but we did it anyway).
The wedding day arrived! Steve stayed with his parents and came with them to the church and I came separately to the church from our apartment. It’s a wonder there wasn’t one of those “Ananias and Sapphira” moments, because you can’t deceive God and He knew about our sinful cohabitation. The wedding day progressed and we were finally in the middle of the ceremony. To my shock, the older of the two senior pastors read from Ephesians 5:
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
Ephesians 5:22-33 NASB1995
I didn’t hear the part about how husbands are supposed to love their wives, as I was fuming inside over hearing the “wives, be subject to your own husbands”. I’m sure my face was beet red and I was trying to glare at the pastor as he read the passage. I took him aside afterwards and asked him why he read it. He shrugged and said that God has set the order in this Universe, not me.
Well, the interim years happened, with both of us falling away from faith for a long time. A large part of of that for me was driven by my allegiance to feminism and its “principles”. I bossed the hubby a lot about things in our relationship, but, more often than not, our decisions were mutual on things that we were going to do. One of those decisions that was a disaster was the decision to not have children. I started coming around to the idea of being a parent and so did he, but then we misread each other’s intentions about it and a permanent decision that rendered parenthood moot was made by one party thinking that the other party really wanted that. Fortunately, our relationship survived that trial. I also discarded feminism as a personal value quite a long time ago, as I found it easier to work with a lot of guys at work by not having a feminist chip on my shoulder.
Well, you know from previous devotionals that the Lord found His two stupid wandering sheep. We tiptoed back into the safe fold and began to really learn His Word. For this passage in 1 Peter 3 I like the commentary in Enduring Word by David Guzik, which talks about that very same order in the Universe that God ordains mentioned by that pastor so long ago; links go to the Blue Letter Bible:
The call for submission is not merely a call for love and considerate action. It is a call to take the place of submission to authority. The ancient Greek word translated submission was used outside the New Testament to describe the submission and obedience of soldiers in an army to those of superior rank. It literally means, “to order under.”
Yet submission to authority can be totally consistent with equality in importance, dignity, and honor. Jesus was subject to both His parents and to God the Father but was not lower than either of them. “Thus the command to wives to be subject to their husbands should never be taken to imply inferior personhood or spirituality, or lesser importance.” (Wayne Grudem)
Of course, submission in marriage follows the same principles as submission in other spheres. We submit to God appointed authority as our obligation before God, unless that authority directs us to sin. In that case it is right to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20).
Be submissive to your own husbands: Peter carefully observed that wives are called to submit to their own husbands and not to all men in a general sense. Male headship is God’s commanded principle for the home and the church, not for society in general.
The principle of submission is presented in many different ways in the New Testament.
Jesus submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51).
Demons submitted to the disciples (Luke 10:17).
Unseen spiritual beings submit to Jesus (1 Peter 3:22).
The church should submit to Jesus (Ephesians 5:24).
None of these relations are reversed. For example, masters are never told to submit to servants, Jesus is never told to submit to the church, and so forth. So while there must be a servant-like love and attitude on the part of those in positions of authority, that does not eliminate the concept of God’s order of authority and the corresponding submission.
That even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives: The benefit of submission is shown in the way that it affects husbands for God. A wife’s submission is a powerful expression of her trust in God. This kind of faith and obedience can accomplish great things, even without a word.
Wives may want to shape their husbands, either guiding them to Jesus or guiding them in Jesus through their words. Peter reminds them that God’s plan is that wives impact their husbands not through persuasive lectures, but through godly submission, chaste conduct, and the fear of God.
There is a sense in which a wife’s efforts to shape her husband through her own words and efforts may hinder the power of God’s working on the husband. It is much more effective to submit in the way God says to, thus demonstrating trust in Him, and to let God have his way with the husband.
“The attractiveness of a wife’s submissive behaviour even to an unbelieving husband suggests that God has inscribed the rightness and beauty of role distinctions to include male leadership or headship in the family and female acceptance of and responsiveness to that leadership… The unbelieving husband sees this behaviour and deep within perceives the beauty of it. Within his heart there is a witness that this is right, this is how God intended men and women to relate as husband as wife. He concludes, therefore, that the gospel which his wife believes must be true as well.” (Grudem)
By obeying the precepts that Peter lays out, a wife can, through her behavior even with an unbelieving husband can lead him to see the truth of the Gospel. Jesus submits to the authority of the Father (and He submitted to his earthly parents), but He is equal with God. I don’t “lose” any equality by deferring and submitting to my husband. And this submission doesn’t include being submissive to other men, only to Steve. Even this old dog can start to learn new tricks! Help me, Holy Spirit!
Oh, and for that testimony: Our church has been doing a sermon series on “Soul Thieves”, those things that the enemy uses to turn us away from God and hope and faith. Ironically, the sermon today was on Discouragement and it was wonderful! God’s perfect timing, once again! Five things were identified that will help the believer keep from becoming discouraged:
Feed your soul the right food (worship, word, prayer)
Proximity relationships matter - are they bending your ear towards God?
Be aware of what makes you vulnerable to discouragement and go to war.
Have the wisdom to know when discouragement can hit - usually without warning and often after a success!
Keep God’s rhythm day and night.
Nine precepts were offered to help someone come out of a state of discouragement:
Evaluate and sift through the hopelessness and only hold on to what God says.
Discern what the discouragement is trying to steal.
When reacting, stop spewing about it and spreading death over your life.
Go find reinforcements to help you come out of hopelessness.
Declare God’s truth.
Recall testimonies in your life and feed them to your soul.
Refuse to revisit the circumstance that led you here.
Get the negative emotions out - stop with the “Eeyore” attitude and “woe is me” self-absorption.
Perfect timing, of course! Discouragement was trying to steal my excitement about the Word of God when that Word was challenging to my ego.
My next devotional examines 1 Peter 3:3-6 - The true beauty of a Godly woman
Heaven on Wheels Daily
Dear Lord - Please help me to set a course in my relationship with Steve to be properly submissive to his authority in things that matter to both of us. Thank you for the perfect timing of the sermon on discouragement. I humbly submit to you as the ultimate authority in this Universe. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
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