World English Bible translation
3:1In like manner, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don't obey the Word, they may be gained by the behavior of their wives without a word; 3:2 seeing your pure behavior in fear. 3:3 Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; 3:4 but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious. 3:5 For this is how the holy women before, who hoped in God, also adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: 3:6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose children you now are, if you do well, and are not put in fear by any terror.
Peter has spoken to these Christians about obeying the king and his governors. He has directed his attention to servants. In both of these cases he delivered messages that must have been difficult to accept. To people who were being persecuted he said that they should obey the government because the king was established by God. To servants he wrote that they should submit themselves to their masters even when their masters are wicked. In each of these first two instructions Peter lays down a challenging standard of behavior.
By contrast, for his day and time, Peter is relatively restrained in his instructions for wives. Perhaps the example of Jesus that he has just called forth has taken some of the intensity from his words. Or it is possible that the major problems in these churches that Peter wrote to set straight was a rebellious attitude towards the authority of the government in general and the attitude of servants towards their masters in particular. It is possible that the persecutions arose because these Christians believed their freedom in Christ meant that they did not have to submit to outsiders. Even the instructions to wives that we have here, though gentler, mention a believing woman and her response to an unbelieving spouse.
That is not to say that Today's Scripture does not challenge the modern reader. To ask anyone in today's society to submit to anyone else is a challenge. This is especially true when asking women to submit to men. Women have now had the taste of personal freedoms that were unthinkable sixty or seventy years ago and there is no going back for most of them. Nor should there be any returning either. The personal freedom of women to direct their own lives and to gain equality with men in the workplace and in the home is not inconsistent with Christian values. Moreover, the Christian norm is a series of mutual submission of each person to the other, from man to woman, from young to old, from God to us. Yes, even God submits to man in the person of Jesus Christ.
Here Peter instructs wives to be subject to their own husbands, especially to those who have husbands who are unbelievers. A woman should not only be concerned with her outward adornment but should be even more concerned with making herself beautiful on the inside. She should develop a gentle and quiet spirit, which we are told, is precious in the sight of God. A woman who develops the inner life of the Spirit may win over her unbelieving husband.
Modern women should take heart in the example that Peter uses. He writes to them that they should be subject to their husbands like Sarah was to Abraham. Now it is true that we do not know a great deal about the personal relationship of Abraham and Sarah. What we can gather from reading Genesis though is that Sarah was not a shrinking violet. She spoke her mind and made suggestions and in the only time we are told that the two of them had a disagreement, Sarah got her way. Hagar was forced out of the household because Sarah put down her foot, even though it had been Sarah's original suggestion that Abraham conceive a child with Hagar.
In this example we have two people working to fulfill the promise of God in their lives. And God's promise was to both of them. God made His covenant with Abraham but He said that the child of the promise would only come through Sarah. They both made a lot of mistakes along the way, but God's plan was for the both of them. Abraham needed Sarah and Sarah needed Abraham. We are bound to each other irrevocably in God's plan.
Women, are you willing to make your heart more beautiful than your hair, your soul more precious than your gold? Are you willing to subject yourself to your husband in Christ's name? And are you willing, ultimately, to submit your life to God's plan for your family and yourself?
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