February 16, 2020
Last Friday was Valentine’s Day. It’s interesting to review the origin and history of the day –named after Saint Valentine of Rome. Actually, he did have a little to do with the romantic love for which we celebrate the day. He was a priest in Rome who was martyred on February 14, 269, supposedly for performing secret weddings for Christian soldiers forbidden to marry. You see, it was thought married men didn’t make good soldiers, so Emperor Claudius outlawed marriage! The legend says, after performing the ceremony, Valentine cut out paper hearts for these newly-married soldiers to be reminded of their commitment.
Valentine was named a saint by Pope Gelasius in 496. Yet another legend says he healed the daughter of the judge who sentenced him to death of her blindness. He then sent a farewell letter to the daughter before his execution, and signed it, Your Valentine. Today, you can even visit the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome to see his floral-crowned skull. That’ll give you warm fuzzies on Valentine’s Day.
I won’t recite all the history, but through the years, it became the romantic day of today. Such that, in the US, it’s estimated 190 million cards are given annually, second only to Christmas, not counting the hundreds of millions exchanged by children at school. Further, with those cards, flowers, chocolates, jewelry, etc., it is estimated the average expenditure per person for the day is $136 – for a whopping total of $18 billion. It is a commercial boon for the economy.
Why do we do it? I suppose it gives an annual opportunity to express love for that special someone. Valentine’s Day gives us the opportunity to say, I love you, do you love me, check yes or no. Or to say, will you marry me? Or, will you forgive me? You see, we’re always trying to figure out relationships – especially the husband-wife relationship.
We’re always trying to figure out marriage. How do I determine the one who’s right for me? Once I’ve found him or her, how to I convince them, he’s the one, she’s the one? Then, once we get married, how do I keep him/her? Or, once we get married, how do I get out if it doesn’t work? We seek answers to those questions from every available source. For example, some children ages 6 to 10, were asked the following questions:
How do you decide who to marry?
Alan, age 10, responded, “You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.” As I understand it, Alan is still single.
Kirsten, also age 10, said, “No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.”
Another question, What is the right age to get married?
Camille, age 10, “Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person forever by then.”
On the other hand Freddie, age 6, said, “No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married.”
One more. How can you tell if two people are married? Derrick, age 8 responded, “You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.”
Well, the Scripture says much about marriage – especially since God is the one who created it. He knows how it should work – even in the midst of brokenness. And so, for example, we find many so-called household codes in the NT – by Paul and Peter, for example. We are studying I Peter, and we find he records a household code. But we must remember the context. If we simply use I Peter as marriage manual, we’re missing it. He’s writing to a group of believers suffering persecution for their faith. And he writes to tell them how to live beautiful lives in the midst of such opposition – for the purpose of making Christ and His gospel attractive – to include to unbelieving husbands. Peter lists three relationships of authority, within which those under authority may face challenges:
- People and Unbelieving Governments (2:13-17)
- Slaves and Unbelieving Masters (2:18-20)
- Wives and Unbelieving Husbands (3:1-6)
And right in the middle, Peter gave us Jesus as the example of one who suffered unjustly – and how we should follow in His steps. We arrive today at the third one – wives to husbands – actually whether believing or unbelieving. Let’s read the text – I Peter 3:1-6.
You know at Alliance, we are committed to Scripture. If it says it, we believe it. Now, I know there are cultural issues in the Bible; that is, there are some descriptive and some prescriptive elements. What that means is, there are some things recorded that describe events as they unfolded. They’re not meant to prescribe for us the way we’re to do things. For example, when Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to get a wife for Isaac, Eliezer ended up giving the prospective bride, Rebekah, a nose ring. That doesn’t mean wedding rings should be replaced with nose rings, it doesn’t mean we should select our wives from among distant relatives, and it doesn’t mean we should have someone propose to someone else we don’t know.
But there are some prescriptive passages of Scripture which clearly articulate roles, responsibilities, expectations, and commands. Genesis 2, which tells of the creation of Adam and Eve, for example. How do we know it’s prescriptive? Well, for one thing, it speaks generally of the relationship between husbands and wives. And for another, both Jesus and Paul used the passage for their teaching on marriage. So, principles in Genesis 2 transcend time and culture. For example, as I said a couple weeks ago – the Scripture regulates slavery, but God did not invent it. But God did design marriage, and further, tells us how it works best.
All that to say this: we are committed to, actually bound to the instructions of Scripture. We’re not going to try to dismiss what the Bible says as culturally irrelevant or outdated. As the Creator and Designer of the marriage relationship, we believe God’s principles and commands in Scripture concerning husbands and wives are not only binding, but best. God did not sit in heaven and say, let’s see, how can I design the marriage relationship to be the most impossible task in the world – a relationship that will be the most dysfunctional and bring the most heartache? And how can I really irritate women? God did not do that – He has our best in mind. His goal for marriage is that it be joy-filled – that it reflect as closely as possible the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. Remember – that’s the foundation.
So, with all that in mind, we arrive at the text. And there are principles here that will help make these relationships work well – for the glory of Christ – out of reverence for Christ – to make Him and His gospel beautiful.
Now, Paul says wives are to submit to their husbands, as to the Lord in Ephesians 5. In Colossians 3:18, he says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” In I Peter 3:1, Peter says, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands…” with respectful (fearful) behavior. Titus 2:5 says wives are “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” A response of the redeemed wife is to submit to the husband’s God-ordained headship within the home as to the Lord. Failure to do so results the word of God being dishonored.
Now, what does it mean to “submit”? The word means to subject, to subordinate, or to be under the authority of another. It was a military term and was used of the authority an officer has over a subordinate. Now, this is extremely important: the word is in the middle voice. Meaning, nowhere are men told to subordinate their wives – nowhere are men commanded to make their wives obey – any more than wives are commanded to make their husbands love them. It is a command to the wives – wives, submit yourselves. Peter and Paul tell wives to submit themselves to their husbands. This submission is to be a willful, voluntary act on the part of the wife to come under the authority and headship of the husband. So, what does all that mean? Let’s start first with what it does not mean:
- Submission does not mean putting a husband in the place of Christ. Paul said, “be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” In other words, submission to your husband is an act of obedience to Christ, and is to mirror your submission to Him.
- Second, submission does not mean giving up independent thought. The Christian wife should still hear, ponder, understand, and respond to the Word of God herself. She is still to be a thinking person, and not abdicate her responsibility to make moral, thoughtful, wise, godly decisions.
- In fact, third, we see from I Peter, submission does not mean a wife should give up efforts to influence her husband. Peter says wives should try to influence unbelieving husbands to become Christians.
- However, fourth, we see that submission does not mean a wife should give in to every demand of her husband. If he demands she do something contrary to the clearly revealed Word of God, she should respectfully decline.
- Fifth, submission does not mean a wife should endure the abuses of her husband. I have never counseled a woman to stay in a home where she is being physically or verbally abused. If she fears for her safety or the safety of her children, she should remove herself from that environment. However, that separation should be for the purpose of discipline and ultimate restoration. You say, well, what if he never changes – what if the danger is always there? Then she should not go home.
- Sixth, submission is not based on lesser intelligence or competence. We are not talking about inferiority/superiority. We’re talking about loving headship and willful submission.
- Which leads to the last one: submission is not inconsistent with equality in Christ. Men and women, husbands and wives have been equally redeemed and have equal importance, dignity, honor, and value before the Lord Jesus Christ. It is simply a matter of function.
So what, then, does submission mean?
- First, submission is an inner quality of gentleness that affirms the leadership of the husband. Let me say it again: the wife willingly submits to the authority and leadership of the husband in the marriage relationship. It means making a choice to affirm your husband as the leader within limits of obedience to Christ. It includes a demeanor that honors him as the leader, even if you disagree. It’s an attitude that goes much deeper than mere obedience– it is respectful affirmation of his God-given responsibility to lead.
- Second, I’m just going to comment on this. Submission acknowledges an authority that is not totally mutual. What do I mean? There is a sense in which husbands have an authority that you do not have. Nowhere are husbands told, explicitly, to submit to their wives. However, in every context in the New Testament where husband/wife relationships are discussed, the wife is commanded to submit to her husband.
- Third, we see submission is to be to your own husbands. Peter does not ask every women to submit to every man – not every male/female relationship requires submission on the part of the woman to the man – but rather, it is commanded for wives to submit to their own husbands.
- And finally, as I noted earlier, your submission is to be as to the Lord. In fact, Paul later says, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. You don’t get to pick and choose. Unless it violates the clear teaching of the Word of God, it is submission.
With all that said, what does this submission look like? I believe Peter gives us a description of respectful submission in our text today.
Notice Peter says, “if any of them are disobedient to the word.” While this is the passage we use to counsel wives who are married to unbelieving husbands, please understand it applies to you whether your husband is an unbeliever or a believer. And, we have before us a description of what godly submission looks like. Notice verses 5 and 6, “For in this way…the holy women also…used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands….” This is a description of the submissive wife, and we see three ways in which a woman lives this life:
- Number one, she concentrates on living the Word, not preaching the Word (1-2)
- Number two, she accentuates the internals, not the externals (3-4)
- And number three, she emulates the holy women of the past, not the unholy women of the present (5-6)
Again, we note the response of the wife to the husband is irrespective of the husband’s spiritual condition. Here, if the husband is an unbeliever, it does not excuse the wife from her responsibility to submit and demonstrate that in these ways. For the purpose of making the gospel attractive. You see, in the culture Peter addresses, it was expected that the wife have no friends – only his, and that she worship the god of her husband. So for her to commit to Christ was scandalous. And so Peter is simply trying to preserve the Gospel and its impact. Notice, he doesn’t subvert the family order – but he does address wives – as he did the slaves. Scandalous. What is interesting is women back then would have celebrated what Peter said – he actually spoke to them. But today, people are offended for the opposite reason. Please understand, Peter was going against the status quo. He was elevating women.
So, first, you are to live the Word before him, not preach the Word to him. There is obviously both positive and negative aspects to this principle.
Let’s start with the negative – you are not to preach the Word to him. That’s a big one. When your husband is disobedient to the Word, what’s the first thing you want to do? Point it out to him – repeatedly – until he gets it. You have the idea if he’s wrong, if you just make him aware of it, he’ll change. And if he doesn’t change the first time, you’ll tell him again, and again, until he does. Peter says, don’t preach the Word, instead, the positive side of the command is, live the Word before him. If he isn’t doing what’s right, you make sure you do. Your life will be an example to him. Peter says, they will be changed as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior, literally, your pure and fearful manner of life.
I know that’s very easy for me to say, and very hard to do. Everything in you, especially as you still deal with your own sin, wants to rise up and read him the riot act – in a godly way. You’ve got chapter and verse, and it’s your job to set him straight. It is – but you’ve got to do it the right way. Live chapter and verse before him. And as you live it before him, allow the Spirit of God to take your living epistle, and change his life.
And you say, so, is there never a time when I, as a wife, should confront my husband? I’m not saying that. I believe in a godly home, where husband and wife both want to live out the truths and principles of the Word of God, the husband will want you, he will invite you to hold him accountable to biblical truth. But what if he doesn’t? Then, you don’t, you simply live it.
Which brings us to our second point, the submissive wife is to accentuate the internals, not the externals. Notice the word, merely in verse 3 is italicized. That means it’s not in the original text, it was provided by the translators for understanding. And most believe that’s right – don’t just concentrate on your appearance – don’t concentrate merely on the externals, your primary focus should rather be internal. Now, there have been groups who have taken this passage and taught women should not wear any jewelry, any make-up, etc, and I suppose that’s fine. But I don’t think Peter is ruling that out – I believe he’s ruling out an undue emphasis on what you look like externally to the neglect of what you look like internally.
He lists three specific areas, three specific externals women then seemed to focus on: hair, jewelry, and clothes. There was a major emphasis on adorning yourself in such a way as to draw attention to yourself by excessive hairdos, ostentatious jewelry, and expensive and attention-grabbing clothing.
That’s interesting. What percentage of commercials and advertisements deal with hair products, jewelry, and clothing – in short, the way you look on the outside? Again, I’m not saying not to look nice. The emphasis is not to be on the external, but the internal. And there’s a simple question to ascertain where you are with that – I probably shouldn’t ask, but here goes: Do you spend as much time dressing up the inside each day as you spend dressing up the outside?
Peter tells us an exterior emphasis results in braided hair (back then, an ornate presentation of hair), gold jewelry, and finely adorned clothing. He also tells us what an interior emphasis results in: a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. Who are you trying to please? Think about it – when you come face to face with God, and that’s the implication here – in the sight of God, when you come face to face with Him – do you think He cares whether you have the latest fashion and the finest jewelry? Do you think He cares what your hair looks like? He’ll be looking for a gentle and quiet spirit. (David)
Now, hang with me. This is going to bring some balance to what we’re talking about. A gentle and quiet spirit – what’s the mental picture you have of a gentle and quiet spirit? A weak, spineless, mindless woman? One who doesn’t speak her mind, because she doesn’t have a mind. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The word gentle is the word praos – and it only appears four times in the New Testament. The first time it’s used is in the Beatitudes – in Matthew 5:5, we read, “Blessed are the gentle [praos], for they shall inherit the earth.” Meek is perhaps a better word for gentle. It includes the idea of gentleness, but it’s much more than that. It is not insisting on one’s own rights, not being pushy or selfishly assertive, or demanding one’s own way.
Again, when we think of meek, we think of weak, cowardly, spineless people. Blessed are the meek, the weak, the spineless, the mushy, the pathetic. Blessed are those who have no backbone, who don’t stand for anything. And what Peter is saying here is the wife needs to be that kind of person – a mealy-mouthed, subservient, spineless, mindless person. Is that right? No.
The word praos in extra-biblical literature gives a good picture of the word. There it speaks of a wild animal, like a wild stallion, that has been tamed. Before, it was useless – of little value – running into fences, kicking, biting, causing all kinds of problems. But, once it has been tamed, it becomes useful to the master. Now, when you think of a wild animal, such as a horse or a lion, being tamed, do you think of it being weak or powerless? No – rather, it is power under control. That is praos.
Remember, I said there are only four times the word is used. Here in I Peter, in Matthew 5 when it describes blessed people, and two other times when it is used to describe Jesus Himself. Once, in Matthew 21, at the Triumphal Entry when He riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, we read that He was gentle/meek/praos. By the way, what’s the next thing we read Jesus did after the Triumphal Entry? He went into the Temple and drove out the moneychangers. That’s power under control.
Then, the only other time it was used is when Jesus gave a description of Himself. Of all the things He could have said about Himself, He chose this word. He could have said, I am all powerful, I am all knowing, I am faithful, I am loving, I am just, etc.. But He didn’t. The only time He gave a self-description, He said, “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [praos] – for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
When Peter is telling you to be gentle and quiet, he’s not telling you to be mindless, spineless and powerless. He’s telling you to be power under control. He’s telling you to be like Jesus. Every one of you know you have the power with your tongues to thrash your husband. To lash out – even with truth and use it as a battering ram. Peter says, don’t do it. Rather, cultivate the hidden person of the heart to be gentle and quiet – for this is precious in the sight of God. How so? Because that kind of spirit, that kind of gentleness and quietness must of necessity place a continual and confident trust in God. And while hairdos come and go, while hair falls out and turns grey and white, while gold tarnishes, and while clothing becomes outdated, old and discarded, this kind of spirit, this quality of spirit, is imperishable.
By the way – one more thought. When he says gentle and quiet, the idea of quiet is peaceful. Cultivate a calming and peaceful influence in your family. One said it this way – while the husband, as the head of the home, determines the direction of the home, you, as the wife, determine the atmosphere. Don’t contribute to the chaos. Strive to provide balance, peace, calmness, security – quietness in your home. Work to make your home a place of rest.
Which, very quickly, brings us to our last point: emulate the holy women of the past, not the unholy women of the present. Peter even cites the example of Sarah. Now, I want you to think about that. Sarah was not perfect – she made her share of mistakes, some of them serious. But the testimony of Scripture is she was a holy and godly woman, proven by her actions and her attitude. She demonstrated a submissive spirit in her actions by obeying her husband, and in her attitude by calling him lord. Now, before anyone gets too carried away with that – know that the term “lord” was simply an expression of honor and respect. (Genesis 18)
Emulate the holy women of the past, and not the unholy women of the present. Let me ask you, who do you want to be like? Some air-brushed celebrity? Some talent who can sing and dance seductively with virtually no clothes on? Fill in any present day, cultural, female icon, who does not know the Lord. Who do you want to be like?
How about Sarah or Zipporah, Abigail, Deborah, Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla, Dorcas? You say, well, I don’t know much about those ladies. You should – they are just a few of the holy women of the Bible, whose character you should emulate.
And in so doing, you become children of Sarah. Much like Abraham is the father of faith, for all of us, Sarah has become the mother of submissive, godly, faithful wives. You become like her, if you do what is right. Don’t preach the Word, live the Word. Don’t accentuate the externals, focus on developing the internals. Don’t emulate the ungodly women of today, emulate the holy women of Scripture. That is the picture of the submissive wife.
As we close this morning, I know something about some of you. You’re marriage is a wreck. Maybe it isn’t quite a wreck, but it needs some serious work. And here I am talking about wives today, and husbands next time. And you’re hoping they’ll listen. Let me gently say, maybe you need to.
Let me suggest what the problem may be. If you’re like most people, then you look at the other person as the problem in the marriage. You may realize you’ve got some changes to make. But the real problem lies with your husband, with your wife. And you’ve been waiting for them to listen, to change. And all this sermon, and the next one will do is magnify their faults. Because you’re listening to what they are supposed to do. The only way this will work is if you listen to what you need to do. Don’t worry about your husband. Don’t worry about your wife. Focus on what you need to do. And then, as the passage says, watch God do a work in your spouse’s life. And if your spouse doesn’t change – what’s the worst that can happen. You end up being the husband, the wife, God wants you to be. You end up being more like Jesus.