1 Peter 3: 1 – 2

2 Peter 1Peter continues his discussion on submission. After admonishing the readers to be submissive to authorities and telling the slaves to obey their masters, he exhorts the wives to submit to their husbands. Peter adds the phrase in the same way. He is not saying that wives should compare themselves to slaves. Rather, Peter enumerates categories of people: first, the readers (2:13); then, the slaves (2:18); next, the wives (3:1); afterward, the husbands (3:7); and last, “all of you” (3:8). The phrase in the same way is equivalent to the connective adverb also. By addressing the wives as a class of people, Peter indicates that he speaks in general terms. Thus he averts any potential accusation of being offensive. In this passage (3:1–7), Peter enumerates the duties of wives and husbands and teaches the equality of the husband and wife. Nowhere does he imply that wives are inferior to their spouses; instead he stresses the roles which each gender ought to fulfill. Peter has more to say to the woman than to the man because he addresses her in her own circumstances. In the middle of the first century, a wife was expected to profess the religion of her husband. If the husband adopted the Christian faith, his spouse would have to do so, too. But if the wife became a Christian, her husband would consider her unfaithful to him and his pagan religion. This caused tension in the home. Peter therefore counsels these wives to submit to their spouses, even if their husbands make life miserable for them because of their Christian commitment. He fully realizes the predicament of Christian women whose husbands refuse to listen to the gospel.

A wife who has become a recent convert readily talks about Jesus Christ from the abundant joy in her heart. The case may be, however, that she encounters her husband’s indifference or direct opposition to the Christian religion. Peter counsels believing wives to submit to their own husbands so that by their exemplary conduct they may lead their spouses to Christ. In the Greek, Peter adds the adjective own to emphasize the bond of marriage. He confines his discussion to the family unit and does not apply it to society. Peter teaches that within the bonds of matrimony, the husband has authority to which his wife is expected to submit. He gives no indication that one partner is superior to the other; he intimates only that by submitting to her husband, the wife “shows her respect for the divine ordering of human relationships.” That is, neither Peter nor Paul formulates rules for husband and wife; God himself has established marital norms (see, e.g., Gen. 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18).

ringsWe do not always have to resort to words when we evangelize people around us. Often by our behavior we are able to influence them and point to Christ. Peter tells Christian women that they ought to witness “without words” to their husbands. He knows that their husbands are not persuaded of the truth of the gospel and thus are disobedient to the call of Jesus. Says Peter, “When [your husbands] see the purity and reverence of your lives” (v. 2), then “they may be won over.” Another translation of this verse is, “when they see your holy behavior with respect (toward your husbands).” God calls the Christian wife to show obedient love to her unbelieving husband so that he is able to see in her a picture of Christ’s love for the church. Moreover, guided by the Word of God, she should demonstrate to her husband moral purity that is exemplary.

Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 116–119). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.