Studying 1 Peter 3:1-6 Instructions to Wives

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Peter has already started in on a section on how to live as a Christian alien and stranger in the world within the various roles one can occupy. The lens through which these relationships and roles are viewed is the lens of Jesus. He suffered for doing what was right and in doing so won people to faith in God. Christians have the same responsibility. So if you are going through difficulty, consider how the position you are in might be used to leverage the kingdom of God and build faith in non-believers.

So first, Peter addresses wives with non-Christian husbands and specifically how they can win them over to Christ. There is a way of life that would make an unbelieving husband more open to the message of Christ rather than more resistant to it. The greater good is winning his soul,

Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” – 1 Peter 3:1-2

Second is a matter of the women’s own inner worth. It is an inner worth, not an outer worth and so it is based on inner qualities, rather than external adornments,

Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.” – 3:3-4

Peter never instructs to not wear these things (Paul does in 1 Tim 2) but is more interested in how a woman sees her own worth. Don’t get yourself wrapped up on valuing yourself via worldly metrics. Instead, focus on valuing yourself on what God values – your inner self.

Last is submission. Before I go into that I want to say that the way Peter addresses the women in 1 Peter 3 is actually an honoring of them as his equals. Ancient male letter writers addressed men, not women. By addressing and instructing the women (and not just the men), Peter acknowledges their value. It seems antithetical in our culture to both value women and tell them to submit. Remember, Peter has already instructed Christians to submit to pagan ruling authorities. Now the women are in a state of submission for the sake of the gospel toward their unbelieving husbands. Peter believes that by their behavior they might win souls to the Lord.

In order to understand Peter’s instruction more clearly here it also helps to understand the role of women in society. Typically a woman would take on the religion of their husbands. It wouldn’t matter if you were a pagan, what’s one more god? But if you are a Christian woman, you cannot take on paganism and so you are left in an awkward and vulnerable position. She is living humbly and peaceable to keep the peace so she can both keep her faith and hopefully win him to Christ.

There will be times in our lives we are called to do hard things for the gospel and for the greater good of the kingdom. It is important we evaluate whatever position we find ourselves in, in life and ask ourselves how we might be in such a position for the furtherance of the Gospel and to live in such a way as to give the Gospel its greatest hearing.

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