The Dreaded “S” Word

There were three guys that were talking together. They were discussing marriage and the kind of control that a husband has in his marriage and over his wife. And they were kind of boasting about how they have control over their wives. Actually, two were doing all the talking and one was being quiet and just kind of watching and listening. They finally turned to him and said, “So what’s up with you? Do you control your marriage? Do you have control over your wife?” He said, “Well, you know, just the other night she came crawling to me on her hands and knees.” They turned in wide-eyed wonder and asked, “Then what happened?” He said, “Well, then she said, ‘Get out from under the bed and fight like a man.’”

We know that is not the way it goes! Submission . . . it’s not a very popular topic today. As a matter of fact in many circles just saying the word will stir up a lot of controversy. People will look at you and say, “How dare you use the ‘S’ word!” The topic here in 1 Peter 3 is one that can potentially make people blow up largely because it is so misunderstood and abused. You can be a Christian and disagree with me on this passage, but probably not be a happily married one because this is God’s plan.

This passage like all other passages are things we obey because of the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. We don’t follow Jesus because everything He teaches makes the most sense to us. The truth is we follow Jesus because He is Lord and His Word is sovereign! If you are the kind of person that has to be convinced about each issue before you will obey, then you really don’t understand the Lordship of Jesus!

When many people look at this passage they immediately think, “This is so outdated. We are in the 21st century and we are so far past this. We have a better way today.” I would say that is definitely not true and if anything we are headed in the wrong direction. In our culture today, marriages are in a mess. The divorce rate is at an all time high. More and more people are avoiding marriage and choosing to live in sin rather than commit in marriage. Forty-one percent of children are now born out of wedlock into single parent homes. And for many who are married, things are not working like God designed them to. Your marriage is not healthy and you are co-existing. You’re just two roommates living two separate lives under one roof. Your marriage is not a union of sacrificial love. If you think this kind of teaching is out-of-date and antiquated, it’s because most of us have never really seen this fleshed out.

When you first glance at this passage, your first thought might be, “Why did Peter spend so much time talking to the wife and so little time talking to the husband?” In Biblical days, if an unbelieving husband converted to Christianity the wife would usually follow without much hesitation. But if the wife became a Christ-follower first, the whole situation was much more difficult and much more complicated. So it took longer to go over the principles here when it came to the women. As with the entire book of 1 Peter, the purpose behind all that we do is for people to see the gospel fleshed out in us and become Christ-followers by both our verbal and non-verbal witness.

When Peter begins with “Likewise, wives be subject to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1) it is a connection to what has been written just prior to this. “Likewise” (1 Peter 3:1) means, “in the same way.” Just like in all the other situations with the government, workplace and the example of Jesus to the Father’s will, wives should be in submission to their husbands. Why does God set things up like this? It is for two purposes . . . to reveal Himself and to keep order. It is the same way in marriage. God has set marriage up to reveal Himself through the relationship and given us marriage guidelines to establish and keep order in the home.

Wives are not told to “be subject to” (1 Peter 3:1) or submit because they are inferior. For the longest time submission has been wrongly aligned with words like inferiority, weakness, etc. There is not even a hint of this in this passage or anywhere else in the Bible. Peter tells husbands that their wives are “heirs with you of the grace of life.” (1 Peter 3:7). When God talks about the creation of both male and female, He says all of us are created equally in His image. Paul says, “. . . there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

The roles we play do not imply inequality. If I am playing a baseball game and an umpire makes a call I am supposed to abide by, that doesn’t mean he is superior to me. I am equal with him but in that arena, he and I have different roles to play. Think about this, when two cars come up to an intersection there has to be an order to who goes first to avoid an accident. Think about the Trinity-One God revealed in three Persons. They are all equally God but yet Jesus said He submitted to the Father’s will. They are equal in essence but different in role! It’s the same way in marriage. God gives us each roles to play to keep order in the home and to establish it the way He designed it to be.

Some will say, “Well, my husband doesn’t deserve my submission.” It has nothing to do with your husband and everything to do with Jesus’ command. Your husband may not deserve your submission but Jesus does. Submission also has discretion within it. The question is sometimes asked, “What if something arises that is not Christ-like? Am I supposed to submit to that?” The husband never replaces Christ as the supreme authority. But even where you have to stand with Christ against a sinful situation you can still maintain a spirit of submission.

How is submission fleshed out? Actions Should Accompany And Match Words. “. . . so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2). The “word” (1 Peter 3:1) is the testimony or spoken word of the wives. Peter is telling them since they have not responded to the spoken word, it’s time to let them see their Christ-like actions in action. Let their actions match their words. This is not an encouragement to not give verbal testimony to Christ and only let our actions speak. Both are equally important. He is telling them that badgering them and nagging them will not bring them into the Kingdom of God. These wives had been sharing but had seen no results. That’s why he says, “. . . they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Submission is also fleshed out when we realize our Attitude Is Critical. “3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:3-4). There is nothing wrong with external beauty. Everybody appreciates beauty and wanting to look their best. The beauty industry is a seventeen billion dollar a year enterprise. Taking pride, in good way in your appearance is a good thing. This is not just a modern day thing. Back in the first century, beauty was a big deal. They have found that women dyed their hair and they even wore wigs. Many of them were blonde. Beauty and fashion have always been a part of every culture. Remember, Solomon wrote about his bride’s ornaments, chains of gold and beautiful sandals.

The world says there is a way to look beautiful and Peter is saying that internal beauty is far superior and much more important than external beauty. “. . . but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit . . .” (1 Peter 3:4). The fashion industry is always screaming change by pointing to things like losing weight, having younger looking skin, getting rid of wrinkles, etc. There is always the promise and allure of beauty and becoming better on the outside. Peter is saying, “It’s fine to look good, but strive for a spiritual makeover.”

It’s that “imperishable beauty” (1 Peter 3:4) he is talking about. “Imperishable beauty” (1 Peter 3:4) doesn’t rely on mascara, lip gloss, skinny jeans, etc. This kind of beauty makes a woman look and be more and more beautiful as the years go on. Perishable beauty is looking good on the outside and being ugly on the inside. “Imperishable beauty” (1 Peter 3:4) is being beautiful on the outside and the inside. It is based on that “hidden person of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4) which is the real you. It’s your character . . . who you are when nobody is looking.

Peter uses two words to describe this “imperishable beauty” (1 Peter 3:4). He says it consists of a “gentle and quiet spirit.” (1 Peter 3:4). “Gentle” (1 Peter 3:4) is “meek.” Meek does not mean weak. The word “meek” means “power under control.” A horse that was bridled was called meek. He has power but it is under control. A gentle spirit is somebody whose spirit is under God’s control. It is a wife who is under God’s control. Your mouth, your responses and your emotions are under God’s control.

The other word is “quiet” (1 Peter 3:4). It means “tranquil or undisturbed.” The picture is like a glassy lake that is peaceful and undisturbed first thing in the morning. The wife can set the tone for the house and the whole family by displaying that tranquil and undisturbed trust in God. There will always be bad stuff that happens outside and inside the home, but her quiet and undisturbed trust in God will put everything and everyone at ease.

Many husbands have these type of passages where it says “wives submit” underlined, highlighted, memorized and even claim we know them in the Greek. But before we get too focused on all that, let’s look at what Peter says to the husbands. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7). What we have to understand is submission goes both ways.

Submission is fleshed out when we realize Submission Is Mutual. “Likewise, husbands . . .” (1 Peter 3:7). “Likewise” (1 Peter 3:7) connects the husbands to all that been previously taught as well. Just like in all the other situations like in the government, workplace, the example of Jesus to the Father’s will, wives to their husbands, husbands play a role in submission. Although husbands don’t submit in the same way as wives submit, there is a mutual level of submission. Submission is not about what women can or can’t do; it’s about what men are called to do and don’t.

Paul talks about mutual submission in Ephesians. “. . . submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ . . . Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . .” (Ephesians 5:21,25). There is no greater act of submission than the willingness to risk it all, put it all on the line, being completely selfless and willing to die for another person! Husbands never stop leading and they serve as the “point man” for their family. Like a “point man” who leads his fellow soldiers in battle, a husband leads and fights for his family in both the physical and spiritual realms.

Peter says, “live with your wives in an understanding way . . .” (1 Peter 3:7). This understanding is an understanding of what God’s purpose for marriage is and what your respective roles are. Know that you are the leader and “head” of your family. You are the “point man” who will fight to the death for your wife and your family. This understanding is an understanding of your wife. Husbands, you have to be lifelong students of your wives. You have to know her well if you’re going to love her well.

In creation, God saw one thing that wasn’t good. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18). “Fit” (Genesis 2:18) means “suitable and a counterpart.” It means “like-opposite him.” When you hear that, does that surprise you? It doesn’t take long to see that we are different. Studies on the brain have shown that men and women are different in aptitude, skill, behavior, communication, physically, etc.

There was a book that I had years ago and the title said it all . . . Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. A man’s life is like a waffle. Everything is all compartmentalized. Each part of his life is in it’s own place and doesn’t intersect with the others. A woman’s life is like spaghetti. Everything is intertwined and connected with everything else. Neither is wrong, we are just . . . different!

Peter says husbands should show honor to their wives. “. . . showing honor to her as the weaker vessel . . .” (1 Peter 3:7). To honor is “to assign or assess value to a person; let them know they are priceless and precious.” A husband should treat his wife with respect, kindness, and courtesy. Husbands, you need to “prefer” your wife and put her needs first. “Weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7) does not mean weaker intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. “Vessel” (1 Peter 3:7) in the Bible most always a reference to the physical. I have seen a few exceptions but as a general rule women are physically weaker than men. Husbands, you should know your wives so well that you offer strength for her areas of weakness. Use your position of strength and leadership to serve her and not yourself! Husbands, you should lead in such a way that her submission to you is a blessing!

Men, are you loving your wife the way Christ loved the church? Are you displaying a selfless, sacrificing love for her and your family? Are your giving value to your wife and honoring her? Women, are you giving submission to your husband even if they currently don’t deserve it? Do you have a healthy view of submission? Are you focusing on your inner beauty? Are you displaying that gentle and quiet spirit in your home? Marriage is a team sport. Do the two of you consistently communicate with each other? Are you talking and praying through situations on a regular basis? Are you setting your marriage up for success or are you flirting with disaster? Are you following your plan or God’s blueprint?

You can either tear up the picture of the perfect partner and accept your actual partner, or tear up the partner and accept the picture. Robert Anderson said, “In any marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”

About Mike Chandler

Follower of Jesus Christ, Husband, Father, Pastor of Summit Community Church in Morganton, NC View all posts by Mike Chandler

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