Lesson 20—Understanding or Misunderstanding
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:1-6
Lesson Goal: To gain a proper understanding of Peter’s use of “submission” in the context of marriage.
In his book The MacArthur New Testament Commentary I Peter, John MacArthur says:
“If believers are to maintain an exemplary testimony in this unbelieving world, they must live blamelessly in the four major arenas of God-ordained social interaction that Peter addresses: the society (1 Peter 2:13-17), the workplace (2:18-25), the family (3:1-7), and the church (3:8-9). In relation to the three secular dimensions of life, the apostle commands believers to be witnesses for the positive sake of the gospel (2:9), as well as negatively, to silence the critics of the faith (2:12-15).
Warren Wiersbe writes in his book Be Hopeful:
A strange situation exists in our society today. We have more readily available information about sex and marriage than ever before; yet we have more marital problems and divorces. Obviously something is wrong. It is not sufficient to say that God is needed in these homes, because even many Christian marriages are falling apart. The fact that a man and woman are both saved is no guarantee that their marriage will succeed. Marriage is something that we have to work at; success is not automatic. And when one marriage partner is not a Christian, it can make matters even more difficult.
Chapter 3—Peter begins by addressing these verses to Christian wives who are suffering at the hands of unbelieving husbands. While this suffering is very difficult, Peter encourages the believing wife. He points out that her godly conduct in the midst of this difficult situation can be an opportunity to witness for Jesus Christ. Peter also takes the opportunity to write some strong and important admonitions for both husbands and wives. But no matter what your marital status, we can all learn from Peter’s writing.
(Verse 1) “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” When we see in Scripture the words submit or submission, many times we react without a clear understanding of what is meant. May God help us with our understanding of His Word.
Before I continue with today’s lesson, let me give you an insight that might be helpful. Concerning Peter writing about marriage, Charles Swindoll says, “[Peter] does not write from some remote prophet’s cave or from a scholar’s proverbial ivory tower.” Peter writes as a married man; in fact, his wife accompanied him on many of his journeys. See 1 Corinthians 9:5. So Peter understood some of the struggles that married couples encounter.
We have learned that because of His love toward us, and in our own best interest, God has placed and ordained various levels of authority. The word Peter uses hypotassō renders “be submissive.” The word comes from a military term. The military is built on levels of authority that are vital to the proper functioning of the unit. Just as Peter has called his readers to be faithful to Christ as they honor authority in government and the workplace, he now speaks of marriage.
Just as hypotassō has at its root a military meaning, it also means “to subject oneself voluntarily to another,” with the implication of following the other’s lead in obedience. Submission does not imply any moral, intellectual or spiritual inferiority in society, workplace, or family. But submission is a part of God’s design. Submission does not give more or less character to an individual. To help our understanding, read Ephesians 5:22-25. Read again verse twenty-five. (Husbands, this verse should stop all strutting and set the proper context for a wife’s submission—enough said!) Submission does not mean “less of” or “inferior.”
“own husbands” indicates the intimacy of marriage. God has a wonderful blueprint for marriage that gives it order and fulfillment. He gives the roles to both the husband and wife in a way that results in what is best for the family.
➢ Take a moment and write in your own words what it means to “submit.”
➢ Based on Scripture, what are some of the roles of a Christian wife and a Christian husband?
➢ Explain how husband and wife form a partnership.
Peter writes that godly submission by a godly wife becomes a great sermon to an ungodly husband. In fact, the life of a Christian wife can become a way and a witness to reach an unbelieving husband. This sermon can be preached without using words, just the Christ-like conduct of a godly wife.
➢ Write what this means to you “Preaching a message without using words.”
It is the character and conduct of the wife that can be used to win the lost husband—not arguments, but such attitudes as understanding, love, kindness, patience and submission. These qualities cannot be manufactured but result from the Holy Spirit’s power in the life of the believing wife.
(Verses 3-6) In Peter’s day, many Roman women were captivated and obsessed by the latest outward fashions and so were in competition with each other. They wore elaborate and expensive garments and pieces for the purpose of outdoing or impressing others. Peter warned and encouraged the Christian wife not to focus on external decorations, but on internal character.
He wants the believing wife to know that “the winning of her lost husband will not come by hanging Christmas decorations and lights on a dead tree. When you take the lights and decorations off, you still have a dead tree” (Brackin, Town Creek paraphrase). The word for adornment that Peter uses is from the Greek word cosmos, from which our word “cosmetic” comes. It’s okay to have decorations and light, but it’s what is underneath that really matters. True beauty is found on the inside.
Something to think about: God is concerned about values not prices.
Questions for Life Focus
How do your words affect your actions and how do your actions affect your words?
Why do the words “submit” and “submission” cause so much uneasiness in today’s families?
Using your knowledge of Scripture and your own words, write God’s design for marriage.
Read Ephesians 5:25. What does this verse mean to husbands?