Series: Maintaining this hope
Submission, Authority & Conscience towards God
Today we are beginning a new chapter in 1 Peter – that of chapter 3.
The things to look for today are:
- Submission to authority honors God
- We are NEVER to do what we do out of fear of man but respect for God – and this should be obvious to those around us – it is part of our testimony!
- God’s rules for conduct and relationships are built in and instinctive to all humans.
Now as often happens, the first words in the new chapter require us to back up a bit into the last chapter. In this case we begin with the words “In the same way”…so, let’s backup to see what that means. Let’s go to chapter 2 verse 18…
“(18) Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are perverse. (19) For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly. (20) For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. (21) For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. (22) He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. (23) When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. (24) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. (25) For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
“(1) In the same way,
So in the same way, means like slaves with their masters, like Jesus before His accusers and murderers and like all true Christians with our Great shepherd – be submissive.
“(1) In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands. Then, even if some are disobedient to the word, they will be won over without a word by the way you live, (2) when they see your pure and reverent conduct. (3) Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – (4) but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.”
“(5) For in the same way the holy women who hoped in God long ago adorned themselves by being subject to their husbands, (6) like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You become her children when you do what is good and have no fear in doing so.””
There is a LOT here so let’s take time to examine what the Spirit inspired Peter to teach.
First I want you to notice that the Spirit does not inspire Peter to write what he does in order to correct the behavior of others in your life. This is about what YOU do – which should be treated as 100% independent from what they do. We do not REact – we act.
Here wives are given clear instruction on how to live, compose and behave themselves with respect to their husbands and before a watching world.
This instruction is only based upon one thing – their “good conscience” before God…as was stated in the last chapter. In other words, if your conscience as a wife does not tell you this, your conscience has become dulled or seared. This is a very serious matter – not because of this specific topic, but a dulled or seared conscience in ANY person, especially a believer is a very, VERY serious matter and deserves all, not just part of your immediate attention.
Wives are told here that they are to submit themselves to their own husbands. This is the Greek word hupotasso with which we are very familiar in this church.
While the passage is clear enough I want to press a few things.
First off is, as I often draw attention to in regarded to gender issues – this passage was NOT addressed to husbands or fathers or men of any kind at all. In fact, this isn’t even directed at all women – but to wives in particular.
That is NOT to say that some of the text doesn’t clearly apply to all women, and we will see that later, but he is specifically addressing wives BECAUSE he has been talking about submission and authority.
The fact that he did NOT address the husbands with this information implies much! Peter is NOT telling husbands to force their wives, or scare their wives or threaten their wives into submission. He isn’t addressing husbands at all!
Any husband that attempts to secure submission by force or coercion – their actions are repugnant to the gospel of Jesus Christ and hostile to it. It goes WAY beyond scripture. It would be to go WAY beyond godliness and WAY beyond the scope of any and all human authority.
Nowhere in scripture are told to FORCE someone into compliance – even with God’s will. There are, of course, cases in scripture where we are told to admonish, instruct, be an example of a pattern to follow and even reprove, rebuke and warn others – but never force!
Wives are called upon to do this of their own volition and willingly.
Make no mistake, this submission is in fact required behavior for any Christian wife since it is a prerequisite to being godly as the text makes abundantly clear.
Now what is the aim of this behavior? Well taken altogether we are given four reasons.
In order to be effective towards both godliness AND the potential conversion of a lost husband. To be a living witness to the world AND out of good conscience towards God.
I’ll give you those again…
- To be effective towards godliness
- To be effective towards the potential conversion of a lost husband.
- To be a living witness to the world
- And due to a good conscience towards God.
In order to accomplish this however, and again I must stress this – it must be willingly, voluntarily and not due to fear or coercion.
In other words, wives are to do all they can to make it clear that their submission to their husbands is due to their single-minded love, devotion and respect for Christ Jesus their Lord FIRST, but also for their husbands. It is NOT due to some culturally inspired notion, or from some slavish fear of physical, emotional or financial harm he could subject them to.
This is NOT about the husband’s power or strength or any other advantages he might have over the wife, but it is FIRST about her devotion to God and the jurisdiction and authority He has delegated to her husband over and concerning her.
I know this get’s kickback from the world but it should NEVER get a kickback from a child of God.
Now for a moment I’m going to go beyond the scope of this passage, but I believe it’s not outside the greater confines of scripture.
Can a husband be so abusive and power hungry and coercive to and against his wife that God would not consider it sin for her to separate from him physically without divorce? I personally believe the answer is Yes, and furthermore I believe that is one reason why the Spirit inspired Paul to record what he did in 1 Corinthians 7:10.
In that passage, a Christian wife is told not to leave her husband, but that IF she does leave, she must not marry another, since no scriptural…God-recognized reason for divorce has been committed.
As such, the passage only offers her two options – live a single life apart from her husband or be reconciled to him.
It is interesting that NO such provision is stated in regard to the husband – he is simply NOT to put away his wife.
One of the reasons this is interesting will show up a little later in the natural, modern day examples I’m going to give you.
Now, it needs to be understood that Paul says this with no real explanation given. It seems to me that this might very well be a provision for a woman who might be in a situation where she is in imminent danger due to her proximity to her husband if he is an ungodly and abusive man.
While it could easily be argued that if such a man were that way all the time, he could not possibly be a child of God, and is clearly not “pleased to dwell with her” so it could be seen as grounds for divorce – but I believe this provision was made in case the offending husband was a believer – so separation might be her only recourse.
Now we just read last week that God called us to suffer even unjustly for His name’s sake – or out of conscience towards God… it seems that here in 1 Corinthians 7 there “may be” room for separation due to real and serious danger – but I admit that I am going WAY beyond the bounds of what is actually and clearly stated. I cannot stress that enough!
So why go there at all, you might ask? Well, to offer some potential reason why Paul seemingly offers a back door to wives that he does not afford to men. To me, about the only logical reason would be abuse – but again I highly stress and am being very clear that this is MY opinion based upon the slightest of evidence.
One reason take the time to even bring it up is because it is a real and very unfortunate reality many women live and suffer daily with. I do not believe the “submission” Peter is speaking of in this chapter, includes cowering under the hand of a tyrannical and physically abusive husband. In fact, such may be the reason why the words are added at the end of this segment addressed to wives when it says that they become like godly Sarah, when they do what is good and have no fear of any “intimidation” which is what the words “Have no fear in doing so” mean.
Regardless of all this speculation…the clear and obvious goal of this instruction to women is obedience and reverence to God and that as a result her husband, if not born again, might be won to the faith when he considers by watching over time her modest and chaste behavior.
Now Peter uses this as a segue into what ISN’T pure, chaste and modest.
He tells them their beauty should NOT consist of outward displays of physical attire intended to beautify and draw attention to self. This is NOT to say that looking nice is sin, only that such should not over-occupy too much attention or concern. And is this not warranted? How many hours do you believe the average modern woman spends on her appearance? Between thinking, dreaming, shopping, testing and trying out different looks with clothing and make-up. Untold hours wasted on appearance. Every time I think about this I can’t help but think how hypocritical it is that many women get upset that men pay so much attention to the outward appearance of a woman, when they themselves have put untold hours into the presentation.
Now regarding this portion, I could easily have covered this from any one of several angles. I could have taught it from the advantages you would receive from doing it or the advantages there are for a husband if his wife were to dress and behave in this manner – but that is NOT how the Holy Spirit presented these instructions. The Spirit clearly points to the preciousness and deep value God places on it as the reason…so that is how and why I will present it as well!
One of the beauties of a godly wife is that even in her beauty she draws attention to her husband rather than herself. This was by design – because it honors and glorifies God and His character…which is why it is so precious and deeply valuable to Him.
While I do not at all pay close attention to the husband/wife relationships of our presidents, I did upon several occasions note the distinct differences between the way Michelle Obama used her “first lady-ship” and the way Melania did. When (and I own this), I saw President Obama and Michelle, I saw just that – two fun loving, somewhat personable but nonetheless showy people. Don’t get me wrong, I think President Obama was a class act, and again when they appeared together they were both personable and even likeable, but she definitely put herself out there as his equal in terms of who needed to be in the spotlight. When I saw President Trump and Melania, I largely saw President Trump…and in this latter case it wasn’t because Melania did not dress to the hilt, but rather her demeanor was that of a modest and supportive wife, not a woman attempting to use her position as a catapult for her career.
I want you to notice that to illustrate this point I chose two high profile women – neither of which were technically keeping this command. I imagine that any one of either of these two women’s outfits probably cost more than all the clothes I’ve ever owned multiplied by at least 2. So what illustrative purpose could it possibly hold for this passage then you might ask?
Well, it goes a LONG way towards demonstrating the great power and value of the inner person. When a woman’s heart is gentle and tranquil – it is both precious and deeply valuable both to God and her husband. When I see Michelle and Obama that is exactly what I see – THEM. What I see when I see Trump and Melania, I see Trump.