1 Peter 3:1-12

1 Peter 3:1-12

“How to Act”


Today’s message is taken from 1 Peter 3:1-12. Those of you who have heard my earlier messages in this series will recall that Peter wrote this first letter around 64AD to Christians who attended various churches in what is now Turkey. It was written to encourage the readers during difficult times to endure and live lives that were worthy of the name of Christ.

Up to this point, Peter has reminded the believers that they had obeyed Christ and believed and so were born again, and that God shields them. Even though believers suffer, the suffering comes so God can get glory. Believers have to live lives that are self-controlled, free of the evil desires that consumed them before coming to Christ, obedient to God – holy lives, ridding themselves of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. Believers are to crave spiritual food –Bible reading, prayer, relationships with more mature Christians, and walking in faith – the way a baby craves milk. Believers are being built into a priesthood and a holy nation – as such, we need to be holy. We need to submit to the government, and to whomever God has placed as authority figures in our lives (the law, our boss, leaders in our lives). We are free from slavery to sin, but should not try to use that freedom as a license to sin. We need to live like people of God, showing proper respect to everyone, loving believers, fearing God, and respecting the human government.

In this chapter, Peter continues the idea of How people should treat each other. He addresses three categories of people, wives, husbands, and everyone. So we continue with the text…

1Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands

This text is specifically addressing married women. This is not speaking about trying to get women to submit to men in general – the text says nothing about women submitting to men in general. Inherent in this statement is the idea that men are to be the leaders in the family. In the same way that people are to submit to their bosses – the original text was written to slaves, but the general principle applies to employees of all kinds, paid, volunteer, indentures, or slaves – a wife is to submit to the authority of her husband – whether he is a man of God or not, whether he is a good man or not. Peter is not saying a wife should like her husband (though it certainly helps). Peter is not saying to trust your husband (though if there is no trust, your marriage is on definite rocky ground). Peter is saying a wife is to trust GOD and in faith submit to her husband.

I can hear the collective, “yeah, right! Nuh-uh!” going on in people’s heads, So let me start out by defining what submission means. For some of you, this will be review, because you have already heard me speak on submission to authority. Bear with me – this is important.

Submission often causes people in our culture to cringe, because we are a culture which prizes independence. We often think that if we submit to someone, that person has beat us up or is better than us in some way. We think that if we submit, we are caving. That way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let us examine this word carefully. The Merrian-Webster dictionary describes submit as “to yield to governance or authority.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New and Old Testament Words describes it as a military term, “to rank under.” There is no mention of the person doing the submitting is less or more, better or worse, than the thing or person being submitted to. This word does NOT mean to resist with all your might, as some people seem to think is means. But NEITHER does it mean to NOT speak up when it is called for. It means to yield to governance or authority. Submission has nothing what so ever to do with competition or arguing or fighting. It has nothing to do with who is better or worse. It has to do with there being a hierarchy. It has to do with responsibility.

Let me give you an analogy: a Captain is in charge of his ship. The Executive Officer is the second in command. It may be that the Executive Officer is smarter, more good looking, went to a better school, is a better leader, and has more training and more experience with a particular ship. But the Captain is the one who has the ultimate responsibility for the ship, not the Executive Officer. As such, he has to give directions and those directions have to be followed. It is the DUTY of the Captain to seek advice and listen to the thoughts and/or concerns of the people who work for him. It is the DUTY of the Executive Officer to play devil’s advocate sometimes, trying to find holes in the Captain’s plans. It is the DUTY of the Executive Officer to share his thoughts on the ship and plans the Captain may have. But ultimately is the Captain’s responsibility on how the ship is run and to see to it that the orders of the Admiral are followed. The Executive Officer submits, yields, to the authority of the Captain. But by the same token, the Captain submits, or yields, to the authority of the Admiral. If a Captain goes off on his own and ignores the advice of his Executive Officer, then he will eventually run the ship to ground. If the Captain ignores the directions given to him by the Admiral, then he will have to suffer judgment.

This is true for a family as well. Ephesians 5:22-24. God put man in charge of the family, and put a woman, his wife, under his authority. She may be smarter than him. She may be better at doing the bills. She may be stronger or in better health than him. She may be a better leader than him. But GOD put the man in the leadership position of the family. God is the Admiral, in our analogy. The husband is the Captain, and the wife is the Executive Officer. The husband is ultimately responsible before God for how the family runs. HE will be judged by how well he does it. The wife is responsible to GOD to follow her husband’s lead. SHE will be judged by how well she does it.[1]

So. Why submit…?

 so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

If someone claims Christ as their savior, but there is no change, one has to wonder if that claim is real. If someone claims Christ and yet continues to live a pattern of sin, one has to wonder if that person knows Christ or simply does not get what it means to be an adopted child of God. If your husband is not living like he needs to be, it may be he does not know Christ. Peter is saying that if they do not believe, YOUR LIFE has to be so much a reflection of Christ that they are won to Christ by your  example.

“George Müller [who was a such a strong man of faith in God that over the course of his 60 years as a Christ, founded a Christian Institute, orphanages, and a missionary society without ever asking a single person for money – he would pray and God would provide.] told of a wealthy German whose wife was a devout believer. This man was a heavy drinker, spending late nights in the tavern. She would send the servants to bed, stay up till he returned, receive him kindly, and never scold him or complain. At times she would even have to undress him and put him to bed.

One night in the tavern he said to his cronies, “I bet if we go to my house, my wife will be sitting up, waiting for me. She’ll come to the door, give us a royal welcome, and even make supper for us, if I ask her.”

They were skeptical at first, but decided to go along and see. Sure enough, she came to the door, received them courteously, and willingly agreed to make supper for them without the slightest trace of resentment. After serving them, she went off to her room. As soon as she had left, one of the men began to condemn the husband. “What kind of a man are you to treat such a good woman so miserably?” The accuser got up without finishing his supper and left the house. Another did the same and another till they had all departed without eating the meal.

Within a half hour, the husband became deeply convicted of his wickedness, and especially of his heartless treatment of his wife. He went to his wife’s room, asked her to pray for him, repented of his sins, and surrendered to Christ. From that time on, he became a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus. Won without a word!

George Müller advised:

Don’t be discouraged if you have to suffer from unconverted relatives. Perhaps very shortly the Lord may give you the desire of your heart, and answer your prayer for them. But in the meantime, seek to commend the truth, not by reproaching them on account of their behavior toward you, but by manifesting toward them the meekness, gentleness and kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ.” [2],[3]


3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

            Peter is not saying that women should not do their hair, wear jewelry or wear nice clothes. He is saying that your beauty comes from the inside. A gentle and quiet spirit is someone who trusts in the Lord, rather than henpecks or browbeats her husband, and prays and lives a life that points to God, not to herself. This sort of person is worth a great deal to God.

5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.

Women in the old testament were commended for putting their trust in God, rather than in themselves or their husbands. They showed their trust in God by yielding to the authority of their husbands. Gen 18:10-12 – In her HEAD, sarah called Abraham her master – the one in charge – like the master of a ship. Its not that he was better than her, but that she recognized that GOD had put him in charge of the family. She wasn’t going around saying to people, Abraham is my master.” If you know anything about Sarah, she also was not someone who was afraid to share her mind.

You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

            While Jewish women are descendants of Sarah, women who follow Sarah’s lead in this – who do not give in to fears of the world or fears of life or fears of their husbands. Women who rely on God and do what HE says – are daughters of Sarah. We needn’t worry about what will happen when our husband will not work or pay the bills. We needn’t worry because when we do what God says, we are blessed. We might have dificutlies in this world, but God is the ruler of all. He created it all. We need not worry in this life – Turn to Matthew 6:26, if he can provide food for the birds which do not work for it, he can provide what you need. We need to worry about what will happen if we displease God.

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and

A Christian husband is to be considerate of his wife. He is to think of her. He is to be thoughtful of her. He is to be someone who takes her thoughts and feelings and words and actions into account when he goes through the day.

treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Look at 1 Peter 2:17. a Christian man is to respect everyone, this includes his wife.

Ephesians 5:25-33. Notice the terms love, feed & care. In today’s world, it can be considered an insult to call a woman someone of the weaker sex. But Peter was speaking of the truth: men and women are built differently. The average woman is not as strong as the average man. Most women are left-brained and are more prone to random, intuitive thinking. Most men tend to be right-brained  and are logical, sequential, rational. Both are valid ways of thinking. Women tend to be more aware of, and focus on, their emotions and often prefer to deal with other’s emotions. Men tend to ignore or avoid their feelings more and would rather deal with the concrete things. Both are necessary and valid ways of going through life. Women tend to speak more than men. Men tend to “get to the point”, and thus use their words less. Both are valid ways of communicating. Women tend to intuit things very well. Men tend to try to find the “logic” in things. Both of them are useful and valid ways of thinking. We’re different. But while we are different, we BOTH need to rely on God.

A Christian man must be understanding of his wife. Men have to realize that two of the most important things in the world to most women are her family and security. As a man of Christ, we must live with our wife considerately and respectfully. We do not need to act like a cave man. While God has put us in the position of head of the family, we are not to rule like a dictator with an iron fist. But neither are Christian men to live as emasculated men. You are to live as the leader in your family. Follow the example of Christ – be a servant leader.

What does your family need? What will help them grow in their knowledge and faith in Christ? I ask because, although we are each responsible for our walk with Christ, Paul said it is the man’s responsibility to see his wife cleansed by the Word and present her holy and blameless to Christ! Are you doing what you need to be doing to do just that?

Help your wife deal with her worries, don’t ignore them or make fun of them. God put you with her for a reason! And it wasn’t just to make babies. You need to value what your wife brings to the marriage. There is a place for intuition. There is a place for random thinking. Some of the best brainstorming (when you get together people and try to come up with any and all solutions) happens with random thinkers.

Husbands, live in a way that encourages your wife and that helps her feel fed and cared for in all ways – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, AND physically.

If we do that, nothing will hinder our prayers. But men, if we do NOT do that, then how can we expect our prayers to be heard or answered?

This next part is written to everyone, husbands, wives, and those who are not married:

8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing,

Turn to Matthew 5:39; Romans 12:17. EVERYONE needs to get along. We need to not be judgmental of others, we need to be sympathetic – this is most especially true when people are not doing what we think they ought to be doing. If we think they are in sin, there are steps to follow to try to help them get things straightened out. But we are to love our Christian brothers and sisters, being compassionate and humble. When someone insults us, or hurts us, or someone we are responsible for (like our child), we are not to “get even”, we are not to respond in kind when someone insults us. We need to bless them rather than hurt them. Don’t try to “get even” with the person who hurts or insults you. Don’t tell others what a terrible excuse for a human being the person who hurts or insults you is. Pray for that person.


because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

We need to live in love and pray for those who hurt us because we are called to Christ’s followers – we are to model our lives after Christ. Christ himself said to turn the other cheek. If he said it, and we are truly children of God, then we need to follow not only what he said, but also his example – he could have called the angels to protect him, or destroyed Israel or the Roman empire if that was what he chose to do. Instead, he submitted to the human authorities. He turned the other cheek, so to speak. And thank GOD he did! Otherwise, we would be doomed to hell!

                                        10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” a [4]

Psalm 34.12-16. Peter is quoting scripture, telling us to live lives that are worthy of the name by which we are called. Jesus never did evil. He was perfect. We’re not. But even so, we need to follow Christ’s example. This is especially so if we want to have a decent life. We need to not speak bad things, we need to turn from evil, we need to do good, we need to pursue peace. We need to ACT LIKE CHRIST! If we do that, GOD will attend to our prayers. If we do that, we will be obedient to Christ. If we do that, we will be holy. And THAT is what Peter is saying: Christians need to live holy lives.

Are you living a holy life? Have you accepted Christ as your savior? Are you being who you need to be? Are you trusting in Christ instead of yourself, your job, your husband, your wife, your parents? Are you acting the way you need to act?  Have you hurt someone in how you reacted to something they did or said? Have you offended God? Pray for God to let you know where you need to change. Pray for God’s forgiveness. Come to God. God accepts you the way you are, but he doesn’t expect you to stay that way! Ask God for what you need.

[1] Other verses RE: headship: 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1Ti 2:12–14; Titus 2:1-5; Ephesians 5:22-24

[2] (3:2) George Müller, in a periodical called The Word, edited by Richard Burson, date unknown, pp. 33–35.

[3] MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (1 Pe 3:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 3:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


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