At the close of chapter 2, Peter wrote to the slaves in the churches. He encouraged them to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Eventually, the Gospel was the undoing of slavery in the Roman Empire. Before the end of slavery, Christian slaves demonstrated that a person could follow the will of God and still suffer injustice. Today, Christians are called to speak for those who have no voice.
Peter wrote to husbands and wives in chapter 3. We have more research on family and marriage available today than ever before. We have more controversy and confusion about marriage than at any other time. Christians struggle in their marriages just like everyone else.
Rick Warren said, “Christians shouldn't confuse marriage with an ultimate solution to all of their problems because instead, saying ‘I do’ will likely magnify the problems you already had as a single person.”
Being a “Christian” does not guarantee marital success. What does God’s Word say to the married couple?
1. A successful marriage is rooted in following the example of Jesus.
1 Peter 3:1-2 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands 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.
Peter spent more time addressing women than he did men. In Peter’s time, women were in an entirely new situation as Christians. Before Jesus, women were kept down. This was particularly the case in the Roman Empire. The freedom that Christ enabled brought many questions. Many of these women were married to men who were not Christians; the wives needed wisdom and direction on how to cope with this reality.
Marriage is a union. It is a physical relationship. It is a change in status—a fundamental shift in priorities and approach to life. Marriage is a deep, complex, and intimate relationship.
Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
How does a Christian succeed in marriage? In 1 Peter 3:1, “in the same way” refers to the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave of himself selflessly by bearing our sins on the cross. In the same way, the husband and wife are to live selflessly by following the example of Jesus.
For most of us, we learn by observation. Parents and grandparents love to see children learn by imitating mom and dad. When kids imitate a positive example, they become better people. However, for many, good examples were not available. Many of us did not have good role models to influence us in the family.
We can always follow the example of Jesus. The first step in following his example is to become a Christian, believing in him. When we are followers of Jesus, we spend time with him by reading the Bible and praying for guidance. This is the most important aspect of a successful marriage.
Peter reminded wives that they were to submit to their husbands. “Submit” is a military term which means “to place in rank.” God has created the world and the church with a plan for leadership. God has also created the family so that the wife is protected by the divinely ordained leadership of the husband.
Nowhere here does Peter assert that the man is superior to the woman. The best and most rewarding marriage is a marriage designed by the Creator; God’s plan for marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Both male and female are created in God’s image to give glory to God. Both are of equal value before God.
A marriage ceremony is a celebration of oneness before God. Two become one. The couple makes a covenant before God to enter into a spiritual, emotional, physical, and legal union. This is why believers must always marry other believers.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Many Christian woman and men in Peter’s time were married and then converted to Christianity. Today, many Christians are married to unbelieving spouses. Peter reminded believers that humility had a profound influence on an unbelieving spouse. He wasn’t talking about manipulation. Peter was calling for a genuine desire to serve the unbelieving husband with authenticity.
No amount of begging or preaching will convert some. This is particularly the case in the home where people are in close quarters and can see the positive and negative qualities of their spouse. Sometimes a “hard-sell” approach drives family members away. Character and compassion are the best sermons to unbelieving family members. The fruit of the Spirit are the most compelling influences.
A good marriage is more efficient for spiritual growth than any other church ministry or program. In a Christian home, we can learn to be more like Jesus. A wife can learn to be an encourager by encouraging her husband. A man can learn to serve by caring for his wife. Children can learn to thrive within the bounds of authority in the home. Kids can develop a vision for what it means to be Christian men and women by following the example of their parents.
2. A successful marriage focuses on the qualities which matter to God.
1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, 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’s word for “adornment” is the Greek word “cosmos.” This is the word from which we get our word for cosmetics. Peter referred to the Roman fascination with fashion, dress, hairstyles and makeup. Wealthy Roman women wore gold and silver adornments in their hair and expensive clothes. Interestingly, the preoccupation with style has not changed in our day.
Peter didn’t denounce fashion. He reminded men and women that glamor was artificial. Real beauty comes from within. Solomon acknowledged the fleeting quality of external beauty.
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Now, married couples shouldn’t let themselves go. Although style and beauty aren’t everything, they do have their place. Peter’s point is that we shouldn’t major on fashion and neglect working on the inward beauty. It is possible to wear stylish clothes and wear jewelry and still honor God. After all, if we care about our spouse, we want to look and be our best for them. A gentle, quiet spirit is attractive.
3. A successful marriage demands hope and a sense of adventure.
1 Peter 3:5-6 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Peter pointed out Sarah as a good example. Sarah was a beautiful woman who supported her husband Abraham, even when it was challenging and dangerous. God called them to leave their homeland and to venture to a place that God would reveal to them. She wasn’t a perfect woman. Sarah did live with a reverence for God and respect for her husband.
In our day, we need more couples who are willing to stick together. Tony Evans said, “Rather than being married by the justice of the peace, it looks like we’ve been wedded by the secretary of war.” In our grandparent’s day, divorce was rare and couples were willing to work out their differences. Today, separation and divorce are common. Divorce is reserved as an option by many if the marriage becomes unhappy.
Some are not interested in marriage at all. They don’t like being tied down to one person. After all, why should people get married when they can live with whomever they wish and not worry about being judged? Our modern relational climate is inhospitable to God’s Word about marriage.
Marriage isn’t easy. When two people get married, they bring twenty or more years of past experiences. Each person has their own way of looking at life. The couple has to figure out roles and form values in the relationship. Often, it's hard to reconcile these differences and to make the changes necessary to create a stable relationship. However, when the two put God first, it is possible to build a marriage that is healthy and yielded to Jesus Christ.
“A wedding is a combination of discontinuity and continuity. Discontinuity speaks of a cut with the past. Continuity speaks of something that is ongoing from the past. When a couple gets married, they break a family tie prior to their wedding. It’s particularly true for the female, but normatively true for both parties as they disconnect with their mother and father as their primary point of family reference. And then they go out and begin a new household. Yet, although they disconnect with yesterday’s family ties, they continue a magnificent institution called family. It’s not the same as the one they are disconnecting from but it continues the same principle of family. God calls this connection a covenant. The word “covenant” can be seen all the way through the Bible as God’s word to explain or describe a new relationship.”
4. A successful marriage enhances a person’s connection with God.
1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and 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.
Husbands are to be considerate, as they live with their wives. This implies that husbands are to spend time with their wives. Many men, when confronted with the choice, choose to spend too much time away from home. Some men work too much. Others are solving other people’s problems while their own marriages are suffering. This is not good for the relationship.
Husbands are to treat their wives with respect. It is hard to pay proper respect to someone you hardly know. Ignorance can destroy a marriage. The man needs to grow in his understanding of his wife’s needs and emotions. He should learn to communicate effectively with his wife. It takes time to develop this level of communication. However, it is essential that a couple can be honest and open about their feelings so that no hidden resentment or frustrations build in the marriage.
The husband and wife are “heirs together” of the gift of life. What an incredible thought! Often, God puts two people together who balance one another out. She needs his personality and strengths. He needs her personality and strengths.
“The husband must be the ‘thermostat’ in the home, setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife often is the ‘thermometer,’ letting him know what the temperature is! Both are necessary. The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not only make her happy but will also grow himself and help his children live in a home that honors God.” Warren Wiersbe
When a wife shows humility and a husband demonstrates consideration, God will develop their marriage into an incredible partnership. When either the husband or wife fails in their responsibilities, a spiritual connection is lost. Peter mentioned that the couple’s effectiveness in prayer was dependent on their efforts in following Christ together.
The most important thing in a marriage is love. Love helps us get through the tough times.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.
“A husband and wife one day were fussing. They were really going at it. So the wife suggested they write down their complaints on a piece of paper and then show the other person exactly how they felt. She thought it might cut down on the bickering. The husband agreed and got the paper. She got the pencils. They both started writing.”
“They both wrote furiously for a while. The husband would pause, look at his wife, and write some more. The wife would pause, look up at her husband, and write some more. The husband paused again, looked at his wife with an even angrier look on his face and he would write some more. The wife did the same and then put her pencil down. Her husband was still writing. He looked up at her in fury and continued writing. He kept writing. Then he wrote some more. Then he wrote even more. The wife was getting furious because she had covered one side of the page and her husband was finishing the backside of his paper. He kept looking up at her and coming up with more to write. Every time he looked up, something new would come, and he’d write some more.”
The wife was in agony, crying in anger. Finally, they exchanged papers. He wrote, “I love you” on every line. Even though he was angry, he wanted her to know that he loved her.
“When she saw that much love, it covered the multitude of sins that brought up the argument in the first place. When you and I love one another like that, that kind of love can cover up a multitude of sins.”
1. Are we working together or going in different directions?
2. Are we helping each other grow in the faith?
3. Are money and external issues more important than heart issues in our home?
4. Do we understand each other (likes and dislikes, communication style, emotions)?
5. Do we take one another for granted?
6. Is God answering our prayers?
7. Is our marriage life-giving? What needs to change to make our relationship better?
http://www.christianpost.com/news/rick-warren-if-marriage-magnifies-your-problems-then-why-did-god-create-it-163301/ (Retrieved on May 31, 2016).
Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 201.
Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 2 (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), 411.
Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 198-199.