Godliness At Home
In the previous chapter (1 Peter 2:1-25), we have seen the need to submit to Christ, the government, the church and our human employers - even if that involved suffering for belonging to Jesus. Peter's reason was that Christ submitted to the suffering of the cross, in order to set us free from sin to serve the Lord. In the same wicked world, we will suffer too when we identify closely with Jesus. Now Peter’s teaching focuses on the home and marriage, especially where one partner follows Jesus and the other does not.
Although human pride resents the idea of submission, it is an essential Biblical principle of willingly putting yourself under the authority of another. Submission can be forced onto people, and that always looks ugly; but God's plan is for us to choose to submit out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). At home, cultural differences may allow wives to have either a lot of freedom, or only a little. But Peter is not reflecting 1st century culture, or prescribing a cultural style. In instructing wives to submit he is not demanding subjugation, the obliteration of personal identity or the denial of the responsibility to make personal decisions.
Peter is saying that as Christ submitted Himself to Father God as a willing choice and as the church chooses to place itself under the headship of Christ, so the wife finds her fulfilment in accepting the headship of her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33), even if he is not a believer. Peter is not asking Christian wives to nag or force their unbelieving husbands into faith in Jesus. Rather he is teaching that unbelieving husbands will be motivated to enquire about the gospel when they see it lived out at home. Conversely, a rebellious and argumentative wife is no advertisement for the gospel: and the same is true for husbands!
Love is always best expressed in submission and sacrifice. It is the free, willing and glad surrender of personal rights in order to give another person the best that can be given. It was like that for Jesus too. This passage is not saying that wives should be oppressed or in any way enslaved; but rather it is a healthy reminder that proud assertion and arrogant defiance have no place in gospel ministry. In the home environment, godliness is best demonstrated in purity and gracious honour. Although people may think that faith in Jesus is foolish, watching holiness lived out at close-quarters is the ultimate compelling evidence that Jesus really does transform lives; and it leads others to desire Him for themselves.
© Dr Paul Adams