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1 Peter 3:1-7 – Instructions to Wives and Husbands

Summary

Married women and men receive instructions about how to live in relationship with their spouses in ways that reflect certain first-century values yet are motivated by an understanding of who people are before God.

Analysis

When considering this passage, a key phrase in 3:1 should be noted: "in the same way." This requires readers to look at what comes earlier in the letter. In 2:11-12, acting honorably is for the sake of bringing Gentiles to glorify God. In 2:13, accepting the authority of emperors and governors is to be done for the Lord's sake, that by doing right Christians will overcome the ignorance of unbelievers (2:15). In 2:16, all obedience is to be done in Christian freedom. In 2:18-25, slaves are said to be acting in accord with God's desires as revealed in Christ. So, then, in 3:1, "Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands." Why? Because, in this specific case, the wives are married to unbelieving husbands, who did not believe the verbal witness of Christians, but who now "may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives" (3:1-2). This is not some eternal law, but a context-specific counsel, which honors the existing social order for a Christian reason, and which very well might be different in a different situation or context. In addition, the word in verse 1 translated "accept the authority of" literally means "subject yourself" or "subordinate yourself" to your husband. The point is that the wives themselves are to do this in Christian freedom, not for other reasons.

In 3:7, husbands "in the same way" are to "show consideration" for their wives. In this case, the author addresses Christian husbands. The Greek words translated as "show consideration" literally say "according to knowledge"--perhaps referring to the knowledge of God and of people (including women) as God's creatures. While in the first-century Gentile context husbands customarily had the dominant role, Christian husbands are instructed to act not simply according to custom but in the knowledge that both husband and wife are created by God and both are heirs of new life in Christ. In the instructions to Christian wives and Christian husbands alike, the theological basis is the constant, while the particular acts of obedience are related to specific times and places. Today's readers must make the connections to their own social contexts.

1 Peter 3:1-7

Wives and Husbands

3Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; 4rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. 5It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. 6Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.

7 Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honour to the woman as the weaker sex,* since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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