Thursday, February 4, 2010

Transforming Marriages with True Freedom (Part 1)

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. (1 Peter 3:1-6)
Peter writes to scattered believers about the true freedom we now have because we belong to God through Jesus the Messiah. This liberty is not a thinly veiled license to live according to the lusts of the world. Rather, it is the freedom to love, give and serve, just as God revealed Himself in the example of Messiah.

All this is summed up for Peter in the words “be submissive.” The Greek word is hypotasso, made up of two words: hypo, “under,” and tasso, which has to do with order or arrangement. Literally, it means to subordinate. Peter began an earlier section with “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man” (1 Peter 2:13). French theologian Ceslas Spicq thinks a better translation of the unusual Greek expression behind it is, “Submit to every human creature” (Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 425 n. 9). This idea is reinforced a few verses later when Peter says, “Honor all people.” What does it mean, in practical terms, to submit? Spicq offers this:
It means first of all accepting the exact place God has assigned, keeping to one’s rank in this or that society, accepting a dependent status, especially toward God (Jas 4:7), like children who are submissive to a father’s discipline (Heb 12:9), after the fashion of the child Jesus. This religious subjection is made up of an obedient spirit, humaneness of heart, respect and willingness to serve. To submit is to accept directives that are given, to honor conditions that are imposed, to please one’s superior (Titus 2:9) or honor him by the homage that is obedience (cf. Eph 6:1), to repudiate egotism and aloofness. It is to spontaneously position oneself as a servant towards one’s neighbor in the hierarchy of love. (Ibid., pp. 425-6).
Peter showed how this works in relation to governing authorities and how it can be redemptive for those trapped in slavery (which ensnares masters as well as slaves) in a way that actually undermines that institution. Now he speaks of how to live it out in the marriage relationship.

The bulk of his instruction in this present passage is for wives. Wives in the surrounding regions did not enjoy equal status or honor with their husbands but were considered inferior, so they were the ones more likely to be treated unjustly. More specifically, Peter addresses those wives whose husbands were not believers. The prevailing religious culture would have simply expected them to worship the gods of their husbands. But Peter shows Christian wives how to approach this in a different and effective way: “Be submissive — spontaneously position yourselves as servants, in the hierarchy of love — to your own husbands.” This does not mean giving up one bit of what the wives believe nor does it mean doing evil or committing injustice. Rather, the conduct of their lives should be pure, modest and innocent, with reverence toward God and respect toward their husbands. Even though these husbands may not be receptive to the word of the gospel in preaching or teaching, they might still be favorably influenced by the way they see it lived out in their wives and be won to faith in the Messiah.

It was fashionable, then as now, for women to adorn themselves in fine clothes, fancy hair and expensive jewelry. But for Christian wives, the emphasis should be on “the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” This pleases God and can transform one’s marriage. Peter again uses the Greek word aphthartos, “incorruptible.” He has already used it twice: In 1 Peter 1:4, he used it to describe the inheritance God has for us. In 1 Peter 1:23, he refers to the new life we have in Jesus through the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. Born of incorruptible seed for an incorruptible inheritance, we have an incorruptible beauty at work in us — a gentle and peaceful spirit. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and we must let Him bring forth that fruit and transform our lives. Sarah serves as an example here, who showed proper respect for Abraham but was not intimidated or afraid of him.

So far, Peter’s comments have been for those wives whose husbands are not believers, so their husbands might come to share faith in the Messiah with them. Next, Peter will have a word for husbands who are believers.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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