Marriage that glorifies God

Posted: January 17, 2010 in 1 Peter

1 Peter 3:1-7, “Marriage that glorifies God”
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If I were to ask for a show of hands from the married couples here, “Who wants a better marriage?” likely the whole room would go up. Even when a marriage is great, most people want to see it improved in some way. However, if I were to ask “What needs to happen for your marriage to improve?” most people would start saying something about their spouse. 🙂 Not so in the Scripture. When the New Testament looks at what needs to happen in a marriage to glorify God, it gives straight talk to husbands and to wives. Today’s passage is no different – it doesn’t say what we ought to try to make our spouse do; it only tells us what we need to be doing ourselves in submitting ourselves to God & glorifying Him in our marriage.

For some women here today, you might be asking yourself, “Is this fair? 6 verses dedicated to the wives & only 1 for the husband?!” There’s obviously a principle being put forth here for wives – but what we see Peter do is also give a very specific example of how this principle works within marriage. This actually speaks rather highly of women in the church in that apparently there were so many women getting saved in the early church that some teaching was necessary of how the wife was to relate to her unsaved husband. All in all, the Holy Spirit (through Peter) knew exactly what to say to both husbands and wives & how to say it…He certainly didn’t hold back with either one.

“Come on…so what? I’m not married & I don’t ever plan to be married. I should have just stayed home & gone fishing.” 🙂 Someone actually told me that in jest – I know without a shadow of a doubt that that person was joking…but there are likely some in this room for whom that’s true. You’re wondering what the point is of even being here today. Let me give you some reasons:

A. This is the word of God. How would you like to stand before the Lord Jesus one day & tell Him you decided to ignore this part because you didn’t think it was relevant?

B. If you have children, this is absolutely relevant! You have a responsibility as a parent to teach your children what to expect in a spouse & in their marital relationship. At the very least, you may be called upon to give godly counsel to a young couple one day – you need to know what the word has to say on the matter.

C. You never know what the Lord has in store for you…you might one day BE married, even if you’re not planning so right now.

So what is it God wants from husbands & wives in a marriage – what are we to do that will bring Him glory? Wives: submit to your husbands. Husbands: honor your wives. Hand-in-hand serve one another in the roles & responsibility God has graciously given you.

1 Peter 3:1-7 (NKJV)
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,

A. Submission defined: we’ve seen the same Greek word before when speaking of submission (ὑποτάσσω = under + appointed/ordered). Outside of the NT, it was often used as a military term, referring to order within the ranks. That’s an important distinction – order has nothing to do with value. The President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but the 5-star generals who report to him are vastly more valuable in terms of knowledge & military capability than the president. In the marriage relationship, God from the beginning has ordained an order that the husband is to be the head of the wife (Gen 3:16, Eph 5:22). In no way does this imply that the wife is worth less than her husband (Peter will actually show the exact opposite in verse 7). It simply affirms that a wife who seeks to please God in her walk with Christ acknowledges that she is to submit to the leadership of her husband.

B. Submission has an example, in Christ. Peter implies this a bit when writing of the Lord Jesus’ sufferings in Ch 2. Servants were to take their example for how to endure undeserved suffering from Christ, Who endured much undeserved suffering – but Jesus still did it, in order to submit Himself to His Father’s will. Elsewhere in the NT, Paul goes into this submitted relationship in depth. Philippians 2:5-8 (5) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. [] The Co-Creator of the Universe – the very Word of God – God the Son – the One to Whom all of creation will submit, Jesus STILL humbled Himself to the will of God & became incarnate as a man to die an accursed death on the cross. (Which certainly re-affirms that submission has to do with order; not value. Who among us would argue Jesus is somehow less valuable than God the Father?!) If our Lord Jesus willingly submits to His role ordained by God, why would we expect to be any different.
__a. Keep in mind that ALL of us (men & women alike) are to submit to someone. This isn’t just a thing for wives alone. Submission within the body of Christ is simply part of being the body of Christ as we are submitted to the Lord Jesus & to one another (Eph 5:21).

C. Submission is limited, “to your own husbands.” To those who would attempt to use the Scripture to somehow force all women to submit to all men, the Bible flatly says otherwise. Both Peter & Paul (in his writings on the subject – Eph 5:22) very specifically in the Greek show that wives are to submit only to their OWN husbands.
__a. Submission has nothing to do with subjection & oppression (and those who try to make it into such a thing have zero understanding of Biblical submission). Submission is simply aligning ourselves with the order of which God has established in order to give God glory. A marriage in which both husband & wife act as God has called them to act is a wonderful thing & a powerful witness unto Christ!

D. Submission can be evangelistic… There are many people who begin their marriage outside of Christ, but along the way one of the spouses hears the gospel & receives Christ as Lord…amen! Now what to do? The natural thing is to share the best news you’ve ever heard with your unsaved husband/wife & pray they also repent & receive Christ as Lord. … To the churches Peter was writing to, apparently this was happening often (praise the Lord!). But what was a wife to do when her husband actively resisted the gospel? “Do not obey the word” implies more than simply being reticent to believe; it’s an active refusal of Christ. Is the wife to continue pushing the gospel in front of her husband, fighting his stubborn unbelief? It depends what we mean by “pushing.” If that means continual nagging, dropping obvious clues everywhere, and otherwise just annoying her husband with the gospel, then the answer is “no.” There’s a far more powerful way available to you to continue to present the gospel to your husband: your actions. More of this is described in verse 2.
__a. For a born-again Christian who’s unmarried, the Bible calls us to be equally yoked. We have no business dating those who aren’t saved & don’t know Christ… It causes problems in the long-term that you don’t need & works against the whole point of marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church…
__b. As with the other examples of submission (citizens/government, servants/masters), there is an obvious time when wives ought not to submit to their husbands: when their husband would have them do something that is obviously anti-biblical. Christian wives are to be submitted to God 1st & foremost. Peter’s whole point here is not that wives should deny their faith, but that they ought to demonstrate their faith, rather than merely debating it.
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2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

A. Submission is more easily seen than discussed in a marriage. When speaking of an evangelistic outreach, it’s certainly possible to demonstrate the gospel in deed (though gifts, aid, etc.), but obviously words are necessary for the gospel to be shared (faith comes by hearing & hearing by the word of God – Rom 10:17). But Peter isn’t writing of a one-time evangelistic conversation – he’s writing of a marriage relationship where the husband has the opportunity to see his wife for hours every day, 7 days a week. For the husband in question (who had heard the gospel but actively refused it), the most powerful witness to him is going to be seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ in action. He’s going to be looking at his wife & thinking, “Ok, you say that this Jesus-guy changes people? That you’re going to love one another? Prove it – let’s see Him change you.”
__a. Sometimes the most difficult people in the world to which to witness are our family members. They see us at our best & at our worst. How you handle your worst when you’re in Christ is when the rubber meets the road regarding your faith. And when your own family members can see the change, that’s a powerful witness to the Lord!

B. 1st thing to be observed: “chaste conduct”. Speaking of purity here…not necessarily a meek/modest disposition, but more of holy living. An unbelieving husband is going to have a tough time debating the reality of the Lordship of Jesus Christ when he observes his wife producing the fruit of the Spirit by the bucketload.

C. 2nd thing to be observed: “fear.” Don’t let the word throw you – remember the context in which it is given…we’re supposed to “fear God” (Ch 2:17). It’s not that we run in terror from God, but we are to give Him the respect & reverence He deserves. This is the same idea for wives & husbands. Wives are to treat their husbands in such a way that gives them honor.
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3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 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.

A. What’s to be seen is sincerity; not superficial. Women in the Roman culture would go to far extremes in arranging their hair – inserting gold & braids & all sorts of decorations to make it tall. Truly it was vanity in action. Christian wives weren’t to be that way & be consumed with how their hair & clothes looked (in direct opposition to what we sometimes see on ‘Christian’ TV). That kind of beauty was entirely superficial; what their husbands needed to see was the beauty of their character, given them by God.

B. Don’t misunderstand Peter – fine apparel isn’t evil; it’s just not a substitute for what is true. Technically, the Greek doesn’t use the word “fine” – it just says “apparel.” But obviously Peter isn’t telling the women to walk around naked – the whole point is to not be consumed by vanity, but rather spend time “primping” their inner beauty.

C. What IS most valuable is what is in the heart. A “gentle & quiet spirit” is absolutely lovely on a lady of God – and Scripture affirms it’s “very precious” in God’s sight.
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5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,

A. Submission in marriage isn’t anything new that’s placed upon the believer; this is something that honored God in the lives of holy women in the past. We’ll see a historical example of this in Sarah, verse 6.

B. Don’t miss the key to submission. Holy women did the same in the past because they “trusted in God.” A Christian wife will rarely submit to her husband because her husband is worth submitting to…because he never will be. The Christian husband understands he’s not worthy of submission for he sees himself as a sinner saved by grace alone. The non-Christian husband may not understand it, but he’s not even a child of Christ. He’s even less worthy of submission. But the worthiness of the husband has nothing to do with whether or not the wife submits to him, because it’s not about him. Her submission to her husband is entirely wrapped up in her trust & submission to God.
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6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

A. Sarah is a wonderful example. She submitted to Abraham, and did indeed call her husband “lord” – interestingly enough, she did so despite a hiccup of faith she was experiencing at the moment. Genesis 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” [] Even when she was having trouble with the Lord’s promises, she still demonstrated submission & respect towards her husband.
__a. Remember that Sarah’s submission did not involve rolling over backward & never saying a word. Sarah was often very involved with her husband, for the good & bad. [Hagar & Ishmael…] Whatever the case, Sarah was submitted, but not silent.

B. Keep in mind that calling someone “lord” here is not the same as calling someone “God.” Same word in Greek, but a completely different context. Like the Philippian jailer who used the same word with Paul & Silas when he said “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), the idea is simply that one way Sarah demonstrated her submission to her husband by using a title of respect for Abraham.
__a. Does that mean that wives today are commanded to address their husbands by a title? Certainly not – for Sarah, it was culturally appropriate; for our culture it would be weird (to say the least!). But what a husband most needs from his Christian wife is respect, which is affirmed in the Scripture. Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. []
__b. The point regarding Sarah is that she went beyond good intentions & actually showed respect to her husband Abraham. Perhaps a challenge for wives today is to ask yourself, “How am I demonstrating respect to my husband on an ongoing basis?”

C. When does a Christian wife know she’s following in the footsteps of Sarah? When she’s not afraid to act as God has called her to act within her marriage. Scholars have a tough time with what Peter means by saying “not afraid with any terror.” It’s possible Peter’s preparing the wives for any reactions that their unsaved husbands might have to their faith. There’s no reason to panic when they are submitted to the Lord God & thus to their husbands. At that point, they’ve done everything they can in order to demonstrate the gospel to their husbands in word & deed.
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– Husbands: you aren’t left out. We may only get one verse in this passage, but it’s packed full with instruction that will have a direct affect on your relationship with God. Listen up!

7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

A. Be perceptive with your wife: You’re not merely to live with your spouse under the same roof. Being married is far more than getting a single address & a joint checking account. You are to dwell with your wife “with understanding.” You need to be perceptive regarding your bride & begin to learn of her & know her. Other forms of the Greek word used here indicate an experiential sense of understanding…IOW, you’re to dwell with your wife in such a way that you walk through life together & all the while, you are observing your wife & learning of your wife & never stop doing so. The Christian husband ought to take pains to know what his wife likes & doesn’t like – what makes her feel protected or unguarded – how she’s going to react in a given situation & how best to lovingly walk with her through it.
__a. Too many Christian husbands fail on this 1st count. It’s not that anyone ever expects to fully & completely understand their bride with no surprises…we’ll be learning of our wives for the rest of our lives (as it should be). The problem comes when a Christian husband doesn’t even take the time to understand his wife at all. The moment you put a ring on her finger & said “I do,” life ceased being about YOU. (And likewise for you wives!) At that moment, it started being about “US” – the both of you. Through marriage, God made you into one flesh together, and just as you would nourish your own body, you now need to nourish your new joined “body” – your wife. That requires taking the time & pains to understand her & then acting accordingly.

B. Treat your wife as precious: To give “honor” to your wife is to understand your God-given spouse has immense value. It’s the same word translated “precious” when writing of the blood of Christ in Ch 1:19. The same blood that purchased your salvation purchased hers, and then God gave you a marvelous gift when He entrusted His redeemed possession into your care. Thus you are to treat her with honor, because none less than God Almighty sees her as precious.
__a. The “weaker vessel” does not mean that a woman is in any way less valuable than a man; it’s simply an acknowledgment of a physical fact. With the exception of Olympic athletes & Jillian Michaels, most women are (as a whole) physically weaker than most men. How do you treat something that physically weaker in your home? With honor – with care – as something that’s precious. Just as you treat your camping flatware different from your wedding china, so you ought to treat your buddies different from your bride.
__b. BTW – note how this goes hand-in-hand with the instruction to wives to submit to their husbands. A marriage that glorifies God is not one-sided. The wife submits to her husband while the husband lifts up & honors the wife. It’s a perfect example of serving one another in the fear of the Lord.

C. Your wife is your equal partner: How important this is to remember! This underscores the fact that your wife’s submission to you has NOTHING to do with her value. Ultimately, spiritually speaking there is neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). No matter what your gender is, if you’ve received the Lord Jesus as Savior, God has given you the spirit of adoption by which you are made His sons (Eph 1:5), and as sons we all share equally in the inheritance of Christ. Male & female alike we are all co-heirs with the Lord Jesus!
__a. Husbands, if your wife is your equal partner in the next life, then you have every reason to treat her like an equal partner in this life. Your wife’s submission to you does not give you carte blanche to do whatever you want without her input. Yes, eventually a decision will have to be made & God has granted that responsibility to you as a husband. But wise husbands listen to their wives as the helpmate that God ordained for them.

D. Don’t let your prayer life be hindered! Still think that you can do what you want to in your marriage & ignore the needs of your wife? Many times throughout the Scripture we are exhorted & encouraged to pray & seek God’s face & will. Few times are we told it won’t work, and this is one of them. When a Christian husband does not take time to understand his wife – when he doesn’t give her honor & understand that she is a fellow heir with him – then he can be assured that he can pray until he’s blue in the face, but his prayers will be hindered. Men, let me put it bluntly: your walk with God will be harmed if you ignore or mistreat your wife. Why? I suggest it goes back to what Jesus taught us about worship: Matthew 5:23-24 (23) Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [] When there’s sinful offense in the way, God wants you to resolve that 1st before you come before Him in worship. Likewise with our wives. Our 1st ministry entrusted to us by God is our family. When things aren’t right in our home, God needs us to take care of that before anything else.

E. ‘But what if my wife isn’t a believer? What if I’m trying to understand her & honor her, and she just isn’t accepting it?’ Then that’s on her & not on you. Just like a wife is still to submit to an unbelieving husband, you are to fulfill what God has called you to do through the power of the Holy Spirit, regardless if your wife receives it or not. Be faithful to God & let God take care of the rest.

Conclusion:
Wives: submit to your husbands. Husbands: understand & honor your wives. It’s not a matter of whether or not you think they deserve that behavior; it’s a matter of trusting God. If your spouse is an unbeliever, then you very well may get the privilege of watching your husband or wife repent & trust Christ. Amen! But no one comes to the kingdom by nagging; it’s the goodness of God that leads someone to repentance – and that goodness can be demonstrated through your actions.

Some of you might be sitting here today & beating yourself up. “I failed on that point, and I failed on that point…I’m no good!” 1st of all, of course you’re no good – that’s why you needed to trust Christ Jesus. It’s no surprise when we fail – we’ve got a fleshly nature that we will war against for the rest of our lives. The key isn’t to beat ourselves up over it & despair; the key is to repent & walk in newness of life. 2nd, the only way ANY of this is possible is through the power of the Holy Spirit. God does not call us to something He is not prepared to empower us to do. When Paul wrote on marriage in Ephesians 5, the whole context of it was being continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18). We need God’s power to be the husband/wife God calls us to be. So fall back onto the grace of Christ, trust Him, and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to do His will. And then leave the results to God.

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