Lesson 5 - 1 Peter 3:1-12 - HOLY LIVING IN AN UNHOLY WORLD-CONT'D
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in 1 Peter 2:11-20, Peter gave us instructions on how Christians should conduct themselves in an ungodly world. First, we need to demonstrate "excellent behavior" in terms of our moral character and perform "good deeds" that display Christian love in the form of unselfish service to others. Second, as 'good citizens,' we must submit to the authority of government because the Word of God commands it; and in line with this, we are only permitted to practice civil disobedience in situations where the government requires its citizens to disobey God. Third, as Christians, we must never use our "freedom" (i.e., our saved status) as an excuse to sin or ignore the work God has called us to do in this world. Finally, when we are forced to work with people who are hostile to our faith, God expects us to endure it and perform our jobs with Christian integrity. This week, in 1 Peter 3:1-12, Peter continues to clarify what it means for Christians to function in a world that is largely opposed to God. His first topic provides instructions how we should conduct ourselves as husbands and wives, with emphasis on the situation when one of the partners is not a Christian believer. His second topic tackles the tough subject of illustrating how we should respond to people who show hostility towards us-our enemies.
Note: This section of the text (vv. 1-6) has to be understood in the context of the times in which Peter wrote it. Predictably, the spread of the gospel in the Roman Empire caused domestic problems. It was inevitable that one marriage partner would be won to Christ, while the other remained lost. As we get into today's text, it might seem strange that Peter's advice to women was six times longer than that to husbands. This was because the position of wives was far more difficult. If a husband converted to Christianity, he would automatically bring his wife into the church to hear the gospel; however, if a wife became a Christian while her husband did not, she was taking an unprecedented step which would produce serious marital issues. In every sphere of ancient civilization, women had virtually no rights at all. Their husbands were their masters. So, for a wife to make such a change while her husband did not (and without his approval) was categorically unthinkable in that world.
Read 1 Peter 3:1-6 - THAT THEY (HUSBANDS) MAY BE WON OVER (TO CHRIST)
1 In the same way, you wives, be subject to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won over without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your pure and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely the external-braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel; 4 but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way the holy women of former times, who hoped in God, also used to adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; and you have proved to be her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
v. 1a: "In the same way," - This phrase ties-in the principles covered last week about submitting to government authority and enduring hardship in the workplace for the sake of the God's Word.
v. 1b: "be subject to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word," - We must first notice what Peter does not advise: He does not tell a wife to leave her pagan husband. Instead, he tells her to remain with him as long as he doesn't send her away. He does not tell her to preach or argue or insist on her 'rights' as a Christian, where there's no distinction between male or female. And when he commands her to "be subject to" him, he's not implying spineless submission but a voluntary 'selflessness' which is grounded upon love rather than fear.
v. 1c: "they may be won over without a word by the behavior of their wives," - To re-phrase, Peter is telling these women to be loving wives: that by her silent preaching-the goodness in her life-she must try her best to break down the barriers of prejudice and intolerance that will win her husband to a new 'Master' by faith in Jesus Christ. Her husband, in effect, becomes her mission field.
v. 2: "as they observe your pure and respectful behavior." - Again, Peter is calling on wives to demonstrate the high moral character and respectful behavior that is representative of a loving and gracious lifestyle that brings honor to the person of Christ. In that culture, calling on wives to become moral agents for the kingdom of Christ was a revolutionary attitude, but in a positive way.
v. 3-4: "Your adornment must not be merely the external-braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel; 4 but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." - Peter isn't telling wives to neglect their physical appearance (i.e., hairstyle, jewelry, dress, etc.). The key words here are "not merely be," which makes the point that 'beauty' is more than skin deep. It refers to development of the inner person and sets up a contrast with what human society values in people versus what Gods values; namely, that a loving disposition and a tranquil spirit can make any woman attractive, not just to God but to men, too. God always "...looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 6:7b).
v. 5: "For in this way the holy women of former times, who hoped in God, also used to adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands," - Peter's concern here was that the church would not become known as place that turned wives into rebels who had attitudes of superiority.
To counter this impression, Peter exhorts these wives to demonstrate the lasting beauty that radiates from a woman who places her hope in God, which is a virtue that adorns the heart. The "holy women of former times" refers to woman mentioned in the OT who did not rely on their outer adornments to attract their husbands but adorned themselves with loving and respectful hearts that were submissive to their husbands.
v. 6: "just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; and you have proved to be her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." - Peter cites the example of Sarah as a case in point (see generally, Gen. 12-23). Sarah was one of the great OT women of faith, and like so many other women of God, she did not rely on her external looks to make herself appealing. Sarah's beauty wasn't just skin-deep; her real attractiveness was a humble and gracious heart that trusted God. She gave her husband, Abraham, the honorific "lord" because she was prepared to yield to her husband's position of authority in the family as her duty to comply with God's plans and purposes.
APPLICATION 1: A Wife married to a lost husband can win him to Christ by her behavior. When Peter made the observation that 'beauty' is more than skin deep, he was saying that by demonstrating a loving disposition and a tranquil spirit, a wife can break down the barriers of prejudice and intolerance that can win her husband to a new 'Master' by faith in Jesus Christ. By making this commitment, she has, in effect, made her husband her mission field.
Read 1 Peter 3:7 - YOU HUSBANDS IN THE SAME WAY
7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
v. 7a: "You husbands in the same way," - Again, Peter ties this to the ideas of submitting to government authority and enduring hardship in the workplace covered previously (2:11-20).
v. 7b: "live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman;" - Peter began his instruction to husbands with a command to think the right way, with "understanding." This command carries weighty implications: it required a husband to carefully listen to his wife and become a student of her temperament, emotions, personality, and thought patterns. Thus, it was not only the husband's duty to understand his wife, but also to be 'understanding' towards her. This was an absolutely radical conception in the ancient world where all the privilege was with husbands, and wives were generally things to be seen and not heard.
7c: "as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." - By referring to wives as "someone weaker," Peter isn't implying that they are inferior to men. Indeed, in many marriages the wife is the stronger person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially. Yet, in his day, woman were severely disadvantaged by their legal and political status, and it's also a biological fact that husbands are typically larger and physically stronger than their wives.
v. 7d: "and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." Here, Peter banishes any implication of a wife's inferiority with the reminder that a wife is a "fellow heir" of the grace of God just as much as the husband. God shows no favoritism or partiality based on gender, so that husbands and wives are spiritually equal. The "life" alludes to both the physical and spiritual lives that husbands and wives share with one another. Finally, Peter warns husbands that their prayers will be "hindered" if they fail to honor their wives, so that disobedience would impair his relationship with God as well as his relationship with his wife.
APPLICATION 2: Husbands and wives are spiritually equal before God. God show no favoritism or partiality based on gender. For this reason, Peter commanded husbands to live with their wives in an "understanding" way. To obey this command, a husband must listen to his wife and become a student of her temperament, emotions, personality, and thought patterns. Finally, Peter warned husbands that failure to honor their wives would "hinder" (hold back) their prayers to God.
Read 1 Peter 3:8-12 - THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For, "THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. 11 "HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL ADN DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PERSUE IT. 12 "FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD TEH RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF TEH LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVEIL."
Note: The preface, "To sum up," in v. 8 marks a transition from the specific instructions Peter covered in the previous sections in relation to submission to authority and the spiritual responsibilities of husbands and wives (2:13-3:7) to a list of godly virtues that apply to all Christian believers at all times, and he ends it with a discussion of the importance of loving our enemies.
V. 8: "To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;" - This verse is about attitudes. Peter knew that attitudes formed the foundation of behavior.
v. 9a: not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead;" - Starting here, Peter expands the discussion to describe how Christians should behave in response to hatefulness and insults, not just between other Christians, but in the broader society around us, and again, he is advocating a revolutionary attitude. As Christians, we can live on one of three levels: (1) we can return evil for good, which is in reality a satanic level; (2) we can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the normal human level; or (3) we can return good for evil, which is the extraordinary divine level, which Jesus perfectly exemplified when He went to the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
9b: "for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." - The basis for the Christian's kindness, even to enemies, is the mercy and grace we receive from God. As Paul said, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). The blessing for insult response is one in which we react with kindness when we experience purposely unkind treatment. It comes from an attitude of forgiveness that's entirely focused on the promises of God's Word. The insult for insult formula results in isolation and alienation; the blessing for insult results in reconciliation and peace.
Note: In the last three verses, Peter uses the wisdom expressed in Ps. 34:12-16 to support his logic.
v. 10: "For, "THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT." - Those who want to love life and see good days will need to make some very specific choices about how we live today. First, we must refuse to speak evil to (or about) others or to be dishonest or disingenuous in anything that we say to them. We must refuse to use words that cause harm, no matter how great the temptation.
v. 11: "HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEAEC ADN PERSUE IT." - The 'turning away' in this verse presents a three-fold formula: (1) To the extent we are able, step back from the offense and hurt that others have just heaped on us; (2) use the fruit of self-control to turn away from our natural human inclination to return evil for evil; and (3) turn toward God as a way to seek peace with our adversary. And finding and making peace isn't always easy. It requires us, in all humility, to de-escalate the conflict and use our best efforts to 'pursue' a common ground for reconciliation that will lead to peace-an absence of hostility-which will be an all-around double-blessing. This is how God calls us to handle these situations.
v. 12: "FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD TEH RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FAEC OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL." - In the situations just described above, we should keep in mind that God sees all of this and He is watching us. Right now, God is paying attention to all Christians-all of us who are His People because of our faith in Jesus Christ. He's ready and willing to hear from us when we reject the option to repay evil with evil. He's watching when we choose to "give a blessing" (v. 9) instead of responding with evil. He also notices those who do evil and will judge them in His time. Paul summarized it in a few words when he said, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
APPLICATION 3: When we return good for evil (or blessing for insult), we are taking action at a divine level. The blessing for insult option is one in which we react with kindness when we experience purposely unkind treatment. It comes from an attitude of forgiveness that's entirely focused on the promises of God's Word. The insult for insult option results in isolation and alienation, while the blessing for insult option can result in reconciliation and peace. Finding and making peace isn't always easy. It requires us, in all humility, to de-escalate the conflict and use our best efforts to 'pursue' a common ground for reconciliation that will lead to peace-an absence of hostility-which will be an all-around double-blessing. This is how God calls us to handle these situations.