I Peter 3:1-6. Wives. - James Dale's notes

(Begun December 18, continued January 1, completed January 8)


After teaching some basic doctrine, Peter gives practical instruction in some basic duties for all Christians.  In this particular section he is giving specific advice to people in certain positions of life.  So far, Peter had addressed two groups of people:

               Foreigners… with the key advice of submit yourselves, and

               Servants … with the key advice of be subject.

Today he is addressing wives.  He is saying: “Wives, listen up!”

                                                                 Read I Peter 3:1-6

Peter makes 8 comments to wives.  Let’s look at each one of these and remark on its meaning.

1.     “Likewise, ye wives”       verse 1:     In the first century the wives who came to Christ would have questions … “Should I leave my husband?”  “Should I change my behavior?”  “Should I act superior?”

-        In the ancient world it was almost unthinkable for a wife to adopt a different religion than her husband, so this was a unique situation.        The wives needed special instructions.

2.    “Be in subjection”           verse 1:  The key instruction is subjection.  It is the same instruction that Peter gave to the first two groups of people that Peter talked to … foreigners and servants.

-        The word “likewise” indicates that the same principles of subjection apply to wives.  For example:

a.      Submit in the heart not only in action as demonstrated by Jesus.

b.      Submission assumes that there is an authority to whom a woman is to submit.  There are roles in marriage.  Outside the Bible this term was used militarily such as in a soldier to a commanding officer.

                c.      Submission does not imply some innate inferiority.  Christ’s teaching is clear … neither bond nor free, male nor female, Jew nor Greek … all are equal before God.

                d.      Submission does not apply to an abusive situation.

3.    “To your own husbands”             verse 1:  Male leadership is God’s order for home and church.     Submission is to your own husband, not to men in general.

4.    “that, if any obey not the word”          verse 1:   This refers to a man who is not a believer.        It parallels the directions given to servants, “Not only to the good and gentle but also to the froward.”

 -        Submission is not dependent upon the husband’s attitude.  It is an independent response.

-        It does not necessarily mean a divorce.   (I Corinthians 7:10-16)

5.    “They also may without the word be won by the conversation of their wives, while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear

-        Wives have an inborn desire to change their husbands.  In Genesis 3:16 we see that when sin entered the world, a woman, because of the curse, has to fight a desire to master her husband.

-        If it weren’t for sin, neither the husband’s role as head nor the woman’s role as a support, would be challenged.  The husband always would rule in love and wisdom, and the woman would always respond as a perfect helpmate in unity.  Sin is the problem.

-        Good news … wives can change the behavior of the husband.

-        Bad news … you can’t do it by words (nagging).

-        It is accomplished by:

a.      “Without the word”  (Godly submission)

In context he has already used the word “word” in this verse and it is apparent it means the gospel of Christ.  So when he uses this same word again, he is probably referring to the same thing.  In other words, he is saying, “Wives, you do not bring you husband to Christ by preaching to him.  You do it by living out the gospel in your lives.”  However, there is a principle here for women to heed.  The way to a man’s heart is not through words.

b.      “Chaste conversation”  (modest and humble behavior)

The word “chaste” means modest and pure.  The word “conversation” means conduct.  In First Timothy 2:9,10 it uses the word “shamefacedness”.

c.      “Fear”  (Growing in Christ)

6.    “whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel”                 verses 1,2:     Peter now addresses the topic of feminine beauty. 

-        At first thought, one might think it was the outward appearance, especially based on what we see in the world today in the media, malls, and magazines.

-        In Peter’s day, in order to enhance beauty, women would get hair-dos, dye their hair, wear wigs (especially blonde ones from Germany), put on gold jewelry, and put on an attractive outfit ……….. some things never change.

-        Hair is not as important to a man.  As a man, I can take it or leave it (as you can tell, I have mostly left it).

-        By the way, when Peter says “let it not be” don’t get the idea you are not supposed to wear dresses or fix up your hair.  He is making a strong contrast saying that it is not the important thing.  Remember Mary and Martha.  (Luke 10:42)  Jesus did not say that what Martha was doing was wrong, but that Mary had chosen the most important thing.  In Christ’s chastisement of the Pharisees he didn’t say to stop tithing.  He told them to do what was important but not stop doing the other.  (Matthew 23:23)  Peter is saying that only doing this is empty.

        So, if true beauty is not outward, where does it come from?

7.    “but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price”                                                                           verse 3: The emphasis is not the outward person, it is the inward.   It is the “Hidden Man”   (Rom 7:22,23)

-        Outward adornment is not forbidden as we discussed, but it is affected … it will be moderate and modest.

-        These are some of the most romantic verses of the Bible.  It talks about true romance.  Women, do you want your man to love you when the beauty of youth wanes?  Do you want his love until the day you die?  Do you fear growing old?

Here are the words of a women who expressed this sentiment in a song.

             Will you love me when I’m old?


                                   Tessie Berry

I would ask of you, my darling, 
A question soft and low, 
That gives many a heartache
As the moments come and go.

Your love I know is truthful, 
But the truest love grows cold; 
It is this that I would ask you: 
Will you love me when I'm old?

Life's moon will soon be waning, 
And its evening bells be tolled, 
But my heart shall know no sadness, 
If you'll love me when I'm old.

Down the stream of life together
We are sailing side by side, 
Hoping some bright day to anchor
Safe beyond the surging tide.

Today our sky is cloudless, 
But the night may clouds unfold; 
But, though storms may gather round us, 
Will you love me when I'm old?

When my hair shall shade the snowdrift, 
And mine eyes shall dimmer grow, 
I would lean upon some loved one, 
Through the valley as I go.

I would claim of you a promise, 
Worth to me a world of gold; 
It is only this, my darling, 
That you'll love me when I'm old.

Remember, wives,

“In the end we won’t remember the most beautiful face and body,

We will remember the most beautiful heart and soul.”

8.     For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”                                                                Verses 5,6:     The last comment by Peter is a reminder that the godly women in the past had this same attitude of subjection toward their husbands.     Sarah is specifically sited because she was the wife of the man who demonstrated faith.  We are her daughters if we have the same “faith” as she had.

-        If we do this, we do well and we are not afraid.  This is God’s promise that if wives live with their husbands in humble submission with a meek and quiet spirit, she will not have to be afraid.  God will provide for her.  It is her way of trusting God.

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