Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Duty of the Christian: Subjection — Learning Submission (Part 4), Wives to Their Husbands

In this sermon, Pastor Babij looks further at Peter’s teaching on Christian submission, this time examining Peter’s instruction on wives submitting to their husbands. Pastor explains how, far from an odious duty, righteous submission by a wife even to an ungodly husband is a powerful testimony of God to him. Pastor breaks down God’s design for the wife enduring a difficult marriage situation under the following main points:

1. The focus of the relationship
2. The special goal of the relationship
3. The special instructions for accomplishing the goal
4. The example of the Jewish matriarchs

Full Transcript:

Let’s have a word of prayer:

Father, we do Thank You for bringing us here to worship You. We know, Lord, part of our worship to You is listening, so that the word of God gets down to our soul and does the transforming work it ought to do. Lord, make us good listeners. Put us into the equation. Let us not think that this is for someone else, but for us. I pray, Lord, as we learn the principles of submission, that we would not only be able to live them out, but to share them with others, who may be going through circumstances like the Bible is describing. Lord, as we do that, I pray that people would mature in the faith, and grow from babies into young men, who can learn how to use the word of God and fight the enemy with it. Then, spiritual fathers who learn to walk by faith every day, and who rest and trust in You. Grow us, Lord, by Your word. I pray this in Your name. Amen.

We are learning about submission, and as we consider that, we as God’s children, who are living in this world, must learn submission, which is a learned behavior. As I have been saying, the word submit means putting oneself under the authority of another, or to take a subordinate place. In adding to that definition, it means a voluntary selflessness, which is based on the death of pride and the desire to serve.

In thinking of that, the function of our willing submission to God has been structured by Him to keep the unity so that it would not be hindered but enhanced. Of course, that unity is being enhanced by several things: the submission to the word of God, submission to God through His will, and submission to God through His authority.

The first application, which we already saw, is on how they ought to relate to governing authorities within the form of government that anyone would live in at any one time. The second application was servants to their masters, or for modern-day application, it’s workers to their bosses. In between the two applications, we saw the third, which is the ultimate example of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will, which included suffering and death, is our ultimate example on submission, so the pattern for the Christian to submit and to follow is Jesus Christ.

Last time, we saw that Jesus is our great example in His life. Meaning, He did not sin, He did not use words to bring insults, and He also did not use any violence or threats. Then, we saw that Jesus is our great substitute in His death.

Also, there are some things that Jesus did do. Jesus did hand Himself over to the Father, He carried our sins away, He took the curse and nailed them to the Cross, and He bore our sins so that we would die to sin and live the righteousness. Next, we saw that Jesus is our watchful Shepherd. The result of Christ’s submission to redemptive suffering is conversion. Notice in 1 Peter 2:24-25, it says:

and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

The result of the suffering of Christ and submission to the Father’s will was our spiritual healing. By Christ’s stripes, the wounds of sin that afflicted us are now gone. Now, the Lord, Jesus Christ, is our Shepherd and our overseer. He is the one who leads us safely home. In other words, conversion brings us to the Shepherd, who is kind to us, protects us, and leads us to the place we all want to go.

We all want to end up in heaven, but the only way you can possibly end up in heaven is by following Jesus Christ and believing in His death and resurrection, which secures our salvation. When we are to submit because Jesus Christ, our Lord, submitted Himself to scourging, beatings, and death on the Cross, then we can apply these principles of submission in our own life.

Now, we come to another point of submission, which is in 1 Peter 3:1:

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives

This third application of a Christian’s responsible behavior is on how wives ought to submit to their own husbands. Today, that is not popular even in our conversations. It is not popular in certain places or in our society, but in Scripture, it is very needful.

Here, we see some Christians that have the obligation, in a special way, to submit to their spouses. In this text, found is the rational for the submission of wives to their husbands. When understood and practiced, this principle of submission will save many marriages.

These wives had to be strong in their faith and following in the footsteps of Jesus. They had to entrust themselves to the Lord in their situation. They had to resist the cultural pressure of the world and flesh, so that they would not respond in merely a carnal way. They had to practice restraining their remaining sinful passions and desires to please the Lord, which is not any easy thing to do without the power of the spirit of God.

Instead of trying to change her circumstances, she must conform her behavior to the will and pleasure of her Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus remains her example of submission. Her Lord, Jesus, who submitted to suffering and death, so that she could be saved, made right with God, and be forgiven of all sins with the gift of eternal life, must be on the forefront of these women mentioned in this passage.

Don’t miss the fact that Scripture presents the wife in her proper role distinction. Wives take a subservient role in the marriage relationship because that is the way God designed it. Whether she takes that role distinction with a willing and submissive spirit is another thing. So, we are looking at this submission of wives to their husbands.

In 1 Peter 3:1, these wives are women, who most likely heard the Gospel and got saved, and went back into their home with an unsaved husband. This focus is emphasizing the close relation that wives have to husbands. We know from Scripture that wives and husbands are one flesh once they become husband and wife. In the same way, this phrase points back to the example that Jesus set for dealing with those who would be unreasonable, unjust, and even treat their wives in a harsh manner.

Subsequently, Scripture is addressing Christian women who will find themselves in a marriage that is less than ideal. In 1 Peter 3:1, it is telling us that the husband is not just an unbeliever, but he is hostile to the word of God. He does not like that his wife has become a believer. It has changed many things in their marriage. Again, Scripture is addressing these women, who have now entered a marriage with an unsaved man, so what is she to do? Should she leave or get a divorce?

In 1 Peter 3:1, the little word if, in the Greek, has conditions. There is a first, second, and third class conditional if. Right here, it is a first class conditional if, which assumes that a situation for the sake of argument. In other words, it is like saying:

For the sake of argument, let’s just say this is a real situation and you find yourself in a marriage where you, the wife, are now a believer living in a marriage in which your husband is an unbeliever. Then, this is the condition of your situation.

If a wife is in that situation, how should she follow in the footsteps and example of her Shepherd, Jesus Christ? In addition, this is more than hypothetical, and it is reality. It happens all the time, in every single generation, and my heart really goes out to all those who are living or who have lived in situations in which you have an unsaved spouse.

I do not know the half of the hurts and difficulties which surround your life. However, I do know this: Jesus is well acquainted with you and with your situation. He is acquainted with your hurts, heartaches, and loneliness. For it is to you that He has penned, by holy men of God and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this special portion of Scripture just for your help, instruction, and ultimately, for the salvation of the soul of your spouse.

There is a special goal, which is the focus. The focus is her husband, and the special goal is that the husband may be won or gained for Christ. God not only commands submission, but He uses it as a powerful, spiritual influence in a home that practices it. In other words, when we submit in difficult situations, God enters our situation and does things that we cannot do. What the world says to do cannot solve your problem. In fact, it will make your problem worse.

The Christian wives view is different than the present world systems view. She views it as a platform of evangelism to display Christ like behavior right in the condition of living with an unbelieving husband, who is hostile and resistant to the truth. Getting out of the situation is not the goal.

It is not how you should get out of it, but how should you live for the Lord in it. Therefore, the main emphasis here is on how the Christian wife is to function within her existing conditions in which the Christian wife conducts and behaves herself. What then are the Christian wives’ instructions to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?

In 1 Peter 3:1, Christian behavior can be so impactful on the mind and heart of someone else, especially your spouse. In the word of God, she has special instructions from God. In learning submission, the first thing that we see is that the special instruction comes without a word. In 1 Peter 3:1, it doesn’t say without the Word, but without a word. It does not mean without the word of God. Salvation comes through the word of God. John 5:24:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

In Romans 10:17, it says:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Thus, it cannot mean without the word of God, but it does mean without a word. Now, that is connected to behavior, which becomes the significant word in this passage. Biblically, she is to act like Jesus, and we saw in our passage that she is to follow what Jesus did not do. Jesus did not sin. Meaning, she is not to use sinful practices to accomplish the goal. She is to leave those temptations alone. She is to leave the bad advice people are giving her alone. She is to follow in the steps of Jesus.

Secondly, she is to not use words to bring insult. In other words, she is to not only be the innocent party in living before the eyes of the Lord, but she is also not to use words to argue. Lastly, she is not to go to blows, violence, or threats.

One of the most difficult situations a police officer dreads are calls of domestic violence. They say that nobody is a winner. A cop goes into the home to try to help somebody, and they’re the bad guy. Then, they do what they must do, people are back together again, and they’re fighting again.

Also, she is given instructions to do what Jesus did. One of the things she can practice what Jesus did is in 1 Peter 2:23:

and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.

Jesus left judgement to God, the Father, rather than to act Himself against His enemies. Jesus suffered calmly and patiently because He had confidence in God. Consequently, the Christian wife is to put these things into practice and trust God with the results. She cannot change someone’s heart. She cannot even change her circumstances, but she can respond to her circumstances in a way that pleases the Lord.

When she does that, God enters in and gives everything that is needed to be able to live in a way that is pleasing to Him and powerful before the eyes of her husband. She can put into practice the Biblical principles in her situation. Now, how does that look practically for her when she follows the example of Jesus.

Practically, it could mean without much talk. It could mean without nagging discussion, arguing, or temper tantrums. It could mean without whining or pouting. Also, it means without preaching to him, shoving tracks in his face, or leaving the Christian radio on loud enough for Him to hear.

It means without manipulation or getting back at him. In other words, there is no revenge. It means without denying him marital bedroom privileges. That is what the wife is to do without a word. When she does it and leaves the results to God, then she is being led by her Shepherd and overseer, and she is pleasing Him.

Next, she is to win him with proper behavior. 1 Peter 3:2:

as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

Again, the Bible is focusing on behavior, so she is to win him by her behavior. By the Christian wife’s manner of life, character, and attitude, she is to win over her husband. The fruit of a true Christian comes out of her. It is not the fruit of her flesh from the past, so it wouldn’t be anything like enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, or factions.

Rather, it would be the fruit of the spirit, and the fruit of the spirit from Galatians would be that of joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All those things would be coming out of her singularly. Remember, that is not a plural word and happens all at once by the spirit of God, and it comes out of her.

In other words, the husband sees Christian behavioral principles lived out daily before his eyes. He is probably stepping back and saying:

This is not the woman I married. Matter of fact, this is not the woman I knew a year ago or a month ago. This woman is different. Before, she’d get in a good argument with me, but now she is not, and she has a smile on her face.

In other words, he must see in her behavior a blessed change that is connected to her God, the Gospel message, and to her local believers. He must see her fear of God. Meaning, she does not take serving God lightly. Her conversion is real. She is seriously dedicated to believing the truth found in the word of God. Her priorities are in-check: God first, then my husband.

The Bible uses the word chaste, which really means she is morally pure in the whole of her life. She is not a woman who flirts. Because she is now converted, she is not a woman involved with any monkey business. She plays no games. She is a one-woman man, who is the man she married, and she is still dedicated to him. Even more so because she is a believer.

Also, he must see how she is not falsely manufacturing these behaviors for whatever means. She is the real deal. She is the real thing. In other words, he is seeing a real genuine believer live out the principles of Scripture right before his eyes. You know that when you are living together, you see everything. You see all the little details, the little fault, the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you’re married, it is all there in front of your face.

However, she is also showing him a consistent respect for her husband’s headship and understands her subordinate role before God. Overall, her behavior is respectful. Women, if you don’t know this by now, respect goes a long way. Notice what it says in Ephesians 5:21-24:

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Then, Ephesians 5:33:

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Again, this is an unsaved man, who is against the Gospel and the teaching of the word of God. Therefore, she is to maintain that respect, and that respect is catching his attention.

Next, she is to win him with proper adornment. In 1 Peter 3:3 you will find a negative example of conduct, but then a positive example of conduct:

Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.

The word adornment is the word cosmos. Sometimes the word is used to mean world, but here, it means something that is well arranged. In other words, we get the term cosmetics. Women use cosmetics to adorn themselves. Here, he is saying that your adornment must not be merely external, and then he uses three examples. There’s the braiding of hair, which is going after the latest styles of hairdo. Secondly, not wearing showy and expensive jewelry. Then, not wearing fine, elaborate, and expensive clothing.

Now, there is nothing wrong in it of itself. The Bible is not necessarily censoring those things. Rather, it is making a contrast between what is temporal and what is eternal. For example, in the prophet of Isaiah, when God’s people spend too much time on worldly and external things, people became proud in arrogance.

If you follow the argument in Isaiah, you will find in Isaiah 1 that the animals knew more of who God was than the people did, which is the inditement against them. Now, you get to Isaiah 3 and these people are all external, all about show, and all about presentation. It’s not about the heart, and God hates that. In all the externals of life, notice what happened in Isaiah 3:18-26:

In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, 20headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21finger rings, nose rings, 22festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, 23hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils. 24Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; Instead of a belt, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; And branding instead of beauty. 25Your men will fall by the sword and your mighty ones in battle. 26And her gates will lament and mourn, and deserted she will sit on the ground.

That’s God’s judgement against people who just spend time on the external and temporal stuff. God hates that kind of stuff. He wants to know what is going on in your heart. He wants to know how you look there.

Again, the Scriptures are not censoring these things, but putting them into perspective by placing them in the category of the temporal, external, or fading beauty of something. You can take beauty making instruments and you can turn them on or off. However, these say nothing about the inner heart and the character of the person. In fact, someone can be very stylish, yet be wicked in the core of their being.

Though, ladies it is not okay for the extent of your wardrobe to be old t-shirts and sweatpants. Dressing nicely, modestly, and appropriately can show a dignity, a strength, and a joy that flows from a wise and grateful heart. Nonetheless, dress and appearance are of little value to God.

When more value is placed on the external and little or no value is given to the inner heart and character, then selfish pride fills the vacuum. We become empty shells if we just take care of the external. See, we spend more time on our financial portfolios for our retirement than we do on our eternal existence with God and where we are going when we die. There is something wrong with that. We must take care of our heart.

Thus, the Christian wife must be beyond attracting attention to herself. Glamour is something you can put on and take off. Subsequently, she is not to major on external decorations, but on the external stuff of a godly, internal character. Now, in 1 Peter 3:4, he gives a positive example of conduct:

but let it 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.

She is to spend time developing her conscious, heart, mind, and will, so the inside counts more than anything else. In other words, let the true beauty flow from a transformed, internal person of the heart by having a submissive behavior that adorns your conduct. A second thing in our passage is the eternal quality that counts. In other words, this is the unfading and lasting beauty of a woman that comes from her inside. These are the characteristics of a regenerate heart and born-again person, which is a gentle spirit.

Some translate it as a meek spirit, and meek means powers under control. She is in control of her person because she is walking in the spirit of God, and she has a gentleness, control, and quiet spirit about her that is very attractive. It is magnetic, so both these qualities mark a change deep within her, which are manifested within her temperament, character, and behavior.

It springs from an abiding relationship with God. This woman is being transformed like the first part of 1 Peter, which is by the word of God. God is doing a job on her like the Scriptures. It is coming out of her, and her husband cannot but notice. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, it says:

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

If you claim to be godly, then it is going to show in your person. Here, its even showing in the externals such as how you dress. Are you bringing attention to yourself in your dress? Are you being too provocative in your dress? Today, the clothes for women is like it was sprayed on you. That is not a good example for men and for you to say that you are godly.

In other words, a godly woman is watching how she dresses. She is dressing for her husband, but she is also dressing for those who are going to look at her life that she will meet in public. She is not taking the cues of the world about how to dress, and how much you can show. Rather, she is being modest and discrete about herself. She is showing to the world that she is different and respectful to those men that she doesn’t even know are around her. Also, it says in 1 Timothy 4:7:

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.

I do want to mention that godliness is discipline. If you want to get good at godliness, then practice it. If you want to get good at playing an instrument, you practice it, so if you want to get good at godliness, you must put the principles into practice until they become a habit in your life and you no longer think about them. For it says in 1 Timothy 4:8:

for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

These are the things that constitute true, unfading, and shining beauty of a Christian woman. These are the things that could grasp the attention of the husband because they connect the inner workings of God with the unbeliever. Within this woman, the man sees certain things that he sees in no other women, but his wife and it is getting his attention. The husband sees these inward qualities, but more importantly, God sees them as well.

Lastly, it is who first sees your inner disposition that counts. In 1 Peter 3:4, she’s not really living before her husband, but she is living before the eyes who really count, which is God’s eyes. When you are living everyday before the eyes of God, then you know that when God sees you live this way, it is precious in His sight. Meaning, it is of high value in God’s sight.

If you love somebody, wouldn’t you want to do something that is of high value? These are the qualities that constitute a true and lasting beauty. The kind that is precious in the sight of God. Don’t say, “it doesn’t work, I’ve tried it.” This is a continuing, on-going attitude and behavior, and it never shuts off.

This Biblical submission is a continual one. In fact, holy women from time past, including all women who believed in Christ and purposed in their heart to follow God’s word, found the answer in the word of God and relationship with God. For example, there is the Jewish Matriarchs in 1 Peter 3:5-6:

For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

In other words, here is a well trotted and proven path for Godly women and believing wives, who specifically have unbelieving husbands. Even though Abraham was believing, Sarah becomes an example and the older woman of former times. Thus, she is to follow the example of past women, who live in that situation.

First, in 1 Peter 3:5, she is to be a set-apart woman, which is a holy woman. Second, in 1 Peter 3:5, she is to be a woman who puts her hope in God, and that hope in God is equated to belief and faith. She believed God, and she was willing to live in her circumstances with that in her mind.

Third, in 1 Peter 3:5, she is to be a woman whose inner disposition is adorned by an inward hear subjection. Because of a life-orientation toward God, submission and proper conduct can occur. However, here’s the temptation, which leads a woman to conclude this:

I am justified and have good reason for not respecting and submitting to my husband.

Well, if a woman has a hard time with the principle of Biblical submission, then what will she do with Sarah’s behavior of not only willful obedience to her husband, but in the title that she gives her husband? She called him lord, which is a conscious acknowledgement of Abraham’s headship and leadership. When the angel of the Lord came and told Abraham and Sarah that they were going to have a child of your own bodies, this is what happened in Genesis 18:12:

Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

She called Abraham her lord. The point is that all women should respect and submit to their own husbands, which is the general principle in Scripture. Thus, the woman, through Christ and her conversion to Christ, becomes a child of Sarah and Abraham. Then, she is to do good.

As she does that, don’t fear intimidation of an unbelieving husband, or the counter culture that is against her. Just trust God, leave the result to God, live the way Scripture says to live, and God takes care of the rest.

Of course, I did not address this morning issues of real violence or times when the police need to be called to pull someone out. There are times for that, but I am not addressing those issues. I’m just addressing the issues of basic principles in Scripture of an unbelieving husband living with a converted wife.

We have people in our church in that situation. That is a tough situation to be in, and that can go on for a long time since there is not necessarily a promise that the person will be won to the Lord. However, when the grace of God is being lived out in that home, and you are carrying out the principles of Scripture, God is saying, “I enter in and do things you cannot do.”

In most cases, I would say the conclusion would be that the husband gets converted. He comes to Christ, he starts believing the word of God, and he starts seeing what his wife has been seeing. When that happens, God has now taken a family and redeemed them. I pray that we can help people who are in circumstances and situations like this.

If we do that, I believe that we will prevent some unnecessary divorces where people have been counseled wrongly about getting out of their marriage. However, the Bible does address certain reasons for divorce, but that is another subject on another day. If you want to go back to my preaching on the Gospel of Mark, it is all in there. Let’s pray:

Lord, I Thank You for the clear witness of the word of God and the instruction that we find in there for this difficult and real situation, which some people are in right now. I pray, Lord, that You would help them, and that You would give them all the necessary means to be able to carry out these principles. I pray the word of God would be available to them and that they would make themselves available to the word of God, so they can become strong in the faith and see what You see, Lord. Then, that they would submit to the spirit of God and that the spirit of God would strengthen them and embolden them to live out these principles in their home before their unsaved spouse. I pray, Lord, that in doing that, You may rescue many people and many marriages. That You may give the joy and peace that comes with obeying the Lord, so that woman would know that they way she lives is precious in the sight of God, and it is the very thing the Lord said can be used to get the attention of her husband. I pray, Lord, that you would save unsaved spouses. Save them, Lord. Answer our prayers. I pray that you would enter their home by Your grace, so that they would believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ. As they believe, the spirit of God would indwell them, and that they, too, may live out the principles of Scripture and give glory to Your name for rescuing them. Not only from eternal damnation, but possibly also from the destruction they could have caused in their own home and to their own children too. I pray this in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.