There is just no getting around it. The New Testament teaches wives to be submissive to their husbands. We read it today from Peter and we’ve read it before in Paul’s writings (1 Pet. 3:1-6; Eph. 5:22-24; Col 3:18). Of course, both Peter and Paul have instructions about how husbands should treat their wives, and so some Christian wives have adopted an attitude that declares, “I will gladly submit to a husband who loves me like Christ loves the church,” implying that they are only responsible to be submissive if their husbands first love them rightly. Peter, however, quashes that position, instructing wives to be submissive to their own husbands even if their husbands are “disobedient to the word” (3:1), that is, unsaved.
Of course, God does not expect any wife to submit to her husband’s demands if by doing so she must disobey the Lord. Rather, her “chaste and respectful behavior” will hopefully win her husband to the Lord. So when Peter or Paul instruct wives to be submissive to their husbands, they are not advocating blind subservience; nor are they giving husbands a blank check to dominate their wives. The husband who points his finger and yells at his wife, “You’d better do what I say, because the Bible says I’m the head,” is indeed a head—a pinhead! In the simple instructions of Peter and Paul, we find the remedy for most marital disharmony and our soaring divorce rate. If wives will be submissive, and if husbands will honor their wives “as fellow heirs of the grace of life” (3:7), marriage will become the enjoyable blessing that God intended. Otherwise, it can be hell on earth, as many can testify.
Husbands, take note that by not showing your wife the honor she deserves, your prayers may be hindered (3:7). There is a definite correlation between our obedience and the blessings that God bestows upon us. This is true not only within the context of marriage, but in every other area of life. If we want to “love life and see good days,” here is Peter’s recipe (quoting David in Psalm 34):
He must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (3:10-12).
That is a wonderful motto for daily life.
It is interesting that the early Christians were never told in the New Testament epistles to invite their unsaved friends to church, to go witnessing door to door, or to preach the gospel in the marketplaces. The early church considered the preaching of the gospel to be the responsibility of those who were supernaturally equipped to do so, namely apostles and evangelists. Yet this is not to say that average Christians had no responsibility in regards to spreading the gospel. They were to support those who were called to travel and proclaim the gospel. And they were to live holy lives before a watching world, and be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asked them to give an account for the hope that was in them” (3:15).
Our lives are to be like lights shining in the darkness, demonstrating such a contrast that people notice that we’re different. When they ask us why we live as we do, that is our opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
Who were the “spirits now in prison” whom Jesus preached to after His crucifixion, who “once were disobedient…in the days of Noah” (3:19-20)? It sounds as if they were the spirits of people who died physically in Noah’s flood, who are now in hell awaiting final judgment. Some claim, however, that Peter was actually saying that back in the days of Noah, Jesus preached “in spirit” to sinners, and those unrepentant people are now “in prison.” That seems to be stretching the text in my opinion. Yet I have no idea what Jesus would have had to say to people in hell after His crucifixion and before His resurrection. Stumped again!