Many of us are familiar with the famous story, “Rip Van Winkle.” Last year for the first time I really read the story in Washington Irving’s Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon. In it he describes Rip Van Winkle: “He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man … for husking Indian corn, or building stone-fences … In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.”
That’s a pretty good description of some people, isn’t it? They’re ready to do anything for anyone — except their own family! It shouldn’t be that way — especially for those who claim to be Christians. I Timothy 5:8 says if you don’t care for your own household, you’re worse than an unbeliever. True religion starts at home. Listen: how we live towards our own family says a LOT about how real our faith is. Too many people live one way at church, and another way at home, and God says it is not to be that way. Your faith should very much impact the way you live at home, and the way you treat your husband, your wife, your children, your parents — every family member you have. There should be no disconnect between church and home. Your faith should impact the way you live in your home. And that is exactly what we see here in I Peter 3:1-7.
Now we should put this all in a little bit of context, which will help us understand everything in this passage better. If you go back to I Peter 2:12, you remember Peter told us “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” He says, people in the world are saying bad things about you as Christians, so you be extra careful to LIVE in a way that is a good witness to them. Then he said in :13 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” — be a good witness by submitting to authority wherever you are: at work, towards the government, and in your family. Even when you suffer, like Jesus did for us, do it as a good witness, trusting God. THAT is the context which brings us to this passage. Chapter 3 really just continues these same ideas from I Peter 2, except now it applies them to the HOME. He says live this same way as a witness at HOME. Christianity always starts at home. Our first mission field is where we live. So God speaks here to both men and women about how to live out our faith at home:
I. The Witness of the Wife
A. Witness by Following the Leadership of Your Husband
: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.
When he begins this by saying “In the same way,” he’s continuing the thought of Chapter 2, that we are ALL to submit to various authorities in our lives: in government, on the job, and in the family. All of us, male and female, have to submit to authority in different areas of our lives. This DOES remind us that God has designed for the husband to be the spiritual leader of the home. Scripture makes that very clear here, in Ephesians 5, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, many men have basically forfeited that leadership. Most women gladly embrace the spiritual leadership of their husband, if they would just give it. Honestly the biggest problem in many homes today is NOT that there is a wife who won’t follow the spiritual leadership of her husband, but that the husband will not step up and be the spiritual leader that God has called him to be.
But there seems to be a special reason why Peter reminds us of this here, and it has to do with the whole theme of I Peter 2 & 3, of being a witness.
Peter talks in :1 about how many of these husbands are “disobedient to the word” — in other words, they are “lost;” they don’t know the Lord. They were probably worshiping idols. But the wives he was writing to, were Christians, who worshiped Jesus. This was a big problem in the first century, when this book was written.
In Greco-Roman culture, a wife was expected to adopt the religion of her husband. Plutarch, the ancient Greek biographer wrote this about their culture: “A wife … should make her husband’s friends her own. The gods are the first and most significant friends. For this reason, it is proper for a wife to recognize only those gods whom her husband worships …”. (Schreiner pp. 152-153)
So Plutarch, echoing the view of Greek culture, said that women should worship their husband’s gods. In light of this, when women in Peter’s time became Christians while their husbands were not, this was seen by many in their time as a RADICAL rebellion against their husbands! Of course Peter was not going to tell these women to give up their faith in Christ. But that is why he emphasized this point to them: in light of the way people think you are rebelling against your husband by worshiping Christ, be ESPECIALLY careful to show them that Christianity does NOT make you rebellious against him. Show them that in every other way in your life, Christ does NOT make you rebellious, but He makes you a godly and loving wife in your home.
And he goes on to say here, if you will live like that, as a good witness to your husband in your own home, you may win him to the Lord “without a word” by your behavior. Sometimes those in our family can get tired of hearing us encourage them to follow Christ. They may become almost “deaf” to it. So he says, instead, just LIVE OUT your faith at home, and you may win your spouse — and children and many others — to the Lord as well, by your life.
Years ago I went on a mission trip to Idaho, and while I was there I heard the testimony of a man who had been a really rough character, but he got saved, and he went back home to his family a different man. Not long after, his wife came back to the preacher, and she said to him, “I don’t know what you did to my husband, but he’s different; and I want what he’s got.” That saved husband didn’t even know how to express his new faith to his wife in words, but she could tell from his LIFE at home that things were different, and she wanted that. THAT is what Peter’s saying here. Women (and men and all of us!) live your faith at home in such a way that people in your own household will be touched by your example, and will want what you have in the Lord.
B. Witness by not making outward beauty the most important thing.
:3-4 “Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a quiet and gentle spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
Let me say right off: God is NOT saying here that you should never fix your hair, or wear jewelry, or nice clothes. But He IS saying, don’t make these the most important things. They are not.
Now, the way we appear IS part of our witness, isn’t it? We don’t want to appear slovenly; that is not a good witness for the Lord. But there is SO much attention these days given to outward appearance. And clothes and appearance are not everything. Proverbs 11:22 says “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.”
In I Samuel 16, Samuel thought that Jesse’s son Eliab “looked the part” of the next king of Israel. But God told him in :7, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Eliab “looked good” — but God told Samuel, he’s not the one. I know his HEART. Of how many people is that true today as well: they’ve got all the right clothes, the right makeup, the right appearance — but their HEART is not right with God, and God says, THAT is the most important thing!
God is not going to judge you by whether you are fit to grace the cover of a fashion magazine. He is concerned about your spirit; your inward nature. Specifically he says here, what He wants to see is “a gentle and quiet spirit.” He says THAT is what is “precious in the sight of God.” Your SPIRIT; your inward character.
I think we’d all agree with that in principle, but ask yourself: am I living that way? Am I living like my inward, spiritual life is more important than just my external appearance? Let me ask you this:
— Do you spend more time exercising, or in your time with God? That gets a lot of us right there, doesn’t it; and not just women, but all of us. What we do with our time shows what we value. What are you investing your time in? I do think it is important to exercise; I am not saying don’t exercise. I go to the Rec Center here every morning to swim, to try to keep my body from getting in any worse shape than it already is! But I am also determined to spend much more time on my spiritual exercises, than I do on my physical exercise.
— And women, Peter is speaking specifically to YOU here; ask yourself: do you spend more time in the morning fixing your hair, and makeup, and clothes — or in reading God’s word and praying? Is it even close? I’ve overheard women say they spend an hour a day just getting their hair ready. Do you spend an hour walking with God in His word & prayer?
This is what we are trying to get at in our MasterLife class: Let’s make your INWARD, spiritual life the priority God wants it to be. Set that time and place to meet God; have your plan in place; be persistent, and focus on meeting Him. Make THAT a bigger priority in your day than picking out the right outfit and getting your hair and makeup right.
And as you do that, it will be a witness to your family, that there is something more to your life than merely external appearance. I remember when our son Michael was a little boy, I was sitting in the living room, and he came walking in, and he looked at the chair where Cheryl usually sat, and for some reason he looked over at me and said: “That’s where Mama reads her Bible every morning.” That had obviously impressed him. He KNEW she did that every day. He had seen her there. He knew that she wasn’t only concerned with getting her hair and clothes and makeup ready for the day, but that she was seeking God every day as well. And that was a big witness to him, and to all of our family.
So God says, live out your faith at home. SHOW YOUR FAMILY (and others) that you are not only concerned with your outward appearance, but that your spiritual life is even more important to you — and that it should be to them too!
C. Witness by TRUSTING GOD with your situations
:6 says you have become Sarah’s children (in other words, you are following in her godly footsteps) “if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
This applies to ALL KINDS of situations. Do what is right, and don’t be “frightened by any fear.” Sometimes women (like all of us) tend to “freak out” over situations.
A satire publication called “The Onion,” makes up funny news stories, and once it ran one with the headline: “Area Mom Freaking Out For No Reason Again.” The article went on to say that mother of three Mary Kleibert was “freaking out for no reason Tuesday” when she discovered that her son was going to the DMV because his license was due to expire the next day. Tim Kleibert, 18, said “She started totally spazzing, saying, ‘What if they’re closed? Then what? What if you don’t pass the vision test? What if it takes more than 24 hours for the paperwork to close?’” Over the next five minutes, Kleibert became more agitated, despite her son’s repeated assertion that renewing one’s license on the last day “is not a federal offense or anything.” Tuesday’s driver’s-license incident is just one of 15 freak-outs to occur in the past month. On July 2, Kleibert went nuts when she discovered that Tim had thrown away the packaging for his new iMac computer. ‘What if something goes wrong?’” (The Onion, 7/22/99)
Well, that’s supposed to be a “satire” article, but it’s not too far from the truth sometimes, is it? Sometimes we do tend to “freak out” about stuff — and maybe we want to just excuse it and say “well, that’s just how I am” — but what does that “freak out” attitude say about our trust in God?
I Peter 2:23 said about Jesus: “He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges rightly.” Jesus had done nothing wrong; yet He was oppressed for it. But Peter said Jesus did not “freak out;” instead (like we saw in Psalm 37) He “trusted in God and did what was right.” Then here in Chapter 3, it says that Sarah “did what was right without being frightened with any fear.” So God says here, wives, ladies, (and ALL of us!): YOU do the same thing. Don’t “freak out” about things, but trust your situation to God.
— show your husband how you trust God by not “freaking out”
— show your kids what it means to trust God in daily situations in your home, by not “freaking out,” but by trusting God.
And as you show them how YOU trust God, it will help THEM to learn to trust God too.
So God’s saying here, in all these different ways, be a witness to your own family, by living out your faith at home. And of course, men are to do the same thing. Men are to live THEIR faith at home too, and God shows us a couple of ways to do that in Verse 7:
II. The Love of the Husband
A. Love Your Wife By Treating Her As An Equal Partner
:7 says: “show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life”
If the responsibility of the wife is to follow her husband’s spiritual leadership, the corresponding responsibility of the husband is to treat his wife as a spiritual EQUAL in their home. She is NOT a “servant,” or a “second class citizen;” she is a “fellow heir” of God’s grace; just as saved; just as spiritual as you are (and maybe more so!). And you need to treat her that way.
In her book, It’s My Turn, Ruth Graham shares some very honest experiences that she and Billy had in their marriage, as they worked out the dynamics of their relationship as husband and wife. She wrote:
“Twice Bill got sidetracked from his calling as an evangelist – or so it seemed to me at the time. The first was when he accepted a church pastorate. The second time was when he accepted the presidency of a college. In neither case was I consulted. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t express my opinion …”. She also wrote:
“Long, long ago, in the prehistoric days of our marriage, we were having a not-unusual difference of opinion. Now I come from a long line of strong-minded people — strong-minded and outspoken. I don’t think the men in Bill’s family were accustomed to strong-minded and outspoken women. So there were Times. This was one of them.
‘I have never taken your advice before,’ Bill told me bluntly that dumb, dark day, ‘and I don’t intend to begin now.”
‘I’d be ashamed to admit,’ I replied disrespectfully, ‘that I had married a woman whose advice I couldn’t take.’”
(Ruth Bell Graham, It’s My Turn, p. 58-59)
You can tell that Mrs. Ruth Graham was just a little bit feisty! But there is a lot of truth in what she said. Just because you’re the husband doesn’t mean that you have all the answers. A wise husband will consult his wife, and get her input. God has given her gifts and wisdom and sometimes insight that you don’t have. Love your wife by treating her, as Peter says here, “as a fellow-heir of the grace of life.”
B. Love Your Wife By Understanding Her
:7 “live with your wife in an understanding way”
This is literally, live with her, “according to knowledge.” Know who she is. Know her strengths and weaknesses. Your wife may be physically weaker than you are; most women are; that’s what it means here when it says she is a “weaker vessel.” But she also has corresponding mental and emotional and spiritual strengths, that may be as good or better than yours. Know that; know her. Treat her “according to knowledge.” Treat her in a way that shows you understand and appreciate her.
Here is something perhaps on “the other side of the coin” of the “freaking out” issue. If women perhaps tend to “freak out” about some things, MEN on the other hand are not always as understanding of their wives as they should be. So God says treat her “according to knowledge”:
— if you know that she doesn’t like you to do things at the last minute, then “treat her according to knowledge” and do it ahead of time, so she doesn’t have to “freak out.”
— if you know that she likes you to put a paper towel or some kind of cover on whatever you’re heating up in the microwave, so it doesn’t blow up all over everything, then “live with her according to knowledge” and go ahead and cover it up (or at least clean it up really good before she sees it!!)
And we could go on and on. Understand her. Know who she is. Care about the things she cares about. “Live with her in an understanding way.”
What all this means, if you were to sum it all up, is “love” her. Now this passage doesn’t call it “love” — but Ephesians 5 does. It says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her.” (:25) So men are commanded to “love” their wife. But we need to understand that love is NOT just a “feeling,” or saying “I love you.” I Corinthians 13 says “love is patient; love is kind …”. Love is living with your wife in an understanding way, like I Peter says here. A husband who does that, “loves” his wife.
It’s treating your spouse with understanding in all those “little things” that can really make a marriage. I was blessed to share in Mason & Lauryn Mutina’s wedding a few weeks ago. As I counseled with them beforehand I reminded them about what the Bible says about love, and how Ephesians says the husband is to be willing to lay down his life for his wife. And I said, Mason, you may never in all your married life, have the opportunity to literally lay down your life for Lauryn. That circumstance just may never present itself. But if you live with her for even one day, you WILL have the opportunity to “lay down your life” for her in just little, sacrificial ways in daily life in your home.
THAT is what this passage is talking about. Men: live out your faith at home, by loving your wife. Because Christianity begins at home. I don’t care how “religious” you are at church, or where you go on mission out in the world. If your faith is real, it will be real at home. And what God has done, and what He continues to do in your life, will help you to be a witness to your own family, and to love your spouse by living with them with understanding, and by putting them ahead of yourself. That’s what Jesus did for YOU. He died for you; to save you. He put you ahead of Himself. And if you have given your life to Him and are really following Him, then He asks you to do the same thing for your family. Put their interests ahead of your own, and “Live Out Your Faith At Home.”
— some of us may need to confess to God: I have not been treating my spouse the way I should; God forgive me, and help me to live out my faith by treating them right in our own home.
— God may be speaking to you about making your spiritual disciplines more important than your physical disciplines
— or ask Him to help you not to “freak out” about a particular thing, but trust Him with it.
— or to help you love your spouse in those “little” things in your home
— Or maybe you need to receive what Jesus did when He showed His love for you, by dying for you on the cross … ask Him to save you right now, and then show it’s real by living out your new faith at home.