A Wife in Exile

The Attractional Beauty of a Submissive Spirit

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1-2 ESV)

The culture of the day required that a wife follow her husband’s religion. A wife that became a Christian would be perceived as a woman in rebellion. (See Karen Jobes, 1 Peter: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 203.) Peter wants the wives to counter that perception by affirming with their attitude that they willingly accept the leadership of their husbands.

God created marriage and designed it to function with servant leadership by the husband and willing submission to that leadership by the wife. That goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Sin has created husbands who don’t lead and wives who don’t follow. So when the New Testament talks about marriage redeemed it always calls us back to God’s original plan of serving-leading husbands and wives submissive to that leadership. “Submission is an inner quality of gentleness that affirms the leadership of the husband.” (Wayne Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 196.)

Even unbelieving husbands are still wired to find this attractive in their wives. Let any husband have the choice between gentle and submissive or abusive and combative, submissive wins every time. The angry, fighting, nagging wife will do little to draw her husband toward faith. But a wife whose spirit is gentle, even in disagreement or conflict, will amaze the perceptive husband. Over time, it says something powerful to him.

It’s so powerful that Peter says a wife can win her husband without words. That doesn’t mean the gospel in words isn’t known by the husband. A wife will no doubt share her beliefs. This is life enforcing and enhancing the claims of the wife’s Christianity. He sees her life up close including how she responds to her own failures and it garnishes her faith.

The Attractional Beauty of a Holy Life

“When they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:2)

This is a day-to-day challenge, even for wives of mature Christian men. It’s one thing to say it; it’s another to put it into practice. What would this look like? Peter lists two qualities to aim for. Respectful and pure. I take this to be morally pure and we see that submission has its limits. It never includes any behavior that would displease God. If a husband requires it, a godly wife must stay no.

But in all other categories to strive for, her walk is to be consistent with her talk. No wife will do this perfectly or even close. It’s not perfection but direction. Is the direction of the wife’s life toward a lifestyle of respect and purity? In public? In private? If there are children, as a mother? All of these priorities should reflect a woman who is morally upright in life and a respectful friend, lover, and companion to her husband.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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