This passage is for every member of the family. Key words addressed to women, here and in parallel passages, are submission, fear (respect), authority, suffering, humility, and obedience. These concepts have application in everyone’s life. Originally woman was meant to co-rule. The Fall changed everything. The redemption solution for women emphasizes submission. Do women want to be part of the solution or contribute to the intensification of the consequences of judgment? If suffering and sacrifice are related to submission, they are temporary teachers, necessary for growth and as a witness to angels and men. Submission is addressed to the woman’s volition and may require patience and endurance, but through obedience, God is honored, we are blessed and rewards are granted.

This lesson also includes 1 Peter 3:1-6 and Titus 2:3-5.

Biblical Instruction to Wives. 1 Corinthians 13:18; Eph. 5:22-27; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:3-5


We continue a study on marriage and the family, a study that is grounded in the passage we are studying in Colossians chapter three, verses 18-21 where we have four verses that are very succinct in just bulleting the primary responsibility of each member within a household. This isn't the only place this is talked about. Similar statements and passages are found in other epistles. Paul talks about authority in relation to government as well as applying it to masters and slaves in Romans. Peter does it in almost a reverse order in 1 Peter 2 & 3. Paul typically starts with the wives first, then husbands, then children and parents, and ends with slaves and masters; whereas Peter reverses that order. But in all of these passages the foundation for this is not on a cultural tradition. In fact, what they were saying when it is understood in terms of the balance is remarkable. It goes beyond anything that was operational in any culture at that time. Because what was said of the different genders was balanced in a way that it was not in any cultural expression at that time. So the expectation that one might have, that oh well Paul just says it that way because that's what he was taught, can't be substantiated by the understanding of history that we have. He says things about women, about men, and their roles and responsibilities that went completely against the grain of the culture at that time. The reason for saying this is because a typical response that we hear from people in our culture today is accusations of just this very nature: that they were just reflecting their culture, and that Paul was really a misogynist and he hated women. But you only get there if you start with an assumption that is unbiblical to begin with. So we have to look at what the Scripture says.

What we have tried to do as we have gone through this is the context of all of Scripture, starting in Genesis chapter one with the original creation of male and female both in the image of God—which emphasises equality of person, and then proceeding from there to talk about the distinctions in roles that existed even in perfect environment prior to sin, and then the impact that sin had on those original roles. Now we come to something where we are going to focus more on the biblical instructions to wives, and then later responsibilities for the husbands and the men. 

The reason that certain things are not said to men or women is because they weren't part of the curse. We are trying to emphasise here the original purpose that God gave for the wife which was to be a co-ruler. She was equally in the image and likeness of God, she was to rule ,over the fish of the sea, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and she was to bring creation into order under the authority of the human race as the God-image-bearers on earth. She was, specifically in terms of her role, to assist Adam, and extremely significant responsibility and role, and to be part of the process of multiplying and filling the earth through procreation. Because of sin her role distinctives were challenged and it was going to be difficulty now for her in the specific areas related to those initial mandates. It is important to see that in what God says to Eve after the fall in Genesis chapter three. Now she would have a desire to dominate and to control her husband, and she would experience increased pain and sorrow in childbirth. Those two things mentioned in Genesis three directly impact her mission to assist the male. Now she wants to dominate him, and in achieving the objective of multiplying and filling the earth there is going to be pain and difficulty associated with that. Part of the curse judgment was that she would desire to dominate and to control her husband. The redemption solution is addressed to that: now she is to submit to her husband. So that command to submit is pointed to the woman because of the curse. There is a general trend to dominate and she needs to add the corrective now as a believer and submit to her husband.

Parallel to that the male was to lead. He is the responsible leader. All of the commands in Genesis chapter two are directed to the male. He is to guard, to keep the garden, and also to multiply and fill the earth. But with the curse judgment the earth is going to fight it. Now there is going to be toil associated with his labour, and it is not constantly fun to fight the battle.

There are good-sounding cultural values for men and women but they are not really biblical; they just sound like it. Then there are some that are way off the mark, and then there are others that are on the mark. For example, we see these kinds of distortions that take place: women shouldn't work outside the home. But wait a minute, let's go to Proverbs 31 and look at the descriptions of a godly woman. She exercising leadership, she's exercising responsibility, she's working outside the home, she's trading in real estate, she's making money for the family. That runs completely counter to the caricature says that you must hold towards women if you take a biblical view. Too often the biblical view is you just want women to stay at home, have babies, be barefoot and pregnant, and that's it. But that is not the biblical model either; that is a distortion of it. So we have to be very careful what the Scripture says in terms of these role distinctions and because the Scripture may say something about what men should do and what women should do, don't become guilty of putting that into culturally distorted framework. We have to really be honest with what the text says and what is emphasised there.

There are key words that show up in the Scripture passage we are looking at that relate to women. The first is to submit—hupotasso [u(potassw] which means literally to place something under something else, to subordinate something. We all have that. No matter who you are, somebody works for somebody else. Somebody is in authority over everybody; nobody gets away from the authority issue. Everybody is subordinate to somebody. You've never really had the joys of work unless you've been under the authority of somebody who is incompetent and irresponsible, and you know that you could do the job ten times better than they can but they are the ones who get all the credit. We have all been in unjust circumstances and situations where the person in authority shouldn't be there. But they are the ones in authority and we have to learn that authority orientation. So this whole concept of submission is related to understanding absolutes in the area of authority. The other word that is used is the word "fear." Sometimes it is translated "awe." It is the Greek word phobos [foboj] which means terror, fear, alarm, fright, but it also has positive connotations in terms of reverence, respect and awe. Sometimes in the KJV it is translated "fear," but what it is emphasising is that reverential respect side of the term.

Peter addresses wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6. Verse 6, ladies, is not saying you have to refer to your husband as lord. The term "lord" was just a term of respect, equivalent to our term "sir," recognising the authority in the home.

1 Peter 3:1 NASB "In the same way, you wives …" There is a comparison here and what we see in the context is that verse 1 is going to address the role and responsibility and authority position of women in a manner that is similar to that of slaves and masters. It is not saying that women are slaves any more than employees are slaves or children are slaves because they are under somebody else's authority. It is simply talking about the role of submission to authority. "… be submissive to your own husbands…" It doesn't say: "Husbands make sure your wives are submissive to you." This is addressed to their volition, not your volition. You are not the Holy Spirit in the relationship. That response from the wife needs to come from her own spiritual growth and recognition of what the Word says. "… so that even if any {of them} are disobedient to the word.." This is where it gets tough, but it is tough for all of us in different spheres. If a wife is married to a man who is supposed to be the leader, the authority, the spiritual head of the home and he is a spiritual loser—anti-Christian, living out his own lust patterns whatever it is, and she is stuck in a marriage to this guy who is not fulfilling his responsibility. So what is her responsibility? Leave, right? No, that is not what the Scripture says. But in 1 Peter we have to contextualise this. Every Christian is in an authority relationship; every Christian runs the risk of being under the authority of a loser, whether it is government, a master in a master-slave relationship or employer, or whatever the relationship is, and the role of the believer in an authority relationship is to honour and respect the office of the person in authority and not to rebel against it. Why? Why does the Scripture put this emphasis on authority so much? Because that is the original sin with Satan. He rejected the authority of God. So whenever we take it upon ourselves to reject, to rebel against a legitimate authority, even when they are wrong, we are wrong.

When an authority tells us to do something that violates the direct instruction of Scripture that is the only time we have a right to obey God rather than men. In every other category we need to be submissive. Whether it is submission to government or a soldier in the military, a student in a classroom or an employee at a job, a wife to a husband, the same principles apply because it all comes to the authority issue.

"… they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives. This is the silent witness. No nagging. It is their application and devotion to the Word that is going to carry the message. People out there who have problems with patience want to hurry things up, and sometimes this may take almost a lifetime. Don't focus on the fact that, 'Oh I am just suffering so much for the Lord in this lousy marriage,' because by doing it right you are building rewards in heaven. One of the major themes throughout 1 Peter is 'We are all co-heirs together with Christ' and we need to recognise that all these commands to believers in 1 Peter are designed to focus on that future reward at the judgment seat of Christ. 

1 Peter 3:2 NASB "as they observe your chaste and respectful behaviour," i.e. respect for them.

1 Peter 3:3 NASB "Your adornment must not be {merely} external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; [4] 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." The focus is on character. Then he ties this back to the Old Testament. [5] "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; [6] just 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."

It is very easy to distort what is said here if we don't understand what Peter is doing. He is laying out for his audience the fact that they are going to suffer. They are going through persecution. His audience is primarily Jewish believers who are under attack from other Jews who are not believers in Jesus as the Messiah. 1 Peter, 2 Peter, James and Hebrews are all epistles addressed to Jewish believers. 1 Peter 1:1 NASB "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,  To those who reside as aliens [the disapora], scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…" So he is addressing this to those who are in the diaspora; it is not primarily addressed to Gentiles, but it applies to all who are in the body of Christ.

He focuses on the fact that we have been born again to an inheritance. 1 Peter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to {obtain} an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." So his focal point to believers is preparation and focus on inheritance and running the race well in terms of that inheritance. Inheritance involves some things that are true for all believers and some things that are different for every believer. Those who run the race well are rewarded for their divine good, that which is produced under the ministry of the filling of the Holy Spirit in fellowship. That is identified as gold, silver and precious stones in 1 Corinthians chapter three. That which we do in the power of the flesh, no matter how good it is, is going to burn up at the judgment seat of Christ and there is nothing rewardable. But we still have eternal life. What we have in distinction is that some believers are going to have different kinds of rewards, different responsibilities, different levels of authority in the future kingdom, based on how mature we are in this age and how faithful we are. This is how Peter is motivating his readers in terms of the suffering they are going through at the present time.

1 Peter 1:6 NASB "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials." He is talking about the fact that you have joy now even though you are going through trials right now. The long term result is great joy. He transitions to talking about suffering in the next paragraph in verse 10 and talks about this salvation; that is a focus on the future from the prophets in the Old Testament. And he uses that to transition into talking about the suffering of Christ. This is a major theme of 1 Peter. We go through suffering, we whine and mew about the fact that we are suffering, it is so hard, I am married to this guy I'm supposed to follow and respect and he is such a bum; God does not want me to suffer like this. What have we just said? That God does not want me to face undeserved suffering. Hmmm …. What about Jesus? That is the drumbeat behind all of this in 1 Peter: the suffering of Christ. Nobody ever suffered more than Christ, and experienced more undeserved suffering than Christ, because He was absolutely perfect. Peter constantly takes us back to that absolute standard that Jesus is the one who really had true undeserved suffering. Ultimately any suffering that we face is deserved in some sense because we are living in a fallen world. Blessing is not deserved, that is why it is called grace. Grace means undeserved blessing. 

1 Peter 1:10, 11 NASB "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that {would come} to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." Another key word in 1 Peter is the glory that comes. We may suffer now but we keep our eye on the end game which is the judgment seat of Christ and reward and blessing and inheritance because that is for eternity. Whatever suffering we are going through now, and whatever our circumstances might be that are negative, that is less than a grain of sand in comparison to eternity. So the background to this is going to be the suffering of Christ. There is a hint at the end of verse 12 that as we endure undeserved suffering, in light of that the angels are watching us because watching you and I go through undeserved suffering teaches them things about God and His grace that they can't learn any other way—"things into which angels long to look." So that is our heavenly witness.

1 Peter 1:17 NASB "If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay {on earth;}" There is the first mention of that word "fear." So ladies, later on when it says you need to respect your husbands in fear that is not in isolation. Every believer is to live their live in fear, i.e. in respect to authority—God's authority. So this isn't something that is uniquely laid out for women. These things that are commanded of women in terms of one relationship are also commanded to every woman, every man, every believer, in many other areas. It is not something unique. We are to live our life in fear. Why? [18] "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, [19] but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, {the blood} of Christ." The undeserved suffering of Christ is what should motivate us in our own measure of undeserved suffering.

1 Peter 1:22 NASB "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren …" philadelphia [filadelfia] from philos, and this is more of an affection term than agape. "… fervently love [agape/a)gaph] one another from the heart." So we are all commanded to love one another.

Chapter two talks about Jesus again in terms of Old Testament revelation of Jesus. 1 Peter 2:4 NASB "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men …" This is something heard for years in any kind of romantic relationship when there is a problem and it results in rejection. Everyone has experienced that to one degree or another. Who has experienced the greatest level of rejection? Jesus Christ. The rejection we experience is microscopic compared to what Jesus went through and that is why understanding Jesus and what He went through is such a source of comfort for us. He handled rejection the same way you and I are supposed to handle rejection, and this is by depending upon the Holy Spirit and claiming the promises of the Word of God. Jesus faced and handled rejection. That is brought up again from an Old Testament quote at the end of verse 7: "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER {stone,}"

The core focus of this epistle does emphasise the role of authority and submission in all the different spheres of life. 1 Peter 2:13 NASB "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority." As much as this irritates some conservatives that means even those tax laws we think are unjust. We think they are unjust but God says we are to submit to the authority over us. Within our system of government in the United States we have different ways that we can challenge that legally, and we should. But we live in a fallen world, in the cosmic system, and even if we ran this country perfectly according to the Constitution (as it was originally written and intended) guess what. It is still a fallen government in a cosmic system and it is still never going to be perfect. [14] "or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. [15] For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men." We are in positions of undeserved suffering by people who are in authority so that we can be a testimony to angels by doing good in the face of evil. Two wrong don't make something right, so even when we think that the law is unjust or the authority as an individual is unjust we are to do the right thing according to the Scripture and put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Notice: the conduct of the believer is what will put to silence—but when? Maybe not in our generation. But this is comparable to the wife that is in a position where she has a spiritual loser for a husband, and so what has to happen? She has to win him with her conduct, not by addressing it overtly.

Then Peter concludes that section. 1 Peter 2:17 NASB "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." Again, all believers are to have respect and honour for God, the one who is the ultimate authority. Then he is going to change topic: [18] "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable." It is easy to do what the good boss says, but if he is harsh, unreasonable, irrational and he treats you with little or no respect and you obey him, [19] For this {finds} favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly." It is commendable only under certain circumstances. It is only commendable if we are respectful to the irresponsible authority, if you are doing it in obedience to God. We are there to please God. [20] "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer {for it} you patiently endure it, this {finds} favor with God." When we have really messed up and suffer the consequences we all know we deserve it, and we don't complain about it. But when we have done everything right and are penalised and punished for doing the right thing, and it is wrong for us to be punished, we still keep our mouth shut. This is commendable before God because we endure it patiently.

1 Peter 2:21 NASB "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." What is the issue in all of this? Christ suffered unjustly. [22] WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; [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; [24] 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."

1 Peter 3:1 NASB "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, [2] as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior." No matter what the objection is ladies, when you are in undeserved suffering and are focusing on the fact that, 'Oh, I am having to go through this,' what is the key word there? I – just self-absorption. You are focussed on why "I" am getting this undeserved suffering rather than 'how does God want me to glorify Him as I go through undeserved suffering?' That is the focal point. So the conduct toward the one in authority, in this case the husband, is one of fear.

Then he addresses an issue which also parallels what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2. 1 Peter 3:3 NASB "Your adornment must not be {merely} external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses." He is not saying that that is wrong in and of itself but when that is the focal point instead of character, that is the problem. [4] "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." Those terms there refer to someone who is properly oriented to authority. It doesn't mean you are a door mat; it doesn't mean Moses was a door mat; it doesn't mean Jesus was a door mat; it means that they are incredibly strong because under unbelievable pressure to do otherwise they remain properly oriented to authority. That is the issue.

Paul says the same thing in 1 Timothy 2:8-10 NASB "Therefore I want the men [males] in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." Emphasis: Men in the local church are to gather together to pray because you are men, because you are the spiritual leaders in the church. In not doing that you are not obedient to the Word, you are not fulfilling part of your spiritual leadership responsibilities as men. "lifting up hands" doesn't mean that you are going to be Charismatic and walk around raising your hands. The word "holy" applied to hands means sanctified; it means you are in fellowship. Their custom was to raise their hands when they prayed, so what Paul is saying is when they did that they needed to be holy hands. It is not the lifting up of the hands he is emphasising but that the hands need to be in fellowship. [9] "Likewise, {I want} women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments." What he is getting at there is that that was typically how a prostitute dressed in that culture. So don't come to church dressed like a hooker! [10] "but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness." The emphasis is on character, spiritual growth and spiritual fruit, and not on external adornment.

1 Timothy 2:11 NASB "A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. [12] But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." He didn't say he didn't allow women to teach and have authority over men, he said he didn't allow women to teach or have authority over men. There are some things that women are restricted from doing, just as some things men are restricted from doing. So there are restrictions, and the restriction comes out of what happened in Genesis 2 & 3. That is the foundation for his argument later in the chapter.

The husbands are then address. 1 Peter 3:7 NASB "You husbands in the same way, live with {your wives} in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." In conclusion he says, [8] "To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; [9] not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." He says the reason this ought to characterise all your relationships in marriage is because one day you are going top be standing before the judgment seat of Christ and we want to have some rewards there because that is what glorifies God.

Then he comes back to suffering again. 1 Peter 3:13 NASB "Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? [14] But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed…" Whoever you are married to, if it is not going well and you suffer for righteousness sake, it is a blessing…. [17] "For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. [18] For Christ also died for sins …" Every time he comes back to the cross. [4:1] "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh …"

1 Peter 4:8 NASB "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. [9] Be hospitable to one another without complaint. [10] As each one has received a {special} gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God…. [12] Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; [13] but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation." It is living today in light of eternity.

1 Peter 4:19 NASB "Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." Suffering is the backdrop. In 1 Peter 5:5 there is a comparison to young people. "You younger men, likewise, be subject to {your} elders …" Everybody has to submit to somebody. The young people submit to the more mature, the elders. "…and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. [6] Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time." If you are in a relationship where the person over you is unjust, doesn't care about spiritual things, and is all confused and distorted, the solution is humility. Submit to that authority, submit to God, and let God deal with it. He is the one who will exalt you in due time. And how do we do this? [7] "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." That is the context of that promise.

1 Peter 5:9 NASB "But resist him [the devil], firm in {your} faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." Again, it comes down to suffering.

What have we said? Ladies it is the responsibility to follow the leadership of your husband.

There are distinctions between women who are older and women who are younger. Younger women are focused on the family. It doesn't mean you can't work outside the home but your focus is different when you are younger. When you are older you can work outside the home, have a career, all those other things without the conflict of motherhood issue. But where do you go for help? Churches, if we did it right, would have a framework for older women—and maybe this has to come from their own initiative—to have relationship with younger women. When there are young couples, young men and young women, they need mature Christians who are older that can go to when they get various speed bumps so that they can figure out how they are supposed to get past them.

Titus 2:3 NASB "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good." It doesn't say teaching Bible doctrine. It defines what the good things are. The older women are to admonish. This is not the word that means to straighten out their thinking; it has to do with helping them secure balance and temperateness in their life. [4] "so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, [5] {to be} sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." That last word is the real kicker because if you as a woman are not doing these things you are blaspheming [blasphemeo/blasfhmew] the Word of God. If the older women aren't helping the younger women how to do this the end result is the Word of God is treated disrespectfully. So there are certain roles defined for older women and younger women.