Last time we began a section that is all about a concept that is not that popular today, that is the word submission which means literally “to place under,” to “subject oneself” or “rank oneself under.” Believers are called to follow the Messiah’s example who himself submitted his life and his will to the Father in order to accomplish our salvation. Kefa/Peter encourages us to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities, the government and leaders that have been placed over us. And we are called to submit ourselves to those over us in the marketplace, i.e. our bosses and supervisors. This doesn’t mean that we are to be “doormats” that never stand up for truth and righteousness because we noted that even Peter stood up against the Jewish authorities and disobeyed them when he was told not to preach in the name of Yeshua. But generally speaking, we are to submit for the Lord’s sake… for the sake of our witness in this world. Today we continue with this theme of submission as we look at Submission in the home.
Submission and Shalom Bayit
[Read 1 Peter 3:1–7]
We know that Peter was married because he was blessed with a mother in law. And when she was sick, Yeshua healed her and she got up and served them all (Mat. 8:14–15). Not much is said about his wife, but we do know that Peter’s wife accompanied him on some of his travels (cf. 1 Cor 9:5). We also see that Clement of Alexandria records that Peter also had children (Stromateis 3.6.52) and Eusebius, the early church historian, states that Peter was present at the martyrdom of his wife (Eusebius, Eccles. Hist., 3.30.2). Verse 1 begins with the words “In the same way…” (3:1). As we submit to human authorities and as servants submit to their masters as unto the Lord, so wives are called to submit to their husbands (now that I have mentioned that… I have my wife’s permission to move on to the next section). Here and in other passages of Paul’s writings we are given the recipe for Shalom Bayit – peace in the home – harmony and good relations in the home. These are very practical instructions. God wants Shalom bayit, peace in the home. I love the term shalom as it speaks of completeness, wholeness, and fulfilment in the home. A believer’s marriage should be characterized by peace, nurturing, respect, and chesed (loving-kindness/covenantal love). Maintaining peace in one’s home, shalom bayit, is an important ideal in Judaism, which views marriage between man and wife as a manifestation of God’s connection with His creation. Of course, through fairy tales, romance novels and Hollywood we have all been fed the unrealistic depiction of a “happily ever after” couple with an adoring husband and wife who are just meant for each other. This idyllic couple instinctively understand each other’s feelings, and their romance never fades. Even though we know that reality of life is different from the fairy tales and movies, we still entertain the hope that perhaps we can be the exception to the rule.
The Wife’s Role
However, family harmony is not easy. It is something that one has to work on all the time requiring commitment, dedication and … submission. Peter here (as well as the Apostle Paul cf. Ephesians 5:21–24) speaks of a divine ordering of relationships that reflect the creation order. It is important not to confuse order with importance. Elsewhere, Rabbi Sha’ul teaches that because of creation order, the husband has been given an authority to which the wife must submit. This is also true of parents over their children, and masters over slaves (or if you like, employers over employees). Peter in no way suggests that wives are inferior to their husbands, nor that they, as women, must submit to all other men. Specifically, Peter teaches that a wife must submit to her own husband. Just because man was created before woman, that doesn’t mean that man is more important that woman. And we should not get confused with the person on the one hand, and their role on the other hand. Husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants have equal dignity and value since all people are created in God’s image but have different God-appointed roles. Now the very notion of submission to authority is out of fashion today. It flies in the face of contemporary attitudes of permissiveness and freedom. Our age is an age of liberation, and oppression of any kind is deeply resented and strongly resisted. As believers in Messiah, we should oppose exploitation and oppression wherever it appears. Women in many cultures and religions have been suppressed and made to be like servants in their own home. Over the centuries, many horrific things have done to women in the name of religion or by using the Bible as a means of control and manipulation. This has brought shame to religion in general and Christianity and messianic faith is not exempt from these abuses. So, we should be looking at how Yeshua treated woman. Yeshua treated woman with courtesy and honour in an age in which they were often despised. So, getting back to our text.
1 Peter 3:1–2 (CJB) 1 In the same way, wives, submit to your husbands; so that even if some of them do not believe the Word, they will be won over by your conduct, without your saying anything, 2 as they see your respectful and pure behavior.
In this context, Peter is addressing what seems to be a divided home. The wife is a believer and the husband is not… How many homes do you know like this? Peter gives instructions on how a believing wife can win her husband to the Lord by her godly life rather than her words. In 3:1 he says: David Stern in his commentary uses quite a bit of poetic license when he paraphrases: “Don’t be a noodge or a nudnik (Yiddish for “nag” and “bore”) As we know, unsaved loved ones watch our lives. Words can often be a hindrance but if our lives point to the Messiah, then we can have a powerful witness to our family.
1 Peter 3:3–4 (CJB) 3 Your beauty should not consist in externals such as fancy hairstyles, gold jewelry or what you wear; 4 rather, let it be the inner character of your heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight this is of great value.
Peter encourages wives to be respectful and pure and to avoid inappropriate preoccupation with appearance. That is drawing unnecessary attention to oneself rather than the Lord with over the top (fancy) “braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewellery, or putting on extravagant dresses” (v. 3). Peter is not forbidding women from wearing jewellery; what he is forbidding is going to worldly extremes just to be “fashionable.” The idea is not that outward appearance is unimportant but rather that the inward qualities are more important. Outward beauty is corruptible; inward beauty, incorruptible. This hidden beauty of the heart is displayed by a “gentle and quiet spirit” (v. 4). This quality is not a reference to genetically acquired personality traits, such as being a person of few words, but rather to an inner attitude marked by the absence of anxiety, coupled with a trust in God as the blessed controller of all things. Proverbs 31:10 speaks of the Ashet Chayil – “An excellent wife [or noble wife] who can find? She is far more precious than jewels…” The Proverb lists a number of sublime qualities of an excellent wife and of particular relevance to our text today it says:
Proverbs 31:25–30 (TLV) 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the days to come. [the idea here is that she is prepared and confident for future…] 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom— a lesson of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and bless her, her husband also praises her: 29 “Many daughters have excelled, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears Adonai will be praised.
This woman’s beauty comes from her love and honouring of the Lord in her life – as the Proverbs also say, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Now, in my opinion, doesn’t give the believing woman license to let yourselves go and pay no attention to the way you look… Peter uses Sarah as an example.
1 Peter 3:5–6 (CJB) 5 This is how the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves and submit to their husbands, 6 the way Sarah obeyed Avraham, honoring him as her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not succumb to fear.
Now Sarah was beautiful. At least twice that we know of she had Kings trying to “hit” on her and trying to take her away from her husband Abraham. And what did he do? He lied and said she was his sister. Oy Veh! And yet, she honoured her husband and called him adoni – “my lord”.
The Husband’s Role
Now there are instructions for husbands too:
1 Peter 3:7 (CJB) 7 You husbands, likewise, conduct your married lives with understanding. Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don’t, your prayers will be blocked.
“You husbands… likewise…” Husbands too, are to have similar attitude of love and respect, and I would add a concept, from an exegesis of Eph 5:21, of “mutual submission”. Husbands are called to be the head of the home and wives are called to submit to the husband, but that is all done in the atmosphere of mutual submission to one another as unto the Lord. This is not tall order. Instructions to husbands are very demanding. Rabbi Sha’ul commands men to love their wives as the Messiah loves his people in Ephesians 5:25; “As for husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave himself up on its behalf,” (Ephesians 5:25, CJB) This verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians means that, according to the Bible, a man must crucify himself, so to speak, for the sake of his bride. That’s how Messiah loved the assembly of his people. As husbands we must be willing to die daily to ourselves as we truly love our wives. Wow! That’s a life changing and marriage changing concept. This truly is a recipe of shalom bayit.
Peter says in verse 7 “husbands…conduct your married lives with understanding…”
The term “married lives” here includes the idea of sexual relationships but is not limited to it Husbands are called to live with your wives in an understanding way. You have to learn to understand the opposite sex. Well there’s a lifelong mission for you! Seriously though, husbands are encouraged to work hard at understanding their wives, their moods, feelings, needs, fears and hopes. We need to listen to our wives with our hearts, demonstrate love, and bring joy.
Verse 7 goes on to say; “… Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don’t, your prayers will be blocked.” (1 Peter 3:7, CJB)
The husband must give honour to the wife as a fellow-heir in God’s grace. I think it would be fair to say that women may be weaker physically, but it is not right to say that woman are weaker than men emotionally, or intellectually. It is interesting to see here, that husbands who fail to honour their wives, will find their prayers being hindered.
Wives, do you think that the way you treat your husband, is part of your witness to the world around you? Husbands, do you think that the way you treat your wife, is part of your witness to the world around you?
 Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Peter, The Apostle. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1660). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Thomas Nelson, I. 1997, c1995. Woman’s study Bible . (Eph 5:25). Thomas Nelson: Nashville
 Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., 1 Pe 3:1). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.
 Thomas Nelson, I. (1995). The Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., 1 Pe 3:7). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.