Read through 1 Peter 4 carefully and write down any questions you have about the text.
Please, share them in the comments as well!
Read through 1 Peter 4 carefully and write down any questions you have about the text.
Please, share them in the comments as well!
Once again, chapter 4 starts out with “therefore,” referring to Christ’s suffering. Christ suffered for us (2:24 & 3:18), therefore, we should also be prepared to suffer in this life as we keep our eyes on the glory that is to come. Hopefully, you are starting to get the point:
Peter will continue this theme in chapter 4 with more specific exhortations about what this means for believers. We will continue to follow the same schedule this week:
TGIF! Time to summarize and apply all that we’ve learned this week.
What were Peter’s main points in chapter 3?
How did he continue weaving in the threads of the book’s over-all themes?
Write your summary and pray about points of application in your own life:
Feel free to share your applications if you want to!
It’s Thursday, so let’s try to answer the questions we asked on Monday. If you are anything like me, you probably still have some unanswered questions about 1 Peter 3:18-21. I mean, what THE HECK is he talking about? Personally, I will be listening to some sermons by Alistair Begg to try to fill in the holes where I don’t understand:
Alistair Begg: 1 Peter 3:18-22: The Suffering of Christ, part I.
Alistair Begg: 1 Peter 3:18-22: The Suffering of Christ, part II.
There are many other sermons about 1 Peter 3 if you still want to know more about submission or other parts of the chapter.
Also, I asked my friend Erin to write a guest post because she has more egalitarian view of submission whereas mine is more conservative. Check out her post to get a different perspective from a faithful believer.
Yesterday I provided an interpretation of 1 Peter 3:1-2 from the complementarian perspective. In the spirit of friendly discussion, I asked my friend, Erin O’Neal, to provide an egalitarian view. After reading her post, I was surprised by how much we agreed. Take a look for yourself and please be sure to comment and let us know what you think!
1 Peter is all about being holy. Peter tells Christians at the outset of the book that they must be holy, as Christ is holy (1:15). Keeping this in mind is critical for any interpretation of any passage of the book. Peter’s main message is loud and clear: Be holy.
So when discussing passages like 1 Peter 3, you can’t come to a relevant interpretation without understanding how it relates to Christians being holy.
Egalitarians like to focus on the historical context of gender roles.
During the time of the New Testament, families were run based on Greco-Roman household codes. What were these codes?
A series of writings and laws that dictated how the family was supposed to be run. These codes indicated that the husband was the sole head of the household and that everyone in his household—from his children to his slaves to his wife—were his property. For Peter and other Biblical authors like Paul, these household codes were an essential part of how the world worked. It was the system in which they were born and lived. To challenge that system, especially in a time when Christians were under heavy persecution, was in some cases literally breaking the law.
Egalitarians view the commands that Peter and Paul made regarding husbands and wives within the context of these codes. Just as neither author demanded an outright abolition of slavery, they don’t demand women be given full rights of personhood and independence under the law. Instead, they take the cultural system they know, and turn it towards a more holy alternative.
The cultural norms that influenced Peter and Paul are part of the world, and will perish with time. But the imperishable truths that point husbands and wives towards holiness will stand the test of time.
So what does holiness look like for the women Peter is addressing?
In a time when Jesus’ message was readily available for those who were oppressed and marginalized, it only makes sense that women found Christ appealing. He offered something better than the world. He had the greatest gift of all. So with plenty of women coming to faith in Christ, it comes as no surprise that some of these women were married to men who weren’t Christians.
At the same time, Peter lived in a society where women were property. Submission to a non-Christian spouse was a sacrifice that some women were called to make. It wasn’t easy. Peter doesn’t give this command lightly, but compares it to the suffering of slaves under harsh masters just a few verses earlier. But this wasn’t submission for the sake of submission or a reasonless command.
Peter’s words point back to the main idea of the whole book: Holiness. Peter told wives to submit because that was already expected of them in society. Just as Jesus commanded his followers go the extra mile if a Roman soldier demanded them carry his pack, Peter commands his readers to do more than what is already required by the law. What he adds—what he says will win over non-believing husbands—is the respect and pure conduct wives exhibit in their lives. Husbands were already expecting submission from their wives, what they weren’t expecting was holiness.
Peter’s command may begin with submission, but the focus is always holiness.
Let’s not forget that only a few verses later, Peter commands the same thing of husbands: Behave in the same way that Christ behaved; be holy as Christ was holy. And when Peter tells husbands to treat their wives with respect, he’s calling them to go above and beyond what the culture of the time expected of husbands.
Peter takes the Greco-Roman household codes and reveals them to be insufficient for the Christian life. Wives submitting is not enough. Husbands ruling is not enough.
Emulating Christ is enough.
The Egalitarian interpretation of passages like 1 Peter 3 see these verses as mutual commands to submit, but also recognizes that Peter was calling husbands and wives to be more than what the culture expected.
What about the rest of the Bible?
Ephesians 5:21 is probably one of the most important verses for Egalitarians when reading about gender roles. “Submit to one another” is the central thrust of the Egalitarian position. Many people think that to not hold a Complementarian view is to insist that wives must be over husbands, but many Egalitarians have long said that the solution to patriarchy isn’t matriarchy, it’s equality.
Paul prefaces his household commands in Ephesians 5 with a command to submit to one another. He, just like Peter, tells Christians to be more than what the culture already expects. Mutual submission is one part of being holy. Marriage without emulating Christ just isn’t enough.
Galatians 3:28 is also an important verse for Egalitarians. It sums up so much of what the gospel means. Christ died for all, not merely the Jews, not merely the free, not merely the men. In Christ, we are all one. And because of that, we are all to submit to one another as we strive to be more like Christ.
Egalitarianism isn’t about denying submission. Instead, it’s about recognizing the humanity and the image of God in everyone, and submitting to one another as an act of holiness.
Some final thoughts.
The biggest thing to remember when dealing with passages like 1 Peter 3 is to remember that while Scripture is the infallible word of God, our individual interpretations of Scripture are fallible. No pastor, theologian, teacher, or individual Christian has all the right answers all the time. That’s why we have so many different denominations in Christianity. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ any less if they hold a different interpretation than we do.
Some of my closest friends and important teachers in my life hold to a different interpretation of 1 Peter 3 than I do. Do I think I have the best interpretation: Yes. If I didn’t, I would believe something else. But if we as Christians are to work towards loving God, being holy, and sharing the gospel, then I think there’s enough room for disagreement.
Wherever you stand in regards to 1 Peter 3, remember: We are to be holy as Christ is holy. If this looks like mutual submission, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. The goal is always holiness. We should strive first for that, before all else.
As promised, today we will be discussing the command for wives to submit to their husbands in 1 Peter 3. This is a loaded topic, which is why I chose Cross-Reference Wednesday for this discussion. We must interpret it in the context of Peter’s entire letter and the Bible as whole. I challenge you to check out the Scripture references for yourself, although this is a lot of info at once, so take your time.
Back on Day 5, we established that Peter was writing to Christians who were undergoing intense persecution. Let’s take a closer look at what that was like for them. Before they became Christians, they conducted themselves in lustful partying, drinking, and idolatry (1 Peter 1:14 and 4:3). When they believed in Christ, they left their old ways behind to “be holy, as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15).
The non-believers around them thought it was strange that the Christians no longer wanted to party or drink with them (1 Peter 4:4). They started speaking evil and spreading rumors about the Christians (2:12, 3:16). While many people assume 1 Peter 5:8 is talking about Satan himself, the word “devil” means slanderer. Peter could have been referring to one or more non-believers who were persecuting the Christians by spreading lies about their conduct, beliefs, and integrity. Throughout his letter, Peter says that the non-believers reviled the Christians. Likely, this negative perception was affecting their interactions with the government, with employers, and within their homes. For instance, imagine this scenario playing out in the workplace:
Or a non-believing husband to his wife:
Peter gave his readers a three-fold strategy for reacting to the reviling and slander of non-believers. First, they were to continue in their holy conduct and not return to their old ways. 1 Peter 2:1 encourages them to lay aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking. By persevering in their good works, in time they would prove the slanderers wrong.
Second, they were to follow the example of Christ, who, “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten.” (1 Peter 2:23). Peter applies this call to suffer in three specific social areas, the first two of which are found in chapter 2:
Then he continues by saying, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear (the word “fear” in 3:2 has the connotation of reverence here as in 2:18). If their unbelieving husbands reviled their faith, slandered them, and treated them harshly, they were to respond with kindness, gentleness, and longsuffering, while maintaining an attitude of honor, respect, and deference.
It is important to note what Peter was and was not saying. He was addressing a specific situation: an unbelieving husband persecuting a Christian wife because of her faith. In this situation, he asked the wife to suffer willingly, responding to his reviling with meekness for the specific purpose that he might also come to believe. Peter was not saying:
Finally, the third prong of Peter’s strategy for dealing with persecution was to entrust themselves to “Him who judges righteously,” (1 Peter 2:23; 4:19), trusting that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12) They could be reassured that in time, God would punish their persecutors (1 Peter 4:5).
By returning good for evil, the Christians would be acting in a way that would surprise their persecutors. When their harshness was repeatedly met with patience and gentleness, they would be forced to ask, “what has gotten into you?!?” (1 Peter 3:15) Which is why Peter told his readers to be ready to explain the reason for the incredible hope that was in them. Through this, God would be glorified. The road to glory, for both Christ and the believer, goes through suffering (1 Peter 4:13).
Peter was addressing a specific situation (persecution) with a specific strategy (submission) to a specific end (making new believers and bringing glory to God). However, this does not mean we are off the hook as far wives submitting to husbands, because there are other places in Scripture that give more general commands as to what a godly marriage looks like, and it includes submission.
In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul says that marriage is a reflection of the relationship between the Christ and the Church. Christ laid down His life, in selfless, sacrificial love, to save His bride, the Church. The Church responds in obedience to Christ. Therefore, husbands should be willing to lay down their lives in selfish, sacrificial leadership that has their wives’ own best interest at heart. Wives, in turn, respect and follow their husbands. Paul’s argument is not based on cultural, time-limited household codes, but based on the timeless truth of Christ’s relationship to the church. Therefore, I believe that this is still relevant to modern-day marriages and is the design that God intended. While this design doesn’t always work because of our own sinful nature, that does not mean the design is flawed, only the execution. Personally, I find it liberating to submit to someone who has my best interests at heart.
Other faithful Christians disagree that the male headship/ female submission model is still relevant today. In fact, tomorrow I will feature a post by someone I respect who holds the egalitarian perspective. So keeping in mind that we will hear from another viewpoint tomorrow, what do you think?
How does the context of 1 Peter affect your interpretation of 1 Peter 3:1-2?
How does the rest of Scripture shape our understanding?
How does this work out in your own marriage or in other marriages you observe?
Read through 1 Peter Chapter 3, highlighting or underlining any key words (click here for a printable copy). Then use Blue Letter Bible to define the key words or read the chapter in multiple translations to develop a definition. Need a reminder about what qualifies as a key word?
What are some key words you identified, and how do their definitions shape your understanding of the passage?