Gospel Centered Marriage | 1 Peter 3:1-12
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: 1 Peter 3:1–3:7
Randy Loveless – April 10, 2016
Good morning, my name is Randy, and I’m one of the pastors here. If you’re visiting, welcome to Damascus Road Church – I sincerely hope that you have found this to be a warm and welcoming place – but also a genuine place, where we are ordinary people striving to faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
This week is a brief pause between sermon series – we just finished off the book of Matthew with the Great Commission last week, and next week we’ll begin a series that I’m really excited for – a series about the Holy Spirit.
This week’s sermon is titled Gospel-Centered Marriage, and the key text I’ll be working from is 1Peter 3:1-7. If you have your bibles, turn with me there.
Anyone who’s married can tell you that a good marriage takes hard work. Why is that? This is partly because a marriage is a life-long union between two sinful people. We’re selfish, we’re petty, we’re tired, we’re frustrated, we’re distracted… and it takes time and effort to figure out how to make things work. And it doesn’t just get easy all of a sudden.
I was emailing with Al and Linda Muzzy this week – this spring they celebrated 45 years of marriage. When I told him what I was preaching about, his response was, “I’m sure you’ll do great on Sunday. Besides, what’s so hard about having a great, God-centered marriage nowadays? [thinking emoji] LOL.”
A couple who has been married 45 years still knows that marriage can be challenging! I’ve been married for 13.5 years and it’s still hard for us too. In fact, it seems that since I was going to preach on marriage that God wanted to make sure I was in a place of humility there. We’ve had an especially tough couple of weeks.
I’ve got permission – I’m going to share a brief story to give you a sense of what I mean. I recently had a surgery that was needed to repair a deviated septum and roto-rooter my sinuses. I was laid up for a week and wasn’t really allowed to do much. Kari did an amazing job at taking care of me – she even left me a bell so that when I needed something I could let her know. As a testament to her capabilities, I never needed the bell once. I cannot overstate it – she was phenomenal. Caring for me affectionately – even setting alarms in the middle of the night so she could wake up and make sure that I woke up to take my meds.
Fast-forward another week (two weeks after my surgery). It was the day before Easter and Kari really wasn’t feeling very good. We took the kids to an Easter-egg hunt and they got about 10 lbs. of candy, it seemed. As the day progressed, Kari got worse. She told me that she needed to lay down for a bit and take a nap, which is a sign that something is seriously wrong. The only problem was that I had to run an errand that would take 90 minutes, and the kids had no interest in tagging along. I put a movie on for the kids so I could go, and they asked to have some candy. Desperately wanting to avoid disappointment and arguments, I approved each child having four items from their bucket. I checked in with Kari before leaving and she says, “please tell me you didn’t let them have candy.” All of a sudden, I am doing the math on how many grams of sugar my kids were consuming as I was about to leave them all with my sick wife who was trying to nap. So what did I do? I lied. I lied about how much candy I had given them.
Kari ended up figuring out that I had lied about it, when she confronted me, I lied again… because I didn’t want to admit I did something so foolish. I ultimately ended up confessing it all to her a couple days later, and she graciously forgave me. So, that’s me – your pastor who lied to his wife about Easter candy.
My point is that we all deal with this stuff – and my hope for today is that we will be able to apply what God’s word says about marriage so that we would have marriages that are full of joy, peace, and contentment... and that there wouldn't be a household in this church where the parents don’t gross the kids out now and again by smooching a little too much!
1 Peter 3:1-7 ESV 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, (2) when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (3) Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— (4) but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (5) For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, (6) as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
(7) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION
There are some in this very room for whom the words that I read out of God’s word cause them to feel quite uneasy.
There are phrases and words in this passage that have been improperly used by some to justify sinful patterns of behavior that are contrary to what the bible actually teaches about how husbands and wives are to relate to one another.
Let me state clearly that any interpretation or application of this passage, or the others that are like it, that leads to women or girls being disregarded, disrespected, neglected, abused, under-valued, or enslaved to men is a wrong interpretation. To the contrary, this passage, and the others like it in the bible, attributes tremendous value to women.
MEN: you are not the king of your dominion, and your wife is not your slave, your maid, or your cook – and she does not exist for your pleasure. Men, since you are the pastors of your own home – look at what 1Peter 5:2-5 says about shepherding the flock entrusted to you.
1 Peter 5:2-5 ESV shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (4) And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (5) Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Before we dig in to what this passage is saying, I want to ask a fundamental question. Why does marriage exist? I think the quickest way to arrive at a biblical answer to this question is to strip it down even more. We can adjust the question to simply be: Why does anything exist, according to the Bible?
Colossians 1:15-16 ESV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Psalms 96:1-4, 11-12 ESV Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! (2) Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. (3) Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! (4) For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods… …(11) Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; (12) let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
Why does anything exist? The answer is quite simple yet profound: everything exists to glorify God. Said another way – everything exists to magnify the greatness of God. Not that anything or anyone adds to the greatness of God, but that his greatness becomes more clear to us – like a planet through the lens of a telescope.
Marriage doesn’t exist for us – it exists for God. He created it for his glory. It’s not ours – it belongs to Him!! Do we benefit from marriage? Without a doubt we do. But if marriage exists primarily for God’s glory, that means that your marriage is primarily intended to magnify God’s glory. And that changes everything. Married folks, think about the last time you had a petty argument. Doesn’t the course of the argument change if instead of your marriage being about you it’s about God? Would I have lied about Easter candy if my heart’s inclination in that moment was to honor God rather than serve my own interests?
But this presents a problem, doesn’t it. We don’t consistently make our marriages about God’s glory. Something is broken. I think 1Peter 3 keys us into some important insights about what gets so broken in marriage relationships.
THE EFFECTS OF THE FALL ON MARRIAGE
Why is Peter giving these instructions? In short, he’s giving them because they’re necessary – and they’re necessary because sin has corrupted the relationship between husbands and wives. Genesis 3 is a familiar passage – Adam and Eve have just committed the first sin. After God confronts them, he has this to say to Eve…
Genesis 3:16b “…Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
This is an important verse to look at in understanding how sin affects the marriage relationship. God tells Eve that her desire will be for her husband. This might sound like a good thing, but it in fact isn’t. God isn’t speaking of a sexual or romantic desire. He’s not telling her that Adam will be her perfect match of a soulmate.
To help us understand this better, we can look to the next chapter at the story of Cain and Abel. Cain is very angry with his brother Abel and will soon murder him because of his jealousy of him. These are the only two places in scripture that use the same Hebrew word that we would translate as “your desire will be.”
Genesis 4:6-7 ESV The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? (7) If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."
It seems to me that the verse about Cain is put there to help us make sure we get the verse about Eve right. Do you see the similarities? They use exactly the same language. We should not expect that when God says that sin desires Cain, he is saying that as a good thing. It is very clearly a warning for him.
When you connect these two passages and remember that Genesis 3:16 is clearly a curse given as God’s judgment for sin, we see that the desire spoken of is an aggressive desire that is oppositional in nature. And Adam will tend to rule over her with an inappropriate aggressiveness.
When Genesis 3:16 says that Adam will rule over his wife, it speaks of a domineering, harsh, and controlling rule. So now thousands of years later, husbands and wives still have these challenges – we can see them today. I see them in my own marriage.
Sin distorts the intended order of things. There is an ideal way for husbands and wives to relate to one another, and just like anything else in life there are two ditches we can find ourselves in. Passivity and aggressiveness. An overly passive husband is a wimp, but he is a tyrant if he’s overly aggressive. Similarly, an overly passive wife is a doormat, but she is an usurper if she is overly aggressive.
But the gospel changes everything – including marriage. It fuels and informs right views and attitudes about marriage as we recognize that marriage exists to glorify God – especially when we see Jesus as the picture of what a husband should be, and that we as His Church are the Bride.
So, Peter’s exhortations to wives and husbands are really an invitation to believe and apply the gospel to the marriage relationship.
WIVES - Submission and the Gospel
1 Peter 3:1-7 ESV 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, (2) when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Wives are instructed to be subject to their husbands in verse 1. This subjection is something that the wife does. She is not forced into subjection – instead she places herself in subjection to her husband willingly. It’s fitting to also read the parallel passage from Ephesians 5…
Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Here are some observations about submission I see in 1Peter 3…
Subject to does not mean less than. I can’t stress this enough. The fact that the husband has been given the role of leading his wife and family is not the result of superiority in any way. Anyone who knows me and my wife knows this to be true. I’m exceedingly ordinary and she’s amazing.
Men are not the head because they are wiser, more gifted leaders. They are the head because God has given them that role. Being subject to your husband is being subject to God.
Submission does not necessarily mean agreement. Notice that Peter instructs the wife to not conform to an unbelieving husband’s views for the sake of submission. Being a submissive wife in no way requires you to leave your brain at the altar.
Submissive does not mean fearful. Peter says in verse 6 that she need not fear anything that is frightening. She makes a conscious choice to submit rather than doing so out of fear.
Submission doesn’t require following a husband into sin. Your allegiance to your husband is subordinate to your allegiance to God.
Submission is Winsome. Notice what Peter says: 1Peter 3:1-2 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, (2) when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Submission is not required because of the Fall. This is God’s good and perfect design for husband and wives… it’s nothing less than that.
Now I’ll share a definition of biblical submission that I think is pretty clear too: [Submission] is the disposition to follow a husband's authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, "I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don't flourish when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works." But the attitude of Christian submission also says, "It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can't do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond creatively and joyfully to your lead; but I can't follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage. Christ is my King." (John Piper)
Those of you who are wives, let me ask you a question. Is there anything in this definition you can’t imagine yourself thinking or doing? How can applying the truth of the gospel help you?
The Imperishable Beauty of a Gentle and Quiet Spirit
1Peter 3:3-4 ESV Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— (4) but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
It is interesting that there is a correlation in this passage between ‘imperishable beauty’ and submissiveness. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but I mostly wanted to point out that God sees the obedience to him in this way as a precious thing.
Husbands, your instructions are shorter, but they are no less critical. In fact, as the head of the marriage it is the husband who bears the responsibility to lead first. What do I mean by that? It is no excuse, men, for you to avoid God’s instructions to you as a husband because you don’t think your wife has earned it. Ephesians 5 tells you to love your wife in the same way that Jesus loves the Church. Did Jesus wait until you earned anything to act on your behalf, pouring himself out to death on a cross? He initiated, he pursued, he loved radically BEFORE you did anything for him.
1Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Honor the Woman as the Weaker Vessel. Peter uses says ‘honor the woman as the weaker vessel.’ It’s important to understand what he is saying here. I’m not afraid to say that in many ways women are not as physically strong as men. I said many ways. Childbirth and many other exceptions apply. God has created us with different body styles – we’re different. Even so, I don’t think that is necessarily what Peter has in view here. He’s certainly not talking about emotional strength, spiritual strength, or mental strength. I know several women in this room who’d have me beat on all of those.
I may be wrong, but I think Peter refers to the woman as a weaker vessel as a recognition of her submissive role in the marriage relationship. Since she subjects herself to the headship and authority of a sinful man, she is put in a place of vulnerability – where she could be smashed by a clumsy, foolish, and uncaring husband.
Rather than putting the thrust of the idea behind the word ‘weaker’ what if we put it first behind the word ‘honor?’ The husband is being instructed to show honor to his wife. That is the imperative of the verse – it is the commanded action of husbands.
Men, we are to love our wives in a way that shows understanding and honor to them. Think about how Jesus lives with us in an understanding way. We just finished the book of Matthew, and it’s almost funny that the disciples never really get what’s going on. Over and over again, Jesus is gently explaining things to them. But Jesus doesn’t snap at them for distracting him from his mission. He doesn’t abuse his authority over them. He washes their feet, he makes them food, he prays for them, he teaches them how to pray, he spends time with them, he listens to them…
I’ll put this question to you guys. Do you show your wife honor? At home with the kids – how do you speak of your wife? At work, or hanging out with the guys – do you speak highly of her?
How about your leadership? Does your wife have anything to submit to? Who are you submitted to? Women are amazingly strong and resourceful – they will fill the vacuum if it’s there.
As Peter says, it’s in your best interest to show your wife an abundance of honor in how you live with, treat, and speak of her. If you aren’t treating your wife as you should, your prayers will be hindered. I liked the way that Wayne Grudem puts it in his commentary on 1Peter:
So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he "interrupts" his relationship with them when they are not doing so. No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife "in an understanding way, bestowing honor" on her. To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God's will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight. (Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, p. 146.)
Are your prayers hindered? Are you leading your wife at all? Are you leading as a tyrant or as Jesus did – as a servant? Are you brave enough to ask your wife what she thinks? Ask her if there are any barriers you’ve created for her to trust in and follow your leadership.
THE CENTRALITY OF THE GOSPEL
Does this all sound overwhelming and difficult? I hope that you at least have some good nuggets to think and talk about with your spouse if you have one. But, of course, our hope is never going to be in our ability to measure up. True contentment in life does not come by re-doubling down on our efforts and working harder – it comes through the freedom we have in Jesus Christ.
Peter actually wrote these instructions IMMEDIATELY after one of the most compelling summaries of the gospel in scripture… let’s read it now.
1 Peter 2:21-25 ESV For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (22) He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (23) When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (24) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (25) For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
There is a deep connection between his reflection of the beauty of the gospel and the instructions for husbands and wives… here’s the connection: Jesus modeled it perfectly for you and is saying, “Follow in my steps – you can do it!”
It doesn’t matter how far you’ve wandered from his design for your life or for your marriage. It’s never too late to return to God – the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul. He loved us sacrificially, and did so in glad submission to God the Father.
To Summarize - 5 Things to do:
Focus on Jesus, not each other
Be filled by and derive meaning from Jesus, not your spouse
Fight the enemy by sharing your struggles so that you...
Fight the enemy by sharing your joys
And now we’ll close things up by reading some great relationship advice that Peter has for us in verses 8 through 12 – this is the charge for all of us in how we relate to each other.
1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (9) Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (10) For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; (11) let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (12) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."