Submission of Wives (1 Pet 3:1a) in the Context of 1 Peter -- By: James R. Slaughter

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:609 (Jan 1996)
Article: Submission of Wives (1 Pet 3:1a) in the Context of 1 Peter
Author: James R. Slaughter

Submission of Wives (1 Pet 3:1a) in the Context of 1 Peter

James R. Slaughter

[James R. Slaughter is Professor of Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.]

[This is article one in a three-part series, “Instructions to Christian Wives in 1 Peter 3:1–6.”]

The thought of wives submitting to husbands seems almost heretical to many people. Human rights occupy center stage as a leading world issue. People are quick to defend their rights in every arena of life.

However, in Peter’s instructions for holy living he wrote about a wife’s submission to her husband. What did Peter mean when he taught wives to submit? How far did he intend that they go in their submission? What purposes did he have in mind for such submission? To benefit fully from the Bible’s teaching about marriage Christian wives and husbands must consider these questions.

The Influence of Peter’s Message on His Instructions about Submission

It is difficult to understand what Peter said to wives without understanding the message of 1 Peter as a whole. Each segment of a literary work must be interpreted with the author’s overarching message in mind because that message controls what he wants his readers to understand in the various components of the work.1 All the parts of 1 Peter (including the apostle’s

instructions to wives) are influenced by a common thread or “argument.” Those who read the apostle’s instructions to wives in 1 Peter 3:1–6 and who wish to understand as best they can what Peter meant in the passage, must understand the relationship of those verses to the message throughout the letter.

Five major motifs occur throughout 1 Peter, used by the author in such a way as to communicate his overall message. These five motifs are the believer’s behavior, the believer’s unfair treatment, the believer’s deference, the believer’s motivation by Christ’s example, and the believer’s anticipation of future glory. Peter emphasized these themes by the use of a broad vocabulary and by their recurrence throughout the epistle. Taken together they form Peter’s underlying message.2

These motifs of embody a message that may be expressed in the following statement: “The behavior of believers when they encounter unfair circumstances should reflect a spirit of deference in all relationships as they follow Christ’s example and anticipate future glory.” The apostle’s instructions to...

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