Winning Unbelieving Husbands to Christ (1 Pet 3:1b-4) -- By: James R. Slaughter

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:610 (Apr 1996)
Article: Winning Unbelieving Husbands to Christ (1 Pet 3:1b-4)
Author: James R. Slaughter

Winning Unbelieving Husbands to Christ (1 Pet 3:1b-4)

James R. Slaughter

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

[This is article two in the three-part series “Instructions to Christians Wives in 1 Peter 3:1–6.”]

An important component of the argument of 1 Peter involves the extent of the submission of Christian wives to their husbands. The argument of the book can be stated as follows: “When believers encounter unfair circumstances, they should reflect a spirit of deference in all relationships as they follow Christ’s example and anticipate future glory.” In 1 Peter 3:1b–4 Peter applied this argument specifically to wives by exhorting them to submit to their husbands regardless of their husbands’ spiritual condition. The way Peter phrased his instructions to these wives indicates that most of them were married to Christians.1 Leighton assumes that a believing wife will cheerfully respect a believing husband,2 but such may not always be the case. Even believing husbands are capable of unloving behavior and unreasonable requests, and submitting to husbands such as this can be painfully difficult.

However, marriage between two believers is not Peter’s focus. Emphasizing deference toward those who treat them unfairly, Peter addressed the severest relationship for a wife,

namely, marriage to an unbelieving husband. A wife is to submit to her husband even if he is “disobedient to the word” (καὶ εἴ τινες ἀπειθοῦσιν τῷ λόγῳ). Vaughn and Lea comment that “disobedient” (ἀπειθής), a strong word, implies open and active hostility to the gospel.3 Though the word means “unpersuaded,” in Christian literature it always refers to disobedience toward God or His ordinances.4 Since the ultimate form of disobedience is refusal to believe the gospel, ἀπειθής often means “to disbelieve, to be an unbeliever.” This is its meaning in 1 Peter 3:1.5 Such a condition establishes the likelihood of an extremely trying, difficult marriage for some of the women in Peter’s audience. Swindoll explains the situation in this way: “I’m confident some of you wives are thinking, ...

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