A Word to Wives: 1 Peter 3:1-6 -- By: Joshua Harris

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 15:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: A Word to Wives: 1 Peter 3:1-6
Author: Joshua Harris

A Word to Wives: 1 Peter 3:1-61

Joshua Harris

Senior Pastor
Covenant Life Church
Gaithersburg, Maryland


As I studied this passage, I tried to imagine what these words would sound like to a woman. I think it would be very easy for a woman to hear these words as belittling and restrictive. You might even think that Peter is going out of his way to try and offend women. He says, “Wives you need to be submissive. You need to cut your clothing budget. And by the way, you’re the weaker vessel.”

What I hope you’ll see as we study this passage together is that the tone and intention of this passage is one of honor. There is no condescension here. In fact it elevates the value and dignity of women. But because I don’t want anyone distracted or struggling, I want to be very clear at the outset what this passage is not saying.

  • It’s not condoning abuse or telling a wife to act like a doormat in her relationship to her husband.
  • It’s not forbidding the use of makeup, jewelry or clothing in an attempt to be attractive.
  • It’s not teaching that men are superior or more valuable than women.

So what is it teaching? Well, it’s teaching something radical. And, honestly, it is teaching something about the role of women in marriage that is offensive to many people today.

But if you’re going to be offended, I want to make sure you’re offended by what is actually being said. So let’s consider that to understand this text rightly we need to back up a little and remind ourselves of the context of Peter’s words. We need to understand why Peter is exhorting Christians to specific behavior. What we need to realize is that Peter isn’t “putting women in their place”; he is helping believers to put God in his rightful place and glorify him by their conduct.

Authority and Submission in Context

Text: 1 Peter 2:11-13

Peter wants people who are speaking of Christians as evil to see the good deeds and honorable conduct of Christians and to glorify God on the final day. He wants the unbelieving world to see the reality of living hope in the way that Christians live. So in verse 13 he gives a very specific way that we as God’s holy people are to be honorable in our conduct: we are to be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. The phrase “be subject” is the same word used to tell wives to be submissive. It means to obey. And the sentence can be translated “be subject to every institution ordained for people.”

In other words, God has orda...

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