The Response of Christian Wives to Unsaved Husbands

The theme of First Peter is “The Response to Christian Sufferings.” Peter’s purpose in writing his epistle is to help us view our trials from a divine perspective, thus, enabling us to deal with the suffering without vacillating in our faith.

In chapter three, Peter moves into the arena of the home and expounds on the Christian’s response to suffering within the marriage relationship. There are many marriages where wives have turned to Christ, but husbands feel they have no need for Christ. These wives are experiencing pain in their marriage. They want their family to live under the authority of Christ, but their husbands impede their every move. How are Christian wives to respond when their husbands are cruel and unjust? How should a Christian wife respond when her husband demands that she stops going to church so much, and not to contribute another dime of his money to the offerings?
In many marriages both mates are cruel and vicious. The husband batters and intimidates his wife. He ruins her self-image, and has her afraid to leave the house. This marriage is hurting. Wives, even Christian wives, are not to be outdone. Out of frustration, she badgers and humiliates her husband in public.
If your marriage is suffering and you want to transform it, God’s Word, the Holy Bible, has the answer. If you will apply the Biblical principles in First Peter chapter three, God will restore your wounded marriage. He will prevent your marriage from experiencing further pain.
It does not matter how hopeless, or helpless your marriage may be. There is hope for your relationship. However, you must be willing to make the necessary sacrifice. It does not matter whether or not your husband is proud, bull-headed, irresponsible, stubborn or cruel, God says, you can turn your man around, and have him loving you like Christ loves the church. However, it’s going to cost you something―you must follow the Biblical pattern Peter sets forth in chapter three.
The response of Christian wives to their husbands is undoubtedly uncovered in verse one: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands…” This is not a very popular position. There are Christians who reject this position. They believe such teaching is old-fashioned and out-dated. From the human point of view, it’s not fair to place such a demand on wives. However, when viewed from God’s point of view, it takes on a completely new meaning.
The word “likewise” suggests that God has given an example in which the wife is to be in subjection to her husband: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2: 21-25).
Christ never fought back. He committed everything to God the Father, and God the Father handled it (v. 23). “When he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”
Jesus Christ went through difficult times for those who were giving Him a difficult time that they might see the error of their way. He committed it to God, and kept on loving. Read verse 23 again: “…When he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”
Just as Jesus Christ suffered unjustly and was reviled, so should the wife (3:1): “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husband…”
I. The Practical Purpose of Subjection
Wife submission is probably the most unpopular and misunderstood subject in our homes today. Many husbands hide behind their own failures by telling their wives, “if you would submit, we wouldn’t have the problems we have.” Submission only explains the wife’s function in the family, and not her nature in society. It has nothing to do with her being equal to her husband.
“Submission” means “to place one’s self under the authority of another.” It means that the wife is to place herself under the authority of one man, and one man only―her husband. It does not mean she is unequal to him. As Jesus Christ committed His unjustified suffering to God, wives who have cruel and unkind husbands, or husbands who are saved but not living for Christ, must commit their pain to God, and be in subjection to their husbands.
II. The Power of Being Submissive (1b)
“…that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives.”
That word “conversation” means “behavior.” The Bible says that the behavior of the wife has the power to change her husband. The phrase “without the word” does not mean the wife is not to try to win her husband to the Lord. It means that her holy influence is more powerful than his stubborn ways. God employs the wife’s submissiveness to do two powerful works in the life of her husband. It converts the unsaved husband to Christ, and challenges the saved husband to be committed to Christ. From a human point of view, submission does not work. However, from God’s point of view, it is a powerful weapon in the hands of the godly wife.
It also means she is not to nag her husband. What does it mean to nag? What I am about to say is difficult for the militant fundamentalist to accept. Nagging is to annoy someone by scolding, complaining, insulting, or urging constantly. When a wife constantly preaches to convert her unsaved husband, or to get her saved husband committed, she is nagging. She should not leave tracts in his lunch box, or pressure him to attend church. Peter is saying that a husband will not get converted by the pressure he receives from his wife. He will be converted by what he sees in her godly behavior. Read again what Peter has to say about the power of wifely submission: “That if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives.”
It is not wrong for a Christian wife to seek to share the gospel with her unsaved husband, or to encourage her saved husband into commitment. It is the spiritual thing to do. However, she must not nag him in the process.
Nagging will force a man to do one of two things. He will become stubborn and hostile toward his wife. Nagging makes him feel as though his manhood is on the line. He will do dumb things to prove, if to no one but himself, that he is a man.
Second, nagging will cause a man to give in to keep peace. He will resent being home, and make excuses or take on extra work just to get away from his wife.
Wives, if your husband is saved or lost, living for Christ or not, your behavior toward him has the power to change him. You cannot pressure him to change. He will not be bulldozed by his wife into a relationship with Christ. It is your “chaste conversation coupled with fear” that will secure your husband’s attention. This passage does not apply to wives with unsaved husbands only. There are both saved and unsaved husbands who “obey not the word.” Wifely submission has the power to affect the life of any husband who is not living for Christ.
III. The Priority of Wifely Submission (vs. 3-4)
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let
it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
Every woman wants to look and feel beautiful. She wants to dress her very best. There is nothing wrong with this. The Bible never insist that the woman not use make-up, or make herself beautiful. However, the priority of her make-up should be the “inner woman” and not the”outer woman.”
The inner woman is characterized by a “meek and quiet spirit.” This is a non-domineering, non-hostile spirit. This kind of spirit is the result of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It will never fade away. It is priceless in the sight of God, and of your husband. Why? Because it is this kind of spirit that wins your husband’s heart and draws his attentions to your needs.
Wives, do not challenge your husband’s manhood by making him feel like a little boy. The one complaint most husbands have with their wives is, “She doesn’t respect me as a man.” Do not decrease, reduce, or look down on him. Give him the honor and respect as a man. God placed him as your head.
You are probably asking yourself, “How can a wife respect, and honor a man as cruel and unkind as my husband?” You are not to respect him because he is a qualified lover, and he deserves your submission. You submit to him and respect him because God placed him as an authority in your life.
IV. Past Example of Wifely Submission (vs. 5-6)
“For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughter ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
Father Abraham was a man of faith, but as a husband he was a flop. He endangered his marriage twice by getting Sarah to deceive the authorities about their relationship. Sarah obeyed him. This does not suggest that a husband has absolute authority, and a wife must jump off a building if he says so. Sarah was competent in obeying her husband because her trust was not in Abraham, but in the God of Abraham. When Sarah obeyed Abraham, it became God’s responsibility to protect her. Her trust was not in her husband, but in God. You may not be in a position to trust your husband, but you can trust God. God will protect you.
Wives, there is no other way to win your husband. Submission is powerful. It is not humiliating. It is the means by which you can convert an unsaved husband to Christ, or challenge a saved husband to live for Christ.
Dr. & Mrs. Lynwood Davis

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