Being Jesus' Wife (I Peter 3:1-7)
Passage: 1 Peter 3:1–3:7
New Life in the Same Old Place
Being Jesus' Wife
I Peter 3:1-7
May 10th, 2009
Way of Grace Church
I. Did Jesus Have a Wife?
The other day I saw a commercial for the new film, Angels and Demons. The film, based on a 2000 novel by Dan Brown, reminded me instantly of Brown's better known book, The DaVinci Code.
You probably remember all of the controversy that surrounded The DaVinci Code when the book was released in 2003. If you are not familiar with the book, the problematic premise of the story that ignited the controversy was the assertion that the Holy Grail was not the cup from which Jesus drank on the night before His death. Instead the Holy Grail was a symbolic way of describing Mary Magdalene, who was, in actuality, was both the wife of Jesus, and the mother of his child.
I remember how these ideas caused such a buzz in the media, and how there were even prime time news specials devoted to this suggestion that Jesus was married. Is there evidence that Jesus might have been married? No. Do I believe that Jesus had a wife? No. But this morning, I believe God does want us to think about femininity and what it means to be Jesus' wife.
Let's look together at I Peter 3. This morning we will be focusing on 3:1-7.
II. The Passage: "Won Without a Word" (3:1-7)
Before we move into chapter 3, let me very quickly give you three key ideas that the Apostle Peter has already emphasized in the first two chapters of this book. I think revisiting these ideas will help us make sense of what Peter wants to teach his readers in the opening verses of chapter 3. Let me simply read through these principles, without necessarily reading all of these verses on which these ideas are based. I will simply cite the related verses.
First of all, in this letter, Peter has already made it clear that he is writing to his audience in order to remind them of the radical implications that flow out of their identity as spiritual aliens, redeemed and born again by faith in Jesus Christ. (1:1-3, 14-16, 18-21)
Second, he has called them, in light of this new identity to live in a new way; lives that are separate from the world, and yet, shining the hope of Christ to the world. (2:9, 11, 12)
Third, Peter makes it clear that one very specific way in which they can live this separate but shining kind of life, a life that is distinct, yet drawing others to the love of Christ, is to be submissive to the authority structures that God has placed in this world, as a way to demonstrate that they are first and foremost submissive to God. (2:13a; 2:16)
It is with these three principles that we lay the foundation for Peter's message here in 3:1-7. Let me read just the opening words of this section:
Likewise [that is, in light of what I just wrote to household servants, in light of what I wrote about suffering, in light of what I wrote about how Jesus suffered for us...likewise] wives, be subject to your own husbands...
In continuing this theme of subjection or submission, Peter has turned his attention to the married women among his readers. Just as it was critical for these followers of Jesus to understand God's call to submission in light of the governing authorities, just as it was critical for those Christians who were household servants to understand God's call to submission in light of their masters/employers, it is also critical that these wives understand God's call to submission in light of their husbands.
The "likewise" here is not Peter's attempt to say wives are, in every way, like household slaves. No, for all followers of Christ, the life of faith must be a life underneath, a life marked by humility and servanthood in light of what God has revealed. Submission because of Jesus is the common thread here.
Now, I believe there are four distinct parts to what we see here in 3:1-7. But before we look at those, we need to take those three review points that we talked about a couple minutes ago and think about how they influence our perspective on Peter's listeners in this passage.
Peter is speaking to married women who have been transformed by the grace of God in Christ. He says of them, as he does of all these believers: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory... (1:8)
Peter is speaking to married women who are servants of God (2:16); who have been called to honor everyone (2:17). Peter is speaking to married women who are following in Christ's footsteps; following His example (2:21); women who, through Jesus, have died to sin and now live to righteousness (2:24); these are wives who now have Jesus has the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls (2:25).
Peter is writing here for none other than Jesus' wife...all of them. No, not those married to Jesus, but those married for Jesus, married under Jesus; wives who are living for Jesus. You see, being Jesus' wife is about being God's woman. It's about allowing your identity as a wife to first be defined, not by your relationship with your husband, but your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ladies, are you Jesus' servant? Are you Jesus' woman? Are you Jesus' wife? Are you a wife who lives for what Jesus desires? If you are, then God wants to encourage you this morning through Peter's words here.
Listen to how Peter goes on to describe what it means to be a wife who lives above all for Jesus Christ.
A. Jesus' Wife is Submissive and Shining (3:1, 2)
First, he tells us plainly that a wife living for Jesus is to be submissive, but shining. Likewise wives, be subject to your own husbands...
Typically, discussions about submission to governing authorities can be mildly touchy; it gets a little more personal when you talk about submission to employers; and most Christians aren't even sure how to process the rarely mentioned topic of submission to elders in the local church.
But it is submission in the home that is normally the most controversial. It has not always been that way. This has to do in large part with the feminist movement in this country, a movement in which some leaders said things like this:
"Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors."
Now, there is absolutely no doubt that some husbands could rightly be described as oppressive. But this kind of language goes a long way in painting everyone with a broad brush and vilifying the idea of submission.
But remember, Peter entire discussion about submission is not about equality. The New Testament's discussion of submission is never about equality. Jesus, in whom "all the fullness of deity dwells" according to Colossians 2, is himself submitted to the Father. But he is not any less God.
In the same way, if we skipped down to verse 7 we see what Peter tells husbands about their wives: they are heirs with you of the grace of life. The inheritance of grace is just as much theirs as it yours husbands.
As we've already seen, this submission is about an order that God has ordained for this world. This submission is about living in humility and servanthood, just as Jesus did for us. And as we see here, most of verses 1 and 2 remind us that this submission is also about shining forth the transforming power of Christ.
Notice how quickly Peter jumps to the significance of this kind of submission for those wives who have unbelieving husbands.
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.
This quick transition simply reaffirms what we already said about the context. Peter is extremely concerned with the message these Christians were sending to non-Christians about the faith.
Was spiritual freedom in Christ about resisting all authority and asserting one's individual rights, especially when times got tough? Peter is clear: no!
Freedom in Christ should lead us to the opposite conclusion: that we are submissive to all authority and willing to give up our individual rights for the sake of others. That's what Jesus did for us.
Do we know how many of the wives Peter wrote to had unbelieving husbands? No. But there were enough that Peter makes specific mention of it. Do we know how these non-Christian husbands treated their believing wives? No, but it is fair to say that many were treated poorly.
In the Greco-Roman world, a woman was often expected to follow her husband's lead when it came to religion. Thus, these Christian women were already creating tension in their homes because of their faith in Jesus. So how were they to respond to this tension?
The main idea behind his words here is that there is a persuasive power in a wife's submission. It is the power of purity. It is the power of humility. It is the power of Christ to melt a hard heart.
Ladies, whether you are here this morning as the wife of a godly man, or here this morning as the wife of a worldly man, God is encouraging you to remember that your actions in most cases speak louder than words.
If you want to be influence in your husbands life for Christ's sake, for the glory of God, then consider what Peter teaches us here about submission and the heart. When you submit, for the Lord's sake, you shine.
B. Jesus' Wife Knows True Beauty is about Her Spirit (3:3, 4)
If we move on to verses 3 and 4, we see that Peter is simply expanding on this same idea as he reminds them that Jesus' wife, a wife living for Christ, know true beauty is about her spirit. Listen to what he says here:
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.
Now, it is important to see the main argument here. Peter's argument is not against braided hair or gold or clothing, per se. His argument is against these things as the most important means of adornment; as the number one way to make yourselves beautiful.
It may have been that these women were tempted to please there husbands through external beauty; that their acceptance by their husband was primarily based on how they looked. Well, it's a good thing that in the modern world we've progressed beyond that silly idea, right?
Listen to the introduction of a report funded by the YWCA last year, a report titled, "Beauty at Any Cost":
"Every woman in the United States participates in a daily beauty pageant, whether she likes it or not. Engulfed by a popular culture saturated with images of idealized, air-brushed and unattainable female physical beauty, women and girls cannot escape feeling judged on the basis of their appearance. As a result, many women feel chronically insecure, overweight and inadequate, as these beauty images apply to an ever-shrinking pool of women. Moreover, the diet, cosmetic and fashion industries are often too willing to exploit these narrow beauty standards so women and girls will become cradle-to-grave consumers of beauty products, cosmetic surgery and diet programs."
Another recent study considered the problem of female body dissatisfaction on a global scale...Of the women surveyed, 63 percent strongly agreed that today's woman is expected to be more physically attractive than her mother's generation was. Similarly, 60 percent strongly agreed that society expects women to enhance their physical attractiveness. And 59 percent strongly agreed that physically attractive women are more valued by men.
In a country where $7 billion dollars is spent each year on cosmetics and beauty supplies, Peter's words are critically important. True beauty, beauty which God commends, beauty that makes a real difference, beauty that shines more brightly, beauty that is imperishable (3:4)...true beauty is the beauty of a "gentle and quiet spirit".
Some studies have said that over the course of the average women's life, she will spend a total of two years in front of the mirror (as compared with 8 months for men). Ladies, how much time are you spending, by the grace of God, cultivating a "gentle and quiet spirit"?
Of course, the ravishing beauty of this kind of heart comes, not from mascara, but mediation on God's word; not from a great pair of shoes, but from a grateful spirit; not from a designer dress, but from a devotion to Jesus in the everyday. This kind of imperishable beauty comes from knowing that, because of your faith, because of what Jesus has done, you are beautiful in the sight of the only one whose opinion really matters. By his wounds you have been healed. (2:24)
It sounds strange to say, but be attractive for Jesus, which means of course, be attractive on the inside because of what Jesus has done and wants to do in you.
C. Jesus' Wife is in The Company of Great Women (3:5, 6)
Listen to how Peter goes on to encourage these wives in the next two verses. Look with me at verses 5 and 6:
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.
Peter wants to encourage these women by pointing to the fact a wife who lives for Jesus Christ is in the company of great women.
The greatest women in history are not those who discovered or invented this or that; they are not those who fought for this or that cause, or proved themselves this or that man's equal. The greatest women in history were those with the greatest faith in the greatness of God; women like Abraham's wife, Sarah.
Only two books earlier, the writer to the Hebrews exalted Sarah because of her faith, saying: By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
But Peter wants to point to Sarah's submissiveness as an example of what it means to be a "holy woman" (3:5), to be a woman who hopes in God (3:5). When Abraham heard from God, and obeyed God in faith, Sarah obeyed Abraham as he responded to God's purposes. Peter mentions that she even called him "lord" as an indication of her submissiveness, not because Abraham was on the same level as God, but simply as a gesture of her respect.
Notice what he says in verse 6. A wife living for Jesus should do good, and not "fear anything that is frightening". The submission that Sarah modeled, the submission that Peter is encouraging here is not one based on fear of what a husband might do our say. It is based on faith.
D. Jesus' Wife Needs a Husband who is Jesus' Man (3:7)
Now, the guys here might have been thinking that they were off the hook this morning. That isn't the case. Gentlemen, husbands, listen up. Peter gives us a word of instruction here in light of everything he's said to our wives.
And in light of the context, I think it's fair to sum up verse 7 in this way: Jesus' wife needs a husband who is Jesus' man. Listen to verse 7:
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.
A husband who is Jesus' man, who is really living for Jesus Christ, is a husband who will be understanding. He will honor his wife. He will have the heart of Christ for this woman who is striving to be Jesus' wife; to be God's woman. She is, after all, a co-heir of the grace of life that comes through Jesus.
You can see that this "understanding" and "honor" is connected to the reality that women, or literally (Peter uses a very rare word here), literally, "the feminine one" is the "weaker vessel".
What does that mean? Well, I'm not sure we can be sure. It could mean a lot of things to Peter's audience. Does it mean that women are generally not as physically strong as men? Does it mean that women are more emotionally sensitive than men? Maybe. That might fit with the end of verse 6 that talks about fear.
Whatever the exact meaning, the call to the husband here is the same: "be understanding"...which means listen and learn about what hurts and helps your wife. "Show her honor"...which means talk about and treat her as the precious gift that she is.
This is obviously a far cry from what the world might think about the man being in a place of authority. But again, it is authority in light of the example of Jesus, who put the good of others before His own.
As Peter makes clear in the last phrase of verse 7, how you treat your wife, guys, is directly related to your communion, your fellowship with God. When you are not understanding; when you do not show her honor, God is not interested in your supposedly pious prayers. As Peter goes on to say in verse 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."
What God is interested in is you honoring your wife, and He will discipline you until you decide to obey. I think it is fair to say that a man who trusts Christ and is married to a non-Christian , can have the same kind of influence described in verse 2, as he follows the example of Christ in all humility and love. But, gentlemen, please hear me, for believing couples, the point is still the same: Jesus' wife needs a husband who is Jesus' man.
III. A Desperate Housewife or a Desperate Faith
The television has always been filled, right from the start, with images of what it means to be a wife. from June Cleaver and Donna Reed, to Claire Huxtabel, Roseanne, and more recently Desperate Housewives.
Are girls and woman shaped by these images? Sure, to some extent. But this reality should simply drive you, ladies, to ask, "who am looking to when it comes to being a wife?" Is it your own mother, or a mentor in your life, another older woman, or some image out there in the media, some suggestion on the cover of a magazine in the checkout line?
I think what Peter is telling us this morning is that God is not looking for desperate housewives. He is looking for wives who have a desperate faith, a faith that holds on to Christ as its only hope.
From the context, there is only one way that a wife, that any of us can truly have a gentle and quiet spirit. There is only one way that we can "not fear anything that is frightening". We have to go back to 2:23, 24: When he [Jesus] 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.
Ladies, only as you are entrusting yourself to the power of God, will you experience the quiet confidence the fuels genuine humility and defines imperishable beauty. Only as you live in the righteousness that comes from the healing wounds of Jesus, will you fear God and God alone.
True submission is only possible through the power of the gospel. May God bless every wife and every husband here as they strive to bring their marriage to the cross of Jesus Christ. And may God use this submission and love to change win over those who do not believe.