As we study Proverbs dealing with the family as a church, it is helpful to look at other passages that address the family. In the New Testament, Jesus addresses familial issues and marriage. Paul addresses the relationships within the home in several places – most famously in Ephesians, and Peter addresses husbands and wives in 1 Peter. In his first letter to the scattered Christians in Asia Minor, Peter specifically addresses husbands and wives. While his exhortation sounds similar to the things Paul has to say about marital relationships, Peter’s counsel is slightly different. In the third chapter, we read:
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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 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. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 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.
1 Peter 3:1-7
Peter’s teaching on marriage
Let’s walk through this passage and see what the Lord has to teach us through his servant Peter. First, Peter encourages wives to “be subject to their husbands.” This might sound a bit jarring in our culture today, but the core of what Peter is teaching remains true. He encourages believing wives of unbelieving husbands to be faithful to their husbands and be honorable spouses. He hopes that their husbands will turn in faith and belief toward Christ by their good conduct and respectable behavior. Marriage is a spiritual act. Our conduct as husbands and wives is a direct reflection of our spiritual health and is a reason for the spiritual wellbeing or detriment of our partners. We are encouraged here to faithfully pursue Christ and grow in our faith for our spiritual enrichment and our spouses’ betterment and spiritual welfare.
Next, Peter discusses dress and external adornments. This is a repeated sentiment from Solomon – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). Peter seeks to encourage women to press into their faith and to grow in godliness. He uses the phrases “hidden person of the heart” and “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” to describe what is truly desirable in a person. Youth will fade and physical beauty with it, but the fear of the Lord will adorn a child of God with an everlasting splendor. In verses 5-6, Peter looks to the women of the past (Old Testament) as examples of holy living. He then encourages his readers to “do good” and not “fear anything that is frightening.” The overall picture that Peter paints is one of a faithful, pure, respectable, good, centered, confident, and courageous woman who fights for truth and is a faithful and trustworthy witness for Christ.
Peter urges husbands to protect, validate, and honor their wives.
In the final verse of this passage, Peter addresses husbands. Peter’s teaching here is entirely counter-cultural to his readers. First, he tells husbands to live with their wives in a humble and understanding way – this encompasses all aspects of the marital relationship. Next, they are to show honor to their wives “as the weaker vessel.” This phrase does not demean women but acknowledges that women are typically in a more vulnerable position both physically and socially. In response to this reality, Peter urges husbands to protect, validate, and honor their wives. He furthers his point by placing men and women on the same footing – coheirs of the grace of life. Finally, Peter warns husbands that their prayers will be hindered if they do not behave in this manner. Again, we see that a person’s relationship with their spouse directly reflects their spiritual relationship with God. If a man is oppressive or abusive in his relationship with his wife, his relationship with God is fractured. Instead, God desires for husbands to be faithful, protective, gracious, understanding, and honoring their wives.
In all of this, we can see that the Word of God is consistent. The very things we read in Proverbs are echoed here in 1 Peter. Marriage is seen as an essential aspect of one’s life and a thermometer of sorts for one’s spiritual health. The fear of the Lord is to be highly valued, and the Gospel of Jesus impacts how we live as husbands and wives. Wives – be faithful, upright, confident, and courageous in your marriages. Husbands – be gentle, understanding, honoring, and loving in your marriages. In all these things, may God be glorified in us and use our marriages to display the power and truth of the Gospel.