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Actions That Speak 1

November 1, 2020

Actions That Speak 1

Passage: 1 Peter 3:1-6
Service Type:

Actions that speak

1 Peter 3:1-6

Welcome to River City


Well you heard the scripture read for us this morning, and let’s just be honest — right there, with that first sentence “wives, submit to your husbands”, a lot of internal walls went up. Maybe you grew up in a church or a family where the way this scripture was taught, or referred to, was borderline if not outright abusive, and the word submit does not produce any warm fuzzy feelings for you. Or maybe it’s that when you think of submission, you think of wrestling or martial arts where you force submission through a choke hold, or arm bar — which doesn’t seem like a picture of a great godly marriage. 


Or maybe you think, submit to my husband? Yeah only someone who doesn’t know him would say that. An author in a book 2000 years old is telling me to listen to someone they’ve never met, and I’m supposed to just do it? Right. I’m going to La Chiva for church this morning and I’ll submit to chips and a jumbo margarita instead. 


I know there can be a lot of weight to this text this morning that could come from a lot of different places. I want River City to be a safe place for you to wrestle with difficult scripture, and ask hard questions… but we’re going to dig into the scripture, so that when we ask our questions we’re not asking them from the standpoint of feelings, emotional baggage, or how we’ve seen or heard it modeled in the past, but we are asking scripture itself for the explanations. 


Let’s go to the Author himself and ask that he tear down whatever walls need to be torn down, that he would open whatever minds need to be opened, and that in the end we would hear the heartbeat of God for his people, both in Peter’s day and in ours.




Sermon series called “We’re Not Home”; We are looking at the apostle Peter’s letter to new Christians, who have been exiled throughout various regions in what is now Eastern Europe by the emperor of Rome, in order to help colonize these new territories. So they are foreigners, living in a land that is not their home, having been “called” to the task of bringing Roman culture and civilization to these newly conquered regions. 


And Peter uses their specific situation as an illustration to encourage them, and point them to what God has done in them through Christ – that he has called them to the task of being God’s ambassador as they live as foreigners in this world that is not their final home. 


For the first chapter and a half, Peter tells them about this new identity as the people of God – they are born again, into a living hope - an inheritance kept in heaven for them. It will never fade, or be lost, or die. Nor will it slip out of their hands, because they are being kept for this salvation as well. 


Then in the second half of chapter 2 and the first part of chapter 3, Peter explains that their new identity isn’t just meant for them — it’s meant to be evangelistic. People are watching to see if Christianity is valid or not. People are watching to see if this new religion is going to be disruptive to society or if it will contribute to the welfare of the city. 


  • So two weeks ago, we looked at how Peter dealt with the Christian’s relationship to civil authority, where our position in Christ, our relationship to the King of kings, is so settled that we can submit to earthly governments even if they are persecuting us.
  • Last week Peter continued that call to submit, showing us that because Jesus made himself a servant, we should consider ourselves as his servants. And Jesus’ trust in his Father was so settled that he would remain obedient – even at the cost of his own life through brutal crucifixion. And because he rose to life again, we too can have a faith so settled that we can endure and submit to employers and managers who mistreat us. 
  • And for the next three weeks, we move into the most basic and intimate relationship of them all – husbands and wives, and we hear two calls – 1. that wives can be so settled in their identity in Christ, that they can submit to their husbands, even if those men are disobedient to the words of God, and 2. That husbands can be so settled in their identity in Christ that they can lay down their lives for their wives. 


Now, I enjoy watching the Presidential debates each election cycle because I’m a glutton for punishment, but neither of the candidates at the debates this year got asked any questions about marriage. I think it would be interesting. I can’t guarantee this, but I think if you asked either candidate what is one of the key components of a solid society, you would get something along the lines of jobs, or healthcare, or tax cuts. 


But if you asked the Roman emperor in Peter’s day, “what is one of the key components of a solid society?”, the emperor would have said among other things, “A properly functioning home.” And if you would ask them, what is one quick way to disrupt the proper function of a home, the emperor would answer, “when the wife worships a different god than her husband.”


The very fact that a woman would adopt any religion other than her husbands violated the Greco-Roman ideal of an orderly home. Because prosperity and well-being were seen as dependent on religious forces, disorder in the home was a threat not only to the family but to society. Both the husband and society would perceive the wife’s worship of another god as rebellion, especially if she worshiped that god exclusively. If the wife persisted in her new religion to the extent that others outside the household learned of it, the husband would also feel embarrassment and suffer criticism for not properly managing his household. This could seriously damage his social standing, even to the point of disqualifying him for certain honors in offices.1


So as Christianity began to spread through these regions, guess what is happening to marriages? Because women are generally speaking more open to the gospel, some are getting saved before their husbands. And these women now are caught in a conundrum: Do I go to worship with the other believers and possibly humiliate my husband? Or do I miss out on gathered worship and stay home? Do I look to the community of believers for someone to be my spiritual authority now – a pastor, a friend – until my husband comes to faith? 


The concern from Rome is that this worship of a new god could have a tragic effect on the society, and there is legitimate concern from Peter that if these new believers aren’t instructed in this, it could have a tragic effect on the message of the gospel.

So after instruction on submission to governing authorities, slaves submitting to masters, Peter continues: In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 


So the first thing we notice is “in the same way, wives, submit”, which raises the question, submit in the same way as what? Let’s start at chapter 2, verse 11, where Peter said, “Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles so that when they slander you (for being responsible for the potential downfall of society), they will observe your good works and glorify God on the day he visits. 




So, Peter set up this whole section on submission to authority with one primary goal in mind: Glory to God. The goal of honorable conduct, as a citizen, as an employee, or in a marriage, is to bring glory to God. It’s not about serving ego. It’s not even about your spouse's happiness, as Gail said in the video. It’s about bringing glory to God – both by our own obedience to his word, and by Gentiles turning, repenting and worshiping God. 




The second goal of submission is to silence the ignorance of fools, verse 2:15, by doing good. Our example is Jesus himself who trusted God enough that he was willing to heal and help the very people who would arrest and kill him. He didn’t return insults, or lies. He prayed for and did good to the very people who mistreated him! 




Then we come to chapter 3: So wives, in the same way, or for those same reasons, submit to your husbands: For the glory of God, by letting good deeds to the talking, and with the gospel in mind, so that...


… even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 


Let's take a look: 

  1. Even If they disobey the word they may be won over by the pure, reverent lives of their wives.
    1. When Peter speaks about a Christian wife having a pagan husband, he does not thereby condone a believer’s marrying an unbeliever. This is never God’s will. The apostle is dealing primarily with cases where the wife was saved after marriage. Her obligation is to be submissive even to an unbelieving husband.
    2. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 - Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? If you are in a dating relationship with someone who is not following Jesus, you need to get out
    3. But couldn’t my pure, reverent life maybe win over my boyfriend or girlfriend? Isn’t that what the verse just said? 
  2. If they “Disobey the word” is stronger than “if they don’t believe the word”. 
      1. Includes actively rebelling, Christian or not. 
      2. 2:12 = Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles – even if it’s your husband

So that… 

  • They may be won over
    1. This goes back to the same reasons any of us are called to submit to any authority in the first place – so the gospel is not hindered but advanced! Husbands can be won to Jesus without a word by the way their wives live. 
      1. A 19th century evangelist named George Müller told of a wealthy German whose wife was a devout believer. This man was a heavy drinker, spending late nights in the tavern. She would send the servants to bed, stay up till he returned, receive him kindly, and never scold him or complain. At times she would even have to undress him and put him to bed. One night in the tavern he said to his cronies, “I bet if we go to my house, my wife will be sitting up, waiting for me. She’ll come to the door, give us a royal welcome, and even make supper for us, if I ask her.” They were skeptical at first, but decided to go along and see. Sure enough, she came to the door, received them courteously, and willingly agreed to make supper for them without the slightest trace of resentment. After serving them, she went off to her room. As soon as she had left, one of the men began to condemn the husband. “What kind of a man are you to treat such a good woman so miserably?” The accuser got up without finishing his supper and left the house. Another did the same and another till they had all departed without eating the meal. Within a half hour, the husband became deeply convicted of his wickedness, and especially of his heartless treatment of his wife. He went to his wife’s room, asked her to pray for him, repented of his sins, and surrendered to Christ. From that time on, he became a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus. Won without a word! 
      2. George Müller advised: Don’t be discouraged if you have to suffer from unconverted relatives. Perhaps very shortly the Lord may give you the desire of your heart, and answer your prayer for them. But in the meantime, seek to commend the truth, not by reproaching them on account of their behavior toward you, but by manifesting toward them the meekness, gentleness and kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Peter goes on to give an example from scripture: 


For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also adorned themselves in this way, 

submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and do not fear any intimidation.


Sarah is a specific example of godly submissiveness:

  1. Genesis 12:1-3 = Leave your home and go to a land I will show you. (uprooting his wife, removing her from family, from familiarity, to a calling God had given her husband). If anyone knew what it was to live as a stranger and an exile, it was Sarah! 
  2. On multiple occasions from Genesis 13-18, Abraham acted a fool! He was disobedient to God’s word many times over before he got it right. Peter holds up Sarah (who wasn’t perfect either) as an example of a woman who spent most of her life in frightening, hostile, and dangerous situations, submitting, in a foreign land to a husband who wasn’t always obeying God’s word. 


So to summarize in one sentence, what I believe Peter is saying to Christian wives is this:


Because you, by faith, have born again into a living hope, into an inheritance kept in heaven for you... You can willingly submit to and serve your husbands even if they aren’t yet the Christian leader you wish they would be


This kind of submission is missional and points to Jesus with the hope that one day your disobedient husband will come to faith – but the action you take that will win him over, won’t be your preaching to him. It won’t be in the way you dress or what you wear. It will be your gentle and quiet spirit, doing good works for a man who doesn’t deserve them


The word gentle here means, “not insistent on one’s own rights”, “not pushy”, “not selfishly assertive”, or “not demanding one’s own way.”


Then look at the last line of verse 4 describing that kind of spirit: This is of great worth in God’s sight. Elaborate hairstyles, fancy jewelry, and fine clothes are all outward expressions of beauty that are of great worth in a man’s eyes, but those all fade and are perishable. That inward beauty of a gentle spirit is much more valuable in God’s eyes.  


Peter exhorts wives to follow the example of Christ: lay down your demands and your rights, and trust God. Not because your husband is worthy of it – he’s not. Even Abraham, the father of our faith, wasn’t worthy. And remember Romans 3: No one is good. No one seeks God. No one is righteous. None of us are worthy of the sacrifice of the Son of God. None of us deserve an inheritance kept in heaven for us. None of us have any rights, except the right to suffer eternal separation from God. And yet as Romans 3 continues, there is a righteousness from God that is not based on our own efforts, but is based on faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who willingly laid down his right to be treated like the King he is so that we could have life. 






  1. If your husband, follower of Jesus or not, is asking you to do something that is sin, you can honor God by saying, “While I want to support you and submit to your leadership, this is an area that is wrong. While I can’t stop you, I cannot support you in this.” 
  2. You are not called to submit to just anyone – Peter says, submit to your own husband, the one you love the most, the one who loves you. 
  3. If your husband is abusive, you don’t have to sit back and take it “just because Jesus went to the cross”. Call the police. Go somewhere safe. And get help. We have a counseling team here at River City that is growing in our expertise, so check in with us. If we can’t help you, we’ll point you to our resources who can help. 
  4. You have been created with a uniqueness that images God in a way that we men can’t. You have the ability to mirror the life of Christ in your submission without losing a stitch of who God created you to be. 


Men in the room – young men, old men, single men, married men – You have one question to ponder until next week when Peter addresses husbands, and that is: are you currently (as in this past week) obedient to the word of God? 

  1. If your answer is no – the same grace that God is giving your wife to enable her to live with you gently and patiently is available to you as well. You don’t have to stress out trying to make up for lost time, or make reparations for the past – Jesus did that for you on the cross. Start today by repenting of your disobedience to the word. His resurrection from the dead means your own heart can be brought back from the dead. 
  2. God is patient and kind. Jesus came for weak, broken people. God has all the time in the world, and there’s nothing you’ve done that he can’t forgive. The person writing this letter, the apostle Peter, denied he even knew Jesus three times – while Jesus was listening! But Jesus forgave and restored him, and he can do the same for you. 


Let’s pray



  1. Jobes, Karen, 1 Peter, (Baker Academic, Michigan, 2005), 203
  2. Ibid, 204
  3. Ibid, 204
  4. Ibid, 206
  5. Believers Bible Commentary – Thomas Nelson