PETER TELLS BELIEVERS TO SUBMIT TO UNBELIEVERS:
CITIZENS TO GOVERNMENTS,
SLAVES TO MASTERS,
BELIEVING WIVES TO UNBELIEVING HUSBANDS.
Before you protest, remember this is all “relative submission.” You don’t have to submit when the authority goes against God. If you are asked to do something that is clearly wrong, you should refuse. That’s what Corrie ten Boom and Deitrich Bonhoeffer did during Hitler’s holocaust, at the risk of their lives, and they glorified God in doing so. But if the authority over us is not asking us to do something immoral, submitting to them is what we are commanded to do. How can we possibly do that, especially to an unbeliever? Our own Elizabeth put it so well, saying it was even hard for her to submit to her godly husband when they disagreed, and she could not imagine what it must be like to submit to someone who was not praying or seeking God. But she also understood that submission to a human authority under God’s command is really submitting to God and trusting that either the decision will be right, or He will use it for good. That is exactly what Peter teaches by pointing believers in these difficult situations to Christ:
Everyone, whether they choose to be or not, is under God, God can work through them. He Himself says he worked through Cyrus, an unbeliever, to free the Jews. I often marvel at how my friend Linda Strom will submit to an unreasonable prison guard who makes it difficult for us to minister. How? She commits her case to God — and oh, how God has worked through her, bringing thousands, including guards, to Christ!
Our own Susan gave a valiant and golden testimony of how she is submitting to an unbelieving husband:
“There are times that I believe the Lord still works through my husband as he can point out to me my own sin…often I don’t want to hear what he has to say; I want to dismiss him because, after all, he’s not a believer; yet often when I consider what he has told me, I am confronted with the truth of my own sinful behavior. I do believe that the Lord can protect me under the umbrella of my husband’s protection and if I will follow his leadership. We recently had our 25th anniversary, and I prayed about our time together to celebrate. We did enjoy our time together, yet I came to realize in the next few days that there are still problems between us, and I still feel that I am not loved and cherished in the way that I want to be. So the gospel in my marriage, for me, is to tell myself that I must look to Jesus, my Bridegroom, to love and cherish me tenderly so that I can live in my marriage without resenting and punishing my husband for not loving me as Christ does. It is focusing on the good qualities of my husband and continually asking the Lord to remove unforgiveness from my heart. And when I want to cry, “It’s unfair!”, I remember that the only really unfair thing is that Jesus, who was and is perfect and without sin, had to become guilty of all my sin and then was punished for it. He exchanged places with me…a most unfair thing for Him to do. And even though my husband is not a believer, we are both two sinful people living together who desperately need a Savior. What I need the double cure of the gospel to help me with is to be better at apologizing and asking for forgiveness and to model the gospel in my marriage.”
In the passage we will study this week, you will see Peter directs comments to women married to husbands who do not believe the word. John Piper explains that “the word” means the gospel. These are men who have heard the gospel, but still don’t believe. That’s why you don’t need words –they have already heard it. However, don’t be legalistic about this — you can talk. But the best way to do it is to let your behavior provoke questions, and then answer as Peter advises:
When my dear friend Lee Petno came to Christ in an evangelistic Bible study, she didn’t say a word to her husband, taking this very literally. But he saw the change in her. She had a flat tire at my house one day and Vince came to rescue her. The first thing this tall Italian cardiologist asked me was, “Are you the one who is responsible for the change in my wife?”
I laughed. “No, that would be Jesus.” Within a year, Vince responded to Christ.
That was 38 years ago. Vince and Lee raised their three children to know the Lord. Vince spoke beautifully at my husband’s funeral. Vince and Lee travel to Haiti frequently on medical mission trips, as do their grown children. Lee is quick to point out their sinful natures still and continue to rise and need to be subdued and they are in process. Yet I look at my friend’s marriage and praise God. I know this story can bring pain to women who have prayed and waited for decades, but I don’t want you to give up hope of what God can do through a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit. He may change your husband, he may change you — but faithfulness is pleasing to Him whatever the results.
And if you are single, do not be deceived and marry an unbeliever. (And Tim Keller would say that you should not just be concerned that he or she is a believer, but a strong one!) Speak up, stand up, and back up if you must. I want to close with a story I just heard from my friend Marsella, who is a neighbor for whom I am so thankful. She was a student at Baylor and assumed everyone at Baylor was a Christian. She fell hard for a young man at Baylor and was dating him seriously when she came to realize that he really wasn’t a believer. She said, “I have to break up with you because you aren’t a believer.” And she did.
Years later after Marsella was happily married to a wonderful man, a godly man — that young man from her Baylor days called her and told her he had responded to Christ. “I knew,” he said, “how much you liked me. So for you to do what you did made me begin to ponder the reality of God.”
Our God is an awesome God.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Prepare your heart with Steve’s Green song (from his series to help kids memorize) on 1 Peter 2:9.
2. See the context of 1 Peter 3 by summarizing the commands below:
A. According to 1 Peter 1:1 and 1:6-7, to whom was Peter writing and what were they facing?
B. What command is given and why in 1 Peter 2:11-12?
C. To whom are we to submit and why according to 1 Peter 2: 13-17? How does this apply to you though you may often disagree with our government leaders?
D. What command is given in 1 Peter 2:18-20? What fruit will this bear? Slavery in biblical days was voluntary — people sold themselves for a limited period to pay off debts. It was not like the horror of American slavery which was involuntary and racial.) How might you honor this if you are employed by someone?
E. What supreme example are we all given in 1 Peter 2:21-24. Find everything you can.
3. Read 1 Peter 3:1-6
A. What is the first word or phrase in verse 1? To what does this refer?
B. What kind of conduct is winsome according to verse 2? Give an example of what this might look like.
C. According to 1 Peter 3:3-4, what makes a woman beautiful in God’s sight? How could you apply this?
D. There were times when Sarah was too submissive, and times she was not submissive enough — yet her general attitude of respect is commended. Piper says emphasizes that she called him “lord” with a small l — like calling him “sir.” How might you apply this in situations where someone is in authority over you?
4. Read 1 Peter 3:7
A. With what same word or phrase (as in verse 1 to wives) does Peter begin his instructions to husbands? To what example is he referring?
B. “Weaker” has been interpreted to mean physically weaker (which is often true) or vulnerable in that she has been asked to submit to his authority. I think that makes more sense in context. What do you think and why?
C. What will happen to men who take advantage of their position of strength?
5. Read 1 Peter 3:8-17 with a teachable heart and then pray it for yourself.
I think this is an excellent sermon by Piper. While he is more conservative than I on “the roles” of men and women in marriage and the church, I really loved this message! Please listen and share your notes or comments.
6. What notes or comments do you have?
7. What is your take-a-way and why?