I know that, as we consider a controversial text Sunday, the one word that will “stick” most of us is the word “submission.” There are those who may think, “ I can’t believe he even talked about that. I thought we were past that concept in marriage. I thought we were all equals!” To that person I would add, “and we are equals” before God. Equal in how He loves us. There is no second-class citizen in marriage. There are no inferior people before God. “In Christ there is neither male nor female…”
When a police officer stops you for speeding (!) the fact that he has the position to stop you, the uniform to announce his position, a gun to reinforce his position, does not mean he is better than you. Just different. Right now, you had better submit to him and show him your license and registration please. A military officer who outranks you in position does not outrank you as a human being, any more than a doctor is a better human being or is more intrinsically valuable than a nurse or a patient. There is a difference in role, in function, in position. But not inherently in person-hood.
So how is a wife to Biblically and obediently submit to her husband in marriage?
1) Not by agreeing with everything her husband says. As a fearlessly submissive Christian wife you do not check your brain at the altar or the door. You bring your own unique thoughts, gifts, and ideas to a marriage.
2) Not by failing to attempt to change your husband. The whole purpose of 1 Peter 3 is to help a wife toward conversion of her husband. Helping him come closer to God is part of who you are to be to him. Coercing him to do it is not His will.
3) Not by putting the husbands will before the wife. He is your “lord” according to the text in 1 Peter 3 but not your LORD. Your obedience to Christ comes before your obedience to your husband. A Christian husband will not resist or resent that reality.
4) Not by receiving her spiritual or personal strength from your husband. That can come from Christ alone.
5) Not by being submissive in fear. Submission is an inclination toward; a disposition toward the husband. Submission is ALWAYS spoken of in the passive tense… you CHOOSE to submit.
Submission is not just a word that the wife must wrestle with. We all are to be submissive to the Father, to each other, and to our husband or wife. It is through that submission that our truest witness is borne, and the fullness of our marital relationship can be enjoyed. And it is ultimately and uniquely in self-submission that we can honor our Creator and King.
“Wives in the same way submit yourselves to your husbands…” (1 Peter 3:1)