Study of 1 Peter: Wives and Husbands

Questions for Chapter 3:

1. What does Peter have to say about Wives and Husbands? Can we expect wives to follow the letter of Peter's rules?

2. What are husband's obligations to wives?

3. How should we treat each other generally?

4. What is Peter talking about when he refers to Christ going to preach to imprisoned spirits?

Answers to Questions:

Answer to Question 1:

Peter tells wives that they must "submit to their husbands." Roman and Jewish society, where Christianity first took root, were patriarchal in nature. The Romans especially adhered to the tradition that the father was head of the household and every member of that household was obligated to obey him.

It is a law of sociological history that rules are made when an activity is perceived as a problem and the activity is highly prevalent. For example, there are no laws against a person walking around with a brick on his head as if it were a hat. Although the activity might be dangerous in some respects, no one does it, nor would care to do it; so no rules are made to prohibit it. Yet of late, there is much discussion over whether it should be illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time. Ten years ago, no one would have thought to make up such a rule. The problem with cell phones became prevalent, now society sees the need to discuss its regulation.

All this is just a long way of pointing out that Peter and others must have seen bold women as a problem. But note that although Peter refers specifically to women, he is merely telling them to do the same thing he would tell anyone else, to be meek, to be mild. He says pointedly in verse 1 that submissiveness to the husband is important "so that if any of them (husbands) do not believe God's word, your conduct will win them over." Submissiveness in this case is a form of evangelism.

He goes on to tell women in verse 3 that "You should not use outward aids to make yourself beautiful." Indeed, this is an unnecessary affectation for, "your beauty should consist of your true inner-self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit."

Does this mean that women should not wear make-up or dress themselves well for church on Sunday? No, for we must remember that our bodies are God's Temples and it is right to take proper care of them. Yet inner beauty is far more important than the face we show to the world. What Peter really wants is for women not to become so distracted by their own beauty that they do not focus on the soul.

Answer to Question 2:

Interestingly enough, Peter's admonition to men regarding their wives is much shorter than his advice to women. In verse 7 he tells men to treat their wives with respect. He says to do this so that "nothing will interfere with your prayers."

This is important; for Peter knows that it "takes two to tango", (so to speak). All obligations are reciprocal. That is if a woman has obligations to her husband, the husband also has obligations to her. To fail in these obligations is to imperil the very soul.

In this passage Peter calls women the "weaker sex". He surely does not mean so in a moral or mental sense, but in the physical sense. He is reminding men that they are more physically powerful than women, and this brings with it a further obligation not to abuse this physical advantage. Peter goes on to point out that God has granted to women also the gift of eternal life. A woman's soul is as precious as a man's soul. To abuse a woman, then, is to risk God's wrath.

Answer to Question 3:

Peter writes quite plainly of the relations between men and women then moves to the relationships among people in general. He tells us to "love one another as brothers", to be kind and humble. Here we have a return to the theme of reciprocal obligation. For if all meet their obligations, the world will be a better place.

Yet what do we do if someone is unkind to us. Peter does not hesitate. He says in verse 9 "Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead pay back with a blessing." He is reminding us of Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek. For Peter this is both a means to obtain salvation and also a means to teach by example.

In verse 13 he asks "Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?" And if they harm you anyway: remember your hope in Jesus Christ. Then when you are asked and you explain your hopes to your tormentors they will be ashamed.

Answer to Question 4:

Finally, we come to one of the more baffling passages in all of the new testament. In verse 18 Peter says, "In His (Christ's) spiritual existence he went and preached to the imprisoned spirits. These were the spirits of those who had not obeyed God when he waited patiently during the days that Noah was building his boat."

How Peter came to know that Jesus visited these "imprisoned spirits" we have no way of knowing. We do know that he is referring specifically to the time between the Crucifixion and Christ's rising.

Even so, it is important not to get too wrapped up in an arcane passage. The story Peter is telling here has a much wider meaning. This is a part of a passage where Peter talks about baptism and its symbolic cleansing of the soul. For the "imprisoned spirits" he mentions were not saved by the water as Noah was saved.

Peter means to demonstrate that every soul has a chance for salvation no matter its condition, and that every soul will at some point have the Word revealed.

Study 1Peter Chapter 4

Letters of Peter Home
Overview
1st Letter
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
2nd Letter
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3

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