“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”
“Likewise” – like what? Like business and government of the previous chapter. Wives are to operate as business and government. All the institutions of business, government, and marriage require order.
Peter makes the same argument for wives as he did for other categories. The word “likewise” indicates a further category. The new category is the wife. He will later deal with husbands in v. 7.
“Likewise” means in a similar manner. “Likewise” indicates that the wife is to submit just like business, people to their government, and Jesus submitted (chapter 2). Jesus also submitted to the Father. By submitting to the Father, Jesus demonstrated the dignity of submission. A person who submits is not weak but strong. Our society knows nothing about this.
The word “submit” occurred in 2:13 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme.” The issue in this word is order as over against chaos in human institutions. Submission in this verse has to do with submission to human government. Each believer has the responsibility to submit himself to the national entity in which he resides.
Later in 2:18, Peter uses this term for slaves, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the harsh.” This, in our day, would be analogous to employer/employee relationships. The employee’s role is to arrange his working relationship under his boss. No business can operate without authority.
This submission is according to a divinely willed order. This divinely willed order is submission to authorities in Rom. 13:1ff., which acknowledges the legitimacy of government based on their divine commission to reward good and punish evil. Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 echo this teaching. At issue is the attitude to government as such rather than specifically the Roman state. Christians do not submit to the state merely because it provides conditions for their life and mission. They and all people owe subjection because the government is by divine ordination.
If authority is vital in government and business, it is no less important for the husband/wife relationship. Egalitarianism is not a biblical value. Authority in role relationships is a biblical value. Egalitarianism assaults the role of authority in society. Authority is what gives stability to society. If I submit to the head of government in the country where I live, I live in an orderly relationship with my fellow citizens. If I do not accept authority, chaos will result.
Role is crucial to government, business, and the family. Order for any institution requires organization. Someone has to have the authority to make the final decision. Someone needs to take the initiative, and someone others respond to that leadership.
It is apparent that in any organization of more than one person, there must be an authority. If we join the military, we agree to fight under authority. If we drive down the street, we accept the authority of the traffic signal. Business has to operate on authority. Schools require the acceptance of the authority of the teacher in the classroom. Life under the philosophy of kill or be killed would be grim indeed. Life is made up of principles of authority. It is also important for the wife to understand this.
Order is crucial to a stable society and stable marriage.
What happens to society without roles? Chaos, anarchy, and dissolution. Countries that do not have a history of order do not have stability. They have no continuity. Revolution upon revolution and coup upon coup occurs. Putting this on a microscopic scale, this is what happens in marriage – revolution upon revolution in the relationship.
The principles of the first six verses are vital for the wife’s understanding of her husband’s needs. Otherwise, she will live in drudgery and agony. Some who read this are in total misery by martial conflict. Psychology and sociology have some answers, but basically, they offer operation bootstraps – “Do your own thing,” “Take a fling,” or “Find a new environment.”
The Bible takes an entirely different approach. This approach revolves around the wife meeting her husband’s needs and the husband meeting his wife’s needs. This is not self-centered but other-centered.