WIFE’S ROLE IN MARRIAGE II
(1 Peter 3:1-6, literal translation)
“Likewise, you wives, arrange your life under your own individual husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also may without a word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your pure conversation coupled with awe. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a grace-oriented and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
Last week we began studying the third category of the believer’s responsibility to other institutions. The first responsibility was to the nation, the second to business and the third which was marriage, that is, domestic responsibility. In each of these categories we have one key word, the word “submit,” which means to arrange under.
Then we came to the word “likewise.” The wife’s role is like submission to the nation or business. The wife is to arrange her role under her husband, to fit her life into his, to gear her life to him. The husband has a different role and responsibility which we will see later. As we cannot reverse the order of citizen/government we cannot invert biblical roles. Although the wife may be superior in intellect or ability when it comes to her husband God has a role for her.
Notice the next phrase, “to your own husbands.” The word “own” carries the idea of intimacy. The Greek word is idios from which we get the English word “idiot.” Obviously, this does not mean the husband is an idiot. No doubt some are willing to take the meaning that way! The idea of this word is privacy or intimacy. A wife is to arrange her life to her husband as uniquely her own; he is her’s in an intimate way. Every wife wants intimacy in marriage. She wants to share her life with her mate; sharing is important to her.
Many men are not aware of how important this is to their wives. They have the idea of “Give me the facts mam.” They have little desire to share their day when they arrive home. They are tried and do not want to engage in “small talk,” as they view it. Often men like to talk about the grandiose, principles that have concrete, objective facts about them. But the woman gives her little signals. She wants to talk about a small issue that occurred during the day. The husband responds, “That’s inconsequential.” But all she asks is “I want in. Please open up. Let me inside. This is the point of “to your own husbands.
The “if” in the phrase “if any obey not the word” assume that it is true that the husband is an unbeliever (first class condition). The “if” here could be translated “since,” since any obey not the word. That is husbands are not believers. The word “obey not” is very, very strong. It means to set oneself against the Word of God, the Bible. It means not persuaded, obstinate. Many women have unbelieving husbands who have never come to know Him in a personal way. One of the reasons why their husbands never come to know Christ is that she tried to ram the gospel down his throat. That is a big mistake among Christian women today. Biblically, a woman cannot win her husband either to the Lord or to herself by nagging him. Her complaints about his not going to church will not impress him to become a believer. Griping about inconsequential things only agitates him further.
If the wife has been the subject of God’s grace, why should be not offer the same to her husband? It is important to grant her husband the same prerogative especially if they have reached the point of not being persuaded about Christ.
How does a wife win her husband? The next phrase shows her how: “Since any obey not the word they also may without the word.” That translation makes an error with the word “the” in “without the word.” There no word for “the” in the Greek. The idea is she wins her husband “without a word.” Without a word! She may reply, “But don’t you have to tell them about the gospel?” However, this husband knows the gospel because he has deliberately rejected it. He knows the word. He is aware of what happened to you. After all, you are married and share close connection. Therefore, it is not necessary to explain the gospel to them; it is not necessary to persuade them with words.
To put it bluntly: “Keep your mouth shut when it comes to winning your husband.” This principle is true for both unbeliever and believer. Many Christians husbands want nothing to do with leading family devotions or active participation in a church. They react to their wife’s belligerence. I found this out with my own father.
When I first received Christ, I was so enthusiastic about it that I wanted everyone in my family to receive Christ right then. My sister became a Christian shortly I did but my father did not. He was resentful about my approach. He took it that the son was trying to tell the father what to do. After a while I had to change my approach and talk about the gospel when he was ready. He did not become a Christian until last spring, twenty years later. It took my mother a couple decades to make a decision for Christ for the same reason. The important thing is to become effectual in presenting the gospel, not the simple attempt to do it. I began to play golf with my father by attempting to be his friend. The barrier eventually came down.
The belligerent husband may take time to win him. It will also take time to bring him into your heart. The principle is the same. If a wife is always at her husband with a negative attitude, she makes it very difficult for he husband to let her into her life.
Another factor in the wife winning her husband to the Lord and herself is her lifestyle or way of life. The word “conversation” in the phrase “by the conversation of the wives” means behavior or way of life. “Conversation” carries the idea of two people talking to each other. The word “behavior” when the King James was translated it carried the meaning of manner of life, “win your husband by your manner of life. You win your husband not by words but by your manner of life.
Verses 2-6 show what “manner of life” implies. First, verse two indicates that the husband observes the wife’s authentic way of life: “While they behold your chase (pure) conversation (manner of life) coupled with fear (awe).” The idea is that it is impossible to live closely in marriage and not see the true person. It is impossible to live that close without the husband seeing the reality of who Jesus is or what He did for his wife. He cannot overlook the stark reality of what is true in her life.
The Greek is very interesting here because of the phrase “while they behold or intensely watch your authentic manner of life with awe” indicates the stark impact of her life on him. Her husband watches her.
Further, the husband will “be won” by her manner of life. By watching her life, she will win him to Christ this way. The Greek indicates that the main verse is “be won.”
The word “pure” in “while they behold your pure manner of life” carries the general idea, not a sexual connotation. This is purity that involves everything she does, every reaction to her husband, how she handles life in general, how she deals with the children.
The word “fear” or awe in the phrase of the husband viewing her “coupled with awe” carries the idea of reverence. He respects his wife for the kind of life she leads. Her respect for him creates his respect for her. Both need to respect each other or a downward cycle of disrespect will develop in marriage. Respect lowers the walls that are barriers in their relationship. Eventually they will essentially take down the walls between them. As someone said, “there is a wall between us and it is not made of stone; the more we are together, the more we are alone.”
Verse 3 amplifies the matter: ‘Whose adorning, let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold, and of putting on of apparel.” The word “adorning” is from the Greek word cosmos. Cosmos means order. The opposite of cosmos is chaos. We obtain our word cosmetics from cosmos. As I look across the congregation cosmetics does wonders. It brings order to the epidermis of the female homosapien! When she rolls out of bed in the morning things are disheveled and out of order. Her cosmetics gives order to what was disorder! When a wife adorns her life then is to gives a beautiful symmetry to her husband.
The “adorning” is not outward but inward: “let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold and putting on apparel.” It is not the outward but the inner person that is of great value. A truly beautiful woman is not one of physical beauty but of inward beauty. This what wins the husband. A wife who is ugly inside will never win her husband to herself or to the Lord.
A taxi cab driver was carrying a rider in Atlantic City. The taxi driver gave a great dissertation on the Miss America Contest in the city. He made the observation that “these women are beautiful outwardly but as soon as they open their mouth the whole scene changes.
An inwardly beautiful wife does not throw tantrums, constantly criticize her husband. She is a woman of poise, of personal maturity. She is a person who has developed inner graces. She is peaceful person with her husband. The Greek word “peace” means order.
The words “plaiting (braiding) the hair” need explanation. Women in the ancient world spent teeming hours braiding their hair, many times four or five hours. They would pile up the braids so that sometimes their hair would reach three feet. It became very difficult to carry. When they slept at night they could not sleep on a pillow but had to prop up their hair mechanically. By doing this they had to put great emphasis on outer beauty. However, outer beauty will not win her husband. One words of caution; a slatternly or disheveled wife does not appeal to her husband either. To not care for her person will repel her husband. Outer beauty will help but it will not go to the true issue. A woman can be the most beautiful woman in the world and never make it with her husband. An appealing bone structure cannot give inner beauty. In any case outer beauty will only last for a time; it will wear off. The skin will start to wrinkle and grow old. A woman with inner beauty can grow to 70 or 80 and be more beautiful than when she was 25. This kind of beauty can grow over a lifetime. A husband will take notice of growing inner beauty in his wife.
The second way women in 1 Peter 3 put emphasis on outer beauty is “wearing of gold.” The word “wearing” is an intense word meaning to put around. Women wrapped golden ornaments around themselves, around wrists, necks, ankles and ears. The Bible does not condemn wearing jewelry here; the point is a matter of emphasis. The wife misses the thrust of what is important to her husband by putting emphasis on jewelry to please her husband. There is nothing wrong with jewelry per se but there is something wrong with this approach to reach the husband. She obviates God’s emphasis on inner beauty.
Some extreme interpretations claim that this passage forbids the wearing of jewelry at all. That interpretation misunderstands the central idea which is emphasis on outer beauty or inner beauty. If it is wrong to wear jewelry under this interpretation, then it would be wrong for her to wear clothes! Note the next phrase: “or the putting on of apparel.” Nowhere does the Bible ask godly women not to wear makeup or jewelry.
Let’s look at verse 4: “But let it be the hidden man of the heart.” This is the heart of God’s point. The word “hidden” is a medical term meaning the deep-seated part of the soul of the wife. The wife’s beauty should not the three negatives presented in the previous verses but in the deepest part of her soul, her most inner being. This is where true beauty is located.
If your husband is turned off by a wife’s soul, then the resolution is going to take some time. An ugly soul is difficult to resolve. Until that happens then her husband will be repulsed and repelled by her ugly person inside! There is no other way to win her husband than by inner beauty. However, the encouraging thing is that a woman can develop inner beauty at any point in her life that she decides to do it. When she does it, it will ignite a positive relationship with her husband. It will also spark reciprocation on his part. This is that cycle that we referenced last week. Both have responsibility for this cycle. If only one takes the initiative and the other does not the cycle of relationship building will break down. Both have a responsibility to meet the ultimate need in marriage of the other for the cycle building to continue. It is a cycle, not a vicious cycle or something that goes around in circles! It is a cycle of mutual encouragement. Right now, we are only studying the wife’s part of that cycle—she must develop attitudinal inner beauty.
An attitude is a habit of thinking that becomes an orientation with her. It is not enough that she practices inner beauty occasionally. It will take protracted effort. Attitude building takes time. I have counseled couples and they go home for a couple weeks and come back in a couple weeks and say, “these principles do not work.” Of course not. There will be a testing period before the mate will trust what is happening. There will be fits and starts but the mate needs to understand that growth always involves ups and downs. One of the biggest problems in Christian marriages is the expectation of perfection in this process. The husband must accept his wife’s failures and give the other person her grace to grow in inner beauty. Eventually it will go to her subconsciousness whereby she will begin to practice inner beauty as a consistent habit. When this happens, she will not react with negative speech quite as quickly.
The Holy Spirit qualifies the phrase “the hidden person of the heart” by the words “with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quite spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” Some women are very corrupt when it comes to inner beauty. I do not mean that run around with a ½ dozen men but that she is filled with anger, hostility, jealousy and bitterness. These are the areas that make an ugly woman. When she removes these areas from her life she will obtain “incorruptible beauty,” a beauty that is not corruptible because it is formed in her attitude.
What is “incorruptible beauty?” it is a “meek and quiet spirit.” Where can we find inner beauty? In her “spirit” or disposition. However, this phrase qualifies that spirit with the words “gentile and quiet.” Both terms need qualification because they are archaic words. First, “meek” does not convey weakness. The idea is not a mousy, fragile woman who is afraid to assert herself. That is not the point. The word “meek” means a wife who appropriates grace. She understands who she is and it is because of what Jesus has done for her. It is not what she has done but what He has done. Meekness is a person who is oriented to the grace principle. Grace is what God does for the believer.
Archbishop Trench in his book on Greek synonyms says that the word “meek” means inwrought grace. This person does not deep others as lower or worse than they are. It is someone who accepts that they are what they are because God has made the difference in their lives. This term carries the idea of humility. The woman who is meek is not haughty but carries a humble attitude toward her husband.
The second term that describes her “spirit,” or inner disposition or attitude is “quiet,” a “meek and quite spirit.” “Quiet” does not carry the idea that she is afraid to speak or that she is to sit in the corner and not speak while others talk. No, the idea is that she is quiet in her “spirit,” quiet on the inside. This is part of her inner beauty. She is a settle person who does not rage in anger. She is calm on the inside, not boiling with bitterness. Thus, this term has nothing to do with speech or talk but with attitude. She is a serene or tranquil person in her disposition. She is at peace with herself.
The phrase “which is in the sight of God of great price” means that a woman with inwrought (in-worked grace) and a settled soul is of very great value to God. God deems a wife well-grounded in both the principle of grace and orientation of soul as something very important. This is what God honors. No outward beauty can achieve this for the wife’s husband. The issue is what goes on in the inside of her soul. This is where “submit” carries its fundamental meaning. A woman who arranges her soul under her husband with these graces is what God honors. A wife cannot be in the will of God without this. She may give herself to working in the church and she may do it for 20 years, but this does not impress God. If she is a raging, horrible ugly woman on the inside, then work in the church amounts to nothing before God. A woman with inwrought grace and a settled soul is what God values. There will be no reward for this kind of woman at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
If you are in the auditorium today and you have never made a decision for Christ, God will help you to be the wife that you should be. You can receive a new capacity for inner beauty if you receive Christ right at this moment. I am going to give you the opportunity to do this right now. You can start your life over anew. Shall we pray:
Father, I confess that I have not been what should be as a wife. I have failed my husband. I accept the forgiveness that Christ provides. He died for my sins. I believe that now. He did all of the suffering that is necessary for my sins. I trust that for you to give me eternal life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.