Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 3:1-2| Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Peter has been showing how different groups of Christians can “maintain good conduct among the Gentiles” (2:12).
The instruction for women would be important in Roman society. Pagans expected women to be in submission to their husbands. Both Greek philosophy and Roman custom believed order in the home was the foundation of order in the state. This was a well-founded belief. Many of the problems we face as a nation arise out of a crisis in our homes; our nation is falling apart because our homes are falling apart. “As goes the home, so goes the country.”
Some women might have used the “freedom” they had in Christ to say that they were no longer bound to their husbands. We do know that some women had that attitude (cf. 1 Cor 11:2-16). Such an attitude would have greatly hampered the advance of Christianity.
The instruction for women would also be important in the church. Roman society expected women to follow the religion of their husbands. Of course, women who had pagan husbands could not submit to him in religious matters, but she needed to have an attitude of submission and show submission in other ways.
Scripture teaches that women are to be in submission to their husbands. As part of the curse, God told Even, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16). “The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says” (1 Cor 14:34). “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5:22). “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent” (1 Tim 2:11-12).
The Christian women here are told to be in submission to their husbands. These women are to be in submission to their husbands in order that these husbands might be concerted. Some husbands would not obey the word. “The word” refers to the Gospel. Some of these husbands might not just be non-Christians; they might actually be participating in the slander of Christians (2:12).
These husbands could be won without a word by the conduct of their wives. There is obviously a wordplay between not obeying “the word” and being won “without a word.” The wife’s conduct, more than constant nagging, could go far in making her husband a Christian. Augustine’s mother converted his father in this manner. In honor of his mother, Augustine wrote, “She served her husband as her master, and did all she could to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her conduct, by which You made her beautiful. . . Finally, when her husband was at the end of his earthly span, she gained him for You.”
This conversion would come about through the “reverent and chaste behavior” of the wives. This verse explains the good conduct by which wives can win their unbelieving husbands. That conduct is to be reverent and chaste. Reverent refers to their conduct toward God—this is honoring God. Chaste refers to sexual purity. Even pagan husbands could see these qualities in their wives and be appreciative.