To Wives with Unbelieving Husbands

1 Peter 3:1–6, Part 1

Some women are exiles within their own marriage. They want to follow Jesus, but their husbands have rejected the gospel they love. In this lab, John Piper wades into very delicate situations, asking what the Bible says about submitting to unbelieving husbands. He will show how the example of marriage relates to other relationships and institutions in our lives.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some phrases in the Bible can come across ambiguous, either because of a difference in the English language or because a couple thousand years have passed since this Book was written. For instance, what does Peter mean here by the phrase, “does not obey the word” (1 Peter 3:1)? We can often find an answer by searching for those same words elsewhere in the author’s writing (or more widely in the Bible if we do not find anything within, say, Peter’s letters).

Study Questions

  1. Explain the “Likewise” at the beginning of 1 Peter 3:1. What in the previous verses is Peter comparing the current situation to and why?
  2. Why would Peter say, “Be subject to your own husbands,” here (1 Peter 3:1)? What distinction is he making, and how does that relate to what he was doing in 1 Peter 2:13–14?
  3. What does Peter mean when he says the husband does not “obey the word” (1 Peter 3:1)? What are the possible meanings, and what do you think Peter meant? After you’ve decided, look to 1 Peter 2:7 and 4:17 for help.

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:03)

A Series on Christian Submission (03:03–06:17)

  • “Likewise” tells us this is a continuation of a sequence of instructions, first to all Christians, then to slaves, and now to wives. (1 Peter 3:1)
  • In this letter, Christians are sojourners and exiles on the earth away from their home in heaven. (1 Peter 2:11)
  • Peter wants Christians to suffer unjust persecution and slander in a way that wins unbelievers to faith in God. (1 Peter 2:12)
  • Then, he tells all Christians to be subject to “every human institution,” knowing that some of those institutions will be broken and unjust. (1 Peter 2:13)
  • And then, he tells Christian slaves to be subject to their masters, “not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” (1 Peter 2:18)

Wives, Be Subject to Your Husband (06:17–07:57)

  • With those other examples in mind, wives are now called to be subject to their own husbands. (1 Peter 3:1)
  • The wives are not called to be subject to all men in this way, but to their “own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1)
  • We see the same distinction earlier when Peter talks about the government. We don’t submit to the emperor (“as supreme”) the same way we submit to other people. (1 Peter 2:13–14)
  • So how would the principles of submission Peter is applying in various ways apply specifically to a wife and her husband?

An Exile in Her Own Marriage (07:57–11:03)

  • In this case, a wife is a sojourner and exile even within her marriage. Why? Because her husband does not obey the word. (1 Peter 3:1)
  • Does that mean the husband is a Christian who sometimes doesn’t obey, or is the “word” here the gospel and he is not a believer?
  • Peter uses the same phrase, “disobey the word,” in 1 Peter 2:7. There, it clearly means to not believe (or obey) the gospel. He also uses the phrase, “those who do not obey the gospel,” in 1 Peter 4:17.
  • Therefore, we should take that to mean that these husbands are not believers (not obeying the gospel). That makes this believing wife a Christian exile within her own marriage.