THE ROLE OF THE CHRISTIAN WIFE
by Will Graham
As we all know, family life is going through a major crisis in Europe. We have forsaken our Christian foundations and therefore the true meaning of marriage is being progressively deformed. However, as Christians we are called to follow the pattern of the Word of God. Society is not our example to follow. The Bible is our teacher.
What we will do in our study today is look at what the Bible has to say about the role of a Christian wife. I know this message will be important for all of you Christian ladies whether you are old or young. We must submit our lives to the Word of God. And it is the duty of the older women to teach the younger women how to love their husbands. So let’s draw near to the Word of God. I will be sharing from 1 Peter 3:1-6.
Let’s start with a little bit of context. This first letter of Peter is written to a suffering church. It was penned in the 60s of the first century and the apostle calls upon the church to be willing to suffer for the cause of the Lord. Peter was conscious that many ladies had been converted to the faith who didn’t have Christian husbands and so when we get to our passage, Peter instructs women about how God can use them to bless their unbelieving husbands. The main message that Peter seeks to transmit to his sisters in the faith is that their behavior, their actions can do a great deal of good to their husbands.
The things that Peter exhorts the wives to do are also very relevant to our Christian context today. Even if you are married to a Christian man, these principles that Peter presents are a clear revelation from God as to how He wants ladies to treat their husbands in the fear of the Lord. Evidently, the man is the head of the household in God’s eyes and that means he has more responsibility before the Lord; but God also has a will for wives.
So let’s look more closely at what God revealed to Peter by dividing the text up into three parts:
1. Submit to your husbands, 3:1-2
2. Have a beautiful spirit, 3:3-5
3. Follow the example of Sarah, 3:6-7
Let’s start with the first point.
1.- Submit to your Husbands
Point one: submit to your husbands: 1 Peter 3:1-2
The most important verb in the first two verses is ‘submit’. It seems such a small verb but it is such hard work. By nature we long to dominate others and to be in charge. So to be in submission has never been popular. But here Peter, through the inspiration of the Spirit, reveals that the wife is to be submitted to her husband.
In the same way as the church is submitted to Christ; so the woman is to submit to her husband. This, today, is a revolutionary message because in some countries women dominate their husbands. Many husbands are like a little puppet in the hands of their aggressive wives. This is completely contrary to what the Bible teaches. God does not call wives to be aggressive, abusive and violent; but to submit to their husbands in love. And Peter doesn’t just say: “Submit to your husband if he is a good Christian man” but “Submit to him” whether he’s a believer or not. Obviously, if your husband is not a believer and he asks you to do something that violates the law of Christ then you must not obey him. But as a general rule, women are to follow their husbands guidance and to serve them faithfully as unto the Lord.
In the Bible, Adam was formed first and then Eve. God held man responsible rom the first. Do you realize that God never said anything until Adam ate the fruit from the tree? It was his responsibility to take care of his wife’s spiritual life and he should have eaten from the tree. But remember that the original order that God put in the family was not because of the Fall. It was an ordinance from creation. The man was to be the head of the household. Colossians 3:18 also says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as it fitting in the Lord”. Ephesians 5:22 says exactly the same thing.
A wife who does not submit to her husband is not filled with the Spirit. She is not a faithful servant of the Lord. And Peter makes it clear how she is to be submitted to him: by her actions. Peter says that by their good actions a Christian women will show her husband something of the beauty of the Gospel. “... If any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conduct of the wives; while they behold your chaste conduct coupled with fear” (vv. 1-2).
So the way to win a husband’s heart is not by words but by actions. The tongue, as the Bible tells us, is a dangerous weapon. How many marriages have been destroyed because women didn’t use their tongues to edify their marriage? They criticized their husbands and find fault with him and make his life a misery. I know that I am a preacher and I have a lot of enemies in Spain because of the message I preach. But I am at peace because I know that my wife respects me as a man of God. If I came home after a hard spiritual battle to a wife full of anger, I would collapse. Husbands need wives who show us the love of God through their kind and loving actions. The wife should make sure that it is a joy for men to come home. Some wives dominate their houses as tyrants and their husbands never want to go home. So they go out drinking or do some other activity as to avoid being with their wife.
God wants wives to win men over by their actions. Your husband should see that you honour and respect him. You should touch him, embrace him and kiss him. I know we’re men and we act tough. But we need to be loved too. The actions of my wife are a continual comfort to my soul. I see her purity and her reverence to God. I thank God I’m not married to a dictator. That would be hell on earth. Sisters, can your husbands see that you are submitted to them? Do your actions show that to be true?
2.- Have a Beautiful Spirit
Point two: have a beautiful spirit: 1 Peter 3:3-5
Peter here defines true beauty, real beauty. Today we have a distorted concept of beauty because of advertising. Every time we turn on the TV there is a half-naked lady selling a car or aftershave. We think that beauty is a certain height, a certain weight, having a certain tone of skin and a certain colour of eyes. This is not true beauty.
The people in the first century also had an erroneous concept of beauty. Peter here talks about people who thought beauty was in clothes, hairstyles and jewellery. That is very superficial. And yet here we are twenty centuries later and we still haven’t learnt the lesson. Real beauty is in our hearts when they are submitted in obedience to God. How much time do you spend putting on makeup and fixing your hair? And how much time do you spend praising God? God is more important than our external appearance.
Peter here says in v. 4 that beauty is in a “gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight”. A gentle and quiet spirit is a happy heart. It is a woman who lives free from pride and envy. It is a woman who doesn’t need to feel superior or inferior to others because her trust is in the Lord. A woman who is not content in God always finds reasons to boast about herself, her family or her house because she glories in carnal things. Such a woman is not filled with the Spirit of God. A Spirit-led woman loves all and is content to serve her husband. This is of great value to God. But such women are hard to find in Europe today. We are not happy with God’s created order for the family so we revolt and we lose our gentle and quiet spirit.
The opposite of a gentle and quiet spirit is an agitated spirit. It’s a heart that is never at peace. This type of heart destroys husbands and families. Instead of producing peace at home, it creates chaos. A woman has the power to build up her house or to cast it down. It all depends on her spirit. Is it a gentle one or a proud one?
An important thing for all Christian wives to know is that we men make mistakes. We fall. It’s not easy to be a Christian husband. It is such a huge responsibility. So you women must support your husbands and pray for them constantly so that they take the right decisions in the fear of the Lord. God will hold men accountable for how they have governed in their homes. So a gentle and quiet spirit is willing to forgive and to let go of the past. Both husbands and wives should learn to ask forgiveness of one another. What wives must not do is to become aggressive when their husbands make mistakes. Instead we must speak maturely and with love and compassion. Women can do so much psychological damage to their husbands if they just spend day after day attacking them. Proverbs 31:12 says that a virtuous wife is a woman who “brings good to her husband, not harm, all the days of his life”. That is a woman who will be praised by her husband and her children. Beauty is transitory, but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised (v. 30).
So: are you beautiful? I don’t mean do you wear expensive clothes and nice perfume. I mean: do you have a gentle spirit? Is there peace in your soul? Do you trust in the Lord? Are you joyfully submitting to the man God has put in your life? That is true beauty before the Lord. A woman who lives in that fashion is walking in the fruit of the Spirit. The way to be a beautiful woman is by cultivating your soul; not by makeup and jewellery.
3.- Follow the example of Sarah
Point three is: follow the example of Sarah: 1 Peter 3:5-6.
What I like about Peter is that he doesn’t just give us an abstract command. He doesn’t say: women, submit and women, be beautiful in your spirit. He also gives us a clear example of someone who wives can follow. That example is Sarah. She was Abraham’s wife. The Bible says she was a beautiful woman. But Peter here is not concerned about her physical beauty but her heart. Sarah had a gentle and quiet spirit. Sarah was submitted to her husband. In fact, Peter points out how Sarah called him ‘lord’.
Now this doesn’t mean that women have to call their husband ‘lord’ but it does show how much Sarah respected and honoured Abraham. Respect is the most important thing a woman can offer her husband. When we look at Ephesians 5 it tells men to love their wives. But it tells wives to respect their husbands. Women need love. Men need to feel respected. This is the way God made us. A wife who doesn’t respect her husband will destroy her family.
Sarah used her words to respect Abraham. So we must be careful of how many women talk about their husbands today. Wives should not get together to criticize their husbands. I think we have all heard women speaking evil about their husbands and it is one of the most horrible things we can experience. A woman’s tongue should be used to praise her husband; not to share his faults with others. The place to talk about faults is in private at home away from public. We must never talk about our husbands or wives disrespectfully in public. Another horrible thing which can do husbands a lot of damage is when women get angry with them in public. That too is a very humiliating thing for a man. Again, the place for such moments is at home in private.
Some women justify their actions by saying: “Well, I will submit to my husband when he loves me as he should”. But by saying that wives are disobeying God’s command! God says, “Submit”. And if the man doesn’t fulfil his obligations, God will hold him responsible. In the same way men, if your wife doesn’t submit to you, you are called to love her no matter what. We must always be faithful to what God requires of us regardless of how our husband or wife acts. That is obedience to God. And if we do love our wives with all our heart, sooner or later she will have no problem in submitting to us. And wives, if you submit to your husbands, they will find it a lot easier to love you.
So women must use their mouths to edify their husband. Whereas women need to hear their husbands saying “I love you”; men need to feel respected and honoured. When I know that my wife respects me and believes in me I feel as if I could conquer the whole world. But if I start the day in a bad way with my wife, then the rest of the day is a nightmare until we make peace through confession and forgiveness. A man of God needs to feel respected by his wife. She is like a refuge, a place of safety and a river of renewal.
Peter says that women who follow the example of Sarah are her daughters. Verse 6 finishes by saying, “You are Sarah’s as long as you do well and are not afraid with any amazement”. So there are two things here. A daughter of Sarah does what is right and does not give way to fear.
Does what is right
The first part is quite obvious. A Christian wife is a daughter of Sarah if she submits to her husband and cultivates beauty in her soul.
Does not give way to fear
This second part is a bit more difficult to understand. Some commentators have suggested that the verse may refer to domestic violence since some of the Christian women were married to pagan men. The logic seems to be: if you submit to your husband with a gentle and quiet spirit, then you will have no need to fear.
Or it could also mean that a true Christian woman should not fear to live in such a God-glorifying fashion. Sadly many young Christian wives are ashamed to live according to God’s plan for marriage because they see such disorder around about them in the world and they feel pressured by society to take charge of their family. Maybe Peter was encouraging true Christian wives to be bold in the face of ungodly living. And if that is the case, then it is a very relevant message for all of our sisters today. 1 Timothy 5:9 says that a Christian wife should: be faithful to her husband, do good deeds, bring up her children, show hospitality and serve God’s people.
Given that I’ve mentioned the temptation for young girls today to be ashamed of God’s plan for marriage; I would like to emphasize that God has put older women in the church to train the younger women. Titus 2:4 tells us that the older women in the congregation must teach the younger women to love their husbands and children. The young Christian wives need your support, older sisters. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers have so much to teach. So you must be willing to direct the young girls. And the young girls must be humble and willing to learn from the experience of the elder. This is correct and pleasing to God.
When was the last time you helped a young Christian lady? When was the last time you obeyed advice from an elderly Christian woman? We are a great big family.
To conclude all that we’ve studied let me repeat the three points:
1. Submit to your husbands
By means of your actions, sister, God calls you to be subject to your husband. By your deeds, let your husband realize that you are a woman of God. Does your husband know that you a servant of the Lord? Does he respect you as a woman of grace?
2. Have a beautiful spirit
Of course it’s not a sin to wear nice clothes and to have nice hair but realize that your inner life is far more important than external beauty. God values the intentions of the heart. And a heart that longs to obey Him is beautiful.
3. Follow the example of Sarah
Sarah used her mouth to exalt her husband and not to cast him down. So be careful with what comes out of your mouth. Do not get angry at your husband in public, do not tell him off and do not speak evil about him to others. Use your tongue to build up your family; not to cast it down.
I hope that this message has helped you to understand the importance of the role of a Christian wife. You sisters are so important. We need you. So pray for us men. Forgive us. And continually love us. And we men, by the grace of God, will continue to do the same so that our marriages can reflect the precious fragrance of the Triune God. Amen.