Jesus Christ is preparing the Church, His wife, through the booklet The Epistles of Peter: A Living Hope to face fierce persecution from a world gone mad through the machinations of Satan the devil. It brings together the experiences, knowledge and wisdom of two apostles: the first-century chief, Peter, and the last-hour elder, Gerald Flurry. While writing, these true ministers of God, though separated by nearly 2,000 years of history, held one goal in mind: to strengthen God’s Church! As God’s precious sons and daughters, we must prepare to confront the final round of persecution full of hope and energized by the spiritual strength of our glorified Husband.
Human history has proven that a nation is made fit by its strong families. The same principle applies to the spiritual nation of Israel, God’s Church. Our core strength is tied directly to the spiritual soundness of the foundational building block of God’s Family on Earth: our marriages!
In light of this, should we be surprised that Jesus Christ inspired Peter to fortify the physical marriages of God’s elect people through his first epistle? The Apostle Peter does so in the most extraordinary way.
Likewise You Wives
Peter stated in his first letter: “Likewise, ye wives …. Likewise, ye husbands …” (1 Peter 3:1, 7). How unique that Peter addressed the subject of marriage in this letter to the Church. Mr. Flurry writes: “Peter thought everything he was warning about would come to pass shortly after he died, which gave his writing an urgency and intensity. The crisis on the horizon at that time was the holocaust of a.d. 70. That was a terrifying chamber of horrors filled with atrocities like human cannibalism—so awful it drove people mad! Peter didn’t realize that those horrors were only a type of the holocaust that is about to occur today!” (A Living Hope). The fact that Peter put so much emphasis on marriage at the time of great crisis shows how important this subject is.
Peter not only carried great authority as chief apostle, he was also married. Certainly, he is able to instruct us on building and maintaining a marriage during extremely tough times.
It is not by chance that Peter mentioned wives first. He had a very good reason for doing so. Remember, we must put this verse in the context of the last hour. Peter’s epistles were prepared for our time—right now. This means the full understanding of this epistle was not to be revealed until the conditions it addresses were extant in this last hour. So what do we see in relation to women in this last hour?
The Prophet Isaiah gives us the unsettling picture: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy
the way of thy paths” (Isaiah 3:12). Weak-willed men have allowed women to take over male responsibility to lead not only in the family, but in areas such as government and business! Isaiah warns that feminine leadership is causing our national destruction. Peter, still alive just before the holocaust of a.d. 70, witnessed a similar marriage and family breakdown. He saw the world turned upside down. Understanding the cause of the problem, Peter set the record straight for women in God’s Church—first!
He states: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). God, through Peter, establishes proper family government for our last-hour marriages. In stark contrast to women of the world, godly wives are to be subject to their own husbands. This was the righteous way that the Eternal established from the beginning with Adam and Eve—it is still the only way marriage will work as God designed it to. The word subjection is translated from the Greek word hupotasso. Thayer’s Greek-Hebrew Lexicon defines the word: “to subject oneself, obey; to submit to one’s control.” Most women today would laugh at such a suggestion and most likely respond, “Obey a husband? You’ve got to be kidding!” The words obey,subjection and under control are anathema for women at this time. Yet these words carry the key to ending the terrifying nightmare mankind has created.
Unfortunately, incredible suffering is yet to come upon humanity for its insistence on rebelling against God’s government in the family, in the Church and in our nations.
If Any Obey Not
Peter makes it clear that a wife’s subjection to her husband is not limited by the husband’s spiritual state. Peter preserves marriage by securing family government even under negative emotional conditions. He states: “if any obey not the word ….” The English Standard Version is a little more clear here. It reads: “so that even if some do not obey the word ….” Yes, it is difficult for a wife to live with a husband who does not obey God’s Word. Yet God can work miracles in negative marriage situations. With prayer, fasting and repentance, many negative situations can be successfully turned in the right direction. Peter gives us deep and incredibly valuable teaching here. We must understand it.
Peter stresses that a wife must remain in subjection to her husband even if he does not obey the Word. Additional detailed explanation of this principle can be found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. A wife is responsible to maintain family government by fulfilling the role God established for her (1 Corinthians 11:3). However, a converted wife’s responsibility does not stop there. She must set a sterling righteous example for a disobedient husband. Preserving government in the family is all-important. But equally important is preserving our individual submission to God’s government.
While Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, the Worldwide Church of God applied this verse to member wives who did not have a converted husband. That is certainly a correct application of 1 Peter 3:1—unconverted, non-member mates do not obey the Word. However, if we put this verse in the context of the last hour and the Laodicean tragedy, we must see that this verse in principle also (maybe even more so) applies to wives with converted husbands who may not obey the Word. We may have looked over the word any in 1 Peter 3:1. Thayer’s Lexicon explains that this word means “a certain, a certain one; used of persons and things concerning which the writer either cannot or will not speak more particularly.” In other words, Peter left it open that the disobedient husband could be either converted or not converted. Yet, either situation makes for a really tough go for a wife.
A deeply converted wife knows to fulfill her obligation to God first. At all times, she must maintain her loyalty to God, His laws and His Church. She must never let down by following her husband into a lukewarm spiritual condition. God’s ministers have seen this tragic scenario play out many times since the Church split in 1989. Unfortunately, many wives, when their husbands stopped obeying the Word, caved in spiritually and followed their husbands out of the inner court. How many more families could have remained in the Philadelphia Church of God if the wives had submitted to God and set a right example for their husbands? Only God knows. Yet, Peter shows us clearly that there is real power behind a wife’s right example.
Notice that Peter leaves wide open the spiritual possibility for the wife to win her husband back into a state of obedience. He says, “[B]e subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1; esv). A wife’s right conduct is shown by her actions. This means the wife continues to pray, study, fast and serve. She attends Sabbath services, Bible studies and local church events. Essentially she leaves her husband behind in his disobedience. However, she does not preach, harangue or cajole him—she simply continues to do what she knows to be right. Her example will speak louder than any words. What power there is in this kind of submission! You can be sure a husband will notice. It is a winning power that can help motivate a disobedient husband to repent.
Follow Christ’s Example
How can a wife obey and submit under such difficult circumstances and not dishonor God? She must ensure that she is wholly submissive to both God, her spiritual Father, and Jesus Christ, her Husband, first.
In using the word likewise to introduce this verse, Peter, under divine inspiration, is connecting wives and submission with information he laid out earlier in the letter. Peter actually begins his discussion of the proper conduct for Christian wives in chapter 2, verse 13. Speaking to the Church as a whole, he states: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (verses 13-14). Similar to Mr. Armstrong, Peter is essentially telling us that “Government is everything!” In fact, Peter takes us to the extreme edge of submission by saying, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust” (verse 18; esv). How many people casually justify rebellion to government by saying things like, “My boss is unfair,” “That decision was not right,” or “My husband is a sinner.” God tests us—sometimes severely—to know our true thoughts on government. We can talk government, yet find it difficult to actually submit to government. Peter goes on to say that God is pleased to see us remain subject to government even under very difficult circumstances (verses 19-20).
We do have the perfect example to follow: Jesus Christ (verse 21). The only begotten Son of God remained wholly submissive to the Father His entire life. That perfect man suffered horribly as a result. Peter shows us that He endured the temptation to sin as a human. He experienced hatred from His own countrymen, was ridiculed and made fun of, was scourged so we could be healed, tortured and finally executed by crucifixion so we could be reconciled to God (verses 22-24). Not once did He complain or fight back. How did Jesus Christ endure all those trials and sufferings? Peter states that He “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (verse 23). Christ committed His physical protection and spiritual future into God’s hands. He fully relied on God to supply His every need.
That is precisely what the wife of a husband who does not obey the Word must do. Fully imitating Jesus Christ’s life is the only way we are going to endure the events of this last hour.
Sarah’s Priceless Example
Spiritual character is the real tool Peter is addressing with wives. He continues, “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 meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Peter admonishes wives to realize that a godly woman wins her husband back to God through spiritual, not physical, means.
A wife’s most attractive quality must be her character, not her outward appearance. The Greek word translated “adorning” is kosmos. Thayer’s Lexicon explains the meaning as: “an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government.” A converted wife’s life must be ordered according to God’s spiritual law—the foundation of God’s character. A second definition is: “ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, ‘the heavenly hosts,’ as the ornament of the heavens.” A wife with sterling character is as stunning as a star-studded night. Wives, learn to see that any trial that produces this kind of glory is worth it.
Peter encourages all wives to look to Sarah’s example. “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (verses 5-6; esv). Sarah’s hope was in God. Is yours? Genesis reveals that Abraham was not perfect—he did not always obey the Word. Like all men, he had human weaknesses. It should not be difficult for us to see that at times Abraham’s failings made Sarah frightened. When a husband disobeys God, it is scary for a wife. Yet Sarah trusted God to protect her and did not use Abraham’s weaknesses as an excuse to disobey her husband. In fact, she deeply respected him, even calling him lord.
All wives who faithfully submit to their husbands are Sarah’s daughters. God protects a wife with this kind of attitude. She need not fear when a husband disobeys the Word as long as she remains obedient. It is likely that some of the wives who followed their husbands out of the Church were fearful of what would happen to them if they stayed with God. Actually, they should have been far more fearful of forsaking God. A woman with Sarah’s attitude need not fear anything that is frightful. Why? Because God is every obedient woman’s true protector and benefactor.
Peter does not neglect to instruct last-hour husbands. He states: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). At first glance it could appear that Peter is really brief in his instructions to husbands. This is not so. What he writes is packed with pointed and powerful teaching. In about 35 words, he gives husbands important teaching and serious spiritual warning.
Opening the instructions to husbands with the word likewise, Peter brings to the foreground the subject of government for the second time. The husband must know, understand and live by all that was stated previously concerning government and submission (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Study carefully what Peter states: “dwell with them according to knowledge.” This is not worldly knowledge—Peter is talking about God’s revealed knowledge.
Essentially Peter emphasizes the same instruction that Paul outlines in Ephesians 5:22-30. The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the Church. A converted husband must be a type of Jesus Christ. Our Savior has awesome shoes for a man to fill. Of course, no husband does it perfectly, but he must strive to do so. A husband is responsible to lead and teach the wife in the same manner as Christ leads and teaches His own Bride. It is a grave sin and a great tragedy for a converted husband to fall into rebellion. A corrupt rebel cannot properly lead a wife. A loving husband is first and most of all a law-abiding husband. A husband should be a knowledge storehouse of Christian doctrine, morals and practical know-how for right living. It is the husband’s job to administer God’s law within his family. In this matter, Jesus Christ is his direct head (1 Corinthians 11:3). Accomplishing this is how a man develops God’s very character. If a man shirks this responsibility, real trouble follows. When a man carries out his responsibility under Christ’s direction, his wife, family and the entire Church of God are made strong. What a beautiful picture.
A truly converted husband holds immense value for his wife. He knows that she is a gift of God. He deeply honors her and protects her physically and spiritually. Peter states that a man and wife are “heirs together.” A couple totally submissive to God’s government knows that they must assist each other in attaining God’s Kingdom. A wife must be spiritually strong enough to help her husband should he fall—even seriously. A husband must be stable enough to lead and teach his wife—treating her with dignity and honor. When a man does otherwise, Peter says his prayers are hindered, meaning God will not listen to such a man. However, God backs up the fervent prayers of the man who strives to fulfill his God-appointed obligations.
It is time to have a last-hour urgency about our marriages. Can we begin to see why Peter put such an emphasis on marriage in this last hour? A strong and stable husband with a deeply converted and spiritually fearless wife can tackle even the most serious trials. As we commit our lives to God the Father, He will help us build strong marriages that strengthen the Church. Let’s realize and utilize the knowledge that there is great power for good ready to be unleashed from every 1 Peter 3 couple.