The Conduct of an Exemplary Wife (1 Peter 3:1-2)

The Conduct of an Exemplary Wife (1 Peter 3:1-2)


  • Entire section (2:11-3:16) about living a life that compliments Christianity in a pagan culture.
  • Civil authorities were assumed to be just (2:14). Servants were those specifically serving under unjust masters (2:18).
  • While the example of Christ’s suffering (2:21-25) serves as the foundation for all of this exhortation, nothing suggests Peter is equating all civil authorities, masters, and unbelieving husbands with those who crucified Jesus.

Read 1 Peter 3:1-7

  • “Likewise” > 2:18 re: servants. Same instruction to “be subject”. Ultimately > Christ’s suffering. Husbands and wives are to be motivated by Christ’s obedient, sacrificial love.
    1. The Conduct Of An Exemplary Wife (1-2)
      • Submissive Conduct (1a)
      • Compelling Conduct (1b)
      • Reverent Conduct (2)
    2. The Character Of An Exemplary Wife (3-4)
    3. The Courage Of An Exemplary Wife (5-6)
    4. The Consideration Of An Exemplary Husband (7)
  • The exemplary wife conducts herself with Christ-like humility.

Submissive Conduct (1a)

  • Submissive to husband’s God-given headship.
  • Is this chauvinistic? Feminists and the PC Police have a field day with these verses.
  • Complementarianism: They are equal (v.7; Gal. 3:28), but given distinct roles (Eph. 5:22). Side: Homosexuality is rejected by implication.
  • Does this mean that anyone who supports the submission of wives must promote slavery as well? Marriage was ordained by God before the fall, while slavery was created by man.
  • Slaves/women rarely addressed directly by Greek philosophers. They were inferior. They were not considered free moral agents.
  • Christian household codes gave all their readers the moral dignity of direct address.
  • Jobes While some modern interpreters consider the New Testament household codes to be hopelessly chauvinistic, they fail to read the codes against their contemporary literature, which shows that the New Testament writers actually subverted cultural expectations by elevating the slave and the wife with unparalleled dignity.

  • Just as Peter was not looking to abolish slavery, he is not focused on overthrowing the patriarchal institution here.
  • He primarily wants to preserve and defend the platform of Christianity.
  • Does this mean, “submission” is no longer applicable in today’s context? Is it only useful in missionary settings?
    1. Notice the imperative precedes the condition.
    2. Is submission to Christ still relevant (Eph. 5:22-24)?

Submissive conduct not only honors God’s design for marriage, it’s also…

Compelling Conduct (1b)

  • Not obeying the word = unbelievers.
  • “Even if” implies minority, but Peter focuses on these vulnerable wives in particular.
  • Remaining in a mixed marriage is preferred to divorce (1 Cor. 7:14).
  • Peter sees a wife winning her unbelieving husband to the Lord by exhibiting godly character (2:12). A lifestyle that compliments the gospel is preparatory.
  • Clowney, “Her husband has refused to heed the Word; very well, let him be won without words.”
  • Husbands “may” be won in this way. Peter is not making a promise, but giving a general principle: Leading unbelieving husbands to Christ > insisting justice (2:23).
  • Why would a husband become antagonistic towards his wife? Because her worship of another “god” could introduce social disorder. Rebellious worship upsets the status quo and creates a new community of friends not associated with the husband.
  • Peter subverts culture by upholding the husband’s authority intending to convert them.
  • Let me clarify some false assumptions:
    • Unlike slaves, this is voluntary submission. Husband’s are not instructed to beat their wives into submission. Peter doesn’t permit husbands to treat their wives like slaves.
    • Wives need to know that calling the authorities on an abusive husband is not a lack of submissiveness. In fact, I believe it is an example of “doing good” (v.6).
  • Goal = Conversion, not divorce.

Submissive conduct becomes compelling conduct when it is primarily…

Reverent Conduct (2)

  • It is implied that her conduct would be unexpected (counter-cultural).
  • “Reverent (better than “respect”, cf. 1:17; 2:17, 18) and pure (1:22) conduct” directed towards God, not her husband.
  • Her godliness should be evident. It is something the husband can “see”, not necessarily hear.
  • Yet this is related to her submissive conduct towards her husband. In other words, she will submit to her husband out of reverence for God.
  • Some have read too much into Peter’s letter. They have wrongly used this passage to instruct women to remain submissive to their physically or sexually abusive husband.
    • Reverent submission doesn’t mean wives should become a doormat for their husband.
    • Their opinion is warranted and should be valued (v.7).
    • Wives can be “reverent and pure” towards God, while also establishing boundaries with their husband.
  • However, let’s not render this passage meaningless by our explanation.
  • Peter is telling wives to endure heartache and persevere through difficult seasons of disrespect and spiritual incompatibility.
  • This is not supposed to be easy to receive. It is challenging and difficult. It goes against the culture and their human nature.
  • But her perseverance with reverence for God points her husband to a Savior who bore the sin, shame, and guilt of all who place their faith in him.

A wife’s conduct should be Submissive, Compelling, and Reverent.


  • The wife who is married to an unbeliever (or vice versa) endures suffering out of reverence for God. And, all the while, it is her prayer that this will lead to her husband’s conversion.
  • The exemplary wife conducts herself with Christ-like humility because she knows that is one of the most compelling ways she can present the gospel.
  • This should be true in every marriage, but Peter’s heart especially goes out to those who are married to unbelievers.
  • Wives, is your conduct submissive towards your husband, compelling them to believe the gospel when they see your reverence and purity?