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Archive for January 30th, 2009
“Likewise, you husbands, dwelling together with your wives according to knowledge,” 1 Peter 3:7
Likewise - It is unfortunate that Christianity has been slandered with the idea that wives are the submissive slaves of their husbands. Only sloppy exegesis and political correctness could have distorted the concept of submission in this way. Any careful scholarly treatment of the usual texts will show that the submission (hupotasso in Greek) is a concept central to every Christian’s life because it was central to the life of Christ Himself. Submission is not gender sensitive nor is it restricted to marital status. It is the mark, indeed the obligation, of every believer. Without it, Christian living is a farce.
In order to accomplish this task, I believe that we must carefully regard the obligations placed on husbands before we attempt to understand the strategy offered to wives. Peter establishes those obligations in one short verse. But the implications are deep and demanding.
Peter begins his exhortation to husbands with an important but often overlooked conjunctive. Likewise is the Greek word homoios. Notice that this same word is used to introduce the discussion of the behavior of wives, a discussion that clearly involves the concept of submission (hupotasso). In that previous discussion, the word homoios connects us to the thoughts of Chapter 2. Homoios acts as a relational bridge. It literally says “in the same way”. In what same way? To answer this question, we must look back at the material in Chapter 2. We discover that Chapter 2 is concerned with the purpose of suffering which emulates the same pattern found in the life of Yeshua. In the other words, Peter is echoing Jesus’ very words, “If they persecuted the Master, will they not also persecute the followers?” Peter is telling all Christians that fellowship with Jesus is a fellowship of suffering and that we are to engage in this suffering in the same way that Jesus did. We are to submit our lives into the hands of the Father, just as Jesus did, without reprisals, without threats and without complaints because there is a divine purpose here. For Christ, that purpose was the redemption of people who were enemies of God. It is exactly the same here. The purpose of submission for Christian wives is the redemption of their disobedient husbands.
In this verse to husbands, Peter draws on this same idea. He introduces the topics of the obligation, purpose and goal of being a husband with a word that refers the reader back to the discussion in Chapter 2. “Likewise”, he says to husbands. In just the same way, and for the same reasons, husbands are called to submission. It is the voluntary act of putting themselves under authority for a purpose. This submission has the same theological base as the submission of wives – God is in charge. God’s sovereignty is the final authority in the universe. Jesus demonstrated the proper attitude of submission under the Father and we are called to follow His example. Without this verse, we might think that Peter demands (?) the subjection of wives to husbands. But with this verse, we see that this is impossible. Husbands need to submit too. In fact, mutual submission is the only proper expression between spouses. That’s why Peter is quite specific in his admonition to husbands. The only question left is not “Does your wife submit?” but rather, “Are you also putting her in God’s intended place?” Do you allow her to be the ‘ezer? If not, how can you be likewise?
Topical Index: Marriage, submission, ‘ezer