In the same way you wives must submit to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe. It will not be necessary for you to say a word (v1)
Many people read this verse and interpret it as a “male domination” instruction, that the wife is inferior to her husband and by that women are inferior and must submit to all men – that is not what Peter means.
Peter is addressing this letter to believers who are struggling with living in a world that is oppressing them and yes – the culture of that time certainly tended to treat women with less respect than men but Peter also shows that we should treat each other with equal respect (see verse 8).
With that in mind, Peter is addressing this first instruction primarily to believing women who have unbelieving husbands, showing them how to live in such a way that will win their husbands to Christ.
I suspect that most churches have women with unbelieving husbands in the fellowship but not many men with unbelieving wives. Why is this the case? Why is it that these husbands are not coming into fellowship with God too?
Peter effectively says to the wives; stop preaching, keep quiet, maybe subtly “stop nagging”(by the way; I am a wife – thankfully with a husband who loves God).
He tells them that if they live quiet Godly lives, considering their husband and giving him due respect (even if we know they are wrong….) and not being always out at church meetings and activities (we need to be selective in this, ensuring that we get fellowship and teaching but balancing his needs too) but caring for their husband in a quiet, gentle manner; this does more to win him over than all the words. He advises them to live in such a way that he wants the peace and joy that you have – the time will come for words later
Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect (v15-16)
He goes on to explain that it is their character that makes them and the life in Christ attractive to their husbands more than the expensive clothes and jewellery. It is this that will make their husbands want to be with them and begin to ask about the hope, peace and joy that they have and share in that. Incidentally, Peter is one of the disciples who we know had a wife.
I remember meeting a couple many years ago who had been going through divorce proceedings when the wife came to Christ. Her husband was an alcoholic and a very heavy drinker who would regularly came home with all the unpleasant behaviour that follows that. When she came to Christ, she began to just quietly clear up after him and stopped complaining. He was so amazed at the change in her that it was not too long before he had to find out more and came to Christ himself. Not only that; He miraculously stopped drinking immediately and went on to become a much loved and respected member of their local fellowship and they went to court to cancel the divorce proceedings.
It follows then that Peter should also have a word of advice for the husbands about how to treat their wives.
In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are weaker than you. Treat them with respect, because they also will receive together with you, God’s gift of life. Do this so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.(v7)
The wives may be physically weaker and not have some of the social status that the men have, spiritually they share the same rewards. So as the wives are to give their husbands respect, the husbands too are to give their wives the respect they deserve and to love their wives as Christ does (Ephesians 5 v 25) and in doing this they continue to earn that respect from their wives making it an awful lot easier for them to submit.
To conclude; you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another as brothers and sisters and be kind and humble with one another(v8)
Now the rest of chapter 3 has some interesting comments which I had not noticed before so I am going to break here and go and do a bit more research – I will be back with more soon.
Quotes from The Good News Bible