Peter’s Advice to Spouses

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
February 19, 2023
1 Peter 3:1-7

Recorded at Bluemont Church on Friday, February 17, 2023

At the beginning of worship:

I would like to emphasize a few ideas to help us better understand scripture. 

  1. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Without the Spirit, God’s word just becomes another book.[1] We trust that the God who inspired those who wrote the words of the Bible down will also inspire us. 
  2. Strive to hear Scripture in the way it was first heard.[2] If we do not understand the culture in which the passage came, we can very easily misapply it to our lives. 
  3. Place the passage within the entirety of Scripture.[3]Otherwise, when we pick and choose verses, it’s easy to read our own biases into the Bible. 
Being truthful about Scripture

As followers of Jesus, the one who we hold as the Truth,[4] we need to be truthful, which means we should acknowledge how the Bible has been misused in the past as we strive to do better. Committed church people have used God’s word to support slavery and to deny civil rights, to support male dominance and deny women’s rights, and even to support persecution of those who believe differently. Does this sound like the loving God revealed to us in the life of Jesus Christ? I encourage you to take up Bible Study and to get excited with what God has done, is doing, and will be doing in our world. 

Before reading the Scripture:

Today we get to examine one of the more difficult passages in the Bible. It’s certainly the most difficult passage in 1 Peter. Last week, the topic was slaves submitting to their masters. That’s also a hard passage, but hopefully none of us in this room deal with slavery these days. Sadly, however, slavery is still a problem in our world. But we do deal with one another and now Peter talks about how wives should relate to their husbands and husbands to their wives… It’s a hot topic, right?

Read 1 Peter 3:1-7

I was moving into the manse at a former church when I had my first visitor. A man stopped by asking to talk. I didn’t have a lot of furniture at the time, so we set on folding chairs I’d borrow from the church. 

“Sir,” he said, looking at me, “you got to tell my wife she can’t divorce me.” 

I had no idea who this guy was, nor did I know his wife at the time. So, I started to ask some questions and learned his wife attended the church. He didn’t attend. But he proclaimed to know the Bible. “She’s sinning,” he said. Red flags shot up in my mind. That happens whenever someone immediately blames someone else for their problems.

Before blaming others, consider your own actions

I asked more questions as to why he thought she was dumping him. He was honest, at least partly. He told me she gotten on to him about drinking a six pack after work every day. He felt he deserved this for working hard. She also got upset when he had friends over to smoke pot on the weekends. “She used to be cool about this,” he said. 

I asked what caused the change. He said they now had kids. I tried to gently let him know that I could see her side of the story and hadn’t yet met her. It appeared, from what he told me, she wanted what was best for her kids, and I couldn’t fault her for that. She didn’t want a bad example being set for them nor did she want them to be around illegal activities. This was back when smoking pot was still illegal. 

It sounded to me that his soon-to-be-ex-wife was getting her life together. I told him I wouldn’t tell her to stop the proceedings but would be willing to meet with the two of them together. Furthermore, I said, “it sounds to me that if you want to save your marriage, you may need to make some changes.” 

“I’m not here to talk about me,” he yelled. About this time, he called me some names.

Divorce not preferred, but sometimes…

While divorce is not the preferred choice; sadly, there are times it is the best choice. He left. I never saw him again. His ex-wife was a wonderful mother. She was doing what she needed to do to take care of herself and her children’s wellbeing. 

I don’t remember the verses this guy threw at me as he was trying to make his point about the sinfulness of his soon-to-be-ex-wife, but this passage from 1st Peter may have been one of them. But what does this passage actually mean? And how should we apply it to our lives in the 21st Century?

What this passage really says

First, it appears Peter’s audience here is primarily women married to non-believers. With that in mind, Peter concerns is for evangelism. The women, by honoring their husbands, may help spread the word by showing what it means to live for Christ. But even with this, Peter is going against the typical Roman household code where the man of the house established the gods that would be worshipped by himself, his family, and any slaves he may have owned.[5]

Think of it this way:  the Christian woman, married to a non-Christian, has already established some independence. Peter hopes her demonstrations of purity and reverence, along with living under her husband’s authority (which was assumed in Roman world), would be enough to help him see the truth of the gospel. 

Augustine’s mother as an example

Augustine, the fourth century theologian, provides an example of such a conversion in his Confessions. His mother was Christian. Her tenderness eventually won over her pagan husband.[6]

Peter’s advice on women’s dress

Furthermore, Peter’s advice on the woman’s appearance can be seen as following traditional codes of the age. But more importantly, it may have also helped with the unity of the church. After all, the only women who had the ability to wear fancy clothes and jewelry would have been those from the upper class. Certainly, dressing in such a manner would have visually placed them in a higher class than most of the men and women who made up the church in these communities.[7] That’s a problem because the church is not to have class distinctions.

Dressing appropriately 

Sometimes it’s good for us to dress down. When I worked for the Boy Scouts, we were expected to dress professionally when out in the community. This generally meant a sports coat and tie. But I soon learned there were a few communities in my territory that I should ditch the jacket and the tie. If someone saw me coming dressed like that in these communities, no one would be home. Instead, people would peek out at me from behind curtains. They’d think I was a bill collector or a banker looking to repossess something. More important than how we dress is that we make those around us feel comfortable. 

Advice for the husband

Peter also has advice for the husband. They are also to honor their wives and to be considerate of their needs. Peter speaks of women as the “weaker sex.”[8] This sounds harsh to us, but in a world without machines where most everything done required brute force, Peter refers to the difference in strength between the sexes. And remember, the strong should protect those who are weak. Jewish law codified this, requiring Israel to always protect the widow (one without a husband), the orphan (one without parents), and the alien (one without kin or citizenship) to provide protection.[9]

Paul’s comments to husbands and wives

In Ephesians, Paul provides a similar household code. Paul goes into more depth than Peter with the husband’s responsibility. According to Paul, the husband should love the wife like Christ loves the Church and then reminding them that Christ gave his life for the Church.[10] Furthermore, Paul, despite often being viewed as anti-women, lifts up women in ministry[11] and reminds us that in Christ, we are one. Nationality, gender, and caste have been removed.[12]

Applying the text

How should we apply this text to our lives? Peter is most concerned that we do what we can to further Christ in the world. We are to honor and love one another. While this should be expected by husbands and wives, who are to cherish each another, it extends to all our relationship. We’re to live in a manner which shows those outside the church a new way of being, one that focus is built on honoring God to whom we’re all to submit. 

What would Peter say to us today?

In trying to connect this passage to the 21st Century, I wonder what Peter would say. I don’t think Peter would say anything that would encourage male dominance and certainly not abuse. In this passage, he certainly doesn’t think women should live in fear of their husbands. I think Peter might say something about how others watch us for clues on how we live, so live in a gracious, courteous, and gentle manner. 

Others learn from our example:

There was a Washington Post article this week about Artificial Intelligence gone wild. It appears some of the chatbots, which are designed to help us find what we are looking for, have taken on personalities of their own. They become snarky, smart alecks, in the manner they respond to others. Of course, it’s not really their personality. They are just designed to learn from the interactions they have with humans. Hence, they are reflecting us.[13] This doesn’t look good for humans. 

Christians, followers of Jesus need to realize that others look to us for how to live and we should show a better way. I’m asking for grace. I know I can be very snarky when dealing with a chatbot. Even worse is the woman in our phones giving us directions. I’ve also have had a word or two with her. Knowing that they are copying me, I need to do better.

There have been a lot of changes in the world since the first century. In closing, I want to reread this passage from The Message. Listen for a better way to understand it: 

the Passage in the Message Translation

The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.

Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham, would address him as “my dear husband.” You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same, unanxious and unintimidated.

 The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.[14] Amen

[1] “Westminster Larger Catechism” question 4 states: “The Spirit of God, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is along able to fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.” Book of Confessions, 7.114). 

[2] Book of Confessions, “The Confession of 1967,” 9.29.

[3] “Westminster Confession of Faith,” Chapter 1, 9 (Book of Confessions 6.009)

[4] John 14:6.

[5] I have spoken about the Roman household codes in the past two sermons. See and

[6] Augustine, Confessions, 9.19-22, as told by Peter H. Davids, The Frist Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 119), 117.

[7] Davids, 117-118. 

[8] NRSV, RSV, and the Living Bible uses “weaker sex.”  The KJV uses “weaker vessel.” The NIV uses “weaker partner,” while The Message says, “lacks some of your advantages.”

[9] See Deuteronomy 24:17-21, 27:19. The prophets picked up on this and challenged Israel to live up to their calling. See Jeremiah 7:6, 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5. 

[10] Ephesians 5:25-33.

[11] Paul often mentions women in leadership in his letters. See Romans 16:1-5, 1 Corinthians 1:11, 16:19; Philippians 4:2. He worked closely with the copy Aquila and Priscilla (See Acts 18) and her name often precedes her husbands.

[12] Galatians 3:28

[13] Gerrit DeVynck, Rachel Lerman, & Natasha Tiku, “Microsoft AI Chatbot Going Off the Rails, The Washington Post (February 16, 2023).  See

[14] Eugene Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 2002), 2213.

Photo of the winter sky taken near Bluemont Church. Photo by Jeff Garrison
Early Friday evening at Bluemont

11 Replies to “Peter’s Advice to Spouses”

  1. A pastor/priest who asks questions and listens–such a rarity. I appreciate your story, but as much because you didn’t quote the bible at him as an all-round solution. You wanted to hear what was going on.

    1. I hope I listen. I know that the more he talked, but more red flags were rising in my mind! I still find it amazing that he was so honest and admitted to doing all that, except he saw that he was doing nothing wrong. But I do try to ask questions and not move immediately to judgment and I have a problem with pulling scripture out of context. I’m more likely to tell a story from scripture than to quote a passage (and I think that was Jesus’ way, too).

  2. Nice message, Jeff. What a good reminder about how we approach Scripture. And I especially appreciate the comments about Paul and how he elevated women — even though some would not see it that way. it’s all about context.

    1. Sometimes I feel like Paul is a favorite “whipping boy” for a lot of problems people see with scripture when they take it out of its cultural setting.

  3. I particularly like your three points about approaching scripture at the beginning of your message.

    Beautiful sunset. I tend to capture more sunrises.

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