Strangers And Aliens (13a): Living Among The Pagans (1 Peter 3:1–6)

By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:

1Peter 3:1-6 
1Likewise, wives, be 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, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (ESV).

v. 1: Modeling Christ Through Voluntary Subjection
The chapter divisions we see in our Bibles were not present originally. Stephen Langton (c. 1150–1228), a Paris theologian and, later, Archbishop of Canterbury, is usually credited with introducing the divisions that know. This is one place where we see the artificiality of the chapter divisions because Peter is carrying on the same (Ὁμοίως) argument he made with respect to servants (slaves). In this section, however, he turns to another socially marginal class, wives. That Peter spends so much time addressing those in the congregation whom the world then regarded so little tells us something about the sorts of people who composed the early Christian congregations in (modern) Turkey to which Peter wrote. We should not exaggerate this fact, however. There is clear witness in the New Testament that there were wealthy members of the congregations too, who are mentioned in the NT. Nevertheless, it is clear in 1 Peter he regards the congregations as composed not so much of the socially powerful but the socially powerless.

The Ancient world wives would ordinarily have adopted their husband’s religion. Peter, however, assumes that some of the wives to whom this epistle was being read (in the assembly of the congregation), had come to faith and remained married to their non-Christian (pagan) husbands. Thus, we have an interesting dynamic at work. The very act of rejecting their husband’s paganism was a sort of divinely-ordained rebellion. By God’s grace, these women had been given new life and true faith in Christ and in that new life and faith they had rejected put the Triune God ahead of their husbands. They feared God more than their husbands. Yet, Peter insists, there are limits to the rebellion. He did not seek to overturn the Greco-Roman social order but to subvert it quietly from within.

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