The theme of Peter’s exhortations of chapter 3 are expressed in a quoted statement from Psalm 34:12: “What man is he who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?” The answer, of course, is that we all want to see good days. The psalmist explained what was required in order to enjoy a good life, which requirements Peter places directly in the middle of his own.3:10-12 So in order to see these good days, Peter sets out to explain what is necessary in our behavior as the disciples of Jesus in order to enjoy that about which Jesus promised in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
One might wonder why Peter, in the historical context of the consummation of national Israel, would discuss family relationships. The answer why he gives some final encouragement to families was inferred in Jesus’ prophecy about forty years before: “And woe to those who are with child and to those who are nursing infants in those days” (Mt 24:19). The days of fleeing were especially trying to all family relationships. Paul would even advise that men and women remain single: “Therefore, I suppose that this is good because of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain [celebate and single] as he is” (1 Co 7:26).
Jesus continued to warn, “And you will be betrayed both by parents and brothers and relatives and friends” (Lk 21:16). On another occasion, but still in the context of His prophesy concerning the termination of national Israel, Jesus prophesied, “And a brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child. And the children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death” (Mt 10:21).
In times of war, family structures break down. What Peter’s readers were heading into was a war environment that Rome would launch across the Empire. They would unleash the sword against Jewish insurectionists to once and for all break the back of the Jewish rebellion. It would be a time when Jewish fathers and husbands needed to remain committed to their families in order that their families survive. Wives and mothers needed to be strong in following the leadership of their husbands. As their part, children needed to be in subjection to their parents. We thus assume that in Peter’s mind all the social turmoil that would come in reference to the end of national Israel drove him to write these special exhortations to Jewish Christian families across the Roman Empire.
In order to reassure Christian families, Peter begins by first speaking to wives,3:1-6 and then to husbands,3:7 then generally to the spiritual nation of God, the church.3:8-12 He concludes by addressing the family of God in the present environment in which they were enduring in order to maintain their faith.3:13-22 The abundant life is enjoyed when our families are directed by God, when our citizenship is maintained by godly behavior, and when we conduct our lives as disciples of the One who reigns over all things.
A. Society needs family norms.
In reference to the domestic relationships of the family, society always needs norms in which to be instructed and guided. These norms can either come from God, or from the society in which we live. Since the family is the heart of the function of society, then any dysfunction in society can be traced back to dysfunctional homes. And when discussing dysfunction in our homes, we assume that the norms of the world have been, to some extent, used to guide our families. Through both Paul and Peter, the Holy Spirit seeks to alert us to the invasion of worldly norms into our families. In the context of Ephesian 5:22-24, Paul’s Spirit-directed pen revealed added information to that of Peter in this context.
Peter’s instructions are placed in this text in view of the current circumstances in which his readers lived, and the trying days that were coming. In view of what Peter prophesied in 4:4, that “the end of all things is at hand,” we conclude from the Holy Spirit’s instructions in this context that strong family units would be needed to survive the struggles that were coming. What the Spirit says, therefore, must be understood in the immediate historical context of the day. However, his exhortations should be reviewed at any time in history when the disciples are undergoing struggles that would test their faith. When in struggle, therefore, Christians should focus on Spirit-inspired principles that define Christians to be disciples of Christ.
B. The wife is the trend setter.
The key “player” in establishing a stable family in a troubled society is the example of the wife in reference to setting an example of respect and submission for the children. Though society as a whole may be in a state of chaos, it is the responsibility of the wife and mother to bring peace and calm to the family through the demeanor of her strength. This was particularly true at a time when arrogant Jews were defiantly rebelling against the state of Rome. In order to prepare their children for the coming years of arrogant defiance that would be typical of the insurrectionist Jews, the Holy Spirit instructs Christian mothers to set for their children an example of respect and submission. Her respect for her husband through submission would help prevent her children from becoming radicalized by nationalistic Jews after they left home.
It is the spirit of all Christians to manifest submission in order to establish peace in domestic and civil relationships. Paul introduced his instructions concerning the family with the statement, “… submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ep 5:21). The culture of the church must be identified by the principle of submission. On the part of every disciple, the teaching of submission starts in the home. If submission is not taught in the home, then the home will produce anarchists as citizens of society.
C. Submission governs society.
Submission is the social mechanism by which society is held today. The character of submission begins in the home and is taught to children through example. And in order to develop this essential quality in the character of future citizens of society, examples must be illustrated for the children. For this reason, therefore, Peter mandated, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.”3:22
The wife must understand that her work of submission is a ministry of leadership. She leads in the character development of her children by manifesting how one should submit to civil authority and God. If there is no example in societies of submission in the family, then the children are emotionally ill equipped to face a world that is controlled by Satan. They leave the family with a spirit of defiance, not knowing how to conduct themselves with their fellow citizens in society as a whole. Mobs and riots in the streets of a society are evidence that submission was not taught in the homes of the families of the society.
In order for a wife to render submission to the head of the family, the head must be present in the family. Fatherless homes often produce anarchists in society. Children who grow up in a home environment where there is no father, cannot learn from the example of a wife submitting to a husband. Societies that are cursed with marches and riots in the streets are usually those societies with many fatherless homes.
[Lecture continues tomorrow with point D.]