Submissive Saints 2 - 1 Peter 3:1-7

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 27th June 2021.

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1 Peter 3 v 1-7 “Submissive Saints 2”

Intro: Keep off! Private Property.

Our house has a small openish front garden off the road and a bigger back garden which is walled and gated. Quite often as people walk past our house their dogs will stop for a sniff of the hedge or their small children might wander onto the front path of our garden. Random passers-by, postmen, visitors, religious groups, whoever, can have access to our front garden and we don’t mind. That does not go for the back garden though. If we found that someone had come in the back gate and was wandering around our back garden then we would be a bit alarmed and maybe offended! The back garden is private property and you need to be invited to come into it.


As Christians, are we like this with God? How far into our lives will we allow God to get? Last week’s passage in 1 Peter was quite challenging but to be honest, it was mostly front garden stuff. I can cope with God telling me as a Christian how I should relate to the government and other leaders. I can cope with God expecting good things of me in my work context. I can even cope with God expecting me to respond well to unfair suffering when I do live in this good way. Front garden stuff, even though some of it is challenging and demanding. But surely there are some limits on where God can go in my life – surely my marriage is my own private property, and how my wife and I manage our relationship is for us to decide rather than for God to dictate?


Absolutely not. Christians are people who have come to Jesus for forgiveness and a new life of following him (God’s free slaves) and so there are no back garden issues when it comes to God’s rule in our lives. In fact, I think you could argue that the direction of importance in this passage is going the other way around from what we might expect anyway. Rather than marriage being less important from how we relate to harsh masters or even how we function under our government, healthy marriage and healthy families are at the pinnacle of importance (after all, marriage itself is a picture of how Jesus relates to the church and also healthy marriage is the very building block of healthy society).



And so of course, OF COURSE, the God who loves his chosen people, the God who is the shepherd and overseer of our souls, the God who has shed his blood to redeem us, this God wants to lovingly rule in our marriages and families, wants to be the Shepherd and overseer of our closest relationships, wants his redeemed people to live really differently in marriage because they belong to him. Christian husbands and wives are to have purposeful marriages and beautiful marriages. Marriages marked by submission and consideration. Marriages that will shine, marriages that will free men and women up to do great good for the people around, marriages that will please the God who loves us and knows what is best for us.   

1) Purposeful marriages are produced by submission and consideration


Firstly then, purposeful marriages are produced by submission and consideration. We Christians are a people with great purpose in our lives. We have a calling that is taught in many places in the bible and which was described to us in verse 12 of this chapter – “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Christians are to be outward looking people, living lives that produce fruit, lives of output. That truth alone is a massive challenge in a culture that is obsessed with self-expression and looking after yourself and your own family – but is also a wonderful thing because we know we have been built to do stuff, to accomplish things, built with purpose.  


There are 2 amazing outputs from Christians in marriage described in this passage, one at the start and one at the end. Christian wives are to live a special and different way so that v1+2 any unbelieving husbands “may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of their lives.” And Christian husbands are to live in a special and different way so that v 7 “nothing will hinder your prayers.” Whether you are married or not, those 2 outputs should get you really excited.

If we as a church family can equip and support and encourage and pray for the Christian wives and Christian husbands amongst us as they seek to live in these special ways, then we will see more people becoming Christians and we will have more people amongst us leading an effective prayer life. I long for both of those things in our church. Right now the 2 prayers that I am consistently praying and encouraging others to pray are about these very things – as a church family I have asked you to be praying that in the weeks and months to come we will see new believers made from the estates around us, and on Wednesday mornings we have been praying that more of the church family will be serious about partnering together in prayer.

And then we come to this passage of 1 Peter and for the first half of this week I was writing a quite boring sermon wading through the details of submission and not realising just how exciting this part of the bible is. But God is so good and gives us what we need and so as we deal with submission and consideration, keep constantly in mind that what is at stake is the salvation of people we love and the effective deployment of the most powerful weapon in the universe - prayer.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands.. Husbands in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives.” The way God has made men and women is such that in the marriage relationship, the husband is to be a loving leader and the wife is to willingly accept that leadership as a good thing for both of them (no matter who has what gifts, skills or talents).

This leadership and submission forms a marriage team that is so brilliant for the family, for the church, and for society. What we are to understand from God’s word and what we see clearly from experience though is that because of sin, husbands are far too happy to abandon that God-given role (sit back and make no decisions and do no leading) and wives are far too eager to take it on instead (make all the decisions and do all the leading). But when we do that, we are saying to the shepherd and overseer of our souls that we don’t think he has ordered things correctly for our care, we are telling the one who shed his blood to redeem us from sin that we actually would rather live in sin rather than live out the new life he has won for us when he walked out of the tomb on Easter Sunday.

Instead, in the same way as all Christians are to live as God’s slaves and so submit to the authorities God has given them, in the same way as slaves are to submit even to harsh masters, in the same way as Jesus submitted to his father enduring suffering and going to the cross, in the same way Christian husbands and wives are to willingly submit to God’s plan for marriage. And so Christian wives are to aim for a submission marked out by purity and reverence.

(Worth saying here that the New Testament repeated command for a Christian wife to submit to her husband must not and should not be used as a tool for abuse. The principles from last week were that we Christians are to pursue and be devoted to good and not to submit to sin so if you are in an abusive marriage where force is used the first thing to do is to talk honestly with someone in the church family).

But with that clearly said, it is not surprising that over time a non-Christian husband will be hugely impacted by a submissive wife who is pure and reverent. Purity speaks of being untainted by the world around and its sinful values (there was actually great pressure and temptation for the Christian women Peter was writing to because there was a sort of women’s liberation movement going on around them in the empire; sexual freedom etc, similar to the pressures we face now) – but a wife who is faithful to her husband, who is cultivating the fruit of the spirit, who rejects selfishness, who doesn’t want to pursue arguments, who doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, who uses her words to encourage, who is prepared to say sorry when she sins, that is a different wife (cool clear water Vs dirty dish-water). Purity is so attractive.


Reverence is a word we only really use now in respect of God and of course the reverence Peter commands is primarily a reverence for God that makes a Christian wife very careful to treat her husband properly – but a Christian wife who has a correct reverence for her husband and so speaks well of him wherever possible, who seeks to build him up with her words and longs for him to know God, that is a life that will not go unnoticed even by the most sceptical of husbands. Christian wives submitting with purity and reverence to their husband’s leadership will certainly be living differently from most people around.


And Christian husbands leading with a consideration that is marked out by respect and awe will equally be noticeably different.

A Christian husband filled with great respect for his wife will not be a bully (using either his greater physical strength or any other strength advantage) to get what he wants from his wife. What do you treat carefully in your life? New phone or laptop? New car? A precious work of art? New baby? The Christian husband is to treat his loved wife with utter care and protection – she is so precious that he must use his strength for her good and her benefit rather than for his won.


In fact, dealing with Christian wives in particular, Peter helps us to see that Christian husbands should almost be filled with awe because this person they get to live with and work alongside and love is an heir with them of the gracious gift of life. That is a very challenging truth – it should challenge all of us in the way we treat the other Christians around us here this morning, but particularly in the most intimate and special of relationships, marriage, it should cause us to be so very careful. Christians belong to God, he thinks so much of them that Christ’s blood was the price paid to allow them access to God’s family, to allow them the rights of heirs. The way a Christian husband should treat his Christian wife then, is the way we would treat Jesus if he were to walk into this room now.


Or maybe, actually, the way a Christian husband should treat his wife is the way Jesus would treat us if he walked in now! Peter had his filthy feet washed by Jesus as Jesus showed him how to be a loving leader. That is the standard for Christian husbands and that is the correct Christian context for any leadership at all. Christian husbands should be so easy to submit to because they are leaders who are single-minded in their service of their wives, seeking to do good to their wife and seeking with their wife to be committed to good as slaves of God together.   


The result of these sort of husbands and wives will be new believers being added to the church family and strong leadership in the area of prayer that has the potential not just to transform us but to turn this whole city back to God. Do we not want that? Are we not desperate to see prayers for the unbelievers around us answered? It is amazing that marriage marked by submission and consideration is so purposeful.


2) Beautiful marriages are produced by submission and consideration


And more than only purposeful, these marriages are marked by beauty as well. In verses 3-6, Peter describes a surface beauty that impresses the world and a genuine deep beauty that pleases God and that sounds a lot like Jesus.


Everyone here this morning, and everyone in this church family, has an important part to play in setting the culture and tone of our church so that what we care about and what the girls and women especially learn to care about is beauty that does not come from outward things like clothes and hairstyles and makeup and muscles, but instead beauty that comes from God and that is of great worth in God’s sight. When Joey and I got married, one of the things that Joey noticed when she came to St Johns was the lack of pressure to wear stylish clothes and put loads of makeup on for a Sunday. We had both been at good churches before we came to Hull but it was here that we realised that the cars in the car park and the clothes on the congregation were a lot less fancy than what we had got used to!


But that is how it should be. There doesn’t need to be anything inherently wrong with nice clothes or makeup – but we do have to be very careful that as a church family our standards of beauty that people feel they want to live up to are the correct standards; “it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” That is a thing that both men and women are to aim for – Jesus himself is described as gentle and lowly so I don’t think Peter is saying that these things are a particularly feminine characteristic. However, I think he knows that the women he is writing to, and in general, women in churches from the beginning to the end, will have the desire within themselves to be as beautiful as possible.

Fine’ says Peter, but you have to know what real beauty is and you have to know the God who makes things beautiful. That’s what God does – he takes sinners like us, and by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, he makes us white as snow. He takes people filled with sin and hurt and shame and he crafts them into jewels in his eyes. Come to Jesus today and he will make you beautiful in God’s sight.  


CC Riverside, we are a beautiful people. The church is a beautiful creation, it is the bride of Jesus and until he comes again we are getting ready for the wedding. So as we live amongst so many people who don’t yet know Jesus as saviour and Lord, let us in our homes, our neighbourhoods, our lives, our jobs, our marriages, let us live as God’s slaves absolutely committed to doing good, and let us keep praying that we will catch their eye and earn their attention with our gospel beauty.






1 Peter 3 v 1-7 “Submissive Saints 2”

Intro: Marriage as private Property? Absolutely not!


1) Purposeful marriages are produced by submission and consideration


Christians have great purpose, lives of output:


  • Unbelieving husbands won over

The salvation of people we love



  • Unhindered Prayers

The effective deployment of the most powerful weapon in the universe - prayer.



Christians are to submit to God’s plan for marriage;

In the same way as we are to submit to the authorities

In the same way as we are to submit to harsh slave masters

In the same way as Jesus submitted to the cross


Wives submit;

  • Purity

Cool clear water Vs Warm dirty dishwater


  • Reverence

Primarily towards God but also towards husband

Husbands be considerate;

  • Respect

Use strength for the good of your wife


  • Awe

Treat your wife as you would treat Jesus.

Treat your wife as Jesus treated you – servant leadership


Marriage marked by submission and Consideration is PURPOSEFUL.



2) Beautiful marriages are produced by submission and consideration


  • Beauty that sounds a lot like Jesus (gentle and lowly)



  • Beauty that is the responsibility of the whole church family.



  • Beauty that comes from God and is offered in Jesus to sinners



  • Beauty that is to shine out from the bride of Christ



1 Peter 3 v 1-7 “Submissive Saints 2” Home Group Questions


1) As well as marriage, what areas of our lives are we tempted to treat as ‘back garden areas’ where God is not supposed to intrude? Why do we do this?


2) What does the submission of verse 1&2 look like (and not look like) in practice? Are we a church helping one another to aim for the beauty described in verses 3-6?  


3) What does the consideration of verse 7 look like (and not look like) in practice? Why does sin impact our prayers and why should we end up at the cross in this passage?  

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