Help for a Hurting Marriage

1 Peter 3:1-6

November 22, 2014 | Brian Bill

Pastor Jeff Strite shares what happened when a woman sent an email to tech support.

Dear Tech Support, last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and I noticed a distinct slowdown in the overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications.  In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as Newspaper 5.0, TV News 3.0 and Basketball Game 4.1.  Conversation 8.0 no longer runs.

Please note that I have tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail. 

What can I do? Signed, Desperate Woman.”

Dear Desperate Woman, first, keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package while Husband 1.0 is an older more reliable operating system.  Try to download Tears 6.2.  If this application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5.  However, remember, overuse of the above applications can cause a default to Silence 2.5.  Whatever you do, DO NOT under any circumstances install Mother-In-Law 1.0 (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources).  In summary, you might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance.”

A magazine for Christian leaders published a cartoon that showed a pastor peering out anxiously from inside a World-War-II-style bunker, which was behind the pulpit.  The well-protected pastor announced, “My text for today is 1 Peter 3:1-6.”  I’m not looking for a bunker today because I’m committed to preach what the Bible says, no matter what grenades may come my way.  But before we read our passage, I do want make some preliminary points.

  • The context deals with how a Christian wife can witness to a husband who is not saved…yet.  Some of you are in that exact situation and you long for your mate to share your faith.  I pray that this passage will give you hope and a godly game plan.  A good marriage is more than being with the right person; it’s being the right person.
  • If you are single, determine right now to not enter a spiritually mismatched marriage.  2 Corinthians 6:14 says clearly: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”
  • Some of you are single, divorced or widowed and may feel that this passage does not apply to you.  I recently read, “Marriage Must Be Honored by All.”  In it the author quotes Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage must be honored by everyone.”  Have you noticed that marriage is no longer honored in our society?  It’s dismissed as irrelevant and is demeaned, denounced and discouraged by many.  Marriage is being ridiculed and has been redefined.  God declares that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.  
  • This passage does not contain all that Scripture teaches about marriage and therefore this sermon will not address everything that the Bible has to say about this topic.
  • If you are in an abusive and dangerous relationship, please find a safe place and get some help.
  • While there are six verses directed to wives in 1 Peter 3, only one verse is directed to husbands.  In order to have integrity as a husband, I want you to know that I studied verse 7 first so I could make sure I’m living out my responsibility.  Originally I was going to preach about both wives and husbands today but in order to do our passage justice I’ve decided to handle husbands next weekend – wives, make sure you get them here!  If it seems that wives have more to work on in this passage, remember that other sections of Scripture, like Ephesians 5, lean heavily toward a husband’s duties.  Actually, Peter is giving more attention to wives because of the suffering they’re enduring.

With that, let’s dive in to 1 Peter 3:1-6: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.  For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”

We see right away that this is the third instance of the word “submission” in this section of 1 Peter.  Two weeks ago we learned how submission fleshes itself out for Christian citizens.  Good Christians should be good citizens. Last week we applied the master/slave situation to the employer/employee relationship and established that Christians should make the best employers and employees.  BTW, I should have mentioned that almost 36 million people are living as slaves across the globe today.  If you want to learn more about this, check out International Justice Mission. 

Serve one another.

Our main idea today is this: Spouses are called to serve one another.   The word “likewise” not only takes us back to those topics but more specifically to the end of chapter two where we learned how our Savior handled suffering.  As Christ-followers we’re called to follow His steps, right?

Words to Wives

Peter begins with six ways that wives can work at winning their unbelieving husbands to Christ. 

1. By being submissive to your husband.

Look at verse 1: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.” To submit means to voluntarily line up under for the sake of order.  The primary idea is of giving up one’s own rights.  Here’s the definition we used last week: “To rank yourself under someone else in order to lift them up and build them up.” One pastor helped me when he added that it’s an attitude of cooperation because marriage moves into chaos so quickly.  It’s not so much subservience as it is willingly lining up under the husband’s leadership.  It’s also a command in the present tense, meaning it’s something that must become a continual practice.

equal before God but they are not identical

Notice that wives are not called to submit to someone else’s husband.  Let’s be clear that this does not mean that husbands are better than wives.  It’s a matter of roles in the relationship.  In short, according to Ephesians 5, husbands are to provide loving leadership, following the example of Christ and wives are to willingly follow that leadership in the home.  Listen.  Husbands and wives are equal before God but they are not identical.  

As we’ve established in previous messages, the key to developing a spirit of submission is to first be surrendered and submitted to the Lord.  To say it another way: You will not be able to submit to anyone unless you have first submitted to the Savior.  Colossians 3:18: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  

Submission will always be a struggle because the tension goes back to Genesis 3:16 where we read in the NLT: “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”  As 1 Timothy 2:13-14 says, submission is not rooted in culture but in the doctrine of Creation and the Fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.   And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

Since it’s no doubt tough for some of you to listen to a man speak about submission, I thought it would be helpful for you to hear how my wife fleshes this out in our relationship.

Sometimes we Christian wives believe the worldview that submission is a curse.  It is not a curse.  Actually, submitting to our husbands is designed to be a blessing.  God has lovingly established a framework for order and authority and it extends right into our families.  

According to Ephesians 5:22-24, marriage is intended to reflect Christ and the church.  The Bible clearly teaches that as the Church submits to Christ, wives are to submit to our husbands.  It is a picture of His love relationship with the Church, not a curse on the Church.  

That sounds great, but what does that mean for us as wives? Do we have a say in marriage? Do our thoughts and points of view matter? Does it mean that our husbands control us and treat us without dignity? 

Wives have a lot to offer.  Women and men are both created in the image of God.  He has given women gifts, abilities, intelligence, insights and ideas. Some women have a lot of education, are well-read, informed and pretty sharp.   As helpers to our husbands, we bring all of this to our marriage relationship.  Discussions that include both husband and wife sharing their points of view is healthy.  

The trouble is when we come to a point of not being able to agree…which happens every now and then  

I am co-leading a mothering study this year called Entrusted with a Child’s Heart. Interestingly, in this week’s lesson the teacher Betsy Corning addresses this head on. 

She says, “If you come to a point where you just cannot agree, and your husband is not asking you to sin, then you are to yield your will to his…This is God’s perfect design.” 

My husband and I don’t always see things eye to eye, we have to talk it out.  I have some very strong opinions and thoughts.  Honestly, I usually think that I’m right and need to persuade him to think my way.  But ultimately, it comes down to intentionally trusting God.  After sharing all I have to say, and we cannot agree, then I must choose to trust God and yield my will to my husband’s…it is God’s design. We made a vow at our wedding that we would hold fast to God’s way of doing marriage, so that settles it.  

Please hear me on this.  Submitting to my husband is not something that comes naturally to me.  It is a process of intentionally trusting God.  It is sometimes work.  It is always a choice. It is following God’s way of moving forward, as one, in marriage. It is my way of obeying Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3…of respecting my husband and honoring God.   

My wife and I often quote a line we heard some time ago that goes something like this: “The man may be the head of the household.  But the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she pleases!”  

The first thing to settle if you’re serious about winning your husband to Christ is to submit.  The second way is to make sure you’re living the right way.

2. By chaste conduct. 

We see this in the last part of verse 1: “…that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” Sometimes words can get in the way, especially when a wife is coming on too strong spiritually.  Someone put it like this: “Unspoken acting is more powerful than unperformed speaking.”  It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”  The famous master of mime, Marcel Marceau, was once asked what the difference was between regular acting and pantomime: “In the case of a bad actor, the words are there even if the actor is no good.  But when a mime is not good, there is nothing left.  A mime must be very clear and very strong.

While the temptation may be to talk incessantly about spiritual matters because you long for your spouse to share your faith, it can come across as an irritation.  Proverbs 19:13 says, “And the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping.”  Proverbs 21:9: “It is better to live in a corner of a roof, then in a house with a contentious woman.”  

Verse 2 tells us that your husband is watching what you do even if he’s not listening to what you say: “When they observe your chaste conduct…”  The word “chaste” means pure and modest and is also used in Titus 2:5.  The word “observe” has the idea of being an eyewitness or of being a spectator at a sporting event.  Wives, when you’re living pure lives, your husband will notice (as long as their football team isn’t playing).

I want to be careful in my choice of words because we always have younger people in our services (which is a good thing).  Are you aware that the #1 genre of eBooks is erotica?  The pornography and erotic industry produces more net yearly revenue than Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Ebay, Yahoo and Netflix combined.  

Selling more than 100 million copies worldwide and translated into more than 52 languages, the bestselling trilogy 50 Shades of Grey, offers a counterfeit and satanic substitute to what a woman is truly longing for.  The reason I’m bringing this up is because a Hollywood movie based on this pornographic book is coming out on Valentine’s Day in 2015 and trailers have already appeared for it.

If statistics are accurate, 1 out of 5 Christian women have read it.  I haven’t read the book, nor will I, but I did just finish a Christian book written in response by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery called, Pulling Back the Shades.  

Unbelieving husbands can be won to Christ by the chaste conduct of their wives.  One man put it this way: “Women don’t accomplish chaste when reading 50 Shades of Grey anymore than a man accomplishes purity when he’s looking at pornography.”  

If you’ve delved into this dark stuff, there is hope and healing available for you.  Jesus Christ is the bondage breaker.  Worship Him with all that you have, treasuring Him as more important than any substitute for intimacy. 

3. By showing respect.

The NKJV uses the phrase, “accompanied by fear.”  This is better translated as “accompanied by respect. Since a husband’s primary need is for respect, when a wife gives it to him, she is following what God says and fulfilling what her man needs.  Check out Ephesians 5:33: “…let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  If you need some practical help in this regard, I highly recommend the book called Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs by Eggerichs.  I also recommend The Love Dare by Kendrick.  

Wives, you can win your husband to Christ by first, submitting to him.  Secondly, by your chaste conduct.  Thirdly, by showing respect to him; and fourthly, by your inner beauty.

4. By inner beauty. 

While there’s nothing wrong with looking nice, Christian women are called to cultivate the heart.  We see this in verse 3: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  The word “adornment” is the Greek word cosmos, from which we get cosmetics. 

I did some reading about how women dressed in the Roman Empire.  In Roman law, you were what you wore!  People would make judgments based upon how a person looked (that’s still the case today, isn’t it?).  The hallmark of a married woman was modesty while other women, especially prostitutes, would dress provocatively.  Over time, even married women started to dress immodestly.  And so Peter is calling on wives to not focus on the physical but to instead foster the spiritual.  By the way, as a favor to men, can I call on the women of this church to be careful how you dress?  

I like the New Living Translation here: “Be known for beauty that comes from within.”  That is so hard to do in a society that worships physical beauty.  People magazine’s Most Beautiful People issue is filled with airbrushed perfection.  I’m not saying that some of these “beautiful” people are not beautiful on the inside but it’s almost as if it doesn’t matter in our culture.  Many famous women emphasize the outward because they are empty inside.  Listen.  An outwardly beautiful woman who lacks inner beauty and character is actually ugly.  Proverbs 11:22: “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.”

I was pleased to see that there’s actually a new Barbie out called, “Normal Barbie.”  She has the proportions of an average woman and deals with acne, cellulite and stretch marks.

Peter says that the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is incorruptible and will not fade away, no matter what happens to one’s physical appearance.  There’s no Botox needed to keep this kind of beauty. The word “gentle” is one of the 9-fold Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) and literally means, “strength under control.” Jesus referred to Himself as gentle in Matthew 11:29.

And “quiet” refers to a wife not given to outbursts of wrath.  It means to be tranquil, not combative.  Peter says that these qualities are “very precious in the sight of God.”  God puts an extraordinary value on a woman who cultivates her inner life more than her outward appearance.  And that’s what ultimately will move an unbelieving husband to take steps towards faith in Christ.

So here’s a question to ponder: Where are you focusing your attention?  On the external or the internal?  And here’s a challenge: Spend as much time cultivating your inner life as you do cosmetically beautifying the outward.

5. By trusting God. 

Peter takes us next to the example of Sarah in verses 5-6: “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…”  The key here is that Sarah trusted God even as she submitted to her husband.  We know Sarah was a knockout.  Genesis 12:11 says that she was “a woman of beautiful countenance.”   But what set her apart was that she adorned herself inwardly and determined to follow Abraham’s God-given leadership, even when it didn’t make sense to her.

Some of you wives have been waiting a long time for your husband to get saved.  Don’t give up.  Keep on trusting God.  I read a quote this week that is very helpful: “Patience isn’t the ability to wait. It’s how you behave while waiting.”

6. By doing good. 

No matter what happens, God wants wives to be doers of good, not evil as the last part of verse 6 says: “…whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”  Again, a wife’s witness comes primarily through works, not words.  Proverbs 31:12: “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”  If you are a wife, are you committed to doing good things for your husband?  Proverbs 12:4: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.”


We’ve learned today that spouses are to serve one another.  Wives, you can work at winning your husbands to Christ…

  1. By being submissive.
  2. By chaste conduct.
  3. By showing respect.
  4. By inner beauty.
  5. By trusting God.
  6. By doing good.

I want to be clear that there are no guarantees that your husband will come to faith in Christ if you do these six things.  They’re more like principles to follow than a promise you can count on.  Some of you feel stuck.  You’ve been searching for that software that will somehow make your husband improve.  Others of you are wondering if God can fix your relationship.  Maybe you feel like your marriage is broken and there’s no hope.

It’s not bad to be broken.  God goes to work when we’re out of whack.  Are you willing to admit your brokenness before a holy God right now?  I like to remember that my response is my responsibility.  I can’t make my wife act a certain way and she can get me to either.  But I can take responsibility for me.  When He breaks us, it’s actually sweet, because then He starts putting us back together.  Will you turn to the Savior and cry out to Him for salvation if you’ve not yet been saved?   

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?