Order in Lawful Relationships

If Christ’s redeeming love can be manifest in a relationship that clearly reflects our fallen unreconciled estate (that is, presence of slavery in human society), how much more should he be glorified in a relationship established at the beginning of creation to reflect God’s image, and that also was designed to.be a vital testimony to the redemptive love of Christ.

Genesis 1:26-28 – Though each person shares the image of God, a more evident fullness of that image comes through as humanity exists in both male and female. God brings things into being simply by the word of his power. Human beings are made in his image with ability to propagate this image. One alone, however, cannot do it, but both Male and Female are required for the continuation of those creatures made in God’s image. It is not only each individual that reflects the divine image, thought each one does, but it is, in a larger sense the whole race that reflects his image. The propagation of that image in ever-extending ways depends on both man and woman.

Genesis 2:18 ff – The woman was created as someone “fit” for the man; He instinctively knew that he had feelings and aspirations for fellowship and joy that were somehow stifled in the “womanless” condition. When all the animals passed by Adam, his superiority to them and his “otherness” from them was manifest in the fact that he named them all, and his name for them is what they were called. None, however, were fit for him and he could sense that something else was needful for the completion of his creaturely happiness. From one of the parts of the man, a rib, God made the one fit for him. Adam then continued his task of naming all the living creatures. He gave three ways of identifying her. First he noted her intimate origin out of him sharing his nature, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Then he gave her a generic identification, “She shall be called ‘Woman’ because she was taken out of man.” And finally he gave her a specific name, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” The submission of the wife to the husband finds it origin in the order of creation, the purpose of her being created to be a “fit helper” for the man, and in Adam’s task of both identifying her and naming her.

Now in a fallen world, the purpose of this relationship must be fostered and its tensions must be minimized

A Wife’s submission  “In the same way,” means in deference to the example of Christ who found his chief comfort in committing himself to the one that judges justly. Though she must be submissive, a wife cannot look to her husband as her final source of comfort, purpose, or even protection. She must always be aware of the pervasive presence of the Lord God.

An unconverted husband  3:1; This probably was not uncommon in these churches, that the woman would be converted and the husband was unregenerate. Peter’s first concern, immediately after the command to be subject, is that the husband might be won to Christ by the wife’s conduct.

Without a Word by behavior, chaste and respectful-They will see that their new life in Christ has not made them haughty, arrogant, loud, independent, but has made them earnestly solicitous for the well-being of the husband. They do not nag or upbraid, or act in a repressive manner toward the husband, but work for his comfort. This is the epitome of the sometimes irrelevant, but here most applicable, aphorism, “What you do speaks so loud that I can not hear what you are saying.”.

Deportment in general

External adornment should not be more attractive than internal character. The Christian wives are not seeking to impress outsiders by impertinent and flashy attire, but are modest and appropriate—neither slovenly and unkempt, thus attracting attention in a negative way, nor gaudily embellished or seeking the attention of the roaming eye. They understand the appropriate use of clothes and adornment, and place ultimate value on the internal development of beauty. They know that God alone is beautiful and his excellence is ravishing so they seek to allow their beauty to be a reflection of the beauty of Christ. They have “tasted that the Lord is good.” They have put away the envy and slander of the old way of life, desire the pure milk of the Word of God, and adorn themselves with his truth. They are undisturbed by the difficulty of external events and are gripped by a gentle and quiet spirit.

The examples – Peter mentions as example of this kind of behavior “the holy women.” Sarah is his specific example. Three things characterized her life in all its vicissitudes. It was filled with great difficulties at times and made alarming by the inconsistent behavior of Abraham. Nevertheless she

Hoped in God – She did not look to Abraham ultimately, nor did she feel that she was at the mercy of the numerous pagans that surrounded their every move. God was her refuge and her very present help in time of trouble.

Submissive to husbands –Because Sarah hoped in God, then she could submit to her husband. This was her most powerful adornment, for in this she most clearly emulated the original orderly arrangement of her creation from the rib of the man. Abraham put her in some great difficulties, but her lively sense of the presence of God and of his jealousy for his own name and honor, and in order not to add increased confusion and fragmentation to her relation with Abraham, she submitted to him, followed his instruction and looked to God for intervention according to his covenant promises to Abraham.

Not afraid – Fear is dealt with in Scripture in many places. Luke 12, Jesus speaking, notes that even those that can kill the body we are not to fear, for our fear of God must render all other fears nothing by comparison. Paul wrote Timothy [ 2 T 1:7] that God had not given us the spirit of fear but of power and love, and self-control.” John wrote, concerning our facing the day of judgment that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Peter emphasized later in this chapter [3:14, 15] that even those we should have no fear even of those that aim to persecute us, but we are to set apart Christ in our hearts as holy and be ready to give an answer to any that asks  a reason for the hope that is in us. Even so, these women that might be in difficult circumstances, even frightening circumstance, should not be afraid but should hope, that is, place their confidence for the future, in God.

A Husband’s sensitivity

“In the same way,”  That is, he is writing to Christian husbands who should be aware of the divine purpose in marriage. Peter should be able to appeal to them on the basis of God’s having established this relationship and the provision of the woman to be a help fit for the needs of the man.and for their joint reflection of the divine image.

Understanding way – from the intention of the relation at creation  “Since she is a woman.” This is what Adam called her because she was taken out of man

Understanding the intention of her creation – A man must realize that if he is to be the most disciplined follower of Christ and give testimony to the goodness of God and fulfill his role as a vice-gerent of the earth, then he, by God’s design, needs the woman. The first man was convinced of it empirically in the unfallen state. The fall has brought difficulties in all relationships. Remembering the original intent of these relationships and the grace of God that granted them in the first place, is important for making them paths to true godliness.

Understanding that her role as a help also shows her dependence on leadership. The husband must have not only plans for the support of the family, but plans for the spiritual vitality of the atmosphere of the home. If he realizes God’s establishment of the family, particularly the husband-wife relationship, as a type of the church in its relation to Christ, then he will seek to be redemptive and self-giving in his posture toward his wife.

Equal in all that pertains to Salvation and eternal life – There is such an intrinsic connection between marriage and God’s redemptive purposes, that a failure to show honor to the wife as the weaker vessel [even as the church is the weaker vessel in its connection to Christ] results in the hindrance of prayer. One cannot be cold, supercilious, and uncaring toward his wife and at the same time have any true passion toward the gospel and its progress in the world.

Summing up the overall principle 8ff Peter now quotes Psalm 34 as a summary and as scriptural support for his admonitions since 2:13. No matter what sphere in which they live in the world, what status the world grants them, in the church as the redeemed of God they are to have the “same mind”, to have affection for one another, to have brotherly love, to be tenderhearted, and to be humble-minded. All of these spiritual virtues mirror the attitude that the Lord of glory had toward us as he came from heaven to gather those that the Father had given him to Himself by giving his life for his sheep. In the midst of reviling toward us, we must be intent on sharing a blessing with those that so revile. Had Christ not endured that, there would be no redemption.

Desire for life and good days – The Psalmist, and Peter, indicate that the desire for life here, for its joy, and the for the fullness of delight in a world created by our redeemer, is intrinsically good. God has made the world and all that is in it, and to embrace its legitimate joys as coming from the hand of a bountiful creator is a good and even worshipful thing.

Use of the tongue – This world, however, is so filled with perversity and with temptations to covetousness, ill-gotten gain, and false flattery, that one must guard the use of his tongue so as not to descend into the way of worldly wisdom. We must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

Pursuit of that which is good – We must always be aware that a multiplicity of evil things are before us every day. The world is filled with the celebration of anti-God values and seeks to lure all into its orbit. Satan prowls like a roaring lion with an appetite to devour us; our own flesh still operates with powerful and sometimes undetectable annoyances to corrupt even our most ardent purposes of right. Thus, while looking to do the will of God we must first be circumspect and “turn away from evil” in order to do good. Peace is not always our in the open, but we must seek it and pursue. We must really plan to do things to the glory of God and use our might to do it.

Realization of the omniscient justice of God – In all our relationships we must realize that the single audience to which we give our attention is the Lord. His eyes are on the righteous, that is to care for them and provide for them; He hears them when they pray, and so our mouth should be used for prayer and not for evil talk. Those that do evil find that the face of God, that is, God in all his wrathful glory, is against them. If God has designs of wrath for evil individuals, we need not fret over seeking any retaliation for ourselves. If he has designs of mercy for them, then they will soon be our believed brethren rescued from darkness in the same way that we were.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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