How should we Live (Part 2)
© C. O. Bishop
1st Peter 3:1-12; Ephesians 5: 21-33; Colossians 3:18-23; 1st Corinthians 13:4-8
In studying through 1st Peter, we happened to read a cross-reference in 2nd Peter 3:11, asking the question, “…what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and Godliness?”
That is the implied question all the way through 1st Peter as well: “How should we then live?” If my position has been established in Christ, by Grace, through faith, so that I now have a perfect and secure standing before God, how should I live in response to that fact?
Part of that answer has already been addressed in previous studies, including the general command that we “Love one another” with the Agape Love, and the command to maintain the God-ordained Unity of the Spirit, and to conduct ourselves in such a way as to be seen “shining as lights in a dark world,” and “holding forth the Word of Truth.”
But in 1st Peter 3:1-12, the Lord becomes quite specific, addressing husband-wife relationships. This has become an uncomfortable topic in our culture, as militant feminism as well as secular humanism have deliberately sought to undermine the gift of marriage, and to destroy the relationships between men and women at large, and husbands and wives in particular. Our marriages are supposed to be a testimony of God’s Grace, too: not a battlefield or a contest of wills. There are other places where God speaks to this issue as well, so, rather than just speak from 1st Peter, we are going to also look at Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-23, and a few others. As we read through all of these passages, I ask that you read the scripture as “looking in a mirror:” As James says, we are to see ourselves (not our spouse) and see what needs changing in our own lives, not that of our spouse. I mean this very seriously: look to God to see a change in your own life, not someone else!
What Does the Scripture say?
1st Peter 3:1-12
1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. 8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Colossians 3:13-17, 18-23
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
The Real Root of the “Problem”
You see, the verses we have been reading are all addressing the solution to a problem which never should have existed: Humans were created as a team, male and female, with no “built-in conflict:” there was no “War between the sexes,” as it is commonly called today. We read in the Bible Study on Genesis that the woman was not present when the command was given to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: She had not yet been created. So, two things were clear: Adam was the one given the command, and responsibility for the entire race, as he was the head of the race, since ALL subsequent humans, including Eve, came from him. Adam’s failure was the only one which could affect the entire human race.
The woman was selected by the Enemy as the “weak link” because she had not been there to hear the command, and (possibly) because she had received a garbled version of it from her husband. (We don’t know whether she misquoted what she had been told correctly, or correctly quoted what she had been wrongly told.) She was deceived, having been attacked on three fronts: the same three which were used by the same enemy to test the Lord, in the desert, and, the same which he uses against us today:
- The lust of the eye,
- The lust of the flesh, and
- The pride of life.
We see these three areas of temptation clearly spelled out in 1st John 2:15-17. We have all been deceived in each of those areas, ourselves, also, so beware that you do not level any accusations against Eve, or against women in general. Satan finds all of us an easy target, too! It is instructive, however, to take note of how Jesus averted such an attack: He used the Written Word, correctly quoted, and in the appropriate context.
Next, we saw that until the Man ate the fruit, nothing happened: the woman, being deceived, ate the fruit: her husband was right there with her and evidently said nothing! But when he ate, judgment fell upon the entire human race! At that moment, of course, there were only two individuals, but, as we read further, we find that all their progeny would also be under the same curse.
And, part of that curse involved the relationship between men and women, specifically husbands and wives, but it seems to affect the entire race, with or without marriage. Take note, too, that Marriage was one of the few gifts God managed to give to the human race before sin entered the world. Marriage is absolutely ordained by God, and it has His eternal blessing. We will see a specific reason for that as we study Ephesians 5:32.
One effect of the curse was that the woman would no longer be in a peaceful team-relationship with her husband, but would desire to control him. The passage that says “Your desire shall be toward your husband and he shall rule over you” sums it up: the word “desire” in that passage is translated from the Hebrew word “teshuqah,” which is only used three times in scripture, two of them in Genesis. The other one in Genesis is where God warned Cain that if he did not choose to do right, then sin would crouch at the door, and its desire would be for him, but that he, Cain, must master it. The type of “desire” indicated is the desire to possess and control, not a loving desire, but a desire to dominate.
And, unfortunately, the other half of that “couplet” is that while the woman desires to control the man, he ends up in a position of rulership anyway. Both of these ideas are part of the curse! Neither the “desire to control” nor the “ruling” aspect of the relationship were there before they fell into sin. Sin has distorted and corrupted the marriage relationship, as well as the relationship between men and women as a whole, and, in fact, all human relationships. We cannot hope to teach all that is available on this topic in one sermon, so I will break it into two or more. There are scores of books written on the subject and I do not intend to repeat all that they have to say.
The Result of God’s Solution
So, here we are, 2000 years after The Cross: beginning the 21st Century! And the curse is still in effect…more than six thousand years of misery on Earth because of sin! Peace has never lasted long, because the hearts of humans are still corrupt. God said, in Genesis 8:21, “The imagination of Man’s heart is evil from his youth.” And, Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked!” So, what has God’s solution for sin been the whole time? Remember? Jesus is “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B!” So the Blood of Jesus at the Cross was the cure for the spiritual death we had as our inheritance from Adam. But even with that salvation from death, we have the root of our sin still present, so we bear grudges against one another, and envy one another, and squabble and fight, just as if we had never known the Lord! That is not the result of God’s solution to sin! That is simply the result of our continuing in sin!
The result of God’s solution is that I actually have a new nature now: I do not have to sin! Romans 6 makes it very clear that when I sin, I choose to sin! So, in spite of my sin nature, I am actually free to serve God…provided that I choose to submit myself to His authority and His Love, and that heed His call to walk in His steps. He is perfect, and never makes mistakes. He loves me unconditionally, even though I constantly fail.
So, I ask myself…”Am I free to Love my wife unconditionally, in the same manner as Jesus loves me?” Yes! I happen to be blessed to have a wife who makes it very easy to offer her that unconditional love, but; even if that is not the case, each believer is free to obey God. A woman married to a marvelous man of God, who loves her constantly and provides for her needs in every way finds it very easy to follow his lead in their relationship, because he also listens to her and values her opinion and judgment. But if that were not the case, does God give her the freedom to obey the Lord in subjecting herself to a husband who is not very kind, or loving, and not caring for her needs? The answer is still “Yes!”
The scriptures we are reading use employees and employers as examples, as well: So, I ask, “Can I do good work for a bad boss?” I have certainly done so, for most of my working life: I have only had a handful of really good supervisors, and they were a joy to work for. But a bad manager or supervisor, while they made me long to be free from their tyranny and backstabbing, and politics, etc, did not change the fact that I was free to honor God by doing good work!
The same goes for the marriage relationship: we are free to be blessed by God by faithfully carrying out His will toward our spouse, regardless of the circumstances. Does he promise it will be easy? Absolutely not!
So, as we begin to look at the specifics of God’s plan for marriage, keep at least these two things in mind:
- Point the “mirror” of God’s Word at yourself, and,
- God offers you the power and ability to do His will, as well as the will to do it. (Philippians 2:13) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
The Realities of the Relationship
The reality is that we are all saved sinners, still capable of being “difficult to deal with.” So the Lord has given rules that are to govern relationships between believers and our marriage relationships as well:
- The Agape love is the overarching “law of Christ.” “Love one another as I have loved you!” We see what that looks like in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. As we read that passage,we see that not a single one of the fifteen words or phrases used to define that love have anything to do with feelings: they are all action words. Every one of them describes actions or behavior patterns, designed to reach to someone else with God’s best for them, without regard to how it affects the person doing the loving.
- Not envious,
- Not proud,
- Not arrogant,
- Not behaving in an “unseemly manner”
- Not self-centered,
- Not easily stirred to anger,
- Thinketh no evil (not taking into account a wrong suffered.)
- Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth,
- Bears all things,
- Believes all things,
- Hopes all things,
- Endures all things
- Love never fails.
- “Mutual submission to needs and demands in the relationship” are part of that Agape Love. (Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”)
- Then a “hierarchy of submission” begins to unfold. This is not a “chain of command,” as in a military organization: every single believer has full access to the Head, who is Jesus himself. Those under your “authority,” such as it is, can always “go over your head” to God. Never lose sight of the fact that, regardless of how much or how little authority is vested in you among humans, God is still the ultimate authority, and you will be answering to His justice, in the end.
- “Forbearing One Another in Love” is another part of that “Agape love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
- Forbearing one another in Love means “putting up with” one another’s failings and foibles, and appreciating them for who they are, being grateful for God’s Grace in one another’s lives. It means not constantly demanding more, and demanding changes in the other person, but accepting them as they are, and loving them unconditionally, as they are, allowing God to work in their life.
- Marriage is supposed to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church, (Ephesians 5:32) which makes it a profoundly important relationship.
Next week, we will begin looking at the specifics of the marriage relationship and how it is supposed to work.
Lord Jesus, we ask that you change our hearts and teach us to love one another unconditionally, not judging one another, or criticizing one another, but blessing each other through your Love. Make us the men and women of God you have chosen us to be, to bring glory to yourself.