There it is, plain as day: “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” I Peter 3:5&6 (TNIV). I guess Julie had better start calling me lord, huh? I’ll settle for “your highness.”
Or, maybe not.
This verse has been a favorite club with which the complementarian can browbeat the egalitarian. I read it and I think, “Tell me it ain’t so, Joe.”
In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In exegesis, it’s context, context, context. This section, I Peter 3:1-7, starts with “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands…” (TNIV). In the same way as what? Clearly, in the same way as Peter discusses submission at the end of Chapter 2.
Chapter 2:13-25 is about submission to rulers and other leaders. It talks about kings, governors and slave owners and, in Chapter 3, husbands. It’s important to note how Peter describes this submission. It is “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men…” Peter is talking about obeying the law of the land. This is not divine law. It’s not the Law of Moses. Husbands are here lumped in with kings and slave owners. That’s pretty consistent with history, eh?
I Peter 2:16&17 is also important when interpreting this passage of Scripture. It reads, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (TNIV) To my reading, this is Peter saying to submit ourselves to each other.
When Peter talks about obeying husbands as the local laws may require, he makes two comments about husbands. The reason to submit is if the husband is unsaved. The hope is that the unsaved husband will find Christ because of his wife’s actions and attitude. I actually know of a case where this happened. It took the Spirit decades. What a Christian woman! Christian husbands are told, in verse 7, to be considerate and respectful of their wives. The key word, for this discussion, is “respectful.” They are to respect their wives because of their weakness under human law and because the two of them are both “heirs… of the gracious gift of life.” That is, because they are equal heirs of life from God.
Zowie! Peter was an egalitarian after all.