Now we are going to look at 1 Peter, from about 2:18 through 3:18.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
Here Peter explains to servants, which could also mean slaves, that they may end up suffering under the hands of their masters, and should take this suffering patiently, as this is commendable before God.
Peter then goes on to explain that as Jesus suffered, we also are called to suffer,
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “ Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
This echoes the words of Paul in Rom 8,
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
So as Jesus suffered for us, we also suffer.
Why do we suffer? So as not to impede the spread of the Gospel as 1 Cor 9:12 alludes to, of this righteous attitude:
If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we suffer all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
In this case Paul is referring to the apostles not taking money from the Corinthians, but supporting themselves, although they do have the right to receive support for teaching them. But Paul says he does not use this right, as he would rather suffer than to hinder the Gospel.
Which speaks to the fact that as Christians, we may see we have rights, because of what we know is right, but are not to demand our rights for the Gospel’s sake.
How does this work? Let’s look at slavery as an example:
While as Christians we may see that slavery itself is wrong, and other such things, that we are trying to preach the Gospel to those who may think such institutions are fine.
Will a master think well of Christianity if his Christian slave tried to explain to him he is asserting his right to be free, because slavery is evil? If all the other slaves are submissive and accept their lot as slaves, then it is the Christian slave who seems evil and rebellious to their master, who sees his own good as a ruler as “good”. And this will not make a sinful blind master who is lost receptive to the teachings of the Christians. As far as a slave-owner is concerned, slavery is right and accepted and “good”. In truth it is not, because it violates the 2nd most important commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. But the master’s view, as he owns slaves, is that this wrong is right, and this evil is good, at least for him. And so the only way to impress him that Christianity is good, is for a Christian slave to be good in his eyes, as good as or more impressive and superior to the non-Christian slaves. Then the master may think well of Christianity and be interested in learning more about Jesus Christ.
The first sin came about from the evil desire of one man to rule over another man, not treating his neighbor as he would want to be treated. This was the driving force through history of the development of many evil institutions, both against men and women, as was covered in the last 2 articles. And this was never God’s will, but rather God wanted rule over each human individually Himself, and this is seen in that He will in Heaven. But in giving people free will to choose good from evil, the most fundamental and first evil desire that man chose was to rule over other man, not treating her as he would have wanted to be treated. This basic assumption that it is ok for a man to rule over another man against his will, and dominate another man against the law of love, is the most primary sin, in which a man in pride thinks it is ok to do this.
For any man to let go of this pride, a man must humble his or her self before God, and admit their own sinful depravity, and accept God is the ruler of all. Which is what happens when a sinner is convicted of sin, acknowledges God’s sovereignty and judgment, and their need for a Savior. As such, it is completely putting the cart before the horse, and nigh near impossible, to have a lost person in a sin of ruling over his neighbor understand that God’s intent is rule over each person personally and directly, each obeying His law of love. Nor can he understand that in the coming world God Himself will be the only king, and have the only power, over any man, instead of men taking their own power by their own wills, and using it in the ultimate hypocrisy by treating any other man as they would not want to be treated.
And so, for the sake of the Gospel, the servant or slave is told it is commendable before God to suffer not only for their mistakes, but also even when they have done nothing wrong. Why? For the sake of the Gospel, and to impress their master. The only good a master understands is his own rule and authority and what is to his benefit, as he plays god ruling over other men. To him this is good, and to most of the world this was seen as good, and governments acknowledged the rule of man over man, not because of God, but because each and every man seeks to be like the Most High, and play god, having power over other man, not to have God’s will be done of love, but their own will to be done. In this all mankind is evil, and history shows man has been from the beginning.
And so the institutions in which we live were created by sinful man, and we are still in this world, though not of it. And to reach this world with the Gospel, we suffer by the hands of this world and the lost. Similar to how Jesus was crucified by the very people he died to try to save, under the rulers of this world, so also we suffer (or die) at the hands of the people we are trying to save. And nothing in our interactions with the lost is more important than trying to lead the lost to salvation in Jesus Christ. And so, like Jesus suffered, we also suffer. And so a servant or slave is instructed to even suffer, and to submit to his master, so that the master and the sinful world will see him as a good slave, and be impressed, so that they might be led to Christ. But at the same time, 1 Cor 7:21 says that if a man is a slave and has a chance to be free, that he should take it.
Also later in this book, Peter emphasizes that suffering for being a Christian, purely for that reason, is good, and suffering for doing good is good, and it is good to lead the lost to Christ, but to suffer for doing anything that impedes the way to Christ for the lost, or for committing sin, is bad.
Even if that bad thing is to meddle with the lost and their institutions of rule,
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Pet 4:12-19
And in this, was are to rejoice insomuch as we participate in the sufferings of Christ. For we are His body and we do His work, continuing it, which includes His suffering at the hands of an unjust world in the efforts of trying to save it and help it and heal it. As the church is His body, we do the same.
And so slaves are to be submissive to their masters, even patiently enduring suffering. Under the same principle of suffering for the sake of the Gospel, so as to lead people to Christ, wives are also given instructions:
In the same way, you wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste behavior in fear.
What does this mean? Well, first off, this is “in the same manner” as slaves are to patiently endure suffering, and Christ also endured suffering, so that people might be saved. Wives here are instructed to submit themselves to their own husbands, including even those who are “disobedient to the word”. What does this phrase mean?
The meaning is to be found in context, as earlier in this same letter in 1 Pet 2:8 this same term “disobedient to the word” is also used. Here is the section:
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 1 Pet 2
And so those who are “disobedient to the word” are the lost, the unsaved, the non-Christian. Here the reference is more to Jewish men, but in general the term refers to all men who stumble at Jesus Christ, and are disobedient to the particular word that “he who believes in Him will not be disappointed”, as the lost refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. The term refers to an unsaved husband. And so Christian women are instructed to submit themselves to their own husbands, whether they are Christian or not. The reason for this is so that even if they are unsaved, that they might be won to Christ by the behavior of their wives.
Referencing back to what submission is and is not, there is limitation on what a Christian wife has to submit to with an unsaved husband, same as with a Christian husband. First off, she should not sin, nor do anything that violates her conscience. She also has a right to and should serve God as He has gifted and called her. If she does not do this, then it is God she is disobeying. Included is that it is right for her to have equal authority over her husband’s body, as he has over hers, and she should not have to be violated or do things she is against in the bedroom. In fact, she is under the same marching orders as all Christians, and if a lost husband would restrict her, then she to obey God and not man, if it comes down to one or the other. She also retains the right to divorce if her husband is sexually immoral. For more detail on what submission is and is not please see here.
While keeping in mind that as a person she has many rights, and even instructions from God to her that she should do certain things which express those rights, or can do certain things which express those rights, the ultimate goal here is that through her submissive behavior she may win him to Christ. Which is contrasted with her trying to win him through words.
they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
Why does this read “without a word”? The point here is that behavior speaks louder than words, and her submissive behavior towards her husband is more likely to win him to Christ than anything she might say that has the aim of winning him to Christ. This phrase “without a word” seems to reflect the idea or assumption that women are likely to say words towards winning him to Christ, and that the husband will not find this as ideal, or at least some people take this verse that way.
Some people make the argument that this “without a word” references to 1 Cor 14:34-35 in which women are told to be silent in order to show submission in church, not so much to their husbands, but to all men. I have already covered that these verses are a gloss here in great detail. As these verses are a gloss, and were not in the original manuscript, they cannot be something that Peter was referencing to here in saying “without a word” (nor that God references to).
However, there is something that Peter may have been referencing to by saying “without a word”. This would be Gen 3:16. How Gen 3:16 actually originally read is covered in great detail here. When it is read with the understanding that the correct word is “teshuba” and not “teshuqa” in the place of the word “desire”, then it refers to a wife arguing and debating with her husband as one of the negative effects of the fall into sin. It reads, “your repetitive verbal answerings will be to your husband” in a figurative sense. Or it reads “your repetitive returnings will be to your husband” in a literal sense. This is the same word “teshuba” which is used in Job, in his long heated debate with his friends,
Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man! Job 34:36 (NIV)
“So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!” Job 21:34 (NIV)
And this also ties into some Proverbs in which a man is pointed out to have a problem with being annoyed at a wife he finds contentious or argumentative, likely in a verbal way with words.
And so if Peter is referencing to anything by “without a word”, then he was most likely referencing to the negative effects of the fall into sin as are listed in Gen 3:16, which includes that a wife has a tendency to be verbally argumentative with her husband. As such, Peter is here cautioning wives to not fail in a verbal attempt to win their husbands by setting themselves up for temptation to argue, but rather that a superior way altogether it to try to win their husbands by their behavior, not by their words.
as they observe your chaste behavior in fear.
The behavior that Peter wants wives to practice, so their husbands can observe, so they might be won to Christ, is “chaste behavior with fear”. The word here for “observe” implies “to view attentively”, and almost implies the sort of observance of one’s behavior that contains scrutiny. This is fitting to a situation of a Christian wife with a non-Christian husband, especially in that culture in which women were ruled over by their husbands and they had much legal authority over them.
The word for behavior is also translated as conversation, and means, “1) manner of life, conduct, behaviour, deportment” as in the Strong’s and Thayer’s.
The word for “chaste” here means, in the Strong’s and Thayer’s: “1) exciting reverence, venerable, sacred 2) pure a) pure from carnality, chaste, modest b) pure from every fault, immaculate c) clean”. So another way to put this is a “reverent and pure manner of life”.
The word above for “in” is “en” in Greek and it usually is translated as “in”.
The word here for “fear” is “phobos” and it is a noun form of the verb “phobeo”, both of which mean fear or reverence. It is used many times meaning fear of God, and in this is often translated as reverence or even respect. The noun and the verb are related in their meaning and usage.
Who is the wife meant to be in fear of? The same word for fear “phobos” as well as the same word for “behavior” are used earlier in this same letter in 1 Peter 1. Their usage here gives us the context that Peter used, and makes clear what he was referring to:
But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Pet 1
Who is meant to be feared here? It is God who is meant to be feared, and in this fear of God, people are to be holy in their behavior. This is very synonymous with Peter’s later instructions for wives to have “pure” or “chaste” behavior. And so when Peter later gives the instructions to wives, he is in fact referencing back to his earlier words in this same letter, which instruct all Christians to be holy in their behavior out of fear of God.
And so when Peter later says to wives, “as they observe your chaste behavior in fear” this has nothing to do with marriage or submission or being a women or wife, but rather is a rephrasing of the same instructions that Peter earlier gave to all Christians. Christian men and husbands are also told to have ‘holy behavior in fear’, but this is not in fear of men, but fear of God, and the same goes for Christian wives and women. And so the “chaste behavior in fear” that a non-Christian husband observes has nothing to do with him, or his will, or his standards, but is entirely determined by a Christian woman’s relationship with God and her fear of God. The fear referenced here is fear of God, not fear of her husband. She is not instructed here to fear her husband, nor to “reverence” or “respect” her husband, but rather this is the fear she has for God. And this is consistent with the rest of the Bible, as Jesus taught in Matt 5:28:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:
but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
And the same concept is in Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…“
And so the fear here of the wife is the fear of God, our Father, who judges, her knowing she was redeemed with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This is reverence and fear of God, not the husband.
In fact the only time in the New Testament in which “fear” of a husband is mentioned, is in Eph 5:33 in which husbands are told to love their wives as themselves in order for the wife to “phobeo” her husband, and in this usage refers to “respect”. That he must love her as himself in order for, so that, the wife will have respect for him, is a description of a cause and effect relationship. See the article here for more detail. Never at any point are wives told that they must respect their husbands, as respect is an estimation and esteem which is either sincere and real, or simply does not exist, and in order for a husband to have his wife have respect for him, he must love her. See this article also.
And so when this is all put together, it reads with this correct understanding:
In the same way (suffering to spread the Gospel) you wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word (non-Christian and lost), they may be won (to Christ) without a word (without any argument or opportunity for it) by the behavior (manner of life) of their wives, as they observe your chaste (holy) behavior (manner of life) in fear (of God).
Peter then continues in this instruction for wives,
Your adornment must not be merely external–plaiting the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, submitting themselves to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
Here Peter says that women should adorn themselves not with physical adornments for beauty, but rather with a gentle and quiet spirit, in the hidden person of the heart, which is precious in the sight of God. He says this is also how holy women of old adorned themselves, submitting themselves to their own husbands. And this is just as the example of Sarah, who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
What does this mean? Should wives address their husbands as “lord” or as “sir” as this is most closely equivalent to? Peter here is referencing not a summary of Sarah’s behavior, but rather is referencing a particular instance and story that is in the Bible. Gen 18:12 is the only time in which Sarah is recorded in the Bible to have called Abraham “lord”. So let’s read this particular specific story that Peter was referencing to, so we can understand what Peter meant in context:
And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My LORD, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetch a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. Gen 18:1-15
Did Sarah address Abraham as “lord”? No, she did not. She did not address Abraham as “lord” when she spoke to him. She addressed him as “lord” within herself, laughing within herself, and talking to herself. This is clearly demonstrated by her fear and denial of laughing, which the Lord calls her on. If she had said this or laughed outloud, she would not have tried to deny it, as the Lord was right there. And she would not have been afraid to have been confronted by the Lord with what she said within herself, if she had said this outloud, because her fear was because He knew her private unspoken thoughts, and this made her feel afraid. As such, in her fear, she lies to God, and in this does the wrong thing. And so God corrects her and restates that she in fact did laugh. But this laughter, and calling Abraham “lord” was done within herself.
As such the only recorded time (and it is the only one) in which Sarah calls Abraham “lord” is within herself, in her private thoughts and in her heart. The term “lord” as it is used here most closely equates to our understanding of the word “sir”. In her heart and thoughts, she called him “sir”, and in this showed her gentle and quiet spirit, and her submission of herself to him.
Prior to this, Abraham had told Sarah, in a rush, to make bread quickly, and then rushed away to get meat for the guests to eat. The Bible does not specify that Sarah actually did make the cakes, as they are not included in the list of what is set before the angels and the Lord to eat. But here Peter lets us know that Sarah did in fact do as Abraham had told her to do, and did make the cakes, and we can gather this because she called him “my lord” within herself. And any woman who had that kind of submissive attitude towards her husband, so as to call him “my lord” within herself, surely did make the cakes when he told her to in a rush. The situation was not that he asked her to politely, nor did he explain why, but he just told her what to do, gave an order in a rush, and then rushed away.
People back then were not so different than now, and it was slightly rude for him to tell her and not ask her to make the cakes, and not even spend the time to tell her why. And so his behavior was a little rude, and therefore a little unloving. But in the situation, his behavior was not based on any lack of love for her, or resentment towards her, but rather was just the hurried situation of God Himself had come to dinner unexpectedly, and so he was in a sincere and understandable hurry!
And so Sarah obeyed Abraham in what he told her to do, ordered her to do, even though he did not politely ask her to, or explain why because of time. And we know she did “obey” his “order” to make the cakes because within herself she called him “my lord”, so surely she did make the cakes, as Peter points out.
And at the end of the story, Sarah in fear tries to lie to the Lord, denying that she laughed at what He said He would do, giving her a son in her old age, because she is frightened, even terrified because He “read her mind!” and knew her thoughts inside of herself, in her mind and heart. She was not afraid because He overheard what she said outloud, but because he knew her private inner monologue. Eventually, Sarah admits she laughed that day, after her son is born, and she says,
“God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.” and as God commanded they named their son Isaac, which means “he laughs”. (Gen 21:6)
So let’s look at this part again with the intended contextual meaning included of the story referenced:
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, submitting themselves to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham (making him cakes when he was in a justified rush and slightly rude and unloving, not asking her but telling her, and not explaining a thing), (which we know she made the cakes because of her) calling him lord, (within herself to herself in her thoughts in her submissive gentle and quiet spirit) and you have become her children if you do what is right (being honest with God about what is on the inside) without being frightened (as Sarah was and lied) by any fear (terror or amazement that God knows what goes on in your thoughts and heart).
Wow! What an amazing way for God to make clear to Christian women that submission is about attitude and feelings and thoughts, and not just in doing what her husband wants her to do. Real submission of a wife to her husband is supposed to also include a loving and meek spirit about submission, with understanding, love, and affection for her husband, and ideally with acceptance inside that God wants her to submit to him. And so even if a wife submits herself on the outside, but not on the inside, this is a clear message that God knows your thoughts and feelings. And this also leads to the fact that if your thoughts and feelings are honest before God, and you know they are not right, a wife should know that God knows it too.
So Peter implies to wives, don’t be like Sarah and in terror that God knows your heart and try to lie to God about it. Rather, accept that God does know your heart, and be honest with God. And even ask God to work a miracle for you, like He did for Sarah and Abraham. Ask for Him to help you to change to have a meek and quiet spirit on the inside, in the hidden person of your heart, so you submit yourself to your husband, yourself both inside and outside, which is what God wants women to do.
And this is what God designed women to do naturally, in a world without sin, a woman was designed to naturally follow and submit to her own husband. Because of the sinful nature, it can be hard, and also because when a woman is ruled over, it leaves little room for her to develop submitting herself, but nevertheless, in any situation, God can work in a wife’s heart to help a wife submit to her own husband as God wants her to and originally designed for a woman to do in a marriage. And she should try to do her part that God has told her to do as best as she can, seeking God’s help outside and inside, regardless of if her husband does as God has told him to do, and regardless of if he is Christian or not. And her submitting to him, with a quiet and gentle spirit, can be very important in winning him to Christ.
While this is not the same sort of suffering that a slave might go through in submitting himself to his master, it can be difficult for a woman to submit herself to her husband, in submission to God, and she might also suffer in this difficulty. Especially in this case, in which non-Christian husbands are the main subject. In that time and place, men had legal authority over their wives, and in some ways the husband could do what he wanted to his wife, much like a master could with his slave. If she offended him in her obeying God, such as refusing to participate in idol worship, he might beat her, and he might even kill her, and she might have no recourse or little for whatever he did to her. And so she had to balance obeying God, with also trying to submit to a non-Christian husband. And so in specific this verse refers to a Christian wife potentially having to suffer at the hands of her non-Christian husband, regardless of submission. Non-Christian husbands are the target of her potentially having to suffer, in the same way that Christ suffered at the hands of the world, and that slaves may suffer at the hands of their masters. While this verse does imply that a woman may have some level of suffering just in submitting herself to her Christian husband, the great aspect of suffering “in the same manner” even if she does well is specifically referring to her having a non-Christian husband. This verse does not refer to her suffering “in the same manner” as Christ did under rulers, and slaves may under masters, because of a Christian husband, but rather only under a non-Christian husband.
At the time, women were generally legally owned by their husbands, with few limitations. That is not the case today in the United States and many other countries. In so much as a free woman has recourse under the law for mistreatment, and has rights like freedom of religion, the legal situation of a Christian woman today is different than that of a woman 2000 years ago. But this is not true everywhere.
(The following few paragraphs are a bit USA or other developed-country centric pertaining to laws.)
Some people try to say that this verse teaches that if a Christian wife is abused by her Christian husband, that she should endure suffering it. This is not what the Bible teaches, and that entire concept is in direct contradiction of Jesus’ direct instructions for any Christian on how to handle it if another Christian sins against you, as Jesus makes most clear in Matt 18:15-17:
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church.
Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
If a woman is abused by a Christian husband, she is not to suffer, but to address his sin. First she is to talk about it privately with him, then to bring 1-2 Christians with her and have them witness the case she makes to him. If he still will not repent, she is to take it to the church. If he won’t listen to the church, then she is to treat him as someone who is lost. (But regardless of this, if he is breaking the law of the land, she has every right before God to take him to court and take legal action against him, including in the case of abuse or domestic violence which is a crime.)
One of the most sad things that takes place today that I have beheld with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears, multiple times, is Christians who will refuse to serve as witnesses for a Christian wife who is being abused. These are people who believe that this verse in 1 Peter 3 means she should suffer abuse from a Christian husband, and she should do nothing about it, and they refuse to serve as witnesses for her, and will not confirm her correct case to an abusive Christian husband, even if they will admit that yes, they agree with her, this Christian man is abusive. But they refuse to serve as witnesses on her behalf to correct him, and disobey the clear words of Jesus Christ in Matt 18, choosing instead to follow doctrines of men forged out of a more fuzzy view of 1 Pet 3.
And even worse, I have seen and heard where a woman has not only been turned away by other Christians who refuse to serve as her witnesses, even agreeing a Christian man’s behavior is abusive, but also I have seen a church who refused to get involved to correct an abusive husband. Unknown, but it seemed likely this church also believed she should suffer her Christian husband’s sins against her, and would not obey Jesus to offer her recourse through the church. It is appalling.
But for any woman in such a situation, if she cannot follow Matthew 18 steps 2 and 3 because of the disobedience to Christ of the Christians or the church around her, then God understands, and so if she must skip steps 2 and 3, then do, and proceed directly to step 4, to treat such a man as a pagan. But regardless of this she may take him to court, and get whatever help is legally available to her, for domestic abuse or domestic violence. What is domestic violence and domestic abuse? Also See Here.
If he has committed a crime or violent crime, the law of the land dictates the prescribed action, as the Bible teaches in this same book of 1 Pet 2:13, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”.
And so in a case of a clear crime, which there is an ordinance against, such as violence, threats of harm, theft, kidnapping or false imprisonment, rape, etc. etc. etc. a Christian wife does not need to go privately, nor go with witnesses, nor go to the church, but should go directly to the police and courts and herself seek help for abused women in her area. (See here or also search online for Domestic Violence Counseling or Shelters in your state.)
As for correcting him privately, it is ultimately her choice to try this or not, but if she does she should have a plan in place for him to receive help in changing for if he repents, and there are many domestic violence programs available to help abusive men change, likely one in her area. But if he does not repent, then she should go straight to the police and courts.
Looking over what God instructs us, what Jesus instructs us to do, looking through all the verses in the Bible, this is what the Lord generally instructs a wife to do if she and her husband are both Christians and he is practicing domestic abuse or domestic violence. And if the wife is a Christian and her husband is a non-Christian and he practices the crime of domestic abuse or domestic violence, then she should also go to the police and courts, and seek help for herself as an abused woman and help for him as an abusive husband. Also See What Works Best According to Statistics Here.
In a Christian wife submitting herself to her husband, as God has to told her to do, there may be no picking and choosing between God’s instructions to her. She has also been told by God to follow Matt 18, and to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, which includes all the laws of the land that domestic abuse and domestic violence are crimes. If a Christian woman chooses to obey God in submitting herself to her husband, but refuses to obey God in submitting herself to the ordinances or laws in her land, and refuses to obey Jesus Christ in following Matt 18 which the Lord told all Christians to follow, then she is like a hypocrite, though she may have been one in ignorance. And if other Christians do not recognize this is correct, then they are also like hypocrites, though perhaps in ignorance. But if the church leaders and teachers do not recognize this is correct, then they are also like hypocrites, but as they are teachers, they will be judged more strictly by God for their ignorance, and in calling themselves teachers but teaching ignorance, for their doubled hypocrisy.
Moving on, We have already covered a long and intensive study on the next verse, which is copied below, excerpted from “Ephesians 5 Marriage Part 2 – Love Your Wife”.
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. 1 Peter 3:7
Looking at the Greek, and the context in which the words in this passage are used, it becomes clear that this is a powerful verse.
The word “dwell with” here is “synoikeo” which is only used here in the Bible. It is a compound of 2 words, “syn” and “oikeo”. If Peter had wanted to mean “live with” in a way that referred to just 2 people living together, he more likely would have used a term like “oikeo meta” which means “dwell with”, and is the very phrase used in 1 Cor 7:12-13 for a husband or wife dwelling with each other in some residence. But Peter uses an uncommon composite word, that is used only here in the Bible.
“Syn” is used as a prefix to describe people equally doing something together. For instance, “syn-odia” is “a company of travelers”, “synthapto” is “to bury together with” and “synistemi” is to “stand with”. These compositions all imply participants that are each equally part of some activity. The Greek prefix “syn” has the same meaning as the Latin prefix “co”. In English, we use terms like co-chair, co-pilot, co-author, or co-worker. In the verb form, we might say co-authoring, co-chairing, co-piloting, or co-working. In 1 Pet 3:7, “dwell with” would be more correctly translated “co-dwelling”.
The word knowledge here is “gnosis”, and in the New Testament its meaning in use is one of the knowledge of truth of God, Jesus Christ, salvation, and understanding of the Christian faith or religion. This is not just a general word for “knowledge”, as in “I have knowledge about cars”. If it were it would make sense that a more broad Greek word for knowledge would be used, “epignosis”, which is used more this way. But “gnosis” is used speaking of the deeper understanding of what is true and good in the Christian faith. The Strong’s reads:
1) knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding
a) the general knowledge of Christian religion
b) the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced
c) esp. of things lawful and unlawful for Christians
d) moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living
As such, husbands are instructed “co-dwelling with deep knowledge of the Christian religion and moral wisdom from such…”
The word here for “give” is only used here in the New Testament. Again, it is a unique composite word, “aponemo”. The word “apo” used as a prefix indicates “separation, liberation, cessation, departure… finishing and completion… refers to the pattern from which a copy is taken… or to him from whom the action proceeds”. (Thayer’s) The word “nomos” (-nemo) means “law” and is translated as such in every instance in the KJV (197x). It can refer to the Mosaic Law, or any rule or law. But in the context of the word “gnosis” above, referring to an understanding of the Christian faith and religion, the “law” referenced to here must be one of the Christian faith.
In the Thayer’s under “nomos” it says, ” 3. Of the Christian religion… the law demanding faith, Rom 3:27… the moral instruction given by Christ, esp. the precept concerning love, Gal 6:2…” What does Gal 6:12 say? “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
Gal 5:12 better defines this for us:
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
And note that in this letter something is pre-established in Gal 3 which says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Yet the only specifically “new commandment” Jesus gave is in harmony with this one, and is found in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
The Thayer’s defines the word “aponemos” based on extra-biblical usage in the works of Josephus and others, as meaning “(nemo to dispense a portion, to distribute), to assign, portion out” With a unique word that literally means “from-law”, which means “to assign, portion out” (Strong’s) the translation of “give” is not accurate. The word would better read “apportioning” or “apportion”.
What is being apportioned? The word here for “honor” is “time” and the Strong’s defines it as,
“1) a valuing by which the price is fixed a) of the price itself b) of the price paid or received for a person or thing bought or sold 2) honour which belongs or is shown to one a) of the honour which one has by reason of rank and state of office which he holds b) deference, reverence”
This is not the same word that Jesus uses for “honor thy father and they mother” (Matt 19:19) which is “timeo”, and it is also not the same word for “honor widows” (1 Tim 5:3). Nor is it the same word as “honor all men” or “honor the king” as is used in 1 Pet 2:17 which is earlier in this same book. “Timeo” denotes a meaning of “to estimate, fix the value a) for the value of something belonging to one’s self”. With “timeo” the value is estimated for something belonging to one’s self.
This is not the case with “time”. Rather, this word “time” is used again and again in a way that means a fixed value to God, a value fixed by God, as something which is valuable or worth something great, or honor to a rank or position (of value).
Peter uses this word earlier in the same letter in,
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” 1 Pet 1:7
“Unto you therefore which believe [he is] precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner” 1 Pet 2:7
And also in 2 Pet 1:17, “For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
This word “time” therefore refers to a value or price that God will set or has set on something.
It is the same word used twice in 1 Cor (6,7) repeated in “Ye are bought with a price“.
This price is not left to be determined by men, but has been determined by God.
Therefore, in 1 Pet 3:7 the word “honor” means an honor which reflects value, and the value of a price that has been fixed by God, not by men. It implies a set value God has put on someone, not the value a man puts on something that is his.
So far, the verse reads, “Likewise, ye husbands, co-dwell with deep knowledge of the Christian religion and moral wisdom from such, apportioning honor from value set by God…”
The word here for “unto the wife” is “gynaikeios”. Again, this word is only used here in the Bible.
It means, “of or belonging to a woman, feminine, female”. This word is an adjective, not a verb.
Again, the translation “unto the wife” is not accurate, as this word is referring to something which belongs to the woman or to the female. Nor does the word imply this belongs to the “wife” in particular, but rather implies this belongs to the “woman, feminine, female”.
The verse so far should read, “Likewise, ye husbands, co-dwelling with deep knowledge of the Christian religion and moral wisdom from such, apportioning the honor (from her value or price as set by God) belonging to the woman/female…”
The next phrase here is “as unto the weaker vessel”. The word here for “as” is “hos” which means “as, like, even as, etc”. There are no words contained in the Greek here to be translated “unto the”. The word for “weaker” is “asthenes” and it means weaker as it is spelled here for comparative use. The word here for “vessel” is “skeous”. This word is used one time with the same spelling in Luke 8:16 which reads, “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light.”
The same word “skeous” is used in 2 Cor 4:6
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
and in 2 Tim 2:20-21
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, [and] prepared unto every good work.” (Note: the word honour here is “time” in Greek, as above, both times.)
This meaning, this illustration, has the weight of how the Epistles use the word vessel when referring to Christians. Christians are vessels of God, as the Holy Spirit lives in us, and through God’s power we are enabled to do good works.
The same meaning is inherent in 1 Thes 4:3-6
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to aquire his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.”
In this verse on how men should go about acquiring a wife, she is called a “vessel”. This can have 2 references and meanings. The first is that as a Christian, she is a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and God’s power. The second, as brought out in another article, is the usage of the word vessel in referring to a body, as the husband is the head of the wife, the wife who is like his body. So here the reference is how the husband is to go about getting “his own body” to be the head of; without fornication, in sanctification and honor.
Back to 1 Pet 3:7, the same 2 meanings are inherent. The wife is a vessel of the Holy Spirit, empowered by God. At the same time she is the “weaker vessel”, which begs the question, weaker than what? A woman’s body generally is weaker than that of a man’s. And the repeated analogy in the Bible is that the wife is like the body, and the husband like the head of that body, in being one flesh. He is the head, and she is all of the other body parts, metaphorically. Nevertheless, in physical practicality, she has the weaker body. So this part should read “as a (weaker) vessel”.
The word for “heirs together” is “sygkleronomos” (also from the prefix syn-) and would better be translated as co-heirs. The emphasis is on an equality of sharing. This word is also used of the Gentiles, in Eph 3:6
“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel”.
The word here for “life” is “zoe”, which in context almost always refers to eternal life. The word for “that” is “eis” and would better read “so that” or “towards that”.
When this is all put together, the meaning should read as thus:
“Likewise, you husbands, co-dwell with deep knowledge (of the Christian religion and moral wisdom from such), apportioning the honor (from her value or price as set by God) belonging to the woman/female, as a (bodily weaker) vessel of the Holy Spirit and God’s power, and as being co-heirs of the grace of eternal life; so that your prayers will not be hindered”
The first thing to note is that the word here “likewise” is the same word used above starting off the verses aimed at wives. Which means that Peter is still on the same thought here. Slaves have suffering, Jesus suffered, likewise wives may suffer submitting herself a husband, and likewise husbands may suffer… in obeying God.
Here husbands are told by God to apportion the honor of the female that is set by God, as a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and an equal co-heir as a man to the grace of eternal life. In other words, a man has to recognize and treat a woman as an equal before God, equally human, and especially equal in all ways pertaining to the Christian faith and the Holy Spirit. Which includes the gifts of the Holy Spirit and her calling from God. And this includes that she is completely of equal value before God as he is, and God in no way considers her of inferior worth than a man, but she is worth just as much to God and is just as important as he is as a Christian, in all ways, like gifts and callings.
And so while a man may feel suffering from it, he is told that in Christ, he must treat his wife as his peer before God, or equal worth, and containing and meant to equally be an instrument of God’s power, being a vessel of the Holy Spirit and God’s power. He is told by God that in all ways as a Christian, he must honor her as a Christian with the exact same value he places upon a Christian man, and himself.
And in doing this, who is the man submitting to? He is submitting to God. And he may experience suffering in doing this, nevertheless this is what he is told to do by God. And this is very clear that he is told to do this by God, because if he does this, it is (also) so that his prayers will not be hindered. Which implies very clearly that if he does not do this, that his prayers will be hindered. And we pray to God, so the meaning here is clear that he told by God to do this, and is submitting himself to God.
And whether or not his wife is already a Christian, he is still to do this. Because it is implied in the larger context of this section that in doing this, and showing her the honor of the equality of men and women before God, and the female’s equal worth to God, and God’s equal love for them, and their potential equal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the potential gifts and calling that entails, even in the potential of treating a woman as an equal before God, and in her seeing the honor he apportions her even potentially for this if she is lost, all of this is implied to be a way for him to help lead her to Christ.
And in truth, as the other article linked above covered, a Christian man cannot love his wife as God wants him to without doing this, and in doing this he is loving her, and if not then he is not loving his wife. This is regardless of whether she is a Christian, or is lost. This seems to be the only place where a husband is not told to love his wife, where marriage is addressed and her submitting herself is mentioned. But actually, that is not the case, because in doing all of the above, this is a description of what a husband must do to love his wife.
In order to love her, he must show he apportions complete honor to her as his equal, as completely equal to him in God’s sight. He must also show he apportions honor to her as completely equal in her calling from God, and in the gifts the Holy Spirit has given her, as they are both vessels of the Holy Spirit and God’s power, and they have the same general purpose and calling from God, and in this they are in all ways equal before God and have equal potential to have a calling, have gifts from God, and to equally use them for God in His service. Neither one is more important to God than the other. This is not a feeling he necessarily must have, that he feels honor towards her, or thinks this is correct. Whether he feels it or not, he is told to DO this as an action, he is told by God to do the verb of apportioning honor to her, something that is expressed in his actions, and not just in words. He must DO the apportioning of honor to her. He also must DO the co-dwelling with his wife, living with her, with this knowledge and in this way, in which he DOES and SHOWS he apportions the honor (from her value or price as set by God) which belongs (is owned by) the woman/female, as a (bodily weaker) vessel (of the Holy Spirit and God’s power, gifts and callings), and as her being an (equal) co-heir of the grace of eternal life.
And it would make some sense that a husband might feel some suffering in having to apportion his wife this kind of honor, and co-dwell with her as his peer and equal before God. It would make some sense that a husband might feel suffering in doing God’s will in this, to treat her as he wants to be treated in the Lord and as a Christian, as an equal, as not inferior to himself, but having all the same worth and importance in God’s sight, and gifts and callings from God, as a vessel of the Holy Spirit.
And the reason this makes sense that he would feel suffering to do this is because this is exactly the same sort of problem that Adam had with Eve in Eden. Likely in envy and pride, and a desire to control her, he did not treat her as he would want to be treated, nor apportion her equal honor before God as himself, but lied to her about God’s words, to keep her from doing what God told her she could do, just because God told him he could not do this, trying to violate and interfere with her independent relationship with God and direct instructions from God to her. As Hosea 6:7 says,
“But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against Me.”
And every man since has had this as the most fundamental core of his sin nature. Every man since has had the iniquity of Adam visited upon him, the temptation to not see his wife as his equal, equally loved by God, of equal worth to God, and to acknowledge that God has an independent relationship with her. As a Christian, a wife may receive gifts of the Holy Spirit and a calling that is different from her husband’s, as she has her own personal relationship with God, and work to do for God, all independent of her husband’s control. This is the very thing that Peter most acutely wants men to do, is to apportion to her the honor that is due her as the female, the same honor of an independent relationship and instructions that God gave the first woman, which is exactly equal to that God gives a man. God wanted the man to do one thing, and the woman to do another thing, and instructed them differently. God had an independent relationship with both of them. But Adam apparently could not handle this, and tried to control her and interfere with her direct relationship with God, and Adam sinned in result. And because of his abuse of her trust by lying to her, in trying to interfere with her direct relationship with God, he set her up to be deceived by Satan, set her up to be tempted and to then tempt him, and she became in his transgression as a result. And ever since, a man has been visited with Adam’s iniquity, passed down to him, to interfere with his wife’s relationship with God, and to try to control her.
This is a temptation and spiritual bondage that Christian men must reject and not succumb to, even fighting this curse with spiritual warfare if they need to, in order to overcome this curse.
And that is because God has told husbands to co-dwell with her as an equal, and to apportion the honor to the wife that God has set upon her, as she is completely his equal before God, and as a Christian and as a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and all that entails.
And if husbands do not do this, their prayers will be hindered, meaning by God, as they would still be repeating instead of repenting of the original sin of Adam. And make no mistake that the original sin of Adam was not only a result from the evil desire to interfere with her relationship with God, lie to her about God’s words, to envy what God gave her, but most fundamentally was his attempt to try to control her and rule over her, treating her as if she was inferior and he was superior in God’s sight. And this was instead of telling her the truth of what God had told him, and not trying to control her with lies about what God had said, but rather to love her and in her free will respect her choice to follow him or not. Truly, God who loves the world perfectly and is Love, gives us all free will to choose.
“Likewise (even suffering), you husbands, co-dwell with deep knowledge (of the Christian religion and moral wisdom from such), apportioning the honor (from her value or price as set by God) belonging to the woman/female, as a (bodily weaker) vessel (of the Holy Spirit and God’s power), and as being (equal) co-heirs of the grace of eternal life; so that your prayers will not be hindered”
And if a man will not apportion his wife this honor that God gives her, his prayers will be hindered as the face of the Lord is turned away from those who do evil, as this chapter continues to explain:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
“Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
Truly, it is better to suffer for doing good than doing evil. For all humanity has suffered from doing evil, which started with one sin, and it would have been better for Adam to suffer with Eve being able to do something he could not do, and God having an independent relationship with her, independent gifts for her, and independent instructions given directly to her, than for the evil he did in sinning and then all he suffered as a result of his sin.
And so as a slave his master, and as Jesus suffered under the rulers of the world, a Christian husband may suffer under the hands of God in obeying God to treat his wife as a free equal in Christ with an independent relationship with God. And if he does not obey his Lord and King and Master, then whether it seems fair to him or not, his prayers to God will be hindered as his Lord turns His face away from him, His eyes not looking at him and His ears not listening to him.
If anyone finds the implications of this daunting, perhaps the people then did too, and this is why Peter said “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” above, as it’s actually a quote from Isaiah 8:
For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power
and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying,
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
“It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread.
He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
Bind up this testimony of warning and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples.
I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob.
I will put my trust in Him.
The truth is that the Bible always says a Christian wife is instructed to “submit herself”, and this instruction is given to her by God. A husband has no right to force a wife to obey God any more than she has a right to force him to obey God in any given way, as before God they are peers and equals as Christians. If a husband is trying to force her to submit, he is abusive. The Bible nowhere gives him any right to try to force her to submit to him, or rule over her, in fact this is specified as a negative consequence of the fall into sin. In him trying to force her to obey God, in this she only can submit herself to domination which IS abuse. God leaves her free to submit herself in obedience to Him, or to not, exactly as God does with a Christian man.
Christians or churches which refuse to serve as witnesses for an abused wife, take part in the husband’s abuse. Churches who refuse to get involved are in direct disobedience to God by ignoring Matt 18. Witnesses may not be under the same compulsion to get involved, as the Bible does not seem to tell people that they must act as witnesses.
But as for Christians who refuse to serve as witnesses: if they acknowledge his behavior is wrong or abusive, but decide to do nothing, then they help him force her to submit to him by refusing to help, so then they take part in his abuse of her. And they are also in direct disobedience to God, not loving her as themself, and not treating her as the would want to be treated, as she asks for help, and if they were asking for help, they would want to receive it. So they break the law of love, to love your neighbor as yourself, the second commandment of Jesus Christ.
But beyond this, they condone an idolater in their midst. Truly, a husband who tries to play god by dominating his wife is an idolater, caught in the sin of self-idolatry. This is the same as the covetousness of Adam, as her relationship with God was her own, and he tried to own it, and is why Col 3:5 states, “covetousness which is idolatry“. A man who believes he has a right to rule over his wife, which God never gave him, is a self-idolater. Though it may be in ignorance.
And those who condone this with him could also be male-idolaters, that in opposition to God’s will and God’s Word, are setting men as a creation above God the Creator: Who alone is Lord, Who alone gives a wife her orders, and freedom to obey Him or not, and Who never gave her husband any authority to force her to obey God, or try to stand between her and God Himself. But God did order him to co-dwell with her as an equal Christian. Though his self-idolatrous actions may be in ignorance.
So a Christian or a church who will not help her by following Matt 18 also disobeys what God says in 1 Cor 5:9-13,
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
“Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Why is it important for the church to practice Matthew 18 in these cases?
If an abused Christian woman whose Christian husband is sinning against her follows the steps in Matthew 18, and if the church agrees with her and rebukes him and he will not heed the church, then he is to be treated as an unbeliever, a pagan. He is to be regarded as an unbeliever and treated as one by the abused wife and the church. The Bible specifies that a Christian husband may not leave his wife, and that a Christian wife should not leave her husband. But if she does leave him she should remain single or go back to him. (1 Cor 7:10-11). In cases of domestic abuse or domestic violence, it is perfectly acceptable to God for a Christian woman to separate from her husband if such is needed for her well-being or safety (or that of the children). In fact, God Himself kicked Adam out of Eden after he had been mistreating his wife Eve, and allowed for her to stay in the Garden as long as she chose to, even for the rest of her life if she wanted, separated from Adam. And Adam was barred from going to Eve by a cherub with a flaming sword. In more modern terms, if a husband is being abusive, God is fine with a wife separating herself from him, even if she stays in the house and he is restrained from coming near the home, such as if she would get a restraining order. Understanding the context better from what happened in Eden in the first marriage, 1 Cor 7:11 is not God frowning upon a woman leaving her husband if there is real need, nor does her leaving mean she is a “bad Christian”, but rather God left Christian women this option knowing that in some cases there might be a real need for a Christian wife to separate from her husband. However, separation is not the same as divorce, and she must remain married-but-separated.
Today if Matthew 18 is followed by an abused Christian wife, and she gets the church involved, addressing the sin of a Christian husband who is abusing her, they should help, and there are many other options out there available to help. There are shelters to keep her (and children) safe, legal aid to get a restraining order, and programs for men to help them change their abusive behavior, there is counseling, anger management classes, and also once the woman is safe from being abused, there is marriage counseling. (Which for safety reasons must happen after she is safe from any potential retaliation, and his abusive behavior has been modified – in some states in the US marriage counseling is illegal in domestic abuse situations until requirements about her safety and changes in his abusive behavior have been met. It is also advisable that she be safe from retaliation before going to the step 2 in the Matthew 18 process.) With all of these options for help, it is possible for the abuse to stop and for a marriage to improve, heal, and continue.
But in cases in which an abusive Christian husband will not repent of sinning against his wife, the Bible-following church may declare him to be treated as an unbeliever, as per Matthew 18. In these cases, a Christian wife, whether separated from him or not, she may not divorce him (1 Cor 7:13). But whether she is living with him, or if she refuses to live with him and remains separated, if he will not repent, and the church has declared him to be treated as an unbeliever through the Matthew 18 process, then if this unbeliever husband divorces her, she is not bound in such a case (1 Cor 7:15). Again, if a Christian husband has been declared to be treated as an unbeliever by the church per the Matthew 18 process, and he divorces his wife, she is not bound in such a case. She is rightfully divorced in such a case, and so is free to remarry, as per God’s Word (1 Cor 7:27-28). So if she does remarry, she does not commit adultery, nor does her second husband commit adultery. By God’s Word in 1 Cor 7:15, in such a case it is not just a man putting asunder what God has joined together, but rather by God’s Word, it is God who validates this as a divorce. God, our loving Father, has made provision in His Word for Christian women who are abused by their husbands to receive help, and have hope.