What’s an Exile to Do? Husbands, Live a Holy Married Life

Posted by R. Fowler White

The Apostle Peter continues to exhort us Christian exiles from his “Survival Manual” as he works his way through God’s marriage ordinance in 1 Pet 3:1-7. Having addressed Christian wives (many with non-Christian husbands) in 3:1-6, Peter moves on to address briefly Christian husbands married to a Christian wife in 3:7. While still endorsing the household as “the center that shaped the world” with the husband’s place as one of head-stewardship (from which authority derives) and the wife’s place as one of submission, Peter takes on his culture’s expectation that a husband should both sympathize with and marginalize his wife. To husbands, then, the Apostle declares, “Live together with your wife, as I do my own (1 Cor 9:5), knowing and honoring her as both different from you and equal with you (3:7a). Here’s what I mean.”

“First, know and honor her as the weaker vessel (3:7b). No, it’s not what the ancient philosophers were thinking: she’s not intellectually, psychologically, and morally inferior to you. We did just mention the history of Sarah and Abraham (3:6), right? Sarah makes my point. We know the history of creation too. We read there that, as vessels fashioned by the Divine Craftsman-Physician (Gen 2:7, 22), both husband and wife have creaturely weakness, but her vulnerability as the female differs from yours. She’s weaker in that she’s ordinarily physically and maybe socioeconomically more vulnerable than you. But even those vulnerabilities aren’t where she’s most at risk. No, most importantly, she’s spiritually more vulnerable than you, husband. Again, we do know the history of the fall (cf. 1 Pet 5:8-9; Gen 3:1-13) and the pre-flood world (cf. 1 Pet 3:20; cf. 2 Pet 2:5; 3:4-6; Gen 5:28–6:12), don’t we? Because we do, we need to remain alert to the continuing threat that the devil poses in this world. His tactic is still what it was in the beginning: to go after the wife first to get to the husband himself. So, gents, reckon with the fact that your wife—your ally and companion in marriage—is a high-value, priority target, not a mere collateral casualty, in the devil’s war plan. Mindful of that reality, be vigilant in your resistance to his tactic, shoring her up with spiritual resources and remembering that, whatever the devil’s strength or your wife’s weakness, God’s omnipotence is able to overrule them both (5:6-7). Live together with your wife, then, knowing and honoring her as more vulnerable than you.”

“Second,” the Apostle says to husbands, “know and honor your wife, not just as different from you, but as equal with you: she’s an heir with you of the grace of life (3:7c), as Sarah was with Abraham. Together, you’re destined to inherit the resurrection life to come (1:3). Esteem her highly, then, in the way you think about her, talk to her, and act toward her. Like you, she’s one of God’s children. She has all the promises, liberties, and privileges of those born of Him (1:23). Like you, she’s under God’s fatherly care and bears His name. She has the Spirit of Christ and is a co-heir with Christ in glory. So, know and honor your wife as equal with you: yes, she’s submitted herself to you, but she’s submitted herself to Christ first as you have, and you’re both destined for eternal glory in Him (5:10).”

“One last thing,” Peter says: “don’t forget that your conduct toward your wife affects your own communion with God (3:7d). Husbands, if you’ve ever sensed that God’s not listening to your prayers, examine your relationship with your wife. You live together with your wife before your Lord, and He inspects the way you live even your married life. His face has always been set against those who do evil, whether Christians or non-Christians (3:12c). The ears of your Lord are open to your prayers (3:7d, 12b) that you might break any abusive patterns of speaking evil and doing evil in which you’re involved (cf. 3:10-11). So, husbands, know and honor your wife for all that she is. And never forget that you’re accountable to God for your words and deeds toward her.”

As God’s exiles, the Apostle commands Christian husbands to live lives of moral excellence. One of a husband’s duties is to respect God’s marriage ordinance by stepping forward to take his place responsibly within it. The reason for this is that, for Peter, the household is the basic unit of an ordered Christian life, and that a husband’s place in the household is one of head-stewardship, while a wife’s place is one of submission. Yet, once more, in issuing this directive, the Apostle makes it clear that he’s not just parroting and endorsing the marriage and family values of the ancient world. As his handling of God’s ordinances of civil government and labor (2:13-20) makes clear, he has a larger agenda. It’s an agenda in which we Christians are to be conformed to the example of Christ (2:21-25), following His path of obedience from suffering to glory, as we take our places within God’s ordinances. With specific reference to marriage, then, Peter again engages critically with his culture’s expectations, and the result is a reformation of conventional conceptions of a husband’s authority. While he continues to affirm that the positions of husband and wife are not interchangeable, he frames the husband’s authority within limits defined first by his obedience to God and the example of Christ. Clearly, his commands give a husband no right to adopt authoritarian dispositions and behaviors that marginalize or otherwise abuse his wife. A husband has a stewardship (responsibilities) to God and to his wife that he is not to abdicate; he has gifts and graces the benefits of which he is not to deny to her (or the church). Thus, a husband who’s a bully or a wimp before his wife will find no place in a rightly ordered Christian marriage. Rather, says Peter, “husbands, live together with your wife, knowing and honoring her as both different from you and equal with you. And don’t forget: doing the good that God requires of you in marriage will illustrate the holiness that He expects in every aspect of your life.”[i]

[i] The commentary by Joel B. Green, 1 Peter, The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2007) was most helpful in developing this post.

What’s an Exile to Do? Wives, Live a Holy Married Life

Posted by R. Fowler White

The exhortations in Peter’s “Survival Manual for Christian Exiles” just keep coming. He began by exhorting us, as the New Israel, to live lives of moral excellence among our Gentile hosts (2:11-12). He then walked us from the public civic sphere into the private household sphere, and in each he’s emphasized the Christian’s fundamental duty: “Live your life,” he says, “as freed servants of God for His sake and His favor” (2:12, 13, 16, 19-20). Consistently, his message has been “respect God’s ordinances and take responsibly your places within them to commend to others the ultimate lordship of Christ and our accountability to Him.” Having shown how our duty to “honor everyone” (2:17) is worked out in the ordinances of civil government (2:13-17) and of labor (2:18-20), he now shows us how it’s worked out in the ordinance of marriage (3:1-7). Stressing the parallels (likewise, 2:18; 3:1; 3:7) with our duties within God’s other ordinances and with Christ’s example, Peter calls on spouses to take their proper places within marriage. For perspective on this relationship—and especially since the Apostle’s commands offend many today, we need to appreciate the husband-wife relationship in Peter’s first-century Greco-Roman world.

Looking at the Greco-Roman view of husband and wife, it’s remarkable to see the extent to which the ancient world did and did not share the Apostle’s outlook. For example, students of Roman antiquity have found evidence from the early empire of the husband’s compassion for his wife alongside his children and slaves. Evidence has also been found of expanding roles for women in the affairs of the ancient household and in the public sphere, expanding roles tied to the rising status of men. Social change notwithstanding, the household remained the basic unit that ordered life within the empire: with places for everyone and everyone in their places, it was “the center that shaped the world.” Within the household, the husband’s place was one of head-stewardship (from which authority derived) and the wife’s place was one of submission (subordination), and one of her duties was to adopt her husband’s religion. Given this background and Peter’s specific interests in household relationships (2:18–3:7) and in social conduct in general (1:13–2:17), we have to ask: did the Apostle simply adopt and promote the marriage and family values of the Greco-Roman world? Or did he engage critically with them? The contexts preceding 3:1-7 make it clear that Peter has been engaging critically with or even undermining the values of his age. So, what can we say about his handling of the marriage ordinance?

The Apostle turns first to Christian wives (3:1-6), and he commands them: be subject to your own husband—submit yourself to him, step forward and take your place responsibly under himeven if he’s not a Christian (3:1). Yes, God declares through Christ’s Apostles that it’s wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian, but what’s a wife’s duty when she becomes a Christian and her husband doesn’t? While affirming the wife’s position under her husband, her conversion to Christ was a wildcard that might complicate the marriage and the household. Pointedly, Peter addresses his culture’s expectation that the wife will follow her husband’s religion by instructing her how she might win her unbelieving husband to Christ. Engaging critically with the family values of his world, the Apostle’s instruction to wives is this: “the submission required of you is first to our God in Christ and then to your husband.” In other words, a wife’s subjection to her husband is always defined first by her obedience to God and by the example of Christ. In this light, Peter goes on to say, “wives, let your husband see that you’re holy and reverent before our God, that you’re pure and respectful before him (3:2; Peter’s words can have both meanings). Furthermore, don’t enhance your beauty with the latest inappropriate outer finery that’s prized by society, as even the ancient philosophers teach (3:3). Instead, adorn yourselves, as only Scripture teaches, with the lasting Christlike inner beauty that’s precious to God (3:4). Beautify yourselves as did the holy wives of long ago who put their hope in God: they submitted themselves to their own husbands (3:5). Example: be like ‘Lady Sarah.’ She entrusted herself to God as she submitted herself to her husband, ‘Lord Abraham,’ even when his acts of fear-filled duplicity put her and their offspring in jeopardy (3:6a). Ladies, beautified as Sarah was, you’ll be nothing less than her daughters: courageously confident in your God and submitted to your own husbands (3:6b), commending to them Christ’s lordship and their accountability to Him.”

As God’s exiles, the Apostle Peter commands Christian wives to live a life of moral excellence. One of a wife’s duties is to respect His marriage ordinance by coming forward to take her place responsibly within it. This is the case because, for Peter, the household is the basic unit of an ordered Christian life, and a wife’s place in the household is one of submission while a husband’s place is one of head-stewardship. Yet in issuing his instructions, the Apostle makes it clear that he’s not simply adopting and promoting the marriage and family values of the ancient world. No, as his handling of God’s ordinances of civil government and labor (2:11ff.) shows us, his bigger agenda is to see us conformed to the example of Christ, following His path of obedience from suffering to glory, as we take our places within God’s ordinances. With specific reference to marriage, Peter takes exception to his contemporaries’ expectations, and the result is a reformation of conventional conceptions of a wife’s submission. Yes, he continues to affirm that the wife’s position is not interchangeable with her husband’s position, but he frames the wife’s submission within limits defined first by her obedience to God and the example of Christ. Clearly, his commands give a wife no excuse to adopt servile dispositions and behaviors that yield a withdrawn or blind submission to her husband. A wife has responsibilities to God and to her husband that she is not to abdicate; she has gifts and graces the benefits of which she is not to deny to him (or the church). To sharpen the point, a wife who’s a rival or a doormat before her husband will find no place in a rightly ordered Christian marriage. Rather, says the Apostle, “wives, be like Sarah: entrust yourself to God as you submit yourself to your husband. And keep this in mind: doing the good that God requires of you in marriage will typify the holiness that He expects in every aspect of your life.”[i]

Having addressed Christian wives, Peter will move on to address briefly Christian husbands married to a Christian wife. We’ll take up that topic in the next post.

[i] One commentary that was particularly helpful to me on this passage was that of Joel B. Green, 1 Peter, The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2007).

The Silencing of Naysayers

Hugh McCann linked to an interesting article on what is happening in Kentucky over the gay marriage decision. It apparently didn’t take long for some in the LGBT community deliberately to target Christians for what they believe. The ACLU’s response to the excellent argumentation in favor of Kim Davis’s position is that no one should be held to a different standard, now that gay marriage is the law of the land. Let’s test that response on a different law.

If abortion becoming legal is the law of the land, then should all naysayers against abortion be silenced? Are we requiring people to agree with laws nowadays? There are hundreds, if not thousands of laws that I would disagree with (if I even knew what half of them were: the federal law-code is ridiculously verbose) in this nation. No one has ever tried to silence completely the naysayers against abortion. That was because it was recognized that this is still a matter of free speech.

We need to remember an important distinction in the matter of law: if there is a ruling on the books that homosexuals may get married, then that means that the state cannot prosecute homosexuals who get a marriage license. That ruling cannot be made into a bludgeon to silence all dissent. If agreement with the ruling is the interpretation that the court goes with in the Kentucky case, then the court will make a fundamental error regarding what the law of the land is supposed to do.

Let’s take another example, one less controversial. If I disagree with a speed limit in a particular place, am I required verbally to agree that the speed limit in that zone should be what it is? In the case of a speed limit, the answer is no. I don’t have to agree that this is a good speed limit. But if I speed, then I make myself liable to the law. In the case of SSM, of course, there may quite conceivably come soon a time when we Christians are going to have to disobey laws of the land, because they contradict what God has commanded in His Word.

The ACLU might come back with this argument: “Ah, but Kim Davis is a government employee, and therefore she is required to uphold the law of the land.” To this, the response is quite simple, and two-fold: 1. Although it is now legal in the US to get a marriage license, that is not the same thing as saying that everyone is required to agree with it. 2. Government employees are not required to agree with the law regarding abortion in order to hold a public office. Why should they be required to agree with the SSM ruling in order to hold office? By their argument, the four justices who wrote dissents cannot be allowed to keep their office. If one reads the article, it becomes clear that the lawsuit had nothing to do with a gay couple being unable to get a licence in Kentucky. There were many other options available to them. The application for a marriage license was only sent Kim Davis’s way AFTER they learned of her stance on gay marriage. This is deliberate targeting. The ACLU argument is very weak indeed.

What Are You Willing to Give Up?

Today’s Supreme Court ruling federally legalizes same-sex “marriage.” It seems obvious to me that we need to prepare our people for persecution, while simultaneously preparing them to speak lovingly, yet truthfully, to the LGBT community. This will not be an easy road. What are we willing to give up? For this decision constitutes America’s attempt to re-define God’s own creation ordinance. This will have massive ramifications that we can only barely glimpse at the moment.

The somewhat provocative title of this post should not be seen as a call to emotional hysteria. All too often, the conversation is characterized by shrill voices on both sides of the debate, thus creating a climate where no one can listen. Evangelicals are rank with fear. Why? And what kind of fear is it? I think we fear to lose the comfortable liberty we have had for such a long time. We fear to lose what is in our bank account. We fear social ostracism. In other words, we fear man, not God. On the other side, we see the LGBT community using emotionally charged words to shout down the opposition. The words “bigot,” “hate-speech,” and “homophobic” are thrown at anyone who does not agree with their agenda. There is no communication going on, only a lot of shouting. The importance of books like Rosaria Butterfield’s masterpiece can hardly be underestimated at a time like this, because no one could possibly accuse such an ex-Lesbian of hate-speech, and yet she also speaks the truth. More books like this need to be written. The most thorough treatment of the exegetical issues is undoubtedly Gagnon’s book. For a smaller, more accessible book (although Gagnon is not too difficult to read), there is now Kevin Deyoung’s book. Butterfield’s book, though, is the most important of the three.

The accelerated pace of the sea-change going on now in America requires some comment. I am constantly hearing of people who think that “such and such thing cannot possibly happen in America.” I am not sure that anything is off the table anymore. The changes are easily fast enough now to make us dizzy. I am preaching this Sunday on Revelation 11. A more timely text could hardly be imagined. The two witnesses I take to be the church defined as a legally valid testimony on Old Testament Deuteronomic terms. The persecution rises against them until the church appears dead. The world rejoices. God will then vindicate those witnesses by raising them from the dead. I know that every era of church history has had people saying that the end is upon us. As a good Amillenial, I believe that they are all correct. The end-times are upon us. As Hebrews 1 says, we are in the last days now (“in these last days God has spoken to us in (or by) His Son”). The American church is about to be seriously pruned. We are about to look a lot more like the house churches in China. Anyone got some nice spacious basements?

What are we willing to give up? We are going to have to be willing to give up forever the idea of being “relevant,” at least in the way that many people mean the term. We cannot adopt the world’s way of doing things. Our way of being truly relevant is to speak the truth to people who do not want to hear what we have to say. We need to be willing to give up prestige, money, land, freedom, and life itself. They will be gone in a very short period of time. Our families will be torn apart. The government will take away everything we value. Welcome to the brave new world.

For the latter half of the twentieth century, Satan has been using the carrot to lure people away from the true church, and away from the means of grace. Satan is changing tools. He will now use the stick. Probably very few of us would have recognized ahead of time that the homosexual marriage issue would be the issue by which this change would take place.

As I was talking with one of my elders this morning about these things, it struck me forcefully that we need to pray for our dispensational Pre-millenial brothers. What is going to happen will knock their theology for a loop. They believe that they are going to escape the tribulation by means of the Rapture. Revelation 11 says otherwise. Even if verse 12 is talking about a Rapture, it clearly does NOT occur until after the death and resurrection experience of verses 7-11. At that time, those brothers will be wondering if God is incorrect in what He said, and what else God might be wrong about. They might very well forget to ask the question about whether they understand the text correctly or not. We need to pray for them that their faith will hold firm.

Do not fear what is about to happen. Above all, do not get hysterical, as if God’s grip on the world has somehow slipped. Instead, rejoice that the end is near. Count it pure joy when you experience trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith will produce perseverance. Know that the poor, dead-looking church over which the world will gloat will one day rise up again, in spite of the world. The world will then gape in dread and awe of the church as God resurrects it. SCOTUS may think itself the supreme court of the land. Boy, are they in for a shock!

Persecution in America? Chicken Little vs. the Ostrich

by Reed DePace

In the wake of the two same sex marriage decisions from the Supreme Court I wrote to a group of ministerial friends and acquaintances asking for copies of their church’s marriage policies. I did so because I expect churches and pastors will be facing, in just a few years, at least civil assaults via this issue.

Some reaction to my concern was that I was being an alarmist. Another labeled my concern absurd (def.: ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous; having no rational or orderly relationship to human life).

O.k., maybe like Chicken Little I don’t know an acorn from persecution. Yet, before going gaily on your way, I’d ask you to at least consider the discussion a bit more fully. Maybe the following articles will help:

I do not believe the goal is mere legitimization. No, I think that which is pushing homosexuality across our culture is a greater moral goal, one with two components. This goal is to secure the acknowledgement, in all parts of our culture:

  1. Of the moral superiority of homosexuality, and
  2. Of the moral depravity of any who deny this (and so, must be treated as the worst bigots in history, e.g., KKK, Nazis, etc.).

Think I’m Chicken Little? Stanley Hauerwas, “America’s Best Theologian” (Time Magazine, 2001) began to make just such an argument back in 1993. The Bible is already well on its way to being labeled morally degenerate in terms of its moral condemnation of homosexuality. Already opponents of same sex marriage are shying away from making a moral-based argument.

Whether I’m Chicken Little or not, at the very least the homosexual juggernaut (as another friend labels it) is on the move. Where it stops, and what it crushes along the way may be debatable. It should hardly be a debatable point that it is on an (humanly) unstoppable roll.

Will pastors face persecution via the same sex marriage issue? Christian laymen already are:

Oh, and a church has experienced persecution over this issue.

So what should we do in response? I think there are at least three faith-responses we can offer that we can say are both our Father’s marching orders and carry His promise of blessing in response:

  1. Make reasonable preparations (Matthew 10:16; Colossians 4:5; Philippians 2:15). Investigate whether or not you or church has unnecessary legal exposure in the ways in which you offer services to non-members. Take appropriate measures to remove or mitigate this exposure.
  2. Pray for God to send us into these fields that are ripe for the Harvest (John 4:35; Matthew 9:36-38). The truth is that those in homosexuality are destroying themselves. They, their family and friends are suffering the worst of the effects of the fall, just short of what a Christ-less eternity brings.
  3. Love those who consider us their enemies by bringing them the gospel (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-28): God will surely do in our generation what He has done in the past (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Imagine the joy you, saved from your depravity, will experience standing beside your brother or sister who was once your enemy trapped in homosexuality’s depravity.

I do hope I am just warning about acorns. But I don’t think this is the case. So I’ll see the charge that I’m being absurd and raise a “don’t be naïve!” Or maybe I can put it this way: I’d rather be Chicken Little than an ostrich.

by Reed DePace

Expectations In Marriage

I saw the lectures that form the basis of this book, and so, though I haven’t read the book yet, I can recommend it.

One of the biggest problems facing people who are contemplating getting married is the problem of expectations. We usually expect more from the potential spouse, and less of ourselves. Furthermore, we expect our future spouse to feed our own idolatries. Then, when they do not, we turn on them. Paul addresses these problems and others, advocating a reconciliation mindset full of God’s grace.

The Bride of Christ

(Posted by Paige)

A friend and I were discussing this biblical metaphor this morning, and I thought to cast this question out to all of you as well: Do you think it is in keeping with biblical intent to speak of the marriage of God or Christ to individual believers as well as to the Church corporate?

In his preaching and writing, my friend will speak in terms of both individual and corporate marriage as rich expressions of God’s/Christ’s relationship of union with believers. I am not sure that he is wrong to do so, but I am personally less comfortable speaking of the individual’s “marriage relationship” with Christ (or calling the individual believer the “Bride” of Christ), simply because in both OT and NT usage God and Christ are never (as far as I can see) said to be “married” to individuals, but only to the corporate bodies of Israel or the Church (cf. Is. 62:3-5; Jer. 2; Eph. 5; Rev. 21). On the other hand, there are plenty of relational metaphors available in the Bible that express the individual’s relationship to God and Christ: child, sibling, friend, sheep, servant (even slave), soldier, citizen, etc.

Is the application to individuals of this “marriage” metaphor a fair implication of the corporate picture of Christ’s Bride, or do you think it is beyond the intent of the scriptural witness? If the latter, do you perceive any harmful or misleading influence in speaking this way?

If, on the other hand, you think it is a fair way to picture Christ’s union with the believer, how can it be framed in teaching and preaching so that the individual does not lose sight of the corporate nature of being the Bride of Christ?

Thanks for your thoughts!

The Manhattan Declaration

I know I’m a bit slow to comment on the Manhattan Declaration, but I wanted some of my fathers in the faith to speak out first before I said anything. I had some initial impressions, but wanted them debated before I stuck out my neck. I shall stick it out now.

On each of the three issues, I issue a hearty amen to the position of the declaration. It would be difficult to do otherwise, when these issues are of such paramount importance, and the stance taken so completely biblical. I have picketed abortion clinics in the past, and support doing so now and in the future (as long as it is done legally). I firmly stand for marriage as God has defined it, not as how man wants to redefine it. And, in our context, where the freedom to worship God has been constantly eroded by humanistic thinking, what Christian wouldn’t be eager to say that he wants the freedom to worship the God he loves?

However, the concerns of Sproul, MacArthur, Horton, and Challies have all raised some very important issues about particular words and ideas used in the effort to create a monolithic Christian coalition on these issues. And there is where the rub lies. How is the word “gospel” and “Christian,” among other words, being used in this document? Is it a wax nose, twistable by any signer or reader into the shape he wishes? I was forced to come to this conclusion: those words are empty vessels, into which anyone can pour what meaning he chooses. I would much have preferred language like this: “Although we do not agree on the definition of “gospel” or “Christian” or “justification,” we can agree on these social issues.” This, I think, would have allowed folks like the ones linked above to sign this document in good conscience. It is really too bad that these flaws are deal-breakers for the men listed above, and for myself, especially when SOO many men I deeply respect have signed it, and when I yearn to say yes on the particular issues.

Interesting Article on Marriage and Intimacy

This article was interesting to me, and was shocking to me in many ways, this paragraph in particular:

Statistics show that few Americans wait. More than 93 percent of adults 18 to 23 who are in romantic relationships are having sex, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. For conservative Protestants in relationships and active in their faith, it’s almost 80 percent.

We certainly live in a sex-crazed culture. They quote the assistant pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Michael Lawrence) as saying that we are sending mixed messages to young people, telling them on the one hand to wait for sex until marriage, but then turning around and saying that they shouldn’t get married until later. It sets them up to fail, he says. I couldn’t agree more. When Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn, there is a keen realism there that understands the sexual drives of young people. People who are struggling with this issue, then, need to get married. Paul is not saying that marriage is bad, far from it. But the struggle means that the person is not called to be single. It is amazing to me how difficult it is for some people to grasp this concept.

The article also makes mention of the “eharmony philosophy” that the perfect person is going to be dumped into our lap at some point. I prefer Voddie Baucham’s approach. While it is important to see certain things in place, it is also true to say that marriages grow into something wonderful. They rarely start there.

The Best Book on Marriage

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