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The Power of Submission

1 Peter 3

Jim Davis

Heaven is where our hope lies. Our heavenly hope is the anchor for our soul because the source of our hope is the sustenance of our lives. (Hebrews 6:17-20) Whether we live in fear or in faith depends upon our focus.

Psalms 146:5-10
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the LORD, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD. (NIV)

The emphasis in first Peter is on living holy lives in difficult times. Peter urges us to prepare our minds to be self-controlled as we set our hopes fully on God's grace. (2:13) Focusing on our lives from heaven's vantage alleviates our fears as we strive to do right. As we place our hope in God we understand our lives are shielded by God's power as we place our faith in his directions for our lives. (1:5)

1 Peter 3:12-14
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 what they fear; do not be frightened." (NIV)

Placing our faith in God requires obedience to Gods commands. Obedience requires submission. Submission to God and others is the hallmark of the Christian’s life. Submission through obedience to God activates God’s power in our personal lives for living.

Heaven Reveals the Power of Submission

Jesus Christ has revealed to us the power of a life in submission to God. We are to arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ revealed in his life of submission. (4:1)

1 Peter 2:19-25
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NIV)

Christ's submission to the Father reveals submission's power to save us from our sins. Jesus entrusted himself to will and power of God. The power of God through Jesus' life of submission makes our forgiveness possible. The power of submission does not come in just submitting for submission's sake. The power comes from the one to whom we submit. The power of submission comes as we focus on obeying God. Submission to God makes lives of submission powerful. When we consciously choose to live lives of submission out of respect for God our lives are shielded by the power of God. This is when our lives become empowered by God.

1 Peter 3:1-2
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (NIV)

A former missionary told the story of two rugged, powerful mountain goats who met on a narrow pathway joining two mountain ridges. On one side was a chasm 1,000 feet deep; on the other, a steep cliff rising straight up. So narrow was the trail that there was no room to turn around, and the goats could not back up without falling. What would they do? Finally, instead of fighting for the right to pass, one of the goats knelt down and made himself as flat as possible. The other goat then walked over him, and they both proceeded safely.

In a sense, this is what Jesus did for us when He left heaven's glory and came to this earth to die for our sins. He saw us trapped between our sin and God's righteousness with no way to help ourselves. He humbled Himself by coming in the likeness of men and taking the form of a servant. Then, by dying for sinful mankind, He let us "walk over Him" so that we could receive forgiveness and eternal life.

The power of lives consciously submitted to each other out of reverence for God is staggering. It makes little difference whether we like one another or not.

Fear is the enemy to a commitment of submission. Today too many opt to live together out of wedlock because they refuse to submit to another. They are afraid to make a commitment to submit to another for life. Fear tells us to stand up for our rights and look out for ourselves. Fear encourages an aggressive outward life because we are falling apart on the inside. Fear forces us to pretend and cover up our insecurities while fooling us to believing we are in control. In reality we are running in fear.

Peter encourages wives and husbands to live together in submission and not to surrender to their fears. (3:6-7) Peter admonishes the women saying: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." (1 Peter 3:3-4) I think this is where we got the saying, "Beauty is only skin deep." Peter is not encouraging an unkempt appearance. He is not condemning jewelry and nice clothes. He is condemning trying to cover up our sinful behavior solely through a good appearance.

The world says, "Dress for success." We can use our outward appearance to fool people about who we are on the inside. Dressing for success may say more about our insecurities than anything else. A Christian lady was going for an interview for a new job. She was overhead saying that she was going to go to the interview dressed so they couldn't forget her. She was going to wear the brightest red dress she had. She was going to be a knock out. However, she never got the job. A different approach may have been much better.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)

Glamour is artificial and superficial. It is something we can put on and take off. Peter is concerned about the adorning of the inner person. Submission is an adornment, which manifest itself through a meek and quiet spirit. It is always present. Glamour fades and decays, but a beautiful spirit just gets more beautiful with the passing of time. God is concerned about values not prices.

Submission Defines Our Character

Submission doesn't define our position but our disposition. Too many think of submission as an assigned position or role, especially the woman’s role. Submission does not define the role or position God has given us. Submission defines the character of God's assigned role. It makes little difference if we are master or slave, king or subject or husband or wife. It is submission, which elevates us in our roles to the highest position. The character of the person filling any role is of utmost importance. The most submissive person acquires the highest ranking in heaven's sight regardless of the assigned role. Jesus said, "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12 NIV)

1 Peter 3:5-8
For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (NIV)

Submission is the characteristic that equalizes us in the roles God has assigned us. A beautiful life is characterized by submitting ourselves to each other as we place our hope in God. It is the weakness of others that demands our submission to their needs. Refusing to submit to the needs of others diminishes our standing before God and hinders our prayers.

Galatians 3:26-29
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (NIV)

Husbands are urged to be considerate toward the wife as the weaker partner. Being in submission to those who are weaker automatically places the one in the lesser role ahead of us. That is what Jesus did on the cross. When Christians are truly submitted to each other, it is difficult to tell who is serving whom. It is confusing when you see God on his knees in the upper room washing the feet of his disciples. You see God dying on the cross for the sins of his children. In the book of Revelation you see God ruling on his throne in submission to the needs of a lost world. God has made a commitment of submission to each of us. It is mind boggling how we start coveting positions and refuse to develop a submissive disposition. However, the greater the submission our role demands, the greater the position from heaven’s vantage point. You shouldn’t find Christians thinking they are one up on anyone. Jesus could not have been King if he were unwilling to submit. When Christians submit themselves to God, then they are in submission to each other regardless of their assigned roles.

1 Peter 3:8-12
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but 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 his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he 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." (NIV)

Motivation for Change

Doing the right thing for others eliminates the fears of the world. Submission to others seldom brings harm to us and it speaks volumes about what we believe. If doing right results in suffering, we can take refuge in that God will bless us for doing right.

1 Peter 3:13-14
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 what they fear; do not be frightened." (NIV)

Submission offers the greatest possibility of saving the lost. The power of a submissive life comes through the purity of our motives and the reverence of our lives for Christ. Such lives cultivate the hearts of the lost for obedience to God's word. Peter encourages believing wives to submit so their husbands could be won without the word. Living right has the potential of making evil persons ashamed of their behavior. Nothing declares our sanctification in Christ more than our willingness to subject ourselves to the needs of others. Submitting ourselves to God's will for the sake of others is the best testimony the world will ever hear. As wives submit themselves to their unbelieving husbands they are persuaded to obey the word. As Christians gently and respectfully submit themselves to the needs of others out of a clear conscious unbelievers are persuaded to believe.

1 Peter 3:14-16
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart 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. (NIV)

The conduct of missionary Nathatus Stach illustrates the impact of a life guided by our Lord's peacemaking principles. For 20 years he labored in Greenland where he encountered fierce opposition. He says, "My every move was misunderstood. My efforts to win these people who I loved were repulsed by scoffing, but I knew that God who had called me was faithful and that He would eventually conquer the hearts of my vindictive critics. After 2 decades of weary toil, I sat one day reading aloud from the third chapter of the gospel of John. Unknown to me, my chief persecutor was listening intently to every word. Suddenly he burst into my hut and demanded that I read it again. As I repeated the gracious words, this former enemy began to tremble and asked me to show him the way of salvation. The Holy Spirit then began to work in the hearts of others, and soon many were led to Christ. One after another, those who had been antagonistic came to me and pleaded for pardon. Thus my foes became my friends."

Jesus Christ offers the greatest motivation for submission. There are many pages in most commentaries trying to explain the following scriptures. Commentators usually get lost in their comments and overlook the primary message, which is easily discerned. The passage begins and ends with the submission of Christ. Jesus Christ has painstakingly given himself for our needs. Jesus Christ is our example for the righteous suffering for the unrighteous that all might be brought to God.

1 Peter 3:17-22
It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (NIV)

Suffering for doing good seems to be much more of a challenge than suffering for doing evil. We think it is unfair for good people to suffer. We don't have any problem understanding why we suffer for doing evil. We seem to think it is pointless to suffer for doing good.

Peter uses Jesus Christ as an example of the good suffering for evil. In fact, Christ died for your evil because he was good. He did this so that he might bring you to God. Christ has been patiently working with humanity since the days of Noah. Christ has submitted himself to our needs so that we would have a good conscience before God.

Jesus Christ died physically, but was made alive by the Spirit of God. Peter corresponds this to our baptism. When we are baptized, we die to ourselves and come alive to God through the resurrection power of his Spirit as we submit to ourselves to the will of God.

1 Peter 3:9
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (NIV)

1 Peter 4:12-16
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that 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. (NIV)


Submission is not dealing with our problems from a position of weakness but of power. Submission is the means to exaltation in Christ kingdom. Jesus Christ submitted himself to our direst needs. As a result Christ is sitting in heaven and is at "God's right hand---with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." (3:22)

Psalms 62:5-7
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. (NIV)

2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV)

A woman who had an abusive husband went to her minister one day to seek advice about the situation. After listening to her for a while, the minister asked, "Have you ever tried heaping coals of fire on his head?" Thinking for a moment, the discouraged and somewhat embittered wife replied, "No, I haven't done THAT, but I HAVE used HOT WATER!"


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