S t a n d - S t r o n g
Firm Foundations for the Storms of Life

Peter 2:11-3:7  A Life of Submission


We can sum up the Christian faith in one word - love.

We can best demonstrate it in one word also - submission.

It may not be a popular concept in the supermarket queue, at the motorway intersection, in the boardroom or the bedroom but its the revolutionary way to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Peter is writing his letter to a church scattered throughout the Roman empire, hunted down like animals, their crime, acknowledging Jesus as their Lord and not Caesar. We have already seen how Peter urges them to live a life of hope in the future and a life of love in the present. Last time we explored four beautiful pictures of the Church and four habits of highly effective Christians. We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.

We are stones in God’s House so lets build constructively.

We are priests in God’s Temple so lets serve sacrificially.

We are citizens in God’s Nation so lets praise evangelistically.
This is why the good news of
Jesus is so infectious when its lived out in community. To love and be loved. To know and be known.  To serve and be served. To celebrate and be celebrated.

It all comes down to the one word: Love. And the proof of that love is our subject today. Submission. Unconditional submission in the world, mutual submission in the home and church family.
Peter urges a life of submission as a citizen (1 Peter 2:11-17), as an employee (1 Peter 2:18-25), and as a marriage partner (1 Peter 3:1-7). I want us to focus on the last of the three today. But first lets begin by defining the word.

1. The Meaning of Submission

Few subjects can cause more confusion or destruction than a misunderstanding of submission. Many consider the word synonymous with weakness or inferiority. One of the strongest drives in a human being is the incessant drive to get our own way and to control others. From our earliest years as children we cry out “I want it my way” God created us to live in harmony in community. He has established the home, human government, and the church as the means by which we can grow to know him and serve him in community. Submission might be described as the courage to graciously allow something to go someone else’s way instead of my way. It means to give deference to another, to willingly yield rights, agendas, ego for the sake of building community. Submission does not equal mindless compliance.

The bible never calls us to throw away discernment, honesty or integrity. But God does call us to a biblical spirit of submission. We are to develop an internal security and courage to set aside a personal agenda. The meaning of submission.

2. The Motivation for Submission
Peter gives us three excellent motives for submission.

2.1 For the Sake of the Lost (1 Peter 2:11-12)

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11-12)

What we do is far more audible than what we say. Let me illustrate this: In the summer of 1805, a number of Indian chiefs and warriors met in council at
Buffalo Creek, New York to hear a presentation of the Christian message by a Mr. Cram from the Boston Missionary Society. After the sermon, Red Jacket, one of the leading chiefs responded. “Brother, you say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit… we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbours. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.” What we do is far more audible than what we say. Christ-like submission is the most powerful way to demonstrate that we are Christ-followers.

2.2 For the Sake of the Lord (1
Peter 2:13-17)

“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right… Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)


Everything we do is ultimately for the Lord who is in heaven. Submission to human authority demonstrates our submission to our Lord. It reveals his Kingdom rule in the world. We may not agree with the views or the values of our political leaders but we must respect their position under God. Its also worth noting that in verse 17 Peter uses the continuous present tense to indicate we should constantly keep loving one another, constantly keep fearing God and keep honouring those in authority for all three go together.

2.3 For the Sake of Ourselves (1 Peter 2:18-25)

“…submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. To this you were called (1 Peter 2:18-25).


What we do is also for our own well-being, however painful in the short term, the process may be. God loves you and wants the best for you. What Peter wrote specifically for 1st Century slaves equally applies to 21st Century employees. We are to be submissive, whether our employer is kind or unkind because this glorifies God and challenges unbelievers. We must never take advantage of our employer even when we are wronged. The human tendency is to fight back and to demand our rights, like the staff of the accident insurance claims firm who stole office computers last week in lei of their wages when their company went bust.
Submit for the sake of the lost, for the sake of the Lord and for the sake of ourselves. The meaning of submission and the motivation of submission. To help us learn God’s way of submission,
Peter then highlights the model of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. The Model of Submission
Peter quotes from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and gives us three pictures of the Lord Jesus as God’s Suffering Servant.

3.1 Jesus is our Example in His Life (1 Peter 2:21-23)

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.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)


Jesus proved that a person could be in the will of God, greatly loved by God, and still suffer unjustly. There is a shallow brand of popular theology today that claims that Christians will not suffer if they are in the will of God. Those who promote such ideas have not meditated much on the Cross. Our Lord’s humility and submission were not evidence of weakness, but of power. Jesus could have summoned the armies of heaven to rescue Him. His words to Pilate in John 18:33-38 are proof that He was in complete command of the situation. “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place..” It was Pilate who was on trial, not Jesus!

3.2 Jesus is our Substitute in His Death (1 Peter 2:24)

“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.” (1 Peter 2:24)


This entire section reflects that great “Servant Chapter,” Isaiah 53. The word translated “bore” means “to carry as a sacrifice.” The Jewish people did not crucify criminals; they stoned them to death. But if the victim was especially evil, his dead body was hung on a tree until evening, as a mark of shame (Deut. 21:23). Jesus died on such a tree—a cross—and bore the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13) in our place. Christ was wounded that we might be healed. He died that we might live. Our substitute. Our example in his life, our substitute in his death,

3.3 Jesus is our Watchful Shepherd in Heaven (1 Peter 2:25)

“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)


Now that we have been returned to the fold and are safely in His care, He watches over us. The word bishop simply means “one who watches over, who oversees.” That’s the role of our Clergy, Wardens, Readers and PCC - together to watch over the flock of God, the local church (1 Peter 5:2). So the Saviour in glory watches over His sheep to protect them and perfect them (Heb. 13:20-21). Here, then, is the wonderful truth Peter wants us to understand: as we live in submission, even in times of suffering, we are following Christ’s example and becoming more like Him. We submit for the sake of lost souls, for the Lord’s sake, and for our own, that we might grow spiritually and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ. The unsaved world is watching us, but the Shepherd in heaven is also watching over us. Therefore we have nothing to fear. We can submit to Him through submission in our country, in our employment and in our marriages and know that in each God will work everything together for our good and His glory. We have looked at the meaning of submission, the motivation for submission and the model of submission. so now lets consider:

4. The Manifestation of Submission (1 Peter 3:1-7)

Bear in mind the context -  Peter was writing particularly to people who had recently  become Christians and many who were married to non-Christians. Furthermore the status of women in Roman culture was very low. The apostles were therefore anxious to do two things. On the one hand to affirm women as equal with men created in the image of God for whom Christ died, while at the same time avoiding the charge that they were breaking up families. Whatever our marital status, however, we can learn from these verses the essentials for a happy and fruitful marriage.

4.1 The Example of
Christ (1 Peter 3:1a, 7a)

A clergy friend of mine has a challenging but short message which he uses at weddings. He turns to the wife and says “”What ever he tells you, do it without question.” As some of the congregation begin to squirm a little, he turns to the husband and says “And what ever he tells you, do it without question.”

Notice the similar phrases used in verses 1 & 7 “in the same manner” written to wives and “in the same way” written to husbands. Peter is saying to both - in the same way that Jesus was submissive to his Father with whom he was equal, so you likewise be submissive to each other.”  It is simply the outworking of that mutual submission where our roles and responsibilities may differ. We all use role models, consciously or unconsciously to grow and mature. Much of our learning in life comes by way of imitation. The question is whether we choose constructive or destructive models? Made in heaven or made in Hollywood? Here we are encouraged to model our lives on Jesus. We cannot follow Christ’s example unless we first know Him as our Saviour, and then submit to Him as our Lord. We must spend time with Him each day, meditating on the Word and praying together.The example of Christ. Then Peter gets specific:

4.2 Guidance for Wives (1
Peter 3:1-6)

Twice in this paragraph Peter reminded Christian wives that they are to be submissive to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1, 5). The word translated “subjection” is a military term that means “to place under rank.” God has ordained that the husband be the head of the home (Eph. 5:21ff) and that, as he submits to Christ and loves his wife as Christ loved the church, his wife will have no difficulty in submitting to him. Headship is not dictatorship, but the loving exercise of divine authority under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Peter gave three reasons:

Submission is an obligation (3:1a)

God has commanded it because, in His wisdom, He knows that this is the best arrangement for a happy, fulfilling marriage. Subjection does not mean that the wife is inferior to the husband. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter made it clear that the husband and wife are “heirs together.” Husbands and wives must be partners, not competitors. Submission is an obligation.

Submission is an opportunity (3:1b-2)

An opportunity for what? To win an unsaved husband to Christ. Peter is specifically addressing women who have non=believing husbands, calling them to model purity and good deeds so that their husbands will see their example and be drawn to God.  The phrase “without the word” means “without a lot of speaking.” Christian wives who preach at their husbands only drive them further from the Lord. I heard of one zealous wife who used to keep religious radio programs on all evening, usually very loud, so that her unsaved husband would “hear the truth.” She only made it easier for him to leave home and spend his evenings with his friends. It is our character that will win our partner—not arguments, but Christ-like qualities of love, kindness, patience. An obligation, an opportunity and thirdly,

Submission is an ornament (3:3-6)

The word translated “adornment” gives us our English words “cosmos” (the ordered universe) and also “cosmetic.” This is not a call to outward attractiveness but to genuine inner beauty. There is a currently a controversy in the fashion world between Miuccia Prada and Donatella Versace… Glamour is artificial and external; true beauty is real and internal. Glamour is something a person can put on and take off, but true beauty is always present. Glamour is corruptible; it decays and fades. True beauty from the heart grows more wonderful as the years pass. A Christian woman who cultivates the beauty of the inner person will not have to depend on cheap externals. An obligation, an opportunity, an ornament.

4.3 Guidance for Husbands (1
Peter 3:7)

“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.” (1 Peter 3:7)


Physical : “Live with your wife”

This implies much more than sharing the same postal address in the evenings and at weekends. The husband must make time to be home with his wife. One survey revealed that the average husband and wife had thirty-seven minutes a week together in actual communication! Is it any wonder that so many marriages fall apart after the children grow up and leave home? More marriages erode than explode. There needs to be a conscious choosing to be together.

Emotional : “treat her with respect”

In his premarital counseling Warren Wersbie often gives the couple pads of paper and asked them to write down the three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually, the prospective bride made her list immediately; the man sits and ponders. He finds that usually the girl is right but the man wrong! It is amazing that two married people can live together and not really know each other! Ignorance is dangerous in any area of life, but none more so than in marriage. A husband needs to know his wife’s moods, feelings, needs, fears, and hopes. He needs to “listen with his heart” and share meaningful communication with her. There must be in the home such a protective atmosphere of love and submission that the husband and wife can disagree and still be happy together. How can you show respect and consideration for your wife if you do not understand her needs or problems?  Peter is not addressing moral character or emotional strength when he describes the wife as the “weaker partner”.

Peter is saying men should not use their physical strength to take advantage in marriage. Instead the husband should treat his wife carefully and gently as a fragile and precious treasure. Husbands - when was the last time you opened the door of your car for your wife? Before you were married? Right…

Someone has once suggested that the husband must be the “thermostat” in the home, setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife often is the “thermometer,” letting him know what that temperature is! Both are necessary. Big resentments often grow out of small hurts. Husbands and wives need to be honest with each other, admit hurts, and seek for forgiveness and healing on a daily basis. The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not only make her happy, but will also help his children live in a home that honours God. Physical, emotional and finally,

Spiritual : “so that nothing will hinder your prayers”

Peter assumes that husbands and wives pray together. Often, they do not; and this is the reason for much failure and unhappiness. A husband and wife need to pray together. How this is organized will vary, and even from time to time as the children grow up and schedules change. Physical, emotional, spiritual.

A husband and wife are “heirs together.” If in your marriages you show mutual submission, if you seek to complement each other in love, if you look to Jesus Christ as your example and your inspiration, your marriage will be both enriching and a blessing to others. You may find it helpful once in a while to sit down together and make an inventory of your marriage. Here are some questions, based on what Peter wrote.

1. What gives you the greatest fulfilment?

2. What frustrates you more than anything?

3. What problems or obstacles am I causing you?

4. What can I do on a regular basis to share the load of life with you?

5. How can we grow more closely physically, emotionally and spiritually?

Take time to ask each other these questions and listen to the answers. The investment will be worth it. Lets pray.

In preparing for this sermon I am grateful for inspiration and ideas from Stand Strong by Bill Hybels (Zondervan); Be Hopeful by Warren Wersbie (Scripture Press); The Message of 1 Peter by Edmund Clowney (IVP), and The NIV Application Commentary on 1 Peter by Scot McKnight (Zondervan)