Reformed theology has always affirmed the biblical truth that divine sovereignty is not antithetical to human responsibility. While it is true that God’s election of some to eternal life is the only thing that guarantees the salvation of His people, God’s people must demonstrate their faith by living a life of obedience and repentance.
The teaching of 1 Peter reminds us of the compatibility of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Peter writes to an audience made up of “elect exiles” (1:1–2) who have been brought to new life by the Father and whose life is guarded by Him until the day of their glorification (vv. 3–5). This audience was enduring a time of suffering necessary for the purification of their faith (vv. 6–7). In order that this purification would happen, Peter calls his audience to be responsible and stand firm, continuing to rejoice in the hope of Christ while setting their minds wholly on His grace (vv. 8–25).
In doing so, Christians persevere and demonstrate their election. God has already made those of us in Christ to be His people (2:1–10); therefore, we must live accordingly, abstaining from the passions of the flesh and living honorable lives so that non-believers may be drawn to Jesus (vv. 11–12). One way this can be done is through submission to our authorities insofar as they do not command us to sin (vv. 13–20). On occasion, we might have to submit and suffer for doing good, just as Jesus did (vv. 21–22). Yet as we obey these commands, we stand firm in our faith, and, like Christ, trust the one Judge of all, confident that we too will be vindicated (vv. 23–25).
In today’s passage, Peter tells us that wives should live honorable lives by being subject to the authority of their own husbands (3:1–2). In a few days we will look at this idea more carefully as we study the roles of men and women in marriage. For now we will simply say that in deferring to her husband’s authority, the wife reflects the created order (1 Tim. 2:11–14) and so testifies to God’s reign. This does not mean that a wife is to suffer abuse or commit sin at her husband’s request, but it does mean that a wife must respect her husband even if he is not a Christian.
Though Peter has the wives of non-believers in mind here, the teaching of Scripture makes it clear that the command for wives to respect the authority of their husbands is incumbent upon all married women. If you are married, do you respect your husband, or do you subtly or overtly undermine his authority? If you are the husband, are you exercising authority in a way undeserving of respect? Do what you can to obey this command in your marriage.