The Christian faith involves much more than matters of doctrine relating to the church. The apostles wrote letters teaching things pertaining to God, humanity, Christ, salvation, and much more, showing believers how to love God and other people. Paul and Peter included in their letters instructions for parents, children, and spouses, teaching us how to apply the gospel to family life.
This is what we find in 1 Peter 3:1–7. Peter exhorts Christian wives to submit to their husbands, even if they do not know Christ. Why? So “they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Pet. 3:1). Christian women are to live out the gospel before their unsaved husbands. Wives are to put more emphasis on character development than on hairstyles, jewelry, or clothes (vv. 2–4). If they honor God in this way, they will be spiritual daughters of their mothers in the faith of old, such as Sarah (vv. 5–6). And the wives’ submission is to be out of fear not of man but of God, who saved them by his grace.
Although Peter devotes more words to women in this passage than he does to men, his few words to men here hit home with all Christian husbands. That is because of the way God created men and women. Wives want to be loved and understood by their husbands. So Paul commands Christian men to love their wives “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). Peter commands Christian men, “Live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7). What does it take for a husband to understand his wife? Considerable love and energy spent in listening to her words and heart. Most men are physically stronger than their wives. Peter enjoins them to use their greater strength to love and defend their wives, never to abuse them.
Why does Peter place such difficult demands on believing husbands? Because their wives are their fellow heirs of God’s saving grace that brings eternal life (v. 7). Christian husbands and wives are spiritual partners. In addition, Peter warns of adverse effects of Christian men failing to understand and honor their wives; they risk hindering their own prayer life (v. 7).
Marital relationships are very important to God. In the home, above all, believers are by God’s grace to live out the gospel before their children and a watching world. We have been saved by such lavish grace. It is our great privilege to exhibit this grace within marriage.
Robert A. Peterson from the ESV Women's Devotional Bible