Today, as in Peter’s day, believers live in a world that is hostile towards them. Peter writes this epistle to exhort and encourage scattered, suffering, and slandered believers to stand for Christ amidst paganism and godlessness. Already, he has addressed the behavior of believers towards suffering. Now, in 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter addresses three specific responsibilities believers must maintain in a hostile world.
Having concluded his discourse on submission, Peter returns to his exhortation of suffering in 1 Peter 3:13-22. Peter previously addressed the suffering of believers in 1 Peter 2:22, exhorting believers to perform good deeds. In so doing, the pagans would inspect the good deeds of believers and glorify God in the day of visitation. Now Peter turns his attention to the behavior of the suffering. How are believers to behave when suffering persecution from the hostile world in which they live?
In writing about submission, Peter has applied specific doctrines to each realm of submission. He applied the doctrines of holiness and obedience to the realm of government (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17). Next, Peter applied the doctrines of salvation and obedience, to the realm of work (cf. 1 Peter 2:18-25). He then applied the doctrines of love and obedience, to the realm of family (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6). As Peter now summarizes his exhortation on submission, he returns to the doctrine of love. Writing a final word on submission, to all believers, Peter concludes with a twofold admonishment — love one another (1 Peter 3:8) and love one’s enemies (1 Peter 3:9-12).
The family unit became the foundation of society. All other social structures find the family unit as their foundation. Social scientists view marriage as a foundational social institution because of its cross cultural and geographical nature. David Blankenhorn states that regardless of the variation in marital customs within different cultures, “marriage at its core is a woman and a man whose sexual union forms the basis of an important cooperative relationship.”
Society is only as strong as it foundation. If the foundation is destroyed then what happens to other societal institutions such as the government and the church? The answer is simple — they will be weakened. Thus, Peter sets forth the duty of mutual submission between husbands and wives in 1 Peter 3:1-7.