[ 6 minutes to read ]
“Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord:
whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well,
and are not afraid with any amazement.”
~ 1 Peter 3:6
Our verse occurs in a section of Peter’s epistle that deals with submission and subjection of various kinds. All are to be subject to the civil government that is over them: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:13-14). The employee is to submit to his employer: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward” (1 Peter 2:18). At this point Peter interjects with the greatest pattern of submission and subjection—Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-25)—pointing out that it is our calling to follow Him in all things and be like Him even as He submitted. Peter continues to admonish the wives to submit to their own husbands: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
Another way of looking at the subject of submission is to look at the subject of authority, for there really is no submission without proper authority. Only God has ultimate, unlimited authority and He gives authority to men for various purposes (Daniel 4:35; 2:21). This means that all other authority is limited—it has a proper jurisdiction. For any authority to go beyond its jurisdiction is for that authority to become an unlawful usurper, and in certain cases, disregard of such a human authority is warranted (ref. Daniel 3).
However, submission is not a prerogative. Subjection to human authority is qualified or limited in the same sense that that authority is limited, but it is required. Notice though, how that submission is not qualified. We are to submit to our civil government. We may not like the government; the government may be corrupt in many ways; the party in power may not be the one we voted for, etc. Nonetheless, we are to submit to their authority. The employee is to submit to the employer; not only when he likes the boss, agrees with him, etc. Whether he is “good and gentle” or “forward,” he must submit to his jurisdiction. A wife is to submit to her own husband and not only if he is godly, humble, nice, right, etc. Peter specifically here addresses the wife with an unbelieving husband. She simply may not say, “Well, my husband is unsaved. He is ungodly. I don’t have to submit to him.” As a Christian in this situation, she should be all the more careful to submit for they may “be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
One reason for our qualified/unqualified submission is that God is the ultimate authority. Since God is the ultimate authority, all authority is derived from Him, and ultimately, all of our submission, though it is to human authorities, is actually unto God. Paul said, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). Employees submit to their employers “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Now, let us return to our text and consider the first phrase, “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” Sarah is given as a real-life example of faith operative in a Christian wife. First, she obeyed her husband. “Obeyed” here is translated from the Greek word hupakouo, which means:
to hear under (as a subordinate), i.e. to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority (Strong’s Concordance).
This word is used 21 times in the New Testament. It is used in such ways as the wind and sea obeying Jesus (Matthew 8:27); the evil spirits obeying Jesus (Mark 1:27); obedience to God (Romans 6:16); obedience to the gospel (Romans 10:16); children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1); servants are to obey their masters (Colossians 3:22); Abraham obeying God (Hebrews 11:8); Sarah obeying Abraham (1 Peter 3:6), etc.
Secondly, Sarah called her husband, “lord.” The word here translated is kurios. This word signifies one having power or authority. This word also speaks of possession or one who has the disposal of something. The word is translated variously in the New Testament as ‘lord’, ‘master’, ‘owner’, etc. It is a descriptive title given to one to whom submission is due. It often was used of civil rulers, emperors, kings. The word can also be used in a very general sense as a title of respect like our English ‘sir’ or ‘Mr.’ However, given the context of our verse, the general meaning is not in use here. Note the connection here with obedience giving the word its normal authoritative signification.
Sarah here had a proper confession—she called her husband lord. She is not the exemplar merely because she called him lord, but rather because she submitted to him and called him lord. Her words were meaningless if not accompanied by the proper submission. I have left many things unsaid at this point, but it is not my purpose to dwell on the husband/wife relationship specifically. We have in our text a great statement about lordship and it will be profitable for us to consider it applied to Jesus for a moment.
The term ‘Lord’ is used so freely and easily today that it probably does not have the impact on us it should. The word is not a formality or mere convention by which we refer to Jesus. This title carries with it the full weight of Divine, Sovereign, and Ruler. It points us to the absolute, ultimate authority of God. We are to confess and acknowledge His lordship, which brings us to some unpacking.
In our example, Abraham’s lordship, though neither ultimate nor absolute, required submission. He was a master/owner and his servants were to submit to him. He was the head of a house, which he commanded (Genesis 18:19), and they were responsible to obey. Even in the human realm, lordship is inseparable from obedience/submission/subjection. Remember the man with two sons whom he commanded to work in his vineyard. The first said he would not, but later repented and went. The second said he would and called his father “sir” (lord, kurios), but did not go. Jesus asked, “Whether of them twain did the will of his father?” (Matthew 21:31). The answer was obviously the first son.
If this is required in human lordship, what must be required in the Divine lordship? It is not surprising that confession of Jesus as Lord also requires submission to His rule. Jesus asked, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Paul wrote, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Confessing Jesus as Lord is not a formula to be simply repeated. It is not a mere movement of the mouth. It is also a bending of the knee, a submitting to His rule. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Let us all then be like Sarah who obeyed and confessed. May the title “Lord” never fall from our lips in vain. Let us be as the first son and repent, abdicate, and submit to the Lord. Finally, let us rejoice in the Lord. “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, the LORD reigneth” (1 Chronicles 16:31).