Although we might think that Peter has moved on to a new subject when he addresses wives and husbands, he is still dealing with the matter of submission. ‘Likewise’ refers back to the way Christians were expected to respond to every God-ordered structure in society (1 Pet. 2:13), including the state, the place of daily work and in the home. In this section, Peter deals with wives and husbands.
There is a rather surprising absent detail in this section, which is that Peter does not speak to unconverted wives. He divides the men into obedient and disobedient (which is one way of distinguishing between Christians and non-Christians), but the wives he addresses in verses 1-6 and in verse 7 are regarded as believers. Perhaps the reason for focusing on wives is because some of them may have misunderstood Christian liberty and had assumed that they no longer had to show submission to unconverted husbands.
At first glance, we might deduce that Peter is hard on the wives because he takes six verses for their role and one verse for the husband’s role. Yet the reality is that he regards the role of women as very important and desires that they would live in such a way that would please God. The apostle wanted them to be effective witnesses for God in their homes, whether they were Christian homes or not (the home at that time would be defined by the husband’s faith or lack of it).
Before we look at some aspects in later readings, we should remind ourselves what submission does not mean. It does not mean that a wife ceases to think for herself (she does not lose the privileges that come to her because she had been made in the image of God), it does not mean that a wife should do what she thinks is wrong (she cannot use submission to her husband as a reason for disobeying God), it does not mean that her husband has a higher place than Jesus, it does not mean that a wife should not advise her husband on a matter (after all, she may be a lot more intelligent than him), it does not mean that a wife should suffer in silence if her husband is cruel to her, and it does not mean that a wife is inferior to her husband in the sight of God.