Women in the first century had no legal rights and very little public influence. How could they influence their unbelieving husbands to believe in God? In spite of such disadvantages, wives could still have a profound impact on their husbands. They could speak loudly for Christ—not necessarily through words, but through their behavior and their Christ-like character (see 1Pe 3:1,4).
Inferiority is not implied by the command to submit (see 1Pe 3:1). The submission is one of role or function necessary for the orderly operation of the home. Direct confrontation, though sometimes necessary might put husbands too much on the defensive. Thus, Peter counsels wives to disarm their unbelieving husbands and make them more receptive to the gospel by being gentle and quiet in spirit. Believing wives are not to rely on argumentation to win their unbelieving husbands, but on the quality of their lives. “Actions speak louder than words.”
These verses have sometimes been abused, as have wives. Biblical submission should not be separated from Biblical responsibility (see 1Pe 3:7; Eph 5:25; Col 3:19). In this context, Sarah is commended for her submission. However, Abraham, rather than trusting in God, relied on his own schemes, which led to Sarah being mistreated (see Ge 12:11–13; 20:10–11).
Some dismiss these verses in the New Testament as the chauvinistic rhetoric of the first century, but such a view misses the whole servant spirit of Christianity. Submission is commanded for all believers (see Ro 12:1–8; Eph 5:21; 1Pe 2:13–17), not just wives. A submissive spirit runs counter to society’s values, and it always has (see Mk 10:42–45). However it remains God’s standard for all believers—male and female, young and old—for all time (see Eph 5:21; Php 2:3–8).