1 Peter 3:1-6

1 Peter 3:1‑6  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The apostle does not exhort the masters, as we find in the Epistles to the Ephesian and the Colossian saints; but he addresses wives and husbands in the next place, without speaking in particular to children and parents. The relation of wives, as of domestics; was one of subjection.
“Likewise, ye wives, [be] subject to your own husbands, that even if any are disobedient to the word, they may be gained without word through the behavior of the wives, having beheld your chaste behavior in fear; whose adornment let it not be the outward one of plaiting the hair, and of wearing gold, or of putting on apparel, but the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible of the meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God very precious. For thus also heretofore the holy women that hoped in God adorned themselves, being subject to their own husbands; as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose children ye became, doing good and not being afraid of any dismay” (vers. 1-6).
It is easy to understand, that, as with servants, so with wives, Christians who stand in the subject place might and must find frequent difficulty with heathen or Jewish superiors to whom they were so near. For the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; and it is provoked by what is of the Spirit in those whom they command. A Christian wife cannot give up a conscience toward God in matters of right and wrong; again she has objects of faith dearer to her soul than life which claim her allegiance and observance, in public as well as private ways utterly repugnant to unbelievers of every sort.
All the more is it incumbent on such believing wives as are bound to unbelieving husbands, that they should be truly and sedulously subject to their own husbands, wherever it is compatible with doing the will of God. Even in the O. T., where such unions existed, the wife was under obligation before God to be subject; whatever the rigor that the law required, whatever the horror inspired by idolatry. The eyes of Jehovah, they knew, were toward the righteous and His ears open to their cry. The face of Jehovah was against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
But the N. T, greatly strengthens the believer's heart by the then revelation of the grace of Christ far beyond what could act of old. Not only does it fortify to suffer both for righteousness and His Name; it encourages faith by the sovereign grace which saved ourselves to look to our God and Father on behalf of others who need it no less than we once did. And if He sought and saved me, a lost sinner, may I not the more from standing in so close a relationship pray for my husband dark and dead as he is?
Here too the apostle gives a wise caution. The less spiritual Christian is too apt to forget the ways of divine grace in bringing ourselves to God, and to regard conversion as the simple effect of the truth, overlooking the various workings of the Spirit to give the word a root in the heart. The unbeliever as such slights the word and has no conception of its power when by the Spirit Christ is thereby revealed to the soul. The practical bearing has immense weight with one ignorant of God and of himself. But his conscience can value greatly, gentleness, lowliness, patience, obedience in another and especially that other his wife. He is well aware how unreasonable and unkind he has often been to her; yet she has borne it, and never complained, never reproached, but been as loving and dutiful as ever. He is forced to feel that there must be something that makes the difference in her faith which he often mocked. Hence is pressed “that even if any are disobedient to the word, they may be gained without word through the behavior of the wives, having beheld their chaste [or, pure] behavior in fear.”
It is not meant that one can be begotten of God without the word: 1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23) forbids such a thought as decidedly as James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18) and many other scriptures. But the moral weight and the gracious way of the wife tell on the hard husband; and he is won to hear, so much the more because she does not preach to him, as he calls it. How many have been thus gained to hear the gospel the day will declare. The modest purity he knows and values much, and this in fear, not boldness or self-confidence, but tempered by the dread of offending God or her husband. For here it seems put with all generality.
Next he turns to the external habits of a Christian wife, and urges the avoidance of frivolous and sumptuous ornaments. Some may deride this: but it is their carnality or worldliness which governs. Has not the Christian to please Christ and do all things in His Name? Our bodies are to be presented a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God; and we are not to be conformed to this age with its changing fashions of luxury and splendor, whatever station may be ours naturally. Christ is dearer, nearer, and more than all. And the Christian wives are not exempt. Their adornment is not the outward one of dressing hair, nor wearing gold things, or putting on dress, which are alien from Christ and a shame to saints. The real ornament is the hidden man of the heart which He sees, in the incorruption (for outside all is corruptible) of a meek and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is of much price. None of these showy objects is so, nor could all Ophir buy it.
Therefore Peter was led to speak of ancients witnessing for God in this respect. “For thus also heretofore the holy women that were hoping in God adorned themselves accordingly, being subject to their own husbands; as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose children ye became, doing good and not being afraid with any dismay.” On God their hope rested, not on themselves. Sarah stood at the head of these pious matrons of Israel; but though not alone (for there were not a few saints of like spirit), she was far from forgetting the true ornaments that became saints.
Favored as Christians were by Christ and redemption come, the wives now ought not to fall short either in moral adorning or in subjection. Sarah obeyed her husband and reverently addressed him (Gen. 18:1212Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? (Genesis 18:12)); she was not carried away by the common ground for vanity, though she had beauty more than most. Her children such wives now became as were doers of good and not frightened by any scare from propriety. Why should they be who know that Christ's Father is their Father, and Christ's God is theirs? Why be perturbed since He sent His servants to comfort them with the same peace He gave them? The enemy works by fear; God by His love in Christ against every source of alarm.
Hence as another wrote, even before love was fully manifested, when it was simply hoped for with confidence, souls “from weakness were strengthened, became mighty in war, made armies of aliens give way. Women received their dead by a resurrection; and others were tortured, not having accepted deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:34, 3534Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: (Hebrews 11:34‑35)).