In Christ, every aspect of our lives is woven together. The demeanor that receives the salvation offered to us is a demeanor that relates to husbands, wives, and everyone else in that same way. The spirit you have toward God is not turned off when you face your fellow man. Your spirit in dealing with your husband or wife does not switch off when you kneel in prayer. If you think it does, you are just pretending. Wherever you go, you are always you.
“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; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price . . .” (1 Peter 3:1–22).
Summary of the Text:
Remember that crucial word likewise. Likewise, you wives be in subjection to your husbands. Some of them are not obedient, and this is the most effective way to win them (vv. 1-2). Without a word. Adorn yourself, but not with all the carnal tricks (v. 3). Adorn yourself, but not according to the women’s magazines. Adorn yourself in the heart, using the jewelry of a meek and quiet spirit (v. 4). This is what the holy women in older times did, trusting in God, which is most necessary when you are attempting this (v. 5). This is how Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (v. 6; Gen. 18:12). You are her daughters if you follow in her footsteps, and stay clear of fear (v. 6).
Remember that in the flesh, Sara had no daughters. She bore the son of promise, but she had no daughters. You, Christian women, are invited to assume that role by faith. You are Sara’s daughters if you trust God and spurn any invitations offered up to you by fear. If you do this, your spirit is described as being of “great price.” This has enormous value in the sight of God—the word used here is the same word used to describe the spikenard that the woman poured on the head of Christ, preparing Him for burial (Mark 14:3).
Likewise, you husbands, honor your wives, just as they are, and protect your prayers by protecting your wife (v. 7).
All of you together, share the Spirit of Christ in your midst. Be of one mind, be compassionate, loving, kind and courteous (v. 8). Do not pay people back in their own coin (v. 9). The blessings you inherit will be the unmerited blessings you render back to other people. Citing Psalm 34 for the second time, Peter asks this—you want a good life, good days? Then stop lying (v. 10). Turn away from evil and do what is good (v. 11). Remember the omniscience and omnipresence of the God who answers prayers (v. 12). The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. His ears are open to their prayers, which should remind us again of husbands who complain that their prayers are not heard (Mal. 2:13-14). Why are your prayers rejected? Because God sees how you treat her. Who can touch you if you are doing right (v. 13)? And if someone seems like they can “touch” you, then don’t worry about it (v. 14). Set apart the Lord in your hearts, and always have an apologetic for your hope ready (v. 15), in meekness and fear. Keep a good conscience, so that their lies about you come back to embarrass them (v. 16). If you have to suffer, do it for righteousness’ sake (v. 17).
Christ suffered in just that way, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (v. 18). He was crucified, and then in the Spirit He went and preached to the spirits in prison (v. 19). These were those who were disobedient during the times of Noah, prior to the Flood, when eight souls were saved through water (v. 20). Baptism is the antitype of the ark, and you are saved through baptism as an appeal of a good conscience to God, empowered by the resurrection (v. 21). This risen Lord is in Heaven now, with angelic powers and authorities all in subjection to Him (v. 22).
Authority is a Gospel Issue:
All through chapter 2, and now in chapter 3, Peter has been emphasizing the importance of the right kind of deference. Christ has set the supreme example of lowliness and humility, which we are solemnly charged to imitate—slaves to masters, wives to husbands, all of us to one another. And at the conclusion of the chapter, we see that Christ is the supreme example of what happens when God exalts such true humility. Do you think such humility will make you a doormat? Well, did it make Christ a doormat? How does this chapter end?
We may all acknowledge that there are extreme cases when a wife with a disobedient husband needs to call the cops, or call the elders. That does happen. But let us also acknowledge that an apostle of Jesus is talking about a real kind of situation here, one that he believed to be common enough that it needed to be included in Scripture. Notice that Peter assumes that the wife in his scenario is in the right, and that her husband is disobedient and in the wrong. His counsel surely must apply some time.
His counsel amounts to this. Adorn yourself with a necklace that is priceless in the sight of God, who sees everything. Women, a meek and quiet spirit is something that God considers to be altogether lovely. And if God thinks you are lovely, then at some point your chump of a husband might catch on. Even if he never catches on, he is much more likely to catch on this way. Generally speaking, women have no idea how alluring and winsome this gentle and quiet spirit is. Is this counter-intuitive? You bet. Deep in your heart, you believe that the Holy Spirit is encouraging you to itemize his many deficiencies for him. But He is not leading you that way at all.
Think about your most precious possession for a moment. Do you know where it is? Have you taken steps to guard it? Is it in your strongbox, or out in the garage somewhere? So women, Christian wives, do you want to be in God’s strongbox? And if you are, is there anything to fear? Do you really think that God would leave women that He calls precious unguarded somehow? Remember how He treats our incorruptible inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4-5). He has the desire to guard what is precious to Him, and He has the power to guard what is precious to Him.
People who say that true wifely submission is a foolish invitation to abuse are like the Sadducees who denied the resurrection—they do not know the Scriptures and they do not know the power of God (Matt. 22:29).
But husbands are to live in a counter-intuitive way as well. Likewise, husbands are to dwell with their wives “according to knowledge.” Husbands, among other things this means you must pay attention. That knowledge includes the fact that she is weaker than you are. But men, naturally competitive, do what with weakness? Whenever they see it, they want to use it, exploit it, and compete with it. But what does Peter say to do? Honor it. And in this case, we are not talking about weakness as a moral deficiency, but rather weakness that is a function of creational design. What is weaker, a priceless china vase or a nine-pound sledge? And which one costs more?
Honoring weakness is not the same thing as tolerating it, or rolling your eyes at it in a “what can you do?” fashion.
When you refuse to honor your wife, your prayers get all gummed up. And why? Because God is treating your weakness the way you treat hers. No fun, is it?
Keep Your Lips from Guile:
Peter does not say that we should refrain from speaking lies unless we have first deceived ourselves. He says we must be free from guile, period. And lying to yourself is where all lying begins. Do you want to love your life? Stop lying. Do you want to love good days? Stop kidding yourself. Do you want to know why your prayers are hindered? Cease from guile. Do you want to understand your husband accurately? Stop weaving false stories for yourself.
What does self-deception look like? You lie to yourself when you go along with the way of the world. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Cor. 3:18–20). When you listen to lying “abuse advocates,” you are listening to the world, and thereby deceiving yourself. Second, you lie to yourself when you fail to put your knowledge of Scripture into action. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas. 1:22). Husbands, are you Mr. Doctrine Bible Man? Do you live your theology around the dinner table the same way you talk it? You deceive yourself when you suppress knowledge of your own sins and failings. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10). This is particularly the case when we suppress the reality of our own sins, and magnify the heinousness of the sins of others. If you are not using equal weights and measures, you are self-deceived. And if you evaluate yourself by your internal intentions, and evaluate others by their external actions, then you have your fat and very sinful thumb on the scale. How many marriage snarls are caused by you looking at what you meant, and placing it alongside what they did? Do you even read your Bible?
That He Might Bring Us to God:
The fundamental message of good news is a message of exchange. Peter says it plainly here—the just for the unjust (v. 18). The reason He did this is because He had a mission assigned to Him by His Father. Christ overcame the world when He was killed by that world. He came to earth, and went to the cross “that He might bring us to God.” Place these statements together—so that the just might bring the unjust to God. But we cannot be brought to God as is. We cannot be brought without being made like Him. And we are made like Him because we are being made like the one who is bringing us to Him. We are all walking the same road. We are all going through the same process. Remember—holiness under pressure means the kind of holiness that Jesus exhibited perfectly.
And follow the Word closely here, because an understanding of this principle will suffuse all the exhortations in this epistle. Remember that Christians are being exhorted to holiness under pressure. And the principle is this: we cannot be made like Him without being made like Him. And when we are made like Him, we are like Him in every place, and in every relation. You will not just be holy in Heaven, when all the pressure is gone. No. You will be holy here, in the midst of all the turmoil. You may be thrown into the fiery furnace, but when your Nebuchadnezzar looks, he will see one like the Son of God, in there with you (Den. 3:24-25).