1 Peter 3:1-6
Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word…
The subject of this section is the necessity for a life becoming the Christian name; this is applied to Christian citizens and to Christian servants, and, here, to Christian wives. The reason for the conspicuous place here assigned to wives is obvious. The writer is addressing Churches in pagan countries, many of whose members were wives of heathen husbands. What were these to do? were they to continue in that relationship, or did their Christianity sever the marriage bond? That question occurred more than once; it was brought before Paul by the Church at Corinth, and he deals with it in 1 Corinthians 7. There was probably another reason for this. Dr. John Brown says, "When we reflect on the character of the conjugal relation among heathens, how much there was of the harshness of the tyrant in the husband, and of the baseness of the slave in the wife, and how much pollution and cruelty prevailed in the home, few things were more calculated to strike heathen observers favorably than the power of Christianity in introducing an order and purity and enjoyment into the domestic circle beyond what heathen philosophy had ever dreamt of." Peter's words are often applicable still. Two hearts, two lives, are often bound together by the closest human tics, one devoted to Christianity, the other not. The case here, however, is not of those who had been united after one had become a Christian; the nature of spiritual life and the direct Word of God forbid union of that kind, and there is no consolation here for the trouble that comes from disobedience in this respect. Here the wife is supposed to have become a Christian since she gave herself to the ungodly husband. The Divine finger is laid on the secret of many a troubled life, when husbands are here spoken of that "obey not the Word;" but the hand that pains is that which heals, for there is hope and strength and comfort for the wounded spirit in "Ye wives, be in subjection," etc.
I. THE CHRISTIAN WIFE IS HERE CALLED TO CONSISTENT CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
1. And the first point included is faithful fulfillment of the duties of her relationship. "Be in subjection to your husbands;" equivalent to a summary of the various duties of the position. The expression is harsh at first, but the harshness wears off as we think of it, for love is always in subjection, He whose life was the embodiment of love came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. Love cannot help serving. This word lays no burden on love but what she lays on herself. Nor is this a one-sided requirement; for the same Word says, "Husbands, love your wives" - so that the subjection is mutual" submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." Yet, though the harshness be removed, the command remains and means something, and it is remarkable that in the three instances in the Epistles where the duties of wives are referred to, the same idea of subjection occurs (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; and here). Woman was made for a "helpmeet for man;" "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee;" "Man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man." The subjection, therefore, was to be real, yet not that of a servant, but of a companion; man's other self, yet still subject.
2. Possession of that pure character which springs /rein the fear of God. "Chaste conversation;" equivalent to pure manner of life, a character unsullied, and this arising from the fear of God in the heart. The godly wife of an ungodly man is exposed to great difficulty; the husband, troubled by no scruples, will often expect of her what her conscience condemns; and that position is as perilous as it is painful. Now, this word requires no swerving a hair-breadth from righteousness, not even under pressure of the husband's love and plans. "Whoso loveth... husband... more than," etc.
3. Manifestation of the graces of spirituality. "Whose adorning," etc. This does not necessarily condemn what is simply ornamental. Did we only use what is necessary for bare existence, many of our fellow-creatures could not live. God's works also are marked by beauty, needless but for gratification, and we may well copy him within his own lines. But do not let these be your adornment, do not let these be what men think of first when they see you, nor find in them your attraction; but let your adornment be the graces of the inner life. Let Christian women set themselves against the dress curse, one of the greatest curses of the day, and put character first, as God does.
II. THIS IS SET FORTH AS THE MEANS OF WINNING THE UNCONVERTED HUSBAND. These heathen husbands did not frequent the sanctuary, nor listen to the Word, and thus their case seemed hopeless. But the Divine Word may be carried to heart and mind as much by a Divine life as by a Divine book. Feeding on this book, we become its embodiment, living Epistles of Christ, read of all; and the promise is as true of the Word lived as of the Word spoken, "My Word shall not return unto me void." Vers. 5 and 6: not simply the hope to win the husband should lead to living thus, but not otherwise could the wife prove herself a daughter of Abraham, a member of the true Israel. The membership of the Christian wife in God's family is of itself the ground of her doing what is here required; all this is owed to God as your blaster; but there is an additional motive for this in its effect on the husband. See how this operates.
1. A true Christian life is a standing proof of the Divinity of Christianity. How can the doubting husband be undeceived? By the life of the wife.
2. An exemplification of the beauties of holiness is a constant persuasion. Acts of forgiveness, endurance, sacrifice, adherence to right, etc., gradually tell even on the hardened, and often loudly plead for Christ.
3. Conquest by the passive virtues is God's own method. Men dislike direct assaults on their moral nature, but often open their hearts spontaneously to what seems to make no onset. God recognizes that in his dealings with us. The meaning of his cross is, in fact, that he expects to subdue us by suffering for us and bearing with us. We may expect to win by the same means.
III. THIS IS ONLY ACCOMPLISHED BY PERSONAL HEART-CULTURE. How can we gain this becoming character? The passage answers, "By heart-work." Christian character grows from within.
1. Life is a reflex of faith. "What a man believes, that is he." Love, peace, purity, power, etc., are the proper fruits of trust in God; therefore strengthen your faith.
2. Character is according to companionship. We become like those with whom we associate. They take knowledge of those who have been with Jesus. God impresses his image on the soul that is much with him. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;