1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.1 Peter 3:1-6
As we journey through 1 Peter looking at hope, I have to admit that this is not a passage that I initially wanted to cover. I thought long and hard about skipping it. This passage is not flashy. It is not exciting. In fact, if I am not careful, I can distract from its intended message.
But I am firmly convinced that we do not need flash or excitement. We need the word of God exactly as it is written. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that today’s passage is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness” and that through it we may be “complete, equipped for every good work”. The Holy Spirit intended it to give hope to the exiles in Peter’s original audience, and He intends the same for us on our journey Home today.
It is not hard to see what the original context was here. Peter was talking to a group of people who were having difficult times for many different reasons. 1 Peter 2 covers people being subject to tyrant governments and emperors. It also covered how believers who had been sold into slavery were to treat their masters. Neither situation is ideal, and one is vastly worse than the other. Yet God called them to persevere and guard their conduct. Look at 1 Peter 2:19: “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly”.
That sounds ridiculous. From an earthly perspective – especially an American perspective, it is difficult to imagine why one would submit to unjust suffering. From a heavenly perspective, we see a picture of the mind and heart of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). 1 Peter 2:21-24 shows His example:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.”
This shows us that Jesus patiently endured sorrow and was willing to suffer because His endurance gave time for our repentance. He bore the penalty for our sin on the cross. Basically, He died the death we deserve to give us the Life that He alone deserves. What a gift!
In the context of today’s passage, we see the picture of a godly wife yoked with an ungodly husband. I would love to say that this is an unusual situation. I genuinely wish that I could say that this is rare and instances of this are few and far between. But, just as Christ patiently endured until the time that our repentance came (or is still coming), these godly women show us what it is like to genuinely love someone and hope/pray for their salvation. Peter says that these women’s “respectful and pure conduct” can win their husbands to Christ.[i]
Look at the way Peter describes that conduct; he describes the conduct of these women to be their “adorning” – like beautiful clothing and jewelry! We have all met people who are just genuinely beautiful people. No matter what they wear or how they fix themselves up, they are beautiful from the inside out. We have also encountered people who – at first glance – are very physically attractive but whose internal ugliness eclipses any perceived beauty. Peter reminds these wives – and all of us today – to “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (v. 4).
The Bible is very clear on our heart: what is inside will show through to the outside. This is how Jesus put it in Matthew 7:33-34:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
There are many who like to speak of good things and try to hide the evil in their hearts, but Jesus makes it clear that what is inside will bleed through to the outside. I can, unfortunately, speak from experience: hatred on the inside will inevitably show up on the outside. We will be known by the fruit our lives bear.
Peter reminds these godly women of the heritage that they share. He tells them that if they “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (v. 6) that they are continuing in the legacy of Abraham’s wife Sarah who submitted to him.
Peter tells them that the adorning, the “hidden person of the heart”, is how the “holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands” (v. 5). And submitting to anything is one of the most difficult human actions. Submitting to something and giving it a place of authority is even more difficult.
So, what can we get out of all this? Where does the hope we need come into play?
Ultimately, our submission is to be to God, and I think that James gives us very good context for this:
“Therefore it says ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”James 4:7-8
If we are proud or puffed up, we hope only in ourselves. There is no place for submitting to Christ as Lord if our hearts are arrogant and conceited. If we are sitting on the throne of our hearts, Christ does not. So, we must submit to Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
Once you submit to Him – once you are born again, saved, redeemed – things begin to change. What was dead inside of you is made alive (Ezekiel 36:26, Ephesians 2:4-5). Eventually, that inside change is going to work its way outside. It will affect your conduct and way of life. Your hope in the salvation that comes only from Christ is going to affect your outlook, your mindset, and your conduct. Are there going to be days and weeks where your old self and flesh win out? Unfortunately, there will. But the victory over all of it has already been won.
So, we find ourselves being willing to submit in order that people may be won to Christ. We find ourselves being willing to be reviled and persecuted so that those people mistreating us see our conduct, listen to the Word of God that we share with them, and their becoming our brother or sister when they repent and believe in Jesus. This, as usual, is easier said than done. But I can assure that it has value for your life. And it is absolutely what will eventually happen when you have genuine, living hope (1 Peter 1:3)!
I would urge you to think about godly people who you have seen endure hardship so that the gospel can go out. Maybe you have a pastor that endures hell from his congregation while we shares heaven with them. Maybe you know of someone who endures persecution in their work because they want to make sure their coworkers know the hope that comes only from Christ.
It is more likely that you know of a godly wife who puts up with more than you could imagine. You probably wonder how she could love her sorry husband or put up with his foolishness. You probably have told her that she should kick him to the curb for waste management to pick him up. But she sees something that you do not. She sees someone that needs saving. She sees someone who – if they would only repent and believe in Christ – can be so much more than you realize. She is looking at him like Christ looks at us.
And that should be the ultimate focus of our love: to see the people around us come to hear the gospel so that they can repent and believe. May the hope you have in Christ drive you to submit yourself to foolishness that He may receive glory! May the hope we have drive our conduct and our appearance. And, if we search our hearts and do not find that hope, may God grant us the repentance and faith in Him that we need the most!
[i] I know that there are genuinely terrible and terrifying situations built into some marriages. There is abuse and worse than I would ever hope to imagine people enduring. In those situations, do not hesitate to seek help or assistance.