Exhortations to the Married. 1 Pet. 3, 1-7.

V.1. Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that, if any obey not the Word, they may also without the word be won by the conversation of the wives, v.2. while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. V.3. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; v.4. but let it be the hidden man of the he art, 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. V.5. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands; v.6. even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. V.7. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. Having spoken of the relation of citizens to their rulers and of servants to their masters, the apostle here addresses himself to those that are living in the holy estate of marriage, giving to both the wives and the husbands certain rules of conduct. Speaking to the wives first, he writes: In like manner you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, in order that, if some are disobedient to the Word, they may be gained through the behavior of the women without a word, if they observe your chaste behavior in fear. That is the first point that the apostle makes, the necessity for submissiveness, for subordination on the part of the wife. Not, indeed, as if the subjection and obedience of the wife were on the same level as that of the domestic slaves, since it is the result of mutual agreement and therefore is a relative obedience rather than an absolute subjection. But that is God’s order: the headship of the husband should be unquestioned in a Christian home. This point, moreover, was here broached with a good reason. For it happened comparatively often in those early days that Christian women had heathen husbands. In the case of these husbands particularly, though other witnesses are not excluded, it was true that they who were disobedient to the Word of the Gospel, who were unbelievers, might be influenced and put into a state of mind favorable to the acceptance of Christianity by the conduct and behavior of their wives, even if these should not speak a single word of reproach, remonstrance, or admonition. For the entire conduct of the Christian women was to be a powerful argument for the truth and power of Christianity. As the men noticed with what care these Christian women kept themselves unspotted from the prevalent sins of unchastity, with what meekness and diligence they did the work of the household, with what reverent deference they observed the will of the housefather, it was bound to make an impression on them. A man would then also argue from the existence of these wifely virtues to the power of the Christian faith, the result being that his interest in the Gospel might lead him to the acceptance of the Word. Thus he would be gained for Christ, and Christ Himself would be his gain.

To this end, however, Christian women were to remember: Whose adornment should not be the outward braiding of hair, and putting round golden jewelry, or putting on (showy) dresses, but the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible beauty of gentleness and of a quiet spirit, which is precious before God. Cp. Is. 3, 17-23. The apostle mentions only a few of the evidences of worldliness and vanity which threaten women in particular. There was the elaborate coiffure which was built up with braids and golden combs, 1 Tim. 2, 19, and nets and artificial aids; there was the putting on of golden ornaments, of rings and bracelets and pendants round the forehead, the arm, the ankle, the finger; there was the vesting in costly and showy garments - all customs affected by the fine society ladies of the world. Note that Peter does not inveigh against neat dresses and modest, simple jewelry, but against that show of dress and finery which indicates that the heart is taken captive by such transitory, vain baubles. The true ornament of a Christian woman is the hidden man of the heart, the new spiritual nature and life. This new, divine life will ever manifest itself in a disposition and in deeds of gentleness and meekness, in a quiet spirit, without pride, assumption, anger, and passionate boisterousness, Rom. 7, 22. These virtues will clothe a Christian woman better than the costliest mantle which this world can supply, and, what is more, such conduct is precious in the sight of God. Note: This lesson should be heeded especially by many of the foolish young women, married and unmarried, who in our days are following the example of the painted and gaudily dressed women of the world.

Christian women will always be ready to follow the example of the sainted women of the Bible: For so did also the holy women formerly adorn themselves, who hoped in God, being subject to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, of whom you have become children, if you do well, and do not yield to any sudden terror. The meek and quiet attitude which has been praised by the apostle will naturally be accompanied by that conduct which unhesitatingly acknowledges the headship of the man. This is the chief, the finest ornament of a wife professing Christianity, as the example of the women of the Bible shows. Their hope was directed toward God and His promises; they knew that the reward of God was greater than anything that the world might offer and give, if they should want to follow its vanities. The apostle singles out Sarah as an exceptional pattern in this respect, in her submission to her husband. She acknowledged, she called him lord, the head of the household. She was perfectly willing to occupy a subordinate position, to be a true helpmeet to Abraham, Gen. 18, 12. And so Christian wives will become true children, true daughters of Sarah, if their entire life is spent in doing good, if they are continually active in good works, if they conduct themselves according to the will of God in their married state. At the same time they are to fear no terrors, not to yield to false fear in any matter. The reference is most likely to the incident related Gen. 21, 10, where Sarah did not hesitate to insist upon expelling the bondwoman with her son, since Isaac alone was the child of promise. Where the will of God, therefore, is clear, either in command or in prohibition, a Christian woman will not let a false dread keep her from obeying the Lord first of all.

That the husbands, according to this word, have no absolute power over their wives is indicated also in the next verse: You husbands likewise (give due honor to them), dwelling with the feminine, as with the weaker vessel, according to knowledge, giving honor to them as also fellow-inheritors of the grace of life, lest your prayers be hindered. The idea of giving due consideration and honor to every person in the station assigned to him by God governs the thought also here. Both the husband and the wife are vessels according to God’s creation, but the man is the stronger, the woman the weaker vessel. But now the husband should show that he appreciates the greater responsibility laid upon him by God in caring for the weaker vessel, his wife, in the proper manner, especially according to knowledge, with the application of Christian common sense. The husband should always be conscious of this fact and let this consideration govern his entire treatment, his entire attitude toward his wife, in all the conditions and circumstances of life. Cp. 1 Thess. 4, 4. With all the intimacy that obtains between husband and wife, the former must never forget that he owes his helpmeet a measure of honor, namely, that which belongs to her as coheir of the grace of life. As Christians they both have their hope and faith set on the same salvation, and they should wander hand in hand to reach that glorious goal. If the husband does not observe this rule, hut attempts to lord it over his wife in a manner for which he has no authority, then the sighing of his wife will be an obstruction in the way of his prayers, her groaning will accuse him before the Lord even before the words which he foolishly considers a prayer have reached the Throne of Grace. The love and wisdom which the married life requires, especially among Christians, should cause all those that have entered into the blessed state of matrimony to seek wisdom from on high in daily, fervent prayer.

Exhortations to Christians in General, Based on Christ’s Work of Redemption and His State of Exaltation. 1 Pet. 3, 8-22.

True brotherly love: V.8. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; v.9. not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing; but contrariwise blessing, knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should in her it a blessing. V.10. For he that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; v.11. let him eschew evil and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it. V.12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Here the apostle in a few sentences indicates what the moral effect of Christianity is: Lastly, you must all be of one mind, sympathizing with one another, loving the brethren, compassionate, humble minded, not returning evil for evil or malediction for malediction, but, on the contrary, blessing, since for this purpose you were called, that you might be heirs of the blessing. The apostle concludes with a summary which is directed to all, whether they be masters or slaves, women or men. Christians at all times should be of the same mind, held together by the bonds of true unity and harmony which are based upon the one foundation of faith, Rom. 12, 16; 15, 5; Phil. 2, 2; 3, 16. They should sympathize with one another, not only when their brother has need of compassion on account of some misfortune that has befallen him, but also when he is in good luck and would appreciate a cheering word, 1 Cor. 12, 26. 27. They should be filled with brotherly love toward one another, since they are children of the same heavenly Father and are held together by the bonds of the most intimate love that can be conceived of. They should be compassionate or merciful, ever proving themselves friends in need; humble minded, always ready to yield the honor to some one else instead of holding false ambitions. Even in their conduct with regard to the hostile world, Christians will not seek revenge, will not return evil in kind, will not become guilty of railing and scolding, Matt. 5, 38. 39; Rom. 12, 17; 1 Thess. 5, 15. They are constituted in an entirely different manner, their behavior is the very opposite of such carnal conduct. For when people do them harm, they conquer the evil with good; they return blessing for cursing. And whenever it proves difficult for our old evil nature to follow the example of our Savior in this respect, we remember our calling, Cod having called us out of the world, away from its sins, in order to impart the fullness of His grace, of His blessing in Christ Jesus, to us. We who, as Luther remarks, are receiving nothing but blessings from God, will surely not feel any desire to wish evil to any person in the world, no matter what the provocation may be. With the gift of eternal life before our eyes, we cannot do otherwise than forgive heartily and gladly do good to those that sin against us.

In a statement which is half warning, half promise, the apostle adds: For he that desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him search for peace and follow after it. This admonition is addressed to Christians and must be understood as referring to the life of Christians only. If any Christian has a desire to enjoy his life in truth, to possess real, genuine happiness, to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; if he wants to see good days, days of blessing, from the Lord, when all his earthly needs are provided for and he can lie down in peace and sleep the sleep of the righteous: such a one should guard his tongue and his lips, lest they speak evil and become guilty of deceit. If his enemies slander and provoke him, he should keep silence, and not become guilty of any sins against the Eighth Commandment; if his honor and good name are assailed, he must not lie or deceive in return. The best way of combating the evil, in this case, is that of turning away entirely from the evil, not to think about it, not to plan it, but rather to do good, to return good for evil, to gather coals of fire on the enemy’s head. The attitude of the Christian will be shown especially in this, that he makes every effort to keep the peace, Rom. 12, 18, not only in a passive, half-hearted way, but with all eagerness, pursuing it with all avidity, without ceasing. Cp. Ps. 34, 13-17.

The Christians may act thus with all the greater confidence and quiet assurance: For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears toward their prayer, but the face of the Lord is directed upon those that do evil. That is a great source of comfort to the believers: He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. The Lord is keeping the most careful watch over His children, He hears and sees everything that their enemies are attempting against them. If any one harms them, His ear is quick to catch the faintest sighing; and His countenance is directed against those that spend their days in doing evil. Vengeance is His, He will repay; and therefore His children may freely and cheerfully put their life with all its vicissitudes into His care, knowing that He will always take care of their interests in a way that will redound to their temporal and eternal welfare.

The Christians as followers and defenders of good: V.13. And who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good? V.14. But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled, V.15. but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear; v.16. having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. The Christians may sometimes have to bear evil for a season, but in reality all things work together for good to them: Who will do you wrong if you are zealous for that which is good? If the Christians at all times are zealous for that which is right and good, if they have a veritable passion for that which has the approval of the Lord, then nothing can really work lasting harm in their case, for they are under God’s care and protection. The only things which really will hurt us, in time and in eternity, are disobedience, deviation from God’s Word. But no enemy can take away from us the true, eternal blessings: God’s grace and mercy, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, peace with God, joy in the Holy Ghost.

And should God permit some evil to strike us, the apostle again has a word of comfort: And even if you should suffer on account of righteousness, yet you are blessed. That is true enough, he means to say, it does happen that the malice of your enemies will reach a point where the very fact of your leading a blameless life will act as a spur to their hostile attitude, increase their bitterness, and make them all the more determined to harm you, to cause you suffering. But what of that? In the very midst of such sufferings the Christians are to be congratulated, for the blessing of the Lord rests upon them, and they are truly happy, Matt. 5, 10. 11. It follows, then: But their fear do not fear, neither be disturbed; but the Lord Christ sanctify in your hearts, always ready with a reply to every one who demands an account of you concerning the hope which is in you. It appears throughout the discussion that the conduct of the Christians in persecutions is not a matter of indifference, but is carefully regulated by the will of the Lord. This the apostle shows in a passage from the Old Testament, Is. 8, 12. 13. The enemies of Christ and of the believers will often resort to threats, in order to create fear in the hearts of the Christians, backing them up by such acts of meanness as to make life almost unbearable in certain instances. And yet the Christians should not let themselves be disturbed or filled with fear. It is true, their enemies can do much harm, they can even, with God’s permission, take the life of the believers, Matt. 10, 28, but they must fall back in helpless anger before their inability to harm the soul, so long as the Christians cling to their allegiance, so long as they sanctify, hallow, Christ in their hearts as their Lord and Master, put their trust in Him and wait for Him to repay at His time. In the mean time they will also not overlook the necessity of confessing their Lord, of being ready with a proper reply for any one that may demand an account of them concerning the hope of their faith. This does not mean that every frivolous scoffer may make the Christians the butt of his untimely jokes; for that would be throwing pearls before the swine. What the Lord wants us to do is to be ready with an exposition of our hope of salvation and particularly of our expectation of the second coming of Christ in the case of every person that shows a real interest in the Christian doctrine as we profess it. Whether this be a genuine searching for the truth or a mere curiosity, it may pave the way for a proclamation of the Gospel that may save a soul. Such a testimony concerning Christ, as the apostle writes, must always be made in meekness and in fear. All personal bitterness must be put aside, a holy reverence for the Word of God must fill the heart, for it is the honor of the Lord which is at stake. 5)

There is one more factor that must not be missing at the time when such a confession is made: Having a good conscience, so that, in their very slander of you as of evil-doers, those that slander your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. Christians that are obliged to rise in defense of the Christian truths have particular need of being careful in their entire conduct, lest there be something in their life which will give their opponents a reason to scorn all instruction which they might be able to give. So clean, so beyond reproach the lives of the believers should be at all times that such as still presume to speak evil of them will find themselves without foundation for their statements and will thus heap shame and disgrace upon themselves, a fact which may again result to the advantage of the Christian religion.

The benefits of Christ's work: V.17. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. V.18. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; v.19. by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; v.20. which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. V.21. The like figure whereunto eyen Baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, v.22. who is gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him. This paragraph is closely connected with the foregoing, the apostle apparently including suffering evil under the general heading of doing good for the sake of the Lord: For better it is to suffer while doing good, if the will of God should so decide, than for doing evil. The apostle here, as in the entire section, uses a very vivid description, personifying even the will and the patience of God. The opinion of the world may be that a person should avoid suffering at any cost, by any means. But the Lord’s standpoint in the matter is this, that suffering evil is sometimes necessary and therefore to be endured. One thing is certain, namely, that a Christian will not object to the will of the Lord if He permits suffering to strike His children. While it would be a calamity for them to be suffering as a punishment for evil-doing, it is no more than they may expect to be suffering for doing well, for it is the way of the world to be hostile to the children of God and to persecute them in every possible way; it is a part of the Christians’ calling as long as they are living in the midst of unbelievers.

It is here that the example of Christ should serve for encouragement: For Christ also died once for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might offer us to God. The example of Christ is of such great value-to the Christians because He suffered and died, being altogether innocent, the Sinless One having the sins of all men imputed to Him, the Just and Holy One taking the place of the unjust ones. Thus Christ’s one death atoned for the transgressions of all men, His vicarious suffering reconciled all men to God the Father. By this act He offered, or brought, us to God, made it possible for us to become partakers of the glory of God. Our bodies, by virtue of the redemption, the glorification of Christ, will be made like unto His glorified body, and we shall see God face to face.

Just how the work of Christ made this possible is shown by the apostle: Having died, indeed, in the flesh, but having been quickened in the spirit, in which He also went and heralded to the spirits in prisons. Christ died, not according to His divine nature, although this was truly and inseparably united with His human nature also in death, but in the flesh, that is, in His fleshly, natural mode of existence, in which He lived and suffered in the days of humiliation. Thus the entire Christ, the Godman, was put to death in the flesh. This same Christ, so the apostle proceeds to tell us, after His death resumed life in the grave. He was quickened, made alive, in the sepulcher. This quickening was made in the spirit, or with respect to the Spirit, that is, in the new glorified state, in which Christ, in His transformed and glorified body, lived, acted, and moved about, came and went as a spirit. In this spirit, in this new spirit-life, glorified and exalted, Christ, the God-man, according to His soul and body, retaining His flesh and blood in a glorified form, went forth, as our triumphant Champion, into the abode of the damned and of the devils, and there proclaimed His victory to the spirits in prison, that is, in hell, specifically to those who are further described. It was a part of the punishment which came upon the condemned and upon the demons in hell that they saw and heard Christ proclaim Himself as the Victor over death and hell, and were obliged to tell themselves that they might have partaken of this glory of the great Hero of mankind, if they had not deprived themselves of this blessing by their revolt against Him and by their unbelief.

The last thought, so far as it concerns condemned human beings, is now elaborated: That had once been disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared. Among the spirits in prison to whom the victorious Christ manifested Himself in the manner shown above were also the souls of those people who in the days of Noah had refused to heed the warning preaching of this man of God, and probably jeered at him for building his big ship on dry land. For one hundred and twenty years the Lord had patience at that time, for one hundred and twenty years he had Noah preach repentance to his fellow-men. But they refused to heed his warning and have thus become an example to the unbelievers of all times, all of whom may expect to meet with the same condemnation. This factor stands out all the more strongly by way of contrast: in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. Of all the men that lived on earth in the days of Noah, all rejected the preaching of Noah. And so finally he only with his family, a total of eight souls, was saved through water, the Flood being considered the means of saving these eight people with the animals that were with them in the ark; the water lifted them up and thus saved them from destruction.

The apostle now makes a splendid application of this incident: Which now saves also us as Baptism, its counterpart, not the removal of the dirt of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The words of the apostle are so simple and so clear that the deliberate misunderstanding of their import by a great number of Christians is a mystery. Water is to us Christians a means of salvation. It is water that saves us, that transmits to us the salvation of Christ in Baptism, which is the antitype or counterpart of the Flood, as Peter has just shown. This salvation, of course, does not consist in washing off the dirt which may have gathered on the skin of the body, but it cleanses the heart of sins; it is a pledge, a contract of a good conscience toward God; it guarantees to us that we may have, by virtue of its application, a clean conscience before God, thus being enabled to lift up our eyes to Him without the slightest trace of fear. This is true because the spiritual gifts and blessings which are the result of the resurrection of Christ, the certainty that God has accepted the sacrifice of His Son and granted forgiveness of sins to the whole world, are transmitted to the believer in Baptism. Thus all Christians are, by reason of their baptism, happy and blessed people, having the certain hope of eternal life through the grace of God in Christ Jesus which they received in the water of Baptism.

In concluding this paragraph, the apostle adds this confession concerning Christ: Who is at the right hand of God, having gone to heaven, angels and authorities and powers being subject to Him. Here Peter briefly indicates how the exaltation of Christ was consummated. He ascended up on high, into heaven, He took His place at the right hand of God, entering upon the full and unrestrained use of His divine power and majesty, also according to His human nature. And He now rules in all eternity as the almighty Lord over all, every order of angels, of the blessed spirits, being subject to His command. There is nothing which has not been put under His feet. Cp. Heb. 2, 8; Ps. 8, 7; 1 Cor. 15, 24 ff.; Rom. 8, 38; Eph. 1, 21. This Man at the right hand of God, Jesus Christ, our Savior, will guard and protect His Church on earth in the midst of all the tribulations and persecutions of these last days. He will deliver us from every evil and translate us into the kingdom of His glory. To Him be glory and power, both now and forever!

Summary. After an exhortation to Wives and husbands the apostle summarizes his admonitions to the Christians in general, showing the need of true brotherly love, of following and defending that which is good, and basing the entire admonition on the benefits of Christ’s work as we have received them also in Baptism.