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Our apostle having, in the foregoing chapter, entered upon an exhortation to the practice of relative duties, particularly of subjects towards their rulers, and of servants towards their masters, he continues here his exhortation to husbands and wives in the former part of this chapter, beginning first with the wives' duty, (as did St. Paul in all his epistles,) because the duty of subjection is the most hard and difficult duty; Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.
Observe here, 1. The duty enjoined, subjection; that is, a loving and delightful obedience to the husband, owning of and submitting to his authority, in compliance with the command of God.
Observe, 2. The persons from whom and to whom this subjection is due: from every wife to her own husband, believer or unbeliever. Christian or infidel; it is not lawful, upon any pretence whatever, for the wife to cast off this duty, which by the law of her creation, and the express command of God, is bound upon her.
Observe, 3. One special reason assigned why such wives as have unbelieving, wicked, and unconverted husbands, should take particular care to express that fear and reverence towards God, subjection and obedience, that chastity and conjugal affection towards their husbands, which the word of God calls for; namely, that such husbands as obey not the word, may without the word (preached) be won to the faith, by observing the efficacy and power of the word in the conversation of the wives.
Learn hence, That the wives' holy and humble, pious and prudent, meek and patient, chaste and unsuspected conversation before God and the world, does recommend not only their persons to the love and esteem of their husbands, but also their faith and holy religion, (which produces such good fruits,) to their approbation and choice: If any obey not the word be won by the conversation of the wives.
Our apostle's next advice, here given to wives, is concerning their attire; this is laid down, first, negatively, what it should not be, not an outward adorning, attended with great curiousity and exactness in dressing the body with plaited hair, gold chains, gay and gaudy apparel, and such like.
Where note, That plaited hair, gold chains, and costly attire, were then the attire of lewd women; whores only or chiefly were so decked and adorned, and therefore were absolutely forbidden to the Christian women by our apostles: but when such attire ceases to be a mark of such distinction, it may be worn by Christian women, provided it be done without pride, and without too great expense both of time and treasure: always remembering that gravity in apparel, and wearing such a dress as is soon put on, is most honourable and best becoming Christian women. "I had rather, says one, go like the wild Indians, than have those thousands of hours to answer for, which some have spent between the glass and the comb."
Observe here, That this text doth not absolutely forbid the wearing of ornaments or costly apparel by such persons whose quality will answer it, but only forbids pride and vanity, affectation and ostentation, in the wearing of them; it is not only lawful to cover the body, but to adorn the body; Abraham had never sent ear-rings and bracelets to Rebekah, had they been sinful in their use: to wear such things beyond our purse and place, and to make ourselves or others poor by making ourselves fine, is very sinful, but otherwise, lawful.
Observe next, Our apostle's affirmative precept for the woman's adorning, with the reasons of it, 1 Peter 3:4. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, &c.
Where note, 1. What must be apparelled and adorned, the hidden man of the heart; that is, the soul, which wants both covering and adorning as well as the body, sin having made both naked to their shame.
Note, 2. With what the hidden man of the heart must be apparelled; not with fine clothes, they will not cover a naked soul, but with the sanctifying graces of the Spirit of God, with humility and meekness, with piety and prudence, which ornaments will never wax old, nor grow out of fashion, as others do, and are also of precious esteem with God himself, they are in the sight of God of great price; these virtues are in themselves, and render the possessors of them truly valuable in the sight and esteem of God.
Upon the whole, then, it evidently appears, that the negation here is not absolute, but comparative; as if the apostle had said, "God will have the hidden man of your heart adorned with grace, and delights more to see that, than your bodies adorned with precious jewels and costly apparel; and accordingly, if women affect finery, and would appear beautiful, let them choose the best ornaments, those of the mind and heart, which will attract the eye of God towards them, rather than those external ones, which serve only to draw man's eye to an admiration of them."
Our apostle in these two verses enforces the exhortation and advice given to women in the foregoing verses, namely, to attire themselves with outward modesty and inward meekness, by a twofold argument:
1. From the example of holy women in general under the Old Testament, whose praise is in the scripture, not for the external adorning of the body, but for their affiance and trust in God, and their subjection paid to their own husbands.
Here note, 1. That holiness, or the duties of the first table, are required of women as well as of men: and God accepts holiness in them as well as in men, The holy women.
Note, 2. That all holy women of old did, and always ought to, make conscience of their duty to their husbands, particularly of subjection, that so good example may be given by them, and taken from them, for others to do the like: the virtue of good example is lasting, it may do good many years after the example is given; the example of these holy women had a fresh power to do good many thousand years after it was given, and will still have to the world's end.
2. Another argument is taken from the example of Sarah, who meekly obeyed Abraham, acknowledging him to be her lord; the daughters of whose faith, and the heirs of whose blessing, such wives will appear and prove themselves to be, who do as Sarah did, not suffering themselves by any fears or terrors to be diverted from, nor by any fits of passion and grief to be disturbed in, the performance of that duty which God requires, and the husband expects: Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord.
Observe, 2. That the same duty and reverence, the same subjection and obedience, which Sarah gave to Abraham, is due and payable to every husband, else the apostle's argument is of no force.
Some might say, Abraham was a great man.
Ans. True, but Sarah obeyed him as her husband, as well as wives ought to do, because the command of God requires honour and reverence to be given to all husbands, as husbands.
Observe, lastly, With what great and wonderful goodness and clemency the Lord is pleased to overlook the failings and infirmities of his upright servants; we find in Sarah's story, Genesis 18:1 that she spake very unhandsomely, and laughed indecently, when the angel came and told her she should have a son; but all that is passed by in silence, and that one good word she gave her husband, calling him lord, is mentioned here by St. Peter to her eternal honour. The Lord has a gracious respect to a little pure gold, though mingled with much dross, and in a great heap of sin: if he can espy, he will accept of a little spark of true grace.
O Lord! thou wilt not bring our infirmities and slips to account against us, nor rigidly reckon with us for the same, if our hearts be upright with thee: make us then sound in thy statues, that we may not be ashamed.
Next our apostle proceeds to direct and exhort husbands to the practice of their respective duties; the general and comprehensive duty of the husband here mentioned is cohabitation, under which all matrimonial duties are contained: Dwell with your wives according to knowledge; that is, as becomes wise and understanding men, that will understand their duty, and, as the rule of Christianity directs, giving just honour and due respect unto them, and exercising great tenderness towards them.
Next observe, The reason subjoined to enforce this duty upon husbands: 1. Because wives are the weaker vessels, subject to infirmities, and more liable to contempt; therefore their husbands should contribute their wisdom and authority to support their honour, and preserve them from being despised either by children or servants.
2. Because wives are not only co-partners with their husbands in their temporal good things, but also co-heirs of saving grace with them, heirs together of the grace of life.
3. Because otherwise their prayers, one with, and one for, another, would be obstructed and disturbed; That your prayers be not hindered.
Note here, That all sinful walking in general, but discord and discontent between husband and wife in particular, doth exceedingly hinder prayer: it oftentimes hinders from the very act of prayer, that the duty is laid aside; it flats and deads our spirits, and straitens our hearts in prayer, and it hinders the effect, fruit, and success, of our prayers; it makes persons in that condition, that they have no heart to come before God, nor care to lift up their faces to him.
From the whole learn, That it ought to be the mutual care of married couples so to order all their carriage towards each other, that in their houses they hinder not any holy duties; to hinder the practice of religion is repugnant to the great ends of this relation; some hinder by their wickedness, others by their discontent and frowardness; take we care that neither the husband's nor wife's heart be deadened, nor their heart damped to holy duties, by either of their sinful or froward behaviour; that family will be little in praying that is much in squabbling and contending one with another.
Our apostle having finished his exhortation to relative duties, namely, of husbands and wives, masters and servants, magistrates and subjects, he now enters upon another subject, namely, that of sufferings, showing us a prudential way and manner how to avoid sufferings, that they may not come upon us; and next how to avoid impatience under sufferings, that they may not come upon us; and next how to avoid impatience under sufferings, if it be the will of God that they do come upon us.
The former of these is spoken to in the verses now before us, in which he exhorts us to the practice of those virtues which are apt to reconcile, and gain the affections of men towards us, particularly he exhorts to unity and concord.
Be all of one mind; to sympathize one with another in and under sufferings, and to bear with one another's infirmities, to be courteous towards all, sweet and affable in our demeanour, provided our courtesy be neither a snare to ourselves, nor an encouragement to others in their sins, abstaining from all injuries and provocations, from all revenge both in act and in desire, not reviling them that rail at us, but giving good words for bad ones, for we are hereunto called, that we should inherit a blessing; that is, Christ by his gospel hath called, and by his example encouraged, us thus to do, that we may be blessed.
Next observe, that to encourage us to the perpetual practice of these virtues, our apostle assures us, that thereby we should most effectually consult the safety and comfort of our lives: For he that loveth life, that is, quietness and peace, which is the comfort of life, the likeliest way to obtain it, is, to keep his tongue from speaking evil of others, and his lips from uttering falsehood and deceit; plainly intimating, that it is men's unbridled tongues which bring most of their troubles upon them.
He advises also to eschew evil, to avoid and to abhor every thing that is vile and sinful; and to do good, that is, all the good we can, to all men; to seek peace, and ensue it, that is, to depart sometimes from our own right to obtain peace, and to follow hard after it, though it flies before us.
And further our apostle assures us, that this innocency of conversation is not only the way to gain the friendship of man, but to obtain the favour of God, and to engage his providence for our protection: For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry: as if he had said, "The eye of God's special care will be continually watching over you for good, to save you from unreasonable men, and he will hear your prayers and all your distresses; and the face of the Lord, his angry countenance, will be against them that wrong you and do evil to you, to return it upon their own heads."
So that the sum of all is, that an innocent and harmless, a quiet, peaceable, and obliging deportment, doth naturally tend to preserve us from evil and from evil men; for who is he that can be so unnatural and ungrateful as to harm us, if we be followers of that which is good? that is, if we be civil and obliging to them, they cannot find in their hearts to be injurious and unkind to us. Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
Here note, That the apostle doth not absolutely say none will harm us, but he speaks of it as so very unreasonable and improbable a thing, that we may presume it will ot ordinarily and often happen: not but that good men are obnoxious to harm: the most unblemished and shining virtue will not at all times and in all times and in all cases be exempt from injury and ill-treatment; but the following of that which is good doth in its nature tend to secure us from the malice and mischief of men, and very frequently does it, and is the best and most effectual means in order to it; he must love mischief for mischief's sake, that will be mischievous to him who never offered him any occasion, or gave him any provocation: therefore let us never be weary of well-doing, seeing doing good to men is ordinarily a security against injuries from men, by recommending us to the favour and protection of God, and to the esteem and good-will of mankind; none shall harm them that do good, for all harms shall tend to their good.
As if the apostle had said, "Though following that which is good be, generally speaking, a sure and certain way to keep you from harm, yet should it so happen, that notwithstanding all your piety and prudence, you should suffer for well-doing, ye are happy and not miserable; therefore be not afraid of their terrors and threatenings, neither be ye troubled for what they can inflict upon you."
Note hence, 1. That to suffer affliction and persection for righteousness' sake, doth not hinder, but further our happiness; If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye, for so suffered your Saviour that went before you.
Note, 2. That when God calls us forth to suffer for righteousness' sake, we must fortify ourselves against all fear: no terrors must trouble us, no apprehended dangers or difficulties must dismay us: Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts;-- This phrase in scripture imports, 1. A firm belief of God's Almighty power, that he can protect from sufferings; and a full affiance in his goodness and providence, that he will do it, if it be good for us.
2. It is from the heart to own and believe the truth of all that God delivers in his word by way of promise to his people, and by way of threatening to their enemies, that his eyes are over the righteous, and his face against them that do evil.
3. To sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, is always to maintain upon our minds such an holy fear, and awful reverence of God, as will effectually prevail upon us to dread more the displeasure of God, than any thing we can suffer at the hand of man.
Learn hence, 1. That when sufferings are approaching we ought to strengthen our hearts against all fears of suffering, by putting our trust in God.
2. That by this trust and confidence in God in a suffering hour, we do eminently sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear and your dread. Isaiah 8:13
--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: As if the apostle had said, "If you be Christians indeed, you are not without hope, an hope of everlasting bliss and happiness, which will infinitely recompense you hereafter for all the hard things which you suffer for the sake of Christianity here; and forasmuch as this your hope is not a vain and groundless expectation, but a rational hope, be always ready to render a reason of that hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
Learn hence, 1. That the Christian's hope is a rational hope, he has a reason to hope for what he hopes, his hope is well-grounded upon the promise of God, upon the purchase of Christ, and upon the operations of the Holy Spirit, quickening him by its renovation, leading him by its manuduction, actuating him by its influence, animating him in devotions by its assistances, by being the author of all that grace that is in him.
Learn, 2. That it is a Christian's duty to be always ready to render a reason of this his hope, when the glory of God, the honour of religion, and the good of others do require it.
Learn, 3. That this must not be done with vanity and ostentation, but with meekness and fear: Be always ready to render a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
Here our apostle adds his advice to Christians, that they silence and put to shame their adversaries, by their holy conversation, together with their rational disputations: he bade them in the former verse be always ready to make a profession of their faith, and to render a reason of their hope; here he bids them confute gainsayers by a good conversation, and in order thereunto to keep continually an innocent mind and a clear conscience, pure from guile, and clear from guilt: Having a good conscience, that such as speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, may be ashamed.
Note here, 1. That let the servants of Christ be never so innocent in their lives, and circumspect in their carriage, yet there are those that will censure them as bad men, and slander them as evil doers.
Note, 2. That a good conscience, accompanied with a good conversation, is the most effectual mean to stop the mouth of slander, and to put such as accuse us falsely, to shame.
Note, 3. That when sufferings and persecutions do come, after all, the consideration that we suffer not for evil, but for well-doing, will be a sufficient support and consolation to us. It is better, if God sill have us suffer, that it be for well-doing; better for us, but worse for our persecutors; for now the body only suffers, while the soul is free.
These words are brought in as a strong argument, why Christians that suffer wrongfully should bear it patiently; it was our Saviour's own case; he that had perfect innocency and unspotted righteousness, suffered in the severest manner for us that were unrighteous, that he might reconcile us to God, being put to death in the flesh, that is, in our human anture, but quickened by the Spirit, or raised to life again by the power of his godhead; it doth therefore well become all his followers cheerfully to undergo all manner of sufferings for him, which they meet with in their duty to him.
Note here, 1. Christ did not barely suffer for our good, but he suffered in our stead: he is not only said to suffer for us, but to suffer for our sins, that is, the punishment of our sins; for no man was ever said to suffer for sin that did not undergo and endure the punishment of sin.
As the sin-offering under the law is called an offering for sin, because it did expiate the guilt of sin, by dying in the place and stead of the offender; in like manner, when the death of Christ is called an offering for sin, what can it import, but that he suffered to make atonement for sin in our place and stead? The just for the unjust; if these words do not imply the substitution of Christ as our surety, and his suffering the punishment due to our sins, what words can express it?
Note, 2. That the great end of Christ's bitter death and bloody sufferings, was to bring all those for whom he died unto God; now Christ's bringing us to God imports our apostasy from him, and our inability to return to him; that sin unsatisfied for, which was the great bar to keep us from him, is mercifully removed by him, and that our chief happiness consists in the enjoyment of him.
Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: As if St. Peter had said, "Though Christ suffered for our sins, and was put to death in his human nature, or flesh, yet he was quickened and made alive by the Spirit, in which, or by which Spirit, he went and preached to the spirits in prison, which in the days of Noah were hardened in sin and disobedience, whilst the long-suffering of God endured them, and waited for their repentance no less than an hundred and twenty years, whilst the ark was making and preparing, and Noah preached to them; yet so impenitent were they to the very last, that only eight were saved in the ark."
Note here, 1. That the old world before the flood were in prison whilst here on earth, being in bondage and captivity to sin and Satan, held in the chains of their lusts, and in the bondage of their iniquity; such as are in bondage to sin, are captives in Satan's prison: the old world was also in prison whilst on earth, as having received from God the sentence of destruction, and were reserved as in prison, against the day of slaughter, if they repented not within an hundred and twenty years.
Note, 2. That Christ by his Spirit did preach to the old world in the ministry of his prophets, Enoch and Noah; and his Spirit did chide with them and reprove them, in order to their bringing to repentance.
Note, 3. That those refractory and hardened sinners, for despising the offers of grace made to them, were for their disobedience clapped up in the prison of hell, suffering the vengence of eternal fire; such as were cast into prison in Noah's time, were all fast in St. Peter's time: there is no picking the locks of hell gates, no breaking through the walls of the fiery Tophet; hell has a door to take in, but none to let out.
Note, 4. That though Christ by his Spirit preached to the spirits in prison, yet it was not when they were in prison, I mean in the prison of hell, but when here on earth; there are no sermons in hell, no conditions of happiness proposed, no tenders of salvation propounded there; Christ preached to these prisoners to prevent their imprisonment, Christ preached to these men, who were now in prison, that they might not have been imprisoned.
Note lastly, That the obstinate infidelity, and sottish stupidity, of the old world, was amazing, that after an hundred and twenty years' preaching, no more than eight persons should be persuaded into the belief of the world's destruction.
From the beginning we find that the prophets of God had cause to complain that few have believed their report: do not the ministers of God now groan to God, that they run in vain, and labour in vain, and spend their strength for nought? From the beginning it has been so.
Lord! if thou honourest any of us with better success, and givest us to see the fruit of our labours in the lives of our people, help us to set the crown of praise on the head of thine own grace, and say Non nobis, Comine, non nobis, &c. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory."
Observe here, 1. The type and the anti-type, the ark and baptism; their salvation from the deluge, by the ark, prefigureth our salvation from God's wrath by baptism. As all that were without the ark perished, and all within the ark were saved; so all that are ingrafted into Christ by faith, whereof baptism is a seal, are saved, whilst the unbelieving and unbaptized part of the world perish. Baptism is such a mean of spiritual salvation now, as the ark was of Noah's and his family's temporal salvation then: the like figure whereunto, baptism now saveth us.
Observe, 2. How our apostle expresses himself, and plainly declares what he means by that baptism which is saving; negatively, it is not the outward ceremony of sprinkling the face, or washing the body with water, that is saving, or any ways pleasing unto God, save only as it is an act and exercise of our obedience to his command and will; but positively, it is the answer of a good conscience towards God, that is, the faithful answer of a resolved soul in the covenant of baptism, who gives up himself to the obedience of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and renounces the world, the flesh, and the devil; this covenanting is the condition of salvation, and baptism but the sign.
Learn hence, The outward baptism alone saves none, but the inward only; and the sign and singular effect of inward baptism, is the answer of a good conscience towards God, Yet we must not conclude, with the Anabaptists, from this text that baptism can be of no saving advantage to infants, because, they cannot at present make this answer of a good conscience: for in the same manner speaks St. Paul of circumcision, that the true circumcision before God is the inward circumcision of the heart and spirit, and not the outward circumcision of the flesh.
But who dare argue from thence, that the Jewiah infants, for want of the inward circumcision, must not be admitted to the outward?
The argument is the very same: will you say that the answer of a good conscience is absolutely necessary, and expressly required, that baptism may be beneficial; therefore they only are to be baptized that can make this answer? The same may we say, that the inward circumcision of the heart was required as the only acceptable circumcision in the sight of God: therefore they only are to be circumcised, who have this inward circumcision of the heart. But as the one was the will of God, so is the other.
True indeed, The Jews did not admit proselytes to circumcision then, no more will we admit adult persons to baptism now, without the answer of a good conscience, or a solemn stipulation to be the Lord's for ever: but they admitted infants to circumcision without it; in like manner, the Christian church now admits the children of Christian parents to baptism, without any such answer made by them, but for them only.
Our apostle having in the close of the former verse, spoken of the resurrection of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby, he makes mention in this verse,
1. Of his going into heaven, there to dispatch all that remained to be done for the completing the salvation of his people.
2. He is here affirmed to be at God's right hand. The right hand is the upper hand, the hand of honour; and the right hand is the hand of power; accordingly Christ sitting at God's right hand, as an enthroned king, imports sovereign honour and supreme power: and that God has exalted his Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to his kingdom in heaven.
3. It is asserted, that angels, authorities, and powers are made subject to him; that is, our Jesus, in whom we hope, believe, and trust, is advanced in heaven to a pre-eminency above, and to a superiority over, all angels and celestial powers, waiting and expecting until all his enemies on earth become his footstool.
For though his victory is yet incomplete and inconsummate, and we see not all things yet put under him, it may suffice at present that we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour, and that's enough to show that the power of his enemies is broken; and that though they make some opposition still, yet it is to no purpose at all: for refusing to submit to his sceptre, they will fall by the rod of his strength, Angels and principalities in heaven, and all powers and potentates upon earth, being made subject unto him.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27