A Study for Wives and Husbands

1Peter 2: 4 ¶ As you come to him, the living Stone— rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—

5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

6 For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,"

8 and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message— which is also what they were destined for.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 ¶ Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,

14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

3: 1 ¶ Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,

2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.

4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands,

6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

From the Exposition Bible


THE Apostle gave at first {#1Pe 2:13} the rule of Christian submission generally; then proceeded to apply it to the cases of citizens and of servants. In the same way he now gives injunctions concerning the behavior of wives and husbands. The precept with which he began holds good for them also. "In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands." The life and teaching of Jesus had wrought a great change in the position of women, a change, which can be observed from the earliest days of Christianity. We can gather in what estimation women were generally held among the Jews at that time from the expression used in the account of our Lord’s interview with the woman of Samaria. There it is {#Joh 4:27} that the disciples marveled that Jesus was talking with a woman. Such a feeling must afterwards have been entirely dispelled, for all through the earthly life of Christ we find Him attended by women who ministered unto Him; we read of His close friendship with Mary and Martha, and are told, at the time of His death, {#Mt 27:55} that many women beheld the Crucifixion afar off, having followed Him from Galilee. Women were the earliest visitors to the tomb on the great Easter morning, and to them, among the first, {#Lu 24:22} was the Lord’s resurrection made known.

We are not surprised therefore, in the history of the infant Church, to read {#Ac 1:14} that women were present among the disciples who waited at Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, nor to learn how the daughters of Philip the evangelist {#Ac 21:9} took a share in the labors of their father for the cause of Christ, or that Priscilla, {#Ac 18:26} equally with her husband, was active in Christian good offices. Other examples occur in the Acts of the Apostles: Dorcas, Lydia, and the mother of Timothy; and the constant mention of women which we find in the salutations with which St. Paul con-eludes his letters make it clear how large a part they played in the early propagation of the faith. "Fellowworkers," "servants of the Church," "laborers in the Lord," are among the terms which the Apostle applies to them; and we know from the Pastoral Epistles what help the primitive Church derived from the labors of its deaconesses and widows.

To be occupied in such duties was sure to give to women an influence which they had never possessed before; and the women converts, in countries such as these Asiatic provinces, were exposed to the same sort of danger which beset the slave population at their acceptance of the Christian faith. They might begin to think meanly of others, even of their own husbands, if they were still content to abide in heathenism. Such women might incline at times to take counsel for their life’s guidance with Christian men among the various congregations to which they belonged and to set a value on their advice above any which they could obtain from their own husbands. They might come to entertain doubts also whether they ought to maintain the relations of married life with their heathen partners. With the knowledge that such cases might occur, St. Peter gives this lesson, and as in the case of slaves, so here, he gives no countenance to the idea that to become a Christian breaks off previous relations. Wives, though they have accepted the faith, have wifely duties still. Like Christian citizens living in a heathen commonwealth, they are not by religion released from their previously contracted obligations; they are to abide in their estate, and use it, if it may be done, for the furtherance of the cause of Christ. Be in subjection to your own husbands; they have still their claim on your duty.

There is much gentleness in the Apostle’s next words. He knows that there may arise cases where believing wives have husbands who are heathen. But he speaks hopefully, as thinking they would not be of frequent occurrence: "even if any obey not the word." Wives, especially if they be of such a character as the Apostle would have them be, could not have been won to the faith of Christ without much converse with their husbands on so deep a subject; and the word which was working effectually in the one would often have its influence with the other. It might not always be so. But husbands, though not obeying the word as yet, are not to be despaired of.

And here we may turn aside to dwell on the tone of hope in which St. Peter speaks of these husbands who obey not. For the word (apeiyountev) by which they are described, is the same that is used in #1Pe 2:18 of those who stumble at the word, being disobedient. The lessons here given to Christian wives, not to despair of winning their husbands for Christ, gives warrant for what was said on the former passage: that the disobedience which causes men to stumble need not last for ever, nor imply final obduracy and rejection from God’s grace. But this by the way.

The Apostle adds the strongest motive to confirm wives in holding to their married state:

"That the husbands may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives: beholding your chaste behavior coupled with fear." "Without the word" here means that there is to be no discussion. They are so to live as to make their lives a sermon without words, to work conviction without debate; then, when the victory is won, there will remain no trace of combat: all will tell of gain, and nothing of loss.

And once again St. Peter uses his special word (epopteuein) as he describes how the husbands shall be affected by the behavior of their wives. They shall gaze on it as a mystery, the key to which they do not possess. The wives in heathen homes must have been obliged to hear and see many things, which were grievous and distasteful. The husbands could hardly fail to know that it was so. If, then, they still found wifely regard and respect, wifely submission, with no assertion of a law of their own, no comparison of the lives of Christian men with those of their own husbands, if a silent, consistent walk were all the protest which the Christian wives offered against their heathen environments, such a life could hardly fail of its effect. There must be a powerful motive, a mighty, strengthening power that enabled women to abide uncomplainingly in their estate. For this the husbands would surely search, and in their search would learn secrets to which they were strangers, would learn how their tongue was restrained where remonstrance might seem more natural, how pure life was maintained in spite of temptations to laxity, and the marriage bond exalted with religious observance even when reverence for the husband was meeting with no equal return. Such lives would be more powerful than oratory, have a charm beyond resistance, would win the husbands first to wonder, then to praise, and in the end to imitation. And from describing the grace of such a life the Apostle turns to contrast it with other adornments of which the world thinks highly. "Whose adorning," he says, "let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, and of putting on apparel." We can see from the catalogue in Isaiah {#Isa 3:18-23} that the daughters of Zion in old days hadgone to great lengths in this outside bravery, and provoked the Lord to smite them. These had forgotten the simplicity of Sarah. But that in the house of Abraham there were found no such ornaments is hardly to be believed. The patriarch, who sent {#Ge 24:53} to Rebekah jewels of silver and jewels of gold, did not leave his own wife unadorned. Nor does the language of St. Peter condemn Rebekah’s bracelets, if they be worn with Rebekah’s modesty. The New Testament does not teach us to neglect or despise the body. A misrendering in the Authorized Version, "Who Shall change our vile body," {#Php 3:21} has long seemed to lend countenance to such a notion. It. is one of the gains of the Revised Version that we now read in that place, "Who shall fashion anew the body of-our humiliation." Sin has robbed the body of its primal dignity, but it is to be restored and made like unto the body of Christ’s glory. And He did not despise the body when He deigned to wear it that He might draw nearer unto us. If these things be present to our thoughts we shall seek to bestow on the body whatever may make it comely. The mischief arises when the adornment of the outer brings neglect of the inner man, when fine apparel has for its companions the haughtiness, the stretched-forth necks, and wanton eyes which Isaiah rebukes. Then it is that it rightly comes under condemnation. When the jewel is (as Rebekah’s was) the gift of some dear one—a parent, a husband, a near kinsman—it rouses grateful reminiscences, and may fitly be prized, and holily worn, and ranked near to the rings of betrothal and of marriage.

Let these be the feelings which regulate womanly adornment, and it may be made a part of the culture of the heart, the inner man, which St. Peter urges the Christian wives to be careful to adorn: "Let your adorning be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." All Scripture regards man as of twofold nature, the outward and the inward, of which the latter is the more precious. He is a Jew who is one inwardly; {#Ro 2:29} the inward man delighteth in the law of God; {#Ro 7:22} while the outward man perishes the inward man may be renewed day by day, {#2Co 4:16} being strengthened with power through God’s Spirit. This hidden man is the center from which all the strength of Christian life comes. Let this be rightly adorned, and the outward life will need no strict rules; there will be no fear of excess, least of all when the inner life is cared for because it is precious before God. Its pure array passeth gold and gems, be they ever so beautiful. This is a grace which never fades, but will flourish through eternity.

The Apostle proceeds to commend it by a noble example. The Old Testament Scriptures do not dwell largely on the lives of women, but a study of what is said will oftentimes reveal deeper meaning in the record and put force into a solitary word. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews couples Sarah with Abraham in the list of heroes and heroines of faith, and St. Peter from a single word finds a text to extol the submission which she showed to her husband. He probably refers to #Ge 18:12, where she gives the title of "lord" to Abraham, as Rachel in another place {#Ge 31:35} does to her father Laban: "For after this manner aforetime the holy women also, who hoped in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." A Scripture example which has more in common with the experience of the Asian women is the life of Hannah. Her lot, for a time at least, was as full of grief and disappointment as theirs could be, but her trust in God was unshaken. Her patience under provocation was exemplary, while the picture of her home life is one full of touching affection on the part of both husband and wife; and the mother’s gratitude, when her prayer was granted, is set forth in her noble hymn of thanksgiving and in the devotion of her child to the service of the God who had bestowed him. Ruth is another of those holy women who must have been in St. Peter’s thoughts, who, though not of the house of Israel, manifested virtues in her life which made her fit to be the ancestress of King David. The Apostle, however, seems to have had a purpose in his special mention of Sarah. As the sons of Israel looked back to Abraham and to the covenant sealed with him, yea, not seldom prided themselves on being his children, so the daughters of Israel counted themselves as Sarah’s daughters after the flesh. St. Peter now gives them another ground for that claim. God’s promises to Abraham have been fulfilled in Christ, and so Christian Jewesses are more truly than ever daughters of Sarah. "Whose children ye now are." But to the heathen converts the same door was opened. They by their faith were now made partakers of the ancient covenant. They too were become Sarah’s daughters. Let them, one and all, continue in the well-doing which has been commended; let it be seen in the daily round (anastrofh) of their lives, led in quietness and humility. The excessive love of adornment against which they are warned marks a condition of boldness and unrest. But unrest may enter into the other actions of their life. Their behavior is to be coupled with fear and reverence, but it should eschew everything which partakes of flighty irregularity. It should be steady and consistent, running into no extremes, either of humiliation or the contrary. "Do well, and be not put in fear by any terror."

The Apostle now addresses Christian husbands. In his counsel to subjects and slaves he has not dwelt on the duties of rulers and masters. Perhaps he judged it unlikely that his letter would come to the hands of many such, or it may be he thought the lessons which he had to give were more needed by the subject people, if Christ’s cause were to be furthered. But with husbands and wives life has of necessity a great deal in common, and the one partner can hardly receive counsel which is not of interest to the other. To the wives the Apostle spake as though examples of unbelieving husbands might be rare. Christian husbands with unbelieving wives he hardly seems to contemplate. We know from St. Paul {#1Co 7:16} that there were such. But doubtless heathen wives hearkened to Christian husbands more readily than heathen husbands to their Christian wives. The husbands are to use their position as heads of their wives with judgment and discretion: "Dwell with your wives according to knowledge." The knowledge of which St. Peter speaks is not religious, godly, Christian knowledge, but that foresight and thoughtfulness which the responsibility of the husband calls for. He will understand what things for his wife’s sake he should do or leave undone. This knowledge, which results in considerate conduct towards her, will manifest itself in Christian chivalry. The woman is physically the feebler of the two. No burden beyond her powers will be laid upon her; and by reason of her weaker nature regard and honor will be felt to be her due. For the woman is the glory of the man. {#1Co 11:7} Such observance will not degenerate into undue adulation nor foolish fondness, apt to foster pride and conceit, but will be inspired by the sense that in God’s creation neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man.

But beyond and above these daily graces of domestic and social intercourse, the Apostle would have husband and wife knit together by a higher bond. They are "joint heirs" of the grace of life. Both are meant to be partakers of the heavenly inheritance, and such participation makes their chief duty here to be ‘preparation for the life to come. Those who are bound together not by wedlock only, but by the hope of a common salvation, will find a motive in that thought to help each other in life’s pilgrimage, each to shun all that might cause the other to stumble: "That your prayers be not hindered." They are fellow-travelers with the same needs. Together they can bring their requests before God, and where the two join in heart and soul Christ has promised to be present as the Third. And in praying they will know one another’s necessities. This is the grandest knowledge the husband can attain to for the honoring of his wife; and using it, he will speed their united supplications to the throne of grace, and the union of hearts will not fail of its blessing.