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The Christian Family

The Christian Family poster

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; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, 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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. —1 Peter 3:1-7

The new life does not run counter to natural relationships. It is no sign of grace but rather quite the opposite to be without natural affection. So the Holy Spirit now proceeds to admonish wives and husbands as to their attitude each to the other.

There are few experiences more difficult than to be united in marriage to an unbeliever. The Christian young man or young woman should never go voluntarily into such a union. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…and what communion hath light with darkness?…or what part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). But where one member of a family already formed is brought to know the Lord while the other remains in the darkness of nature, the most serious misunderstandings and perplexing circumstances are apt to arise. If it be the wife who has been converted, while the husband remains out of Christ, peculiar wisdom and grace will be needed on her part. If she takes a superior attitude toward her unsaved husband she will only stir up his opposition to the truth and render conditions increasingly difficult. She is admonished here to be in subjection to her own husband, manifesting such grace and humility of spirit that even through he resents the Word he may be won without the Word—that is, without the wife saying much to him—by her discreet behavior as he observes the beauty of her Christian character. We say that “actions speak louder than words,” and this is in accord with the teaching of Scripture. An imperious, dominating woman will drive her husband further from God instead of drawing him to Christ. But a gentle, gracious lady, whose life is characterized by purity and whose adorning is not simply that which is outward but that which is inward, will have great influence over even a godless husband.

Here let me point out that the Scriptures do not forbid a measure of adornment of the person but rather that the wife should not depend on this to make her pleasing and attractive. A slatternly woman only repels. But one may be tastefully attired and immaculately groomed, and yet spoil everything by a haughty spirit or a bad temper. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in God’s sight priceless, and will commend her to her husband, family and friends.

It was in this way that the holy women of old were adorned who lived in dependence on God and were in subjection to their husbands instead of domineering over them. Sara is cited as a beautiful example of this. When the angel announced that she was to become the mother of Isaac, though at a very advanced age, she wonderingly inquired how it could be when she was old and, she added, “My lord being old also,” referring to her husband, Abraham. Those who obey this instruction become manifestly her children morally, and need not be terrified by trying and difficult experiences.

To the husbands there is also a word of serious admonition. Let them give all due honor to the wife, not trying to lord it over her conscience, but recognizing her physical limitations as the weaker vessel; let them be the more considerate, dwelling with her according to knowledge and as being heirs together of the grace of life; and the Spirit adds what is most important: “that your prayers be not hindered.” Quarrels and bickerings in the home stifle all fellowship in prayer. It means much for the husband and wife to be able to kneel together in hallowed communion and mingle their voices in prayer and intercession.

Suffering for Righteousness Sake

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 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: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 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.

And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 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: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 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: by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 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. The like figure whereunto even 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: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him. —1 Peter 3:8-22

Verse 8 begins with the word “Finally,” which suggests that what follows is not to be divorced from what has gone before but rather is the natural result of it. Believers generally, not only husbands and wives, now are exhorted to manifest oneness of spirit, sympathetic consideration for each other, with brotherly love, the product of a gracious heart and a lowly mind. Anything like retaliation for injuries is to be sedulously avoided. In place of returning evil for evil and reviling for reviling we are to bless even our worst opponents, for in so doing we ourselves will be doubly blessed.

Peter quotes a part of the thirty-fourth Psalm, using verses 12 to 16, but he stops in the middle of the last sentence, and that for a very special reason.

The psalmist speaks to all who love life and would enjoy it at its best, bidding them keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking guile—that is, anything of a dishonest character. He exhorts them to turn from evil and pursue righteousness, to seek peace and pursue it—that is, ever follow after that which is for the good of mankind. And all this is in view of the fact that the all-seeing eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. There Peter stops. When we turn back to the Psalm we find the sentence continues by adding “to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” But that will not be in this age. It will have its solemn fulfillment in the coming day of the Lord. So exact and meticulous is Scripture! We might think that it made little difference, but Jesus put a whole dispensation into a comma when He read in the synagogue at Nazareth. “He hath sent Me to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book” (Luke 4:19-20). The next words are “and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:1); but that will not begin until the day of grace is ended.

No matter how evil men, motivated by Satanic hatred for the gospel, may seek to injure believers, “who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good.” There can no evil happen to the righteous, for “all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). This includes persecution, sickness, financial distress—anything that men think of as evil, but all of which God sanctifies to the good of the subject Christian.

If called upon to suffer for righteousness sake let it be counted a joyful privilege. There is no need to fear nor to live in dread of threatened terror, for God is over all and none can go beyond that which He permits for our blessing. He who stopped the lions’ mouths and protected Daniel, and walked in the furnace with the three Hebrew youths will ever keep a watchful eye upon His saints, yea, and upon their enemies too lest they go beyond His permissive will.

Only give God His rightful place in the heart. Let it be separated to Him, and when called to witness before men be ever ready to give an answer to all who inquire concerning the basis of your faith, with becoming lowliness and reverence; being careful to maintain a good conscience so that there will be no truth in their charges if accused of evil behavior by wicked men who give false testimony regarding your upright manner of life in Christ.

Verse 17 declares that it is better, that is, preferable, if it pleases God to allow it, that one suffer for doing that which is right rather than for doing what is wrong. In this our blessed Lord is our supreme example. He suffered at the hands of evil men who misrepresented Him and bore false witness concerning Him. Then on the cross He suffered once for all for sins—not His own but ours—He the just, for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God. And this He has done. We have not yet been brought to heaven, but we who believe in Christ Jesus have been brought to God.

On the cross He was put to death in the flesh, but in God’s due time He was made alive by the Holy Spirit in His physical resurrection from the dead. Observe, it is not His human spirit that is here in view. It could not properly be said that He was quickened or made alive in that, for His spirit never died. But after the body and spirit had been separated in death He was raised again by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:11). In that same Spirit He, in ages long gone by, preached through Noah to spirits with whom He declared He would not strive for more than a hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3). Noah was a preacher of righteousness and suffered for righteousness sake as we are called to do, and as Jesus did (2 Peter 2:5). So it was “when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing” that Christ by the Spirit preached in or by the patriarch. What was the result of this preaching? “Wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” And just as those who entered the ark passed through the flood of judgment to a new Earth so in baptism the obedient believer is saved in symbol. It is not the going into the water that saves but that of which baptism speaks and which a good conscience demands: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He who went down into death, who could say, “All thy waves and thy billows are gone over Me” (Psalm 42:7), has now emerged in triumph, bringing into the new creation all who trust in Him. He has gone into heaven and sits as the exalted Man on the right hand of God, in token of the Father’s full satisfaction in the work of His Son. To Him all angels, authorities, and powers are subject.