1 Peter 3:1–6.
In 1 Peter 2:13ff, Peter admonishes us all to be submissive, for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. In other words, keep the speed limits, pay your taxes, and be respectful toward policemen, doctors, teachers and church leaders.
Then, following this theme, in 2:18ff he addresses the servants in the church and admonishes them to be submissive to their masters with all respect, both to the kind and to the overbearing.
Then, in 3:1–6 he instructs the wives to be submissive to their husbands, and in verse 7 he instructs husbands to live considerately with their wives.
Finally, he tells the whole church (in 3:8ff) to have unity and sympathy and love and tender-heartedness and humility toward one another, and not to return evil for evil.
"What is the root cause of a woman’s greatness in the eyes of God—the only eyes that matter?"
First, these holy women hoped in God.
Second, because they hoped in God, they were gentle and quiet spirit
Third, by hoping in God and adorning themselves with this spirit of tranquillity, they were submissive to their husbands.
Because of these three things, Peter calls them "holy women." Their spirit and their demeanour are distinct from the world and are precious in the sight of God (verse 4). And not only are they precious in God’s sight, but they are also powerful in the sight of unbelieving husbands. Peter’s desire is that women in his own day would follow the example of the holy women of old, and that they would win their husbands to Christ by their Godly behaviour.
1. Hoping in God
First, the holy women are called women who hoped in God. They had learned to preach to themselves the way the psalmist did in Psalm 42:5,
Why are you downcast, O my soul,
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God!
For I shall again praise him,
My help and my God.
So women who hope in God are women who look away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and they focus their attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases.
Hope Drives Out Fear. 1 Peter 3:6b shows us what that hope looks like in the stresses and threats of real life: And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.
The presence of hope drives out fear. The daughters of Sarah do not fear anything but displeasing God. Or to be more accurate, the daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.
They know that following Christ will mean suffering. But they believe the promises—like 1 Peter 3:14: But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.
Holy women who hope in God take this promise of blessing through suffering, and they fight fear with the faithfulness of God—"Sarah considered him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11). And then they do what Peter says in 4:19, Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
They affirm the sovereign rule of God over their suffering and that they do not suffer apart from his will, and they rest their souls in the firm and omnipotent hands of a faithful Creator. They cast out fear and they hope in God. And so they prove to be the daughters of Sarah and heirs according to the promise.
2. Gentle and quiet spirit
The second thing that is said of the holy women in 1 Peter 3:5 is that they adorn themselves a certain way. The verse begins, "For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves." This adornment refers to the adornment in verses 3 and 4.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. 4 Rather, 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
Why does Peter even bring up the issue of clothes and hair style and jewellery? The context of verses 1 and 2 is the key. He has in view mainly women who are married to unbelieving husbands. They want to win their husbands to Christ.
That is what Peter wants too. He says, Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
Peter wants the Christian women to win their husbands by a life of reverence and purity expressed in a attitude that honours him as the head of the home. And he warns them not to preach at him—"that they may be won without a word."
Then comes verse 3 with its warning against making your adornment external instead of internal. Peter is giving married women another warning about how not to win their husbands, namely, don’t think that you can win him with trendy hairstyles, or a better tan, or delicate jewellery, or clinging robes. You might in this way attract him to the bedroom, but probably not to God.
If you want to win him to God, your adornment is going to have to be a new woman within. The world can teach you how to win a man to yourself. But only the Scripture can teach you how to win him to God.
And we have seen two steps. First, hope in God and fear no man. Don’t put your hope in your husband; put your hope in God. (And to the single women I would say, don’t put your hope in getting a husband, put your hope in God. The only man worth getting is a man who wants to be second in your life not first.)
Then the second step is that when you have put your hope in God, his sovereignty takes away the pride in your heart, and his love takes away the fear in your heart, and what’s left in your heart is gentleness and quietness, as Peter says in verse 4. And that is the adornment you should pursue. The woman who adorns herself within with such a spirit, will know how to adorn herself without for the sake of the kingdom and for the salvation of her husband.
3. Hope Being Expressed in Submissiveness
That leaves one last step for us to take. Holy women hope in God. This hope yields a meek and tranquil spirit. And, finally, that spirit expresses itself in submissiveness. Verse 1 says, "in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands." And verse 5 says, "For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands." So there are three steps on the way to pleasing God and winning an unbelieving husband.
The first is to hope in God and fear no man.
The second is to adorn yourself with the inner beauty of meekness and tranquillity, which flow naturally from hoping in God and being rid of fear.
And now the third, which flows freely from a meek and tranquil spirit, is to be submissive to your husband.