“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 in 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 wives!
That is, in the same way that citizens are to be in subjection to their government, and as servants are to be subject to their masters, so the wives are to be in subjection to their own husbands.
It is apparent that the apostle is still speaking of the main exhortation in this section of his epistle, namely, that we are to see to it that our conversation in the midst of the world is to be a reflection of what we are by the grace of God. We are to walk honestly as strangers and pilgrims, abstaining from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and positively performing the good works which God has before prepared, in order that we should walk in them. This we are to do even when we are falsely accused as evildoers; in order that they, beholding our good works, may glorify God in the day of visitation. This main exhortation the apostle now applies also to our walk in the marital state.
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands!
You are to be in subjection to them, no matter whether that husband honors and obeys the word of God or not. When the apostle speaks of husbands who obey not the Word, he evidently has in mind heathen husbands. Undoubtedly some of the wives who are addressed in the text were also at one time heathen women; but having come into contact with the gospel, they were converted. Undoubtedly, too, these Christian wives who were married to heathen husbands, concluded that because of their spiritual differences they ought to leave their husbands; or, if they continued to stay with them, they ought to treat them with disrespect. The apostle exhorts them in the text: “Don’t run away from them; neither should you treat them with disrespect. But live with them in such a way that, though they do not honor the Word of God, they nevertheless may, beholding your chaste conversation, be won by the wives.”
Let no one conclude from this sound advice that a woman should seek to be married to an ungodly husband, in the hope that later she may be instrumental in converting him. Nowhere does Scripture advocate or condone such a marriage. Such marriages stand always forbidden and condemned by the Word of God. Always Christians are exhorted to marry in the Lord. However, where such a heathen marriage has been consummated, and the wife by the grace of God is brought to the knowledge of her salvation in Christ, let her not leave her husband, nor mistreat him because he is not a Christian. Rather let her by her sanctified walk reveal herself to him as a Christian.
Let her show to him her true spiritual beauty!
True beauty does not consist in that which is merely external. It does not consist in the braiding of the hair, in the wearing of gold, or in the putting on of apparel.
True beauty consists in the hidden man of the heart, in that which is incorruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. That is, in the sight of God, of great price!
That the apostle informs us that true beauty does not consist in these external things, does not mean that he is laying down a hard and fast rule regarding the outward appearance of the woman. It certainly is not his intention to imply that a woman should not care about her outward appearance. Surely, there can be nothing sinful in itself that a woman pretties herself up to please her husband. Does not Scripture everywhere speak of the bride who is adorned for her husband? If this is permissible on the wedding day, surely it cannot be condemned if she continues to so adorn herself all the days of her marital life.
But what a pity that a woman should imagine that her real beauty consists only in this outward Adornment! Still more pitiful, yea, sinful and carnal it would be that she should spend all her time and her husband’s wages, only to be adorned in this external sense. It should be quite evident that the woman who spends most of her time sitting before the mirror, using paints, powders, and perfumes, or buying up the latest fashions, or covering herself with fancy jewelry merely to entice her man, cannot be motivated by inner spiritual principles, but by the motivations of a sensuous, vain, and sinful heart. Jezebel also knew how to doll herself up, but no one who knows what the Scriptures say about her, would call her a beautiful woman.
True beauty is spiritual!
It consists in the hidden man of the heart. The hidden man is the heart. And the heart is it out of which are all the issues of life. As one thinketh in his heart, so is he. The heart is the ethical center of our being, which gives direction to our whole life. And the apostle has in mind, of course, theregenerated heart.
Out of this heart proceeds meekness and a quiet spirit. Meekness is that spiritual virtue that always considers the other better than self. And the quiet spirit is the expression of the meek spirit. These are incorruptible. These are the cosmetics which are precious in God’s sight. Only when the wives are adorned with these spiritual virtues, are they truly fit to fulfill the mandate,—to live in subjection to their own husbands.
After this manner in old time the holy women also, who trusted, or hoped, in God, adorned themselves.
Holy these women were, not in and of themselves. They became such only by the sovereign grace of God. They had been chosen to become saints. Consequently, they believed in the promises of God, and placed their hope in God as the God of their salvation. Consequently, too, they adorned themselves with a meek and quiet spirit, which was reflected in their attitude toward their husbands. They were in subjection to their husbands.
As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord!
Most beautiful model!
The apostle refers undoubtedly to the instance recorded in Genesis 18:12, where we read: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
This lordship which Sarah recognized in Abraham,she obeyed. To it she was entirely in submission. She honored in her husband a lordship which God had given the man over the woman. She knew nothing of, nor would she have any respect for, the modern liberation movement, the reason being, that her adornment was the hidden man of the heart, which revealed itself in a meek and quiet spirit.
Such a model should be emulated!
Whose daughters, or, as the original text has it, whose children ye became if you do good, and are not put in fear by any terror. God-fearing women are spiritually the children of Sarah, and will follow the example of their spiritual mother. They will live by the same faith she possessed and demonstrated. And in respect to their husbands, they will also follow her example. They will recognize the God-appointed order in the home, that the husband shall be the head of his wife, and that she is to be subordinate to him in all lawful things. And that means that the wife does not serve her husband out of the fear of fright, because he is stronger and more powerful than she, but because she recognizes the truth that God has placed her husband over her as her lord, who is to be respected and honored for his superior authority as the head of the home. Not in any sense does this mean that she is to be his slave; nor does it mean that the husband can do with her as he pleases. But it does mean that the position of the wife in the home is not equal to that of the man. The divinely ordained order of the home which Sarah understood, and which all God-fearing women will understand, is that the wife is placed in subjection to her husband by God. The God-fearing wife, who lives in subjection to her husband, and is controlled by this principle in the marital state, not only does good, but at the same time reveals that spiritually she is the true child of Sarah.
To be beautiful in this true sense of the word, and to emulate such a beautiful model, will have a beauteous effect. That is, the wives will be doing precisely as the Word of God here exhorts—they will be living in loving submission to their own husbands.
To understand this, it must be borne in mind that this subjection will not be in all respects the same as the subjection of citizens to their government, or of servants to their masters. The relation between wife and husband, and vice versa, runs much deeper than that which obtains in our relation to government and employers. It is the most intimate of all human relations, the relation of love. Where that relation is one of most intimate mutual love, that is, where the wife truly loves her husband, and the husband loves his wife, and that relation is tempered by the ordinance of God—there you will see a most beautiful home and family life. This is the ideal which every God-fearing woman and every God-fearing man will desire, and also experience, when they are married in the Lord. In such a marriage the God-fearing couple will be able to see realized the type of the true spiritual relation which subsists between Christ and His church.
On the other hand, when the husband is an unbeliever and the wife is a child of God, who lives in subjection to her husband, emulating Sarah, the beautiful model, who is adorned with a meek and quiet spirit, and striving to live out of the principles of the Word of God—there you will see a truly beautiful wife.
This is precisely what the apostle is speaking about in the text. We could paraphrase the first part of the text thus: “When some husbands are unbelievers, and therefore respect not the Word of the gospel, let the believing wives, without saying a word, live honestly as a Christian wife should, with a view to winning their husbands to the faith, as the husbands witness your good conduct, being in subjection to them because you fear God.
How beautiful is that wife who scrupulously obeys the Word of God in our text!
Oh, to be sure, she may experience many difficulties, and all obedience to the Word of God will have to be done in the shade of the cross. But the wife who lives according to this Word must be seen by all, including her husband, as a most beautiful woman. And far better, God beholds in her the beauty of His grace!