Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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;In the Sight of God
1 Peter 3:4
God sees; the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself mighty on behalf of them that trust in Him. His eyes are weapons, His eyes are lightnings, His smile makes the morning, His frown makes the night; He is a great God above all gods; He stands where other gods cannot climb.
Peter says in this text, Let it be in the hidden man of the heart; let it be in the meek and quiet spirit; let it be in one sense invisible that it may in another sense be more visible; let your good works have a good background. Spirit sees spirit. Spirit cannot communicate with flesh; they have no dealings one with the other in the deepest spiritual sense. God is a spirit; therefore God communicates with the spirit of man, which is akin to His own. How He does this He has never condescended to explain; but that communication is made to us from the spiritual world is certain; otherwise many ideas, suggestions, impulses, and mental operations can never be accounted for. There are many passages in the Old Testament which we cannot understand until we have read the New Testament, and brought the new lamp to shed a light on the old mystery. And so there are many things about this human sight, and the Divine sight looking at it, spirit of man looking for Spirit of God, and Spirit of God trying what image it can create whereby to represent itself, and lighting upon the gentle-breasted dove. A wondrous thing that God should have had to look about, so to say, amongst His own creatures to pick up one here and one there which will most nearly represent some Divine idea. And so, who is this fair, young, beautiful creature, His face a mystery? who is He? Represent Him to me by some other life. The voice says, Behold the Lamb. Lamb and dove; they seem to bring their own meaning with them; there is not in them one drop of bad black blood, all so gentle as to be all but spiritual, and so symbolical that it must be behind each of them a sacrament.
I. God is continually rebuking both our hearing and our seeing; He says to us in effect, You have sight, but must not stretch it beyond its proper limits; and you can hear noise, you cannot yet hear music, but hearing the noise is a preparation for hearing the music; you think you can hear the music now, but you hear no music; the true music is to come; it is a thought rather than a thing, a film rather than a substance; but in so far as you use your faculties within due limits and in a reverential spirit you are advancing—Oh, hear it and be glad!—advancing to the time of song, and music, and rapture, and ecstasy.
II. In Peter's expression we find the element of valuation—the valuation, it may be, of property. There are two valuations, the valuation which man assigns, and the valuation which God fixes. Peter says that a meek and a quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price. In the sight of man it is ridiculed. Who cares for meekness? who appreciates quietness? who is there that does not regard repose as a sign of feebleness? whereas repose may be the last expression of power, quietness may be reserved thunder. Moses was meek, the meekest man in all the earth, but who could be so angry when his spirit was turned? The lamb is peaceful, docile, yet one great poet speaks of 'the wrath of the Lamb'. 'In the sight of God of great price.' Then a man may be rich without knowing it; he may have qualities and attributes of character which are jewellery without price, far surpassing rubies, and diamonds, and all the things thou canst desire out of the silver mine and the gold mine. A man may be rich, and have no jewel casket; and man may be very rich, and never have been in a jeweller's shop? a woman may be most rich, the wealthiest, sweetest mother, without having any things that are called lovely, and beautiful, and precious. And so a man may be a poor man and not know it.
III. There is another sense in which this word 'in the sight of God' is used—'Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye'. That is the law which settles everything. There are so many people who think themselves law-abiding who are law-breaking, but they do not know it, and they do not mean it; gentle, modest people, but not deficient in pharisaic zeal, I want to obey the great law which includes and transfigures all the little laws in the degree in which they are true and wise.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VII. p. 218.
References.—III. 6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1633. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 235. III. 7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1192. W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 87.
The Christian in Society
1 Peter 3:8
This passage sums up the duties of a Christian towards the circle immediately around him in his daily life.
I. First, 'be ye all of the same mind'. From the love of Christ follows first and most plainly Christian unanimity; unanimity in its strictest sense of agreement, or rather identity of convictions on fundamental points; about that there can be no doubt. We must be of the same mind, or rather we must see that we are of the same mind, that it is impossible that any, even the meanest, who calls upon Christ's name in any, even the most inarticulate, accents should not be one in heart and soul with us, should not be to us in very truth a brother.
II. If we are Christ's at all, we must recognise our fellow-countrymen in Christ; recognise them as countrymen wherever we find them, and in however miserable a plight, recognise them freely and heartily and honestly, and by so doing we shall come at once to the next step of the Apostle's admonition, 'have compassion one of another,' feel with one another. To feel with our brethren—how great a thing it is; great both for them and us; great for them, for how the crushed and wounded soul revives before the look that tells it its woes are not unheeded; how the despairing spirit clings with an agonised grasp to the words that tell him he is not absolutely alone in the world, till hope comes back, and life becomes strong to it once more. Such is the office of Christian love in each society and circle. But it can only work these results, if thorough, if built upon a loss of self in Christ.
III. Pitifulness and courtesy are to be the accompaniments of his daily life, and by means of them his Christian love is to shine forth to all who come in contact with him. (1) Pitifulness is more subtle than sympathy; for sympathy is the capacity for entering into another's joys or sorrows, and feeling with them so as to halve the sorrow and double the joy; pitifulness is that deep-seated tenderness of heart and soul which draws to itself the weary and heavy-laden, which commands the confidence of the broken-hearted. (2) Courtesy is the development of Christian love in the smallest detail of daily life and conduct; it is the perpetual recognition of our duties towards every one we meet; it is the perpetual sense of the dignity of humanity, of the honour due to all God's creatures, of the infinite grandeur of every human soul.
—Bishop Creighton, University and other Sermons, p. 16.
1 Peter 3:8
'Compassion,' says Butler finely, 'is a call, a demand of nature, to relieve the unhappy; as hunger is a natural call for food.'
1 Peter 3:8
We should take pains to be polite to those whom we love. Politeness preserves love, is a kind of sheath to it.
References.—III. 8.—F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 369. H. C. Beeching, Seven Sermons to Schoolboys, p. 50. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons (2nd Series), p. 226. R. G. Soans, Sermons for the Young, p. 1. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 145. Archbishop Maclagan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 219. III. 8-12.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 349.
The Love of Life
1 Peter 3:10
I. What is really meant by Life? There are two words in the New Testament which, from the necessities of our language, are alike rendered 'life'. One of these words (βίος) signifies the principle of animal life, the things by which it is preserved or gladdened, and its span. The other word (ζωή) belongs to a higher sphere. It is the new life given in germ at Baptism, which may be stunted or strengthened, as grace is used or abused; and which, after the Resurrection, is to be suitably clothed upon. Thus, the first refers to man's natural existence as one of the animal creation; the second to man's supernatural existence as a son of God. Christ was incarnate to impart this. 'The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening (life-creating) spirit' (1 Corinthians 15:45). 'I am come,' said Christ, 'that they might have life.' The question, then, for Christians really is not whether life, the higher, future existence, is worth living; but whether existence under mere animal or external conditions is worth living? The latter, no doubt, is an intricate question, and something may be said in favour of a negative reply. We may be reminded of the transitoriness of human existence; the vanity of our expectations; the objects of our hopes crushed in the iron hand of necessity; the loss of those we love; the protracted humiliation of the breaking up of the machine, accompanied perhaps by some bodily torture; together with this, a weariness of life; nay, often this last comes long before old age. One young spirit, who passed by the terrible gate of suicide into the other world, wrote: 'The good things come off so seldom'. Of all forms of madness, 'Seeing things exactly as they are' seemed to Voltaire the most appalling and hopeless. Very much may, of course, be said in mitigation of this pessimism. 'Life rightly used has happiness for each of its stages.' The sweetness of domestic love; the pleasures of society and friendship; the preponderance of health over sickness and pain; the activities, the pleasing surprises -that often come to the weariest lot; the beauties of Nature which exhilarate the body, and interest the mind of man. 'We bless Thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life.'
II. On the question, Is existence, elevated into the higher and supernatural life, worth living? we Christians can have no doubt.
(1) Present acceptance makes life worth living. Finished final salvation is not offered in the twinkling of an eye. But present acceptance is promised to all who come to God through Christ. This makes any existence tolerable. 'A tranquil God tranquillises all things, and to see His peacefulness is to be at peace.'
(2) There are times of exquisite pleasure in communion with God. These compensate for the languor of old age and for the slow 'martyrdom of life'. They support the believer under the cross: he began by carrying it; it ends by carrying him.
(3) There is the truest pleasure in work for God. The study of His Word is a perpetual delight. The Church's sacramental life is full of joy. The teaching of the young, the ministry to the sick, the rescue of the fallen, the quickening and elevation of Service and Worship—these have pleasures of their own which give animation and variety to life. But how about that sorrow which is inseparable from religion—the sorrow of Repentance? A great theologian has said that 'that kind of sorrow is its own consolation'; 'He hath given a new kind of tears upon earth, which make those happy who shed them'. 'Oh, that we could understand that the mystery of grace gives blessedness with tears!'
(4) That life is worth living is proved by the view which Jesus took of it. 'My delights were with the sons of men' (Proverbs 8:31). Christ was no pessimist about human life. He saw of what man was capable—what holiness and victory, as well as what sin and defeat. He yearned, from the cradle to the grave, for the Holy Week and Easter, that He might bear the sweetness of the burden.
No doubt human life is tragic and pathetic; yet there is a magic smile on the face of the drama, after all. In the midst of life's most poignant sorrows riven hearts are alone with God, and white lips say, 'Thy will be done'. For they know that after a while the point of view will change. The life of them that sleep in Jesus will stand out as a beautiful whole. Precious words will remain. Wherever they lie, all is well. 'Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.'
References.—III. 10, 11.—A. S. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 135. III. 12.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, pt. i. p. 166. III. 13-22.—C. Brown, Trial and Triumph, p. 125. III. 14, 15.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, pt. i. p. 176. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Peter, p. 116. III. 15.—E. J. Hardy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 104. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 148. J. Bunting, ibid. vol. i. p. 309. C. J. Ridgeway, The King and His Kingdom, pp. 174 and 185. III. 15, 16.—J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 364. III. 16.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 368. III. 17.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 142. III. 18.—W. P. Du Bose, The Gospel According to St. Paul, p. 143. J. D. Thompson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 42. R. Flint, Sermons and Addresses, p. 184. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 192. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 285. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2573. R. J. Campbell, British Congregationalist, 11th July, 1907, p. 29. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 187; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 156. III. 18-20.—Ibid. vol. iii. p. 259. III. 19.—Ibid. vol. ii. p. 287; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 222. Basil Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 369. R. F. Horton, The Hidden God, p. 81. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 84. III. 20, 21.—J. Keble, Village Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 56.
A Good Conscience
1 Peter 3:21
I. We have to take note of a marvellous faculty, instinctive in human nature, which we have learned to call conscience, and having called it conscience have often dismissed out of our minds; a faculty which is recognised by everyone, however they may explain it; a faculty which enables us to know the difference between right and wrong, as the eye knows the difference between black and white. Every one of us knows that conscience exists.
II. And the second point which we must note is that conscience, although it is a gift of God to men, must, like all gifts, be educated and enlightened. There are some who seem to think that when they have done a thing conscientiously the question is over. It is not over at all. The question is, Ought they to have done that thing, however conscientiously? Has the conscience entrusted to them by God been sufficiently enlightened with all the light which is possible for them in order to make it act as God would have it act? If we are to gain the first essential element of Christian joy, the answer of a good conscience, we have to use every possible means in our power to keep our consciences enlightened.
III. Have we got it? (1) Have you the answer of a good conscience with regard to your city and business life? (2) Or, again, there are some who complain that they have no joy or happiness in their homes. Whose fault is it? Have you the answer of a good conscience, or is it your temper which is at the bottom of the unhappiness of your home?
—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Under the Dome, p. 61.
References.—III. 21.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 13. III. 22.—J. Keble, Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1928. III. 24.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 318. IV. 1.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i. p. 333. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 226. J. M. Neale, Sermons preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 237. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 187; ibid. vol. viii. p. 358; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 13. IV. 1, 2.—W. P. Du Bose, The Gospel According to St. Paul, p. 143. IV. 1-3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2549. IV. 1-8.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Peter, p. 123. IV. 1-11.—C. Brown, Trial and Triumph, p. 141. IV. 3.—S. A. Tipple, The Admiring Guest, p. 108. IV. 6.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 287; ibid. vol. iii. p. 370. IV. 7.—C. Vince, The Unchanging Saviour, p. 315. T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 225. J. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 62. Bishop Barry, A Sermon Preached at St. Paul's Cathedral, 17th April, 1894. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 203. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 53. IV. 7, 8.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 228. IV. 8.—W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 1. J. Keble, Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 93.
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 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.
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.