1 Peter 3:4 MEANING

1 Peter 3:4
(4) But let it be . . .--The connection of the clauses is somewhat difficult, but is made more so by our translation of 1 Peter 3:3. Literally it would run, of whom let it not be, or, to whom let there not belong the outward adorning, but the hidden man of the heart. If we adopt the translation in the Authorised Version, it makes "the hidden man" an ornament to be worn in preference to the gold and braided hair, which would be both illogical, and dishonouring to "the hidden man." What St. Peter says is, "Do not rely, for winning your husbands, upon ornamentation (which is but external), but upon character."

The hidden man of the heart.--Not equivalent to St. Paul's expression, "the new man" (Ephesians 4:24), but simply the inner self, the true self--i.e., the genuine moral character. It is more like St. Paul's phrase, "the inward man," and may, perhaps, have been adapted from, it. (Comp. Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16.) According to his custom, St. Peter explains by adding the genitive, "of the heart." (Comp. 1 Peter 1:13.) At the same time, the choice of that particular word, rather than "soul" or "mind," gives warmth and affection to what might otherwise seem a bare moral or metaphysical conception.

In that which is not corruptible.--The sense is somewhat obscured by our insertion of "even the ornament." Had it been "even in the ornament," it would have been clearer, though not right even then. It is literally, in the imperishableness of the meek and quiet spirit, contrasting the abiding beauty of character with the "perishable" or "contemptible" nature of the ornaments just spoken of. So in 1 Peter 1:18, he spoke of "silver and gold" as "perishable." The same kind of phrase is used by St. Paul in 1 Timothy 6:17, "trust in the uncertainty of riches"--i.e., in riches which are but uncertain things. So here, "in the imperishableness of the meek spirit" means in the meek spirit, which is not (like gold) a perishable thing. Yet the preposition "in" must not be taken as equivalent to "dressed in," "adorned with;" the "meek and quiet spirit" is not a mere decoration of the "hidden man." Neither, on the other hand, is it quite "consisting in," as though "hidden man" and "meek spirit" were identical; for "the hidden man of the heart" would be bad in bad men, and good in good: see, for instance, our Lord displaying the hidden man of the Pharisee's heart (Matthew 23:28). It is rather the particular mode in which St. Peter wishes the inward character to exhibit itself. We might paraphrase the whole thus:--"Let it not be with you a matter of external ornamentation--elaborate processes, and costly, but perishable, decorations--but let it be a matter of the heart, the character, the true self, manifesting itself in a constant tone of unassuming and imperturbable sweetness--an imperishable attraction." The word "spirit" here is used, not in its strict metaphysical sense, but in the sense of a mood or general tenour and complexion of life; as, for instance, in Luke 9:55 (perhaps), 1 Corinthians 4:21, Galatians 6:1, and elsewhere. St. Peter assures us in this passage that moral characteristics gained in this life remain our characteristics in the next.

Which is in the sight of God of great price.--The antecedent to "which" has been variously taken. Is it "the meek and quiet spirit?" Is it "the imperishableness of the meek and quiet spirit?" Or is it "the hidden man of the heart exhibiting itself in such a spirit?" Each has something to be said for it, but the last seems nearest to the truth. The thing which is valuable in the eyes of God is the having such an inward character. Thus we might put a stronger stop at the word "spirit;" and this relative clause will be another instance of St. Peter's favourite mode of speech noticed on 1 Peter 2:24. Such a possession will be not only attractive to the husband for the time, but has a permanent value as being esteemed by God.

Verse 4. - But let it be the hidden man of the heart. The "hidden" is here equivalent to the "inward man" of Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16. It is that life which is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2), the life of Christ ("the Second Man") in the heart, fashioning that heart after the likeness of Christ, forming in it "the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10). This is hidden; it does not display itself like those conspicuous ornaments mentioned in the last verse. In that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; literally, in the incorruptibility of the meek and quiet spirit. This ornament is incorruptible; not like those corruptible things (comp. 1 Peter 1:18). The meek spirit does not flash into anger, does not answer again, takes harsh words gently and humbly. The quiet spirit is calm and tranquil; peaceful in itself, it spreads peace around (comp. 1 Timothy 2:2). Which is in the sight of God of great price. The adjective πολυτελές is used in Mark 14:3 of the ointment with which Mary anointed our Lord, and in 1 Timothy 2:9 of the "array" which St. Paul discourages for Christian women. Those adornments are costly in the sight of the world; the meek and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God.

3:1-7 The wife must discharge her duty to her own husband, though he obey not the word. We daily see how narrowly evil men watch the ways and lives of professors of religion. Putting on of apparel is not forbidden, but vanity and costliness in ornament. Religious people should take care that all their behaviour answers to their profession. But how few know the right measure and bounds of those two necessaries of life, food and raiment! Unless poverty is our carver, and cuts us short, there is scarcely any one who does not desire something beyond what is good for us. Far more are beholden to the lowliness of their state, than the lowliness of their mind; and many will not be so bounded, but lavish their time and money upon trifles. The apostle directs Christian females to put on something not corruptible, that beautifies the soul, even the graces of God's Holy Spirit. A true Christian's chief care lies in right ordering his own spirit. This will do more to fix the affections, and excite the esteem of a husband, than studied ornaments or fashionable apparel, attended by a froward and quarrelsome temper. Christians ought to do their duty to one another, from a willing mind, and in obedience to the command of God. Wives should be subject to their husbands, not from dread and amazement, but from desire to do well, and please God. The husband's duty to the wife implies giving due respect unto her, and maintaining her authority, protecting her, and placing trust in her. They are heirs together of all the blessings of this life and that which is to come, and should live peaceably one with another. Prayer sweetens their converse. And it is not enough that they pray with the family, but husband and wife together by themselves, and with their children. Those who are acquainted with prayer, find such unspeakable sweetness in it, that they will not be hindered therein. That you may pray much, live holily; and that you may live holily, be much in prayer.But let it be the hidden man of the heart,.... By which is meant internal grace; which gives a beauty and ornament to the soul, far preferable to that which plaiting of the hair, wearing of gold, or any costly apparel, can give to the body: and this is called a man, as it is elsewhere the new man, Ephesians 4:24 because it has that which answers to what is in man, to his soul, and the powers and faculties of it: this man, or new creature, has a new heart and Spirit; it has a will to that which is spiritually good, and an understanding of divine things, and affections for Christ, for his Gospel, ordinances, ways, and people, and for things above: it has what answers to all the five senses; there is in it a seeing of the Son of God in the glories of his person and the fulness of his grace, and of the invisible things of another world; an hearing of the word, of the voice of Christ, so as to understand it, and live, and to distinguish it from the voice of a stranger; a smelling a sweet savour in the things of God, and of his Spirit, and in the person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ; a tasting that the Lord is gracious, his fruits pleasant, and his word sweeter than the honey, or the honeycomb; and a feeling of the burden of sin, an handling of the word of life, a laying hold on Christ, and retaining him: and it has what answers to the parts and members of the body; it has eyes to see with, ears to hear with, hands to receive from Christ, and work with, to his glory, and feet to walk with: it has, in short, all the parts of a man, though these are not yet grown up to perfection; and so that is not yet a perfect man, or arrived to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; but a man it is: and "a man of the heart"; it has its seat there; it is an inward principle in the soul; hence it is called the "inner" and "inward man"; and nothing outward is it, as external humiliation for sin, abstinence from it, reformation of life and manners, a profession of religion, and conformity to Gospel ordinances; but it is something inward, as appears from its names, both here and elsewhere; it is called spirit, seed, the root of the matter, and oil in the vessels; and from the seat and subject of it, the heart, the spirit, the understanding and will, the mind, conscience, and affections: and it is the "hidden man"; it is wisdom in the hidden part; it is hidden from the men of the world; they do not know what it is, nor what it means, nor how it is, or can be; the life of it is hidden from them, and the food it lives upon is hidden manna to them, and so are both its joys and sorrows: it is sometimes hidden from the saints themselves; when they walk in darkness, and see no light, they are at a loss to know whether this principle is in them or not; and it is hidden from other believers, till they give an account of it to them, when by comparing it with the word of God, and their own experience, they perceive it is the grace of God in them; and it is hidden from Satan, it is out of his reach, he cannot touch it; though he can touch the old man, and stir up the corruptions of it, yet he cannot touch the new man, that which is born of God, nor hurt or destroy it; but it is not hidden from God; he sees it where men cannot, being covered with a variety of infirmities and sins, and knows it is not where men sometimes think it is. The nature of this hidden man is further expressed by what follows,

in that which is not corruptible; it is opposed to corruptible things, as the outward adorning consists of, such as plaited hair, silver and gold, golden chains, rings, &c. and costly apparel; nor is it corrupt in itself; the old man is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts, but this new man, the hidden man of the heart, has no corruption in it, nor cleaving to it: it is the workmanship of God, and is created in righteousness and holiness; though it is as yet imperfect, there is nothing impure in it; nor can it ever perish, or be lost; it is an incorruptible seed, and will always remain when gold will perish, and the best of garments be moth eaten, and decay:

even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; this is one, and a principal part of the inward adorning, or hidden man of the heart; and those that are possessed of such a spirit are not easily provoked to anger; patiently bear, and put up with injuries; carry themselves affably and courteously unto all; entertain the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; do not envy the gifts and graces of others, and are willing to be instructed and admonished by the meanest saint; quietly submit to the will of God, in all adverse dispensations of Providence; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the free grace of God, and reckon that when they have done all they can, they are but unprofitable servants. This grace of meekness, humility, and quietness, is a fruit of the Spirit, and so a part of the hidden man, and is what is very ornamental to a believer; it is his clothing, his inward adorning, and what makes him lovely in the sight of God, and of his people; see 1 Peter 5:5 and it is very useful to him in hearing the word, in giving a reason of the hope that is in him, in restoring others, and in showing forth a good conversation; and particularly it greatly becomes, and exceedingly beautifies women professing godliness; who ought to bear much with their husbands, and be in silence, which is what the apostle has a principal regard unto: and to encourage the more to the exercise of it, adds,

which is in the sight of God of great price; which may refer to the whole adorning, to the hidden man of the heart, which is incorruptible, in opposition to the outward adorning, which may be esteemed by men, and be precious in their sight; and particularly to the ornament of meekness and quietness of spirit; for God has a great regard to the meek, humble, and quiet souls; he lifts them up, when cast down; he causes glad tidings to be preached to them; he increases their joy in the Lord; he feeds them, when hungry, to their satisfaction; he guides them in judgment, and teaches them his ways; he will rise up in judgment for them, and reprove with equity for their sake; he gives more grace unto them, and beautifies them with salvation, and will cause them to inherit the earth.

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