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The greater Part of this Chapter is Exhortation. Some few, but deep Things of Divine Truths, towards the Close of this Chapter, are touched upon.
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; (2) While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. (3) Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; (4) 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. (5) 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: (6) Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (7) Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (8) Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: (9) Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. (10) 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: (11) Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. (12) 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. (13) And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? (14) But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; (15) 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: (16) 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. (17) For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
It is a blessed and sweet testimony to the purity of the faith, in the lives of the regenerated, when, from Christ formed in the heart as the cause, all the gracious consequences flow as the effect. And where the hidden man of the heart, as the Apostle calls it, is truly formed; there all the relative and social afflictions, in the several circumstances of public and domestic life, will be the result. The tree made good by grace, in the renewed life, the fruit will be also good. But without this change of nature, by grace, after all the high-sounding commendations, which, from age to age, human philosophy hath said so much about, in praise of moral virtue; there can be no bottom to work upon.
I admire the Apostle's expression, the hidden man of the heart; and which, he saith, is not corruptible. And indeed, it is impossible it should. For it ariseth from the quickening, and regenerating work of God the Spirit; and, therefore, liveth and abideth forever. The properties of it in the source and spring from whence it flows, are hidden; but the blessed consequences, in the streams, arise above ground, and are seen. The world knoweth us not, (said John,) because it knew him not, 1 John 3:1 . Who shall say, how the Lord hath access to our spirits, so as to keep alive the grace he hath first imparted at regeneration; to excite and call forth the desires of the soul upon the Person, and work, and offices, and relations of Christ? Who shall number the incomings of grace, or the outgoings of the spirit; in prayer, in praise, in the longings after Christ, or the soul-embraces of Christ? These are transactions of the new born child of God; both in joy and grief, perfectly unknown to the world, and in which the stranger cannot intermeddle. The follower of the Lord Jesus, like Jesus himself, hath bread to eat, which the men of the world know not of; but which are in the daily feastings, of the hidden man of the heart, from the manifestations of Jesus.
Reader! are you in the habit of these things? Do you know them? Yes! if so be the Spirit of Christ dwell in you. Then you can speak of this hidden man of the heart; and though hidden from the world, yet well known and sweetly enjoyed by you. And you can tell me also, that sometimes, what from the dullness and deadness of your affections, what from sin and Satan, the world, and numberless other thwarting circumstances, this life is hidden for the moment, from yourself. The holy flame is not extinguished, for all the waters cannot quench it; but the ashes cover it from view. And what a mercy is it, that amidst such rubbish, as the best of men carry about with them, in the mass of sin and death of their bodies; the Lord keeps it by his grace, still alive. The Holy Ghost sweetly assigns the cause by his servant, the Apostle Paul. Your life is hid with Christ in God. And hence also, the blessed promise that follows is made secure. When Christ who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory, Colossians 3:3 . See Commentary also there.
If I pause over those verses, in which the Apostle speaks of the plain attire, and lowly deportment of the holy women, our venerable mothers in Israel; it shall only be to remark, with what grace their appear to our imagination from the account. I have often thought, that there is a sanctity in the very garments of those professing godliness, which rebukes the light and frivolous dress of the carnal. The mother of Sisera, however unconscious of it, paid a very high respect to the daughters in Israel, when, to the everlasting reproach of her own infamous character, she concluded her son (though gone, like Judas in after ages to his own place,) had robbed their industry, Judges 5:28 to the end.
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:
On the interesting subject of Christ's suffering for sins, when he made his soul an offering for sin, and in which he acted, as the substitute and sponsor for his people, our souls may well dwell forever. It is a subject to be begun in this life, but never to be finished to all eternity. The Holy Ghost in this scripture, hath very blessedly explained somewhat of the manner of Christ's offering, when he saith, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. I say somewhat of the manner: but our furthest researches, in the present unripe state of our spiritual apprehensions, can go but a very little way. I shall venture to offer my views of his difficult passage to the Reader. But I only propose them as mine, not to decide, but to enquire. Here, as in all other places of this Poor Man's Commentary, where there is supposed to be any obscurity, and the enlightened children of God, see through different mediums; I simply offer my views, but I leave the Reader, under the Holy Ghost's teaching, to form his own.
And first. Christ is here said, to be put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. Very little doubt can arise from these words, but that by the flesh is meant, Christ's human nature. And it should seem as plain, that as Christ alone is here spoken of, by the Spirit is meant, his divine nature; that is, his Godhead. And in confirmation, it should be observed, that Christ himself declared this before his death; when he said to the Jews, destroy this temple, meaning the temple of his body; and I will raise it up in three days, John 2:19 . And the Holy Ghost, by Paul, taught the Church of the Romans, that Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4 . Had Christ not been a quickening Spirit, and had not his own power and Godhead gone forth, in this act of raising himself from the dead, his resurrection would not have declared him to have been the Son of God with power. We perfectly well understand that as the offering up of Christ was through the eternal Spirit, and all the persons of the Godhead were engaged in their several office-characters, in that high transaction; so we as perfectly understand, that all the Persons of the Godhead concurred, and co-operated, in the glorious act of Christ's resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 6:14 ; John 11:25 ; 1 Timothy 3:16 . But in this beautiful scripture now before us, there can be but little doubt, that it is Christ personally considered who is spoken of; being put to death in the flesh, that is, his human nature, and quickened by the Spirit, that is, his divine. It is Christ only that is here spoken of.
Secondly. The subject meets us very blessedly again, in another view. The Son of God, having taken into union with himself, that holy portion of our nature, Hebrews 2:16 , which contained in it the seed of holiness, for every individual member of his mystical body, constituting the Church; and having offered himself an offering for sin by his death on the cross, he not only raised himself from the dead, by his own quickening power, but, at the same time, raised and exalted this holy portion of our nature, his own personal body, to the possession of all divine perfections. By virtue of his eternal power and Godhead, he communicated to this human nature he had assumed into union with his divine, a glory surpassing all creation. The scripture expresseth it in those unequalled words; For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9 . So that in this mysterious union of Person, God and Man. Christ hath all the attributes of eternity, independency, sovereignty, and glory. For so it is written: As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also; because he is the Son of man, that is God-Man Mediator. Not as the Son of God only; for, as such, nothing could be given him; because he possessed in himself, from all eternity, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, all divine perfections. But it is as God-Man Mediator, whereby he hath all power given him in heaven, and in earth. See John 5:26-27 and Commentary.
Thirdly. From the two foregoing statements, we next arise to a third, growing out of the former; in the blessedness of which Christ's whole body, the Church, is included; namely, that by virtue of this union of Christ's human nature with his divine, Jesus, by his quickening Spirit, communicates to all his members in his mystical body, all things that pertain to life and godliness, 2 Peter 1:3 . For here lies the blessedness of the Church's union with her Lord Jesus, in his twofold nature, not only possesseth this personal glory, which is peculiarly his own, and incapable of being possessed by any other, or communicated to any other; but, as Head of his body the Church, he hath a power to communicate all communicable grace, here, and glory above, to the several members which constitute his mystical body. He hath, (as he said himself,) power over all flesh, to give eternal life, to as many as the Father hath given him, John 17:0 . And it is this, which makes Jesus so peculiarly endeared, and blessed to his people. Hence, as a quickening Spirit, Christ is said to raise our bodies, spiritual bodies, which by creation are natural bodies; and sown as such, when they return to the earth. So that, what was sown in dishonor, shall be raised in glory. For as in the first Adam of the earth, we have borne the image of the earthy; so in the second man, which is the Lord from heaven, and the last Adam so called, and who was made a quickening Spirit, we shall bear the image of the heavenly, 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 . And this beautiful scripture, which gives so clear an illustration of the doctrine, is yet further explained, by another part of the sacred writings, where the Holy Ghost by the same Apostle, in allusion to Christ as a quickening Spirit, saith, He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able, even to subdue all things unto himself, Philippians 3:21 .
Reader! pause, if but for the moment, to remark, what a world of holy joy and comfort ariseth out of this one view of Christ, as a quickening Spirit. How often doth the child of God feel, and groan under the workings of sin! And how sweet sometimes the prospect of the grave is, where sleeping in Jesus, we shall lay down all the sorrows and distresses, arising from these workings of sin; yea, and all sin together! But here is a prospect of blessedness, even going beyond that. While we look to Jesus as a quickening Spirit, we look through the grave, and beyond it, dying in union with his Person, we become the blessed dead, concerning whom John heard a voice from heaven, declaring them blessed, because they die in the Lord, Revelation 14:13 . And here Jesus, beheld as a quickening Spirit, secures their blessed resurrection, because, they who die in the Lord shall arise and live in the Lord, Hence, both living and dying, they are the Lord's. And the Holy Ghost gives his gracious testimony to the same, as well as marks the vast change, which shall then take place. He shall change our vile body, and fashion it like unto his glorious body. Jesus, who quickened his own body, will quicken yours. It went down to the grave a natural body. It shall come up a spiritual body. It was sown in corruption; it shall be raised in glory. It doth not yet appear, saith John, what we shall be, but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, 1 John 3:2 . Like him! Reader! do not overlook this. Those vile bodies of ours, which by reason of sin, are so unlike him now, shall be like him then. And though we know not now, what we shall be, Jesus both knows now, as he will know then; and loves us now, as he will love us then. Oh! that every truly regenerated child of God would have this always in remembrance! What, though the body of sin and death distress you daily, yea, will continue to distress you, with its weaknesses, corruptions, and sins, to the last hour; yet when Jesus calls your spirit home, and leads your body down to the house appointed for all living, it shall then distress no more. How many of the Lord's exercised ones is Jesus daily, hourly, calling home, whose bodies called forth the groan but just before Jesus called home the spirit? Oh! for grace and faith, to be always in lively exercise, under the full assurance, that how unlike soever our bodies are to Jesus at death, we shall be like him in our resurrection. Amidst all that is unlovely, and unloving in our bodies now, they are still the property, and must always be the care of the all lovely, and all loving Jesus. His, is to preserve them through life, to watch over them in death, to quicken them at the great rising day, and to present, both body, soul, and spirit, to himself, Father, and Spirit, faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy, Jude 1:24 . Let every child of God, in the prospect of this unquestionable truth, cry out, with him of old, and say: As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness, Psalms 17:15 .
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; (20) 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. (21) 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: (22) Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
We have here, in the opening of this scripture, a passage, which hath been a subject to various Commentators of much perplexity. Christ by his Spirit, preaching to the spirits in prison, hath excited great enquiry, and, as may be well supposed, various opinions; especially among men, untaught of God. But wherefore should it be thought a thing more incredible that Christ's Spirit, should preach before the flood, than by his servants the Prophets after? The Holy Ghost assures us, by Peter, 1 Peter 1:11 , that it was the Spirit of Christ which, in the Prophets, did signify, both his sufferings and his glory. And why may we not suppose, that it was the same Spirit which spake in Noah, when he preached the righteousness of Christ by faith? Hebrews 11:7 .
It is really curious to observe, to what lengths, the pride of human wisdom will go, in those who have never learnt of God. It would tire my Reader to hear, much less would I wish him to turn over, the variety of opinions of the carnal, on this passage of scripture. Some have supposed, that Christ at his death, went into hell, to preach to devils, in order to induce them to repent. Others, that he went there to liberate the souls of his saints, then there. Some, take the words as figurative, and with a freedom of thought peculiarly their own, make the passage to mean no more, than that of the preaching to the Gentiles. And others have considered the prison here spoken of, as the Ark; and that Christ, during the time Noah and his family were shut in, preached the Gospel to them. Reader! what miserable work do all men make of God's word, untaught by God's grace! If the Lord be our Teacher, surely there will be no difficulty in learning of the Lord. And in this case, the passage before us will not be attended with any obscurity. Nay, I think, we shall discover in it, a beautiful and striking testimony, to the truth as it is in Jesus. Let us once more read the scripture, under this impression; and looking at the same time up to the Lord, for grace to teach; see what we can make of it.
And first. It is said, Christ by his Spirit went and preached unto the spirits in prison. Now, hence we learn, one grand undeniable truth; namely, that Christ by his Spirit, actually was in the Church before his incarnation; that he was engaged for his Church in personal acts, at the time here mentioned, before the flood; and that he exercised his ministry, by preaching in the instance here recorded. Now, how mysterious soever these things may be, (and how should they be otherwise than mysterious, to creatures such as we are,) surely they most decidedly prove, the Godhead of Christ. For, upon what other ground, can such things be said, or supposed to be done? Proverbs 8:12 to the end; John 1:10 ; Revelation 13:8 .
Secondly. Those to whom Christ preached are said to have been sometime disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah. Now, this silences at once the foolish notion of those noted just now linked, scripture is the best comment of scripture, and there we learn, from the 6th Chapter of Genesis (Genesis 6:0 ), the truest particulars in relation to this disobedience of men. The old world had corrupted itself, and the Lord in determining the destruction of the ungodly, determined the preservation of the chosen seed, in the person of Noah. In the instrumentality of Noah, (as in the after Prophets, 1 Peter 1:11 ,) the Spirit of Christ preached. And as the Holy Ghost bears witness, by reason of Christ's Spirit preaching in Noah, he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith, Hebrews 11:7 ; Genesis 6:3 .
Thirdly. I beg the Reader, in as particular a manner as any, to notice how the Lord's distinguishing grace is marked in the person of Noah, and by the Spirit of Christ. Noah is the first person, concerning whom we read of grace. And it is remarkable also, that the first time we meet with the word grace, or covenant, in the Bible, it is in relation to this man, Genesis 6:8 and Genesis 6:18 . And do not both refer to Christ? For who but Jesus is the grace, or covenant of his people? 2 Timothy 2:1 ; Isaiah 42:6 . And what was it but grace which prepared the Ark, or saved those eight persons in it; namely, Noah, and his wife, and his three Sons, and their wives?
Upon the whole, then, I venture to hope, that this sweet scripture, (for indeed it is a sweet one, when opened to us by the Holy Ghost,) will comfort both the Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, when considered abstractedly from human policy, and brought under the standard of divine truth; not as man's wisdom teacheth, but what the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual, 1 Corinthians 2:13 .
I shall not detain the Reader, with a long train of observations, on the close of the Chapter, having already so largely trespassed. But I would just beg to remark, on what the Apostle saith in application of the subject, to the present day of the Church, that baptism is called a like figure to the Ark; for both point to Christ, and are made blessed only in Christ. Noah's faith in Christ was what the Ark typified, and the baptism of the Spirit is what alone renders that ordinance profitable, being the representation of redemption in Christ. And the return of Jesus to glory confirms the whole work of the cross being done.
Reader! what a beautiful illustration doth this Chapter afford, of the sweet effects of regeneration? All the relative and social duties arise from the work of grace upon the heart, as fruits from good seed, sown in good ground. And where the hidden man of the heart is found, there will be all the sweet properties of grace, in testimony, that God dwelleth in his people, by his Holy Spirit.
Blessed Lord! diffuse the sweet influences of thy love, in the minds of thy redeemed, and in the 'contemplation of the example of Jesus; grant that there may be more of that Spirit of the Lord, reigning and ruling among thy people; so that by sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, we may be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.
Everlastingly be adored and loved, the sinner's Lord, who died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Lord let thy quickening Spirit, be unceasingly working in our souls, to keep alive in us thy grace, in endless communication, until thou shalt bring all thy Church, in body, soul, and spirit, to the everlasting enjoyment of our God in glory. Let there be no prison frame to thy people; but as thou art gone into heaven, and all power thine, for thy redeemed upon earth; let every thought of ours, be subject unto thee here below, as all authorities and powers, are subject unto thee above.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25