Chapter 3 begins in the middle of the section which started at 1 Peter 2:13. The Christian has been redeemed from sin, but he still lives within God’s created order. Just as citizens should “be subject to every human institution,” (1 Peter 2:13) and servants to their masters (1 Peter 2:18), wives should “be subject” to their “own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1). Even if some of them have unbelieving husbands, their feminine behavior will serve as a fitting witness to the Gospel (1 Peter 3:2). This inward adorning ought to be the true source of beauty for the Christian woman, rather than extravagant outward adornment (1 Peter 3:3-6).
Likewise, rather than selfishly taking advantage of their helpmeets, husbands are to live with them “in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7). In every house there are a variety of vessels—some for honorable use, some for dishonorable (2 Tim. 2:20). Though women are physically weaker than men, Christian men are not to take advantage of that fact, but instead to treat wives with honor.
Peter urges his audience to submit to authorities even when it is difficult. If emperors, governors, husbands, or masters are difficult, the Christian is to endure suffering just as the Lord Jesus did (1 Peter 3:14). We may be tempted to rush toward hard cases; before we even finish reading we may already be asking “what if…” and “what about…” Perhaps there is some room for discussion on how to handle certain specifics of suffering unjustly under God-given authorities. But in the end, we must confess, with the Holy Spirit that no matter what, “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (1 Peter 3:14). All of this is for the sake of the Christian’s witness to the world. His good conduct will put to shame false testimony against him, even if “only” on the last day (1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 2:12). With Christ as Lord, the Christian can make a defense of his faith before the world (1 Peter 3:15).
Whether wives or husbands, servants or citizens, Christians should put away malice, deceit, and other fleshly motivations and vices (1 Peter 2:1). Since the glory of man is doomed to perish (1 Peter 1:24), and since we have been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), we should live humbly and trust in the Lord in all matters. This means Christian women ought not idolize physical beauty, and Christian men ought not abuse physical strength. And Christian freedom does not mean earthly anarchy.
Just as Chapter 2 ended with Christ’s work, so does Chapter 3. Jesus suffered in order to make us righteous. Though God’s justice may seem distant, though we may have to suffer for doing good, nevertheless, God will intervene as he did in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20). In the flood we have a foreshadowing of Baptism, which gives us a pure conscience before God and saves us (1 Peter 3:21). Our Lord put his skin in the game by descending from heaven, becoming man, suffering for us, and dying. But he has overcome all things and now sits in glory. His victory is our victory.