What kind of inner spirit produces the outlook of reverence and purity that Peter commends? Peter deals with this matter by the illustration of adornment, not of the body but of the soul. In verse 3, Peter is not commanding that women should not comb their hair or not wear jewellery or nice clothes. To suggest he was makes his words absurd. Instead he is saying that even the best attention to outward appearance should not be the priority of the Christian wives he is addressing. Instead the garment that should be obvious is the attire that comes from within and not from their wardrobe. This garment is ‘the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit’. Why is it important?
First, this attitude is imperishable. There is not a noun following the adjective ‘imperishable’, so translations provide them and have words such as ‘beauty’. The problem with providing a noun is that we might focus on its meaning rather than on the meaning of the adjective. It looks to me as if Peter is saying that items of physical adornment will eventually perish whereas inner adornment is permanent. Clothes wear out, jewellery fades and hair can diminish. In contrast, when they get to heaven, Christian wives will have a gentle and quiet spirit, which is then a motivation for having it on earth.
Second, this attitude is Christlike. Jesus described himself as gentle and humble (Matt. 11:29). For a Christian who wants to look beautiful, there can nothing more attractive than being like Jesus in one's heart, whether we are male or female.
Third, the attitude is valuable – ‘in God’s sight it is very precious.’ No doubt, it is precious because it is Christlike. God will delight to look at this attire for ever. Again, the attitude is precious to God because he paid a great price for it, the death of his own Son. Jesus died in order that his people would be conformed to his image.