The Latter Epistles – 1 Peter 3

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.  They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,
“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits — to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.  In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

  • 1 Peter 3:1-22

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

1 Peter 3:1-7 ‘wives and husbands’: “A husband and wife are ‘heirs together.’  If the wife shows submission and the husband consideration, and if both submit to Christ and follow His example, then they will have an enriching experience in their marriage.  If not, they will miss God’s best and rob each other of blessing and growth.  ‘The grace of life’ may refer to children, who certainly are a heritage from God (Ps. 127:3); but even childless couples can enjoy spiritual riches if they will obey Peter’s admonitions.
“It might be good if husbands and wives occasionally took inventory of their marriages.  Here are some questions, based on what Peter wrote.
1. Are we partners or competitors?
2. Are we helping each other become more spiritual?
3. Are we depending on the externals or the eternals?  The artificial or the real?
4. Do we understand each other better?
5. Are we sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas, or taking each other for granted?
6. Are we seeing God answer our prayers?
7. Are we enriched because of our marriage, or robbing each other of God’s blessing?
“Honest answers to these questions might make a difference.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Hopeful

1 Peter 3:1-7 ‘submission’: “There’s no quicker way to disrupt a festive gathering of Christian women than to bring up the topic of submission. Before you know it, friends start facing off to launch passionate discourses on all sides of the issue. Either that or they laugh contemptuously. Yet God’s direction on the subject is clear: ‘The head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’ (1 Corinthians 11:3).
“Each of us submits to a higher authority. Consider the boss at work or the IRS agent at tax time. They are our equals as people, yet we submit to them because they have authority over us when they assume certain roles. A wife submits to her husband in the same manner. You both are equally valued, equally important partners – yet your roles are different. Furthermore, submission cannot be understood or appreciated apart from the other half of the prescription found in Ephesians 5:25, which requires a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church, to the point of giving up his life for her. There is no room for inconsiderateness, oppression, or domination here!
“As a wife, you are asked to submit to the leadership of your husband. As a husband, you are told to sacrificially love and cherish your wife. It is the divine plan for marriage and family.”

  • Shirley M. Dobson with Dr. James Dobson, Night Light, a Devotional for Couples

1 Peter 3:8 ‘Finally, all of you’: “Believers are to be like-minded, sympathetic, tenderhearted, and courteous, which means they are to be humble-minded, not trying to lord it over one another.  This is to be the attitude and action of a believer among other believers.”

  • J. Vernon McGee, First Peter – Thru the Bible Commentary Series

1 Peter 3:16-17 ‘Christian confession’: “The confession of a Christian’s faith cannot credibly be supported but by a good conscience and a good conversation.  Conscience is good when it is kept clear from guilt.  A good conversation in Christ is a holy life.  ‘Look well to your conscience and your conversation, and then, though men falsely accuse you as evil-doers, you will bring them to shame.  Be not discouraged, for it is better for you, though worse for your enemies, that you suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.’  The most conscientious persons cannot escape the censures and slanders of evil men.  Christ and his apostles were so used.  False accusation generally turns to the accuser’s shame.  As well-doing sometimes exposes a good man to suffering, so evil-doing will not exempt an evil man from it, If the sufferings of good people for well-doing be so severe, what will the sufferings of wicked people be for evil-doing?”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

1 Peter 3:18 ‘time getting away from us’: “We pray to God sometimes as though God were panicky, as though God were in as great a distress as we are.  And we pull out our watch and look at it .  I refuse to wear a wristwatch; it’s bad enough to have a watch in my pocket where it’s difficult to get to.  But if I had to look at the miserable thing all the time and know that time is getting away from me, I think I’d panic.  But God never panics, because God never looks at clocks or watches.  ‘The fullness of time’ was the time when God had ordered it; when that time came, Mary gave birth to her Boy and He was born and lived and died, ‘the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.’  So the eternal Son has lived through all time.  He who was born in Bethlehem’s manger did not take His origin in the womb of the virgin.  The human Baby did, but the eternal Son did not.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II

1 Peter 3:18 ‘the Cross’: “One of the reference points of London is the Charing Cross.  It is near the geographical center of the city and serves as a navigational tool for those confused by the streets.
“A little girl was lost in the great city.  A policeman found her.  Between sobs and tears, she explained she didn’t know her way home.  He asked her if she knew her address.  She didn’t.  He asked her phone number; she didn’t know that either.  But when he asked her what she knew, suddenly her face lit up.
“’I know the Cross,’ she said. ‘Show me the Cross and I can find my way home from there.’
“So can you.  Keep a clear vision of the Cross on your horizon and you can find your way home.”

  • Max Lucado, And the Angels Were Silent

1 Peter 3:19 ‘imprisoned spirits’: “The ‘spirits in prison’ (v. 19) are not the souls of dead human beings, but fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).  According to Jewish tradition (1 Enoch 6-20), they deceived and corrupted the generation who lived before the flood, teaching them the arts of sin (see Gen. 6:1ff,).  As a result they were locked up in prison at the time of the flood, ‘to be held for judgment’ (2 Pet. 2:4).  They were the counterparts of the angels, authorities, and powers (v. 22) still active today.
“Jesus’ preaching to these spirits was not an offer of salvation, but a proclamation of his final victory – in fact, the announcement of the judgment hanging over them.  The spiritual forces behind the greatest corruption the world has ever seen have received their final condemnation at Jesus’ hands!”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

1 Peter 3:21 ‘baptism’: “The baptism of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation and puts us into the ark of safety, our Lord Jesus.  Water baptism is the visible symbol of the real baptism that saves us, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation removes the stain of guilt and sin from our lives, replacing it with a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“If you read the passage in that light, I believe you will have no difficulty with it.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

1 Peter 3:21-22 ‘baptism’: “Noah’s salvation in the ark upon the water prefigured the salvation of all good Christians by baptism.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

My Thoughts

First, the instructions, admonitions for wives and husbands is a continuation of chapter 2.  Everyone must submit themselves to the civil authority.  Slaves (and extended to employees for that matter) must submit themselves to their masters.  And then wives and husbands are included here, followed by everyone once again.  Second, we have many liberated women who refuse to abide by what the first few verses say.  They modify the wedding vows accordingly.  This can become a dangerous precedent when we draw a line in the sand before you get started to say “I don’t do windows” just to use the classic example.  But at some point in the marriage, the “windows” will have to be done.  That is why there is the “submission” of the wife and the loving “consideration” of the husband, to use the words of Rev. Wiersbe, to work together to get the “windows” done, even if only one of the two does them.

But, still, issues can be raised.  These instructions in 1 Peter 3 are for married couples who love the Lord, yet there is an element of being subservient even if there is not a mutual trust in Jesus.  Note the slave admonitions of 1 Peter 2 and there is every indication that we should show the love of God regardless of how we are treated.  But if both the husband and wife follow these guidelines, it will work well to provide a happy marriage.  And before we get off this subject, usually people gravitate toward the man being abusive, but women can be equally abusive in relationships and then when the husband retaliates, the woman plays the “do not strike the lady” card.  There have been police arrests when the husband was black and blue, and the wife had no marks at all, but the husband was charged for abuse.  The point that needs to be made is that with God, anything can be fixed, if all parties are willing to put in the effort.  And from my experience, to get those “windows” done, both parties will probably have to go beyond the point where they wanted to go to get it done – that coming from someone who just celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary last month.  At times, we must show sacrificial love for our spouse.  And at times, it may seem very one-sided.

And the catch-all command that follows the wife / husband section could be the key to a lot of marital strife.  We must be humble-minded.  We must serve the other in the relationship.  And that moves on to all relationships, in the family, in the community, in the church, and at work.

Peter then quotes Psalm 34:12-16.  In being a humble servant, we can keep our tongue in check, shun evil, do good, and keep the peace.

Then we have a very bizarre paragraph, but something that Christians today need to understand.  As Christians are being labeled the “bad” person, we will growingly be characterized as doing the wrong thing.  Even in doing the right thing, we may be accused of doing it for the “wrong” reasons.  In some cases, it may simply be an unwinnable situation.  Yet, that does not stop us from doing good for others.  God knows all and sees all.  When we suffer for having done good, God knows our motives and the suffering we experience.  What Peter is saying here is that we are doing good for others and being a blessing for those around us, for the glory of God, and especially not for the praise of those who cause us to suffer.  We do it in spite of the abuse.  And we only need to look as far as Jesus for an example, who suffered and died for our sake.  He did not lash out at those who persecuted and killed Him.  He begged God, the Father, to forgive them.  And as I have mentioned in Sunday school class, you wonder how many of the 3000 who accepted Jesus as their Savior that first Pentecost Sunday were among those who said, “Crucify Him” only 50 days before?

Then the Apostle Peter talks of the imprisoned spirits.  This is covered in the Baker Commentary quote above.  As the Baker Commentary states, these spirits were imprisoned before the flood, and this narrative goes from Jesus proclaiming His victory over sin to these fallen angels, and that Noah, with seven others, survived the flood.  This salvation upon the water is symbolic of baptism, and the baptism that really counts is the baptism of the Spirit.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. Married or not, what qualities here would you like to build into your friendships with the opposite sex?
“2. What would a marriage built on mutual submission actually look like?
“3. Is Peter advocating that spouses stay in cruel situations?  Why or why not?
“1. Is your fellowship or church ‘in harmony’ or ‘out of tune’?  Why?  What can you do to strengthen the harmony?  How does your church exemplify the qualities of verse 8?
“2. What fears motivate people today?  How does following Jesus as Lord free you from these fears?  How would that free you to live differently?
“3. How does hope change your everyday behavior and cause people to ask about it?  What situation seemed hopeless to you until God brought hope?
“4. Choose one difficult relationship in which you are currently involved.  How could you bless (v. 9) that person this week?  What would you need to do?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

This chapter of 1 Peter was split into two study sessions in the Serendipity Bible.

For additional questions regarding the Apostle Peter’s admonitions to wives and husbands, see the Rev. Wiersbe quote above.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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