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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

1 Peter 3

Introduction

As Peter continues his discussion in chapter 3, he is teaching several practical points about Christian living and Christian behavior in the various stations of life. He is saying that Christianity is a life to be lived. He has given rules concerning conduct before unbelievers, submission to civil rulers, and duties of servants to masters. He here continues his admonition by addressing proper relationships between wives and husbands.

Verse 1

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;

Likewise: "Likewise" means "equally, in the same way" (Thayer, 445-2-3668). What he is about to say is in keeping with the same principles taught previously regarding subjection.

ye wives, be in subjection: The word "subjection" (hupotasso) is the same word used in 2:13 and 3:5, meaning "to arrange under, to subordinate, to subject, put in subjection" (Thayer 645-2-5293). Peter’s teaching is in perfect accord with Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18-19 and Titus 2:1-5.

The principle Peter advances here is not a new one. Submission is related to foundational, permanent truths of God’s order in creation. The relationship between man and woman is based on God’s plan; these truths are from divine revelation, not from man’s logic. Subjection or submission is not a token of inferiority. The "placing of oneself under" is done for Christ’s sake, that is, out of reverence and respect for God’s command. It has nothing to do with inferiority in regard to women.

to your own husbands: The Christian wife is exhorted to be in subjection to her own husband, not to another, even when her husband is not a Christian. Other passages in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7, 2 Corinthians 6, 1 Peter 2:18) indicate that those obeying the gospel might be tempted to throw off the bonds of social responsibilities, especially when one member of a relationship became a Christian and the other did not.

that, if any obey not the word: The word "if" strongly indicates that some, upon hearing the word, did not obey it (Romans 1:16). These divine instructions show how to preserve the home and how to save the unbelieving husband.

"Obey not" means "not to allow oneself to be persuaded; not to comply with; to refuse or withhold belief" (Thayer, 55-2-544). Wuest comments about these words: "These husbands were of the obstinate, non-persuadably type that would not listen to reason (Wuest, I Peter, 72).

they also may without the word: The "word" in this passage is the word of the wife, not the word of God. It is impossible for a person to be led to the word of truth without the word of truth. The idea is that the husband may without a word, not the word, be led to obey the truth. In the Greek there is no definite article before the second use of the term "word."

be won by the conversation of the wives: To be "won" (kerdaino) means "to be gain anyone" (Thayer 345-1-2770). "Conversation" (anastrophee) means "to walk, i.e. manner of life, behavior, conduct" (Thayer 42-2-391). (See also 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:12.) What was not accomplished by the preaching or proclamation of the word, at the time, may be effected by a constant reviewing of the word in the life of the Christian. Notice the silent but powerful persuasion of believing behavior! Is not that the theme of the apostle up to this point? Godly conduct will accomplish what importunity, even nagging, will never accomplish.

Verse 2

While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

Behold: To "behold" (epoptuo) (2:12) is "to look upon, view attentively; to watch" (Thayer 246-2-2029). This word is used only by Peter in this epistle.

Chaste: "Chaste" (hagnos) means "pure from every fault, immaculate" (Thayer 8-1-53).

Conversation: "Conversation" is the same word as in verse 1.

Fear: "Fear" (phobos) is "reverence (Ephesians 5:33), respect" with reference to the husband in this case (Thayer 656-2-5401). The immaculate life manifest in daily living will be seen by the unbelieving partner who otherwise would never see the word of God.

Verse 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;

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning: To adorn (kosmos) means "ornament, decoration, adornment" (Thayer 356-2-2889). It speaks of that which is congruous or fitting. A Christian wife is not to depend on outward adornment to win her husband. Her true adornment arises from within and bears definite influence on what is worn outwardly: we cannot escape this basic thought. The Holy Spirit speaks of three distinct areas: the way she wears her hair, the jewelry she selects, and the apparel she puts on. If anyone has ever wondered if heaven cares about what Christians do, this is an ideal place to look.

of plaiting the hair: "Plaiting" (emploke) refers to "interweaving, braiding, a knot" (Thayer 208-1-1708). In 1 Timothy 2:9-10 Paul forbids "broided hair" for women. Broided (plegna) in that passage signifies "what is woven, plaited, or twisted together; a web, plait, braid" (Thayer 515-2-4117). The Authorized Version translates the term "braided hair."

Evidently the apostle is giving insight into the extravagant and amazing excesses among women in the first century Roman Empire. Word Studies by Vincent carries a quote from Satire VI, in which the writer Juvenal satirizes the extravagant excesses and artificiality of Roman women.

The attendants will vote on the dressing of the hair as if a question of reputation or of life were at stake, so great is the trouble she takes in quest of beauty; with so many tiers does she load, with so many continuous stories does she build up on high her head. She is as tall as Andromache in front, behind she is shorter. You would think her another person (Vincent, Vol. I 650).

Clement of Alexandria, as well as other historians, note that first century women were given to great extremes in braiding and plaiting their hair; gold and silver were intertwined with twisted strands of pearls. It is such vanity that both Peter and Paul condemn.

and of wearing of gold: "Wearing" is from the word (perithesis), which means "to put around" or "to hang around." Thayer comments on this "wearing of gold" as the adornment consisting of the golden ornaments wont to be placed around the head or the body" (Thayer 503-1-4025).

"Gold" refers to the precious metal and, in this case, ornaments of gold worn on a person’s body.

Then the apostle takes up the matter of the wearing of jewelry. The woman’s adornment must not be that of the wearing of gold. As the English translation stands this is an absolute prohibition of the wearing of gold jewelry. But this is not the thought in the Greek text. The word translated "wearing" means literally, "putting around," and here gives the picture of these wives covering their persons with a lavish, conspicuous display of jewelry. The wearing of jewelry is not forbidden the Christian woman, but a gaudy, expensive, elaborate display of the same is, and for the same reasons that made necessary the prohibition of a highly artificial manner of wearing the hair. (Wuest, I Peter 76)

or of putting on of apparel: The Greeks used the words esthes and esthesis in reference to clothing. Clothing was for the protection of the body; apparel was for the ornamentation of the person. In this verse the word himation is used to make reference to clothing, suggesting the ornate.

While Christian women were not to depend upon outward adornment in efforts to win their husbands, and although their adornment must come from a Christian heart, it is evident that all apparel is not forbidden.

In that "putting on of apparel" is not to be understood as unconditionally prohibitive, should we not so understand the expressions "braiding the hair" and "of wearing of gold" in the same way?

As MacKnight observes:

We cannot suppose that the apostle forbids Christian women to adorn themselves with apparel suitable to their station, any more than our Lord forbade his disciples to labor for the meat that perisheth, John 6:27. His meaning in that precept certainly was, that the disciples were not to labor for the meat which perisheth only, but also for the meat enduring to everlasting life.

The words in John 6:27 do not forbid one from working; they rather demand emphasis on those things that lead to eternal life (Matthew 6:33). There is a definite grammatical parallel between 1 Peter 3:3 and John 6:27.

Verse 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.

But let it be the hidden man of the heart: In that the heart is the place of intelligence, reason, and will (Luke 24:25), the apostles referred to the heart as the inner man (Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10). The "inner man of the heart" is to manifest itself by regulating the Christian’s behavior and adornment. A Christian’s clothing should be consistent with the purity and beauty of the Lord who dwells in his heart (Ephesians 3:17). What one wears is an expression of what is in the inner man or the heart.

in that which is not corruptible: God’s women wear incorruptible apparel! The word (aphthartos) means "uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable" (Thayer 88-2-862) (1 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 1:23). This is the kind of dress that makes a Christian woman! This is the apparel that will ever be in fashion--it will never fade. It is the apparel of a sterling and pure character that the apostle describes.

even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit: To be "meek" (praus) "denotes gentle, mild, meek (Vine Vol. III 55). The term "meek," an adornment of the Christian profession, means to be gentle or mild. Meekness is that temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good, and we accept His will for us without disputing or resisting.

The "quiet spirit" (heesukios) in this passage is associated with "meek" and is to characterize the spirit or disposition. It means "quiet, tranquil" arising from within, causing no disturbance to others (Vine, Vol. III 242). It indicates a tranquillity arising from within and being seen without. The meek and quiet spirit is an unfading ornament.

which is in the sight of God of great price: Peter exhorts Christian women to wear the ornaments that the Sovereign Judge has selected. He who owns heaven and earth has declared the "price" (polutelees), denoting "excellent, or surpassing value" (Thayer 530-1-4185). This word was used to describe the value of the spikenard (Mark 14:3) that was placed on the person of the Lord.

All of the above instructions will make sense to, and be obeyed by, only those who are seeking to please God and bring the lost to Christ. How important that we recognize these principles! As Wuest observes in his treatise on "The Aroma of Christ,"

We may be fundamental in our doctrine, and yet defeat the power of the Word we give out by the modernism of our appearance. The unsaved person will say, "What you appear to be outside speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying." The more of the Lord Jesus which the sinners sees in the believer’s life, the more powerful is the latter testimony ... Alas, as someone has said, "What cheap perfume we sometime use."

Verse 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:

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also: To emphasize how God values the behavior described here, Peter points to the faithful and godly women of old. "After this manner," or in the way described in verses 1-4, the "holy women" lived and led others to God.

who trusted in God: "Trusted" refers to "those who hope for something from God" (Thayer 205-2-1679).

adorned themselves: The women of old who placed their trust in God were not so concerned with how they appeared outwardly, but they placed their concern on the inward beauty. Their genuine concern was in obeying the ordinances of God. (See Proverbs 31 and Hebrews 11:11; Hebrews 11:35.)

being in subjection unto their own husbands: (See comments on verse 1.) This passage lends weight to the fact that the instructions are based on God’s order given in the beginning. Anyone fighting against this teaching is at war with God.

Verse 6

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham: Sarah was a familiar and exemplary woman in the circle of holy women: she was a holy woman and a dutiful wife. What an aspiration this ought to be to Christian women of every generation.

Sarah "obeyed" (hupakouo), meaning "to harken to a command, i.e. to obey, be obedient unto, submit to" (Thayer 638-1-5219). This holy woman of old listened to, attended to, submitted to her own husband.

calling him lord: Reference is made to Genesis 18 as an illustration of Sarah’s position and faithfulness. She recognized the position of her husband, entertained the highest respect for him, left her home in Ur, and lived in tents for years because she was following his leading; she indeed assumed her proper sphere in the home. Peter says this is an exemplary life for those who are sisters in Christ.

Sarah called Abraham "lord." The word (kurios) is variously translated as lord, master, owner, sir. It was a title of respect addressed to a father or a husband or a master. In doing so, Sarah manifested an attitude of continuous subordination and is held up as an example by the Holy Spirit Himself.

whose daughters ye are: Christian women are the (hes egnethete tekna) genuine posterity or true offspring of Sarah when they follow the pattern of Sarah (Thayer 617-2-5043). In that Sarah was the freewoman of Galatians 4:26, the "mother of us all," surely her example is the pattern for all Christian women.

It is worthy of note that in marriage Sarah did not lose her identity, her individuality, or her personal responsibility to God. As a keeper at home, a help-meet, and a wife in subjection to her husband, Sarah was not a slave. Her husband respected her position in the family (Genesis 21:12).

as long as ye do well: A continuing relationship with Sarah is to be sought through doing what is right.

and are not afraid with any amazement: This is not the fear (phobo) of verse 2; but rather it refers to phobeomai, meaning to "be afraid; to be struck with fear; to be seized with alarm" (Thayer 655-2-5399) (See also verse 14.) "Amazement" means "to be afraid with terror...to be put in fear by any terror" (Thayer 556-2-4423). The passage seems to indicate a danger for wives of unbelieving husbands. Alford says, "As long as the believing wives are doing good, they need not be afraid with any sudden terror of the account which their unbelieving husbands may exact from them" (Wuest, I Peter 82).

Peter instructs them to be very careful, "do well," neither committing sin in order to please their husbands nor committing sin from the fear of offending them. He is again insuring Christian conduct before the unbelievers.

Verse 7

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Likewise, ye husbands: In this epistle, Peter has given specific instructions to different groups of people, especially to servants and wives, showing that each has a position to occupy and a relationship to maintain with others. In 2:13 he instructs all Christians to submit themselves to every ordinance of man. In 2:18 he warns servants to be subject to their masters. In 3:1 he tells wives to be subject to their own husbands. In this verse, he turns to husbands, introducing his discussion by repeating the word "likewise." This word means "in the same manner" (See verse 1) but does not mean that husbands are to be submissive as wives and servants are. Rather it means, according to the NIV,

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 (3:7).

Husbands, just as the wives and servants, have their position to maintain in the social and family structure the Lord has set up.

dwell with them according to knowledge: "Dwell" (sunoikeo) means "to dwell together (Vulg. cohabito): of the domestic association and intercourse of husband and wife" (Thayer 605-2-4924). The marriage, the dwelling with, is to be done in a certain manner: it is to be according to knowledge. It is to be with an intelligent recognition of the marriage relation (See also 1 Corinthians 7:1-5). "Knowledge" (gnosis) is "a seeking to know, enquiry, investigation" (Vine, Vol. II 301). Guy N. Woods says,

"Dwell," translated from a term which denotes domestic association, sums up the relationships of the marriage state. Such association is to be "according to knowledge," i.e., with due understanding of the nature of the marriage relation, each showing proper regard for the other, and both discharging the duties peculiarly theirs (92).

Husbands have a responsibility to render due benevolence to their wives just as wives do to their husbands.

giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel: "Giving" in this case refers "to assign, portion out" (Thayer 66-1-632). Christian husbands are to regard their wives as precious, giving them honor (time), thus showing their wives they value them. How many problems would be solved if Christian husbands would let their wives know they honored them. The honor is due because of the wife’s preciousness and of the husband’s recognition of his wife’s being the weaker vessel physically (1 Thessalonians 4:4).

and as being heirs together of the grace of life: The text (verse 7) indicates that both the husband and the wife are Christians. They are joint-heirs or co-inheritors since they two are one.

The "grace of life" is the gift of eternal life that both husbands and wives have access to.

that your prayers be not hindered: It is evident that those who are heirs together are expected to be prayer partners. When the rules of God are forsaken, when strife and discord are present, prayer is hindered, (enkopto) "cut into" (Thayer 166-2-1465). Thayer further comment, "that ye be not hindered from praying (together) (166-2-1465) (Galatians 5:7). Only where peace and harmony prevail can a husband and wife truly join in family prayer.

Verse 8

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Finally, be ye all of one mind: Having addressed Christian slaves, wives, and husbands, Peter proceeds with general exhortation to all Christians regarding their relationships with one another. When Peter uses the word "Finally," he does not mean that he is about to complete the epistle; but he means that this is the last of the classes of people that he is addressing.

Likemindedness is urged. "Be ye all of one mind" (homophron) means "of one mind, (likeminded), concordant" (Thayer 446-2-3675), indicating agreement in those things that are important to Christians (Romans 12:16; Romans 15:5). Peter cannot be teaching that in every single point all Christians will agree but that in those points that are vital to the life of the community of believers, they should agree. Wuest emphasizes this point when he says,

The exhortation, "be ye all of one mind," literally "be ye all likeminded," cannot be pressed to refer to minute details but refers to a unity on the major and important points of Christian doctrine and practice that should be maintained among members of the body of Christ (I Peter 85).

That teaching would also be true, of course, within our homes.

having compassion one of another: This compassion (sumpathees) is defined as "suffering or feeling the like with another, sympathetic" (Thayer 596-2-4835). This word, as well as the word for being of one mind, occurs only here in the New Testament. It denotes "suffering with," being sympathetic to all other people of God. With the Lord’s people, there is to be an interchange of mutual feeling for our brothers and sisters in Christ in joy or in sorrow.

love as brethren: Those who enjoy a common parentage or origin should love, and those who belong to Christ have a common spiritual parentage. Thus, they should love as brothers in Christ, having a natural feeling of concern just as those in fleshly families have. Even though the word "love" is used many times in the Greek New Testament, this is the only place where this word is used. It is philadelphos, meaning "loving brother or sister...in a broader sense, love one like a brother...loving one’s fellow-countrymen...of a Christian loving Christians" (Thayer 653-1-5361).

The word "pitiful" (eusplanknos) means "compassionate, tender-hearted" (Thayer 262-2-2155). The English word is now obsolete, no longer having the same impact as it once did.

Today it refers to a person or circumstance that arouses pity in the heart. The translation should be, "full of pity." The Greek word means "tenderhearted." The first century was cold and hard-hearted. Christianity, with its tenderizing influence upon the heart, had not had time nor opportunity yet to make much of an impact upon the calloused heart of man. Today we have as a result of its benign influence hospitals, homes for the aged, charities of one sort or another. And yet how callous our hearts are to another’s pain. Only the overflowing love of God and the experience of much suffering in one’s own life can fit us to really sympathize with others in the sense of feeling their pain ourselves, thus suffering with them (Wuest, I Peter 86).

be courteous: The word courteous (tapeinophron) literally means "friendly, kind" (Thayer-1-5391). Wuest provides further insight on the meaning of this word: "The word ’courteous’ is the translation of the Greek word which means ’humble-minded, having a modest opinion of one’s self" (I Peter 86). The humble-minded is the opposite of the proud and arrogant.

Verse 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.

Not rendering evil for evil: Retaliation is forbidden whether in word or in deed (Matthew 5:39). This verse teaches that we are never, under any circumstance, to "give back" evil.

or railing for railing: "Railing" (loidoria) means "reviling" (Thayer 382-1-3059). Vine gives "abuse" as one definition of the word (Vol. III 244). Paul taught that being a railer is a sin so grievous that it is grounds for withdrawal (1 Corinthians 5:11).

but contrariwise blessing: Instead of giving evil for evil, Christians are to love their enemies, and bless those who persecute them (See Matthew 5:44).

knowing that ye are thereunto called: God’s people have been called out of the world and into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13). They have been called to be a blessing and an example to the world and not to render evil for evil. Retaliation, by its very nature, takes away our calling (Ephesians 4:1) and robs us of a blessing.

that ye should inherit a blessing: Those who obey the gospel of Christ have the promise of an eternal blessing: an inheritance of a home in heaven. Christians, then, both "bless and inherit a blessing" according to the teaching of Peter here (Moffatt, Twenty-Six Translations 1153).

Verse 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:

For he that will love life, and see good days: The apostle proceeds to give several reasons for living the wonderful life in Christ, and he couches these reasons in the beautiful words of Psalms 34:12-16. His teaching emphasizes that living in Christ provides a much more satisfying life than living according to the standards of the world. These principles, when practiced dutifully, will allow a person to enjoy a happy productive life here and hope of the good life that is to come. But it takes a "will": one must desire to have this good life.

let him refrain his tongue from evil: (See 2:1.) The tongue is a restless evil (James 3:8), but a Christian can "refrain" (pauo) or "to stop, is used in the Active Voice, in the sense of making to cease, restraining in 1 Peter 3:10, of causing the tongue to refrain from evil" (Vine, Vol. III 265). The child of God must restrain his tongue from wrong (James 1:26; James 3:2).

and his lips that they speak no guile: With the lips one can honor or dishonor both God and man. "Guile" or "deceit" (Thayer 155-1-1388) has no place among Christians.

Verse 11

Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

Let him eschew evil: To "eschew" is "to turn aside...to turn away from" (Vine, Vol II 40). When evil appears, Christians are to turn from it (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

and do good: After the warnings against behaving in certain ways, Peter now turns to the positive side. Those that will see good days must do good and only good. They must do only those things that will please God.

let him seek peace, and ensue it: The idea is a constant seeking for harmony (Matthew 5:9), a seizing upon every opportunity to possess peace. "Ensue" means the same as our word "pursue" and means "seeking eagerly after peace" (Vine, Vol. III 234). The Christian should "earnestly endeavor to acquire peace" (Thayer 153-2-1377).

Verse 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.

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous: What consolation is given to the right-doers. How blessed we are to know that He who never sleeps or slumbers has His eyes upon us.

and his ears are open unto their prayers: God does hear the supplications of His people. Prayer avails! (James 5:16).

but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil: The Lord sets His face against them, all of them, who do evil. There is no reason to believe that evil in the lives of God’s people is ever tolerated or overlooked (Isaiah 59:1-2). John 9:31 assures us that He hears those who do His will while Proverbs 28:9 says that "he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." We are not exempt.

Verse 13

And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

And who is he that will harm you: Doing right carries a degree of protection for the saints. This statement is not to say that Christians are insured from problems and trials. But this basic thought of "love life and see good days, refrain your tongue from evil, and your lips that they speak no guile" carries with it great benefits.

In that God is for us, none can successfully array themselves against the saints (Romans 8:31).

if ye be followers of that which is good: Imitation of the good One (Matthew 9:17) and the good life He prescribes bring us under the special keeping of God (Romans 8:28).

Verse 14

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake: Peter hastens to add that all of the above promises and blessings do not insulate the saints from life in a sinful world. They may suffer persecution, even for their right-doing.

happy are ye: "Happy" (makarios) means "blessed" (Thayer 386-2-3107). Those who suffer with and for Christ will be blessed. In this passage, Peter does not say every Christian will suffer persecution; but he teaches that if a Christian does suffer, he should consider it a blessing. "The spiritual state of those who suffer persecution because of their righteous lives is prosperous, spiritually prosperous" (Wuest, I Peter 88). What an amazing concept! Only those who are His could possibly understand or accept it.

and be not afraid of their terror: Literally, Christians are not to fear the fear or threats that enemies of Christ attempt to throw out (Isaiah 8:12-13). (Compare 3:6.) Rather, Peter says they should be calm, be composed even in the face of fiery trials; God is for those who belong to Him.

neither be troubled: "Troubled" (tarasso) means "to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity; to disquiet, make restless" (Thayer 615-1-5015). Thayer’s further comment "to strike one’s spirit with fear or dread" denotes agitation or disturbance that brings fear or perplexity. God wants His people to be free to gird up the loins of their minds and to be free from these kinds of obstructions, these impediments, and to live for Him.

Verse 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:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: "Sanctify" means "to set apart" (Wuest, I Peter 88). When we fear and respect God more than men, believe that He makes all things work together for our good, and trust Him for the final fruits of right living, we are said to have "set Him apart" in our hearts. He is the Lord.

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: Christians, living in the world and yet not of it, were called upon to justify their very existence. So it has been in every generation. Christians must be well informed about the things of God, ever ready to give an answer, that is, "rise in defense of" the truth. Honest inquirers are to receive an account of the basis of our hope (Acts 22:1; Philippians 1:7). We explain our hope by teaching the truth, which is to be spoken only in love: fully, skillfully, but with love. We answer even our enemies in the fear of God rather than displaying indifference or arrogance when they question us.

Verse 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.

Having a good conscience: "Conscience" (sunideesis) has reference to being able to distinguish "between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the later, commending the one, and condemning the other" (Thayer 602-2-4893). Vine says "conscience" is "literally a knowing with...a co-knowledge with one’s self" (Vol. I 228). It is a process of thought that recognizes the difference between good and evil on the basis of what we have been taught. Conscience confirms the good and condemns the evil (Romans 2:14-15); the word of God is the law upon which conscience should operate. A good (peaceful) conscience is performing (commending and condemning) the end for which it was created (2 Timothy 1:3; Acts 24:16; Hebrews 13:18). We can have a good conscience.

This verse implies that at least some who call for an explanation of our faith may be unfriendly. They may approach us with a "chip-on-the-shoulder" attitude, which explains why the preceding verse instructs us to be meek and respectful; if we observe all these instructions we can have a good conscience. When the critics make their approach with the questions, they often imply that no good reason can be given for the conduct of the disciples because they (the disciples) are evildoers so they will say. But when the reasons are shown to be well founded in the word of God it will put to shame the false accusers.

that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers: See comments on Chapter 2:12.

they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ: The power of the godly life is never stronger than when evil is overcome with good. Those who accuse, threaten, and revile may be quietly and effectively put to shame by the life that has been made good by the word of God.

Verse 17

For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

For it is better, if the will of God be so: The permissive will of God is a very real factor in the life of every sincere Christian. This passage, however, does not teach that we will necessarily suffer for doing good, only that it is a possibility. Wuest says, that the phrase implies, "if perchance the will of God should so will" (I Peter 90).

that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing: Suffering for righteousness’ sake is, in God’s sight, of great value. (See comments on chapter 1:6-7.) Peter again (2:20) reminds us that we will never become famous by enduring suffering that we deserve; "evildoing." If we are going to suffer, it is better to suffer for "well doing" than for "evil doing."

Verse 18

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:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins: The concept that the servant is not above his lord was one the apostle knew well. In many cases Peter cites heaven’s rule, gives the reason behind the rule, and then gives a worthy example. The example of suffering for righteousness’ sake is the Lord Himself.

the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God: Here was a case of not only suffering because of righteousness but of a righteous one suffering for the unrighteous. The just suffered for the unjust: in this great act we have an excellent definition of redemption.

being put to death in the flesh: Jesus was put to death as a man so far as human flesh was concerned. "Flesh" denotes the material or substance of a living body (John 2:19). The words "in the flesh" denote something very different about His death. Normally we would speak of Paul’s or Peter’s death as merely being put to death. "In the flesh" is distinguished from a higher nature which Christ possessed over which death had no power.

but quickened by the Spirit: Although Christ died in the flesh, his life was not terminated. He was quickened or made alive. He was not maintained alive, preserved alive, but made alive.

The difficulty of this passage is heightened by the fact that "spirit", so far as the mere use of the word is concerned, might refer to his own soul, to his divine nature, or to the Holy Spirit Himself. "By the Spirit" (pneumati) has no article before it in the original Greek and the article is omitted in most texts. The word "spirit" with no article, and with its particular usage in this place, must refer to the spiritually mature or inner principle of life that Jesus possessed.

The reference must be to His own divine nature by which He was restored to life after He was crucified. At the point of death, Jesus committed His spirit to God; in that His spirit moved into a new sphere of existence, He was "made alive in the spirit." It seems a reasonable conclusion that the reference is not directly to the Holy Spirit but rather to the divine nature of Christ Himself. This conclusion accords with John 10:17-18 : "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." No mere human can do this; Christ could and did! As a human He was put to death; as the Son of God, He was made alive again by the power of His own divine spirit. In the flesh and in the spirit locate the spheres in which these things occurred. The sphere of death was in the flesh; the sphere in which He was made alive was in the spirit.

Peter makes this point because he is encouraging Christians to endure suffering. In that the suffering and death of Christ did not terminate His existence but rather was a step to a new life in the realm of the spirit, they also could look forward to a better day beyond the sphere of the flesh.

Suffering and death will not have the final word - God will! And, we should also note that suffering is not necessary evidence of the wickedness of the sufferer. No one suffered as Jesus did.

Verse 19

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

"By which" refers to the Holy Spirit of verse 18. Having been made alive by the Holy Ghost Christ went "In the spirit," that is, in the spiritual form of life, in that part that cannot be put to death, in this way he "entered upon a journey" to accomplish a particular task. He went to preach to "the spirits in prison." These were people who were once on earth in the flesh; now (at the time of Peter’s writing) they are spirits in prison.

Verse 20

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Which sometime were disobedient: The spirits in prison were at sometimes disobedient and evidently persisted in disobedience until death.

when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah: The wicked or disobedient spirits had lived during Noah’s day. "In the days of Noah," when they were people on earth in the flesh is the period of time that they were disobedient; this then must have been the time of Christ’s preaching which called for obedience (1 Peter 1:10-11).

while the ark was a preparing: Specifically this was the "sometime" of disobedience. This was the time of Noah’s preaching (Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5). This was the time when Christ, through Noah, preached. Peter does not state that the disobedient were disembodied at the time the preaching was done. It was done when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah and while the ark was preparing.

The teaching of 1 Peter 3:18-20 does not in any way support the concept of purgatory, a place in which departed souls are confined until such are in some way given a second chance. To sustain this, and various kindred false doctrines, it is often asserted that the Lord, in death’s wake, made a trip to Hades, and preached to spirits imprisoned with a view to setting them free. There are many problems with this view; some of them are as follows:

1. It cannot be shown that Christ went and personally preached to those in prison. (Study Ephesians 2:17.)

2. If the journey was made at the time of His death, why should He who is no respecter of persons preach only to a portion of the imprisoned spirits? This would put Him in Hades preaching to a group of spirits who had been disobedient in the days of Noah. The prison must have contained far more than that.

3. Preaching would hardly be needed to persuade those in Hades to leave the chains of darkness.

4. To assert that those who died in disobedience may, in any way, be saved after death is a violation of many plain scriptures (Hebrews 9:27).

5. No messenger of God, apostle, prophet, or evangelist, ever, at any time, preached to a disembodied spirit.

6. The realm of departed spirits is not the realm of preaching or other opportunities for salvation; the rich man of Luke 16:26 is a vivid example.

wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water: Genesis 7 records the awesome fact of only eight souls being obedient and saved. The Holy Spirit Himself defines few with the number eight. The eight were saved or brought to safety by water, the natural element. Water bore up the ark and saved them from the world that was (2 Peter 3:6).

Verse 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:

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us: "The like figure" means "a thing resembling another, its counterpart; something in the Messianic times which answers to the type...prefiguring it in the Old Testament...as baptism corresponds to the deluge" (Thayer 51-2-499) (Hebrews 9:24). The deluge was a type, and baptism in water is the antitype. Baptism corresponds to and has a resemblance to the deliverance of Noah and his family.

The "baptism that doth also now save" is water baptism. Water was the means chosen by God for exercising His saving power. In like manner, baptism doth also now save us; it is the final step that translates us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear son (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 6:3-4; Acts 2:37-38). Noah was saved from death; we are saved from the second death of hell.

(not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,): Baptism was commanded in response to "what shall we do" (Acts 2:38); it secured the "remission of sins." Baptism, then, does not wash filth from the body. Neither is it a ceremonial cleansing of the physical body. Baptism is for the purpose of washing away sins--it cleanses the unclean soul (Acts 22:16).

Baptism is the "answer" (eperotema) of a good conscience. This word is not used as we use it today but "was used by the Greeks in a legal sense as a demand or appeal" (Vine, Vol. I 61). Through obedience in baptism, an individual has a good conscience; baptism is the basis of our "appeal" to God.

by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: The entire structure of Christianity rests upon the resurrection fact (1 Corinthians 15:14). It must follow, then, that baptism that "now saves us" must find its efficacy in the resurrection. Baptism is vitally tied to the resurrection (Romans 6:17). In Romans 6:3-4, Paul affirms baptism is a picture of death, burial, and resurrection. As Christ was raised, "even so we also should walk in newness of life."

The Holy Spirit affirms, through Peter, that those saved in the ark were "saved by water" and that in a like figure the water of baptism saves in the Christian age. The "true likeness" or antitype of Noah and his family is manifest in the deliverance that a penitent sinner receives in passing through the water of baptism. Baptism is the antitype of the figure. "Baptism doth also now save us"; baptism is the reality that was symbolized by the salvation of Noah. In what way did the water of the flood symbolize or prefigure our salvation? The "true likeness" is seen in the following:

1. The waters of the flood bore upward the ark and delivered all eight of them from the destruction of the world. The water of baptism delivers or separates the saved from the disobedient (Acts 22:16).

2. The water that destroyed the disobedient of Noah’s day was identical to the water that saved Noah; the water that separated the saved from the lost was the same. It is the water of baptism that in like fashion destroys and saves today. Baptism is the line of demarcation between the lost and the saved (Acts 2:38). In baptism the old man of sin is buried; and, from the watery grave, he rises to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). Those who refuse to be baptized rebel against the authority of Christ (Mark 16:15-16).

3. Baptism is the antitype of the water of the flood. "Doth also" is a reference to water, plain ordinary water, water such as bore up the ark. The identical element is evident in both. The water that caused the flood is one with the water of baptism. The baptism which "doth also now save us" is water baptism. Holy Spirit baptism, which was a promise (and never a command) only to the apostles, does not in any way fit into this text. Intellectual honesty demands that we accept the baptism that saves as baptism in water (Acts 8:36).

4. The flood destroyed (cleansed) the old world and allowed Noah and his family to emerge into a new clean life. The water of Christian baptism washes away the sins of the obedient (Acts 22:16) and delivers us into a new world where old things are passed away and all are new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Peter, himself, points out that whereas it was actual filth that was washed away by the flood, it is moral and spiritual filth (sins) that is washed away in baptism (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16).

5. The salvation under consideration was not future; "baptism doth also now save us." In that the baptism under consideration is not deliverance from trials or problems, one must conclude that the salvation is freedom from past sins. Water baptism is a command and is both the means and the point at which God exerts His saving power (Acts 22:16).

"Baptism doth also now save us!" (1 Peter 3:21). "Repent and be baptized...for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).

In addition to the above, the Holy Spirit uses the word baptism 109 other times in the New Testament. That is three more times than the word church is mentioned! Indeed the doctrine of baptism is solidly with us.

How is it, then, that in absolute contradiction to the Holy Spirit modern day churches, creeds, and sermons state that baptism is no part of the gospel, that baptism has nothing to do with remission of sins, and that baptism has not one thing to do with one’s salvation? These doctrines fly in the face of heaven itself.

Once again in Acts 2:38, Peter says, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...." Is it not evident that baptism stands between the sinner and the remission of his sins? Correct teaching results in correct baptism. To reason that God will accept any other baptism than that which is "for" or "in order to" the remission of sins is to argue that He will accept a baptism that He has not commanded, one that He has not authorized.

Baptism has both a meaning and a design. It must be received in that meaning and for that design, else it is another baptism and not the one commanded by the Holy Spirit and practiced by the apostles. Remission of sins follows baptism and is, therefore, to be expected by the baptized.

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put of Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). It is evident that baptism is the way to get into Christ. It is not just a good way or the best way, it is the only way the Holy Spirit reveals. The Bible never says that we believe or repent into Christ. Faith plus baptism equals being in Christ. For whom or how many? "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ." We must get into the spiritual body of Christ.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

"To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ" (Colossians 1:2). All spiritual blessings are in Christ (the church, Acts 2:47). We are not counted or called saints or brethren until we are in Christ.

"That they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ..." (Colossians 2:10).

According to these plain declarations of the Holy Spirit, no one can be saved outside of the body of Christ; the saved are in Christ; the unsaved are outside. The apostle Paul says that we are "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:27).

"And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). These words were part of the message that Saul of Tarsus was told that he must do (Acts 9:6). Saul believed in God, had seen Jesus Christ, had repented and prayed for days, and yet was in his sins until he was baptized. If Saul had already been forgiven as a result of his faith and repentance, then this command was not only nonsensical but it would have been impossible to obey. Baptism stood between him and the washing away of his sins.

DENOMINATIONAL BAPTISM:BIBLE BAPTISM:
Sometimes go to the waterAlways go to the water (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:5, Acts 8:36)
Some immerse, some sprinkleAlways immersion (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12)
Many baptismsOne baptism (Ephesians 4:1-5, Mark 16:16)
Form or act matters littleMust be correct ( Acts 19:1-7; Acts 2:38 ) Right Element - Water, not Holy Spirit ( 1 Peter 3:21 ) Right Subject - Not infants or unaccountable ( Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8 ) Right Mode - Burial ( Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-4 ) Right Design - Remission of sins ( Acts 2:38 )

The above points concerning "Bible Baptism" establishes what the one baptism is according to Ephesians 4:5. Conclusion: A person cannot have wrong teaching and right baptism!!

All of the above agrees with the great commission statement by Christ: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Indeed Peter’s statement stands: "Baptism doth also now save us..." (1 Peter 3:21).

Verse 22

Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

Who is gone into heaven: During the Lord’s earthly ministry, He assured His apostles that He was leaving the earth and going to heaven to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-2). And, then, after His resurrection some fifty days later, He ascended to heaven, the eternal dwelling place of God (Acts 1:9).

and is on the right hand of God: Having ascended on high (Ephesians 4:10) and having accomplished God’s will on earth, Christ was given a position of eminence, power, and authority. (Mark 16:19; Ephesians 1:20-21; Romans 8:34). Stephen saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).

angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him: While on earth the Lord declared that all authority had been given unto him (Matthew 28:18-20). In His ascension He led death captive (Ephesians 4:8), was attended by a convoy of angels (Psalms 24:7-10), rose "far above all the heavens," and was given the highest place of honor in heaven and earth. The supreme dominion of Christ extends over every creature, even the hierarchy of heaven itself.

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Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-peter-3.html. 1993-2022.