Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

1 Peter 3

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Verses 1-22

There is similar instruction for wives, for theirs is the subject place, certainly not as slaves to a master, but as joined to their "own husbands," a most-intimate and precious relationship. Because he is her "own," this is an incentive for her genuine, heartfelt subjection. Of course, if he demands that she do wrong, she must not submit to this; but otherwise a spirit of cheerful subjection is that which honors her Lord. Her husband may be an unbeliever, not obeying the Word of God. But she is to obey nevertheless, for it may be that by this very means the husband will be won to the Lord. Her godly subjection pervading her entire manner of life is itself an evidence of the power of the Word of God over her; and she may win him without preaching the Word to him. This is much more becoming on the part of a wife. It is called "chaste conversation coupled with fear," in other words, a manner of life free from adulteration, having the wholesome fear of God in view.

And let her guard against mere outward adornment. No doubt it was common then, as It is now, that women would draw attention to themselves by branding ornaments into their hair, wearing of expensive clothing and jewelry. Certainly it is no virtue to wear slovenly or careless dress; but neither Is showy attire becoming. Generally speaking, one should be desirous of wearing what will not draw undue attention. For it is pride that desires attention, whatever direction it may take.But much more precious than outward show, there is an adornment the opposite of this, connected with the inner motives of the heart, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. In this is real and eternal value, no corruptibility, and of great price in the sight of God. How infinitely more precious is this then the pretty baubles that may for the moment dazzle people's eyes!

And we are reminded of the example of holy women of old, who trusted in God. Certainly, even then, there were women whose character was totally contrary, but they are sunk In oblivion, compared to those whose record is in the word of God as having a refreshing spirit of faith in God and subjection to their own husbands. Let us not fall into the devil's prevalent snare today, of considering such godly women as being "out of date:" their example remains in its moral beauty just as applicable to present day needs as to their own day.

Sara is specially singled out, the wife of Abraham, the man of faith. She is herself symbolical of the fruitful principle of grace operative in subjection to God. She obeyed Abraham, calling him "Lord." The occasion of this is seen InGenesis 18:12; Genesis 18:12, when Sara spoke within herself, not audibly: which shows that this was a willing, habitual practice, not adopted because of others listening. Wives are then in practical reality daughters of Sara when living in true subjection. But subjection is not "consternation." or terror; it has in it rather the calm dignity of faith and of courage, not a slavish servility.

And husbands are certainly not to take advantage of their wives because of their subject place. They are rather to "dwell them (not above them) according to knowledge, in sober recognition of what is right and proper. And because the wife is physically the weaker vessels the husband is to give her honor for the stronger is certainly responsible to support the weaker. Let him show every true consideration for her welfare. In the world today, because! of man's abuse of his authority, women have suffered, and now have turned in resentment of this, demanding equal rights, etc. But neither of these abuses is right and Christians, whether men or women, should properly realize their place, and keep it, also faithfully discharging the responsibilities of that place.

Husband and wife then are to consider themselves "heirs together of the grace of life." This is not heirs in reference to blessing (of which Romans 8:17 speaks), but, in reference to receiving from God present grace to live in devoted obedience to Him. Let us make full use of this precious heritage of "the Grace of life." In this spirit of proper consideration for one another there is a preserving character, so that the prayers of the husband and wife together are not hindered.

Verses 8 and 9 are general exhortation, covering all relationships. To be all of one mind will require setting aside of personal preferences and desires, in genuine consideration for others. This in fact is ""the mind of Christ." Compare Philippians 2:5. ""Sympathizing one with another" involves solicitous concern as to the trials of each other. And to this added the warmth of love, "as brethren.' 'Be pitiful" is better rendered "tender-hearted," in contrast to callousness. "Courteous" or "humble-minded" is a quality not common in the world, but Precious. And the warning is given, which requires no little repetition, not to return evil for evil. If I do so, I reduce myself to the same level as the offender. Indeed, I ought to return positive "blessing," that which is good, for in this God is rightly represented. And we ourselves have been called out of a state of evil and shame, that we might inherit a blessing from Him.Beginning with this verses, we see that there will be governmental results from God in reference to the conduct of believers, whether it is good or bad. If one will love life (that is, life in its true pure character) and see good days, let him first guard his own tongue and lips. The tongue is to refrain from evil that which is harmful in whatever way; and the lips are to be kept from guile, that which gives wrong impressions it may not be a direct lie, but is deceitful nevertheless.

In reference to loving life, it may be questioned as to the Lord's words in John 12:2-5. "He that loveth his live shall lose it." But this is His life, involving the motives of selfish clinging to his earthly life, which he must at any rate give up. Loving life, on the other hand, as in our verse, is delighting in what is really life, a character of purity and goodness that does not corrupt.

But as well as in words, one is told in conduct to avoid evil, that which will cause harm in God's creation. The word is used commonly, whether referring to moral. spiritual, physical, or material harm. Avoiding accidents is certainly included in this. But on the other hand, we are told positively to do good. There is certainly enough good to be done that we should not even have time to do evil. Added to this is seeking peace, the grace of concordant well-being, in whatever relationships we are; and "pursuing it" with diligent purpose

"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous." This means, not only perfect discernment of every motives but watchful care in preservation. It is true that in principle every believer is seen as righteous in Christ, but Peter is insisting that he should be this in practice, if he is to experience God's approving eye upon him; and the same as regards God's ears being open to his prayers, which involves, not only hearings but hearing with approval, and answering. For a contrary character will reap contrary results. God's face will show no approval of evil, and our siding with it in any degree will incur His serious displeasure. These verses are quoted from Psalms 34:12-16; and God's government is no less serious today than when David first wrote this.

It is questioned also as to who will harm them if they are followers of what is good. Generally speaking such conduct will incur no opposition: such at least is the normal state of affairs.

On the other hand, if an abnormal state should exist, one might suffer for doing right. In this case, our attitude is of utmost importance if we are to rightly represent God. "Happy are ye." For God's eye of precious approval is upon such as suffer in genuine patience under these circumstances. Not merely are we to bear it in resigned patience, but to rejoice, for God takes full account of this. No matter how vindictive and cruel the enemy, the believer is told not to be afraid, nor even troubled. Certainly only faith can act upon this but what is more reasonable than faith, and what more normal for the child of God?

"But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts." For Christ is in reality absolutely sanctified, set apart from all that is in the world, sublime in holiness and truth. Let each believer think of Him as such, giving Him His place of solitary dignity and glory. Along with this, he should be ready to give a clear, true answer to any inquirer who is interested in the reason for which one gives evidence that he has a hope not connected with this world. But the answer is to be given with meekness and fear, a sober realization of the holy reality of God's sovereign work being involved in this marvelous matter.If our confession is to be convincing to others, we must also have a good conscience as regards our own practical conduct; for if this is so, however false and wicked the accusations of men may be, usually this will only eventually expose their own shame. Notice in this section (v.10 to 16) that the word "good" is used five times, the last, "good conversation" involving all behavior.

For if it is God's will that we suffer (and only He rightly discerns such necessity), how much better that the suffering should be on account of well-doing, rather than the opposite. Faith sees the long-range value of this.

Moreover, it is inconsistent that a believer should suffer for wrong-doing, because his Lord has already suffered for sins at Calvary, indeed as the Just One taking the place of the unjust, in order to bring us to God. Our sins have Incurred the unutterable agony of the Lord of glory, that He might take them away completely, and present us in righteousness before His God and Father. Why then should a believer return in the least degree to that which gave Christ His agony? Now that we are saved, how much rather should we suffer gladly for doing good?

In the flesh our Lord has suffered death (not only sorrow, trouble and distress); but in the Spirit He has been quickened, made alive, as we know Him today, indeed "in the power of an endless life."

Notice that, not only His death, but His resurrection is seen as an established fact before verses 19 and 20 present the historical facts of what transpired at the time of the flood. For some have sought to insert verse 19 between the time of the death and resurrection of Christ. This view is false; for we are told Christ was quickened before we are told the fact, of vs. 19. Plainly therefore, verses 19 and 20 go back to past history.

The same Spirit in which Christ was quickened was that in which He had, at the time of Noah, preached to those who are now spirits in prison. Just as the Spirit of Christ was in Old Testament prophets (1 Peter 1:10-11), so He was in Noah, who preached while the ark was preparing. (Compare 2 Peter 2:5)

Verse 20 is decisive as to the time of this preaching, that is, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing." It is totally unscriptural to say that at His death Christ went into the regions of the lost to preach to them. For when He died, His body went into the grave, while His spirit he committed to the Father; and this was "in paradise, the third heaven." Compare Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.

Therefore it was at the time of the disobedience of these spirits (who are now in prison) that Christ preached to them. The effective results of that preaching had been very small, only eight souls saved by water; but however small, it was a testimony to the, faithfulness and grace of God. Believers are not in the majority, but are infinitely blessed by God.

This being "saved by water" is a figure of eternal salvation; and baptism today is a similar figure. Noah and his family were saved out of an ungodly world, a type of eternal salvation. Baptism saves in a similar way, not for eternity but from a world that rejects the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, Peter told exercised Jews, 'Save yourselves from this low untoward generation." (Acts 2:40) By being baptized they in this way publicly dissociated themselves from their own nations which had rejected the Messiah. Of course, baptism symbolizes burial (Romans 6:4) in association with Christ's death; so while baptism saves outwardly, it is only a figure of that which saves eternally that is, the precious sacrifice of Christ, the value of which is only made good to the soul by faith in Him.We have seen that baptism saves only in an outward way; and it is interesting that the true translation here is "baptism doth also now save you;" (New Trans.); not us as in the King James. There was no reason for either Peter or the other 11 apostles being baptized with Christian baptism; for they had been publicly identified with Christ from the beginning of His ministry.

But baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh." Being merely a material form, it cannot accomplish any moral result, nor is it intended to. But it is "the demand as before God, of a good conscience." (See New Translation and note.) It expressed the desire or demand of a good conscience it does not itself give a good conscience, but since baptism is "unto Christ," it points to Him who does give a good conscience. This is intimated in the last phrase, "by the resurrection of Christ." Baptism would be meaningless if Christ had not rise., (1 Corinthians 15:29) But baptism is only the form that symbolizes something, infinitely better.

It is intended then to direct the heart away from the mere form itself, away from self, to the Person of Christ raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, seated at the right hand of God, with the highest created beings (angels) and authorities and powers all made subject to Him.

This is in answer to having once taken the lowest place in suffering for sins (v.18). This being so, then how gladly should the believer willingly suffer for well-doing; the end in view is marvelous beyond description.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.