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Bible Commentaries

David Guzik Commentary on the Bible

1 Peter 3



Verses 1-22


A. Submission in the home.

1. (1 Peter 3:1-2) The heart of a godly wife.

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

a. Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands: The godly wife will be submissive to her husband. This submission isn’t a reward for the husband’s good behavior, it is commanded by God as the proper order for the home.

i. The teaching about submission was especially relevant to a first century married woman who would came to Jesus. She would ask questions such as “Should I leave my husband?” or “Should I change my behavior towards him?” or “Should I assume a superior position in Jesus?”

ii. In the culture of the ancient world, it was almost unthinkable for a wife to adopt a different religion than her husband. Christian women who came to Jesus before their husbands needed instruction.

b. Likewise: Proper submission in the home follows the same principles of submission as towards government or our employers. It is a submission not only of the actions, but also of the heart - as demonstrated by the surrendering heart of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-25).

i. The call for submission is not merely a call for love and considerate action. It is a call to relate in submission to authority. The term submission is used outside the New Testament to describe the submission and obedience of soldiers in an army to those of superior rank. It literally means “to order under.”

ii. Yet, submission to authority can be totally consistent with equality in importance, dignity, and honor. Jesus was subject to both His parents and to God the Father, but was not lower than either of them. “Thus the command to wives to be subject to their husbands should never be taken to imply inferior personhood or spirituality, or lesser importance.” (Grudem)

iii. Of course, submission in marriage follows the same principles as submission in other spheres. We submit to God appointed authority as our obligation before God, unless that authority directs us to sin. In that case, it is right to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20).

c. Be submissive to your own husbands: Peter carefully observes that wives are called to submit to their own husbands, not to men in general. Male headship is a principle of God for the home and the church, not for society in general.

i. The principle of submission in presented in many different ways in the New Testament.

  • Jesus submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51).

  • Demons submitted to the disciples (Luke 10:17).

  • Citizens should submit to government authority (Romans 13:1 and Romans 13:5, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13).

  • The universe will submit to Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22).

  • Unseen spiritual beings submit to Jesus (1 Peter 3:22).

  • Christians should submit to church leaders (1 Corinthians 16:15-16 and 1 Peter 5:5).

  • Wives should submit to husbands (Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:5, and Ephesians 5:22-24).

  • The church should submit to Jesus (Ephesians 5:24).

  • Servants should submit to masters (Titus 2:9 and 1 Peter 2:18).

  • Christians should submit to God (Hebrews 12:9 and James 4:7).

ii. None of these relations are reversed. For example, masters are never told to submit to servants, Jesus is never told to submit to the church, and so forth.

d. That even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives: The benefit of submission is shown in the way that it affects husbands for God. A wife’s submission is a powerful expression of her trust in God. This kind of faith and obedience can accomplish great things, even without a word.

i. Wives may want to shape their husbands - either to Christ or in Christ - through their words. Peter reminds them that God’s plan is that wives impact their husbands not through persuasive lectures, but through godly submission, chaste conduct, and the fear of God.

ii. There is a sense in which a wife’s efforts to shape her husband through her own words and efforts may hinder the power of God’s working on the husband. It is much more effective it is to submit God’s way, demonstrating trust in Him, and to let God have his way with the husband.

iii. “The attractiveness of a wife’s submissive behaviour even to an unbelieving husband suggests that God has inscribed the rightness and beauty of role distinctions include male leadership or headship in the family and female acceptance of and responsiveness to that leadership . . . The unbelieving husband sees this behaviour and deep within perceives the beauty of it. Within his heart there is a witness that this is right, this is how God intended men and women to relate as husband as wife. He concludes, therefore, that the gospel which his wife believes must be true as well.” (Grudem)

e. Do not obey the word: This refers to an unbelieving husband, but it is a stronger idea than merely “do not believe.” It has the idea of someone in active disobedience to God’s word. Even these husbands can be won through the godly conduct of loving wives.

2. (1 Peter 3:3-4) The true beauty of a godly woman.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel; rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

a. Do not let your adornment be merely outward: Peter does forbid all adornment. But for the godly woman, outward adornment is always in moderation, and her emphasis is always on inward adornment.

i. Arranging the hair: In the world Peter lived in, women arranged and dyed their hair. They also wore wigs, especially blonde wigs, made with hair imported from Germany. All this adornment is merely outward. Peter does not forbid a woman fixing her hair, or wearing jewelry, any more than he forbids her wearing apparel (fine is not in the original).

b. Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart: Real beauty comes from the hidden person of the heart. It isn’t something you wear or primp for. It is something you are.

i. The real question is “What do you depend on to make yourself beautiful?” Peter’s point is not that any of these are forbidden, but that they should not be a woman’s adornment, her source of beauty.

c. The incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit: The inner beauty of a godly woman is incorruptible. This means that it does not decay or get worse with age. Instead, incorruptible beauty only gets better with age, and is of so much more value that the beauty that comes from the hair, jewelry, or clothing.

d. A gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God: Peter describes the character of true beauty - a gentle and quiet spirit. These character traits are not promoted for women by our culture, they are very precious in the sight of God.

3. (1 Peter 3:5-6) Examples of submission.

For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

a. In former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves: Peter reminds women that he doesn’t call them to a new standard, but something that was practiced by holy women of former times.

b. Who trusted in God: When women submit to their husbands, and when the do not put trust in their outward adornment, they are like the holy women of former times who trusted in God. They powerfully demonstrate their faith.

i. A woman can trust her ability to influence and control her husband, or she can trust God and be submissive. A woman can trust her outward adornment, or she can trust God and cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit. It all comes back to trust in God, so she should be like the holy women who trusted in God.

c. As Sarah obeyed Abraham: Sarah’s submission to Abraham was demonstrated by two things. First, she obeyed Abraham, even when it was difficult and he was wrong (as in Genesis 12:10-20). Second, she honored Abraham by calling him lord. It is possible to obey someone without showing them the honor that is part of submission. True submission knows the place of both obedience and honor.

i. “An attitude of submission to a husband’s authority will be reflected in numerous words and actions each day which reflect deference to his leadership and an acknowledgment of his final responsibility.” (Grudem)

d. If you do good and are not afraid with any terror: True submission, full of faith in God, has no room for fear or terror. It does good and leaves the result to God, not man.

i. Do good reminds us that true submission is not a sulking surrender to authority. It is an active embrace of God’s will, demonstrating trust in Him.

4. (1 Peter 3:7) The heart of a godly husband.

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

a. Dwell with them: A godly husband abides with his wife. He doesn’t merely share a house, but he truly lives with her. He recognizes the great point of Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:1-33 : that husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself (Ephesians 5:28). The godly husband understands the essential unity God has established between husband and wife.

b. With understanding: A godly husband undertakes the important job of understanding his wife. By knowing her well, he is able to demonstrate his love for her far more effectively.

i. When a husband has this understanding, God directs him to use it, to dwell with his wife with understanding. He is supposed to take his understanding and apply it in daily life with his wife. This is where many men have trouble following through. They may have understanding about their wives, but they don’t use it as they dwell with them.

c. Giving honor: A godly husband knows how to make his wife feel honored. Though she submits to him, he takes care that she does not feel like she is an employee or under dictator.

i. In giving honor to the wife, the word in the ancient Greek language for the wife is a rare word, meaning more literally “the feminine one.” It suggests that the woman’s feminine nature should prompt the husband to honor her.

ii. This was a radical teaching in the world Peter lived in. In that ancient culture, a husband had absolute rights over his wife, and the wife had virtually no rights in the marriage. In the Roman world, if a man caught his wife in an act of adultery, he could kill her on the spot. But if a wife caught her husband, she could do nothing against him. All the duties and obligations in marriage were put on the wife. Peter’s radical teaching is that the husband has God-ordained duties and obligations toward his wife.

d. As to the weaker vessel: In this context, weaker speaks of the woman’s relative physical weakness in comparison to men. Men aren’t necessarily stronger spiritually than women, but they are generally stronger physically. As Peter brought in the idea of the woman’s feminine nature with the words the wife, he continues in appreciating the feminine nature and how a husband should respond to it.

i. Therefore, a godly husband recognizes whatever limitations his wife has physically, and he does not expect more from her than is appropriate.

e. Heirs together: A godly husband realizes that his spouse is not only his wife, but his sister in Jesus. Part of their inheritance in the Lord is only realized in their oneness as husband and wife.

i. Heirs together: This “reminds husbands that even though they have been given great authority within marriage, their wives are still equal to them in spiritual privilege and eternal importance: they are ‘joint heirs.’” (Grudem)

f. That your prayers may not be hindered: The failure to live as a godly husband has spiritual consequences. It can and it will will hinder prayer.

i. Some have thought that Peter has in mind here the prayers that husbands and wives pray together. But since he addresses husbands only, and because says your prayers, he is refers to the prayers of husbands.

B. Godliness in suffering.

1. (1 Peter 3:8-9) A plea for unity and love among God’s people.

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

a. Be of one mind: Most of us are willing to have one mind, as long as that one mind is my mind! But the one mind is to be the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Our common mind is to be Jesus’ mind.

i. This command brings us back to the need to know God’s word. We can’t be of one mind, the mind of Jesus, if we don’t know what His mind is. The word of God shows us the mind of Jesus.

b. Be of one mind speaks to the essential unity of God’s people. We are one; but we are not all the same. While we should all be of one mind, we can’t expect everyone to be like us. God has built both unity and diversity among His people.

i. Every cell of your body is different, and each one has its role to play. But every cell in your body has the same DNA code written in it, the master plan for the whole body. Every cell in your body has the same “mind.”

ii. We could say that Christians are to be like a choir. Each one sings with their own voice, and some sing different parts, but everyone sings to the same music and in harmony with one another.

c. Having compassion . . . tenderhearted . . . courteous: Peter describes the kind of warm love that should be among the people of God. We should be compassionate, brotherly, tenderhearted and even polite. Christians should treat each other with love!

i. Remember that this was the measure Jesus gave to the world to identify His true disciples: By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). Jesus did not command us to like our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we are commanded to love them, and once we start loving them, we will start liking them.

d. Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing: The greatest challenge to our love for others comes when we are wronged. At those times, we are called to not return evil for evil, but to give a blessing instead.

i. No dispute, argument, or personality conflict among believers should linger. Even if one Christian gets out of line, the loving response of other Christians should keep the problem small and short-lived.

ii. The natural response to hostility is retaliation. This is what the terrible ethnic conflicts all over the world are all about - one group wrongs another, and dedicates the rest of its existence to repaying that wrong. Only the love of Jesus for our enemies can break that terrible cycle.

iii. Jesus reminded us that it is no great credit if we love those who love us in return; the real test of love is to demonstrate compassion to our enemies (Matthew 5:44-47).

e. That you may inherit a blessing: We love one another, but not only for the sake of Jesus, whose body we are members of. We love one another, but not only for the sake of our brother or sister for whom Jesus died. We also love one another for our own sake - by blessing those who have wronged us, we will inherit a blessing. If you can’t love for the sake of Jesus, or for the sake of your brother, then do it for your own sake!

2. (1 Peter 3:10-12) A quotation from Psalms 34:12-16 demonstrates the blessing that comes to those who turn away from evil and do good.

For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”

a. Let him turn away from evil and do good: Doing good is often difficult because as a general rule, evil is rewarded immediately, and the reward of doing good is often delayed. But the rewards of good are better, and far more secure than the rewards of doing evil. God promises this in the passage quoted by Peter.

3. (1 Peter 3:13-17) How to handle it when our good is returned with evil.

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

a. And who is he who harm you: Though Peter says that Christians should always answer evil with good, he also lives in the real world, he knows that people will often answer our good with evil.

i. “Not to be hated by the world; to be loved and flattered and caressed by the world - is one of the most terrible positions in which a Christian can find himself. ‘What bad thing have I done,’ asked the ancient sage, ‘that he should speak well of me?’” (Meyer)

b. If you become followers of what is good: Literally, become followers is “be zealous.” “Some Jews were zealots, boasting their zeal for the Lord or His Law . . . all Christians should be zealots for that which is good.” (Hart)

c. But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed: Peter reminds us that there is even blessing for us when we suffer for righteousness’ sake. God will care for us, especially when we suffer unjustly.

i. Jesus spoke of the same attitude: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

d. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled: The presence or possibility of suffering for doing good should not make us shrink back from doing good. Instead we should give a special place (sanctify) to God in our hearts, and always be ready to explain our faith (give a defense), always doing it with a right attitude (meekness and fear).

i. How can we always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you? It can only happen as we spend time in His word.

ii. Peter knew how important it was to give a defense to everyone who asks you. He was put on the spot in situations described in Acts 2:14-39, Acts 3:11-26, Acts 4:8-12, and Acts 5:29-32. In each situation, Peter relied on the power of the Holy Spirit and was able to give a defense.

e. Those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed: Our good conduct, when we are our good is returned with evil, will prove others wrong in their opinions about us, and it will make them ashamed for speaking against our godly lives.

f. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil: None of us want to suffer. But if we must, may it be for doing good, not for doing evil. Sometimes Christians are obnoxious and offensive, and are made to suffer for it. They may wish it were persecution for the same of the gospel, but really it is simply suffering for doing evil.

C. Jesus shows the power of suffering for doing good.

1. (1 Peter 3:18) Through His godly suffering, Jesus brought us to God.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

a. Jesus suffered once for sins. There is no longer any sacrifice, any atonement that can please God. Even our own suffering won’t pay for our sins. The price has already been paid.

b. The just for the unjust: Jesus is a perfect example of suffering for doing good. He, the just, suffered for all of us, the unjust - and the purpose of it all was to bring us to God, to restore our broken and dead relationship with Him.

i. Since Jesus did all this to bring us to God, how wrong it is for us to not come to God in fellowship! The ancient Greek word translated bring is the same word used for access in Romans 5:2 and Ephesians 2:18. In ancient literature, the word bring was used “of admission to an audience with the Great King.” (Blum)

c. Being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit: Jesus did die in His body, but was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. Here, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. It also tells us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:4), and it says that Jesus raised Himself from the dead (John 2:18-22). The resurrection was the work of the Triune God.

2. (1 Peter 3:19-20 a) Through godly suffering, Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.

By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient,

a. He went and preached to the spirits in prison: Apparently, this work was done in the period after Jesus’ death, but before His first resurrection appearance to the disciples. Jesus went to Hades - the abode of the dead - and preached to the spirits there.

b. Spirits in prison: Are these spirits demonic spirits or human spirits? We know that their disobedience was in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20). We have evidence that this was a time of gross sin for both demons and humans, when there was an ungodly mingling of humans and demons (Genesis 6:1-2).

c. But why would Jesus preach to these imprisoned spirits? In all probability, this was preaching in the proclamation of God’s message, but it was not evangelism the proclamation of good news. Jesus probably preached a message of judgment and final condemnation in light of His finished work on the cross to these disobedient spirits.

i. In doing this, there was a completion in Jesus’ triumph over evil, even the evil occurring before the flood.

ii. The Bible says that even those under the earth must acknowledge Jesus’ ultimate Lordship. Here Jesus was announcing that fact: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

d. Some feel that Jesus preached to the people of Noah’s time, in Noah’s time. But when Peter refers to their imprisonment, he refers to their current state, not their state when Jesus preached to them, as if He preached through the ministries of Noah or Enoch.

i. “This passage, once cleared of misunderstanding, should also function today as an encouragement to us to be bold in our witness (as Noah was), to be confident that, though we may be few, God will certainly save us (as he did Noah), and to remind us that just as certainly as the flood eventually came, so final judgment will certainly come to our world as well, and Christ will ultimately triumph over all evil in the universe.” (Grudem)

e. Other feel that this was evangelistic preaching, offering a second chance to those demonic spirits that were imprisoned at the flood. But the Bible knows nothing of such second chances.

i. Hart expresses this view: “Before Christ came, they had not heard the Gospel of God’s Reign . . . But at Christ’s preaching they repented like the men of Nineveh; for it is said that angels subjected themselves to Him.”

3. (1 Peter 3:20-22) The salvation of Noah as a picture of baptism.

When once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us; baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

a. Eight souls, were saved through water: Peter draws a picture here. Even as Noah’s salvation from judgment of God was connected with water, so the Christian’s salvation connected with the water, the water of baptism.

i. The water of the flood washed away sin and wickedness, and brought a new world with a fresh start before God. The water of baptism does the same thing, providing a passage from the old to the new.

b. Not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God: But Peter is careful to point out that it isn’t the actual water washing of baptism that saves us, but the spiritual reality behind the immersion in water. What really saves us is the answer of a good conscience toward God, a conscience made good through the completed work of Jesus.

c. Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God: We see the completeness of Jesus’ work by His exaltation to the right hand of God the Father, and the subjection of all created spirits unto Him (angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him). So though Jesus suffered for doing good, He had the ultimate triumph. The example of Jesus proves Peter’s point in 1 Peter 3:9 : when we suffer for doing good, we will inherit a blessing.


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These files are copyrighted by the author, David Guzik. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:4". "David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible". 1997-2003.

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