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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 3

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

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Verse 1

1 Peter 3:1

1) Subjection (submission) is a command.

2) Not subordination to man in general, but to husbands

3) To place herself under leadership of her husband

Likewise -- In the same way” refers back to the passage on slaves (1 Peter 2:18).

submit to -- The Greek verb used here, hypotasso, G5293 is also used in 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:18; (Ephesians 5:21; Ephesians 5:24) Submission in the ancieent world took the form of obedience, (see 1 Peter 3:6).

God also intends the husband to be a loving and respectful head (1 Peter 3:7; see Ephesians 5:25-30). However, Peter focuses especially on wives with pagan husbands who would potentially be hostile toward their wives’ faith. Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5

without any words -- Peter urges Christian wives to evangelize their husbands through their submissive and appropriate behavior. - NLTSB

The word -- definite article, meaning "the Word" of God.

Verse 2

1 Peter 3:2

see -- [observe] -- This term was used of eyewitnesses. Peter used it three times in his letters (cf. 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:2; 2 Peter 1:16)

chaste -- [purity] -- The term “chaste” (agnos) is translated in several ways (pure, chaste, modest, innocent, blameless). It is used of women in 2 Corinthians 11:2; Titus 2:5; and here.

Verse 3

1 Peter 3:3

adornment -- The women in Peter’s audience are urged not to depend on outward aids for beauty. Peter selects three ways of displaying wealth or sexuality to argue that external displays are not what matters; instead, inward beauty is what truly matters, as displayed by a life lived for Christ. - FSB

adornment -- outward -- Such “external … adorning” can be witnessed in portraits and sculptures from the first century, where the elaborate braiding of women’s hair and the wearing of ostentatious jewelry was common in upper-class Roman society. In contrast to this, the Christian woman should focus on inner (hidden) beauty of the heart. What matters to God is the godly character of the wife, characterized by a gentle and quiet spirit. It is clear that Peter is not literally prohibiting all braiding of hair or all wearing of gold jewelry, because if this were the case the same prohibition would apply also to wearing clothing! Instead, Peter warns against both an inordinate preoccupation with personal appearance and material excess in such matters. - ESVSB

hair -- Hair was braided in elaborate manners, and well-to-do women strove to keep up with the latest expensive fashions. The gaudy adornments of women of wealth, meant to draw attention to themselves, were repeatedly condemned in ancient literature - IVPBBCNT

fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes -- Peter has sometimes been interpreted as if he condemns any form of female ornamentation, but this is not his purpose. Instead, he insists that Christian women should not be noticed for the beauty of clothing and jewels but for the interior beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. See also 1 Timothy 2:9-10. - NLTSB

Verse 4

1 Peter 3:4

the hidden person of the heart -- Peter elevates inner beauty above external appearance. The writings of ancient philosophers and Jewish sages also do this. - FSB

Purity of life (v.2) and a submissive spirit (v.5) has always been a godly woman’s source of lasting beauty.

hidden person -- Peter has sometimes been interpreted as if he condemns any form of female ornamentation, but this is not his purpose. Instead, he insists that Christian women should not be noticed for the beauty of clothing and jewels but for the interior beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. See also 1 Tim 2:9–10. - NLTSB

gentle and quiet spirit -- Here is beauty that never decays, as the outward body does. “Gentle” is actually “meek or humble” and “quiet” describes the character of her action and reaction to her husband and life in general. Such is precious not only to her husband, but also to God. - MSB

Ancients considered a meek and quiet spirit a prime virtue for women, and many moralists advised this attitude instead of dressing in the latest fashions to attract men’s attention, a vice commonly attributed to aristocratic women but imitated by those who could afford to do so. - IVPBBCNT

Verse 5

1 Peter 3:5

former times -- Examples of holy women in the Old Testament support Peter’s exhortation. Peter chooses Sarah as a specific example in the next verse.

Moralists normally added examples of such quietness to their exhortations; they especially liked to appeal to matrons of the distant past, who were universally respected for their chaste behavior in contrast to many of the current models in Roman high society. Jewish readers would think especially of the great matriarchs, extolled for their piety in Jewish tradition: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, Sarah being most prominent. The readers may think in terms of head coverings that were prominent in much of the East, meant to render the married woman inconspicuous (see comment on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16). - IVPBBCNT

being submissive -- This is the general theme of this entire context (believers submit to civil authority, 1 Peter 2:13-17; believing slaves submit to masters, 1 Peter 2:18-20; Christ submits to the Father’s plan, 1 Peter 2:21-25; believing wives submit to husbands, 1 Peter 3:1-6). - Utley

Verse 6

1 Peter 3:6

Lord -- Peter describes Sarah’s submission in terms of obedience. ...it does show that a wife is to follow her husband’s direction and leadership. In the culture of her day, Sarah expressed her submission by respectfully referring to Abraham as lord (see Genesis 18:12). ESVSB

without fear of what your husbands might do -- NLT Christian wives married to unbelievers frequently found themselves pressured, both subtly and overtly, to abandon Christian principles and values. Peter urges them to continue to do what is right. NLTSB

Verse 7

1 Peter 3:7

Likewise -- The word likewise is merely a transition (cf. v. 1; 1 Peter 5:5); it does not mean husbands should submit to their wives, since Scripture never teaches this (see Ephesians 5:21-33).

Likewise -- As a wife has a responsibility, so does a husband.

Knowledge -- understanding. Know your wife. [Reporter asked, "Do your understand Mrs. Einstein?" "No, but I understand the ’theory of relativity’."]

The words (kata gnosin) translated considerate (more lit., “according to knowledge” or “with understanding”) point out that husbands should understand and be considerate of their wives’ spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. BKC

What Does A SMART Husband Do?

1) He "houses" together with his wife in "understanding"

a) He "understands" God’s will for their marriage.

b) He "understands" his wife

2) He "honors" her as God’s blessing to him

3) He realizes she is on his team, "joint-heirs" (of eternal life!)

a) Young men should look for an "heir" to marry!

weaker vessel -- The phrase likely refers to physical build and strength [and perhaps her social status in that ancient world]. Such a contrast was obvious in a labor-intensive culture. The context does not suggest any spiritual, intellectual, or moral inferiority since both males and females were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). - FSB

Both are "vessels" or instruments in God’s house. It doesn’t say she is "weak", but "weaker" than the husband. Not mentally, morally, etc., but only (generally) physically weaker.

prayers hindered -- How believing couples treat one another affects their relationship with God (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:5). - Utley

The implication is that if husbands do not treat their wives in a godly way their prayers will be hindered (not answered).

Verse 8

1 Peter 3:8

3:8–12 Finally -- This is the last in a series of exhortations to different groups (1 Peter 2:13 –3:12). Here, all believers must respond to others—believers (1 Peter 3:8) and unbelievers (1 Peter 3:9-12)—with love.

Finally -- [NASB "to sum up" TEV = "To conclude"] This is the last in a series of exhortations to different groups (2:13–3:12).

This is a Greek idiom (“now the end”) which means “in summation,” not of the entire letter, but of this context on submission. - Utley

be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble -- Peter mentions five qualities that are hallmarks of a healthy Christian community.

be of one mind -- From two Gr. words, meaning “to think the same,” This is literally a compound of homos (one or the same) and phren (mind or thinking).

Sympathetic, compassion -- This is literally a compound of sun (with) and pascho (to suffer). We get the English term “sympathy” from this Greek compound. In times of persecution and trials this is so important. - Utley

brotherly love -- This is literally a compound of philos (love) and adelphos (brother). This is, of course, the generic use of brother. Possibly a better way to express this is “show family love for all believers” (cf. Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9). This reflects Jesus’ command in John 13:34; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7-8, 1 John 4:11-12, 1 John 4:19-21. - Utley

tenderhearted -- compassionate -- This is a compound of eu (good) and splagchnon (viscera, bowels). The ancients believed that the lower viscera (cf. Acts 1:18) were the seat of the emotions (cf. Luke 1:28; 2 Corinthians 6:12; Philippians 1:8). This compound calls on believers to have “good feelings” toward one another (cf. Ephesians 4:32). -Utley

courteous ..[friendly] OR [humble -- self-effacing ].. This is a compound of tapeinos (humble) and phren (minded). It is used in Acts 20:19; Ephesians 4:2 and Philippians 2:3. This is a uniquely Christian virtue. It means the opposite of self-assertion and egocentric pride. - Utley

Verse 9

1 Peter 3:9

not returning evil --

This refers to true forgiveness (cf. Proverbs 17:13, Proverbs 20:22; Romans 12:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:15). Remember that I Peter is written to persecuted and suffering believers, but they must respond as Christ responded to unfair treatment.

evil with evil or insult with insult -- When someone is the target of evil or insult, perhaps the most natural reaction is to retaliate. Certain religious groups even approve such retaliation. A Christian not only refrains from retaliating in kind but repays evil and insult with blessing. - NIVZSB

blessing -- Those who bless others will receive a blessing from God.

Blessing” means “to speak well of,” “to eulogize.”

First Peter 3:8–9 is Peter’s exposition of Psalms 34:12-16, which he then quoted (1 Peter 3:10-12).

Verse 10

1 Peter 3:10

3:10–12. Having cited Psalms 34:8 in 1 Peter 2:3, Peter now cites Psalms 34:12-16, which instructs the righteous to pursue peace with others and to speak no evil, thus supporting what he has argued in 1 Peter 2:13 –3:7.

This psalm is prominent in early Christian teaching (see also 1 Peter 2:3; Hebrews 12:14). The text focuses on 1) curbing sins of speech, 2) resisting evil, and 3) doing good, 4) must seek peace and pursue it (v11). It also highlights the promise of blessing for obedience. - NLTSB

love life and see good days -- The believer has been granted the legacy to enjoy his life (John 10:10). In this section, Peter gave straightforward advice on how to experience that rich joy and fullness of life, even in the midst of a hostile environment. The requirements of the fulfilled life include a humble, loving attitude towards everyone (1 Peter 3:8), a non-vindictive response toward revilers (1 Peter 3:9), pure and honest speech (1 Peter 3:10), a disdain for sin and pursuit of peace (1 Peter 3:11), and a right motive, i.e., to work the righteousness that pleases the omniscient Lord (1 Peter 3:12; cf. Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:14; Romans 12:17; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:15). - MSB

Verse 11

1 Peter 3:11

This Psalm was also quoted earlier in 1 Peter 2:3 (i.e. Psalms 34:8). This Psalm may be alluded to in 1 Peter 2:22 (i.e. Psalms 34:13).

1 Peter 3:10Psalms 34:12-13

1 Peter 3:11Psalms 34:14

1 Peter 3:12Psalms 34:15-16

Notice the three admonitions.

1. must keep his tongue from evil (1 Peter 3:10)

2. must turn away from evil (1 Peter 3:11)

3. must do good (1 Peter 3:11)

4. must seek peace and pursue it (v. 11)

Verse 12

1 Peter 3:12

The “eyes” and “ears” of the Lord are figures of speech, anthropomorphisms which attribute human physical characteristics to God.

The Lord’s response when one follows the Lord’s admonitions of 1 Peter 3:10 and 1 Peter 3:11.

1. the Lord takes personal notice toward the righteous

2. the Lord hears the righteous

3. the Lord is personally against the wicked - Utley

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous -- (to observe and care for them) and

his ears are open to their prayer (for various needs and cares). This does not mean that God keeps obedient believers from suffering (cf. 1 Peter 2:19-23; 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:12-19) but that God will provide his grace “to strengthen and establish” believers in the midst of suffering (1 Peter 5:10) and in times of great need (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 4:16). - ESVSB

on -- against -- [upon] -- The eyes of God are upon both the good and the evil. It lies in the nature of the case that the result is protective or punitive according to the character of each. - CBSC

Verse 13

1 Peter 3:13

harm you -- Generally speaking, no one will want to harm someone who is doing good, but sometimes Christians do suffer even when they do good (1 Peter 3:14; see 1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 4:12-19).

followers -- Some MSS. give the word (zelôtai) which is commonly rendered “zealous for,” as in Acts 21:20, Acts 22:3.

Verse 14

1 Peter 3:14

See: Matthew 5:10; Isaiah 8:12-13;

even if -- Peter is writing to Christians already suffering for their faith, therefore he is not saying that such suffering is improbable. His point is that no one will ultimately or finally harm Christians, “even if” they suffer now, for God will reward them (cf. Romans 8:31). Indeed, they will be blessed by God in their sufferings (cf. Matthew 5:10)

Verse 15

1 Peter 3:15

sanctify the Lord God -- Some MSS have "Christ" so the reading is “set apart in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshiped.

Christ as Lord -- The King James Version has “Lord God,” which reflects Isaiah 8:12-13, but a few ancient Greek manuscripts P72, S, A, B, and C have “Christ as Lord.”

[Which MSS are often regarded as "old" but unreliable.]

to give … the reason -- (apologian, the “defense” which a defendant makes before a judge. The Greek term apologia, is a compound of apo (from) and logos (word). It refers to a legal defense in a courtroom setting (cf. Acts 19:33; Acts 22:1; Acts 25:16; Acts 26:1-2; Acts 26:24).

for the hope that is in you -- Hope here is a collective word for the gospel and its [anticipation]. Believers live now in godly ways because of their confidence in Christ’s promises and return. - Utley

Verse 16

1 Peter 3:16

Christians who suffer unjustly and keep a clear conscience put to shame those who slander their good behavior in Christ. - BKC

This will cause your accusers (who have no foundation for their accusations) to feel the "shame" of their own consciences (cf 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 2:19-20).

Verse 17

1 Peter 3:17

God’s will -- God may indeed allow [tolerate the evil doer?] Christians to suffer for doing good. 1 Peter 2:14; 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 2:19-20.

Verse 18

1 Peter 3:18

Verse 18 is considered “one of the shortest and simplest, and yet one of the richest summaries given in the New Testament of the meaning of the Cross of Jesus” - BKC

For Christ also suffered -- Peter wished to encourage his readers in their suffering by again reminding them that even Christ suffered unjustly because it was God’s will (v. 11). - MSB

Christ suffered -- Some manuscripts read Christ died.He suffered physical death (literally death in the flesh).

but he was raised to life in the Spirit (or in spirit): Flesh and spirit are often contrasted (e.g., Romans 7:5-6; Romans 8:2-11). Here, flesh stands for ordinary human life; the Spirit stands for the new realm inaugurated through Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ died in the old realm, and came to life in the new realm. NLTSB

Both of these phrases are AORIST PASSIVE PARTICIPLES, which implies a historical event (crucifixion and resurrection, cf. Romans 1:3-4) - Utley

once for all -- (cf. Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10) is clearly a contrast with the Old Testament yearly sacrifice on the Day of Atonement and declares the complete sufficiency of Christ’s death. -FSB

This is the theme of the book of Hebrews (cf. Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:18, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10). - Utley

the righteous for the unrighteous -- (dikaios hyper adikōn). Christ, the “righteous One” (dikaios), uniquely qualified to die as the substitute for (hyper, “for,” “in place of,” or “instead of”) the “unrighteous ones” (adikōn). - FSB

“The righteous one” may have been a title for Jesus in the early church (cf. Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7). It emphasizes His sinless life (cf. 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22) - Utley

the just for the unjust -- This is another statement of the sinlessness of Jesus (cf. Hebrews 7:26) and of His substitutionary and vicarious atonement. - MSB

in order that -- This is a hina (purpose) clause.

bring us to God -- The divine purpose for Christ’s sacrificial death was man’s reconciliation, to bring people to God.

alive by the Spirit -- This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, but to Jesus’ true inner life, His own spirit. Contrasted with His flesh (humanness) which was dead for 3 days, His spirit (deity) was alive, lit. “in spirit” (cf. Luke 23:46). - MSB

It is difficult in this passage to determine whether “spirit” should be capitalized (i.e. Holy Spirit) or not (i.e. Jesus’ human spirit). I prefer the latter (as does A. T. Robertson), but F. F. Bruce prefers the former. - Utley

[One thinks that the interpretation of "Spirit" here must flow over into the "by whom" in the next verse to be consistent. WG]

Verse 19

1 Peter 3:19

proclaimed to the spirits in prison This short phrase raises several difficult issues for the interpreter: 1) the identity of the spirits in prison (v. 19), 2) the reasons for their imprisonment, 3) the location of the prison where Christ went to preach, 4) the content of Christ’s proclamation, 5) the relationship of preaching to the “spirits” (v. 19) with preaching to those who are dead (4:6), 6) and the possible allusions to biblical (Gen 6–9; Jude) and 7) extrabiblical traditions (such as the Jewish work called 1 Enoch)

[extrabiblical A catch-all term to refer to ancient literary and archaeological evidence that is not part of the Bible, but might provide evidence related to the Bible, its world, and biblical people.]

John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible

preached to the spirits -- The [best] interpretation understands “spirits” (Gk. pneumasin, plural) as referring to the unsaved (human spirits) of Noah’s day. Christ, “in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18), proclaimed the gospel “in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20) through Noah. The unbelievers who heard Christ’s preaching “did not obey … in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20) and are now suffering judgment (they are “spirits in prison,” v. 19).

Several reasons support this view: (a) Peter calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), where “herald” represents Greek kēryx, “preacher,” which corresponds to the noun kēryssō, “proclaim,” in 1 Peter 3:19. (b) Peter says the “Spirit of Christ” was speaking through the OT prophets (1 Peter 1:11); thus Christ could have been speaking through Noah as an OT prophet. (c) The context indicates that Christ was preaching through Noah, who was in a persecuted minority, and God saved Noah, which is similar to the situation in Peter’s time: Christ is now preaching the gospel through Peter and his readers (1 Peter 3:15) to a persecuted minority, and God will save them. - The ESV Study Bible

Another view is that Christ’s resurrection and ascension were the proclamation of victory over the most extreme powers of evil the earth has ever known, which these “imprisoned spirits” represent. With Jesus’ victory over death, their condemnation was sealed. NICZSB

Consider 1 Peter 4:6

Verse 20

1 Peter 3:20

See James 2:24 note "Being Saved" Justified by Grace.

days of Noah -- Peter has apparently selected as his example the time of Noah to show the type of salvation/deliverance that comes with obedience and the new life (like that of a resurrection) that comes afterwards (1 Peter 3:21). - WG

Only eight people -- That is, Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives (Genesis 6:18; Genesis 8:18).

Verse 21

1 Peter 3:21

like figure -- KJ; corresponds ESV, NASB, RSV; antitype NKJV, LITV; prefigured NET; symbolized NIV;

figure -- This is the Greek term antitupon, which is a compound of anti (i.e. as over against or corresponding to) and tupos (an image or copy). This is the only example of the adjective in the NT, but the noun is in Hebrews 9:24. This phrase shows the symbolic, typological nature of Peter’s reference. - Utley

baptism now saves -- Literally, “the antitype now saves us, Baptism.” Says Alford, “Water saved them, bearing up the ark; it saves us, becoming to us baptism.” As they entered the Ark, we are “baptized into Christ,” the Savior. See Galatians 3:27. - PNT

baptism now saves -- It is true that Peter often uses baptism as a crucial act of faith (cf. Acts 2:38, Acts 2:41; Acts 10:47). However, it was/is not a sacramental event, but a faith event, symbolizing death, burial, and resurrection as the believer identifies with Christ’s own experience (cf. Romans 6:7-9; Colossians 2:12). The act is symbolic, not sacramental; the act is the occasion of profession, not the mechanism of salvation. - Utley

answer of good conscience -- He adds that baptism saves only as a response to God from (or as an appeal to God for) a clean conscience, thus making clear that only people exercising faith toward God will benefit from baptism. - NLTSB

but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- NASB

Through the resurrection -- Baptism would be meaningless and vain were it not for the resurrection of Christ. It points directly to the burial and resurrection of the Lord. See Romans 6:1-6 - PNT

Who is on the right hand of God -- Christ’s exaltation followed his death and resurrection. See Ephesians 1:20-23.

Verse 22

1 Peter 3:22

right hand of God -- After Jesus accomplished His cross work and was raised from the dead, He was exalted to the place of prominence, honor, majesty, authority, and power (cf. Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3-9; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2). The point of application to Peter’s readers is that suffering can be the context for one’s greatest triumph, as seen in the example of the Lord Jesus. - MSB

angels and authorities and powers -- An all-encompassing statement implying that all things, spiritual and physical, are ultimately under the authority of Jesus (compare -- Colossians 1:16 ). - FSB

angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him -- This seems to refer to angelic ranks (cf. Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:20-21, Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15; ...). It shows Christ’s complete authority and power over the spiritual realm. - Utley

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/1-peter-3.html. 2021.
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