Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 3

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Verse 1

2. Wives.

(Vv. 1, 2). The apostle proceeds to exhort believers in the marriage relationship. The outstanding mark of the Christian wife should be subjection to her husband. In carrying out this exhortation we may learn how greatly a consistent Christian life can influence the unconverted. The unbelieving husband, who refuses to listen to the word of God, may be won by beholding the life of his wife lived in all purity and the fear of God.

(Vv. 3, 4). If, however, the wife is to live rightly with the husband, she must live in spirit before God. Her adorning is not to be after the passing fashions of this world, which only seek to make the woman outwardly attractive in the sight of men, while of necessity having nothing to say to the moral character, which is of great value in the sight of God. The Christian wife is to think rather of that which God sees - “the hidden man of the heart” - and adorn herself with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. This is the opposite of the vanity and self-assertiveness of the flesh which ever seeks prominence for self. Moreover, this meek and quiet spirit is to be cherished in the heart, in the sight of God. If cultivated there, it will surely form a meek and quiet character before God and men. There may be at times the affectation of a meek and quiet manner, but this is of little value unless it is the outcome of a meek and quiet spirit. Only that which comes from “the hidden man of the heart” will rightly affect the life.

(Vv. 5, 6). Holy women of old are cited as examples for Christian women today. They trusted in God, adorned themselves with meekness and quietness of spirit, and were in subjection to their husbands. Sarah proved her obedience and subjection to her husband by calling him lord, according to the custom of that day. Wives that trust in God, obey their husbands, and do well without fear of consequences, are characteristically children of Sarah.

3. Husbands.

(V. 7). The Christian husband is to dwell with his wife according to the knowledge of the relationship as instituted by God, and not simply according to human thoughts or customs. He is to honour her as the more fragile being, and therefore requiring greater care and protection. Whatever differences there may be as to constitution, they are heirs together of the grace of life. The husband is therefore to pay all honour to the wife, so that no cloud may arise between them to hinder their prayers.


The Christian Circle

( 1Pe_3:8 ; 1Pe_3:9 )

(V. 8). Having given special exhortations for Christians in their individual relationships, the apostle finally exhorts us as to the qualities that should mark the Christian circle in which all believers have their part.

The world around is full of discord, but in the Christian circles there should be unity: “Be ye all of one mind”. From other Scriptures we learn that “one mind” in the Christian company can only be attained by each individual having the lowly mind - the mind that was in Christ Jesus ( Php_2:2-5 ). Nearly all the discord among believers can be traced back to the unjudged vanity and self-importance of the flesh that ever seeks to be prominent and accounted great ( Luk_22:24 ). Apart from having the mind of Christ we shall either be in conflict or form a false unity after our own ideas.

Having one mind, and that the mind of the Lord, will naturally lead us to have “compassion one of another”. The Lord's “compassions fail not; they are new every morning” ( Lam_3:22 ; Lam_3:23 ). Very small differences between brethren may be allowed to wither up our compassions. If, then, our compassions are not to fail, the motive behind them must be love. Therefore the exhortation follows, “Love as brethren”. This is not love after a human fashion as in natural relationships, however right in their place, but love as linked together in the divine relationships of the family of God.

Divine love will lead the Christian to be tender-hearted and humble-minded. In human love there is often a strong element of selfishness. Divine love will lead us to feel the sorrows of others while forgetting self. So Christ, not thinking of His own comfort or safety, can go into Judaea where men sought to kill Him, to weep with the two sorrowing sisters ( Joh_11:8 ; Joh_11:35 ).

(V. 9). If, alas, one may seek to harm us, or rail against us, we are not to render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but, contrari-wise, blessing. Our practical life in the Christian circle is to be governed by the fact that we are called to inherit blessing. In the sense of the grace that has so richly blessed us we should be ready to bless others even if they have railed upon us.

If these simple injunctions were carried out, there would be the setting forth of the excellencies of Christ in the circle of His people. What are these injunctions but the setting forth of the loveliness of Christ! He walked through this world with the lowly mind; His hand was ever stretched out in compassion, moved by a heart filled with divine love. No one was ever so tender-hearted and humble-minded as Christ. Never did He render evil for evil; on the contrary, He dispensed blessing to those of whom He had to say, “They have rewarded Me evil for good, and hatred for My love” ( Psa_109:5 ).


The Moral Government of God

( 1Pe_3:10-13 )

(Vv. 10-13). Having enjoined upon us the beautiful Christ-like character that should mark the Christian company, the apostle encourages us to embrace whole-heartedly the Christian life, and refuse evil, by reminding us of the unchanging principles of the moral government of God. The essence of government, whether human or divine, is to protect and bless those who work good and punish those who do evil. With man corruption and violence may too often mar his government, so that the good may suffer and the wicked escape. With God all is perfect; His government is exercised without respect of persons, rendering to every man, believer or unbeliever, according to his deeds.

The grace of God does not set aside the government of God; we do not escape the government of God by becoming Christians. Though the subjects of grace, it is still true that we reap what we sow. We cannot use Christianity to cover evil.

Christianity sets before us a life of blessedness lived in communion with God. This life was lived in perfection by the Lord Jesus, as set forth in “the path of life”, traced in Psalm 16 , a life which has its deep spiritual joy, for the Lord can say of this life, “The lines have fallen unto Me in pleasant places”. If, then, the believer would live this life and “see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it”. In so doing, he will find, in the government of God, that he is blessed, whereas the one that does evil will suffer, for, according to the immutable principles of God's government, “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil”. Moreover, “who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” Even the world can appreciate the man that quietly pursues his way doing good.

It may, however, be asked, if doing good leads to prosperity and doing evil to punishment, how is it that in this world so often the godly suffer, and those who do evil appear to prosper? How is it that in this very Epistle that tells us that God's favour is upon the righteous we have the sufferings of God's people brought before us in greater detail than in any other Scripture? How is it that, immediately following the passage that promises “good days” as the outcome of doing good, we read of the possibility of suffering for doing good?

Such questions are answered if we remember that during this day of grace the government of God is moral, and not generally direct and immediate. It is truly a moral government in the sense that good is rewarded by spiritual blessing rather than by material prosperity, so that, while the apostle puts before us the possibility of suffering for righteousness' sake, he can still add, “happy are ye”.

God's government is not now generally direct, for the sorrow and punishment that are the consequences of evil are not always immediate and visible. To see the final outcome of God's government - whether in the blessing of those who work good or in the punishment of the evildoer - we must look beyond the present time and wait for the world to come.

While the government of God goes on in all its absolute perfection, it is at the moment largely hidden, and one has said, “It needs faith to accept the fact that God's moral government prevails above all the confusion”. Let the believer remember that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, it ever remains true that doing good will lead to blessing and sorrow. Both the blessing and the sorrow may be experienced in measure now, but the blessing will be fully known in the world to come.


Suffering for Righteousness' Sake

( 1Pe_3:14 - 1Pe_4:7 )

In the first chapter we are reminded that the believer may suffer under the chastening of God for the trial of his faith. In the second chapter we further learn that he may be called to suffer for conscience' sake ( 1Pe_2:19 ). This portion of the Epistle has the great theme of suffering for righteousness' sake.

The Christian is viewed as following in the steps of Christ ( 1Pe_2:21 ), and, so doing, he walks as a stranger and a pilgrim through this world; he abstains from the fleshly lusts that war against the soul; he refrains from speaking guile; he avoids evil and does good; he seeks peace. Thus walking, according to the government of God, he will be in favour of the Lord, and escape in large measure the troubles that men bring upon themselves through their evil ways. Nevertheless, in an evil world the Christian may have to suffer for righteousness' sake, clearly indicating that the government of God will not always be fully manifest until righteousness will reign in the millennial days. The devil is not yet banished from the world, and evil still prevails, so that, while the pursuit of righteousness will ever meet with the favour of God, it may entail opposition from man if, by doing right, the Christian interferes with the interests of the men of the world.

(V. 14). If, then, we are called upon to suffer for righteousness' sake, we are not to bemoan our lot, but rather rejoice, even as Paul and Silas, when persecuted at Philippi, could at midnight sing praises to God, though unjustly cast into prison because they had crossed the interests of some evilly-disposed men. There is, however, the danger of yielding to an unrighteous course through fear of consequences. We are therefore warned against the fear of man, and being troubled by the dread of what may happen if we do right.

(V. 15). Our safeguard against yielding to unrighteousness will be found in sanctifying the Lord in our hearts. By giving the Lord His rightful place in our hearts, we shall be conscious of the presence of the Lord to support us in the presence of men. We shall thus not only escape the temptation to yield to what we know to be wrong in order to escape trouble, but we shall be enabled to render a positive testimony to the truth, giving a reason for our hope with meekness and fear. Acting in a spirit of meekness we shall not offend by seeking to assert ourselves and our opinions; acting in fear before God we shall be bold to maintain the truth. While we are not to be afraid of man's fear (verse 14), it becomes us to walk in the holy fear of God.

(V. 16). Moreover, to suffer for righteousness' sake, and witness a good conscience before men, demands “a good conscience” before God and men. If with a bad conscience we attempt to stand before the enemy, it will only be to court shame and defeat. With a conscience void of offence we shall, by our consistent Christian conduct, put to shame those who falsely accuse us.

(Vv. 17, 18). It is clear, then, that believers may have to suffer for well-doing, but, even so, let us remember it is “the will of God”. The evilly-disposed will of man may cause the suffering, but the will of God allows the suffering. Our concern should be to learn God's mind in the suffering, remembering that it is better to suffer for “well doing” than for “evil doing”. If we fail and do wrong, it is surely right that we suffer for it, rather than that it should be passed over. There can, however, be no excuse for the Christian doing wrong, and having to suffer, seeing that “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”. Being brought to God, justified from all our sins, it is our privilege to live a new life in the Spirit, and thus do good, even though at times we may have to suffer for “well-doing”.

(Vv. 19, 20). In order to sustain these Jewish believers in their special sufferings, the apostle draws a parallel between their day and the days before the flood. Christ was not personally present then, yet He preached to men by the Spirit of God through Noah ( Gen_6:3 ; 2Pe_2:5 ). Today Christ is no longer present on earth, but the Holy Spirit has come, and the Gospel is being preached by the servants of the Lord ( Act_1:8 ). In Noah's day the great mass was disobedient to the preaching, and their spirits are now in prison awaiting the yet greater judgment of the dead. So too the great mass of the Jewish nation entirely rejected the preaching of Christ by the Spirit ( Act_7:51-53 ). In the days before the flood, it was the time of “the long-suffering of God”, in which God waited to bless men before the judgment fell; so the present time is the day of God's grace that precedes the coming judgment.

In the days of the flood a few were saved from the judgment that came upon the world; so today a remnant is saved from the governmental judgment that has overwhelmed the nation of Israel, and the yet greater judgment that is coming upon the living and the dead ( 1Pe_4:5 ).

The few who escaped the judgment in Noah's day were saved “through water”. The whole world of Noah's day was under the judgment of death by the deluge. Noah, and those with him, escaped the judgment by passing through the waters of judgment. Christ has passed through death and is risen, and the believer is clear of judgment as having passed through the judgment in the Person of his substitute. Noah came into a new world, free of judgment; so Christ is risen and beyond judgment, and the believer's conscience is relieved of all dread of the judgment he deserves by seeing that he is as clear of all his sins before God, and of their judgment, as Christ Himself.

(V. 21). This separation from a guilty world, and escape from judgment in passing through the waters of judgment, is clearly set forth in picture in the story of the flood. Further, the apostle tells us that these great truths are also set forth in figure in baptism. We have, then, in this passage the picture in the flood, the figure in baptism, and the fact in the death and resurrection of Christ. In baptism we pass through the water, and thus in figure are separated from the world under judgment, to come into a new sphere beyond judgment. Alluding to the ceremonial washing under the law, the apostle warns us that, in his reference to baptism, he is not using it as a figure of the outward ceremonial cleansing of the body by Levitical washings, but as a figure of the death of Christ by which we obtain a good conscience before God.

(V. 22). In the closing verse of the chapter we see how complete is the salvation that is ours by the death and resurrection of Christ. It is set forth in Christ as a Man in heaven set in the place of supreme power - the right hand of God - with every other power made subject to Him. Christ has been into death and judgment, and has so perfectly triumphed that no power in the universe can prevent His taking a place in glory.

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". "Smith's Writings". 1832.