Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 3

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors


A.M. 4064. A.D. 60.

The apostle exhorts Christian wives to submit themselves to their husbands, and to adorn their minds rather than their bodies; and likewise husbands to treat their wives in a becoming and honourable manner, from a tender sense of those infirmities to which the female sex is peculiarly liable, 1 Peter 3:1-7 .

(2,) He exhorts all Christians to mutual agreement in principle, affection, and kindness, and to the forgiving of injuries, 1 Peter 3:8-13 .

(3,) Encourages them to patience and perseverance under persecutions for righteousness’ sake, in consideration of Christ’s having suffered in their stead, 1 Peter 3:14-18 .

(4,) Represents the destruction and damnation of the old world as a warning against disobedience to Christ; and the salvation of Noah, as a figure of our redemption, and emblem of our baptism, through the resurrection and ascension of Christ, 1 Peter 3:19-22 .

Verses 1-2

1 Peter 3:1-2. Likewise As I have exhorted servants to be in subjection to their masters, I in like manner say, Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands In all things just and lawful; that if any (he speaks tenderly) obey not the word Disbelieve and reject the gospel; they also may, without the word Though they neglect or reject that means of grace; be won by the conversation The good behaviour of the wives That is, be gained over to Christ. “Here St. Peter wisely intimates to the women, that the silent, but powerful persuasion of a becoming behaviour, would be more effectual in winning their unbelieving husbands to embrace the gospel, than many arguments, proposed perhaps with heat, for the purpose of convincing them. For when the husbands found what a happy influence the gospel had in making their wives sweet-tempered and dutiful in every respect, they could not but entertain a good opinion of a religion which produced such excellent effects.” While, with admiration and increasing love, they daily behold your chaste and spotless conversation coupled with fear With a dutiful, respectful, obliging conduct, and a care not to displease.

Verses 3-4

1 Peter 3:3-4. Whose adorning, &c, See note on 1 Timothy 2:9; Titus 2:3. “Three things are here expressly forbidden: curling the hair, wearing gold, (by way of ornament,) and putting on costly or gay apparel. These, therefore, ought never to be allowed, much less defended, by Christians.” Wesley. But let it be the hidden man of the heart An inward, gracious disposition, or complete inward holiness, namely, that which is not corruptible Which will not wear out and decay, as the external ornaments of dress will; even a meek and quiet spirit Essential to true holiness. A meek spirit consists in bearing provocation patiently; a quiet spirit in abstaining from giving provocation, especially by bitter language, and from causing unnecessary trouble to any; in the sight of God Who looks at the heart. “All superfluity of dress contributes more to pride and anger than is generally supposed. The apostle seems to have an eye to this, by substituting meekness and quietness in the room of the ornaments he forbids. ‘I do not regard these things,’ is often said by those whose hearts are wrapped up in them. But offer to take them away, and you touch the very idol of their souls. Some, indeed, only dress elegantly that they may be looked on; that is, they squander away their Lord’s talent to gain applause; thus making sin to beget sin, and then plead one in excuse of the other.” Wesley. The sentiments contained in this verse are illustrated by Blackwall ( Sacred Classics: vol. 1. p. 164,) as follows: “How must all the short-lived beauties, the shapes, features, and most elegant and rich ornaments of the mortal body, which attract the eyes and admiration of vain mortals, fade away, and lose their charms and lustre, when compared with the heavenly graces of a pious and regular temper, the incorruptible ornaments and beauties of the soul, which are ever amiable, and of high value in the eye of God, the Sovereign Judge of what is good and beautiful!” Nearly resembling this is a passage of Crates, a heathen philosopher, quoted by Plutarch: “Neither gold, nor emeralds, nor pearls grace and ornament a woman; but all those things which clearly express and set off her gravity, regularity, and modesty.”

Verses 5-6

1 Peter 3:5-6. For after this manner Namely, with inward holiness and outward plainness; in old time In the patriarchal ages; the holy women who trusted in God And therefore did not act thus from servile fear, but from true piety, and are consequently worthy to be imitated; adorned themselves Their adorning, according to St. Peter here, was, 1st, Their meek subjection to their husbands; 2d, Their quiet spirit, not afraid or amazed; and, 3d, Their unblameable behaviour, doing all things well. Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham See Genesis 12:5; Genesis 18:6; calling him lord In token of her subjection; for the ancients, by giving titles of respect to their superiors, acknowledged their own inferiority. Therefore, by mentioning the reverence with which Sarah spake of Abraham, the apostle intimates that she entertained the highest respect for him, and a just sense of her own subjection to him. Sarah was considered by the Jewish women as an illustrious pattern of a dutiful wife; whose daughters Or children, in a spiritual, as well as natural sense; ye are Or show yourselves to be, and that ye are entitled to the same inheritance; as long as ye do well Discharge all your conjugal duties conscientiously. Sarah being constituted by God the mother of all believers, (Galatians 4:26,) even as Abraham was made their father, the believing women of Pontus, by imitating Sarah’s virtues, became her children, though not descended from her. And are not afraid with any amazement So terrified with the apprehension of any danger or prejudice that may arise to you on account of your piety, as to be discouraged from your duty, or induced, through fear of displeasing your husbands, to do actions contrary to your religion. For, while the apostle enjoined wives to be in subjection to their husbands, he cautioned them against committing sin, especially the sin of idolatry, either from a desire to please their husbands, or from a fear of offending them.

Verse 7

1 Peter 3:7. Likewise, ye husbands See on Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19; dwell with them Conduct yourselves toward them, according to knowledge Wisely and discreetly; suitably to that knowledge of your duty which you have obtained by the gospel: or, knowing they are weak, and therefore to be used with tenderness: yet do not despise them for this, but give them honour Both in heart and in your behaviour toward them, as those who are called to be joint-heirs of that eternal life which ye and they hope to receive by the free grace of God. “In Scripture, honour is sometimes used for maintenance, because to supply any one with the necessaries and conveniences of life was considered, in ancient times, as doing him honour. Accordingly the Greeks, in reward of eminent services done to the community, decreed maintenance at the public expense to those who had performed these services. By assigning as the reason why honour should be given to the wife, that she is weaker than the husband, in body or person, (as the word σκευος , vessel, here seems to mean,) the apostle hath intimated, not only that he ought to afford her a competent share of the necessaries and conveniences of life, but as much relief from bodily labour as his circumstances will allow: all which is most reasonable, considering the many bodily troubles women are subject to, in the breeding, bearing, and nursing of children.” That your prayers be not hindered On the one part or the other. All sin hinders prayer, particularly anger. Any thing at which we are angry is never more apt to come into our minds than when we are at prayer. And those who do not forgive, will find no forgiveness from God.

Verses 8-9

1 Peter 3:8-9. Finally This section of the epistle reaches to 1 Peter 4:11. The apostle seems to have added the rest afterward. Be ye all of one mind Ομοφρονες , unanimous; guarding against all unnecessary occasion of contention: see on Romans 12:16: have compassion, &c. Greek, συμπαθεις , sympathizing with each other; rejoicing and sorrowing together: love all believers as brethren: be pitiful Toward the afflicted. The original word, ευσπλαγχνοι , is, literally, of good bowels. The meaning is, Be moved with compassion on beholding the weaknesses and distresses of others, and do all you can to assist and relieve them. Be courteous To all men. Courtesy is such a behaviour toward equals and inferiors as shows respect mixed with love. Not rendering evil for evil See on Matthew 5:39; or railing for railing One reproachful speech for another; but contrariwise, blessing Even to those that curse you, according to Christ’s precept; wishing and praying for their welfare, and endeavouring to promote it. Knowing that ye are thereunto called Namely, to be of this benevolent and beneficent forgiving temper: that ye should inherit a blessing, immense and eternal. Therefore their railing cannot hurt you; and by blessing them, you imitate God, who blesses you.

Verses 10-13

1 Peter 3:10-13. He that will love life That would make life amiable and desirable; and see good days Namely, such as are prosperous and happy; let him refrain his tongue from evil From railing, back-biting, tale-bearing, from all rash and provoking expressions; and his lips that they speak no guile No deceit; nothing contrary to sincerity and simplicity. See on Psalms 32:2. In this and the following verses the apostle offers three arguments, of great importance, to induce men to the practice of piety and virtue: 1st, It secures the happiness both of the present and of the future life: 2d, It ensures the favour and protection of God, 1 Peter 3:12: 3d, It disarms the malice of men, 1 Peter 3:13. Let him eschew evil Εκκλινατω απο κακου , let him turn away from evil, of every kind, and from evil dispositions, as well as evil words and actions; and do good To the utmost extent of his power. Let him seek peace Endeavour, as much as in him lieth, to live peaceably with all men: and pursue it When it appears to flee from him. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous Are continually set upon them, to watch over and protect them; and his ears are open to their prayers Especially when they are in distress. But the face of the Lord His countenance, full of wrath and resentment; is against them that do evil Against all that live in known sin, whether high or low, rich or poor. And who is he that shall harm you That shall have the ability to do you any real harm; if ye be followers of that which is good Or imitators of the good One, as the original expression, του αγαθου μιμηται , may be rendered: that is, if you copy after the benevolence of your heavenly Father, and of his beloved Son, your great Master, whose whole life was so illustrious an example of the most diffusive generosity and goodness to his followers?

Verses 14-16

1 Peter 3:14-16. But if you should suffer If any should be so wicked as to endeavour to harm you when you are doing good; if your heathen rulers, or any others, should persecute you for righteousness’ sake; that is, upon the account of your religion, because you follow Christ, and believe and obey his gospel; this, properly speaking, will be no harm to you, but a good: yea, happy are you In so suffering, in spite of all the malicious and outrageous efforts of your enemies; yea, your sufferings will be so far from lessening, that they will increase your happiness, and that in many respects. Be not afraid of their terror Τον δε φοβον αυτων μη φοβηθητε , the very words of the Septuagint, Isaiah 8:12-13; Fear ye not their fear: the exhortation which Isaiah gave to the Jews when threatened with an invasion by the Assyrians. The words are a Hebraism; the meaning of which is, Be not affected with the fear which they endeavour to raise in you by their threatenings. Or, as some understand the expression, Let not that fear be in you which the wicked feel. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts Namely, by fearing him more than men, how many or powerful soever they may be; by believing all his promises; by trusting in his wisdom, power, and goodness; by acknowledging his justice in the punishments which he inflicts, and by patiently bearing all the trials he is pleased to appoint. By these dispositions, believers sanctify God in their hearts; they give him the glory of all his perfections. See on Isaiah 8:13. And be ready always By a familiar acquaintance with the contents and evidences of your holy religion, and by that cheerfulness and presence of mind which arises from a consciousness of your practical regard to it; to give an answer to every man that asketh you Either by virtue of his office, or for his own information; or when the defence of the truth requires it; a reason of the hope that is in you Of eternal life; with meekness For anger would hurt your cause, as well as your soul; and fear A filial fear of offending God, and a jealous fear of yourselves, lest you should speak amiss. Having a good conscience Keeping your consciences clear from guilt, that they may justify you when men accuse you; or conducting yourselves so that your consciences may not reproach you for dishonouring the gospel, by walking unsuitably to its holy precepts; that whereas, or wherein, they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers And lay to your charge crimes of the most detestable nature; they may be put to shame, who falsely Without any shadow of cause; accuse your good conversation Your inoffensive, useful, and holy behaviour; in Christ According to his doctrine and example.

Verses 17-18

1 Peter 3:17-18. For it is infinitely better, if the will of God be so That you should suffer; and his permissive will in this respect appears from his providence; that ye suffer for well-doing, rather than for evil-doing The testimony of a good conscience, and the sense of the divine favour, affording the no blest supports in the former case; whereas, in the latter, the severest torments that can be endured are those which the guilty mind inflicts upon itself; to which may be added, that while we suffer for the truth, we have the comfort of reflecting that we follow our blessed Redeemer, which is another most powerful source of consolation. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins Not his own, but for ours, to make an atonement for them; the just for the unjust Or the holy for the unholy; for the word just here denotes a person who has fulfilled not barely social duties, but every branch of righteousness; and the word unjust signifies not only those who have wronged their neighbours, but those who have transgressed any of the commands of God; that he might bring us to God Might reconcile God to us, and us to God; and might obtain for us his gracious favour here, his Holy Spirit, to renew us after his image, and might bring us to his blissful presence hereafter; by the same steps of suffering and of glory. It is justly observed by Macknight, that in the sufferings of Christ we have a clear proof that sufferings are no evidence of the wickedness of the sufferer, nor of the badness of the cause for which he suffers; and that the power of God, visible in Christ’s resurrection, affords to all, who lose their lives for the gospel, a sure ground of consolation and hope that God will raise them up at the last day. Being put to death in the flesh In the human nature; or in respect of that frail, mortal life he had on earth; but quickened Ζωοποιηθεις , made alive; by the Spirit The Spirit of God and of Christ. “As Christ was conceived in the womb of his mother by the Holy Spirit, (Luke 1:35,) so he was raised from the dead by the same Spirit; on which account he is said ( 1Ti 3:16 ) to have been justified by the Spirit; and ( Heb 9:14 ) to have offered himself without spot to God, through the eternal Spirit. It is true the resurrection of Christ is ascribed to the Father, 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Ephesians 1:20; but that is not inconsistent with Peter’s affirmation in this verse;” for the Father may, with the strictest propriety, be said to have done what his Spirit did, especially as it was done to show that God acknowledged Jesus to be his Son. And our Lord’s words, (John 2:19,) Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up, are to be understood in the same manner. He raised it up by that Spirit which proceeded from him as well as from the Father.

Verses 19-20

1 Peter 3:19-20. By which also That is, by which Spirit; he went and preached Πορευθεις εκηρυξεν , having gone, he preached, namely, in and by Noah, who spake by the Spirit of Christ, (1 Peter 1:11,) and of the Father, who said, (Genesis 6:3,) referring to the men of that generation, My Spirit shall not always strive with man. Hence Noah is called a preacher of righteousness: 2 Peter 2:5. “By attributing the preaching of the ancient prophets to Christ, the apostle hath taught us, that from the beginning the economy of man’s redemption has been under the direction of Christ. To the spirits in prison That is, which were in prison when St. Peter wrote this epistle. They were men in the flesh when Christ preached to them by his Spirit speaking in Noah; but after they were dead, their spirits were shut up in the infernal prison, detained, like the fallen angels, (Judges 1:6,) unto the judgment of the great day; which sometime Ποτε , once, or formerly, were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited For their repentance; in the days of Noah During the long space of one hundred and twenty years; while the ark was preparing During which time Noah warned them all to repent, and flee from the wrath to come. Wherein In which ark; few, that is, eight souls Namely, Noah and his wife, with their three sons and their wives; were saved by water Or, were carried safely through the water; namely, the waters of the flood, which bare up the ark in which they were enclosed. Some suppose that the persons here spoken of are said to have been in prison in the days of Noah, by the same figure of speech, by which the persons to whom Christ preached in the days of his flesh, are called captives in prison, Luke 4:18. “Christ’s preaching to the antediluvians by Noah, their destruction for their disobedience to that preaching, and the preservation of Noah and his family in the ark, are all fitly mentioned, to show that it hath been God’s way from the beginning of the world, when the wickedness of men became general, to oppose it, by raising up prophets to reprove them, and warn them of their danger; and after waiting for their repentance to no purpose, to destroy them; while he delivered the righteous from the evils to which they were exposed, by manifest interpositions of his power. These things teach us, that we should not think the worse of the gospel, because it hath been rejected by many; nor of ourselves, because we are persecuted by the wicked. On the other hand, by the punishment of the antediluvians, and of the Jews who crucified our Lord; wicked men and persecutors are taught to dread the judgments of God.” Macknight.

Verses 21-22

1 Peter 3:21-22. The like figure whereunto Αντιτυπον , the antitype whereof, that is, the thing which corresponds, not with the water, but with the ark; even baptism doth now save us Or is the instrument of our safety and preservation, from the guilt, power, and consequences of sin, which overwhelms the world as a flood. Not the putting away the filth of the flesh As if he had said, By baptism I do not mean merely or chiefly the sprinkling or washing the body with water from its filthiness, which is only the outward or visible sign of baptism, but the inward renewing grace of God, producing the answer of a good conscience, or a divine consciousness that both our persons and our actions are accepted; by the resurrection of Christ That is, the baptism which consists in the answer of a good conscience toward God, and which is the antitype or thing which was signified by Noah’s preservation in the ark, now saves us as effectually as the ark preserved Noah from destruction by the flood. It is well known the Jews laid a great stress upon their lustrations or washings. The apostle, therefore, very properly cautions his readers against such foolish dependancies. A readiness to perform their whole duty, and even to suffer persecution for the sake of truth, was absolutely necessary in the first Christians, in order to their maintaining that good conscience, to which, in their baptism, they professed a great regard, and to the exercise of which they solemnly engaged themselves. The word επερωτημα , here rendered answer, signifies rather interrogation, and is said by Archbishop Leighton to be a judicial word, and to signify interrogations used in the law for a trial, or executing a process, and has been thought by some commentators to refer to certain interrogations, said by Cyprian and other ancient writers to be put to persons who offered themselves to baptism, concerning their faith in Christ, and their renunciation of Satan with all his works, and the vanities of the world. But it does not appear, Macknight thinks, that these questions and answers were used in the apostle’s days; and if they were not, the apostle could not refer to them. “Allowing, however,” he says, “that the word question is here put for the word answer, this answer of a good conscience, being made to God, is an inward answer, and means the baptized person’s sincere persuasion of the things which, by submitting to baptism, he professed to believe; namely, that Jesus, in whose name baptism is administered, arose from the dead, and that at the last day he will raise all from the dead to eternal life, who sincerely obey him. This signification of baptism the Apostle Paul hath taught, Romans 6:4-5; and therefore he calls it, our begun confidence, Hebrews 3:14; and exhorts the Hebrews to hold it steadfast to the end.” Who is gone into heaven As our forerunner; and is on the right hand of God Having all power in heaven and on earth; angels, authorities, and powers That is, all orders, both of angels and men; being made subject to him Insubserviency of his great design, of saving all his true followers. The apostle, in speaking here of the resurrection and glory of Christ, means not only to represent him as the object of our confidence, but to intimate, that if we imitate him in his courageous fidelity, we may hope to partake with him in his glory.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". Benson's Commentary. 1857.