Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 28th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Take our poll

Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 3

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-22


1 Peter 3:1

Likewise, ye wives. St. Peter has spoken of the duties of servants: why does he omit those of masters? There must have been Christian masters in Asia Minor, as is plain from Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1. But we notice that St. Paul, though he has a few words for masters, addresses slaves at much greater length. Probably Christian masters were comparatively few, while large numbers of slaves had embraced the religion which could do so much to comfort and elevate the oppressed. Again, the immediate purpose of the apostle is to inculcate submission to authority; therefore, having enforced upon Christian servants the example of their Lord, he proceeds to speak of the duty of Christian wives. Christianity was in its infancy; it was to be the means of abolishing slavery, and of raising woman to her proper place in society; but as yet slaves were cruelly oppressed, and women were ill treated and despised. Aristotle tells us that among the barbarians (and a large proportion of the population in the greater part of Asia Minor was barbarian, i.e. non-Greek) the woman and the slave hold the same rank ('Pol.,' 1 Chronicles 2:4; 1 Chronicles 2:4). In Greek communities the case was different; but even among the Greeks women occupied a very subordinate position. Christianity would introduce a great and sweeping change in the relations of the sexes, as well as in the relations of master and slave. But the change must be gradual, not violent; it must be brought about by the softening and purifying influences of religion, not by revolt against recognized customs and established authority. Indeed, Christianity would introduce an element of division—the Lord had said so (Luke 12:51-53); families would be divided. It could not be otherwise; Christians must not set even family ties above the love of Christ. But Christian wives must be peacemakers; they must, as far as possible, live at peace even with unbelieving husbands. They would often have much ill treatment to endure in those coarse, cruel days; they must bear it with the quiet strength of gentleness. Be in subjection to your own husbands; literally, submitting yourselves. The participle, as in 1 Peter 2:18, seems to look back to the imperative, "submit yourselves," in 1 Peter 2:13. The present participle implies that this voluntary submission is to be habitual. The adjective "your own" (ἰδίοις) emphasizes the duty. That, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives. There is a well-supported reading, "Even if any." Husband and wife would often be converted together; but if this should not be the case, and if the unbelieving husband should set himself in direct opposition to the Word of God (for the words "believe not" have more than a negative meaning, as in 1 Peter 2:7), still Christian wives must submit themselves. They must do this for the glory of God, and with the hope of saving their husbands' souls; that those unbelieving husbands may be won to Christ and to everlasting life by the silent eloquence of the quiet self-restraint and holy behavior of their wives, without argument or preaching on the wives' part. A self-denying holy life will do more to win those with whom we live in close intercourse than even holy words, and much more than debate and controversy. This seems to be the meaning of ἄνευ λόγου rather than the other possible interpretation, "without the preaching of the Word." Be won; literally, be gained. Each soul converted is a gain to Christ, to the kingdom of heaven, to itself, in this case also to the wife who is the happy instrument of saving her husband. The word rendered "conversation" here, as elsewhere, means "conduct, behavior." (Compare, on the whole subject, the teaching of St. Paul, Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-11.)

1 Peter 3:2

While they behold (see note on 1 Peter 2:12, where the same verb occurs) your chaste conversation coupled with fear; literally, your chaste behavior, in fear. Bengel and others understand the fear of God. Certainly the holy fear of God is the sphere in which true Christians must always live. But the close connection with the word "chaste (τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν), and the parallel passage, Ephesians 5:33 (in the Greek), make it probable that the fear here inculcated is reverence for the husband—an anxious avoidance of anything that might even seem to interfere with his conjugal rights and authority.

1 Peter 3:3

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair. A common Hebraism, like our Lord's injunction in John 6:27, "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which cndureth unto everlasting life." St. Peter does not forbid the moderate use of ornaments, but asserts their utter worthlessness compared with Christian graces. The ladies of the time seem often to have had their hair dressed in a very fantastic and extravagant manner. And of wearing of gold; rather, golden ornaments. Or of putting on of apparel. This verse shows that, although the mass of believers at this time belonged to the poorer classes, yet there must have been a proportion of persons of rank and wealth among the Christians of Asia Minor.

1 Peter 3:4

But let it be the hidden man of the heart. The "hidden" is here equivalent to the "inward man" of Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16. It is that life which is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2), the life of Christ ("the Second Man") in the heart, fashioning that heart after the likeness of Christ, forming in it "the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10). This is hidden; it does not display itself like those conspicuous ornaments mentioned in the last verse. In that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; literally, in the incorruptibility of the meek and quiet spirit. This ornament is incorruptible; not like those corruptible things. The meek spirit does not flash into anger, does not answer again, takes harsh words gently and humbly. The quiet spirit is calm and tranquil; peaceful in itself, it spreads peace around. Which is in the sight of God of great price. The adjective πολυτελές is used in Mark 14:3 of the ointment with which Mary anointed our Lord, and in 1 Timothy 2:9 of the "array" which St. Paul discourages for Christian women. Those adornments are costly in the sight of the world; the meek and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God.

1 Peter 3:5

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God; rather, who hoped in God (εἰς Θεόν); whose hope was set toward God and rested in God. Bengel says," Vera sanctitas, spes in Deum." St. Peter is the apostle of hope. Adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. The apostle bids Christian women to consider the example of the saintly women of the Old Testament. With their hope resting upon God, they could not care for finery and costly jewels. They adorned themselves with the more costly ornament of a meek and quiet spirit: they showed their meekness by living in subjection to their husbands. Submission to authority is the key-note of this part of the Epistle.

1 Peter 3:6

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. St. Peter singles out Sarah, as the mother of the chosen people. She obeyed her husband habitually (the imperfect ὑπήκουεν is the reading of some of the oldest manuscripts; the aorist, also well supported, would represent her obedience as a whole, the character of her life now past); she called him lord (comp. Genesis 18:12, ὁ δὲ κύριος μου πρεσβύτερος.) Whose daughters ye are; literally, whose children ye became. This is another indication that the Epistle is addressed, not only to Jewish Christians, but also, and that in large measure, to Gentile converts. Gentile women became by faith the daughters of Sarah; just as we read in St. Paul's Epistles that "they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7); anti that Abraham is "the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised" (Romans 4:11); comp. Galatians 4:22-31, where St. Paul tells us that we, like Isaac, are the children of promise; children, "not of the bondwoman, but of the free." As long as ye do well. This clause represents one Greek word ἀγαθοπιοῦσαι ("doing good"). Some commentators regard the words from "even as Sara" to "whose daughters ye are" as a parenthesis, and refer the participle to "the holy women" mentioned in Galatians 4:5. This does not seem natural. It is better to regard the second half of this verse as a continuous sentence, and to understand the participle as meaning "if ye do well." The doing well, etc., is a mark that Christian women have become children of Sarah by faith. And are not afraid with any amazement. The Greek word for "amazement" (πτόησις) does not occur in any other place of the New Testament, though we meet with the corresponding verb in Luke 21:9; Luk 24:1-53 :87. There seems to be a reference to Proverbs 3:25, "Be not afraid of sudden fear ' (καὶ οὐ φοβηθήσῃ πτόησιν ἐπελθοῦσαν), Πτσήσις is "dismay, scared terrified excitement," very different from the calm thoughtful φόβος, the fear lest they should fail in proper respect for their husbands, and that out of the holy fear of God, which St. Peter inculcates upon wives (Proverbs 3:2). The Christian wife might often experience cruel treatment from an unbelieving husband, but she was not to live in a flutter of excited terror; she was to be calm and quiet, trusting in God. As to the construction, the accusative may be cognate, as the Authorized Version takes it; or the accusative of the object, as in Proverbs 3:25. The last view is, perhaps, the -most suitable: "And are not afraid of any sudden terror."

1 Peter 3:7

Likewise, ye husbands. As wives are exhorted to be in subjection to their own husbands, so husbands also must do their duty to their wives. The construction (participial as in 1 Peter 3:1) seems, like 1 Peter 3:1, to look back to 1 Peter 2:13. The relation, indeed, is no longer directly one of subjection, and marriage is an ordinance of God; but Christian husbands must submit themselves to the duties arising out of the marriage tie; and marriage involves a civil contract, though to us Christians it is a holy estate instituted of God, and a parable of the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church. St. Peter, we observe, does not consider the case of a Christian husband with an unbelieving wife; probably that would be very uncommon. Dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel; literally, living together with the feminine as with the weaker vessel. This connection seems best suited to the balance of the sentence, and also to the sense. The apostle bids the husband, first, to give due consideration to his partner on the ground of her comparative weakness; and, secondly, to give her due honor as being an heir, like himself, of the grace of life. The disparity of the sexes was the cause of the degradation of woman among the heathen; Christianity makes it the ground of tender consideration. Christian love should abound in knowledge (Philippians 1:9); it should throw its softening light upon all the relations of life. Man and woman are alike vessels—vessels made by God for his service (comp. Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6, etc.; also 1 Thessalonians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:5); the woman is the weaker, and must, for that very reason, be treated with gentleness. For "according to knowledge," comp. 2 Peter 1:5. Christians must be thoughtful; they must consider what becomes them in all the relations of life; not act carelessly and at random. And as being heirs together of the grace of life; rather, rendering honor as to those who are also fellow-heirs, or, according to another well-supported reading, rendering honor (to them) as being also fellow-heirs (with them). The sense is not materially affected: husband and wife are joint-heirs of the grace of life, that is, of God's gracious gift of everlasting life. That your prayers be not hindered; or, according to another reading, be not cut off. If husband and wife live together without mutual reverence and affection, there can be no sympathy in united prayer; the promise made by Christ in Matthew 18:19 cannot be realized. Nor can either pray acceptably if they live at variance; jealousies and bickerings are opposed to the spirit of prayer; they hinder the free flow of prayer, and mar its earnestness and devotion.

1 Peter 3:8

Finally. St. Peter is bringing to a close the exhortations to submission, which depend on the imperative in 1 Peter 2:13. He turns from particular classes and relations to the whole Christian community, and describes what they ought to be in five Greek words, the first three of which are found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures. Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; literally, sympathizing; feeling with others, rejoicing with them that do rejoice, and weeping with them that weep. Love as brethren. An adjective (φιλάδελφι) in the Greek; the corresponding substantive occurs in 1 Peter 1:22. Be pitiful. This word (εὔσπλαγχνος) has undergone a remarkable change of meaning. In Hippocrates, quoted by Huther, it is used literally of one whose viscera are healthy; it is also sometimes used figuratively, as equivalent to εὐκάρδιος ἀνδρεῖος; "goodhearted" with the heathen would mean "brave;" with Christian writers "tender," "pitiful." Be courteous. This represents a reading (φιλόφρονες) which has very little support. The true reading is ταπεινόφρονες, humble-minded.

1 Peter 3:9

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing. St. Peter. like St. Paul (Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15), repeats his Master's teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:39). He forbids revenge in word, as well as in deed. But contrariwise blessing. The word "blessing" is not the substantive, but the participle (εὐλογοῦντες), and thus corresponds with the participle "rendering" (comp. Matthew 5:44, "Bless them that curse you"). Knowing that ye are thereunto called; rather, as in the Revised Version, for hereunto were ye called. The word "knowing" is omitted in the best manuscripts. Some commentators take these words with the preceding: "Ye were called to bless others, that so ye may inherit a blessing." But, on the whole, it seems better to connect them with the following clause: That ye should inherit a blessing. Christians bless others, not in order that they should inherit a blessing, but because it is God's will and their duty; and that duty follows from the fact that God has made them inheritors of his blessing. "Benedictionem aeternam," says Bengel, "cujus primitias jam nunc pit habent." God has blessed them; therefore they must bless others.

1 Peter 3:10

For he that will love life; literally, he that willeth to love life. St. Peter deviates somewhat from the Septuagint Version of Psalms 34:12-16, which he is quoting. The literal rendering of it is, "What man is he that desireth life, loving good days?" His connection of the participle θέλων with ἀγαπᾶν is remarkable. Perhaps the meaning is best given by Bengel, "Qui vult ita vivere, nt ipsum non taedeat vitro"—" Who wishes to live so that he will not weary of life;" so that he may love it, so that he may have a life really worth living. There is a love of life which can only lead to the loss of the true life (John 12:25). St. Peter is teaching us to love life wisely, not with that selfish love which Christ condemns. And see good days. Not necessarily in outward prosperity, but in the favor of God; days of suffering may be good days in the truest souse. Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. We have here the usual parallelism of Hebrew poetry. The word "refrain" (παυσάτω, literally, "let him make it cease") implies a natural tendency to sins against charity.

1 Peter 3:11

Let him eschew evil, and do good; literally, let him turn away from evil. Let him seek peace, and ensue it. Let him seek it as a hidden treasure, and pursue it as if it might escape from him.

1 Peter 3:12

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers. The apostle adds the conjunction "for" (ὅτι, because) to mark the connection. God's people must turn away from evil and do good, because the all-seeing eye is upon them; they will find strength to do so, because God heareth prayer. Perhaps when the apostle was writing these words he remembered how once "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. The preposition in the two clauses is the same (ἐπί, over, or upon). The Lord's eye is upon the good and the evil. The apostle omits the words that follow in the psalm, "to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth," perhaps because he wishes us to regard the spiritual rather than the temporal consequences of our actions.

1 Peter 3:13

And who is he that will harm you? The apostle, as he began his quotation from Psalms 34:1-22, without marks of citation, so adds at once his inference from it in the form of a question. The conjunction "and" connects the question with the quotation. If God's eye is over the righteous, and his ear open to their prayers, who shall harm them? St. Peter does not mean—Who will have the heart to harm you? He knew the temper of Jews and heathens; he knew also the Savior's prophecies of coming persecution too well to say that. The words remind us of the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 50:9, Κύριος βοηθήσει μοι τίς κακώσει με; None can do real harm to the Lord's people; they may persecute them, but he will make all things work together for their good. If ye be followers of that which is good; rather, if ye become zealous of that which is good, with the oldest manuscripts. The Authorized Version adopts the reading μιμηταί, followers or imitators, which is not so well supported. The genitive τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ admits the masculine translation, "of him that is good," but it is probably neuter in this place (comp. Isaiah 50:11). With the masculine rendering, comp. Acts 22:3, "and was zealous toward God (ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ)."

1 Peter 3:14

But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; better, but although ye should suffer. St. Peter knew that persecution was coming; he wished to prepare his readers for it. He recalls to their thoughts the eighth beatitude, almost reproducing the Lord's words (Matthew 5:10). Such suffering (πάσχειν, lenius verbum quam κακοῦσθαι," Bengel) would do them no real harm; nay, it would bring with it a true and deep blessing. "Righteousness" here seems synonymous with "that which is good" in the last verse. Christians had often to suffer, not only because of their confession of Christ, but because of the purity of their lives, which was a standing reproach to the heathen. Compare St. Augustine's well-known saying, "Martyrem tacit non poena, sed causa." And be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. From Isaiah 8:12. The genitive may be taken as objective: "Be not afraid of the terror which they cause;" or as subjective, "with the terror which they feel." The former view is more suitable here.

1 Peter 3:15

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. From Isaiah 8:13. The reading of the best and oldest manuscripts here is Κύριον δὲ τὸν Ξριστόν, "Sanctify the Lord Christ," or, "Sanctify the Christ as Lord." The absence of the article with Κύριον is in favor of the second translation; but the first seems more natural, more in accordance with the original passage in Isaiah, and the common expression, Κύριος ὁ Θεός, is in its favor. Whichever translation is adopted, St. Peter here substitutes the Savior's Name where the prophet wrote, "the Lord of hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth"—a change which would be nothing less than impious if the Lord Jesus Christ were not truly God. "Sanctify him," the apostle says (as the Lord himself teaches us to say, in the first words of the Lord's Prayer); that is, regard him as most holy, awful in sanctity; serve him with reverence and godly fear; so you will not "be afraid of their terror." The holy fear of God will lift you above the fear of man. "Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:13; see also Le Isaiah 10:3; Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 38:23). St. Peter adds the words, "in your hearts," to teach us that this reverence, this hallowing of the Name of God, must be inward and spiritual, in our inmost being. And be ready always to give an answer to every man; literally, ready always for an apology to every man. The word ἀπολογία is often used of a formal answer before a magistrate, or of a written defense of the faith; but here the addition, "to every man," shows that St. Peter is thinking of informal answers on any suitable occasion. That asketh you a reason of the here that is in you; literally, an account concerning the hope. Hope is the grace on which St. Peter lays most stress; it lives in the hearts of Christians. Christians ought to be able to give an account of their hope when asked, both for the defense of the truth and for the good of the asker. That account may be very simple; it may be the mere recital of personal experience—often the most convincing of arguments; it may be, in the case of instructed Christians, profound and closely reasoned. Some answer every Christian ought to be able to give. With meekness and fear. The best manuscripts read, "but with meekness and fear." The word "but" (ἀλλά) is emphatic; argument always involves danger of weakening the spiritual life through pride or bitterness. We must sometimes "contend earnestly for the faith;" but it must be with gentleness and awe. We should fear lest we injure our own souls by arrogant and angry controversy; we should seek the spiritual good of our opponents; and we should entertain a solemn awe of the presence of God, with a trembling anxiety to think and to say only what is acceptable unto him.

1 Peter 3:16

Having a good conscience. This word "conscience" (συνείδησις) is one of the many links between this Epistle and the writings of St. Paul. St. Peter uses it three times; St. Paul, very frequently. There is a close connection between this clause and the preceding verse. A good conscience is the best reason of the hope that is in us. An apology may be learned, well-expressed, eloquent; but it will not be convincing unless it comes from the heart, and is backed up by the life. Calvin (quoted by Huther) says, "Quid parum auctoritatis habet sermo absque vita." That, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers. The Revised Version follows the Sinaitic Manuscript in reading, "Wherein ye are spoken against," and omitting "as of evil-doers? It is possible that the received reading may have been interpolated from 1 Peter 2:12, where the same words occur; except that there the mood is indicative, here, conjunctive, "wherein they may possibly speak evil of you." They may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ; rather, as the Revised Version, they may be put to shame; that is, "proved to be liars". The word translated "falsely accuse" is that which is rendered "despitefully use" in Matthew 5:44.Luke 6:28. It is a strong word. Aristotle defines the corresponding substantive as a thwarting of the wishes of others out of gratuitous malice ('Rhet.,' Luke 2:2). For "good conversation," see 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Peter 1:18. The Christian's life is in Christ, in the sphere of his presence, he dwelling in us, and we in him.

1 Peter 3:17

For it is better. St. Peter meets the common objection that suffering could be borne more easily if it were deserved; the Christian must take the cross, if it comes, as from God, sent for his good. If the will of God be so; literally, if the will of God should so will. Θέλημα denotes the will in itself; θέλειν, its active operation (Wirier, 3:65. β). That ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. The construction is participial, as in 1 Peter 2:20. As there, the participle expresses, not merely the circumstances, but the cause of the suffering; they would have to suffer, not simply while they were doing well, but because they did Well.

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins; rather, because Christ also once suffered. Two of the oldest manuscripts read "died;" but "suffered" corresponds best with the previous verse. The connection is—It must be better to suffer for well-doing, because Christ himself, the All-innocent One, thus suffered, and they who so suffer are made most like unto him. The apostle refers us again to that transcendent Example which was ever before his eyes (compare the close parallel in Hebrews 9:26-28). Christ suffered once for all (ἅπαξ); so the sufferings of the Christian are soon over" but for a moment." For sins (περί); concerning sins, on account of sins; he, himself sinless, suffered concerning the sins of others. The preposition περί is constantly used in connection with the sin offering in the Septuagint (see Leviticus 6:25, Σφάξουσι τὰ περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας; comp. Le 1 Peter 5:8-11, etc.; also Hebrews 10:6, Hebrews 10:8, Hebrews 10:18, Hebrews 10:26). The Just for the unjust; literally, just for unjust. There is no article. The apostle began to speak of the death of Christ, both here and in 1 Peter it., as an example; in both places he seems to be led on by an instinctive feeling that it is scarcely seemly for the Christian to mention that stupendous event without dwelling on its deeper and more mysterious meaning. The preposition used in this clause (ὑπέρ) does not necessarily convey the idea of vicarious suffering, as ἁντί does; it means simply "in behalf of," leaving the character of the relation undetermined; here the context implies the particular relation of substitution (comp. Romans 5:6; also St. Peter's description of our Lord as "the Just," in Acts 3:14). That he might bring us to God. The Vatican and other manuscripts read "you." St. Peter opens out one of the deeper aspects of the death of Christ. The veil that hid the Holiest was then rent in twain, and believers were invited and encouraged to draw near into the immediate presence of God. The verb used here is προσάγειν; the corresponding substantive (προσαγωγή) occurs in Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; also in Romans 5:2. In those places it is rendered "access"—we have access to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. The Greeks words are, Θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι, the article τῷ inserted before πνεύματι in the received text being without authority. We observe the absence of any article or preposition, and the exact balance and correspondence of the two clauses. The two datives must be taken in the same sense; it is impossible to regard one as the dative of the sphere, and the other as the dative of the instrument; both are evidently datives of "the sphere to which a general predicate is to be limited" (Winer, 31:6. a); they limit the extent of the participles. Thus the literal translation is, "Being put to death in flesh, but quickened in spirit." For the antithesis of "flesh" and "spirit," common in the New Testament, comp. Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4, "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness;" and 1 Timothy 3:16, "Manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit;" see especially the close parallel in 1 Peter 4:6, "That they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." It seems to follow, from the opposition of flesh and spirit, and from a comparison of the passages quoted above, that by πνεῦμα in this verse we are to understand, not God the Holy Ghost, but the holy human spirit of Christ. In his flesh he was put to death, but in his spirit he was quickened. When the Lord had said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;" when he bowed his head, and gave up the spirit;—then that spirit passed into a new life. So Bengel excellently says, "Christus, vitam in semet ipso habens, et ipse vita, spiritu vivere neque desiit, neque iterum coepit; sed simulatque per mortificationem involucre infirmitatis in carne solutus erat, statim vitae solvi nesciae virtus modis novis et multo expeditissimis sese exserere coepit." Christ, being delivered from the burden of that suffering flesh which he had graciously taken for our salvation, was quickened in his holy human spirit—quickened to new energies, new and blessed activities. So it shall be with those who suffer for well-doing; they may even be put to death in the flesh, but "if we die with him, we shall also live with him." It is far better (πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον) to depart and to be with Christ, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. They that are Christ's shall, like their Master, be quickened in the spirit; they pass at once into the new life of Paradise; their works follow them thither; it may be, we cannot tell, they will be employed in blessed work for Christ, being made like unto him not only in some degree during their earthly life, but also in the intermediate state of rest and hope.

1 Peter 3:19

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; rather, in which (εν ᾦ). The Lord was no longer in the flesh; the component parts of his human nature were separated by death; his flesh lay in the grave. As he had gone about doing good in the flesh, so now he went in the spirit—in his holy human spirit. He went. The Greek word (πορευθείς) occurs again in 1 Peter 3:22, "who is gone into heaven." It must have the same meaning in both places; in 1 Peter 3:22 it asserts a change of locality; it must do the like here. There it is used of the ascent into heaven; it can scarcely mean here that, without any such change of place, Christ preached, not in his own Person, but through Noah or the apostles. Compare St. Paul's words in Ephesians 4:9 (the Epistle which seems to have been so much in St. Peter's thoughts), "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" And preached (ἐκήρυξεν). It is the word constantly used of the Lord from the time when "Jesus began to preach (κηρύσσειν), and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Then, himself in our human flesh, he preached to men living in the flesh—to a few of his own age and country. Now the range of his preaching was extended; himself in the spirit, he preached to spirits: "Πνεύματι πνεύμασι; spiritu, spiritibus." says Bengel; "congruens sermo." He preached also to the spirits; not only once to living men, but now also to spirits, even to them. The καί calls for attention; it implies a new and additional fact; it emphasizes the substantive (καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασιν). The preaching and the condition of the hearers are mentioned together; they were spirits when they heard the preaching. It seems impossible to understand these words of preaching through Noah or the apostles to men who passed afterwards into the state of disembodied spirits. And he preached in the spirit. The words seem to limit the preaching to the time when the Lord's soul was left in Hades (Acts 2:27). Huther, indeed, says that "as both expressions (θανατωθείς and ζωσοποιηθείς) apply to Christ in his entire Person, consisting of body and soul, what follows must not be conceived as an activity which he exercised in his spirit only, and whilst separated from his body." But does θανατωθείς apply to body and soul? Men "are not able to kill the soul." And is it true, as Huther continues, that the first words of this verse are not opposed to the view that Christ preached in his glorified body, "inasmuch as in this body the Lord is no longer ἐν σαρκί, but entirely ἐν πνεύματι"? Indeed, we are taught that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; "and that that which "is sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body" (σῶμα πνευματικόν); but Christ himself said of his resurrection-body, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). He preached to "the spirits in prison (ἐν φυλακῇ)." (For φυλακή, comp. Revelation 20:7; Matthew 5:25, etc.). It cannot mean the whole realm of the dead, but only that part of Hades in which the souls of the ungodly are reserved unto the day of judgment. Bengel says, "In carcere puniuntur sontes: in custodia servantur, dum experiantur quid facturus sit judex?" But it seems doubtful whether this distinction between φυλακή and δεσμωτήριον can be pressed; in Revelation 20:7 φυλακή is used of the prison of Satan, though, indeed, that prison is not the ἄβυσσος into which he will be cast at the last.

1 Peter 3:20

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Omit the word "once" (ἅπαξ), which is without authority. Wherein; literally, into which; they were saved by entering into it. The last words may mean, "they were carried safely through the water," or, "they were saved by water;" that is, the water bore up the ark (Genesis 7:17, Genesis 7:18). The argument of 1 Peter 3:21 makes the second interpretation the more probable. The verse now before us limits the area of the Lord's preaching: without it we might have supposed that he preached to the whole multitude of the dead, or at least to all the ungodly dead whose spirits were in prison. Why does St. Peter specify the generation that was swept away by the Flood? Did they need the preaching of the Christ more than other sinful souls? or was there any special reason why that grace should be vouchsafed to them rather than to others? The fact must have been revealed to the apostle; but evidently we are in the presence of a mystery into which we can see only a little way. Those antediluvians were a conspicuous instance of men who suffered for evil doing (see 1 Peter 3:17); as Christ is the transcendent Example of one who suffered for well-doing. It is better to suffer with him than with them: they are in prison. His chosen are with him in Paradise. But St. Peter cannot rest in the contemplation of the Lord's death as an example; he must pass on to the deeper, the more mysterious aspects of that most stupendous or' events. The Lord suffered concerning sins, for the sake of unrighteous men; not only did he die for them, he did not rest from his holy work even while his sacred body lay in the grave; he went and preached to some whose sins had been most notorious, and most signally punished. The judgment had been one of unexampled awfulness; eight souls only were saved in the ark, many thousands perished. It may be that St. Peter mentions the fewness of the saved to indicate one reason for this gracious visit. It seems that the awful destruction of the Deluge had made a deep impression upon his mind; he mentions it twice in his Second Epistle (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 3:6); he saw in it a solemn anticipation of the last tremendous judgment. Doubtless he remembered well how the Lord, in his great prophetic discourse upon the Mount of Olives, had compared the days of Noah to the coming of the Son of man (Matthew 24:37-39); those words seem to give a special character to the Deluge, separating it from other lesser judgments, and investing it with a peculiar awfulness. It may be that the apostle's thoughts had dwelt much upon the many mysterious problems (such as the great destruction of infant life) connected with it; and that a special revelation was vouchsafed to him to clear up some of his difficulties. These spirits, in prison at the time of the descent into Hades, had aforetime been disobedient. The Greek word (ἀπειθήσασι) means literally "disbelieving;" but here, as in 1 Peter 2:7 and elsewhere, it stands for that willful unbelief which sets itself in direct opposition to the will of God. They were guilty of unbelief, and of the disobedience which results from unbelief. Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5, where the Greek word is κῆρυξ, the substantive corresponding with the verb ἐκήρυξεν here); the vast structure of the ark was a standing warning as it rose slowly before their eyes. The long-suffering of God waited all those hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3), as now the Lord is "long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But they heeded neither the preaching of Noah nor the long-suffering of God; and at last "the Flood came, and took them all away. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Eight only were saved then; they doubtless suffered for well-doing; they had to endure much scorn and derision, perhaps persecution. But they were not disobedient. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." The eight were brought safe through (διεσώθησαν); they were saved through the water; the water bore them up, possibly rescued them from persecution. But the rest perished; the destruction of life was tremendous; we know not how many thousands perished: they suffered for evil-doing. But the degrees of guilt must have varied greatly from open pro-faulty and hostility to silent doubt; while there were many children and very young persons; and it may be that many repented at the last moment. It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing; but even suffering for evil-doing is sometimes blessed to the salvation of the soul; and it may be that some of these, having been "judged according to men in the flesh," now "live according to God in the spirit" (1 Peter 4:6). For it is impossible to believe that the Lord's preaching was a "concio damnatoria." The Lord spoke sternly sometimes in the days of his flesh, but it was the warning voice of love; even that sternest denunciation of the concentrated guilt and hypocrisy of the Pharisees ended in a piteous wail of loving sorrow. It cannot he that the most merciful Savior would have visited souls irretrievably lost merely to upbraid them and to enhance their misery. He had just suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust: is it not possible that one of the effects of that suffering might have been "to bring unto God" some souls who once had been alienated from God by wicked works, but had not wholly hardened their hearts; who, like the men of Tyro and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, had not the opportunities which we enjoy, who had not been once enlightened and made partakers of the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come? Is it not possible that in those words, "which sometime were disobedient," there may be a hint that that disobedience of theirs was not the "eternal sin" which, according to the reading of the two most ancient manuscripts in Mark 3:29, is the awful lot of those who have never forgiveness? The Lord preached to the spirits in prison; that word (ἐκήρυξεν) is commonly used of the heralds of salvation, and St. Peter himself, in the next chapter, tells us that "the gospel was preached (εὐηγγελίσθη) to them that are dead." The gospel is the good tidings of salvation through the cross of Christ. The Lord had just died upon the cross: is it not possible that, in the moment of victory, he announced the saving power of the cross to some who had greatly sinned; as at the time of his resurrection "many bodies of the saints who slept arose"? There is one more question which forces itself upon us—What was the result of this preaching? Did the spirits in prison listen to the Savior's voice? Were they delivered from that prison where they had been so long confined? Here Scripture is almost silent; yet we read the words of hope in 1 Peter 4:6, "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." The good news was announced to them that they might live; then may we not dare to hope that some at least listened to that gracious preaching, and were saved even out of that prison by the power of the Savior's cross? May we not venture to believe, with the author of the ' Christian Year,' that even in that dreary scene the Savior's eye reached the thronging band of sou]s, and that his cross and Passion, his agony and bloody sweat, might (we know not how or in what measure) "set the shadowy realms from sin and sorrow free?" It seems desirable to add a brief summary of the history of opinion on this much-controverted passage. The early Greek Fathers appear to have held, with one consent, that St. Peter is hero speaking of that descent into Hades of which he had spoken in his first great sermon (Acts 2:31). Justin Martyr, in his' Dialogue with Trypho' (sect. 72), accuses the Jews of having erased from the prophecies of Jeremiah the following words: "The Lord God of Israel remembered his dead who slept in the land of the tomb, and descended to them to preach to them the good news of his salvation." Irenseus quotes the same passage, attributing it in one place to Isaiah, in another to Jeremiah, and adds that the Lord's purpose was to deliver them and to save them (extrahere eos et salvare cos). Tertullian says that the Lord descended into the lower parts of the earth, to make the patriarchs partakers of himself (compotes sui; 'De Anima,' c. 55). Clement of Alexandria quotes Hermas as saying that "the apostles and teachers who had preached the Name of the Son of God and had fallen asleep, preached by his power and faith to those who had fallen asleep before them" ('Strom.,' Jeremiah 2:9). "And then," Bishop Pearson, from whose notes on the Creed these quotations are taken, continues, "Clement supplies that authority with a reason of his own, that as the apostles were to imitate Christ while they lived, so did they also imitate him after death, and therefore preached to the souls in Hades, as Christ did before them." The earliest writers do not seem to have thought that any change in the condition of the dead was produced by Christ's descent into Hades. The Lord announced the gospel to the dead; the departed saints rejoiced to hear the glad tidings, as now the angels rejoice over each repentant sinner. Origen, in his second homily on 1 Kings, taught that the Lord, descending into Hades, brought the souls of the holy dead, the patriarchs and prophets, out of Hades into Paradise; no souls could pass the flaming sword till he had led the way; but now, through his grace and power, the blessed dead who die in the Lord enter at once into the rest of Paradise—not yet heaven, but an intermediate place of rest, far better than that from which the saints of the old covenant were delivered. In this view Origen was followed by many of the later Fathers. But St. Peter says nothing of any preaching to departed saints. Christ "went and preached," he says, "unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient." Hence Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and others were led to suppose that the Lord not only raised the holy dead to a higher state of blessedness, but preached also to the disobedient, and that some of these believed, and were by his grace delivered from "prison." Some few, as Cyril of Alexandria, held that the Lord spoiled the house of the strong man armed (σεσύλητο τῶν πνευμάτων ὁ ᾅδης), and released all his captives. This Augustine reckoned as a heresy. But in his epistle to Euodius Augustine, much exercised (as he says, "vehementissime commotus") by the difficulties of the question, propounded the interpretation which became general in the Western Church, being adopted by Bode, Thomas Aquinas, De Lyra, and later by Beza, Hammond, Leighton, Pearson, etc. "The spirits in prison," he says, "are the unbelieving who lived in the days of Noah, whose spirits, i.e. souls, had been shut up in the flesh and in the darkness of ignorance, as in a prison [comp. ' Paradise Lost,' 11:723]. Christ preached to them, not in the flesh, inasmuch as he was not yet incarnate, but in the spirit, i.e. according to his Divine nature (secundum divinitatem)." But this interpretation does not satisfy St. Peter's words. The hypothesis that Christ preached through the instrumentality of Noah does not adequately represent the participle πορευθείς; the word φυλακή cannot be taken metaphorically of the flesh in which the soul is confined. If, with Beza, we understand it as meaning "who are now in prison," we escape one difficulty, but another is introduced; for it is surely forced and unnatural to make the time of the verb and that of the dative clause different. The words ἐν φυλακῇ must describe the condition of the spirits at the time of the Savior's preaching. Some commentators, as Socinus and Grotius, refer St. Peter's words to the preaching of Christ through the apostles. These writers understand φυλακή of the prison of the body, or the prison of sin; and explain St. Peter as meaning that Christ preached through the apostles to the Jews who were under the yoke of the Law, and to the Gentiles who lay under the power of the devil; and they regard the disobedient in the time of Noah as a sample of sinners in any age. But this interpretation is altogether arbitrary, and cannot be reconciled with the apostle's words. Other views are—that our Lord descended into hell to triumph over Satan (on which see Pearson on the Creed, art. 5.); that his preaching was a concio damnatoria—an announcement of condemnation, not of salvation (which is disproved by 1 Peter 4:6); that the spirits in prison were holy souls waiting for Christ, the prison being (according to Calvin) "specula, sire ipse excubandi actus;" that they were heathens, who lived according to their light, but in idolatry. We may mention, in conclusion, the monstrous explanation of the heretic Marcion, that they were those who in the Old Testament are called ungodly, but were really better than those whom the Old Testament regards as saints.

1 Peter 3:21

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. The reading of the Textus Receptus ᾦ, represented by "whereunto," is without authority; all the uncial manuscripts have ὂ, "which," in the nominative case. The oldest manuscripts also read "you" instead of "us." The antecedent of the relative ὂ must be the word immediately preceding, ὕδατος, water; the word "baptism" is added in apposition, to define more clearly the apostle's meaning; the water which saves is the water of baptism. Thus the literal translation will be, "Which (as) antitype is saving you also, (namely) baptism;" that is, the water which is saving you is the antitype of the water of the Flood. That water was made the means of saving a few; it bore up the ark in which they were. It saved them, perhaps, from the malice of the ungodly; it saved them from that corruption which was almost universal; it was the means of saving the race of men as by a new birth through death into a new life, a new beginning; it washed away the evil, those who suffered for evil-doing, and so saved those who had doubtless been suffering for well-doing. Thus it is the figure (τύπος) of the antitype (ἀντίτυπον) baptism; the two (the water of the Flood and the water of baptism) correspond as type and antitype. The ἀντίτυπον is the counterpart of the τύπος; and as τύπος sometimes means the original, sometimes the figure, there is a correspondent variation in the meaning of ἀντίτυπον. Delitzsch says, on Hebrews 9:24, "We have found τύπος at 1 Peter 8:5 used in the sense of an original figure—a model from which a copy is made; such copy from an original (or architype) is that designated as ἀντίτυπα here. Τύπος again (as at Romans 5:14) is used in the sense of a prophetic foretype, of which the accomplishment is reserved for the future (τύπος τῶν μελλόντων); and that accomplishment is again called ἀντίτυπον (antitype); e.g. baptism, at 1 Peter 3:21, is in this sense an ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge. The earthly reflection of the heavenly archetype, and the actual fulfillment of the prophetic τύπος, are each called ἀντίτυπον." Here the water of the Flood is the prophetic foretype; baptism is the accomplishment. "Baptism," St. Peter says, "is saving you," the few Christians, separating you from the vast number of Gentries, whom in some sense it condemns through their rejection of God's offered mercy (comp. Hebrews 11:7), saving you from the corruption of their evil example, bringing you into the ark of Christ's Church, bearing up that ark through the grace of the new birth. The apostle says, "Baptism is saving you;" he does not say, "hits saved;" he is using the present tense in its proper sense of an incomplete action; it brings us into a state of salvation, into covenant with God. But it is only the beginning, the birth; the growth must follow; the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness, must be realized in actual life; otherwise, alas! we shall have received the grace of God in vain (comp. Titus 3:5). (Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.) St. Peter hastens to explain his statement. Baptism doth save us, but not the mere outward ceremony; you may "make clean the outside" with the most scrupulous care; you may be very careful in putting away the filth of the flesh; but more is needed than the old Jewish washings, the frequent purifications. Comp. Justin Martyr, ' Dial. cum Trypho,' p. 331 (quoted by Huther), Τί γὰρ ὄφελος ἐκείνου τοῦ βαπτὶσματος (the Jewish washing) ὂ τὴν σάρκα καὶ μόνον τὸ σῶμα φαιδρύνει βαπτίσθητε τὴν ψυχήν. Observe that St. Peter uses the word here rendered "putting away" (ἀπόθεσις) again in the Second Epistle (2 Peter 1:14) of putting off the earthly tabernacle (comp. also 1 Peter 2:1, where he uses the corresponding participle, ἀποθέμενοι). The next clause presents great difficulty. Is the genitive subjective or objective? What is the meaning of ἐπερώτημα? The word ἐπερώτημα occurs only in one other place in the Greek Scriptures (Daniel 4:14 [in the Authorized Version, Daniel 4:17]), where it is translated "demand;" the corresponding verb is of frequent occurrence; as in Romans 10:20, "them that asked not after me;" and 2 Kings 11:7 (2 Samuel 11:7, in the Authorized Version), where it is joined with the preposition εἰς, as in this verse. Thus ἐπερώτημα seems to mean an "inquiry," and the genitive is probably subjective. The inner meaning of baptism is not that the flesh puts away its filth, but that a good conscience inquires after God. The outward and visible sign doth not save if separated from the inward and spiritual grace. The first is necessary, for it is an outward sign appointed by Christ; but it will not save without the second; those who draw near to God must have their bodies washed with pure water, but also their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22). The inner cleansing of the soul results in a good conscience, a consciousness of sincerity, of good intentions and desires, which will instinctively seek after God. And that good conscience is the effect of baptism, when baptism has its perfect work, when those who have once been grafted into the true Vine abide in Christ, when those who have once been baptized in one Spirit into one body keep the unity of the Spirit, Christ dwelling in them, and they in Christ. Archbishop Leighton explains the word ἐπερώτημα as "the whole correspondence of the conscience with God, and with itself as towards God, or in the sight of God." If the genitive is regarded as objective, the meaning will be, "an inquiry addressed to God for a good conscience;" the soul, once awakened, seeks continually fuller purification, hungers and thirsts after righteousness. This gives a good sense, but seems less suitable in this context. It is possible also to join the preposition εἰς with συνείδησις in the sense of a good conscience in relation to God; but it seems much more natural to connect it with ἐπερώτημα. Some commentators follow AEcumenius in paraphrasing ἐερώτημα by ἀῤῥαβών ἐνέχυρον ἀπόδειξις; they take the ground that, in legal language, the word was used in the sense of a contract, and they see in St. Peter's words a reference to the covenant made with God in baptism, and to the questions and answers in which, from the earliest times, that covenant was expressed; ἐπερώτημα being used in a general sense so as to cover answers as well as questions. This is a possible alternative, but the word seems to have acquired this meaning in later times. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These words refer back to "baptism doth also now save us." Baptism derives its saving effect from the resurrection of our Lord; without that resurrection it would be an empty form (see note on 1 Peter 1:3).

1 Peter 3:22

Who is gone into heaven. The word here rendered "gone" is that used in 1 Peter 3:19, "he went and preached (πορευθείς)" (comp. Ephesians 4:9, "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?"). And is on the right hand of God (comp. Psalms 110:1; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3). It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing, for he who is the signal Example, who suffered, the Just for the unjust, is now exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high; and "is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. God "hath set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." All the angels of God, in the various grades of the heavenly hierarchy, are made subject to Christ. The words seem to include, especially when read in comparison with Colossians 2:15, the evil angels also; they are made subject against their will to Christ; they asked him once if he was come to torment them before the time. He can restrain their malice and save his people from their power.


1 Peter 3:1-7 - Duties of husbands and wives.


1. Obedience. Holy matrimony is a very sacred thing. It is not a mere human ordinance (ἀνθρωπινὴ κτίσις, 1 Peter 2:13); it is not a creation of human law. Human law, indeed, surrounds it with its sanctions, regarding it as a civil contract; but it was instituted of God in the time of man's innocency; it is an image of the mystical union between Christ and his Church. It is a school of holy love, a discipline of sweet self-denials for the loved one's sake, which ought to help Christian people greatly in the pursuit of holiness. But it is Christianity that has restored wedlock to what it was at the first, and given it a yet deeper and a far holier meaning. The frequency of divorce among both Jews and heathens; the dislike of marriage, which had become so serious at Rome; the Greek habit of regarding the wife as the mistress of her husband's house, the mother of his children, but not as the helpmeet, the partner of his cares, the sharer of his joys and sorrows; the depreciation of woman;—all this had made the ordinary view of marriage very different from what God had intended it to be, from what it now is in Christian families. It is to Christianity, not to civilization (for the Greeks and Romans were as civilized as we are), that we owe the sweet sanctities of wedded life and the quiet happiness of home. But at first Christianity introduced a fresh element of division. From time to time one member of a family circle would have to put the constraining love of Christ above the love due to father or mother, husband, wife, or child. The case of a Christian wife with an unbelieving husband would be one of especial difficulty. She would probably have to hear her religion derided, her Savior insulted; she would have to endure constant reproaches and sarcasms, often hardships, and even brutal cruelty. St. Paul had considered the case in 1 Corinthians 7:13-17. St. Peter here counsels submission; the power of gentleness might succeed in winning those who could be won in no other way. Let Christian wives be very careful to respect their husband's authority; let them fear to give them so much as the shadow of a reason to suspect their purity. Let the holy fear of God lead them to regard even the unbelieving husband with due reverence; let them carefully avoid giving any unnecessary offense, or unduly putting forward the differences, great and fundamental as they were, which separated them from one another. Thus let them hope and pray for their husbands' conversion. The silent eloquence of a holy, self-denying life will generally be more powerful than argument and controversy. Thus they would have the best hope of winning their husbands to Christ, of "gaining them," as the word literally means. Compare Archbishop Leighton, "A soul converted is gained to itself, gained to the pastor, or friend, or wife, or husband who sought it, and gained to Jesus Christ; added to his treasury, who thought not his own precious blood too dear to lay out for this gain." The earnest words of Christian men and women are sometimes greatly blessed, but a humble holy life will often win souls which no eloquence could touch.

2. Simplicity in dress. Christian women should be quiet and modest in their attire. St. Peter's language is, of course, comparative, like Hosea's words, twice quoted by our Lord, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." He does not mean to forbid all plaiting of hair or wearing of gold any more than putting on of apparel; he means that these are poor and contemptible compared with the costlier ornaments which he recommends in their stead. Christian women should be simple and unaffected in dress as in behavior. In general, the best rule is to avoid singularity. "There may be," Leighton says, "in some an affected pride in the meanness of apparel, and in others, under either neat or rich attire, a very humble, unaffected mind ... 'Magnus qui fictilibus utitur tanquam argento, nec ille minor qui argento tanquam fictilibus,' says Seneca. 'Great is he who enjoys his earthenware as if it were plate, and not less great is the man to whom all his plate is no more than earthenware.'" In this, as in other aspects of Christian duty, the enlightened conscience is the best guide. But Christians must never allow their thoughts to dwell on these things; they must learn not to care for finery, not to love display. To quote Leighton again, "Far more comfort shalt thou have on thy deathbed to remember that at such a time, instead of putting lace on my own clothes, I helped a naked back to clothing, I abated somewhat of my former superfluities to supply the poor man's necessities; far sweeter will this be than to remember that I could needlessly cast away many pounds to serve my pride, rather than give a penny to relieve the poor."

3. The true adorning. The soul is far more precious than the body. It is of far greater importance to adorn the soul than to decorate the body. The soul is unseen, so is its garniture; it is hidden from the eye of man, but seen of God. The proper ornament of Christian women is "the hidden man of the heart"—the hidden life of the regenerate soul. It is hidden; it will not always be asserting itself; it is retiring in its modest beauty. But that inner man is very fair and lovely, for it is renewed after the image of the Savior; its beauty lieth in the incorruptibleness of a meek and quiet spirit. The beauty of the Christian life consists in these softer graces rather than in self-assertion and denunciation of the faults of others. Christian women should be meek and calm, not angry, not fretful; they should bear their daily cross quietly and submissively; they should not allow the unkind words or deeds of others to excite them to wrath. This true adorning of the soul is incorruptible; it is not lost by death, it will follow the holy dead into the paradise of God; and it is of great price in the sight of God. The world admires rich dress and costly jewels; God prizes the meek and quiet spirit. Which of the two should Christians seek to please—God or the world?

4. The example of holy women. They hoped in God. They who have that high and holy hope cannot care for the pomps and vanities of this sinful world. They adorned themselves with the more precious ornaments, meekness and humility and wifely obedience. Such a one was Sarah, the wife of the father of the faithful. Christian women are her daughters in the faith, while they persevere in the way of holiness, and preserve a calm unruffled spirit, not easily excited, not terrified by every sudden scare, but resting in the Lord.


1. Arising from the greater weakness of the wife. Husband and wife are both vessels: they should be "vessels unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." But both are weak; the woman, as a rule, is the weaker. The weaker the vessel the more tenderly it should be treated. The husband must dwell with his wife according to knowledge; he must treat her with thoughtful consideration. True love, especially if refined by religion, will give him tact and discernment; he will care for his wife, nourish and cherish her, "even as the Lord the Church" (Ephesians 5:29).

2. Arising from their mutual hope of heaven. Husband and wife are fellow-heirs of the grace of life; each must honor the other. There is no true love which is not founded in mutual respect, and that respect will be truest and deepest when each regards the other as a Christian soul, living in the faith of Christ, looking for the blessed hope of eternal life with God. Then husbands and wives love one another best when they love God first of all. "That love which is cemented by youth and beauty, when these moulder and decay, as soon they do, fades too. That is somewhat purer, and so more lasting, which holds in a natural or moral harmony of minds; yet these likewise may alter and change by some great accident. But the most refined, most spiritual, and most indissoluble, is that which is knit with the highest and purest spirit. And the ignorance or disregard of this is the great cause of so much bitterness, or so little true sweetness, in the life of most married persons; because God is left out, because they meet not as one in him" (Leighton).

3. Danger of neglecting these duties. Their prayers would be hindered. The apostle takes it for granted that the Christian man and wife live in constant prayer. The heirs of the grace of life must pray; they must hold frequent converse with him who gives that life, on whom all their hopes depend. He takes it for granted that they know something of the sweetness and blessedness of prayer. Knowing this, as they do, they must be very jealous of anything that can make their prayers less acceptable, less earnest. Then let them live together in holy love. Jars and bickerings disquiet the soul, disturb its communion with God, put it out of harmony with the spirit of prayer. They cannot pray aright who sin against the law of love. God hath made husband and wife one by holy matrimony. They must not allow misunderstandings and jealousies to put them asunder even for a season, lest they sin not only against one another, but also against God, and so their prayers should be hindered, and be unable to reach the throne of grace.


1. Let Christian wives remember their promise of obedience. If their husbands are not living in the faith of Christ, let them try to win them by holy example and the quiet strength of gentleness.

2. Let them study simplicity in dress and ornament, seeking to adorn their souls rather than their bodies.

3. Let them be followers of holy matrons, not of the gay and thoughtless.

4. Let Christian husbands be tender and loving.

5. Let husband and wife live together in the fear of God and in constant prayer.

1 Peter 3:8-17 - General exhortations.


1. Among the brethren. "This one verse" (eighth), Leighton says, "hath a cluster of five Christian graces or virtues. That which is in the middle, as the stalk or root of the rest, love; and the others growing out of it, two on each side—unanimity and sympathy on the one, and pity and courtesy (or humility) on the other."

(1) "Be ye all of one mind." Christians should be united, they should mind the same thing. Divisions, St. Paul says,mean that we are still carnal (2 Corinthians 3:4): "While one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" The Church would still be one, one body in Christ, if all her members were spiritual, if very many had not grieved or even quenched the Spirit by pride and unbelief and many forms of sin. The Christian must long and pray for that unity for which the blessed Lord prayed in his great high-priestly prayer. And the best menus for promoting that unity is that each individual Christian should strive to live in the fellowship of the Spirit. The more that one Spirit fills all the members of the Church, the nearer will they be drawn to one another, and to the one Lord who is the Head of the body which is the Church.

(2) "Have compassion one of another." The Church should be one, not only in thought and doctrine, but also in feeling; there should be a true sympathy among its members. They should be able to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. We should rejoice in the comforts and happiness of others, but especially in their spiritual advancement, in the luster of their graces: envy and jealousy rend the body of Christ and destroy individual souls. We should weep for the misfortunes and distresses of others, and especially, like the psalmist, "because men keep not thy Law." We should feel a keen and lively sympathy with the Church as a whole: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." We should rejoice in its triumphs, and sorrow in its trials. A holy sympathy should pervade all the members of the one body.

(3) "Love as brethren." This is the central duty of Christians towards one another; all other duties are so many forms of love. "He that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law." St. Peter has already exhorted us to an unfeigned love of the brethren (1 Peter 1:22); he reminded us then that Christians are brethren, not only as creatures of the same God, but also in virtue of that new birth which has made them children of the heavenly Father in a deeper and holier sense. There must be no variance among the children of God; they must "love as brethren," "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

(4) "Be pitiful." Love cannot lie dormant in the heart; it shows itself in tenderness and pity. There is much sorrow in the world, far more sorrow than joy; hence there is much room for the exercise of tenderness. Christian tenderness is not a weak thing; it is strong and manly; the strongest are often the most tender. The very word here rendered "pitiful," or "tender-hearted," means, in classical Greek, "courageous." The change of meaning is instructive, and marks a characteristic difference between Christian and heathen ethics.

(5) "Be courteous." True religion softens the roughest natures, and produces a sweetness and spiritual refinement far more beautiful and attractive than that superficial polish which comes only of education and habit. The best Christian is ever the truest gentleman. But in this place the true reading is, be "humble-minded." Courtesy, indeed, and humility have a near connection; he thinks most of the feelings of others who thinks least of himself. True Christians must be lowly; their Lord set them the example; only humble-minded men can follow the steps of the lowly Savior.

2. Towards enemies. Christians must remember the Master's teaching. With the heathen revenge was regarded as manly, as a duty to one's self; to submit calmly to injury was reckoned as slavish, unworthy of a free-born man. The Lord reversed this. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy," was the old rule; "But I say unto you," the Lord said with that authority which astonished the listening multitude, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." St. Peter echoes the teaching which had so much struck him; he remembered, it may be, his own passionate vehemence, the blow which he had struck in the Lord's defense, and the Lord's gentle rebuke. He knew how hard it was for human nature to learn that holy lesson, how instinctively railing rises to our lips when men rail at us. Christians have not learned that lesson in eighteen centuries and more; each man has to learn it for himself. St. Peter repeats and enforces it: "Ye are called to inherit a blessing," he says; "ye hope one day to hear those words of welcome, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father.' Then learn yourselves to bless others; render not evil for evil, but remember your daily prayer, 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.'"


1. The precept. If we would make our life a thing to be loved, a life worth living; if we would see each day as it passes blessed with peace and calm satisfaction;—then, the psalmist says, we must

(1) be careful to govern the tongue. The tongue is "a world of iniquity." A very large proportion of the sins of our daily life arise from an unbridled tongue. There are the grosser sins of the tongue, profane and impious words, filthy and impure language, falsehood and guile; and besides these, there are other forms of sin, not so coarse and revolting, but far more common—sins against the law of Christian charity; slander and evil-speaking; and all that light, careless, unprofitable talk which fills up so much of our time. The Christian must refrain his lips from these things; his mouth must speak wisdom.

(2) We must do good. The Lord went about doing good. His servants must follow his holy example. They must turn aside from every form of evil; they must follow peace with all men. The Lord is the Prince of Peace. "Peace on earth" was the celestial anthem that celebrated his birth. His followers must love peace; they must seek it amid the discord of opposing wills, though it seem hidden from them: they must pursue it, though it may seem to flee before them through the strifes and envies of men. Among murmurings, among jealousies, among angry words and party animosities, the Christian must carefully seek for peace, and eagerly pursue it.

2. The sanction. We are in the sight of God; his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. If we can only realize that great truth—the eye of the Lord is upon us—we must try to please him and to do his will. His will is that we should love one another, that we should speak no guile, that we should follow after peace. Let those who would live a godly life try daily to bring home to their hearts the thought that the eye of God is reading their souls; that thought will make us humble and contented, will save us from the countless temptations that surround us, will keep us from breaking, by word or deed, the holy law of love. That searching eye is upon the righteous and the wicked; it found among the crowd of guests the one unhappy man who had not on a wedding garment; it pierces through the outside of pretence and hypocrisy down into the very heart. Let us not shrink from bringing this great truth to bear upon our lives; let us walk before God, as Abraham did, knowing that our whole inward life of thought, as well as the outward life of word and action, lies mapped out clear and plain to his all-seeing eye. That thought will give solemn meaning, depth of purpose, dignity to the most commonplace life. And it will give strength; for the Lord's ear is open to the prayer of the righteous; he hears those who come before him in that righteousness which is through faith in Christ; in answer to their prayer he gives his Holy Spirit, and with that Holy Spirit comes the gift of a higher life, the gift of strength and energy, and that best gift of all, holy heavenly love.


1. The true Christian cannot be really hurt by external troubles. If we are zealous of what is good, no one can harm us. In truth a man can be really hurt only by himself, through his own consent; for those who suffer for righteousness' sake are blessed; their suffering does them no real harm; it is turned by the grace of God into a blessing. Suffering is a test of our religion; it shows what it is worth. The mere outward semblance of religion fails under it; deep spiritual religion grows brighter and more refined in the furnace of affliction. But only true religion can endure that searching fire. True religion is zealous, fervent, growing; it cannot be lukewarm; it zealously seeks everything that is really good, zealously supports every good work. The true Christian cannot he hurt by external troubles, for they will only deepen and purify that religion which is the life of his soul, the joy of his heart. Sickness, pain, poverty—any trouble meekly borne, is blessed to the soul's inward happiness; but especially blessed is that suffering which is borne for righteousness' sake. When a man is content to suffer voluntarily in the cause of truth and righteousness, he is brought very near to Christ the Lord, for he is imitating his example, sharing his cross. The kingdom of heaven is his, for he is very near to the King; and the King dwelleth in his heart, filling him with his sacred presence.

2. Advice to suffering Christians.

(1) In their relations to God. They must not fear, they must not allow themselves to be distressed and agitated by surrounding troubles. Restless excitement is destructive of that tranquility which is the characteristic Christian temper. And the antidote to anxious fear is the hallowing presence of the Lord within us. The apostle bids us, especially in times of trouble and anxiety, to sanctify the Lord Christ in our hearts. The Christian heart should be a sanctuary, cleansed and purified for his indwelling by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit. There Christ dwelleth enthroned; doubts and fear vanish when the Christian soul falls down and worships him, crying, "My Lord, and my God!" Therefore we are bidden to sanctify him, to regard him as alone holy, the Most Holy One, holiest of holies; to hallow his holy Name, to reverence his most sacred presence within us, and in all awe and love and thankfulness to offer unto him the deepest adoration of our hearts. Outward worship is not enough; outward forms of reverence have their value when they are the expression of the inward reverence of the heart; but it is in the heart that we must sanctify the Lord Christ, if we are to be blessed with that holy tranquility of spirit which results from his sacred presence. As we sanctify him, he sanctifieth us; the more we learn to regard him with a deep, awful, loving reverence, the more does he shed his sanctifying grace throughout our soul, cleansing it from all that is unworthy, and creating it anew after his own image. When our heart is his sanctuary, "he shall be for a sanctuary" to us; he dwelling in us and we in him; and then we need not fear. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," said David, "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." He who fears God aright fears nothing else but God; he who sanctifieth the Lord Christ in his heart hath a sacred presence there which keeps him calm and tranquil amid dangers and anticipations of coming troubles.

(2) In their relations to men. As they must live for Christ, so they must, when occasion serves, speak for him. The best evidence of the power of religion is the holy lives of Christians. But men will sometimes ask for a reason of the hope that is in them. That hope seemed a strange thing in the days of persecution and unbelief; men thought it wild folly, fanaticism. Christians had often to speak or to write in defense of their faith. We should be ready to do so still both for the glory of God and for the sake of the inquirer's soul. Therefore we should imitate the Bereans, who "searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." We should take care that our faith is established on the holy Word of God; those who are able should pursue such other studies as may assist us in the defense of the faith. "But," the apostle adds (the conjunction is emphatic), "with meekness and fear." There is always danger in theological controversy—danger lest, in heated argument, we transgress the law of love and truth; and danger lest we tread irreverently on holy ground, and speak thoughtlessly of holy things. There must be a mingling of awe and sweetness and wisdom in the temper of him who would by his words win souls to God and the truth. And he must have a good conscience. A good conscience is the consciousness of good thoughts, motives, desires; the Christian must exercise himself, like St. Paul, "to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men." Such an inner consciousness will give warmth, reality, energy, to his words when he is contending for the faith. Words will not convince if they are out of harmony with the life; unreality will soon betray itself. A good life without words is a better defense of religion than the most learned apology without a godly life. The good life puts to shame the false accusations of the enemies of Christianity; it proves the truth and the strength of Christian motives. But the good life must flow from the good conscience. Men sometimes begin at the wrong end; they try first to reform the outward life; they should begin with the mind and conscience. "If Christians in their progress in grace would eye this the most, that the conscience be growing purer, the heart more spiritual, the affections more regular and heavenly, their outward carriage would be holier; whereas the outword work of performing duties, and being much exercised in religion, may, by the neglect of this, be labor in vain, and amend nothing soundly. To set the outward actions right, though with an honest intention, and not so to find out and regard the inner disorder of the heart, whence that in the actions flows, is but to be still putting the index of a clock right with your finger, while it is foul or out of order within, which is a continual business, and does no good. Oh! but a purified conscience, a soul renewed and refined in its temper and affections, will make things go right without, in all the duties and acts of our callings" (Leighton).

3. Christians have comfort in their sufferings. For

(1) they know, if they are called to suffer, that it is the will of God, and that his will is better than our will. He willeth that we should be saved, that we should come to repentance and live; he willeth our sanctification; and he makes our earthly afflictions, if we bear them patiently, work together for our souls' good. And

(2) it is better to suffer while well-doing and (as was once the case often, and is sometimes the case now) for well-doing than for evil-doing. The world thinks otherwise; people often say that they could bear this or that trouble better if they had deserved it. But those who say that seldom bear deserved afflictions well; and the Christian knows that suffering for well-doing, when it comes, is the highest form of suffering, for it makes the suffering Christian most like unto the suffering Lord. If only he has a good conscience, if his conversation (his life and conduct) is in Christ, in the sphere of his presence,—he can look inward and find Christ, he can look upward and see by faith the prize of the high calling; and then he can say, even in the midst of suffering, "Blessed be the Name of the Lord."


1. Let us love the brethren; then we shall be of one mind and one heart; we shall be pitiful, courteous, humble.

2. Remember the Lord's words, "Vengeance is mine;" "Love your enemies."

3. The eye of the Lord is upon you; speak and do only what is acceptable to him.

4. Make your heart a temple of God; reverence his presence there.

5. Be very careful, when it is your duty to contend for the faith, to speak with meekness and reverence.

1 Peter 3:18-22 - Consider Christ.


1. Their cause. Even he suffered. The universality of suffering is a common topic of consolation. "Man is born to trouble." But the thought of the suffering Savior is a source of sweeter comfort and holier patience. A great saint has said, "They feel not their own wounds who contemplate the wounds of Christ." He endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before him. If we, in our sufferings, look unto Jesus, sacred thoughts of his cross will fill our heart more and more, and prevent us from dwelling overmuch on our own afflictions. He is the transcendent Example of suffering for well-doing. But his death is unique; it stands alone in its unapproachable glory; it is surrounded with an atmosphere of awful and yet most blessed mystery. He is not simply a martyr for the truth; he suffered, indeed, for well-doing, but he suffered also on account of sins. Sin was the cause of his death, but not his sin; he was absolutely sinless. He was just, the Just One; but he gave himself in his wondrous love to suffer for the unjust, for their sake, in their behalf, that he might do them good. Their sin caused his death; if man had not sinned, there had been no need that the Son of God should die. The sin of the world was a burden that none but he could bear; he took it upon him. As the high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his breast, so Christ the great High Priest bore the names of his chosen in his heart, and the tremendous burden of the world's sin upon his innocent head. And this he did of his own free will, in his own generous love; we must think of him when we are called to suffer, especially when we suffer for well-doing.

2. Their purpose. It was "that he might bring us to God." Our sin had separated us from God; we were afar off from him. "But now hath he reconciled us by his cross, having slain the enmity thereby." He has suffered our punishment; therefore, if we are his, we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Apart from God there can be no holiness, no happiness, no true life. Separation from God means darkness, misery, spiritual death. Christ suffered that he might bring us to God; then we must follow him by the way which he trod, the way of the cross. He himself is the Way; and we can walk in that way only by imitating him; if, then, we would come to the Father by the new and living Way, which is Christ himself, we must learn to imitate Christ, always in patient submission to the will of God, sometimes in patient suffering for the truth's sake.

3. Their extent. Christ's sufferings extended even unto death; they could reach no further. "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." It was his own free act; he laid down his life of himself; none could take it from him. The heathen thought it a good omen when the victim came quietly to the altar. No victim ever came with such entire consent of will as the Lord Jesus Christ; for he knew with perfect foreknowledge all the circumstances of his bitter Passion, and at each moment of that long agony he submitted himself of his own will to the tortures inflicted by those poor weak creatures whom he might by one word have swept into utter death. He set us the example of obedience unto death. Let us learn of him. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." The Lord was quickened in the spirit; so shall it be with his chosen. From the moment of death they are blessed; for they shall be with him in Paradise. From that moment they are quickened in the spirit; the spirit is filled with a new life, with new powers and energies; the life of departed saints is "far better" than this earthly life; indeed, they are absent from the body; they have not yet reached that perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul, which can be realized only in God's everlasting glory; but they are with the Lord; they rest from the labors of this anxious, restless life; their works do follow them; they are quickened in the spirit to a new life of love and blessedness, and, it may be, of holy work for Christ. That work will be full of happiness; there will be no more suffering, no more weariness. The natural tendency of goodness is to produce happiness; those tendencies are marred and impeded here; there they will have their perfect work; perfected holiness will issue in perfected happiness.


1. The Preacher. It was the Lord himself, the Word of the Father. He is the Word: "God has spoken to us by his Son." He preaches the Word, the Word of eternal life. He preached all the years of his earthly ministry; and when his holy body lay in the grave, after he had been put to death in the flesh, still he preached in the spirit. The ministers of God's holy Word and sacraments must ]earn of the great Preacher; they must preach faithfully, diligently, for his sake, for the love of the souls whom he loved; they must count it not a labor, but a high and holy privilege, to preach the gospel of salvation. He preached in the spirit; then we may be sure that the spirits and souls of the righteous do not sleep idly in the intermediate state. Even Dives in torment prayed for his five brethren; can we doubt but that departed saints pray still for those whom they loved on earth, for whom they were wont to pray? It is full of sweetness to believe that they still think of us; that they are witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) of our heavenward course; that they help us with their prayers; that as the number of the blessed who have died in the Lord increases in ever vaster multitude, so a fuller volume of prayer rises from Paradise up to the glory-throne. They pray, we may be sure; it may be (for St. Peter throughout this passage is speaking of Christ as our Example) they also spread the glad news of the gospel among the kingdoms of the dead.

2. The listeners. They too were absent from the body; but they were not in Paradise, on the happy sides of Hades; they were in prison. They were in some dreary place, apart from the souls of the blessed; for they had once been disobedient through unbelief. There had been a preacher among them then—Noah, "a preacher of righteousness;" but they heeded him not. They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the very day that Noah entered into the ark. Noah and his sons ate and drank too; but his main work was to preach righteousness, and to build the ark according to the word of God. Still God's ministers preach; still the Church, which is the ark, bears witness to the mercy and long-suffering of God, and bids the world to escape from the wrath to come. And still, alas! vast multitudes live on in unbelief, eating and drinking and spending their whole time in worldly pursuits, as if eating and drinking were the end of life, as if this world with its vain pomp and glory were to abide for ever. So it was with these unhappy men; the long-suffering of God waited many years while the ark was a-preparing; as, blessed be his holy Name, it is waiting now till the number of his elect is complete. Then few only were saved; now, alas! it is the few who find the strait and narrow path. The "prison" must be the end of unbelief and disobedience; the word suggests fearful thoughts and dark unsatisfied questions. The Lord preached even there; he brought, we may be sure, the glad tidings of salvation: may we not venture to trust, in humble hope, that some who had not listened to Noah, the preacher of righteousness, listened then to Christ, the Preacher of salvation?


1. The outward and visible sign. It is water—"water wherein a person is baptized." Water once saved the world, water cleansed it from that wickedness which was bringing down the wrath of God; the world passed then through a baptism of water which was death unto sin, but a new birth unto righteousness; there was a new beginning, new possibilities, new hopes. And water saved the few that had entered into the ark; it bore up the ark, and saved those in it from the wrath of men and from the contagion of surrounding pollution. Yet one of those few brought upon himself his father's curse. So baptism, the antitype of the water of the Flood, is now saving those who by it are admitted into the ark of Christ's Church. It is saving us, for it is the beginning of our salvation, bringing us, as it does, into covenant with God. But it is only the beginning; still the Lord adds daily to the Church those who are being saved (τοὺς σωζομένους, Acts 2:47). But that salvation has to be worked out by the grace of God who worketh within his chosen.

2. The inward and spiritual grace. Ananias said to St. Paul, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." But mere outward washing cannot cleanse the soul. The conscience must be good, the heart must be sprinkled from an evil conscience. The inward and spiritual grace is a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness; the conscience will bear witness whether this, the inner meaning of our baptism, is realized in our life. Conscience, Leighton says, is God's deputy in the soul: "Its business is to sit and examine and judge within; to hold courts in the soul.... Not a day ought to pass without a session of conscience within; for daily disorders arise in the soul, which, if they pass on, will grow and gather more, and so breed more difficulty in their trial and redress." The good conscience will inquire after God, will be ever seeking God. If we have not that good conscience, we are not abiding in the grace of our baptism, and then the holy sacrament ordained for our salvation loses its saving power.

3. The connection between them. Baptism becomes a means of grace through the appointment of the risen Savior. His people could not rise with him in baptism save through the power of his resurrection; that resurrection is the pledge of new life, new energies, new hopes, to all who are baptized in one Spirit into the one mystical body of Christ. He can give grace through the sacraments, for all power is given unto him; he is at the right hand of God, ever interceding for us, able to save us to the uttermost. There is no guardian, no helper, like unto him, for all the highest spiritual intelligences are made subject unto him; the elect angels are his ministers; he gives them charge over his chosen; the evil angels are under his control; he can restrain their malice, he can baffle their devices.


1. Christ suffered in his flesh; let us take suffering patiently.

2. He suffered, "the Just for the unjust." Sometimes God's holiest servants are called to the greatest suffering; they will not complain; they are being made, in their poor measure, like their Lord.

3. He suffered to bring us to God; let us come in faith and love and gratitude.

4. He preached to the spirits in prison; may we listen while we are in the flesh, on the earth!

5. Let us strive by his grace to realize the deep meaning of our baptism, the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness.


1 Peter 3:13 - The armor of righteousness.

This is a promise in the shape of a question, which makes the affirmation stronger, not weaker. It is the question of triumphant faith, a trumpet-blast of confident defiance of all foes, like the wonderful series of similar challenges in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 8:31-35), or that in Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9), the Septuagint Version of which is evidently the basis of our text. We have probably here a consideration additional to that preceding, in order to confirm the conclusion of the blessedness of holiness. The apostle has been quoting, with evident delight in the flowing periods, the assurance of the psalm, that God's watchful eye is upon the righteous. Here he as it were says—and, besides, it is the general experience of the world—lovers of good get good from men. As Christ said, "Sinners also love those that love them."

I. THE SORT OF MEN THAT GENERALLY GO UNHARMED. The Revised Version reads "zealous" instead of "followers," and probably is right in the substitution. If "followers," or more literally, "imitators," were retained, it would be most natural to translate "him who is" instead of "that which is" good. But the antithesis with the previous verse ("them that do coil") and with the word translated "harm," which is from the same root as that rendered "evil,' makes the neuter more probable. If, then, we take "zealous for that which is good" as the description of the kind of men to whom the promise implied in our text is made, we may say that it is not the actual possession of purity and virtue which draws men's affections, so much as a certain enthusiasm for goodness and aspiration after it. It is possible to be good in a very disagreeable fashion—to be pure as the eternal snows on the Alps, and cold and forbidding as they. And it is possible to have the whiteness of even an austere morality lit up with a rosy gleam of ardor and emotion which shall make it lovely as that same snow as it blushes in the rising sun. The morality which casts, for the most part, a shield around its possessor is "morality touched by emotion," in which good is evidently loved as well as practiced, and practiced because it is loved. It is precisely there that so much goodness presents an unlovely face to the world. The doer does net seem to find delight in it himself, and so the onlookers have little in him. If our practice of purity be obviously reluctant and constrained it will net dispose men to look on us with respect or favor. We must be "zealous of good" if we are to claim the benefit of this promise. And it is extremely improbable that such zeal or enthusiastic emotion shall be continuously cherished towards a mere neuter abstract—that which is good. A living Person is needed to evoke it. If the abstract "good" be the personal God our Father; if it be incarnated in Jesus Christ our Brother who loves us, and to whom as their conscious and responsive Object our hearts may turn;—then there may be such zeal, but scarcely if we have to be zealous only for that cold and vague impersonal idea—goodness. It is very hard to keep up enthusiasm for anything ending in "ness." Men must have a person to love, and their desire after purity is deepened and changed into a more ardent earnestness when "that which is good" takes human form and becomes "him who is good, the perfect Christ, the Image of God, the only Good." All earnest seeking after moral excellence leads the seeker at last to Jesus Christ, and the merchantman's quest for many goodly pearls ends in the finding of one entire and perfect chrysolite in which all fragmentary preciousnesses are sphered.

II. THE SAFETY OF THESE ENTHUSIASTS FOR THE GOOD. There is an antithesis in the original which is lost in our versions, but may be represented by some such rendering, "Who is he that will do bad things to you, if you be zealous of the good?" That principle thus forcibly put, by the triumphant challenge of the question and by this sharp antithesis, may be illustrated by several considerations which are linked together in such a way that each comes into play where the preceding ceases or fails.

1. The first of these is that, as a rule, a character of obvious single-minded enthusiasm for goodness conciliates. Men are not so bad but that there is a place in their hearts and consciences which can be touched by goodness, especially if it is accompanied with that self-forgetfulness and consciousness of imperfection which zeal for goodness will always bring. When good men are disliked it is very often not for their goodness but for some accompaniment of it which would be better away, such as their want of tact or of sympathy, their apparent sense of superiority, or the like. But even if men are not won to love purity, or even to be at ease in the presence of good men, they will very seldom go so far as to put dislike into action and do harm to one who does good to them. The traveler without a revolver is safest. Fire at the gaping crowd on the banks, and they will overwhelm you. Meet them with a smile and a handful of gifts, and you will almost always make friends. Gentleness and patience, sympathy and love, clear a path for their possessors. It is not vinegar, as the old legend has it, which will split the rocks. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." Of course, this is not true without exception, as the whole history of good men shows, and as Peter goes on to admit. Sometimes, righteousness excites men's enmity, and, when it fails, then the second consideration comes in.

2. That is, that God will protect those who for righteousness' sake suffer. The grand promises which Peter has been quoting from the thirty-fourth psalm come into play. A tacit comparison is suggested between the good man's enemies and his defenses. "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous," and that being so, though deadly foes prowl round him with their cruel eyes gleaming like a lion greedy of his prey, the question of our text rings out the same assurance as Paul's proud challenge, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Many a time the persecutor has had. to confess that just as he seemed to have the prey in his power—

"The man sprang to his feet,
Stood erect, caught at God's skirts and prayed!
So I was afraid."

The man whom an angel had brought out of prison when the morning of his martyrdom was dawning might well preach that God would take care of his children even when man's wrath was hottest.

3. But that Divine protection is not always granted. Peter had indeed experienced deliverance at the eleventh hour, but his Lord had told, him that one day the putting off of his tabernacle was to come by violence; and more, one of the apostles had already trod that brief and bloody path of martyrdom which he knew lay before him and before many of those to whom his writings would come. What, in such extreme cases, should be the worth of such a saying? Is it not grimly contradicted by the scaffold and the fire? No; for even if these two outer walls of defense are carried by the enemy, and men's malice is not softened but rather embittered by goodness, and God's love does not see fit to shield us from the blow, the inner line of fortification remains impregnable. In the utmost extremity of outward suffering, ay, even from the midst of the fire, the Christian may ring out the triumphant words of our text; for no real harm can touch us if we be zealous of that which is good. The evil in the evil will be averted. The bitter will be changed into sweet, as in the old legend the shower of burning coals became a shower of rubies. The poison will be wiped from the arrow. The loving heart that cleaves to Christ and desires most to be united to him will not count that an evil which brings it nearer its home and its joy, nor think the wildest storm a calamity which blows it to Christ's breast. The same events may be quite different in their character to different men. Two men may be drowned in one shipwreck. To the one it may be the opening of the door of his Father's house to the weary pilgrim and the very crown of God's mercies. To the other it may be misery and truly a sinking in a boundless sea of death. All depends on our relation to God, who is the Source of all good. If we love him in Christ, and are seeking as our highest aim amid the illusory and fleeting good of earth to press closer to him, then he will deliver us from all real evil; and "who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?" "All things work together for good to them who love God."—A.M.


1 Peter 3:3, 1 Peter 3:4 - true apparel and ornament of women.

That attention to dress and personal decoration is natural to woman, is obvious from an observation of the customs of every nation in every age. The Apostle Peter must not be understood as in this place censuring such attention, but as pointing out that there is apparel, that there is ornament, far preferable to any bodily costume and jewelry that taste can devise and wealth can purchase. Christian women of every position in life are exhorted to provide themselves with these precious and incomparable recommendations; to cultivate, above all things, "a meek and quiet spirit."

I. SUCH APPAREL AND ORNAMENTATION COMMAND THE ADMIRATION OF ALL WHOSE ADMIRATION IS DESIRABLE. Empty fools may admire as supremely admirable in woman the outward display of riches and of fashion, with which the worldly sometimes seek to dazzle and captivate those who are as worldly as themselves. To men of sense such things are utterly indifferent; to men of discernment and character gentle and virtuous dispositions and habits are in a woman beyond all price. Such qualities as Jesus found in the sisters of the home at Bethany won his friendship, and similar qualities will never cease to elicit the approval and appreciation of the upright and the pure.

II. SUCH APPAREL AND ORNAMENTATION ARE INSEPARABLE FROM THE CHARACTER THEY ADORN, AND ARE IMPERISHABLE. Poverty may deprive a woman of the power to dress with expensiveness; advancing years may make the adventitious attractions excused in youth unseemly and ridiculous. But "the meek and quiet spirit" remains unchanged with changing time. Often does it happen that the feminine character, refined and sweetened by the experience of life and by ministrations of pity and of self-denial, shines with a fairer luster with advancing years.

III. SUCH APPAREL AND ORNAMENTATION ARE ACCEPTABLE AND PRECIOUS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD HIMSELF. The approval of our fellow-creatures may be sought with too earnest diligence, and their attachment may be valued beyond its true value. But the qualities which are commended by him who alone judgeth with perfect justice are qualities which cannot be cultivated with too great assiduity and care. Our Lord has spoken with severity of those who seek honor from men in preference to that honor which cometh from God. Of the "meek and quiet spirit" we are told that it is "of great price in the sight of God." What greater inducement than this could be offered to Christian women to look with comparative unconcern upon all those social and external recommendations which are so often over-estimated, and to cultivate with all diligence and devotedness the graces of the Christian character and the charities of the Christian life?—J.R.T.

1 Peter 3:7 - The twofold claim of womanhood.

In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female; the man and the woman, as possessors alike of our common humanity, participate alike in the privileges of Christianity, and come alike under the law of Christian principle and motive. And if this is so in the Church, it is the case in ordinary social life, that, whilst the man and the woman have their several and distinct places to fill and services to render, in their relations to each other duty is reciprocal. The New Testament is altogether opposed to the too common notion that the rights are all on the side of the man, and the duties all on the side of the woman. St. Peter is no more stringent in laying down the obligations of wives, than in prescribing the treatment due to them from their husbands. Himself a married man, as the Marriage Service in our Prayer-book reminds us, he writes explicitly and wisely to husbands as to the spirit and tone which should be apparent in their domestic life. The grounds upon which he here bases his injunctions are very different from each other, and yet thoroughly harmonious.

I. THE CLAIM OF WOMAN TO JUST AND CONSIDERATE TREATMENT IS BASED UPON HER PHYSICAL WEAKNESS. The fact is unquestionable that woman is less robust in constitution, less powerful muscularly, and of more delicate nervous organization, than man. Now, this fact is often made a reason for overbearing demeanor, contemptuous language, unjust dealing, and even brutal abuse, on the part of the man towards the woman. This is so, not only in savage communities, but not infrequently even among civilized nations. Irresponsible power and selfishness concur in leading to feminine degradation. But the apostle brings forward the fact that woman is the weaker vessel as a reason why husbands should live with their wives in a reasonable and kindly manner, and should render to them all due respect.

1. Human sympathy requires that this should be so. There is a natural principle within leading us to cherish kindness towards the weak and defenseless; and this principle is to be encouraged as against selfishness and brutal indifference and injustice.

2. In addition to this natural feeling, there is a cultivated habit of chivalry which tends to the exaltation of woman in human society. Not simply of the young and beautiful, the highborn and accomplished, but of all who are stamped with the seal of true, gentle, and virtuous womanhood. It is in this sense only that we can speak approvingly of sentiments of chivalry.

II. THE CLAIM OF WOMAN TO JUST AND CONSIDERATE TREATMENT IS BASED UPON HER SPIRITUAL EQUALITY. Granted that there is on the average physical inferiority in the one point of strength, it must be maintained that, in a higher plane, inferiority vanishes. Husbands are reminded that their wives, being Christians like themselves, are joint-heirs with them of the grace of life. If, then, the former motive was addressed to compassion, this appeals to reverence. God himself acknowledges "the weaker sex" as appointed unto immortal blessedness through his Son, our Redeemer. How justly, then, are men required to give all honor to those who are fellow-inheritors with themselves of a domain and a dominion so unspeakably glorious!

1. The woman is by the Father of the spirits of all flesh regarded with the same interest as the man. Womanhood is God's own creation, and the feminine characteristics and graces are revelations of God's own thoughts and purposes. Humanity without the feminine element would be incomplete, one-sided, and lacking in the harmony of "perfect music set to noble words."

2. The woman is equally with the man redeemed by the Friend and Savior of mankind. Our Lord's ministry upon earth was a ministry to both sexes. He counted holy women among his friends; he comforted sorrowful women in their distress; he saved sinful women from their debasement. And his death was for all mankind; his mediation brings near to God all who were afar off—woman as well as man.

3. The woman is appointed with the man to share the happiness and the service of heaven. The grace which bestows eternal life is extended to the wife as well as to the husband. As there is a place for woman in God's gracious heart, so is there a place for her in God's glorious and blessed home. Such are the high considerations which hallow and dignify the Christian home!—J.R.T.

1 Peter 3:13 - Christian zeal.

Zeal is a habit of feeling and purpose. It supposes that a certain cause, a certain end of action, is apprehended by the understanding and approved by the judgment. As the etymology of the word implies, this quality is one characterized by warmth, fervor, ardor, in the pursuit of the object approved. It manifests itself in effort, in endurance, in perseverance. Zeal is in itself neither good nor bad; but it is always powerful, giving efficiency to toil, and an impetus to the cause which calls it into activity. In a bad project zeal does harm, for it assists in diffusing error and immorality. In a holy enterprise zeal does good; no great and worthy cause was ever brought to success and victory without zealous labors. There are cases in which abundant zeal compensates slender abilities and mean position. Yet it is possible for zeal to outrun judgment and discretion.


1. Its spring, its source, is grateful love and ardent consecration to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Here no fanaticism is possible. There is the best reason and ground for such emotions; the danger is in the direction of indifference and coldness. Interest in Divine truth cannot be too keen; consecration to Divine service cannot be too complete.

2. Its tokens and evidences are these—earnestness in devotion, in praise and prayer, both public and private; earnestness in the discharge of daily duty, however secular, yet sanctified by the Christian motive and spirit; earnestness in discouraging and repressing all sin; earnestness in exerting social influence for the spread of truth and righteousness.


1. The Scriptures expressly enjoin and encourage zeal. "Be zealous!' is the admonition the ascended Savior addresses to his Church. "It is good always to be zealously affected in a good cause," is the assertion of an apostle.

2. Our Lord Christ was supremely zealous, He was "clothed with zeal as with a cloak." In his conduct was a fulfillment of the words, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." Zealous in love, he loved to the end; zealous in labor, he finished the work given him to do.

3. The best and most useful men have been zealous. This is true of the apostles, of the great thinkers and scholars of the Church, of the Reformers, of leaders in benevolent effort and missionary enterprise.

4. The presence or absence of zeal affects the character beneficially or injuriously. Its absence is accompanied by spiritual declension; its presence promotes the true prosperity of the Church and the advance of the gospel; and these in turn react upon the individual character and further its higher development and everlasting well-being - J.R.T.

1 Peter 3:14-17 - Sufferers fortified.

There were providential reasons why the early Christians should have been exposed to many trials of faith, purity, and patience. This reason is obvious to us—that thus opportunity was afforded for the administration of such fortifying and consolatory principles as are serviceable to the afflicted and the tempted in every age.

I. THE TRIALS AND SUFFERINGS CHRISTIANS SHOULD EXPECT. These, of course, are many and various; but it is instructive to notice what those are which are here singled out and placed in prominence, doubtless by the wisdom of the inspired apostle.

1. Christians may expect to suffer for well-doing. That is, they will have to endure injustice from the world, which will not appreciate their character and their efforts for its good.

2. They may expect to be evil spoken of, as if evil-doers. That is, they will have to endure calumny from those who will take pleasure in detracting from their merits, magnifying their faults, misrepresenting their motives, and traducing their life.


1. They should not forget that it is the will of God that his people should suffer, even wrongfully.

2. They should cherish the assurance that none can really harm them.

3. They should consider that their lot is compatible with happiness.

4. And they may even believe that some who have ill treated and slandered them may come to be ashamed of their sinful conduct.


1. Let them sanctify in their hearts Christ as Lord.

2. Let them be prepared with a reasonable account of their hope, the hope which sustains and cheers the afflicted follower of Christ.

3. Let them discard all fear of their sinful adversaries, and confront them with boldness and cheerfulness - J.R.T.

1 Peter 3:18 - Sacrificial sufferings.

To Peter, the memory of his Lord's Passion must have been peculiarly pathetic and peculiarly precious. He could not but connect the Master's constancy with the servant's unfaithfulness, and the servant's penitence with the Master's grace and pardoning favor. The woe he had witnessed could never be long absent from his recollection. And the bearing of Christ's sufferings upon human redemption and upon Christian consecration must have constantly occurred to him when communicating Divine truth, and inspiring his fellow-believers to devotion and endurance. In this verse, compact with precious fact and doctrine, we have set before us—


II. THE CHARACTER IN WHICH CHRIST SUFFERED. It is here that the mystery of the fact is to be found. The Sufferer was the Righteous One, blameless in character, upright in conduct, beneficent in ministry. Yet he suffered, notwithstanding all this. That the unrighteous should suffer, this appears to us natural; they eat of the fruit of their doings; they reap as they have sown. But in the agony and death of Jesus of Nazareth we see the undeserved sufferings of" the Holy One and the Just."

III. THE PERSONS FOR WHOM CHRIST SUFFERED. This consideration increases the mystery and enhances the interest of the Passion of our Redeemer. At first sight it seems as though, if undeserved sufferings are to be endured, this must be at least on behalf of the virtuous, the meritorious, the pious. But it was otherwise, it was exactly contrary, with the sufferings of Christ. He died for the unrighteous, for those who had violated the laws of God and the laws of man!

IV. THE CAUSE BY AND FOR WHICH CHRIST SUFFERED. He was brought to the cross by the sins of men; and it was on account of those sins that he deliberately and graciously consented to die. The connection between sin and suffering is obvious in God's providential treatment of men; it is equally obvious in God's merciful redemption of men by his Son Jesus Christ.

V. THE INTENT AND AIM WITH WHICH CHRIST SUFFERED. Nothing more sublime in itself, or more welcome to the sinner's ear, can be found than the statement in this verse of the purpose for which our Lord Jesus accepted the death of humiliation and shame—it was "that he might bring us to God." Surely the simplest and yet the grandest statement of Immanuel's voluntary and sacrificial death!

VI. CHRIST'S SUFFERING OUR EXAMPLE AND MOTIVE. Let Christians see to it that, if they suffer, it be not for ill-doing, but (like their Lord) for well-doing. Such endurance may be wholesome discipline for them, and it may be the means of good to others - J.R.T.


1 Peter 3:1-6 - The Christian wife called to heart-culture as the means of winning the unconverted husband.

The subject of this section is the necessity for a life becoming the Christian name; this is applied to Christian citizens and to Christian servants, and, here, to Christian wives. The reason for the conspicuous place here assigned to wives is obvious. The writer is addressing Churches in pagan countries, many of whose members were wives of heathen husbands. What were these to do? were they to continue in that relationship, or did their Christianity sever the marriage bond? That question occurred more than once; it was brought before Paul by the Church at Corinth, and he deals with it in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40. There was probably another reason for this. Dr. John Brown says, "When we reflect on the character of the conjugal relation among heathens, how much there was of the harshness of the tyrant in the husband, and of the baseness of the slave in the wife, and how much pollution and cruelty prevailed in the home, few things were more calculated to strike heathen observers favorably than the power of Christianity in introducing an order and purity and enjoyment into the domestic circle beyond what heathen philosophy had ever dreamt of." Peter's words are often applicable still. Two hearts, two lives, are often bound together by the closest human tics, one devoted to Christianity, the other not. The case here, however, is not of those who had been united after one had become a Christian; the nature of spiritual life and the direct Word of God forbid union of that kind, and there is no consolation here for the trouble that comes from disobedience in this respect. Here the wife is supposed to have become a Christian since she gave herself to the ungodly husband. The Divine finger is laid on the secret of many a troubled life, when husbands are here spoken of that "obey not the Word;" but the hand that pains is that which heals, for there is hope and strength and comfort for the wounded spirit in "Ye wives, be in subjection," etc.


1. And the first point included is faithful fulfillment of the duties of her relationship. "Be in subjection to your husbands;" equivalent to a summary of the various duties of the position. The expression is harsh at first, but the harshness wears off as we think of it, for love is always in subjection, He whose life was the embodiment of love came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. Love cannot help serving. This word lays no burden on love but what she lays on herself. Nor is this a one-sided requirement; for the same Word says, "Husbands, love your wives"—so that the subjection is mutual" submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." Yet, though the harshness be removed, the command remains and means something, and it is remarkable that in the three instances in the Epistles where the duties of wives are referred to, the same idea of subjection occurs (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; and here). Woman was made for a "helpmeet for man;" "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee;" "Man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man." The subjection, therefore, was to be real, yet not that of a servant, but of a companion; man's other self, yet still subject.

2. Possession of that pure character which springs /rein the fear of God. "Chaste conversation;" equivalent to pure manner of life, a character unsullied, and this arising from the fear of God in the heart. The godly wife of an ungodly man is exposed to great difficulty; the husband, troubled by no scruples, will often expect of her what her conscience condemns; and that position is as perilous as it is painful. Now, this word requires no swerving a hair-breadth from righteousness, not even under pressure of the husband's love and plans. "Whoso loveth… husband… more than," etc.

3. Manifestation of the graces of spirituality. "Whose adorning," etc. This does not necessarily condemn what is simply ornamental. Did we only use what is necessary for bare existence, many of our fellow-creatures could not live. God's works also are marked by beauty, needless but for gratification, and we may well copy him within his own lines. But do not let these be your adornment, do not let these be what men think of first when they see you, nor find in them your attraction; but let your adornment be the graces of the inner life. Let Christian women set themselves against the dress curse, one of the greatest curses of the day, and put character first, as God does.

II. THIS IS SET FORTH AS THE MEANS OF WINNING THE UNCONVERTED HUSBAND. These heathen husbands did not frequent the sanctuary, nor listen to the Word, and thus their case seemed hopeless. But the Divine Word may be carried to heart and mind as much by a Divine life as by a Divine book. Feeding on this book, we become its embodiment, living Epistles of Christ, read of all; and the promise is as true of the Word lived as of the Word spoken, "My Word shall not return unto me void." Verses 5 and 6: not simply the hope to win the husband should lead to living thus, but not otherwise could the wife prove herself a daughter of Abraham, a member of the true Israel. The membership of the Christian wife in God's family is of itself the ground of her doing what is here required; all this is owed to God as your blaster; but there is an additional motive for this in its effect on the husband. See how this operates.

1. A true Christian life is a standing proof of the Divinity of Christianity. How can the doubting husband be undeceived? By the life of the wife.

2. An exemplification of the beauties of holiness is a constant persuasion. Acts of forgiveness, endurance, sacrifice, adherence to right, etc., gradually tell even on the hardened, and often loudly plead for Christ.

3. Conquest by the passive virtues is God's own method. Men dislike direct assaults on their moral nature, but often open their hearts spontaneously to what seems to make no onset. God recognizes that in his dealings with us. The meaning of his cross is, in fact, that he expects to subdue us by suffering for us and bearing with us. We may expect to win by the same means.

III. THIS IS ONLY ACCOMPLISHED BY PERSONAL HEART-CULTURE. How can we gain this becoming character? The passage answers, "By heart-work." Christian character grows from within.

1. Life is a reflex of faith. "What a man believes, that is he." Love, peace, purity, power, etc., are the proper fruits of trust in God; therefore strengthen your faith.

2. Character is according to companionship. We become like those with whom we associate. They take knowledge of those who have been with Jesus. God impresses his image on the soul that is much with him - C.N.

1 Peter 3:7 - The Christian husband called to enjoy spiritual blessings with the Christian wife.

A happier case is supposed than the preceding. The husband is "won;" they are "heirs together of the grace of life;" and there opens before them the possibility of blessing they have never known. But even this bus a touch of sadness in it. If it be painful for the one member in this relationship having a piety in which the other has no share, it is only one degree less so when they share it equally, but live as though they did not. Sharing in all else, but units and solitary in things eternal. Two fellow-travelers walking to Emmaus, each talking with Jesus as they go, but neither with the other—that is the case supposed here. ("According to knowledge;" equivalent to knowledge of what is possible and due to two hearts bound together, first by natural relationship, and then by common love to God.)

I. THE BLESSEDNESS OF MUTUAL PIETY IN HUSBAND AND WIFE. They are both "heirs of the grace of life;" but the fear is that they do not dwell with one another as "heirs together." Two persons may make the same journey, and never speak. How different that from two who go in every respect together, having common interest in all that happens! The one is far less blessed than the other. Peter here urges the greater blessedness. Think how much it involves.

1. It produces the closest possible union. For that there must be no secrets, nothing reserved. Thus we can get nearer to God than to any other; we can never lose ourselves but in the heavenly Father. But those we love best on earth may come closer to us in this respect than they sometimes do; and some Christian husbands and wives may thus be more to each other than they are, sharing not only temporal, but spiritual affairs. In this way there may be a union unutterably more intense, precious, and fruitful, than before.

2. It provides much powerful support. Our deepest spiritual experiences cannot be told; many others should not be. In some things God would have us for himself. But there is much also of the spiritual life whose utterance to a fellow-creature is a distinct need of the soul; as our Lord himself, in taking the favored three apart with him at some of the crises of his history—the Transfiguration, for instance, and Gethsemane—seemed to express the need of human sympathy, although in its highest degree he had the Divine. God, moreover, has given us our fellows to be a helpmeet to us, as well as himself, and we are only complete with both. It would lighten the spiritual burden and brighten the spiritual journey for husband and wife to commune together of the way they go.

3. It gives the most blessed of all anticipations. "Till death us do part" is only true of those whose union is not in the Lord. Absence for the day's work, or across broad seas, does not part husband and wife; they are still one, still one another's. To more does death rend in twain Christian spirits; the oneness remains, and there will be a meeting again soon; and that meeting will be heaven. If supreme love to God, which is required of us on earth, be consistent with profound and tender love to a fellow-creature, which is also required, they will be mutually consistent in the higher world. Yea, then God will be more to us, being shared with the other at our side, and the benediction of his presence will impart an added rapture because it is given to us both. Of those who are gone before it is said, "They without us are not yet made perfect." "So"—i.e. "together "—"we shall ever be with the Lord." That is our prospect. Then let us by a mutual piety anticipate heaven now.

II. THIS BLESSEDNESS DEMANDS MUTUAL PRAYER FOR ITS ENJOYMENT. In "that your prayers be not hindered," is not the apostle thinking of mutual prayer? If mutual prayer be wanting, is not the blessedness of mutual piety also wanting as the result? Tertullian wrote, "What a union is that which exists between two believers, who have in common the same hope, the same desire, the same service! Like brother and sister, united both in spirit and in flesh, they kneel together, they pray and fast together, they teach and support each other with gentleness, they share one another's trials, and conceal nothing from each other, and they rival each other in singing with their heart to God. Christ is pleased to see and hear these things. He sends down his peace upon them. Where two are thus met he is with them, and where he is the evil one cannot come." That is, perhaps, Peter's thought here.

1. Mutual prayer is the first and most natural form of spiritual intercourse. If we cannot break through our reserve so far as to pray together, it is unlikely that we have any communion on spiritual topics. It would seem the first instinct of a Christian man to ask her he loves best to kneel with him at the throne of grace. Probably this prayer is the door to spiritual intercourse, the removal of the barriers of timidity through which we must pass to the enjoyment of a mutual piety.

2. The utterance before God of a common experience tends to conscious spiritual oneness. We never know how much we are one with other saints till we join with them in prayer; then we find ourselves sorrowing, rejoicing, hoping, loving, fearing, trusting alike, and are thereby drawn closer together still. That principle operates even more certainly in the mutual prayer of husband and wife.

3. The fact of mutual prayer tends to mutual spiritual fidelity. Would not mutual prayer go far to be a remedy for the difficulty which it is to be of spiritual use to those nearest to us? The parent who prays with his household, the husband with his wife, will find it specially hard to sin against or with them. As the spirit of prayer prevails, the spirit of unkindness, indifference, evil example, etc., will lessen. "That your prayers be not hindered" is thus the warning to those who would be "heirs together of the grace of life."

III. THIS PRAYER REQUIRES THE FULFILLMENT OF MUTUAL DUTIES FOR ITS SUCCESS. If prayer helps duty, so duty helps prayer. Is not the fact that some Christians in the same home seldom pray together, due to the fact of an inconsistent life—the life of a kind which makes the proposal to pray impossible? That seems to be the idea here: "Ye husbands, dwell with them,… giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers," etc.

1. The consideration of what we owe to one another will prevent the neglect of mutual prayer. "Honor" is due to the wife on the physical ground—she is "weaker," which brings corresponding duties to the stronger; and on the spiritual ground—she is partaker of the same immortal nature, with its great conflicts and high responsibilities, equally an heir of Divine grace, which brings corresponding duties to the fellow-heir. The consideration of that should lead to united prayer.

2. The fulfillment of what we owe will afford the right spirit for prayer. As long as the wife is defrauded of what she has a right to, mutual prayer, if not impossible, will be robbed of its sweetness and power. Unkindness and bitterness kilt prayer. Mutual prayer can only flourish in the atmosphere of mutual love - C.N.

1 Peter 3:8 - The conduct that becomes the Christian towards other Christians.

"Finally, be ye all like-minded, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." Only a colon separates this passage from what follows: ought it not, therefore, to be taken with the subsequent verses? I think not. Peter is evidently thinking here of the mutual relation of believers; whilst in the next verse he passes to the thought of how Christians should treat their persecutors: "Not rendering railing for railing," etc. Then why should there only be a colon between the two? Because the two are so closely connected. It is in fellowship with our brethren that we find much of the inspiration we need for facing and conquering persecution from without.

I. BROTHERLY LOVE THE IDEAL OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Is it possible for a Christian to have no practical relationship with the Church? I do not say that it is not possible, but such a position is very unlikely. A Christian is he who is born into the family of God, and a certain close relationship to the Father's other children is, in the nature of the case, almost inevitable.

1. By brotherly love we come nearest to the spirit of the Father. The feelings which are classed under the term "love" vary considerably. Love may be due to admiration for the personal qualities of another, to a common interest in Church matters, to a sense of obligation, the fruit of gratitude; but there is nothing essentially Christian in all that. Brotherly love is to love another because he is our brother, and for no other reason; not because there is anything lovely in him, but just because we have a common father. Brotherly love towards God's children—that is Divine; that is to be of one spirit with the Father; that is to feel in measure as he does.

2. By brotherly love we come nearest to the example of Christ. The Church is to be a perpetual representation of Jesus—what he was and is. By his gracious Spirit he is embodied in his people; and they most truly approach his likeness who love those who are his. He loves the world; he died to save it; but he has a love of fellowship for those who come to him out of the world that he can have for no others, his love, his joy, his work, his life, his glory, all theirs; reaching the climax in the prayer, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.'

3. By brotherly love we come nearest to the fulfillment of our mission as a Church. The Church has a mission to itself as well as to the world. Christians are banded together in fellowship for mutual help; they are united that they may build up one another; and this building up is to be done by love. What will not love do for the brethren? It will encourage the timid, help the weak, uphold the infirm, seek the wandering, give the vigor of joy to those who are strong, will stoop even to wash the disciples' feet. The Church, fulfilling her mission to herself in love, thereby begins her mission to the world.


1. Divergence of aim. "Be ye all like-minded." That does not mean unanimity of sentiment and action in all matters; for that is manifestly impossible. Variety of thought and feeling and action there must obviously be; but there is, of course, a limit to this variety. The Church cannot fulfill her calling as the "pillar and ground of the truth" unless there be a consent of opinion as to what that truth in its essential features is. We have different work, different positions in the Church, and sometimes different views as to the best things to do; but if Christian love is to be maintained, as the different colors into which the prism diverges the light—red, and purple, and orange, and the rest—all blend and are lost in the pure white ray they form, so we must learn the secret of blending our differences in a holy unanimity. Perhaps nothing is harder than to sink, and that gracefully, so that no one knows we are doing it, our personal feeling into the common feeling of the rest. How can all be like-minded? In the Revised Version the word "courteous" drops out, and in its place we have "humble-minded." That is it; heart-culture, personal discipline, stern struggle, are needed if we are to be like-minded, laying a strong hand on self, and keeping it under when it wants to rise.

2. Exclusiveness of feeling. "Compassionate" (the Greek word is συμπαθεῖς, our word, "sympathy," fellow-feeling). Our Churches are not always conspicuous for that. They are often broken up into little sets, little bands of friends complete in themselves; then farewell to the reign of Christian love, with its benediction, and in its place expect hard thoughts, bitter feelings, wounded spirits, lonely lives, and the curse that means. But how can we get this compassion? The apostle adds, "tenderhearted" (as the same Greek word is rendered in Ephesians 4:32), and in that he may be showing us how to secure the like-heartedness. It comes from keeping the heart tender. We must live much with Christ; a tender heart will come from that, and a like tenderness with his people.

III. WE HAVE HERE THE INFLUENCE OF OUR ATTAINMENT OF THIS IDEAL (OF BROTHERLY LOVE) ON THE WORLD. The Church has a mission to those who are without; but that will not be fulfilled till her mission to herself is fulfilled. A Church building up herself in love will be the Church which compels the Gentiles to "glorify God in the day of visitation."

1. The Spirit works where love is. Absence of love is to him an ungenial atmosphere; it grieves him and tempts him to depart, or to withhold his gracious influences.

2. The beauty of piety reveals itself where love is. Love which is independent of the restraints of natural affection, and loves men not because they are good, but because God loves them; love which is disinterested and strong to sustain and protect, and tender to make common cause with those who need it, and which sheds a holy grace over the life;—that love will at least constrain the world to acknowledge its Divinity, and we may expect to hear more frequently that welcome utterance, "I will go with you, for I perceive that God is with you." And God himself will triumph over such, in the ancient words, "I drew them with cords of love."—C. N.

1 Peter 3:9-17 - The conduct becoming the Christian towards his persecutors.

Peter's Epistles were written on the very eve of the persecution by Nero, who, anxious to divert the suspicions of the people who accused him of setting fire to Rome, charged the Christians with the crime, and caused them to be seized and tortured and slain. Some were crucified; some were clothed in the skins of wild beasts, that they might be torn by the dogs; some, having been rubbed over with pitch, were made to serve as torches to light up the imperial gardens,—this gratified at once sovereign and people. It is true that this severity was confined to the neighborhood of Rome, but Rome was the center of life to her provinces; the pulsations of the heart thrilled to the most distant parts of the empire. The words of our text have a new meaning as they rise before us on this dark background. Some may ask—What is the bearing of this on us? The answer is, that when Paul said, "They that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution," he uttered what would be a fact to the end of the age. The fire, the rack, the headsman's axe, are gone; but in their place there are words that burn, looks that go like poisoned shafts to the soul, and treatment that stings like a scourge. As long as the truth which the Church is called to maintain and to live before a world that hates it is what it is, as long as our spiritual life needs trial for its cleansing and development, so long will Christ's people find how true it is that, because they are not of the world, but Christ hath chosen them out of the world, therefore the world hateth them. We can only glance at the bare outline of such a long passage as this. It contains three requirements, each of which has a benediction attached to it.

I. CALL TO BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE US. From the ninth verse to the twelfth: you can hardly read these words without feeling you are listening to one who heard the sermon on the mount, and is inspired with its spirit; and we cannot help noting the change they imply in Peter himself. But perhaps it was what he saw in his Lord, more than what he heard from him, to which the change was due; Christ's character carrying his words home with transfiguring force. We do not wonder that it was Peter who wrote, "Not rendering evil for evil," etc., and it is the word and example of the same gracious Lord that lays the same burden on us. And mark the blessing to ourselves that grows out of that. Never give place to evil in word, or act, or thought, let the provocation be what it may. Yea, not only so, return evil with good, recompense wrong with right, and your fidelity to Christ will make an open way through the skies, through which you shall see his smile and hear his "Well done!" and find for your prayers and spirit a clear path to his throne.

II. CALL TO BE FEARLESS ABOUT WHAT OUR PERSECUTORS CAN DO TO US. "And who is he that will harm you," etc.? Persecution need not harm us, brethren; it is only one of God's refining fires, that, when thus he has tried us, we may come forth as gold. And what is the remedy for this fear? Peter is thinking of a passage in Isaiah where Judah is called, instead of fearing idolatrous Syria and trusting in Sennacherib, to fear and trust in the Lord. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear." Now, with that Old Testament passage before us, the change which the Revisers have made here is very striking. Instead of" Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts," it is, "Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord." Peter, the Jew, who knew that perhaps the very highest title which could be ascribed to Jehovah was "the Lord of hosts," did not hesitate to give that title to Christ. Peter had known him in the humiliation of his human life; he had even washed Peter's feet, yet Peter uses his name and that of "the Lord of hosts" as convertible terms—speaks of these two as one. Peter, at least, had no doubt of the Deity of Jesus. And this attitude also has a blessing attached to it, "If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye."

III. CALL TO MAINTAIN A GOOD CONSCIENCE IN THOSE THINGS ABOUT WHICH OUR PERSECUTORS REPROACH US. "And be ready always to give an answer," etc. A good conscience, a good conduct, a good answer—I think that is the order here. A good conscience. Be sure that you are suffering for goodness and not for badness; be sure that you have an unclouded sky between you and God; be sure that, when your heart does not condemn you, you hear him saying, "Neither do I condemn thee." And out of that will come what Peter calls "your good conversation," i.e. conduct. For as the sunshine develops and perfects the hidden beauties of nature and the fruits of the earth, so does the light of God's favor resting upon the conscious soul draw forth into character the graces of the spiritual life. The clear conscience that catches Heaven's smile is always followed by a brave and beautiful piety, which is its own justification against those who speak evil of it. And see the blessing attached to that! There is a broad sense, no doubt, in which we might apply these words to the Christian hope generally, and the duty of being able to give an intelligent and saris-factory reason for its possession; but their meaning here seems to be more defined. The good conduct that issues from the good conscience and puts to shame the evil speakers, leads them to question us about the hope which they see hidden within us and sustaining us, and they come to envy it, and secretly to want to know what it is. Now, says Peter, "be ready to tell them; let them know that it is the grace of Christ which renews and sanctifies." One of the benedictions of persecution endured and triumphed over is that it may bring the very persecutors themselves to the feet of Jesus. Then, brethren, can we not endorse the truth in the verse which closes this long passage, "It is good, if the will of the Lord be so, that ye suffer for well-doing." It is good in its purifying efficacy on ourselves; it is good in its tendency to glorify God; it is good as a saving power on our fellow-men - C.N.

1 Peter 3:18-22 - The remembrance of atonement by our Lord, a help to persecuted Christians.

We omit for the present the clause in the nineteenth verse, and will consider that afterwards. "For Christ hath once suffered for sins," etc. The death of Christ is not only the purchase of our redemption, it is also the power by which we enter into what redemption means. Christ's cross is not only the secret of pardon, but also of holiness. Christ alone will not avail us; it must be Christ crucified, every step of the way, till what has been the inspiration of our spiritual life down here, of every duty, every conflict, every joy, every hope, will be the inspiration of our song up there: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." Let us see how Christ's sufferings bear on the conduct of his persecuted people.

I. THE SUBSTITUTIONARY SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST. "Christ hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."

1. A plain statement of the substitutionary character of our Lord's sacrifice. How does Christ save? By substitution. In that word is the explanation of our Lord's sacrifice and of his sufferings; they were endured by him as our Substitute, in our stead. They were undoubtedly the expression of his perfect consecration to the Father, the great proof of his obedience; they were also the great revelation of God's love and mercy to the sinful, of his yearning for the restoration of the lost; but they were this, without which they would have been in every other respect unavailing, they were the endurance in the stead of the sinner, of that which alone makes his righteous forgiveness possible. But it is said that Jesus was simply revealing what God was willing to bear for man's redemption, and that it is by this revelation of love he saves us. That is not what Scripture says. "God made him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him;" "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree [or, 'to the tree,' and left them there]." But, says another, "Christ saves by his holy example, leading us to holiness, and not by his cruel sufferings. So far from that, the apostles, in their teaching, gave weight to the death of Christ as the world's hope. "In him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins," "We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ;" "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." Others say that this was a mere Jewish mode of expression; the apostles were only meeting Jewish prejudice when they spoke thus. But we find they use the same words in writing to the Gentiles—to the Churches at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc. It is also said that there is an element of injustice in the idea of substitution. Is it not unjust to inflict the punishment incurred by one on another who is innocent? But that is not the case here. Jesus was God—this was God himself making the atonement necessary for our forgiveness by shedding his own blood.

2. The necessity for such a sacrifice is implied in its design. What was its design? "To bring to God," says the text. But there are two great obstacles to our coming back to God—one on his part, and one on ours. How can he receive us sinners? How can we dare to come? How can God receive us? "Cannot I," says a father, "forgive my child just because I will?" No, you cannot, if, like the great Father, you have been compelled to declare what the penalty of transgression must be. That is God's position. He can only forgive if he forgives righteously. How shall he do that? The substitution of Christ is the answer. Apart from that, how could we dare to go to him? Some say Christ saves by revealing God's love, by alluring us to follow his example of self-sacrifice. If that is all the gospel you have for me, I am condemned the more; for I am conscious of the unutterable distance between what Jesus was and what I am. I dare not go to God, and I must pass into the unseen hopeless. But when we follow the meaning of these words, "Christ hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," we can go hack to God then, and are welcomed for Christ's sake.


1. Quickened spiritual power. "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." It should read, "in the spirit," not "by the Spirit." There is no reference here to the work of God the Spirit, to whom elsewhere the resurrection of Christ is attributed; it is here simply a contrast between Christ's flesh and his spirit. His spirit did not die; it was raised by the death of the flesh into new energy, and he became able to do what before was impossible. He had often thought of this: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

2. Influence on spirits in prison. This subject we will leave for the present.

3. Ascension to heavenly authority. "Who is gone into heaven," etc. What see we now? "I looked, and behold in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain." Redemption enthroned. All things required to glorify redemption. Devils restrained by the Redeemer's will; angels his swill-winged messengers; providences, his servants; history, the unfolding of his purpose; the kingdoms of this world become his kingdom; and he ever living to secure this glorious consummation. But this had been impossible apart from the atonement; it was only through the cross that Jesus changed the throne of heaven from that of almightiness and mercy to that of redemption.


1. It sets forth Christ's claim on our suffering for him. There surely is nothing like a remembrance of his cross to constrain us to take up ours.

2. It reminds the persecuted of the spiritual quickening that may come through the suffering. For what was true of Jesus is to be as true of us: "Put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit." The storm which shakes us to the center sends our roots down deeper, mooring us the faster to the Rock of Ages. Suffering has a rare tendency to send us down to the foundation of things, a rare tendency to send us home to the Life of all, and closer contact with him means more life from him.

3. This points to the glorious end of the suffering of the saints. First the cross, then the crown. Jesus once suffered, then heaven and the right hand of God, and "angels and authorities and powers subject unto him."—C.N.

1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 3:21. - The crucified Savior quickened in spirit preaching to the spirits in prison.

We have already seen that through our Lord's sufferings he secured quickened spiritual power—influence over spirits in prison, and ascension to heavenly authority. This passage reveals him quickened in spirit, preaching to the "spirits in prison." Now, if that be the apostle's line of thought, the correct meaning of this passage, whatever it be, will fall in naturally with it. May I venture to show why I cannot accept either of two common explanations of these words? It is thought by some that after our Lord's death (possibly in the interval between his death and resurrection) his disembodied spirit passed into the unseen world, and preached the gospel to the disobedient dead. Now, if that be the proper meaning of the words, if they cannot mean anything else, we must accept it. That the words taken by themselves will bear that meaning cannot probably be denied: then why should we hesitate to adopt it? I might remind you that as far as those three days are concerned, we seem to be told that they were spent in Paradise with the Father and the redeemed. "This day," he said to the penitent thief, "thou shalt be with me in Paradise;" "Father," he said, "into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the spirit." Then, if this passage does mean that Christ preached to the dead, it only speaks of the dead in the days of Noah; it seems incredible that these comparative few should be singled out from the great mass of mankind for so great a blessing. I might remind you, too, that if these words mean that the impenitent dead have a second chance, they stand alone in Scripture, at least as far as I am aware. But weightier than all is the fact that the plain teaching of this book is to the contrary. I know the tenacity with which we cling to the hope that those who have never heard the gospel shall yet hear it, if not here, hereafter; and that many have cherished this hope, partly on the strength of these words. My hope of that is not less because I do not see it encouraged here. I know God well enough, and I know this book well enough, to know that no man will be condemned because of Adam's sin; through Christ every man stands on a fair footing; the condemning sin is rejection. Then the Savior must be presented to each hereafter, if not here. I cling to the hope that the preaching of the Savior on the other side of the grave will bring multitudes to heaven who died without a gospel. But for you who have the gospel now, this is your day of grace; with you, salvation is now or never. It has been supposed that these words refer to Christ, by his Spirit, preaching in the days of Noah to men who were then on earth, but who, when the apostle wrote, were in the unseen world—"spirits in prison." But there are two fatal objections to this meaning—one is, that there is nothing here about God the Spirit, as I have already shown; and the other is that such a meaning is foreign to the drift of thought in the chapter. It is not easy to see what room there is in that for the interjection of a reference to the Spirit of God striving with men nearly three thousand years before; it seems altogether irrelevant to the apostle's argument—that alone condemns it.

I. WHAT, THEN, IS THE MEANING OF THE PASSAGE? There is no necessity to refer the words, "spirits in prison," to those who have passed into the unseen world; for in Scripture the ungodly are constantly spoken of as in a state of imprisonment, bondage, captivity. "Spirits in prison" may then be said to be a frequent designation of the unredeemed on earth; indeed, the very word "redemption" carries this idea. Some may object that the context seems to imply that the spirits referred to are the spirits of the dead. Not necessarily so. If we refer the expression not to certain individuals, but to the whole lost race, the difficulty vanishes. Christ did not preach to the same persons that were disobedient before the Flood, but to the same race, the same spiritual condition. But did Christ thus preach? Certainly, through his servants. It has been said that the more correct title of the Acts of the Apostles would be the Acts of the Risen Lord. But why this reference to the days of Noah? If you look through Peter's Epistles you will see that he seems to have regarded the Flood as a dividing-line between two worlds, which afford points of contrast. We have this contrast here. The power of God over "spirits in prison" was straitened formerly,—after all the years through which his long-suffering waited, only "few, that is eight souls, were saved;" but since Christ suffered for sins, this is the record," The same day there were added to the Church about three thousand souls;" and the record ends with the great multitude which no man can number, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb.

II. THE DESIGNATION OF THOSE TO WHOM CHRIST PREACHED, "SPIRITS IN PRISON." "Spirits:" what are they? Ah! who can tell? Immortal natures, whose greatness is not hinted at in the frail tabernacle in which they dwell. Spirits never destined to find their home in the dust, or their joys on earth, but to rise in the free vast world of spirits to the Father of spirits, wearing his likeness, fulfilling his will, sharing his glory, standing before his throne. Think of these in prison, bound by the fetters of sin, groping in darkness, in the narrow chamber of an ever-narrowing life—bound, with Satan for the gaoler. The power with which the crucified Christ preached to these. The power over men and on men's behalf which our Lord possesses, he acquired through his cross; only if he were "lifted up" would he be able to draw all men unto him.

III. THE FREEDOM IN THE CLEANSING OF THE CONSCIENCE WHICH RESULTED FROM HIS PREACHING. The twenty-first verse is very complicated; the mixture of metaphor, too, is not in accord with modern ideas, but it is frequent in Scripture. Here there are two incongruous figures blended, but the idea is this: Peter had said that Noah was saved by water, and he adds as it were, "And by the way it is water that saves you, that which is typified in the water of baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience towards God, through the resurrection of Christ. Sin is the great bond that holds Satan's captives fast—sin in the conscience; there is no freedom for the soul till that is removed. Salvation, i.e. freedom, comes through cleansing (water); cleansing comes through a crucified Savior; "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin." Brethren, therein lies Christ's delivering power - C.N.


1 Peter 3:8-12 - Unity between Christian people.

Peter had, so this passage suggests, well learnt the lesson about forgiveness to which he had listened as he heard the sermon on the mount, and he had equally well drunk in the spirit of the great intercessory prayer he had heard in the upper room, "That ye all may be one." For he is here gathering up all his teaching about social life in the strong words now before us: "Finally," etc. He is enjoining, in simple detail and with a sublime motive, unity between Christian people.

I. WHEREIN DOES UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIAN PEOPLE CONSIST? St. Peter, as Leighton suggests, here denotes five graces, of which "love" is the stalk, having two on either side. "Like-minded;" not simply what our word "mind" usually means—thought, opinion; but judgment, purpose, affection. "Compassionate," or sympathetic; i.e. feeling with others. "Loving as brethren." True family life is a model of Church life. "Tender-hearted;" insensitiveness disqualifies for Christian life. "Humble-minded;" the old version has "courtesy; ' this is the genius or secret of courtesy. The lowly temperament makes little of itself and much of others: its possessor, and he alone, is the gentleman.

II. HOW IS UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MANIFESTED? The tone of social relationship hero enjoined is pitched in a far higher key than the prevalent one, "retaliate," etc.; it is in harmony with the sermon on the mount. "Not rendering evil for evil, nor reviling for reviling." The first excluding all the actions, the second all the words, of resentment. "But contrariwise blessing." This is a distinct reminiscence of the sermon on the mount.

"The sandal tree perfumes, when riven,
The axe that laid it low.
Let him that hopes to be forgiven,
Forgive and bless his foe."


1. There is first of all a direction as to the detail of speech. "Refrain," etc.

2. There is then a wide and deep precept applying to the whole of life. "Turn away from evil, and do good." The negative and the positive are here.


1. The Christian man is called to inherit blessing.

2. The cultivation of the essential spirit of Christian unity ensures the summum bonum of individual life. "Love life; see good days."

3. The relationship of God is the great determining condition and motive in all that leads to this Christian unity. "The eyes of the Lord… face," etc - U.R.T.

1 Peter 3:13-18 - Suffering for righteousness.

I. THE FACT THAT GOOD MEN SUFFER, FOR THEIR GOODNESS, FROM THEIR FELLOW-MEN. Though Peter used the word "if," it was not because such suffering was unlikely or infrequent, but because it was not universal, and because the reflections on which he had been dwelling seemed calculated to make such suffering impossible.

1. For it might seem as though the promised guardianship of God would have ensured the security of good men. But no.

2. Or it might have seemed that an upright benevolent life would have evoked nothing but kindness and gratitude from one's fellow-men. But no. "Who is he that will harm you?" read in the lurid light of persecution, cannot mean, "Who is he that will have the Will to harm you?" However mysterious it may be, it is an unquestioned and unquestionable fact that men suffer for righteousness' sake. It was so from Daniel to Peter, from Moses to Paul. "If you would follow the Church's history," it has been too truly said, "it is by the track of her blood."

II. THE INSPIRED DIRECTION FOR MEN IN SUCH WRONGFUL SUFFERING. "Fear not their fear;" that is, the fear their threats seek to awaken. "Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord;" give him the shrine of worship. "Ready always to give a reason." Be, in Newman's sense, ready with an "apologia." "Having a good conscience;" that is, one keenly alive and free from reproach. "That they may put to shame them that revile." Wear the silver shield of innocent lives, so be "defenders of the faith."

III. THE LOFTY PRIVILEGE OF THOSE WHO SUFFER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE. "Blessed are ye." Here, again, as often in this Epistle, is an echo of the sermon on the mount. All the Beatitudes pledge you blessing. "Better, if the will of God should so will, suffer for well-doing," etc. God wills suffering. God wills suffering for well-doing. But there is no element of reproach in that, not to say of remorse. Suffering is of service, and it is "better" the suffering (which all need) should not come from our sin. "For Christ also suffered for sins, the Righteous for the unrighteous." Fellowship with him is ensured.

IV. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF MEN WHO SUFFER IN THIS SPIRIT BEING REALLY INJURED. "And who is he that can harm you?" Canon Mason says this form of inquiry, beginning "and," has always in it a ring of scornful assurance. Here is the "charm" for Christians to wear—" a good conscience." Then to all wrongful treatment of malign men you can say,

"Strike! you cannot harm.
Strike! you may embarrass my circumstances, undermine my health,
maim my limbs, rob me of reputation, take away my life;
but strike! you cannot harm me.
Such a man
Can the darkening universe defy
To quench his immortality,
Or shake his faith in God."


1 Peter 3:18-20 - The mission of our Savior.

I. The CHARACTER Of the mission of the Savior.

1. His mission was one of suffering. He "suffered." Christianity is not the worship of sorrow, according to the cavil of some; but it is the worship of One who had much to do with sorrow, touched it at its every pore.

2. His mission was one of innocent suffering. Many suffer wrongfully, he absolutely innocently. "The Righteous."

3. His mission was one of vicarious suffering, "for," i.e. on account of, the unrighteous.

4. His mission was one unconquered by suffering. "Being put to death in the flesh, he was quickened in the spirit."

II. The PURPOSE of the mission of the Savior. "That he might bring us to God." Implying:

1. We are away from God. Not

(1) locally, but in

(2) estrangement of heart. That is the "far country."

2. We can be restored to God. The great gulf is not fixed. The golden wind of the gospel is "reconciliation."

3. God himself brings us back by Christ. No mutual quarrel; God always pitiful. "Long suffering," etc. Guthrie well says, "The central truth of the Bible is not that God loves us because Christ died, but that Christ died because God loves."

III. THE EXTENT OF THE INFLUENCE of the Savior's mission. The literature of 1 Peter 3:19 is a library. But apart from any confusion created by that literature, is it not clearly taught?—

1. That Christ had a mission to disembodied spirits after his death. Killed in the flesh, in the spirit he triumphed, and in the spirit went on that wider, deeper mission.

2. His mission to disembodied spirits was in harmony with that of all his life. He "preached." Some read it, "He sealed with the curse of damnation." Is it not rather, as everywhere, "proclaimed repentance, pardon," "heralded love and mercy and hope"?

3. This mission was to disembodied spirits in a state or place of misery. "Prison." Some change the word to "Paradise." Dare we do that? It is rather the abode of the guilty, the disobedient, of whom the apostle gives a dark specimen (1 Peter 3:20). Dean Alford says, "This throws a blessed light on one of the darkest enigmas of Divine justice." Yet mark, there is no light view of sin here. It is awful for spirits to be in prison, and in prison for twenty-four centuries - U.R.T.


1 Peter 3:1-7 - Subjection of wives to their husbands, with subjoined injunction to husbands.


1. Duty stated. "In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands." The space which is here given to wives, especially in comparison with what is given to husbands, points to the great influence of women in the early Christian Church. The injunction to wives comes under the being subject to every ordinance of man (1 Peter 2:13). Christianity was to be advanced by the subjection of Christians to magistrates placed over them. It was also to be advanced by the subjection of Christian slaves (who were comparatively numerous) to their masters. In like manner it was to be advanced by the subjection of Christian wives (who were comparatively numerous) to their husbands. The duty of subjection is here stated without limitation (which is only introduced in the following verse). It is, however, to be borne in mind that all the subjection enjoined is for the Lord's sake (1 Peter 2:13), so that we have virtually here Paul's injunction in Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." The subjection of wives is founded on an appointed superiority of husbands to their wives. It is not that wives belong to their husbands; for husbands also belong to their wives (Ephesians 5:28). There is a very great amount of equality between wives and their husbands; there is the closest of companionships in married life. But in the interest of order in family life, rule must be placed somewhere; and so it has been placed by God in the hands of those whose duty it is to provide for the maintenance and comfort of their wives. Where, then, there is a difference of judgment in connection with the joint management of a household (which ought not very often to occur), it is the duty of the wife to subject her will to the will of her husband.

2. Wives in a special situation. "That, even if any obey not the Word, they may without the Word be gained by the behavior of their wives." Subjection is due in every case, even in so unfavorable a case as that which is now to be dealt with. This was the not infrequent case (all the more, therefore, calling for apostolic legislation) of Christian wives having heathen husbands. We are not to understand that it was open for Christian women to take heathen husbands; but after marriage it might happen (more than the converse) that the wives were converted to Christianity, while their husbands remained in heathenism. The principle of the apostolic legislation is that, even in an unfavorable position, subjection is due. It is implied that wives, when converted, would seek to gain their husbands by the Word. That would be the prompting both of natural affection and of Christian compassion. They could not keep Christ and their new-found joys to themselves. They must tell, in the first place, those in whom they had the deepest interest the gospel of Christ, viz. that as manifesting the Father's love, and impelled by love himself, the Son of God did not eschew human nature, but in it lived a perfect human life and died a death of atonement for sin, to [,ring men out of their sins to a glorious life with himself which is never to know an end. This had been a source of unparalleled joy to them; and they told their husbands about Christ, because they wished them to be sharers with themselves in their joy. The result might be the gaining of their husbands, i.e. first to Christ and the advancement of his kingdom, and then to themselves (to their deep and lasting satisfaction). It is one of Leighton's rich sayings, "A soul converted is gained to itself, gained to the pastor, or friend, or wife, or husband who sought it, and gained to Jesus Christ; added to his treasury [and, we may add, to his instrumentality], who thought not his own precious blood too dear to lay out for this gain." But the word of the gospel is not always obeyed. What if, with the telling and retelling of the Word (blessed and authoritative as it is), husbands do not obey the Word? What if the continued telling of the Word is only to be the occasion of domestic dispeace? Does the duty of subjection then cease? No; the duty of telling the Word then ceases, but not the duty of subjection. Another method is to be tried by them, which may result in the gaining of their husbands. This is behavior without the Word; i.e. acting the gospel, or the silent influence of the life, especially the earnest endeavor to show what gospel subjection is. The hope is held out that this method may succeed where the other fails. If, then, a wife finds herself yoked to a husband who is not converted (whether she has been to blame for her position or not), her duty is with all earnestness to press the Word on him, but not to force it to no purpose but only to produce dispeace; her duty is to cease mentioning the disagreeable subject, and to try the method of the utmost excellence of Christian behavior without the Word. The trial may be prolonged; but length will be forgotten if the Divine answer comes at last in the conversion of the husband.

3. Rules of behavior.

(1) Rule of purity. "Beholding your chaste behavior coupled with fear." The feeling from which good wifely behavior proceeds is fear. Wives are to have fear in the sense of reverence towards their husbands as placed over them in the Lord. They are also to have fear in the sense of shrinking from the not doing of all that is required in the relation. This limits the subjection in forbidding bad compliance, i.e. doing a wrong thing because the husband requires it. If a wife were required to give up her religion, it would be her duty not to obey out of regard to him to whom her husband is subject, and apart from whom he has no authority. But if wives feel that they are thus limited, they will be all the more anxious within the lawful sphere to do their duty. The quality of behavior here fixed upon is chastity, which is to be understood in a certain wide sense. It is a word which is appropriate to wifely behavior. Women are especially endowed with feelings of modesty. In the married relation, while they bestow all love and attention on their husbands, there will be nothing in word, in look, in dress, in act, inconsistent with what modesty requires. "Shamefacedness" is the word used by Paul. To this, then, Christian wives are directed in dealing with their heathen husbands after the Word has been ineffectual. Let their husbands behold, see with their own eyes from day to day, their modest behavior, springing out of the feeling which belongs to subjection; and when the Word-method has failed, this (especially when contrasted with the behavior of heathen wives) may succeed.

(2) Rule of a meek and quiet Spirit. "Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." The rule is expressed positively in figurative language. The negative may seem to be too literal. What has religion to do with the style of putting up the hair, or with what is put on the person? It is a fallacy to suppose that there is any sphere from which religion is excluded. At the same time, religion does not do violence to any natural feeling. It is implied here that it is natural for women to love to adorn themselves. A wife who has not some regard for ornament in her house or person, who is plainness, if not a slattern, who has not a flower to delight the eye, is not likely to have much influence with her husband even for Christianity. We must, therefore, understand the apostle as forbidding the things mentioned without proper subordination, or as ministering to womanly vanity. Especially are we to think of them as forbidden in this aspect, that as immodest, or as encroaching on time, or as heaping up expense, they form a temptation to a wife to be undutiful to her husband. If she would gain him for what is good, she must, without disregard of the lower ornamentation, show proper regard to the higher ornamentation. Let her adorning be not a conspicuous style of the hair, or conspicuous jewels, or conspicuous apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart—not that alone apart from moral characterization, but, while it has its seat in the heart, and is not attractive to the outward eye, let it be in and with the incorruptible. Plaited hair, jewels of gold, apparel, are subordinate as belonging to the category of the corruptible. The incorruptible in adorning that is singled out is a meek and quiet spirit. The first word points to not being easily provoked; the second word points to being in love with a quiet life. A Christian wife might have much to bear from her unenlightened husband, from his imperious temper, from his bad behavior, from his neglect; she might have to bear from him on account of her religion; he might resent her choosing her own religion and (by implication) condemning his; but let her be meek under his wronging of her, and let her say or do nothing to cause dispeace. This in the sight of men may be a very poor ornament; she may seem to be regarding herself as no better than his slave. But God is also looking on the spirit which she is manifesting, and in his sight (which is its highest recommendation) it is of great price. The way God takes to overcome evil in us is, under our provocations, to heap goodness on us. If a Christian wife would conquer her unbelieving husband for Christ, she must in this imitate the Divine procedure.

4. Models of behaviour.

(1) The holy women of old time. "For after this manner aforetime the holy women also, who hoped in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands." In heathen mythology, Penelope, Andromache, Alccstis, are regarded as models of wifely excellence. But Peter, saturated with Old Testament ideas, does not fall back on Greek aforetime, but only on Old Testament aforetime. He sets up as models to those whom he is addressing the holy women, i.e. those who were in covenant with God, and whose conduct was conditioned by the holiness of God. This implied their being believers, and as believers they are further described as those who bolted in God, i.e. raised their expectation from what they believed God to be, and from what they believed God to promise. They looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and to a future beyond death to be made glorious through his mission to earth. We have not much information as to the facts upon which Peter proceeds; but he plainly certifies it of the holy women as a class, that they adorned themselves after this manner, i.e. with a meek and quiet spirit. They were kept from thinking about mere outward ornamentation, because they looked for something substantial from God. They did this as what was proper to them as subjected to their husbands. Instead of being self-assertive, they were compliant, under the impelling and also restraining of fear. The rule for the holy women of the New Testament time extending down to our day is not different from what was the rule for the holy women of the Old Testament time, resting as it does on a Divine appointment in the earthly constitution. To the models set up by Peter we must add Christian models—women who, saturated with gospel ideas, have been adorned with that which in the sight of God is of great price.

(2) Sarah. "As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose children ye now are, if ye do well, and are not put in fear by any terror." The words founded on are to be found in Genesis 18:12. Sarah's calling Abraham her lord was not confined to the one occasion; it was characteristic of her, showed the habit of her mind toward her husband, and on that ground it is entitled to the weight which is here attached to it. The occasion was also closely connected with the history of redemption, bearing on the birth of Isaac. The apostle could not have found a better model; for Sarah was specially significant, even as Abraham was. If the one was father "of all them that believe though they be not circumcised," the other was mother. What constitutes daughterhood is here not faith, but the evidencing of faith. It is, on the one hand, doing well. Sarah did well in obeying Abraham, and also remarkably in that through faith "she received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised." It is, on the other hand, not doing evil, or, as it is here put in the way of consequence, not being nut in fear by any terror. This was what was to be avoided in Sarah as a model. On the occasion referred to she was made afraid by her evil-doing (laughing at the first mention of a child), and by her fear was led into more sin (in denying that she laughed), thus bringing shame not only on herself, but on her husband. Holy women will not thus compromise their husbands, but, mindful of what is due to them, will concur with them, where the blessing promised to faith is to be obtained.


1. Duty. "Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life." Having dwelt at length (in the interest of Christianity) on the subjection of wives, he feels it necessary to subjoin an injunction to husbands, which he did not feel it to be necessary in the case of magistrates and of masters (few of those being connected with the Christian Church). It is not said that husbands are in like manner to be subject; the likeness can only, therefore, refer to what lies over against the subjection. As subject, the woman is weak—the weaker vessel, not so strong as the man. In this lies a danger to the woman—the danger of being trampled upon. Hence the need of husbands being enlightened in their treatment of their wives. "Dwell with according to knowledge as with the weaker vessel the womanly," is the literal translation and the proper connection. Weakness in the woman calls for knowledge in the man. He is to love, says the Apostle Paul; and the idea is similar here. He is to act according to knowledge, i.e. of the Divine intention or order. He is to put his strength at the service of love, with his strength shielding her weakness and (generally) promoting her good. It is under this enlightenedness that honor comes. Honor is to be paid by husbands to their wives (both being regarded as Christians) on the ground that they are also joint-heirs of the grace of life. They are even, as we would seem to be taught here, to be honored on the ground of nature. "God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked." But they are also to be honored as heirs together of the grace of life, i.e. as honored participators (for inheriting here points to honor) with their husbands in the grace that is needed for life or that makes life a blessing, both here and hereafter. It is only in the earthly sphere of things (which is also temporary)that there is not perfect equality; in the heavenly sphere there is no difference. Women stand in the same relation to God, have the same unction on their life, look forward to the same eternal home as their husbands, and by this consideration the honor otherwise due to them and to be apportioned to them must be regarded as greatly heightened.

2. Motive. "To the end that your prayers he not hindered." The duty enjoined must be attended to by husbands, that the prayers offered by them with their wives, and as heads of the household, be not hindered. There is a pointing to this that "the prayers of families are as often defeated by the want of any such concert in the aims, plans, tempers, works, and aspirations of the house, as are necessary to a common suit before God. The prayers should agree with as many other prayers and as many other circles of causes as possible; for God is working always towards the largest harmony, and will not favor, therefore, the prayer of words when everything else in the life is demanding something else, but will rather have respect to what has the widest reach of things and persons making suit with it. At this latter point it is that prayers most commonly fail, viz. that they are solitary and contrary, having nothing put in agreement with them; as if some one person should be praying for fair weather, when everybody else wants rain, and the gaping earth and thirsty animals and withering trees are all asking for it together. What is prayed for in the house by the father is—how commonly!—not prayed for by the mother in her family tastes and tempers, and is even prayed against, in fact, by all the instigations of appearance and pride and show which are raised by her motherly studies and cares. The father prays in the morning that his children may grow up in the Lord, and calls it even the principal good of their life that they are to be Christians, living to God and for the world to come. Then he goes out into the field, or the shop, or the house of trade, and his plans and works pull exactly contrary to the pull of his prayers and all his teaching in religion. What is wanted, therefore, is to put all the causes, all the prayers, into a common strain of endeavor, reaching after a common good in God and his friendship" (Bushnell) - R. F.

1 Peter 3:8-22 - Injunctions to all.

I. UNION AMONG THEMSELVES. "Finally, be ye all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tender-hearted, humble-minded." "Finally" does not point to the close of the Epistle, but to the close of a particular series of injunctions. He has been addressing various classes represented in the Churches; he might have included others, but he will simply address all. He has it principally in his mind to address them on their attitude toward a hostile world; he is preparing the way in exhorting them to union among themselves. Let them all be like-minded, i.e. have the same exalted opinion of Christ and the same views as to the methods of advancing his cause. Let them also be affected along with it (as the literal translation is), i.e. have the same feelings—the same sympathy with truth and antipathy to error, the same feeling of gladness when the cause is triumphing, and the same feeling of depression when it receives a temporary check, yet of hope of its ultimate triumph. Let them also love the brethren, i.e. be drawn to them who have the same views and the same feelings. Let them also be tender-hearted, i.e. considerate of their brethren in distress. Kindness such as was exhibited by the Gentile Christians to the poor saints in Judaea has great influence in promoting unity. Let them be humble-minded, i.e. willing to sink, not the truth, but self; for there is nothing more destructive of unity than self-assertion. It is with a feeling of regret that we have to part with the precept, "Be courteous," as being a distinct recognition of what are called by-works, or accessory virtues. "They are valid only as small coin, and yet conduce to strengthen man's virtuous sentiments, were it even merely by awakening the endeavor to bring this outward form as near as possible to a reality, in rendering us accessible, conversible, polite, hospitable, and engaging in our daily intercourse; which things do promote the cause of virtue by making it beloved" (Kant).


1. To bless because called to obtain a blessing.

(1) To bless. "Not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but contrariwise blessing." There is a law of non-retaliation under which we are placed as laid down by the Master. The magistrate is warranted in proceeding on the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (administering punishment and administering it in proportion to the offense); and we may be warranted, as Paul was, in taking advantage of the law to shield us from wrong (where more good is not to be gained by waiving our rights). It does not belong to us to say authoritatively what justice demands; and certainly in any action we take or word we utter we are not simply to gratify vengeful feeling. When men emit their malice on us in evil or railing, we are not to reciprocate their feeling in rendering evil for evil or railing for railing; but, as standing on higher ground, and owning another Master (Luke 6:27-29), we are to bless them, i.e. both in act and in word to study their good.

(2) Because called to obtain a blessing. "For hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing." We may well study the good of those who injure us, when we think of the large blessing which on our conversion we were called to inherit. God did not then take justice out of us, deal with us according to our deserts, but acted in the most liberal, kingly manner; and should not we deal nobly with others?

2. Citation from the thirty-fourth psalm.

(1) How the blessing is viewed. "For, He that would love life, and see good days." This confirmatory citation (introduced without a formula) extends over three verses. The Septuagint rendering here is, "What man is he that desireth life, that loveth to see good days?" It is implied that it requires an effort to love life, i.e. to have it wisely loved. It requires an effort to see good days, i.e. days in which the blessing of God is enjoyed. The psalmist had probably in his mind length as one element; so "many" is introduced into the Old Testament translation. But it is to be remembered that days, however long or outwardly prosperous, are not good days without the Divine blessing.

(2) Conduct by which the blessing is conditioned.

(a) Righteousness in speech. "Let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile." When tempted to use bitter or calumnious words, or to use honeyed words for evil ends, let him put a stop to it—holding back his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. For evil feelings indulged in speech, or deceit in speech found out, may rob him of much of the pleasure of life, if not of life itself.

(b) Righteousness in act. "And let him turn away from evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it." When tempted to follow mischief which he has devised, or to declare a state of war, let him turn away his feet from the mischief and contrive well doing, let him make peace his object sought, and let his chase after it (as it were fleeing from him) be keen. For evil feelings indulged in act, peace once broken, may lead to the embittering or shortening of life.

(3) Reference to the Divine dealing. "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication: but the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil." The anthropomorphism is marked—the eyes, ears, face, of the Lord. God is no respecter of persons; but he is favorable to the righteous, i.e. the right-speaking and right acting. His sympathies are with them; his providence is in league with them. His eyes are upon them, i.e. to note their condition, to delight in their struggles after conformity to his will, and to send them tokens of his favor. His ears are unto their supplication, i.e. to mark it, to answer it, especially when it rises out of experience of wrong. On the other hand, God is unfavorable to them that do evil things, i.e. make a practice of it, refusing Divine mercy and paying no heed to Divine threatenings. There is not much expressed here; it is only the disjunctive word that suggests the face of God as not full of pleasure, but full of displeasure, upon them that do evil. "With the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." It is well that there should be a deep and widespread impression of the truth that God is contrary to them that are contrary to his laws, and forbids them in their contrariety to have what he promises to the righteous—life and good days.

3. Application of the citation. "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?" The Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 50:9 is, "Behold the Lord, the Lord will help me; who is he that will harm me?" There is a way in which we can be proof against harm, i.e. any real injury to our happiness. It is by being zealots, not unenlightened zealots, but zealots of the good, i.e. all that is prescribed by God. So long as the Israelites were zealous in their attachment to God and his ordinances they were invulnerable.

4. Blessedness of suffering for righteousness' sake.

(1) The pronouncing blessed. "But and if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye." While proof against harm, they might be called to suffer. In the event of their suffering for righteousness' sake they would come within the scope of the Savior's beatitude, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The preaching of righteousness in the life is offensive to the world, and provokes its dislike and malice. But those who are persecuted because of the right ordering of their life are not to be commiserated: they are to be pronounced blessed. They have the satisfaction of being at peace with their conscience, the satisfaction of enjoying the approval of their God, who will not forget their faithfulness.

(2) Feeling accompanying the blessedness. "And fear not their fear, neither be troubled." It is remarkable how much the apostle's thought runs in Old Testament language. The language here and in the beginning of the next verse is based on Isaiah 8:12, Isaiah 8:13. Their persecutors would seek to inspire them with fear, to throw them into a state of perturbation; but let them not fear their fear, neither be troubled. "Should the empress determine to banish me, let her banish me; ' the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.' If she will cast me into the sea, let her cast me into the sea; I will remember Jonah. If she will throw me into a burning fiery furnace, the three children were there before me. If she will throw me to the wild beasts, I will remember that Daniel was in the den of lions. If she will condemn me to be stoned, I shall be the associate of Stephen, the proto-martyr. If she will have me beheaded, the Baptist submitted to the same punishment. If she will take away my substance, 'naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return to it'" (Chrysostom).

(3) Means of being undisturbed in the blessedness.

(a) Adoration of Christ. "But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord." Peter gives a Christian coloring to the Old Testament language. Our hearts are our temple; there we are to sanctify Christ, i.e. to hold him as holy. We are to fear him as shown to be holy in his redemption-work, and also as by his redemption-work made our Lord. In the quiet of our hearts habitually fearing him as our Redeemer whose every word is to be obeyed, the fear of man will not find admission.

(b) Apology in presence of men. That we are to be ready with our apology. "Being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear." Peter begins," Being ready always with an apology," i.e. answer, or defense. It is not intended that we should master Christian apologetics—be able to answer every objection which infidels may start. The apology which is contemplated here is of a much more simple nature, viz. that we should be able to make a plain statement of the considerations that have had weight with us in leading us to be Christians. We are here regarded as having a hope in us, i.e. as a living, active principle. It is true that we belong more to the future than to the present. What is fulfilled is but small in comparison with what is yet to be fulfilled. This hope is rationally produced, and we ought to be able to give a rational account of it. Can we give a clear statement of its nature, and of the grounds on which it rests? It is the hope of salvation, i.e. of ultimate complete deliverance from the power of sin. It is the hope of eternal life, i.e. of the present life being perfected. It is the hope of a resurrection, i.e. of the body laid in the grave being raised. It is the hope of glory, i.e. of our whole nature having a shining form. It is the hope of the glorious appearing of Christ, i.e. to have his own glory fully manifested and to consummate ours. It is the hope of being forever with the Lord, i.e. happy in his presence and fellowship. We rest our hope on the work of Christ. We feel that his righteousness is reason for the accusings of conscience being silenced, and for God bestowing on us all manifestations of his love. We rest our hope on the promise of God in Christ. We have not only fact to rest on, but the expression of fact in word, and to his word God has added his oath, "That by two immutable things [the word and the oath both based on fact] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." We further rest our hope on our experience. "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope." What we have already experienced of God does not discourage us; on the contrary, it is strong reason for our looking for the plenitude of the Divine blessing. We are to be ready always with our apology; that does not mean that we are to be always putting forward our apology, for we must use discretion. But we are to be ready with our apology whenever occasion offers. The occasion contemplated is any one asking us a reason concerning the hope that is in us. We are then to be equal to the occasion; we are not to let slip the opportunity of our commending our Master. Let us not be silent through ensnaring fear; but let us come forward and tell what Christ has done for us, and what we expect from him. But let us put forward our apology with meekness. "Then must ye not answer with proud words, and bring out the matter with a defiance and with violence, as if ye would tear up trees" (Luther). Let us also put forward our apology with fear, i.e. the fear of damage being done to the cause by the weakness of our apology, leading us to make God our Counsellor.

(c) Way in which we are to be ready with our apology. "Having a good conscience; that, wherein ye are spoken against, they may be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in Christ." We must have materials for our apology, else we shall never be ready with it. These materials are to be supplied from a good life, which is here viewed in connection with having a good conscience, i.e. habitually acting according to our convictions of duty. When spoken against, we shall best put our revilers to shame by recounting facts which can bear the light. In the absence of these, no amount of skill of speech will make us good apologists, whom fear cannot disturb.

(4) The blessedness brought out by contrast. "For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing." It is better, subject to the condition of the Divine willing of suffering. He does not say how it is better. His former thought was that in suffering for our faults there is not the noble element that there is in suffering for well-doing. Thus is he helped to rise to the sublime height of Christ's suffering.

5. Blessedness of suffering for righteousness' sake illustrated by the example of Christ.

(1) In bringing us to God Christ suffered not for his own sins. "Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." Stress is to be laid here, as at the close of the second chapter, on the exemplary character of Christ's sufferings. But Peter could not regard these in their lower aspect without also bringing in their higher aspect. The great object of Christ was to bring us to God, i.e. not merely into a state of reconciliation to God, but into a state of fellowship with God. His suffering was for this end. He suffered for sins; and so far he might seem to have the character of an evil-doer. But the sins were not his own; as it is added that he was the Righteous One (Peter's designation of Christ in Acts 3:14) for the unrighteous, i.e. us who needed to be brought to God. The idea of substitution is not brought forward, but it is in the background. We are rather to think of advantage conferred as giving Christ indisputable authority as example. Do we suffer for well-doing? Christ, it is said, also suffered, by whose well-doing (the thought is) we are so mightily advantaged. But the apostle has a look beyond this; of which he gives a hint in the word "once." Christ suffered once; i.e. suffered, and then passed into a state in which he suffers no more. So we are to understand that we have this to comfort us (Christ being our Example), that our suffering is only once; it is what comes after suffering that is permanent.

(2) His being put to death was followed by his being quickened. "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit." There is a resuming of the thought of suffering in connection with its worst and last phase. Though the Righteous One, he was treated as a malefactor, and put to death ("killed" is Peter's word in Acts 3:15); he thus came within the scope of his own beatitude, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." His suffering in the interest of human well-being was followed, as has already been indicated, by his suffering no more. It is now declared that it was followed by his being quickened. It is further declared that it was followed by his resurrection and ascension; and before he leaves his theme, it is declared that it is yet to be followed by his coming to judgment. Thus no sooner did he suffer, than he came to be in the ascendant. The starting-point of his after-suffering career was his being quickened. His being put to death was in the flesh; i.e. on the side of his nature by which he was connected with earth and had a mortal existence. His being quickened is contrasted in being not in the flesh, but in the spirit; i.e. on the side of his nature by which he was above earth and had an immortal existence. At death there takes place a separation of soul and body. During the time Christ's body was in the grave his soul was in Hades. It was Peter who showed himself alive to this important fact in his comments on the words of the sixteenth psalm, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. The expression of the fact in the Apostles' Creed is that he "descended into Hades." By "Hades" is denoted the invisible world, with the special association of the world of the dead. Between our death and the resurrection we are to be in art incomplete state in so far as soul and body are not to be united. Our Lord's identification with us extended to his being for a determined time in this incomplete state. At our death (if we axe in Christ) we believe that there is to be a quickening of us in spirit in connection with our being placed under higher conditions. So we would seem to be taught here, regarding our Lord, that the extinguishing of his life in the flesh was immediately followed by a quickening in that which could not die, and had a separate existence. While his body was not yet quickened, there was a bursting forth of glorious activity in his spirit in the new sphere of things and altered conditions into which he passed.

(3) Being quickened, he was also active in Hades. "In which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which aforetime were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." In the spirit quickened, he was also active in a particular form. The congenial abode of Christ in Hades was Paradise, or the abode of the blessed dead. But he did not simply abide in Paradise; he went from it to the abode of the unsaved dead. This is here called a prison, being the place where there is meantime abridgment of liberty. He penetrated even to this department of Hades, and preached. This is a word of evangelical sense in the New Testament, and [is to be interpreted in accordance with the reference to Christ's death going before, and also in accordance with the preaching of the gospel in 1 Peter 4:6. We may understand that in Paradise he not only manifested himself as the Incarnate One, but also announced his death and his soon-to-be accomplished resurrection. And we are not to think of other announcement than this in the place where spirits are imprisoned. It is not said that he preached unto all the spirits in prison, but only unto a section of them, viz. the spirits of them that perished in the Flood. It cannot be said of the antediluvians referred to that they were very unfavorably situated for trial. There was addressed to them a call to repentance; for Noah preached—preached what their sins would bring upon them (according to the revelation made to him), but also preached the means of deliverance. He preached not only by word, but by act. And God was not in haste to destroy. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." During all the time the ark was a-preparing the long-suffering of God waited, i.e. not to destroy. But the men of Noah's time were disobedient, i.e. refused, made light of proffered deliverance; and as they were overtaken by an earthly judgment, which was so complete that only eight souls ("so few as eight") were saved by means of the water, with regard to which the others, to their destruction, were skeptical. And they are here represented in the next world as spirits in prison. And yet to them Christ went and announced his death and coming resurrection. There is a certain mystery resting upon this fact which it was not the purpose of God by Peter to remove. It was sufficient to emphasize the fact that, so far from being crushed by death, he was gloriously active, even in the world of the unsaved dead. Seeing that the full significance of the fact has not been disclosed, it would be wrong to be dogmatic; at the same time, we are bound not to let go the fact which is to be regarded as an important addition to the facts contained in the Gospels. What has been given as the interpretation was substantially what prevailed until the time of Augustine. The Augustinian interpretation, the influence of which is evident in our translation, starts frown the assumption that Peter does not intend to bring out an antithesis between what was done to Christ in the flesh and what was done to Christ in the spirit. It also proceeds on the assumption that it was not Christ that preached, but Noah. There was not a proper going from one place to another, and after Christ's death. The preaching was not founded on Christ's death. It was addressed not properly to spirits, but to men in the flesh. These were not literally in prison, but in the prison of sin. They were not properly aforetime disobedient, but disobedient when Noah preached. Thus does the long-prevailing Augustinian interpretation break down along the whole line.

(4) Not held in Hades, he reappeared in resurrection-form and with resurrection-power on earth. "Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Water saved the eight; so water saves us still, i.e. in the antitype, the type being now baptism. How does baptism save us? It may be said of the Flood that it was the baptism of the earth. It was associated with the washing away of the filth of the old world; it was also associated with the bringing forth of a renovated world. So baptism is associated with the putting away of the filth of the flesh; it is also associated (which is to the purpose here) with the interrogation of a good conscience toward God. At baptism there used to be transacting by question and answer such as this: "Dost thou renounce Satan?" "I do renounce him." "Dost thou believe in Christ?" "I do believe in him." "Dost thou take thy stand by Christ?" "I do take my stand by him." Of the new life thus entered on by explicit covenant the efficient cause was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the apostle gets back to his line of thought. So far from being crushed by death Christ was not held within the world of the dead. The quickening which pervaded his spirit extended also, and from his spirit, to his body. He reappeared for a time on earth in resurrection-form, bringing in glorious resurrection-power first for the souls of men—of which the earthly channel is baptism.

(5) Having risen from earth, he now reigns from the right hand of God in heaven. "Who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." So far from being crushed by death, Christ is now established at the right hand of God. After having, as typified in baptism, efficiently left a channel of regenerating influence for men, he left earth. As he went from one department of Hades into another, so he went up from earth into heaven. In heaven he is at the right hand of God—gloriously reigning there, angels and authorities and powers, even all the orders of the heavenly hierarchy, being made subject unto him. If Christ, then, suffering for righteousness' sake, thus came to be in the ascendant, shall not we, suffering for righteousness' sake, come to be in the ascendant too, all the more that He is now in a position to bring this about for us?—R.F.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-peter-3.html. 1897.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile