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Sermon Bible Commentary
1 Peter 3



Verse 7

1 Peter 3:7

Our Social Relationships.

I. Marriage is a relationship of mutual sympathy. That comprehensive word "sympathy" is to be understood here in its largest sense. Those who enter into this binding fellowship ought to be one in the completest measure possible of their entire nature; for the supreme end of marriage is not simply the continuance of the human race, but the culture and development of all the noblest faculties of the intellect and the spirit.

II. It is a relationship of mutual sacredness. The Roman Catholic Church includes matrimony among the sacraments, though in this, as in so many other matters, it goes beyond the direct warrant of God's word. Yet there is no question that it is regarded as one of the most solemn acts of human life. "Until death us do part" is the solemn vow, and it must remain unbroken to the end. All revelation and the distinct words of Christ imply the sacredness of this bond, and it will be a sign of coming downfall in any country when the inviolability of this relationship is disregarded.

III. The relationship is one of mutual honour. Christ ruled the Church, yet served it; then it is possible to rule and to serve at the same time. If it be for womanhood to submit, it is for manhood to serve; and perhaps that is a task difficult to both, but that might become much more pleasant and full of joy if the endeavour were mutual.

IV. The relationship is one of mutual responsibility.

W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 353.

I. One specialty to be observed in this phrase is this: it treats prayer not as a duty to be enforced, but as a habit to be taken for granted. The Apostle seems to consider prayer as inseparable from spiritual life, just as the air we breathe is inseparable from material life; and therefore, instead of advocating prayer, he presupposes it. He does not enforce prayer as a duty, but he urges the avoidance of everything that can obstruct it.

II. Since prayer is an exercise of the spirit, of the heart, as well as of the lips, it follows that whatever clogs that heart with a consciousness of alienation from God, and whatever charges and loads that ethereal spirit with elements earthly, material, and gross, must press down that spirit, must encumber that heart with the great hindrance of its heavenward aspirations. If we have been allowing ourselves in anything irreconcilable with the principles of Christ, it is impossible, impossible with the stain of that misconduct still upon it, that the spirit of a man should naturally and cheerfully and spontaneously seek to consort and hold communion with that Spirit which is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.

III. This, then, is the main notion to fix upon our minds, namely, that in any temptation, however trivial, to depart from the dictates of conscience, we should remember that yielding to that inclination hinders prayer, discourages all heavenward aspirations, shuts out what would raise us above the gross atmosphere of the world, obstructs the breath of spiritual life, and so puts spiritual life in jeopardy.

W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 87.

References: 1 Peter 3:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1192; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 271.

Verse 8

1 Peter 3:8

I. This is one of those texts which are too apt to confuse persons who do not read their Bibles carefully enough. They cannot see what the latter part of these verses has to do with the former. St. Peter writes that we Christians are to inherit a blessing, and hence people would say, speaking commonly, that he means the blessing of future salvation. But then St. Peter goes on to quote Ps. 34, "He that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile," and then, in order to make this harmonise with their view of the former verse, they say that this must be taken spiritually! Now, what people mean when they talk like this, I do not know. That which brings a blessing here is the same thing that will make us blessed there; that which belonged to the old Jews belongs also to us Christians, and if we avoid evil and seek after peace in this life, then shall we inherit a blessing in this and in any possible life or lives to come.

II. And why? Because then only are we living the one and everlasting life, the life that alone brings with it a blessing or good days, and the only life that is worth living or loving. Very necessary is it to bear this in mind just now. People are too apt to say that the Old Testament saints got their reward in this life. But where do they find that? If they read the Old Testament carefully, they will find that the Old Testament saints were men whom God trained by long suffering, like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job, and all the Old Testament prophets. They were not even made perfect; for in the Epistle to the Hebrews it says that they died in faith, not having received their reward. If, then, God rewarded in this life, their reward must have been spiritual.

III. God's world is good; the evil is not in nature, it is not in the world around us, but it is in our own foolish hearts. We shall find the world an unpleasant place, as the Jews did, if we break God's laws, for they must punish us; but if we obey His laws, we shall find the world a pleasant place, and His laws a comfort to us. This is God's promise, for He made all things for good, and His word cannot alter.

C. Kingsley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 229.

Reference: 1 Peter 3:10.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 44.

Verse 11

1 Peter 3:11

The character of the man to whom these words are addressed is a very singular one. "He that will love life," or, more accurately, "He that wishes to love life, let him seek peace, and ensue it." Does not every one "love life"? What "life" is it of which St. Peter is speaking, the present life or the life to come? Certainly the present life. It may not exclude the life to come, for it is life generally, but specially the present life. But all life is one. This life is only one chapter in your immortality.

I. Is it a duty to "love life"? Unquestionably. "Life" is a talent committed to us. It is a great gift of God; it is an opportunity of service; it is a thing to be consecrated; it is the germ of heaven. I have no sympathy with those who depreciate this present life, and run down this world as if it were all nothing or all bad. Heaven may be, as much as you like, an attractive, but this world should never be a repulsive, thing. It is a beautiful world! And it may be a very happy world. God is everywhere; the elements of good are always near us, and always within our reach, if only we could see them and use them. We are responsible for having a happy life. And even if we are afflicted and unhappy, remember it is the only stage of a Christian's being in which he can glorify God by patience and submission.

II. "Peace," then, is the climax of the conditions of a "life" that can be "loved." We must examine "peace." "Peace" is an empire with three provinces, and the provinces cannot really be divided, for there is one King of all; all belong to Him, and He is "peace"; He is "the God of peace." First, there is the "peace" which a man has with God as soon as he is reconciled to God by an act of faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and his sins are all forgiven. Then there is the "peace" which every forgiven man carries in his own bosom: "peace" with his conscience. And then there is the "peace" with man, with all our fellow-creatures. And these grow the one out of the other; and they must come, and can only come, in that order. If you are not comfortable and on good terms with other people, it is mainly because you are not quite comfortable with yourself; and if you are not quite comfortable with yourself, it is because you are not right, and you know that you are not right, with God. "Peace" with God makes "peace" with the soul; and "peace" with the soul makes "peace" with the whole world: so the three provinces are one.

III. How, then, is this difficult quest of "peace"—more difficult as education and refinement make the feelings more sensitive, and the subjects of thought grow larger and deeper, and the divergence of mind becomes wider and wider, as it will do more and more every day—how, how is it to be carried out? (1) First, recognise it as an act of Omnipotence, an attribute of God only. "He maketh men to be of one mind in a house." You will fail if you do not at once bring in the great power of God to a work which is far too high for you. (2) Then travel to it by the right and only road; adjust your own relations to God. Be at peace yourselves. This done, you will be able to understand and remember at what pains, how patiently, how persistently, how stoopingly, and at what a cost, God made your "peace." And then you can go and copy "God's peace"—that great Peacemaker with us all. Lay yourself out to see, and show, and learn, and copy the excellency in every one. Go about with a veil to throw over follies and mistakes, and a microscopic glance to see what is good in everybody and everything. Let it be your characteristic: a man of charity, a healer of breaches, one who has something kind and good to say of everybody, a lover of all men, and a suitor of "peace."

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 37.

References: 1 Peter 3:12.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 166. 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 3:15.—Ibid., p. 176.

Verse 15

1 Peter 3:15

I. It is the simplest of truisms that God can receive no increase of holiness, least of all from those who must beg Him to forgive their sins; but to sanctify Him, or to hallow His name, is to acknowledge Him, not merely in word, but habitually and practically—in thought, in feeling, in aim, in conduct—as being what He is: the one supreme object of obedience, reverence, and devotion. They sanctify Him who give Him His due, who treat His claims as real and absolute, who look away from all other powers, from all imagined resources or grounds of confidence, to Him as the origin and centre of their existence, the One most high, most holy, and most lovable, and, at the same time, most awful in His purity, with a reverential awe which leaves no room for lower fear, because it involves an adoring and loving trust.

II. See how the precept can be obeyed, and the consequent blessing secured, under three different forms of trial, taken as examples of the rest. (1) St. Peter was thinking immediately of apprehended suffering. Why not simply take the Lord at His own word, and put aside faithless anxiety about the morrow? If we fret ourselves, we shall be moved to do evil; if we place ourselves confidingly in the hands of our mighty and loving Saviour, we sanctify Him in our hearts as Lord. (2) Remember, further, that the drama of spiritual life and death can be performed on a humble stage, under conditions devoid of any impressive brilliancy. "The eyes of the Lord," open alike for scrutiny and for sympathy, are in every place, are scanning impartially every career. (3) When we are depressed and anxious as to the prospects of the Church and of the faith, we should be able to fulfil the duty of relying absolutely on Christ. It is treason to be fearful for the kingdom of the risen One; our business is simply to hold our post, be faithful in our day, and leave results to Him.

W. Bright, Morality in Doctrine, p. 302.

References: 1 Peter 3:15.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 208; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 277: W. J. Knox-Little, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 32; J. W. Burgon, Ibid., vol. v., p. 236.

Verse 16

1 Peter 3:16

The Conscience of a Christian.

The more consistent a Christian is with his Lord's example, or, which is really the same thing practically, the loftier his ideal of duty, the more he must expect to be treated as Christ was treated. Nominal Christians and the world keep an easy truce of mutual toleration, which the interests of society keep them from grossly infringing. On the one hand, the nominal Christian finds his profession sit easily upon him. Principles which are not pressed to their consequences offend no one. On the other hand, the purely worldly man makes the easy pursuit or easy enjoyment of things immediately agreeable to his ruling principle. He accepts the condition of not shocking the prejudices of others, though he may not share them, and so finds easy room for the nominal Christian in his system.

I. But when St. Peter wrote, things were very different. There was then no possibility of blending principles which were inconsistent in a neutral solution of indifference. The world and the Church were sharply defined and contrasted. They were mutually repulsive, mutually exclusive of one another.

II. True Christians must excite prejudice. They break that comfortable truce with the worldling which the nominal Christian is content to accept, and keeps without acknowledging by a tacit understanding. They must have reverses; they go too far for their friends in God's service, and their friends break from them. They intrude their principles where they are unwelcome, and others around them are offended in them, even as the Pharisees and Sadducees were offended in Christ. Against this power of prejudice, deepening often into ill-nature and malice, the power of a Christian's conscience, informed by faith and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, is his great safeguard. Let us see how it operates. (1) By making him feel directly the presence of God, the conscience of the Christian becomes an organ of the Holy Spirit. (2) A good conscience sets a man free from all unworthy motives. (3) As a consequence of this, a directness of aim and simplicity of character distinguishes the man.

H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 165.

Verse 18

1 Peter 3:18

Christ Suffering for Sins.

I. Observe that St. Peter says, "Christ suffered for sins"—not merely suffered, but suffered for us—that is, clearly for our sins, for the sins of mankind. These were, in some way, the cause of His sufferings. If the sins had not been, His sufferings had not been. However strange the connection may seem, a connection undoubtedly there is between the sins which have been committed from the time of Adam until now and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross under Pontius Pilate. Perhaps the connection between the sins of mankind and the sufferings of Christ is made more striking by the word "once." Christ hath once suffered for sins. Sins may be committed often, nay, are being committed continually, but Christ died once and for all; that one event stands by itself; it is unique in the world's history; it can never be repeated; it need never be repeated.

II. A wonderful efficacy is attributed to Christ's sufferings. We are accounted righteous for the merits of Christ, and not for any merits of our own. Teacher and Example was Christ; but He was something more than this. Our sense of need and infirmity teaches us that, in order to be the Physician of souls, in order to supply a cure for the great universal disease of humanity, Christ must be something different from, and entirely beyond, a Teacher and Example. We want to hear of something concerning pardon of sins, something concerning reconciliation, something concerning being brought back to God. And this the Apostles preached in the name of their Lord; peace through the blood of His cross was their message, a propitiation for sin, a ransom from slavery, salvation for the lost, life for the dead—this was what they had to announce as the Gospel for mankind.

Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, vol. v., p. 305.

References: 1 Peter 3:18.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 416; F. Wagstaff, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 179; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 369; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 29. 1 Peter 3:18-20.—Ibid., vol. vii., p. 114.

Verse 19

1 Peter 3:19

The Spirits in Prison.

I. There is one article of the Creed which, strange as it may seem, for some centuries has practically fallen into the background, and lost its hold on the thoughts and affections of mankind. We repeat the words which tell us that Christ descended into hell, but they do not move us. Our thoughts about them are indistinct and dim. They bring no strength or comfort to us. To the taught they probably suggest the dark and monstrous belief that, in order to complete the work of a penalty vicariously borne, the agony of the garden and the passion of the cross were followed by the endurance for a few brief hours of the torments of the lost. We may be quite sure that if the descent into hell had brought no other thoughts to men's minds than those which we commonly attach to it, it would never have gained a place in the creed of Christendom, or seized, as it did for centuries, on men's thought and feeling. To those who so received it it spoke of a victory over death which was the completion of the sacrifice of the cross. It told them that He who came to seek and to save the souls He loved on earth had continued that Divine work while the body was lying in the rock-hewn grave. He had passed into the unseen world as a mighty King, the herald of His own conquests; and death and hell had trembled at His coming, and the bands of the prisoners were broken, and the gates of the prison-house were thrown open. There the banner of the King was unfurled, and the cross set up, that there also, even there, the souls of those who were capable of life might turn to it and live. There had He gathered round Him the souls of those righteous ones, from Abel onwards, who had had the faith which from the beginning of the world has justified, and had confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. There He had delivered from the passionate yearning of unsatisfied desire, and had taken them to rest till the Resurrection in the paradise of God, where He had promised to be with one whose lawless life had melted at the last hour into some touch of tenderness, and awe, and pity.

II. Whatever doubt might linger round these words is removed by the reiterated assertion of the same truth a few verses further on. That which was preached to them that were dead is nothing less than a gospel—the good news of the redeeming love of Christ. And it was published to them, not to exempt them from all penalty, but that they, having been judged in all that belonged to the relations of their human life with a true and righteous judgment, should yet, in all that affected their relation to God, "live in the Spirit." Death came upon them, and they accepted their punishment as awarded by the loving and righteous Judge, and so ceased from the sin to which they had before been slaves; and thus it became to them the gate of life.

E. H. Plumptre, The Spirits in Prison, p. 1.

Reference: 1 Peter 3:19.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 84.

Verse 20

1 Peter 3:20

The Two Baptisms.

I. The salvation of Noah by water. You are familiar with the narrative in Genesis. Peter does not recapitulate the facts, but alludes to them as well known. Eight souls were saved in the Ark and by water. God will have a seed to serve Him while sun and moon endure. For this purpose He chose Noah and his family as vessels to retain and transmit the knowledge of His name. If Divine power had not then interfered, the last remnant of righteousness would soon have been submerged under the ever-rising tide of sin. It concerned the plans and the honour of God that this should be prevented, and therefore Noah was saved—saved by water! The Lord saved Noah as He is wont to save His own in all times: by destroying the enemies who were prepared to devour him. Noah was saved by baptism—a baptism that washed away the filth of the world, and left him standing free.

II. The salvation of Christians by baptism is like the saving of Noah by the waters of the Flood. We draw near now to behold a greater sight. We contemplate now the redemption wrought by Christ and enjoyed by His people. We are saved by baptism; and this salvation is like the deliverance wrought of old for Noah by means of the Flood. (1) It is altogether a narrow and inadequate view that thinks of hell as the danger, and heaven as the deliverance. The danger is sin, and the deliverance is pardon. Your soul, surrounded by its own sins, is like Noah in the midst of the old world. If they are not destroyed by a flood, they will destroy you. (2) The deliverance. It, too, is like Noah's. We are saved by a flood. We are saved by baptism. What is meant by baptism? "The answer of a good conscience toward God." It is the cleansing of the conscience from its guilt, so that when God makes inquisition for blood He finds no spot or wrinkle there, so that the conscience, when put to the question, answers, "Peace!" to the challenge of the Judge. It is by being in Christ that we may get our sins purged away, and yet be ourselves saved.

W. Arnot, Roots and Fruits, p. 197.

Verse 21

1 Peter 3:21

A Good Conscience.

These words are very wide words, too wide to please most people. They preach a very free grace, too free to please most people. Man preaches his own notions of God's forgiveness, his notions of what he thinks God ought to do; but when God proclaims His own forgiveness, and tells men what He has actually done, and bids His Apostle declare boldly that baptism doth now save us, then man is frightened at the vastness of God's generosity, and thinks God's grace too free, His forgiveness too complete.

I. What hinders a little child, from the very moment that it can think or speak, from entering into God's salvation? I know one hindrance at least, and that is when the parents' harshness or neglect tempts the child to fancy that God the Father is such a father to him as his parents are, and that to be a child of God is to look up to his heavenly Father with dread and suspicion as to a hard taskmaster whose anger has to be turned away, and not with that perfect love, and trust, and respect, and self-sacrifice with which the Lord Jesus fulfilled His Father's will and proclaimed His Father's glory.

II. The catechism of our Church does not begin by telling children they are sinners; they will find that out soon enough for themselves from their own wayward and self-willed hearts. It begins by teaching the child the name of God. It is so careful of God's honour, so careful that the child should learn from the first to look up to God with love and trust, that it dare not tell the child that God can destroy and punish before it has told him that God is a Father and a Maker, the Father of spirits, who has made him and all the world. It dare not tell him that mankind is fallen before it has told him that all the world is redeemed. It tells him of the name of God, and tells him that God is with him, and he with God, and bids him believe that and be saved from his birth-hour to endless ages. It does not tell him to pray that he may become God's child, but to pray because he is God's child already. It tells him that he is safe and saved, even as David, and Isaiah, and all holy men who ever lived have been, as long as he trusts in God, and clings to God, and obeys God; and that only when he forsakes God and follows his own selfishness and pride can any thing or being in earth or hell harm him.

C. Kingsley, Sermons for the Times, p. 29.

References: 1 Peter 3:22.—J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension to Trinity, p. 1; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1928. 1 Peter 4:1-3.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 51; A. Rowland, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 225; F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i., p. 333. 1 Peter 4:3.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 24. 1 Peter 4:4.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 82. 1 Peter 4:4, 1 Peter 4:5.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 160. 1 Peter 4:6.—F. W. Farrar. Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 353.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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