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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
1 Peter 3

 

 

Verse 1

1 Peter 3:1. Likewise ye wives, &c.— The tabernacle of the sun is set high in the heavens; but it is, that it may have influence below upon the earth: and the word of God, which is spoken of there immediately after, as being many ways like it, holds resemblance in this particular; it is a sublime heavenly light, and yet descends, in its use, to the lives of men, in the variety of their stations; to warm and to enlighten, to regulate their affections and actions, in whatsoever course of life they are called to. By a perfect revolution or circuit, (as there it is said of the sun,) it visits all ranks and estates, Psalms 19:6. His going forth is from the end of heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it, and there is nothing hid from the heat of it. This word disdains not to teach the very servants, in their low condition and employments, how to behave themselves, and sets before them no meaner example than that of Jesus Christ, which is the highest of all examples. And here the apostle proceeds to give rules adapted to that relation which is the main one in families, husbands and wives: for the order, it is indifferent, yet, possibly he begins here at the wives, because his former rules were giventoinferiors, to subjects and servants; and the duty that he commends particularly here to them, is subjection; likewise, ye wives, be in subjection, &c.

After men have said all they can, and much it may be to little purpose, in running the parallel between these two states of life, marriage and celibacy, the result will be found, I conceive, all things being truly estimated, very little odds, even in natural respects, in the things themselves, saving only as the particular condition of persons, and the hand of divine Providence, turns the balance the one way or other: and the writings of satires against either, or panegyrics on the one in prejudice of the other, is but a caprice of men's minds, according to their own humour: but in respect of religion, the apostle, having scanned the subject to the full, leaves it indifferent, only requiring in those that are so engaged, hearts as disengaged as may be, that they that marry be as if they married not, &c. 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 7:31. Within a while it will be all one, as he adds that grave reason, for the fashion [ σχημα ] of this world passeth; it is but a pageant, a show of an hour long, [ παραγει ] goes by, and is no more seen: thus the great pomps and solemnities of marriages of kings and princes in former times, where are they? Oh! how unseemly is it to have an immortal soul drowned in the esteem and affection of any thing that perishes, and to be cold and indifferent in seeking after a good that will last as long as itself. Aspire to that good which is the only match for the soul, that close union with God which cannot be dissolved; which he calls an everlasting marriage, Hosea 2:19 which will make you happy, either with the other, or without it. All the happiness of the most excellent persons, and the very top of all affection and prosperity meeting in human marriages, are but a dark and weak representation of the solid joy which is in that mysterious divine union of the spirit of man with the Father of spirits, from whom it issues.

The common spring of all mutual duties, on both sides, is to be supposed love: that peculiar conjugal love which makes them one, will infuse such sweetness into the authority of the husband, and obedience of the wife, as will make their lives harmonious; like the sound of a well-tuned instrument: whereas without that, having such an universal conjuncture of interest in all their affairs, they cannot escape frequent contests and discords; which is a sound more unpleasant than the jarring of untuned strings to an exact ear. And this should be considered in the choice, that it be not, as it is too often, (which causes so many domestic ills,) contracted only as a bargain of outward advantages, but as an union of hearts: and where this is not, and there is something wanting in this point of affection, there, if the parties, or either of them, have any saving knowledge of God, and access to him in prayer, they will be earnest suitors for his help in this, that his hand may set right what no other can; that he, who is Love itself, may infuse that mutual love into their hearts now, which they should have sought sooner. And they, thatsensibly want this, and yet seek it not of him, what wonder is it though they find much bitterness and discontent; yea, where they agree, if it be only in natural affection, their observance of the duties required, is not by far either so comfortable and pleasing, or so sure and lasting, as when it arises from a religious and Christian love in both, which will cover many failings, and take things by the best side.

Love is the prime duty in both, the basis of all: but because the particular character of it, as proper to the wife, is conjugal obedience and subjection, therefore that is usually specified, Ephesians 5:22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord: so here. Now, if it be such obedience as ought to arise from a special kind of love, then the wife would remember this, that it must not be constrained uncheerful obedience: and the husband would remember, that he ought not to require base and servile obedience; for both these are contrary to that love, whereof this obedience must carry the true tincture and relish, as flowing from it; there it will hold right, where love commands, and love obeys.

This subjection, as all other, is qualified thus, that it be in the Lord. His authority is primitive, and binds first, and all others have their patents and privileges from him; therefore he is supremely, and absolutely, to be observed in all. If the husband would draw the wife to an irreligious course of life and looseness, he is not to be followed in this, but in all things indifferent this obedience must hold; which forbids not, neither, a modest advice and representation to the husband of that which is more convenient: but that done, a submissive yielding to the husband's will is the suiting of this rule. Yea, possibly, the husband may not only imprudently, but unlawfully, will that, which, if not in its own nature a thing unlawful, the wife by reason of his will may obey lawfully, yea, could not lawfully disobey.

Now, though this subjection was a fundamental law of pure nature, and came from that hand which made all things in perfect order, yet sin, which has embittered all human things with a curse, has disrelished this subjection, and made it taste somewhat of a punishment, Genesis 3:16 and that as a suitable punishment of the woman's abuse of that power which she had with the man, to the drawing of him to disobedience against God.

The bitterness in this subjection arises from the corruption of nature in both; in the wife a perverse desire rather to command, or at least a repining discontent at the obligation to obey; and this is increased by the disorder, and imprudence, and harshness of husbands, in the use of their authority.

But in a Christian, the conscience of divine appointment will carry it, and weigh down all difficulties; for the wife considers her station, that she is set in it, υποτασσομενη, it is the rank which the Lord's hand hath placed her in, and therefore she will not break it; out of respect and love to him, she can digest much frowardness of a husband, and make that, her patientsubjection, a sacrifice unto God. "Lord, I offer this to thee, and for thy sake I humbly bear it."

The worth and love of a husband may causethat respect, where this rule moves not: but the Christian wife, who hath love to God, though her husband be not so comely, nor so wise, nor any way so amiable as many others; yet because he is her own husband, and because of the Lord's command, therefore she loves and obeys.

That if any obey not the word, This supposes a particular case, and applies the rule to it; takes it for granted, that a believing wife will cheerfully observe and respect a believing husband; but if he is an unbeliever, yet that unties not this engagement; yea, there is something in this case which presses it and binds it the more, a singular good, which probably may follow upon obeying such; by that good conversation, they may be gained who believe not the word; not that they could be fully converted without the word; but having a prejudice against the word, that may be removed by the carriage of a believing wife, and they may be somewhat mollified, and prepared, and induced to hearken to religion, and take it into consideration.

This gives not Christians warrant to draw on this task, and make themselves this work, by choosing to be joined to an unbeliever, either a profane or mere natural husband or wife; but teaches them, being so matched, what should be their great desire, and their suitable carriage, in order to the attainment of it. And in the primitive Christian times this fell out often, that, by the gospel preached, the husband might be converted from gross infidelity, Judaism, or Paganism, and not the wife, or the wife, which is the supposition here, and not the husband; and there came in the use of this consideration.


Verse 2

1 Peter 3:2. While they behold your chaste conversation Dr. Heylin's translation here, though not literal, seems well to express the sense of the sacred writer: While they behold your purity of manners, and the respect you have for them.


Verse 3-4

1 Peter 3:3-4. Whose adorning, let it not be, &c.— That nothing may be wanting to the qualifying of a Christian wife, she is taught how to dress herself; supposing a general desire, but especially in that sex, of ornament and comeliness; the sex, which began first our engagement to the necessity of clothing, having still a peculiar propension to be curious in that, and to improve the necessity to an advantage.

The direction here given corrects the misplacing of this diligence, and addresses it right, that is, Let it not be of the outward man, in plaiting, &c.

Our perverse crooked hearts turn all that we use into disorder. Those two necessities of our life, food and raiment, how few know the right measure and bounds of them? Unless poverty be our carver, and cut us short, who, almost, is there that is not bent to something excessive! Far more are beholden to the lowliness of their estate, than to the lowliness of their mind, for sobriety in these things; and yet some will not be so bounded neither, but will profusely lavish out upon trifles, to the sensible prejudice of their estate.

The apostle expressly, on purpose, checks and forbids vanity and excess in apparel, and excessive delight even in lawful decorum; but his prime end is to recommend this other ornament of the soul, The hidden man of the heart.

It is the thing which the best philosophy aimed at, as some of their greatest men express it, to reduce men, as much as may be, from their body to their soul: but this is the thing which true religion alone does effectually and thoroughly; from the pampering and feeding of a morsel for the worms, to the nourishing of that immortal beinginfusedinto it; which, therefore, it directs to the proper nourishment of souls, the bread that came down from heaven, John 6:27; John 6:32-33.

So here the apostle pulls off from Christian women their vain outside ornaments: but is not this a wrong, to spoil all their dressing and fineness? No, he does this, only to send them a better wardrobe; and there is much profit in the change.

All the gold, and other riches of the temple, figured the excellent graces of Christians, of Christ indeed first, as having all fulness in himself, and furnishing them; but secondarily of Christians, as the living temples of God. So the church is all glorious, but it is within, Psalms 45:13. And the embroidery, the variety of graces, the lively colours of other graces, shine best on the dark ground of humility. Christ delights to give much ornament to his church, commends what she has, and adds more

The particular grace which the apostle recommends, is singularly suitable to his subject in hand, the conjugal duty of wives; nothing so much adorning their whole carriage as this meekness and quietness of spirit. But it is, withal, the comeliness of every Christian, in every estate; it is not a woman's garment or ornament, improper for men. There is somewhat (as I may say,) of a particular cut or fashion of it for wives toward their husbands, and in their domestic affairs; but men, all men, ought to wear of the same stuff; yea, if I may so speak, of the same piece; for it is, in all, one and the same spirit, and fits the stoutest and greatest commanders. Moses was a great general, and yet not less great in this virtue, the meekest man on earth.

Nothing is more uncomely in a wife than an uncomposed turbulent spirit, which is put out of frame with every trifle, and inventive of false causes of disquietness and fretting to itself. And so in a husband, and in all, an unquiet passionate mind lays itself naked, and discovers its own deformity to all. The greater number of things that vex us, do so, not from their own nature or weight, but from the unsettledness of our minds. How comely is it to see a composed firm mind and carriage, which is not lightly moved!

I urge not a stoical stupidity; but that, in things which deserve sharp reproof, the mind keep in its own station and seat still, not shaken out of itself, as the most are; that the tongue utter not unseemly rash words, nor the hand act any thing which discovers that the mind has lost its command for the time. But, truly, the most know so ill how to use just anger, upon just cause, that it is easier, and the safer extreme, not to be angry, but still, calm, and serene, as the upper region; not the place of continual tempest and storms, as the most are: let it pass for a kind of sheepishness to be meek, it is a likeness to him that was as a sheep before the shearers, not opening his mouth, Isaiah 53:7.; it is a portion of his Spirit.

The apostle commends his exchange of ornaments from two things: 1. This is incorruptible, and therefore fits an incorruptible soul. Your varieties of jewels and rich apparel are perishing things; you shall one day see a heap made of all, and that all on a flame; and, in reference to you, they perish sooner; when death strips you of your nearest garment, your flesh,all the other, which were but loose upper garments above it, must off too. It gets indeed a covering for the grave, but the soul is left stark naked, if no other clothing be provided for it. But spiritual ornaments, and this of humility and meekness, here, among the rest, remain, and are incorruptible; they neither wear out, nor out of fashion, but are still the better for the wearing, and shall last eternity, and shine there in full lustre.

And, 2. Because the opinion of others is much regarded in matter of apparel, and it is mostly in respect to this that we use ornament in it, he tells us of the account of this. Men think it poor and mean, nothing more exposed to contempt than the spirit of meekness; it is mere folly with men, but that is no matter; this overweighs all their dis-esteem, it is with God of great price, and things are indeed as he values them, and no otherwise. Though it be not the country fashion, yet it is the fashion at court, yea, it is the King's own fashion, Matthew 11:29. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, &c. Care not what the world say of this; you are not to stay long with them.

Desire to have both fashions and stuff from court, from heaven, this spirit of meekness, and it shall be sent you. It is never right in any thing with us till we attain to this, to tread on the opinion of men, and eye nothing but God's approbation.


Verse 6

1 Peter 3:6. And are not afraid with any amazement. That is, according to some, "Are not by any means discouraged from so doing." Dr. Heylin renders it, And do not despond in any terror. I here understand, says he, the labour, emphatically so called, and peculiar to the sex; a season, which requires great resignation, with reliance upon almighty God.


Verse 7

1 Peter 3:7. Ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, Ye men that are married, behave prudently, in such a manner as becomes those, who have been instructed in that great system of wisdom and duty,—the gospel of Christ. Some render the next clause, Allotting an honourable subsistence to the wise. It is to be remembered, that many of the Christians were persons of low rank in life; which might make such a precept of maintaining their wives decently, and not subjecting them to harder labour than they could bear, (which they might be tempted to do from their indigent circumstances,) exceeding proper. The sense of the word τιμη, as signifying subsistence, or maintenance, is confirmed by 1 Timothy 5:17. That your prayers be not hindered, is generally understood to mean, "That your praying together be not prevented or interrupted." Now quarrels and contentions, or any thing which breaks in upon the tranquillity, peace, and harmony which ought to subsist in families, and especially between a man and his wife, would be very likely to interrupt their daily prayers, or greatly discompose and unfit them for their social and Christian worship of God. Dr. Heylin renders this verse, Likewise, ye husbands, cohabit with your wives according to discretion; paying them the respect that is due to the weaker sex, and considering them as heirs with you of the grace of life; that there may be no impediment to your prayers.


Verse 9

1 Peter 3:9. Knowing that ye are thereunto called, "As knowing that ye are called into the Christian church, that you might return good for evil, and in consequence of that, inherit a blessing." Heylin renders the clause, For ye know that your vocation obliges you to this, that you yourselves may enjoy the benediction of God.


Verse 10

1 Peter 3:10. For he that will love life, He that would enjoy life. See Psalms 34:12. The apostle here urges in favour of the virtue which he recommends, that by this the comforts of life will be secured; 1 Peter 3:10-11 the favour of God engaged 1 Peter 3:12 and the malice of men in a great degree disarmed, 1 Peter 3:13, &c.—three arguments of very great weight and importance. This passage seems to be brought in, to anticipate an objection, which would very naturally arise in their minds: "Our patience under injuries, they might say,—and especially our returning good for evil,—will rather invite injuries, than lessen them; and when men see that they can trample upon us with impunity, nay, to their own advantage, they will be the more ready to do so; and the consequence will be, that they will escape, and we shall perish." To this St. Peter replies, that meekness and patience, a holy and peaceable life, are the way for Christians to be preserved, and to escape numberless evils; for God approves of such as behave in that manner, and mankind in general are disposed to treat them kindly.


Verse 12

1 Peter 3:12. Is against them Upon or over them; as it is said in the first clause; Επι, upon, or over the righteous.


Verse 13

1 Peter 3:13. And who is he that will harm you, &c.— This is in the nature of a proverb, or general truth, which is not without many exceptions; for there have been many such times and places, wherein those who would live godly in Christ Jesus, could not escape persecution: 2 Timothy 3:12. And therefore many of the righteous, notwithstanding all their care to give no offence, and to practise what was good, have been obliged to pass through much tribulation, in order to enter into the kingdom of God; and some persecutors, and tyrannical men, have been of so cruel a disposition, as that no meekness, patience, or goodness of the pious could soften them. However, it is the most likely way to soften the hearts of one's enemies, to be steadfast in patience and goodness, and to abound in a meek and peaceable behaviour. The generality of mankind are affected with such a conduct; though many have arrived to so great a pitch of cruelty, and hardness of heart, as not to be moved thereby.


Verse 14

1 Peter 3:14.— The apostle, in the last verse, had strongly insinuated that no man would harm the followers of that which is good; but, as the Christians were still persecuted, or in danger of it, St. Peter here adds, that if, after all their care to behave inoffensively, they suffer even for their goodness, theyhad no reason to be dejected; for their reward would be great; and to suffer for well-doing was likewise following the example of Christ, who suffered death, though he was guilty of no crime, nay, was always doing good: for even in former ages, he inspired Noah to preach to that wicked generation which perished in the flood; though few of them were reclaimed: and he now had granted men the light of the gospel, though many persecuted his disciples, and few, comparatively speaking, accepted the offers of mercy. 1 Peter 3:14-22.

Be not afraid, &c.— These words are taken by St. Peter from the LXX. of Isaiah 8:12 and accommodated to his present purpose. As the Jews of old were to rely on God, and not to make a confederacy with the king of Assyria, or fear the threats of the two kings of Syria and Israel, so these persecuted Christians were not to fall in with any of the idolatrous or wicked customs of their persecutors, whether Heathens or Jews,but steadily to trust in God, and adhere to the pure Christian religion. Though the Jews should accuse them, and drag them before the heathen tribunals: though the heathen magistrates should condemn them to pay fines, or suffer confiscation of goods, proscriptions, imprisonment, banishment, or even death itself, yet they were not to be so far afraid of all their threats or ill usage, as to forsake Christianity, or to commit any thing wicked, anything unworthy of the Christian character. See Philippians 1:28.


Verse 15

1 Peter 3:15. But sanctify the Lord God Grotius thinks that to sanctify God means here, to give thanks to, or glorify him; that is, in a time of persecution; or as some of the martyrs gave thanks to God when they heard the sentence of condemnation. See Acts 5:41. But in general it may be said, that sanctifying God, is behaving towards him as convinced that he is a holy God, who loves truth and integrity; who will reward the righteous, if they persevere, but punish all such as apostatize. Of the hope that is in you, means, their hope of a resurrection, and happy immortality, for the sake of which, and the glory of God, they were to endure all manner of persecution and evil treatment, and even to sacrifice their lives. For this some would be apt to ridicule them, and others would be curious to know what grounds they had for so surprizing an expectation; especially as they, from such a prospect, exposed themselves to many temporal evils: (Acts 26:6-8.) for this conduct, and that hope which was the foundation of it, they were to be ever ready to give a reason; for every part of Christianity is agreeable to right reason, and therefore capable of a rational apology and just defence. Some would understand the last words, of the heathen magistrates, or other persons who should ask the Christians a reason of the hope that was in them; as if the Christians had not been obliged to answer, but when the Jews or Heathens demanded an account of them with meekness and fear. It seems, however, very unlikely that the heathen magistrates would commonly examine the Christians with so much mildness and respect: and therefore it is more probable that this meekness and fear related to the conduct of Christians in making an apology; or that it was a description of the temper of mind with which they were to apologize, rather than what they were to expect in those to whom they were to make their apology. If any person desired them to assign a reason of the hope that was in them, they were to give one; but in a soft and gentle manner, with meekness, and fear of offending any person; lest they should thereby stir up a persecution against the Christians, or prejudice any against the gospel. Nothing can more become the professors of the simple and meek religion of Jesus, than reverence and modesty towards their superiors, lenity and mildness to all men, and a fear of offending any. As to those who have no reason to assign for their opinions, they will be very apt to fall into a passion, to calumniate such as oppose them, and frequently to manifest an intemperate zeal; but they would do well to remember, that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God; James 1:20.


Verse 16

1 Peter 3:16. A good conscience; This may be called the breast-plate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:14.

—Hic murus aheneus esto, Nil conseire sibi.———

Be this thy brazen bulwark of defence, Still to preserve thy conscious innocence. FRANCIS'S HORACE.

See Proverbs 28:1. He that would apologize for the Christian religion, ought first to lead a holy life, or be a good Christian himself: this will enable him to defend Christianity with courage, and to speak with invincible force: but a wicked man hurts Christianity more by his own life, than he can help it by the finest apology. Conscience is the human understanding employed about moral or religious truths: the having a good conscience is, leading through grace a holy life, and uprightly speaking and acting according to what a man's conscience dictates. The order of the construction of the next words seems to be this: That they who calumniate your good conversation in Christ, may be ashamed, upon that very account, that they speak against you, as against wicked persons. All sober Jews and Heathens must needs have looked upon them as calumniators, who accused the Christians of sedition or gross immorality; when, by their innocent lives and patient sufferings, it appeared how excellent their religion was, and how groundless were such accusations. "I think this passage, (says Doddridge) remarkably illustrated by the strain of that Epistle of Pliny, in which he gives an account of his own conduct in persecuting the Christians; by which it plainly appears, that he was ashamed of what the laws required, when he considered how inoffensive their behaviour was."


Verse 17

1 Peter 3:17. For it is better, if the will of God be so, It is a great crime in him who inflicts misery, that he does it to the innocent, and not to such as deserve it. It is not better for him, that those whom he treats with severity suffer for their goodness; but it is better for the persons who suffer, that they suffer innocently. See 1 Peter 3:14 chap. 1 Peter 2:19-20. The lesser evil is, in a given sense, universally esteemed as the greater good; and, in this view, it is better to suffer persecution, or any temporal evil, in comparison of the durable and more intense sufferings of wicked men and apostates in a future state. Holiness and piety are in themselves preferable to vice and wickedness; and, as a resurrection to eternal life would, through the alone merits of Christ, be the sure consequence of their suffering faithfully for righteousness, and their rewards were to be greater in proportion to their sufferings; upon these accounts it was unquestionably better, infinitely better, to suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. Grotius here takes notice of that fine saying of Socrates, when he was unjustly condemned to die: "He, who suffereth for evil deeds, hath no hope of reward; but, he that suffereth for God, hath the greatest."


Verse 18

1 Peter 3:18. Being put to death in the flesh, &c.— By the flesh, in which our Lord was put to death, must be understood his body, which was nailed to the cross till he expired; and by the Spirit, the holy and ever-blessed Spirit of God. See the Inferences.


Verse 19

1 Peter 3:19. By which also he went, &c.— By which Spirit also he, going, preached to the spirits in prison. That is, our Lord, by the Spirit, inspired Noah, and thereby constituted him a preacher of righteousness unto those who were disobedient in that age. See Genesis 6:3; Genesis 6:22. The inspiration of the prophets seems every where to be ascribed to the Holy Spirit of God, which is the principal reason for our understanding τω Πνευματι, the Spirit, in that sense, 1 Peter 3:18. That our Lord imparted the Spirit unto the Old Testament prophets, see ch. 1 Peter 1:11.; and as he had glory with the Father before the world was, even from all eternity; and as by him God made the worlds, and governed his church and people in the early ages; he imparted the Spirit unto Noah and other prophets, before his coming in the flesh. The word going, may be either looked upon as ornamental and giving strength to the idea,—as that and other like words are in the scriptures and other authors;—or as God the Trinity is represented as doing what he did by his Spirit in the prophets, (Nehemiah 9:30. Isaiah 48:16. Zechariah 7:12.) so our Lord is represented as coming (or going) and doing what others did, in his name, and by that Spirit which they had received from him. And in like manner he may here be represented as going, and preaching to that wicked generation which perished in the flood; because he gave the Spirit to Noah, and thereby inspired him to preach to them. He preached by that preacher of righteousness, in whom was his Spirit, which then strove with man. Compare 2 Peter 2:5 with Genesis 6:3. By the spirits in prison we may therefore understand such persons as are now in the custody of death; and shut up, as it were, in a prison; where they are reserved unto the judgment of the last day: but unto whom Christ formerly preached, by the Spirit, that is, in the days of Noah, when those wicked persons lived here upon earth. For he inspired Noah to preach repentance unto that wicked generation, all the while the ark was preparing. But they continued impenitent, it is to be feared, and therefore perished in the flood; when a few persons, viz. righteous Noah and his family, were saved in the ark: and if, through grace, we have that, which is principally intended by Christian baptism,—the stipulation of a good conscience towards God, we shall be saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the wicked world shall inevitably perish.

Dr. Fulke has quoted the venerable Bede, as giving the sense of the text in words to the following purpose: he, who in our time, coming in the flesh, preached the way of life to the world; even he himself came before the flood, and preachedto them who were then unbelievers, and lived carnally. For, even he, by his Holy Spirit, was in Noah, and the rest of the holy men who were at that time; and by their good conversation preached to the wicked men of that age, that they might be converted to better manners. This interpretation Dr. Fulke doubted not but that Bede took from the more antient fathers.

To make out this interpretation, let the following things be carefully observed. The word spirit is commonly applied by the antient writers, not to living men, but to men after they are dead. Plato (toward the conclusion of his famous dialogue, entitled Gorgias) terms the place where wicked men are detained after death, το δεσμωτηριον, the prison, which they call Tartarus; and afterwards he speaks of wicked men deceased as εν Αδου — εν δεσμωτηριω,— in Hades, in prison. Elsner has quoted Aristotle, as using the phrase εν φυλακη ειναι, to be in prison, concerning the dead. For when Evoesus Syrus had hanged some of the satraps who were about to revolt, he ordered it to be told to their friends, that they were in prison, οτι εν φυλακη εισιν . But he used the word equivocally: for though he meant that they were dead, yet he designed that their friends should think they were in prison; and accordingly they gave money to ransom them; which when he had received, he brought them out dead. What therefore he said amounted to this, "That they were in custody," whereby he meant, that they were in the custody of death. But he would not add πνευματα, spirits, εν Αδου, in Hades, or any like words, because that would have made his meaning clear, which he intended should be obscure.

The persons here spoken of, are termed spirits in prison; that is, who are now in prison; though they formerly lived in bodies upon earth, and were disobedient in the days of Noah, all the while the ark was preparing. We find the word φυλακη, a prison, used concerning wicked spirits, Revelation 18:2; Revelation 20:7 and the same word is applied to wicked men after they are dead. The Syriac version has rendered the words thus; He preached unto those souls which were (or are) detained in Sheol, or Hades; that is, to wicked men, who are now spirits, confined in their proper place, in the state of the dead.

Our blessed Saviour cautioned wicked men to repent before death, lest they should be cast into prison; Matthew 5:25; Matthew 18:30. Luke 12:58. And St. Peter seems here to be speaking of that prison, in which the spirits of wicked men are detained in safe custody; reserved unto the judgment of the last day; as it is said of the fallen angels. 2 Peter 2:4-5. Jude 1:6.

To conclude.—If this part of the present epistle be looked upon as a digression, it was a very pertinent one, and a carrying on of the grand view of the epistle; which was, to encourage the Christians to bear persecution with patience and fortitude, and still to continue to do good. For, Christ, their Lord and Master, did so, and persevered unto the death; but he rose again, and was amply rewarded: inlike manner the Christians also, after suffering with him, might expect, at last, to be glorified together with him. Nay, farther; Christ was always doing good, and particularly endeavouring to render men pious and holy. For, he inspired Noah, and sent him to preach unto the antediluvians, who are now dead; and the effect was much the same with his own preaching in person, or by his apostles, afterwards; that is, some believed, but others were disobedient. It may be asked, "And what became of them?" The answer is, "The righteous few were saved in the ark: the numerous disobedient, who had rejected the admonitions of Noah for a hundred and twenty years, perished in the flood." What happened during therains, &c. we must leave. And the event will again be analogous; for the unbelieving world must perish. But as righteous Noah and his family were saved in the ark, so they who are baptized with the true Christian baptism, (which is not a mere putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the stipulation of a good conscience towards God,) will finally be saved, if they continue faithful, in consequence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven, and is placed at the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him: 1 Peter 3:22.


Verse 20

1 Peter 3:20. Were saved by water. Some would translate the words Δι υδατος, in, or amidst the water; others, with our translation, by water: that is, the water, which destroyed the rest of mankind, lifted up the ark, whereby Noah and his family were saved. Doddridge, after Raphelius, would render it, were carried safely through the water. See the next note.


Verse 21

1 Peter 3:21. The like figure whereunto, &c.— And that which is the antetype, even baptism, doth also now save us (not the putting off the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience) to God, by, &c. Sir Norton Knatchbull would join the words δι υδατος, 1 Peter 3:20 to the beginning of this verse, and would have us read thus: By water also, baptism, which is the antetype, doth also now save us. For this he alleges, that the preposition δια will then have its usual and proper signification: and as to the trajection of the words, he endeavours to confirm it by other like instances, both from the scriptures, and some the best Greek writers. The word Τυπος, strictly speaking, signifies a type, or original model; and the word

' Αντιτυπον, the copy which is made after that model; but here it seems to signify no more than some similitude or resemblance in the two things compared. It may be inquired, "What are the two things compared? and wherein does the resemblance lie? That is, Is the water of baptism compared to the waters of the flood? or baptism itself compared to Noah's ark? or the being saved by baptism to the being saved in the ark?"—The last appears tohave been St. Peter's design; namely, that the salvation by the ark, in this particular, resembled our salvation by Christian baptism: for as those righteous persons, Noah and his family, were saved in the ark from perishing by the deluge; so Christian baptism, if followed by, or accompanied with, righteousness, or a good conscience, will be a means, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, of saving Christians from perishing with the wicked world.St. Peter had observed, 1 Peter 3:18 that Jesus Christ being put to death in the flesh, was brought to life again by the Spirit; and he seems here to refer to what he had said there: and by speaking of the resurrectionand the glory of Christ, he means not only to represent him as the object of our confidence, but likewise to intimate, that if, through grace, we imitate him in his courageous fidelity, we may hope to partake with him in his

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-peter-3.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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