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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Peter 3:15

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Commandments;   Fear of God;   Heart;   Hope;   Influence;   Meekness;   Quotations and Allusions;   Reasoning;   Speaking;   Testimony;   Thompson Chain Reference - Hope;   Hope-Despair;   Readiness;   Readiness-Unreadiness;   Service;   Spiritual;   Testimony, Religious;   The Topic Concordance - Suffering;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Fear, Godly;   Heart, the;   Hope;   Meekness;   Missionaries, All Christians Should Be as;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Fear;   Jesus christ;   Mark, gospel of;   Meekness;   Peter, letters of;   Sanctification;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Gentleness;   Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of;   Sanctification;   Second Coming of Christ;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Hope;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Atonement;   Peter, the Epistles of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Meekness;   Persecution in the Bible;   Reverence;   1 Peter;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Person of Christ;   Peter, First Epistle of;   Sanctification, Sanctify;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Answer;   Example;   Lord;   Meekness;   Perseverance;   Peter Epistles of;   Pre-Eminence ;   Sanctify, Sanctification;   Word;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - 34 Meekness Quietness;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Alway;   Answer;   Meekness;   Persecution;   Peter, the First Epistle of;   Reason;   Regeneration;   Sanctification;  
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for January 25;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 13;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 15. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts — To sanctify God may signify to offer him the praises due to his grace, but as to sanctify literally signifies to make holy, it is impossible that God should be thus sanctified. We have often already seen that αγιαζω signifies to separate from earth, that is, from any common use or purpose, that the thing or person thus separated may be devoted to a sacred use. Perhaps we should understand Peter's words thus: Entertain just notions of God; of his nature, power, will, justice, goodness, and truth. Do not conceive of him as being actuated by such passions as men; separate him in your hearts from every thing earthly, human, fickle, rigidly severe, or capriciously merciful. Consider that he can neither be like man, feel like man, nor act like man. Ascribe no human passions to him, for this would desecrate not sanctify him. Do not confine him in your conceptions to place, space, vacuity, heaven, or earth; endeavour to think worthily of the immensity and eternity of his nature, of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Avoid the error of the heathens, who bound even their Dii Majores, their greatest gods, by fate, as many well-meaning Christians do the true God by decrees; conceive of him as infinitely free to act or not act, as he pleases. Consider the goodness of his nature; for goodness, in every possible state of perfection and infinitude, belongs to him. Ascribe no malevolence to him; nor any work, purpose, or decree, that implies it: this is not only a human passion, but a passion of fallen man. Do not suppose that he can do evil, or that he can destroy when he might save; that he ever did, or ever can, hate any of those whom he made in his own image and in his own likeness, so as by a positive decree to doom them, unborn, to everlasting perdition, or, what is of the same import, pass them by without affording them the means of salvation, and consequently rendering it impossible for them to be saved. Thus endeavour to conceive of him; and, by so doing, you separate him from all that is imperfect, human, evil, capricious, changeable, and unkind. Ever remember that he has wisdom without error, power, without limits, truth without falsity, love without hatred, holiness without evil, and justice without rigour or severity on the one hand, or capricious tenderness on the other. In a word, that he neither can be, say, purpose, or do, any thing that is not infinitely just, holy, wise, true, and gracious; that he hates nothing that he has made; and has so loved the world, the whole human race, as to give his only-begotten Son to die for them, that they might not perish, but have everlasting life. Thus sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and you will ever be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in you to every serious and candid inquirer after truth. Most religious systems and creeds are incapable of rational explanation, because founded on some misconception of the Divine nature.

"They set at odds heaven's jarring attributes,

And with one excellence another wound."

The system of humanizing God, and making him, by our unjust conceptions of him, to act as ourselves would in certain circumstances, has been the bane of both religion and piety; and on this ground infidels have laughed us to scorn. It is high time that we should no longer know God after the flesh; for even if we have known Jesus Christ after the flesh, we are to know him so no more.

What I have written above is not against any particular creed of religious people, it is against any or all to whom it may justly apply, it may even be against some portions of my own; for even in this respect I am obliged daily to labour to sanctify the Lord God in my heart, to abstract him from every thing earthly and human, and apprehend him as far as possible in his own essential nature and attributes through the light of his Spirit and the medium of his own revelation. To act thus requires no common effort of soul: and just apprehensions of this kind are not acquired without much prayer, much self-reflection, much time, and much of the grace and mercy of God.

Instead of τονθεον, GOD, ABC, four others, both the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, the Coptic, Vulgate, and Armenian, with Clement and Fulgentius, read τονχριστον, CHRIST. Sanctify Christ in your hearts. This reading is at least equal to the other in the authorities by which it is supported; but which was written by St. Peter we know not.

A reason of the hope — An account of your hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life in God's glory. This was the great object of their hope, as Christ was the grand object of their faith.

The word απολογια, which we translate answer, signifies a defence; from this we have our word apology, which did not originally signify an excuse for an act, but a defence of that act. The defences of Christianity by the primitive fathers are called apologies. Acts 21:1.

With meekness and fear — Several excellent MSS. add the word αλλα, but, here, and it improves the sense considerably: Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, BUT with meekness and fear. Do not permit your readiness to answer, nor the confidence you have in the goodness of your cause, to lead you to answer pertly or superciliously to any person; defend the truth with all possible gentleness and fear, lest while you are doing it you should forget his presence whose cause you support, or say any thing unbecoming the dignity and holiness of the religion which you have espoused, or inconsistent with that heavenly temper which the Spirit of your indwelling Lord must infallibly produce.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Example of Christ (3:13-22)

Persecution cannot really harm those who are eager to please God, because with such people persecution always results in greater spiritual blessing (13). Because they love what is right they may be persecuted by those who love what is wrong, but to suffer for such a reason is a cause for joy, not sorrow. If people are devoted to Christ and are always ready to give others an explanation for their devotion, they will not fear their persecutors (14-15). They should also try to avoid all forms of wrongdoing. Perhaps their enemies will see that they are persecuting without cause, and so feel ashamed of themselves (16-17).
As Peter thinks about those who suffer for doing good, he is reminded of the perfect example, Jesus Christ. The one who was perfect died for sinners to bring them to God. In his body he suffered the penalty for their sins - death. But he triumphed over death. His spirit, instead of being bound by those forces that lead to eternal condemnation, entered into fuller life. He then went to the place where evil spirits are imprisoned awaiting final judgment and announced his victory (18-19).

Those spirits had led people to rebel against God (as, for example, in the time of Noah; see Genesis 6:1-8), but Christ has now conquered all sin and rebellion. God’s saving of Noah and his family by means of the ark illustrates the salvation of believers. A corresponding illustration in the New Testament is baptism. Christ has died and triumphed over death, and therefore believers are, through him, cleansed from sin, made alive and brought back to God (20-22).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear:

The prophecy of Isaiah has this: "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:13). It is clear that Peter's thought in this and the preceding verses is clearly connected with the words of Isaiah, but there is a notable difference:

Peter here substituted the Saviour'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.[20]

Sanctify ... Christ as Lord... What is meant by sanctifying the Lord? Mason tells us that linguistically it is closely akin to "hallowing" the name of the Father in heaven, as in the Lord's prayer (the only other place in the New Testament where this expression occurs), defining "to sanctify" as "to recognize, in word and deed, his full holiness, and therefore to treat him with due awe."[21]

Ready always to give an answer ... Mason regarded this admonition as having special reference to the occasion of a Christian's "being called into a law court to give an account."[22] There is no reason, however, to limit the meaning in such a way. All Christians, at all times, should have the full grasp of the rational basis for espousing the holy religion they have accepted, as well as possessing a thorough knowledge of the great doctrines of the New Testament; for there will be countless occasions in every life when such knowledge and understanding can be made a vehicle for enlisting others in the holy faith.

Concerning the hope ... The primacy of hope in the motivation of Christians shines in this, there being a glorious sense in which "We are saved by hope" (Romans 8:24). The meaning here is exactly the same as "concerning the faith," both expressions referring to "the Christian religion."

Yet with meekness and fear ... Why this? There are many reasons: (1) Christians should manifest meekness at all times. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5); but in addition to this, there is no situation in life that demands such an attitude any more than that which appears on an occasion of religious questioning and response. (2) A lack of meekness can prejudice judges, if one is in a court of law. (3) A lack of it can antagonize earnest questioners whose seeking after the truth can be easily frustrated by an arrogant, overbearing, or discourteous attitude. And why fear? (1) In all situations where a Christian is attempting to answer the questions of others, or to restore one who has fallen into sin, there is danger to the Christian himself. As Paul put it, "Restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). (2) There should be fear that the answers might not be given in the right spirit, or that they might not be correct. The failure of many really to know the truth about their own religious views is widespread; and every teacher should concern himself to know the right answers, to avoid becoming himself a teacher of falsehood. Fear is a proper motive for all who presume to teach the word of the Lord.

[20] B. C. Caffin, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22,1Peter (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 131.

[21] A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 418.

[22] Ibid.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts - In Isaiah Isaiah 8:13 this is, “sanctify the Lord of hosts himself;” that is, in that connection, regard him as your Protector, and be afraid of him, and not of what man can do. The sense in the passage before us is, “In your hearts, or in the affections of the soul, regard the Lord God as holy, and act toward him with that confidence which a proper respect for one so great and so holy demands. In the midst of dangers, be not intimidated; dread not what man can do, but evince proper reliance on a holy God, and flee to him with the confidence which is due to one so glorious.” This contains, however, a more general direction, applicable to Christians at all times. It is, that in our hearts we are to esteem God as a holy being, and in all our deportment to act toward him as such. The object of Peter in quoting the passage from Isaiah, was to lull the fears of those whom he addressed, and preserve them from any alarms in view of the persecutions to which they might be exposed; the trials which would be brought upon them by people. Thus, in entire accordance with the sentiment as employed by Isaiah, he says, “Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” That is, “in order to keep the mind calm in trials, sanctify the Lord in your hearts; regard him as your holy God and Saviour; make him your refuge. This will allay all your fears, and secure you from all that you dread.” The sentiment of the passage then is, that the sanctifying of the Lord God in our hearts, or proper confidence in him as a holy and righteous God, will deliver us from fear. As this is a very important sentiment for Christians, it may be proper, in order to a just exposition of the passage, to dwell a moment on it:

I. What is meant by our sanctifying the Lord God? It cannot mean to make him holy, for he is perfectly holy, whatever may be our estimate of him; and our views of him evidently can make no change in his character. The meaning therefore must be, that we should regard him as holy in our estimate of him, or in the feelings which we have toward him. This may include the following things:

(1) To esteem or regard him as a holy being, in contradistinction from all those feelings which rise up in the heart against him - the feelings of complaining and murmuring under his dispensations, as if he were severe and harsh; the feelings of dissatisfaction with his government, as if it were partial and unequal; the feelings of rebellion, as if his claims were unfounded or unjust.

(2) To desire that he may be regarded by others as holy, in accordance with the petition in the Lord’s prayer, Matthew 6:9, “hallowed be thy name;” that is, “let thy name be esteemed to be holy everywhere;” a feeling in opposition to that which is regardless of the honor which he may receive in the world. When we esteem a friend, we desire that all due respect should be shown him by others; we wish that all who know him should have the same views that we have; we are sensitive to his honor, just in proportion as we love him.

(3) To act toward him as holy: that is, to obey his laws, and acquiesce in all his requirements, as if they were just and good. This implies:

(a)That we are to speak of him as holy, in opposition to the language of disrespect and irreverence so common among mankind;

(b)That we are to flee to him in trouble, in contradistinction from withholding our hearts from him, and flying to other sources of consolation and support.

II. What is it to do this in the heart? Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; that is, in contradistinction from a mere external service. This may imply the following things:

(1) In contradistinction from a mere intellectual assent to the proposition that he is holy. Many admit the doctrine that God is holy into their creeds, who never suffer the sentiment to find its way to the heart. All is right on this subject in the articles of their faith; all in their hearts may be murmuring and complaining. In their creeds he is spoken of as just and good; in their hearts they regard him as partial and unjust, as severe and stern, as unamiable and cruel.

(2) In contradistinction From a mere outward form of devotion. In our prayers, and in our hymns, we, of course, “ascribe holiness to our Maker.” But how much of this is the mere language of form! How little does the heart accompany it! And even in the most solemn and sublime ascriptions of praise, how often are the feelings of the heart entirely at variance with what is expressed by the lips! What would more justly offend us, than for a professed friend to approach us with the language of friendship, when every feeling of his heart belied his expressions, and we knew that his honeyed words were false and hollow!

III. Such a sanctifying of the Lord in our hearts will save us from fear. We dread danger, we dread sickness, we dread death, we dread the eternal world. We are alarmed when our affairs are tending to bankruptcy; we are alarmed when a friend is sick and ready to die; we are alarmed if our country is invaded by a foe, and the enemy already approaches our dwelling. The sentiment in the passage before us is, that if we sanctify the Lord God with proper affections, we shall be delivered from these alarms, and the mind will be calm:

(1) The fear of the Lord, as Leighton (in loc.) expresses it, “as greatest, overtops and nullifies all lesser fears: the heart possessed with this fear hath no room for the other.” It is an absorbing emotion; making everything else comparatively of no importance. If we fear God, we have nothing else to fear. The highest emotion which there can be in the soul is the fear of God; and when that exists, the soul will be calm amidst all that might tend otherwise to disturb it. “What time I am afraid,” says David, “I will trust in thee,” Psalms 56:3. “We are not, careful,” said Daniel and his friends, “to answer thee, O king. Our God can deliver us; but if not, we will not worship the image,” Daniel 3:16.

(2) If we sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, there will be a belief that he will do all things well, and the mind will be calm. However dark his dispensations may be, we shall be assured that everything is ordered aright. In a storm at sea, a child may be calm when he feels that his father is at the helm, and assures him that there is no danger. In a battle, the mind of a soldier may be calm, if he has confidence in his commander, and he assures him that all is safe. So in anything, if we have the assurance that the best thing is done that can be, that the issues will all be right, the mind will be calm. But in this respect the highest confidence that can exist, is that which is reposed in God.

(3) There will be the assurance that all is safe. “Though I walk,” says David, “through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” Psalms 23:4. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:1. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,”Psalms 46:1-3; Psalms 46:1-3. Let us ever then regard the Lord as holy, just, and good. Let us flee to him in all the trials of the present life, and in the hour of death repose on his arm. Every other source of trust will fail; and whatever else may be our reliance, when the hour of anguish approaches, that reliance will fail, and that which we dreaded will overwhelm us. Nor riches, nor honors, nor earthly friends, can save us from those alarms, or be a security for our souls when “the rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow” upon us.

And be ready always - That is:

(a)Be always able to do it; have such reasons for the hope that is in you that they can be stated; or, have good and substantial reasons; and,

(b)Be willing to state those reasons on all proper occasions.

No man ought to entertain opinions for which a good reason cannot be given; and every man ought to be willing to state the grounds of his hope on all proper occasions. A Christian should have such intelligent views of the truth of his religion, and such constant evidence in his own heart and life that he is a child of God, as to be able at any time to satisfy a candid inquirer that the Bible is a revelation from heaven, and that it is proper for him to cherish the hope of salvation.

To give an answer - Greek, “An apology,” (ἀπολογίαν apologian.) This word formerly did not mean, as the word apology does now, an excuse for anything that is done as if it were wrong, but a defense of anything. We apply the word now to denote something written or said in extenuation of what appears to others to be wrong, or what might be construed as wrong - as when we make an apology to others for not fulfilling an engagement, or for some conduct which might be construed as designed neglect. The word originally, however, referred rather to that which was thought not to be true, than that which might be construed as wrong; and the defense or “apology” which Christians were to make of their religion, was not on the supposition that others would regard it as wrong, but in order to show them that it was true. The word used here is rendered “defense,” Acts 22:1; Philippians 1:7, Philippians 1:17; answer, Acts 25:16; 1Co 9:3; 2 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 3:15; and clearing of yourselves in 2 Corinthians 7:11. We are not to hold ourselves ready to make an apology for our religion as if it were a wrong thing to be a Christian; but we are always to be ready to give reasons for regarding it as true.

To every man that asketh you - Anyone has a right respectfully to ask another on what grounds he regards his religion as true; for every man has a common interest in religion, and in knowing what is the truth on the subject. If any man, therefore, asks us candidly and respectfully by what reasons we have been led to embrace the gospel, and on what grounds we, regard it as true, we are under obligation to state those grounds in the best manner that we are able. We should regard it not as an impertinent intrusion into our private affairs, but as an opportunity of doing good to others, and to honor the Master whom we serve. Nay, we should hold ourselves in readiness to state the grounds of our faith and hope, whatever maybe the motive of the inquirer, and in whatever manner the request may be made. Those who were persecuted for their religion, were under obligation to make as good a defense of it as they could, and to state to their persecutors the “reason” of the hope which they entertained. And so now, if a man attacks our religion; if he ridicules us for being Christians; if he tauntingly asks us what reason we have for believing the truth of the Bible, it is better to tell him in a kind manner, and to meet his taunt with a kind and strong argument, than to become angry, or to turn away with contempt. The best way to disarm him is to show him that by embracing religion we are not fools in understanding; and, by a kind temper, to convince him that the influence of religion over us when we are abused and insulted, is a reason why we should love our religion, and why he should too.

A reason of the hope that is in you - Greek, “an account,” (λόγον logon.) That is, you are to state on what ground you cherish that hope. This refers to the whole ground of our hope, and includes evidently two things:

  1. The reason why we regard Christianity as true, or as furnishing a ground of hope for people; and,

(2)The reason which we have ourselves for cherishing a hope of heaven, or the experimental and practical views which we have of religion, which constitute a just ground of hope.

It is not improbable that the former of these was more directly in the eye of the apostle than the latter, though both seem to be implied in the direction to state the reasons which ought to satisfy others that it is proper for us to cherish the hope of heaven. The first part of this duty - that we are to state the reasons why we regard the system of religion which we have embraced as true - implies, that we should be acquainted with the evidences of the truth of Christianity, and be able to state them to others. Christianity is founded on evidence; and though it cannot be supposed that every Christian will be able to understand all that is involved in what are called the evidences of Christianity, or to meet all the objections of the enemies of the gospel; yet every man who becomes a Christian should have such intelligent views of religion, and of the evidences of the truth of the Bible, that he can show to others that the religion which he has embraced has claims to their attention, or that it is not a mere matter of education, of tradition, or of feeling. It should also be an object with every Christian to increase his acquaintance with the evidences of the truth of religion, not only for his own stability and comfort in the faith, but that he may be able to defend religion if attacked, or to guide others if they are desirous of knowing what is truth. The second part of this duty, that we state the reasons which we have for cherishing the hope of heaven as a personal matter, implies:

(a)That there should be, in fact, a well-founded hope of heaven; that is, that we have evidence that we are true Christians, since it is impossible to give a “reason” of the hope that is in us unless there are reasons for it;

(b)That we be able to state in a clear and intelligent manner what constitutes evidence of piety, or what should be reasonably regarded as such; and,

(c)That we be ever ready to state these reasons.

A Christian should always be willing to converse about his religion. He should have such a deep conviction of its truth, of its importance, and of his personal interest in it; he should have a hope so firm, so cheering, so sustaining, that he will be always prepared to converse on the prospect of heaven and to endeavor to lead others to walk in the path to life.

With meekness - With modesty; without any spirit of ostentation; with gentleness of manner. This seems to be added on the supposition that they sometimes might be rudely assailed; that the questions might be proposed in a spirit of evil; that it might be done in a taunting or insulting manner. Even though this should be done, they were not to fall into a passion, to manifest resentment, or to retort in an angry and revengeful manner; but, in a calm and gentle spirit, they were to state the reasons of their faith and hope, and leave the matter there.

And fear - Margin, “reverence.” The sense seems to be, “in the fear of God; with a serious and reverent spirit; as in the presence of Him who sees and hears all things.” It evidently does not mean with the fear or dread of those who propose the question, but with that serious and reverent frame of mind which is produced by a deep impression of the importance of the subject, and a conscious sense of the presence of God. It follows, from the injunction of the apostle here:

(1)That every professing Christian should have clear and intelligent views of his own personal interest in religion, or such evidences of piety that they can be stated to others, and that they can be made satisfactory to other minds;

(2)That every Christian, however humble his rank, or however unlettered he may be, may become a valuable defender of the truth of Christianity;

(3)That we should esteem it a privilege to bear our testimony to the truth and value of religion, and to stand up as the advocates of truth in the world. Though we may be rudely assailed, it is an honor to speak in defense of religion; though we are persecuted and reviled, it is a privilege to be permitted in any way to show our fellow-men that there is such a thing as true religion, and that man may cherish the hope of heaven.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Though this is a new precept, it yet depends on what is gone before, for he requires such constancy in the faithful, as boldly to give a reason for their faith to their adversaries. And this is a part of that sanctification which he had just mentioned; for we then really honor God, when neither fear nor shame hinders us from making a profession of our faith. But Peter does not expressly bid us to assert and proclaim what has been given us by the Lord everywhere, and always and among all indiscriminately, for the Lord gives his people the spirit of discretion, so that they may know when and how far and to whom it is expedient to speak. He bids them only to be ready to give an answer, lest by their sloth and the cowardly fear of the flesh they should expose the doctrine of Christ, by being silent, to the derision of the ungodly. The meaning then is, that we ought to be prompt in avowing our faith, so as to set it forth whenever necessary, lest the unbelieving through our silence should condemn the religion we follow.

But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple. Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshipped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.

This was also required by the state of the times: the Christian name was much hated and deemed infamous; many thought the sect wicked and guilty of many sacrileges. It would have been, therefore, the highest perfidy against God, if, when asked, they had neglected to give a testimony in favor of their religion. And this, as I think, is the meaning of the word apology, which Peter uses, that is, that the Christians were to make it evident to the world that they were far off from every impiety, and did not corrupt true religion, on which account they were suspected by the ignorant.

Hope here is by a metonymy to be taken for faith. Peter, however, as it has been said, does not require them to know how to discuss distinctly and refinedly every article of the faith, but only to shew that their faith in Christ was consistent with genuine piety. And hence we learn how all those abuse the name of Christians, who understand nothing certain respecting their faith, and have nothing to give as an answer for it. But it behoves us again carefully to consider what he says, when he speaks of that hope that is in you; for he intimates that the confession which flows from the heart is alone that which is approved by God; for except faith dwells within, the tongue prattles in vain. It ought then to have its roots within us, so that it may afterwards bring forth the fruit of confession.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn now to First Peter chapter three as Peter addresses himself to the wives? This particular section goes back to verse thirteen of chapter two,

Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to king as supreme; governors, unto them sent toward the punishment of evildoers, so is the will of God, that in well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men ( 1 Peter 2:13-15 ):

So the idea of submitting to one another in love. And so he talked about, first of all, the servants submitting themselves unto their own masters, Christ leaving us an example. And now, to wives.

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they may also without the word be won by the conversation or behavior of the wives ( 1 Peter 3:1 );

Or the lifestyle of the wife. This particular Greek word is a difficult word to translate. The old English word was conversation, which doesn't mean verbal but it means your lifestyle. And so it's a word that has lost its meaning through the years when this translation was made. So you can translate that "behavior" or "lifestyle" or "manner of living." So as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, I don't need that anyone should write letters of commendation for me because you are my living epistles known and read of all men.

Our lifestyle testifies to what we believe. And more people are brought to Christ by the observing of the Christian life as you live it, than are converted through just someone laying the four spiritual laws on them.

We were talking with a missionary who is in the Philippines and has a ministry basically to the Moslems. And he talked of the difficulty of the converting of a Moslem because for a Moslem, it is a capital offense to convert to Christianity. He is and can be put to death by his family members if he leaves the Islam faith and becomes a Christian. It is a capital offense to convert a Moslem. But, he said, in order to convert a Moslem, they must see Christianity in action in your life. You can't do it with words; they have to see the Gospel demonstrated in your life. They watch. They observe, and then, he said, they have to see a miracle and answer to prayer. And these are the things that convince the Moslem of the truth of Christianity.

So Paul is declaring that our lifestyle is all-important. You wives who have unbelieving husbands, you're more apt to convert them by your lifestyle than you are by putting tracts in their peanut butter sandwiches. So that when they bite into the sandwich, they get the word and they pull it out of their mouth and they read, God loves you, you know. So it is the lifestyle, the way we live becomes the witness of what we declare.

One of the weaknesses of the church is the lack of the positive lifestyle of the believer, professing one thing and living another. That, of course, we call hypocrisy and that has been the bane and the curse of the church. So how we live is extremely important, just as important as what we say.

While they behold your chaste lifestyle with reverence. Whose adorning [or beauty] let it not be the outward the fancy hairstyles, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of fancy clothes ( 1 Peter 3:2-3 );

I could get in big trouble at this point. Not my wife, I'm not thinking about her. I'm thinking about a television station locally here. "Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning with the fancy hairstyles, the wearing of gold, putting on of fancy apparel."

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, a meek and a quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is very valuable ( 1 Peter 3:4 ).

The true beauty is an inner beauty, not an outward beauty. Now, there are some women who are outstanding artists, and they can paint a beautiful face. It takes them awhile; it takes longer as the years go by. There's an Old Swedish proverb, Good looks don't last, good cookers do. And the idea is to encourage the young men not to look for a pretty face but to look for a good cook.

But the true beauty, beauty that doesn't fade, the beauty that grows with years is that inner beauty. Some of the most beautiful people in the world, that beautiful inner beauty; you love to be around them because there's just such a beauty that comes forth from their lives. And Peter is saying recognize that that is the true beauty. The true beauty isn't that which you put on outwardly but the true beauty is that which is inward, which shines out.

I do not believe that Peter is intending here to issue a prohibition against the ladies looking nice. I don't think that this is a prohibition as some have interpreted it to be of wearing gold apparel or things of this nature. Not intended as that at all. The intention is just that you recognize that true beauty is inward. That which God values, the meek, the quiet spirit which in the sight of God is very valuable.

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord ( 1 Peter 3:5-6 ):

Now I don't expect that you women are going to go this far as to call your husbands "lord", unless it's tongue-in-cheek. And interestingly enough, Sarah had and asserted her place, too. I mean, it wasn't a --it was a two-way street. When she was upset over Ishmael mocking her little boy, she said to Abraham, "You get rid of that woman and her child." And Abraham, though it hurt him, got rid of Hagar and Ishmael. So you, husbands don't try to pounce on this scripture and use it as a club to beat your wives in submission. Marriage is a give-and-take proposition and it is an understanding.

Now of course with Peter, interestingly enough, has quite a bit to say to the wife. And if you read it in Amplified, I think these guys were male chauvinists because they really jump onto this and amplify it almost to an extreme. Peter has quite a bit to say to the wives but he has very little to say to the husbands. Interestingly enough, Paul shares pretty much equally; has quite a bit to say to the wives but then he has also quite a bit to say to the husbands, as far as the marriage relationships, interpersonal relationships within marriage. But,

you are the daughters of Sarah, as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement ( 1 Peter 3:6 ).

Now that's a peculiar phrase, "Not afraid with any terror," and I don't understand what Peter is saying by that. Maybe some of you have some ideas you can share with me.

Having devoted six verses to the wives, he now devotes one to the husband.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto a weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered ( 1 Peter 3:7 ).

Getting along; you know our prayer life can be hindered by friction within the home. And so it's important that there be a harmony within the house. There's an important, that the husband recognize the weaknesses of the wife and honor her as a weaker vessel; watching over her, taking care of her, shielding her.

As I have said, basically in marriage God has two rules: one for the wife, one for the husband. In giving two rules, He keeps it simple so that it's almost impossible to say, Well, I forgot the rule. He's giving you just one so you can't forget. And in giving the rule, God was thinking of the other.

So when He said, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church" ( Ephesians 5:25 ), He knew that a woman's greatest need was that of knowing that she is loved supremely by her husband. And the woman is always fishing for the affirmation of this. Honey, do you love me? Honey, do I look nice? Do I look sharp tonight? Is this, you know, do you like this outfit? And she's always fishing for "Honey, you're beautiful. I love you. You're everything to me." She's needing this assurance and she fishes for this assurance because she needs the security of knowing that she's loved.

Now Peter is saying, Honor her knowing that she's weaker. Give her that security; give her that strength. You are the strong one, give her that strength. Let her feel the protection; let her feel secure; your big, strong arm around her. And she feels that security and she needs to feel that security.

And then the Lord said to the wives, "Submit yourself unto your own husbands" ( Ephesians 5:22 ). And God knew that guys have this stupid male macho image of themselves and that they've got to feel that they're strong and powerful and in control; that they're running the show. And a challenge of their authority is a real threat to their manhood. And so in the challenging of the authority, they then feel they have to assert their manhood. And big boys don't cry; that is, big boys aren't emotional.

And so to assert my manhood, I become very strong, cold and aloof. "I'm running the show and I don't need you and I don't need anybody else. I can do it myself," you know. Oh boy, what that does then is just compound the insecurity of the wife that cause her to challenge you in the first place. And you can get a horrible cycle going here as it works against the marriage to destroy it. Because the more cold and aloof you are, the less secure she feels. The less secure she feels, the more she challenges your decision. The more she challenges your decisions, the colder you become and, you know, and so you can just tear a marriage apart.

And so these are important rules. They're basic to a good marriage, because the more the wife submits to her husband, the easier he finds it to show his love. The more he shows his love, the easier she finds it to submit to him.

Now he may be stupid, he may lose everything, but he's here and he loves me and, you know we're together, we'll make it. But if you're cold and aloof; this jerk making a stupid mistake and he's probably going to take off when he has lost everything. He'll be gone and then I won't have anything. What am I going to do? And she feels secure so she has to challenge everything that you do, everything that you say.

So these are basic simple rules. And always as far as the wife, it is subjection to the husband. To the husband, it is the honoring and the loving of his wife. And when it is working, it becomes a beautiful combination, and your lives can be enriched and your prayers effective. "Heirs together. We are heirs together of the grace of life."

There is no kind of a hierarchy in the spiritual realm. The men do not have an advantage over the women or vice versa; as far as in Christ, we are all one. So anybody who's looking for the superior sex or anything else, you will never find it in Christianity. For in Christianity, it removes any kind of barriers that exists between people. And we all come the same way to the same Lord to receive the same grace. And we are all one, heirs together of the grace of God. We share together equally in the things of the Lord. "For there is neither male nor female, bond or free: Christ is all and in all" ( Colossians 3:11 ).

Finally [addressing now both], be of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brethren, be pitiful ( 1 Peter 3:8 ),

Now that word has changed in the usage, too. It would better be translated "full of pity." You see that's what it's actually saying, pity-full. But we've come to, you know, think of pitiful, as you know a poor cat that's lost an eye or something. So "be full of pity", or another translation of the Greek word is tenderhearted. Be a softie; be tenderhearted. I pray that God will always grant to me a tender heart, a heart of compassion. To be like Jesus I must have it.

How many times you read in the Gospel, "And Jesus looked upon them and had compassion on them." He was tenderhearted. He was a soft touch. Anybody could get to Him. He was always moved by the needs of people. And may God help us to be tenderhearted, not to become callused or indifferent to the needs of people around us but that we might have tender hearts, full of pity.

and be courteous ( 1 Peter 3:8 ):

Beautiful Christian trait: courtesy. It doesn't hurt, but it pays big dividends. How important to be courteous.

Not rendering evil for evil ( 1 Peter 3:9 ),

Now that's what the natural man would like to do, isn't it? I'll get even with you. "Evil for evil."

or railing for railing ( 1 Peter 3:9 ):

Some woman really railed on me this morning, now it isn't the first time. Every time they let her out, she comes around here and rails on me. Couple of Sundays ago, she was throwing clay pots out on the patio railing. This morning, she came as I was greeting people at the end of the second service. And I was greeting couple of young men first time they were here, and they were telling me how much they enjoyed the service. She comes up and grabs me and starts calling me a filthy viper and all kinds of stuff, you know. Just really railing on me. And it would have been easy to have railed back but the poor woman is mentally disturbed.

But this poor young kid didn't know what happened, you know. I mean, his eyes got big and he just --he was just telling me, you know, how much he'd enjoyed the message and how it spoke to him, and all, and she comes up with all of this and his eyes get big and all. And John got hold of her and dragged her off as she was railing, going around the corner, you know. John dragging her. And this kid said, I didn't know what was going on, I was --I was ready to do something. He said, Boy, you really handled that well, you know. Well, the thing is I know the woman; I know her problems. But it is so easy to rail back. But there's an interesting proverb that says, "A soft answer turns away wrath" ( Proverbs 15:1 ).

Now I had an interesting experience several years ago. It was during the height of the hippie thing around here where these hippies had these old vans and held together with bailing wire, you know; material things didn't mean anything to them, paint all over them. And I was going down Fairview and one of these hippies pulled out in front of me. And one of these old vans --and it died, just as he got in front of me. And he, it was dangerous moving, I mean, he shouldn't have pulled out in front of me, but he did and the thing died. And there were traffic coming on my left where I couldn't get around him, so I just laid on my horn. And I was really upset. And this hippie kid, you know the beard and the whole thing, got out of his van and he looked back at me and just came with a peace sign, you know.

You know suddenly I felt real terrible about laying on my horn and the attitude that I had. I mean, here's a --here's a kid, you know, high in LSD telling me, Peace, brother. And here I'm supposed to be a minister telling people how to have peace, and I'm all upset because of this stupid move of his. And it really ministered to me how that a soft answer turns away wrath. I mean, I was ready to tear him apart. And just how it all vanished. Just you know, if he had gotten out railing, I'm sure I would have jumped out of the car and ran up and grabbed him and told him what a stupid move that was, you know. But his attitude was such that, you know, I --I just sort of chuckled to myself and said, Well, why not have peace, you know.

So don't render "railing for railing". That only creates, you know, that only builds and let's you read, you know --there's so many nuts on the highway today. You know you get out and rail at someone, this guy's going to pull a gun at you. Have you heard some of these things that are happening on the road? I mean, it's getting dangerous living.

contrariwise blessing ( 1 Peter 3:9 );

And really, that's what the kid did; Bless you, peace, brother, shalom.

knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing ( 1 Peter 3:9 ).

We ought to be seeking to bring blessings to people. So "bless those that curse you," Jesus said. "Do good to those who despitefully use you" ( Matthew 5:44 ). This is what we've been called to do.

For he that will love life, and see good days ( 1 Peter 3:10 ),

Now here Peter goes back and just quotes a portion out of the psalms. And again, it is interesting to me because it shows us Peter's good working knowledge of the Scriptures. And as he is writing in his own little exhortations here, he goes back and he quotes a portion of Psalm 34 , about three or four verses out of Psalm 34 . "He that would love life, and see good days,"

let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him turn away from evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil ( 1 Peter 3:10-12 ).

You want to have a good life, you want to see good days, these are --these are the rules: Just "keep your tongue, refrain it from evil, speaking evil, and your lips from speaking deceitfully. Turn away from evil, do good. Seek peace, pursue it." You'll have a good life.

And who is he that will harm you, if you are followers of that which is good? But and if you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled ( 1 Peter 3:13-14 );

He's moving into a new section in which he is going to be talking about suffering, and for the most part suffering wrongfully, suffering for righteousness' sake. You remember when Peter was arrested for the preaching of the Gospel and they beat him and told him not to preach anymore in the name of Jesus Christ? And Peter and his friends went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer that kind of persecution for Jesus.

Now Peter's telling us the very same thing. In other words, Peter is not preaching something he didn't practice, but he did this very same thing himself. When he was suffered for righteousness' sake, he rejoiced, "Happy are you." Jesus said, "Blessed are ye," and the word "blessed" is happy; "when men persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" ( Matthew 5:11-12 ). There's where you have to get the right perspective. You have to look onto the heavenly future.


"if you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts ( 1 Peter 3:14-15 ):

Give a special place for God in your life.

and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you for the reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and reverence ( 1 Peter 3:15 ):

So live the kind of a life that is an example that will provoke people to question you. What makes you different? Why is it that you are not upset over this? "Be ready to give to every man an answer for that hope that you have."

Having a good conscience; that, whereas they may speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good behavior in Christ ( 1 Peter 3:16 ).

Or lifestyle in Christ.

For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well doing, than for evil doing ( 1 Peter 3:17 ).

That's always a better thing. If you suffer for evil doing, you've got it coming. But if you suffer for well doing, then that is a better thing.

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins ( 1 Peter 3:18 ),

He's referring, of course, to the cross. Jesus went to the cross and died there for your sins.

the just [died] for the unjust ( 1 Peter 3:18 ),

"God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ). "The just for the unjust,"

that he might bring us to God ( 1 Peter 3:18 ),

The purpose of the cross is to put away our sin, which had separated us from God. The effect of sin is always alienation from God. You see, God created you in the beginning for fellowship. He wanted you to be one with Him, but a holy, pure, righteous God cannot be a part of sin, inconsistent with the nature of God. So man fell into sin; as the result, lost fellowship with God. The purposes of God was thwarted by sinful man.

So in order that man might have fellowship with God, these purposes of God restored, Jesus suffered once for our sins, "the just for the unjust", that He might be able to bring you to God. That He might be able to wash and cleanse you from your sin in order that you might have the purposes of God accomplished in your life as you fellowship with God.

being put to death in the flesh, but he was made alive by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits that were in prison; Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by the water ( 1 Peter 3:18-20 ).

Jesus preached to the souls in prison. Now in the prophecy concerning Jesus, in Isaiah 61 , says, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach the good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those that are bound" ( Isaiah 61:1 ).

What is he talking about? The prison was death by which men were bound. They were held captive. Jesus came to open the prison to those that are bound, or to open up Hades to those people who were bound there, who died before Jesus died for our sins. So when He died, He descended into hell. And He preached to those souls that were in prison. And when He ascended out of hell, He brought with Him those who had been captive.

In Ephesians chapter four, Paul tells us that "He who has ascended is the same one who first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth. And when he ascended, he led the captives from their captivity" ( Ephesians 4:8-9 ).

Luke's gospel, the sixteenth chapter, Jesus describes what hell was like prior to His death: Two compartments, no capacity of crossing from one to the other. One was a place of torment, the other was a place of comfort. Those who died in faith went to the place of comfort and were comforted by father Abraham. They are the ones to which Jesus preached when He descended into hell. But "God did not leave his soul in hell, neither did he allow the Holy One to see corruption," but this same Jesus has God raised from the dead ( Acts 2:27 ).

And Matthew's gospel chapter twenty-seven tells us that the graves of many of the saints were open and they were seen walking in the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection from the dead. He led the captives from their captivity. So opening the prison.

The like figure ( 1 Peter 3:21 )

That is, "the eighth --eight souls saved by water," "The like figure"

whereunto even baptism doth also now save us ( 1 Peter 3:21 )

So they were saved by the water or by the ark in the water. Even so, "Baptism," Peter says, "saves us." But then lest people make a mistake, he points out; it isn't the physical ritual.

(it isn't the washing away of the filth of the flesh, but it is the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ ( 1 Peter 3:21 ):

So the true baptism is a matter of my heart.

Now I do believe that every one who believes in Jesus Christ should be baptized in water. I definitely believe in water baptism and I personally believe in water baptism by full immersion. But I do believe that water baptism by full immersion is only a symbol of the work of the Spirit that has transpired within my heart. The old man being dead now buried in water and the new life that I now have, the life of the Spirit through Jesus Christ. Baptism becomes a beautiful symbol of that. As I go down in the water, it's being buried. The old life just being buried; and as I come up out of the water, it's that new life in the Spirit, in Christ. And it becomes a beautiful symbol.

But if it has not happened in my heart, it cannot happen by the ritual. The ritual itself cannot save me. Now you may be baptized by sprinkling, by dunking, by full immersion, and still not be saved. You know, they could hold you down until you drown and it still won't save you. The rite of baptism doesn't save. It symbolizes that which has already transpired in my heart. If it hasn't transpired in my heart, then baptism is meaningless. In fact, it's worse than that; it is --it's almost condemning to me.

Such as communion is condemning to the person who doesn't believe. The partaking of the bread and the cup, if you --if you don't believe in Jesus Christ, you're actually partaking your own damnation. You're witnessing against yourself. And "he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to his own soul, not discerning the Lord's body" ( 1 Corinthians 11:29 ).

So the same if you go through the rite or the ritual of water baptism and it hasn't happened in your heart; it's only a witness against you. It doesn't save you. So I do not believe in what is called baptismal regeneration. I do not believe that if a person is not baptized, then they are not saved. I can't believe that; you're saved by believing in Jesus Christ. Now because I believe in Jesus Christ, I want to obey Him and thus I am baptized as a sign of what has transpired already within my heart. But should I never get around to being baptized by some unfortunate accident or circumstances of some kind, I will still be saved. I have every confidence of that. "It isn't the putting away of the filth of the flesh," but it's that work of the Spirit within my heart, "the good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:"

Who is gone into heaven, and is at the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him ( 1 Peter 3:22 ).

Jesus, before He ascended into heaven said to the disciples, "All power is given to me in heaven and earth" ( Matthew 28:18 ). Have you ever imagined how much power that must be? Look at the universe. Think of the power that brought it into existence. "All power," He said, "is given to me in heaven and in earth." And so He ascended to the right hand of God; the angels, the authorities, the powers, the ranking of angels are all subject unto him. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.

Contending for the Faith

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: "Sanctify" means "to set apart" (Wuest, I Peter 88). When we fear and respect God more than men, believe that He makes all things work together for our good, and trust Him for the final fruits of right living, we are said to have "set Him apart" in our hearts. He is the Lord.

and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Christians, living in the world and yet not of it, were called upon to justify their very existence. So it has been in every generation. Christians must be well informed about the things of God, ever ready to give an answer, that is, "rise in defense of" the truth. Honest inquirers are to receive an account of the basis of our hope (Acts 22:1; Philippians 1:7). We explain our hope by teaching the truth, which is to be spoken only in love: fully, skillfully, but with love. We answer even our enemies in the fear of God rather than displaying indifference or arrogance when they question us.

Copyright Statement
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Contending for the Faith". 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Suffering for doing good 3:13-17

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Rather than being fearful we should commit ourselves afresh to Christ our Lord (Yahweh of armies, Isaiah 8:13) by purposing to continue to live for Him. We should also have the reason we are living as we do on the tip of our tongues so whenever an opportunity arises we can explain why we behave as we do (cf. Acts 22:1; Acts 25:16). Our inquisitive questioner may not ask about our hope per se. Nevertheless our hope is the root cause of our behavior and should be the subject of our answer. We should give this answer with a gentle spirit to those asking and in a reverent spirit toward God.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 3


3:1-2 Likewise, you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that, if there are any who refuse to believe the word, they may be won for Christ without a word because they have seen your pure and reverent behaviour.

Peter turns to the domestic problems which Christianity inevitably produced. It was inevitable that one marriage partner might be won for Christ, while the other remained untouched by the appeal of the gospel; and such a situation inevitably had difficulties.

It may seem strange that Peter's advice to wives is six times as long as that to husbands. This is because the wife's position was far more difficult than that of the husband. If a husband became a Christian, he would automatically bring his wife with him into the Church and there would be no problem. But if a wife became a Christian while her husband did not, she was taking a step which was unprecedented and which produced the acutest problems.

In every sphere of ancient civilization, women had no rights at all. Under Jewish law a woman was a thing; she was owned by her husband in exactly the same way as he owned his sheep and his goats: on no account could she leave him, although he could dismiss her at any moment. For a wife to change her religion while her husband did not was unthinkable.

In Greek civilization the duty of the woman was "to remain indoors and to be obedient to her husband." It was the sign of a good woman that she must see as little, hear as little and ask as little as possible. She had no kind of independent existence and no kind of mind of her own, and her husband could divorce her almost at caprice, so long as he returned her dowry.

Under Roman law a woman had no rights. In law she remained for ever a child. When she was under her father she was under the patria potestas, the father's power, which gave the father the right even of life and death over her; and when she married she passed equally into the power of her husband. She was entirely subject to her husband and completely at his mercy. Cato the Censor, the typical ancient Roman, wrote: "If you were to catch your wife in an act of infidelity, you can kill her with impunity without a trial." Roman matrons were prohibited from drinking wine, and Egnatius beat his wife to death when he found her doing so. Sulpicius Gallus dismissed his wife because she had once appeared in the streets without a veil. Antistius Vetus divorced his wife because he saw her secretly speaking to a freed woman in public. Publius Sempronius Sophus divorced his wife because once she went to the public games. The whole attitude of ancient civilization was that no woman could dare take any decision for herself.

What, then, must have been the problems of the wife who became a Christian while her husband remained faithful to the ancestral gods? It is almost impossible for us to realize what life must have been for the wife who was brave enough to become a Christian.

What, then, is Peter's advice in such a case? We must first note what he does not advise.

He does not advise the wife to leave her husband. In this he takes exactly the same attitude as Paul takes ( 1 Corinthians 7:13-16). Both Paul and Peter are quite sure that the Christian wife must remain with the heathen husband so long as he does not send her away. Peter does not tell the wife to preach or to argue. He does not tell her to insist that there is no difference between slave and freeman, Gentile and Jew, male and female, but that all are the same in the presence of the Christ whom she has come to know.

He tells her something very simple--nothing else than to be a good wife. It is by the silent preaching of the loveliness of her life that she must break down the barriers of prejudice and hostility, and win her husband for her new Master.

She must be submissive. It is not a spineless submission that is meant but, as someone has finely put it, a "voluntary selflessness." it is the submission which is based on the death of pride and the desire to serve. It is the submission not of fear but of perfect love.

She must be pure. There must be in her life a lovely chastity and fidelity founded on love.

She must be reverent. She must live in the conviction that the whole world is the Temple of God and that all life is lived in the presence of Christ.

THE TRUE ADORNMENT ( 1 Peter 3:3-6 )

3:3-6 Let not your adornment be an outward thing of braided hair and ornaments of gold and wearing of robes, but let it be an adornment of the inward personality of the heart, wrought by the unfading loveliness of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For it was thus in days of old the holy women, who placed their hopes in God, adorned themselves in submission to their husbands. It was thus that Sara obeyed Abraham calling him, "Lord." And you have become her children, if you do good, and if you do not become a prey to fluttering fears.

Bengel speaks of "the labour bestowed on dress which consumes much time." Such labour is no modern thing. We have already seen that in the ancient world women had no part in public life whatsoever; they had nothing to pass their time; for that reason it was sometimes argued that they must be allowed an interest in dress and adornment. Cato the Censor insisted on simplicity; Lucius Valerius answered: "Why should men grudge women their ornaments and their dress? Women cannot hold public offices, or priesthoods, or gain triumphs; they have no public occupations. What, then, can they do but devote their time to adornment and to dress?" Undue interest in self-adornment was then, as it still is, a sign that the person who indulged in it had no greater things to occupy her mind.

The ancient moralists condemned undue luxury as much as the Christian teachers did. Quintilian, the Roman master of oratory, wrote: "A tasteful and magnificent dress, as the Greek poet tells us, lends added dignity to the wearer: but effeminate and luxurious apparel fails to adorn the body, and only reveals the sordidness of the mind." Epictetus, the philosopher, thinking of the narrow life to which women were condemned in the ancient world, said, "Immediately after they are fourteen, women are called 'ladies' by men. And so, when they see that they have nothing else than to be bedfellows of men, they begin to beautify themselves and put all their hopes on that. It is, therefore, worthwhile for us to take pains to make them understand that they are honoured for nothing else but only for appearing modest and self-respecting." Epictetus and Peter agree.

There is at least one passage in the Old Testament which lists the various items of female adornment and threatens the day of judgment in which they will be destroyed. The passage is Isaiah 3:18-24. It speaks of the "finery of the anklets, the headbands and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarfs; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks and the handbags; the garments of gauze, the linen garments, the turbans and the veils."

In the world of the Greeks and the Romans it is interesting to collect the references to personal adornments. There were as many ways of dressing the hair as there were bees in Hybca. Hair was waved and dyed, sometimes black, more often auburn. Wigs were worn, especially blonde wigs, which are found even in the Christian catacombs; and hair to manufacture them was imported from Germany, and even from as far away as India. Hairbands, pins and combs were made of ivory, and boxwood, and tortoiseshell; and sometimes of gold, studded with gems.

Purple was the favourite colour for clothes. One pound weight of the best Tyrian purple wool, strained twice through, cost 1,000 denarii, 43.50 British pounds. A tyrian cloak of the best purple cost well over 100 British pounds. In one year silks, pearls, scents and jewellery were imported from India to the value of 1,000,000 British pounds. Similar imports of luxury came from Arabia.

Diamonds, emeralds, topazes, opals and the sardonyx were favourite stones. Struma Nonius had a ring valued at 21,250 British pounds. Pearls were loved most of all. Julius Caesar bought for Servilia a pearl which cost him 65,250 British pounds. Earrings were made of pearls and Seneca spoke of women with two or three fortunes in their ears. Slippers were encrusted with them; Nero even had a room whose walls were covered with them. Pliny saw Lollia Paulina, wife of Caligula, wearing a dress so covered with pearls and emeralds that it had cost 450,000 British pounds.

Christianity came into a world of luxury and decadence combined.

In face of all this Peter pleads for the graces which adorn the heart, which are precious in the sight of God. These were the jewels which adorned the holy women of old. Isaiah had called Sara the mother of God's faithful people ( Isaiah 51:2); and if Christian wives are adorned with the same graces of modesty, humility and chastity, they too will be her daughters and will be within the family of the faithful people of God.

A Christian wife of those times lived in a society where she would be tempted to senseless extravagance and where she might well go in fear of the caprices of her heathen husband; but she must live in selfless service, in goodness and in serene trust. That would be the best sermon she could preach to win her husband for Christ. There are few passages where the value of a lovely Christian life is so vividly stressed.


3:7 Likewise, you husbands, live understandingly with your wives, remembering that women are the weaker sex and assigning honour to them as fellow-heirs of the grace of life, so that there may be no barrier to your prayers.

Short as this passage is, it has in it much of the very essence of the Christian ethic. That ethic is what may be called a reciprocal ethic. It never places all the responsibility on one side. If it speaks of the duties of slaves, it speaks also of the obligations of masters. If it speaks of the duty of children, it speaks also of the obligations of parents (compare Ephesians 6:1-9; Colossians 3:20-25; Colossians 4:1). Peter has just laid down the duty of wives; now he lays down the duty of husbands. A marriage must be based on reciprocal obligation. A marriage in which all the privileges are on one side and all the obligations on the other is bound to be imperfect with every chance of failure. This was a new conception in the ancient world. We have already noted the woman's total lack of rights then and quoted Cato's statement of the rights of the husband. But we did not finish that quotation and we do so now: "If you were to catch your wife in an act of infidelity, you can kill her with impunity without a trial; but, if she were to catch you, she would not venture to touch you with her finger and, indeed, she has no right." In the Roman moral code all the obligation was on the wife and all the privilege with the husband. The Christian ethic never grants a privilege without a corresponding obligation.

What are the obligations of the husband?

(i) He must be understanding. He must be considerate and sensitive to the feelings of his wife. Somerset Maugham's mother was a very beautiful woman with the world at her feet but his father was unhandsome. Someone once asked her: "Why do you remain faithful to that ugly little man you married?" Her answer was: "Because he never hurts me." Understanding and considerateness had forged an unbreakable bond. The cruelty which is hardest to bear is often not deliberate but the product of sheer thoughtlessness.

(ii) He must be chivalrous. He must remember that women are the weaker sex and treat them with courtesy. In the ancient world chivalry to women was well-nigh unknown. It was, and still is, no uncommon sight in the East to see the man riding on a donkey while the woman trudged by his side. It was Christianity which introduced chivalry into the relationship between men and women.

(iii) He must remember that the woman has equal spiritual rights. She is a fellow-heir of the grace of life. Women did not share in the worship of the Greeks and the Romans. Even in the Jewish synagogue they had no share in the service, and in the orthodox synagogue still have none. When they were admitted to the synagogue at all, they were segregated from the men and hidden behind a screen. Here in Christianity emerged the revolutionary principle that women had equal spiritual rights and with that the relationship between the sexes was changed.

(iv) Unless a man fulfils these obligations, there is a barrier between his prayers and God. As Bigg puts it: "The sighs of the injured wife come between the husband's prayers and God's hearing." Here is a great truth. Our relationships with God can never be right, if our relationships with our fellow-men are wrong. It is when we are at one with each other that we are at one with him.

(1) THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ( 1 Peter 3:8-12 )

3:8-12 Finally, you must all be of one mind; you must have sympathy with each other and you must live in brotherly love; you must be compassionate and humble; you must not return evil for evil, nor insult for insult; on the contrary, you must return blessing; for it was to give and to inherit blessing that you were called.

He that would love life, And see good days, Let him keep his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking guile: Let him turn away from evil and do right; Let him seek peace, and pursue it, For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And his ears are open to their prayer; But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil.

Peter, as it were, gathers together the great qualities of the Christian life.

(i) Right in the forefront he sets Christian unity. It is worth while to collect together the great New Testament passages about unity, in order to see how great a place it occupies in New Testament thought. The basis of the whole matter is in the words of Jesus who prayed for his people that they might all be one, as he and his Father were one ( John 17:21-23). In the thrilling early days of the Church this prayer was fulfilled, for they were all of one heart and of soul ( Acts 4:32). Over and over again Paul exhorts men to this unity and prays for it. He reminds the Christians of Rome that, though they are many, they are one body, and he pleads with them to be of one mind ( Romans 12:4; Romans 12:16). In writing to the Christians of Corinth, he uses the same picture of the Christians as members of one body in spite of all their differing qualities and gifts ( 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). He pleads with the quarrelling Corinthians that there should be no divisions among them and that they should be perfectly joined together in the same mind ( 1 Corinthians 1:10). He tells them that strifes and divisions are fleshly things, marks that they are living on purely human standards, without the mind of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 3:3). Because they have partaken of the one bread, they must be one body ( 1 Corinthians 10:17). He tells them that they must be of one mind and must live in peace ( 2 Corinthians 13:11). In Christ Jesus the dividing walls are down, and Jew and Greek are united into one ( Ephesians 2:13-14). Christians must maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, remembering that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all ( Ephesians 4:3-6). The Philippians must stand fast in one spirit, striving together with one mind for the faith of the gospel; they will make Paul's happiness complete, if they have the same love and have one accord and one mind; the quarrelling Euodias and Syntyche are urged to be of one mind in the Lord ( Php_1:27 ; Php_2:2 ; Php_4:2 ).

All through the New Testament rings this plea for Christian unity. It is more than a plea; it is an announcement that no man can live the Christian life unless in his personal relationships he is at unity with his fellow-men; and that the Church cannot be truly Christian if there are divisions within it. It is tragic to realize how far men are from realizing this unity in their personal lives and how far the Church is from realizing it within herself. C. E. B. Cranfield writes so finely of this that we cannot do other than quote his whole comment in full, lengthy though it is: "The New Testament never treats this agreeing in Christ as an unnecessary though highly desirable spiritual luxury, but as something essential to the true being of the Church. Divisions, whether disagreements between individual members or the existence of factions and parties and--how much more!--our present-day denominations, constitute a calling in question of the Gospel itself and a sign that those who are involved are carnal. The more seriously we take the New Testament, the more urgent and painful becomes our sense of the sinfulness of the divisions, and the more earnest our prayers and strivings after the peace and unity of the Church on earth. That does not mean that the like-mindedness we are to strive for is to be a drab uniformity of the sort beloved of bureaucrats. Rather is it to be a unity in which powerful tensions are held together by an over-mastering loyalty, and strong antipathies of race and colour, temperament and taste, social position and economic interest, are overcome in common worship and common obedience. Such unity will only come when Christians are humble and bold enough to lay hold on the unity already given in Christ and to take it more seriously than their own self-importance and sin, and to make of these deep differences of doctrine, which originate in our imperfect understanding of the Gospel and which we dare not belittle, not an excuse for letting go of one another or staying apart, but rather an incentive for a more earnest seeking in fellowship together to hear and obey the voice of Christ." There speaks the prophetic voice to our modern condition.

(2)THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ( 1 Peter 3:8-12 continued)

(ii) Second, Peter sets sympathy. Here again the whole New Testament urges this duty upon us. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep ( Romans 12:15). When one member of the body suffers all the other members suffer with it; and when one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it ( 1 Corinthians 12:26), and it must be so with Christians, who are the body of Christ. One thing is clear, sympathy and selfishness cannot coexist. So long as the self is the most important thing in the world, there can be no such thing as sympathy; sympathy depends on the willingness to forget self and to identify oneself with the pains and sorrows of others. Sympathy comes to the heart when Christ reigns there.

(iii) Third, Peter sets brotherly love. Again the matter goes back to the words of Jesus. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.... By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" ( John 13:34-35). Here the New Testament speaks with unmistakable definiteness and with almost frightening directness. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer" ( 1 John 3:14-15). "If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar" ( 1 John 4:20). The simple fact is that love of God and love of man go hand in hand; the one cannot exist without the other. The simplest test of the reality of the Christianity of a man or a Church is whether or not it makes them love their fellow-men.

(iv) Fourth, Peter sets compassion. There is a sense in which pity is in danger of becoming a lost virtue. The conditions of our own age tend to blunt the edge of the mind to sensitiveness in pity. As C. E. B. Cranfield puts it: "We got used to hearing on the radio of a thousand-bomber raid as we ate our breakfast. We have got used to the idea of millions of people becoming refugees." We can read of the thousands of casualties on the roads with no reaction within our hearts, forgetting that each means a broken body or a broken heart for someone. It is easy to lose the sense of pity and still easier to be satisfied with a sentimentalism which feels a moment's comfortable sorrow and does nothing. Pity is of the very essence of God and compassion of the very being of Jesus Christ; a pity so great that God sent his only Son to die for men, a compassion so intense that it took Christ to the Cross. There can be no Christianity without compassion.

(v) Fifth, Peter sets humility. Christian humility comes from two things. It comes, first, from the sense of creatureliness. The Christian is humble because he is constantly aware of his utter dependence on God and that of himself he can do nothing. It comes, second, from the fact that the Christian has a new standard of comparison. It may well be that when he compares himself with his fellow-men, he has nothing to fear from the comparison. But the Christian's standard of comparison is Christ, and, compared with his sinless perfection, he is ever in default. When the Christian remembers his dependence on God and keeps before him the standard of Christ, he must remain humble.

(vi) Lastly, and as a climax, Peter sets forgiveness. It is to receive forgiveness from God and to give forgiveness to men that the Christian is called. The one cannot exist without the other; it is only when we forgive others their sins against us that we are forgiven our sins against God ( Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15). The mark of the Christian is that he forgives others as God has forgiven him ( Ephesians 4:32).

As was natural for him, Peter sums the matter up by quoting Psalms 34:1-22, with its picture of the man whom God receives and the man whom God rejects.


3:13-15a Who will hurt you, if you are ardent lovers of goodness? Even if you do have to suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. Have no fear of them; do not be troubled; but in your hearts give Christ a unique place.

In this passage we can see how Peter was soaked in the Old Testament; there are two Old Testament foundations for it. It is not so much that he actually quotes them, as that he could not have written the passage at all unless the Old Testament had been in his mind. The very first sentence is a reminiscence of Isaiah 50:9: "Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?" Again, when Peter is talking about the banishing of fear, he is thinking of Isaiah 8:13, "But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."

There are three great conceptions in this passage.

(i) Peter begins by insisting on a passionate love of goodness. A man may have more than one attitude to goodness. It may be to him a burden or a bore or something which he vaguely desires but the price of which he is not willing to pay in terms of effort. The word we have translated an ardent lover is zelotes ( G2207) ; which is often translated Zealot. The Zealots were the fanatical patriots, who were pledged to liberate their native land by every possible means. They were prepared to take their lives in their hands, to sacrifice ease and comfort, home and loved ones, in their passionate love for their country. What Peter is saying is: "Love goodness with that passionate intensity with which the most fanatical patriot loves his country." Sir John Seeley said, "No heart is pure that is not passionate; no virtue safe which is not enthusiastic." It is only when a man falls in love with goodness that the wrong things lose their fascination and their power.

(ii) Peter goes on to speak about the Christian attitude to suffering. It has been well pointed out that we are involved in two kinds of suffering. There is the suffering in which we are involved because of our humanity. Because we are men, there come physical suffering, death, sorrow, distress of mind and weariness and pain of body. But there is also the suffering in which we may be involved because of our Christianity. There may be unpopularity, persecution, sacrifice for principle and the deliberate choosing of the difficult way, the necessary discipline and toil of the Christian life. Yet the Christian life has a certain blessedness which runs through it all. What is the reason for it?

(iii) Peter's answer is this. The Christian is the man to whom God and Jesus Christ are the supremacies in life; his relationship to God in Christ is life's greatest value. If a man's heart is set on earthly things, possessions, happiness, pleasure, ease and comfort, he is of all men most vulnerable. For, in the nature of things, he may lose these things at any moment. Such a man is desperately easily hurt. On the other hand, if he gives to Jesus Christ the unique place in his life, the most precious thing for him is his relationship to God and nothing can take that from him. Therefore, he is completely secure.

So, then, even in suffering the Christian is still blessed. When the suffering is for Christ, he is demonstrating his loyalty to Christ and is sharing his sufferings. When the suffering is part of the human situation, it still cannot despoil him of the most precious things in life. No man escapes suffering, but for the Christian suffering cannot touch the things which matter most of all.


3:15b-16 Always be prepared to make your defence to anyone who calls you to account concerning the hope that is in you; but do so with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame.

In a hostile and suspicious world it was inevitable that the Christian would be called upon to defend the faith he held and the hope by which he lived. Here Peter has certain things to say about this Christian defence.

(i) It must be reasonable. It is a logos ( G3056) that the Christian must give, and a logos ( G3056) is a reasonable and intelligent statement of his position. A cultivated Greek believed that it was the mark of an intelligent man that he was able to give and to receive a logos ( G3056) concerning his actions and belief. As Bigg puts it, he was expected "intelligently and temperately to discuss matters of conduct." To do so we must know what we believe; we must have thought it out; we must be able to state it intelligently and intelligibly. Our faith must be a first-hand discovery and not a second-hand story. It is one of the tragedies of the modern situation that there are so many Church members who, if they were asked what they believe, could not tell, and who, if they were asked why they believe it, would be equally helpless. The Christian must go through the mental and spiritual toil of thinking out his faith, so that he can tell what he believes and why.

(ii) His defence must be given with gentleness. There are many people who state their beliefs with a kind of arrogant belligerence. Their attitude is that anyone who does not agree with them is either a fool or a knave and they seek to ram their beliefs down other people's throats. The case for Christianity must be presented with winsomeness and with love, and with that wise tolerance which realizes that it is not given to any man to possess the whole truth. "There are as many ways to the stars as there are men to climb them." Men may be wooed into the Christian faith when they cannot be bullied into it.

(iii) His defence must be given with reverence. That is to say, any argument in which the Christian is involved must be carried on in a tone which God can hear with joy. No debates have been so acrimonious as theological debates; no differences have caused such bitterness as religious differences. In any presentation of the Christian case and in any argument for the Christian faith, the accent should be the accent of love.

(iv) The only compelling argument is the argument of the Christian life. Let a man so act that his conscience is clear. Let him meet criticism with a life which is beyond reproach. Such conduct will silence slander and disarm criticism. "A saint," as someone has said, "is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God."

THE SAVING WORK OF CHRIST ( 1 Peter 3:17-22 ; 1 Peter 4:1-6 )

3:17-22;4:1-6 For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be the will of God, than to suffer for doing wrong. For Christ also died once and for all for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but he was raised to life in the Spirit, in which also he went and preached to the spirits who are in prison, the spirits who were once upon a time disobedient, in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built, in which some few--that is, eight souls--were brought in safety through the water. And water now saves you, who were symbolically represented in Noah and his company, I mean the water of baptism; and baptism is not merely the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge to God of a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, because he went to heaven, after angels and authorities and power had been made subject to him.

Since, then, Christ suffered in the flesh, you too must arm yourselves with the same conviction that he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, and as a result of this the aim of such a man now is to spend the time that remains to him of life in the flesh no longer in obedience to human passions, but in obedience to the will of God. For the time that is past is sufficient to have done what the Gentiles will to do, to have lived a life of licentiousness, lust, drunkenness, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatry. They think it strange when you do not rush to join them in the same flood of profligacy and they abuse you for not doing so. They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, so that, although they have already been judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the Spirit like God.

This is not only one of the most difficult passages in Peter's letter, it is one of the most difficult in the whole New Testament; and it is also the basis of one of the most difficult articles in the creed, "He descended into Hell." It is, therefore, better first of all to read it as a whole and then to study it in its various sections.

The Example Of The Work Of Christ ( 1 Peter 3:17-18 a)

3:17-18a For, it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be the will of God, than to suffer for doing wrong. For Christ also died once and for all for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.

Although this passage is one of the most difficult in the New Testament, it begins with something which anyone can understand. The point that Peter is making is that, even if the Christian is compelled to suffer unjustly for his faith, he is only walking the way that his Lord and Saviour has already walked. The suffering Christian must always remember that he has a suffering Lord. In the narrow compass of these two verses Peter has the greatest and the deepest things to say about the work of Christ.

(i) He lays it down that the work of Christ was unique and never need be repeated. Christ died once and for all for sins. The New Testament says this same thing often. When Christ died, he died once and for all ( Romans 6:10). The priestly sacrifices in the Temple have to be repeated daily but Christ made the perfect sacrifice once and for all when he offered himself up ( Hebrews 7:27). Christ was once and for all offered to bear the sin of many ( Hebrews 9:28). We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once and for all ( Hebrews 10:10). The New Testament is completely sure that on the Cross something happened which never needs to happen again and that in that happening sin is finally defeated. On the Cross God dealt with man's sin in a way which is adequate for all sin, for all men, for all time.

(ii) He lays it down that that sacrifice was for sin. Christ died once and for all for sins. This again is frequently said in the New Testament. Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures ( 1 Corinthians 15:3). Christ gave himself for our sins ( Galatians 1:4). The function of the High Priest, and Jesus Christ is the perfect High Priest, is to offer sacrifice for sins ( Hebrews 5:1; Hebrews 5:3). He is the expiation for our sins ( 1 John 2:2).

The Greek for for sins is either huper ( G5228) or peri ( G4012) hamartion ( G266) . It so happens that in the Greek version of the Old Testament the regular phrase for a sin-offering is peri ( G4012) hamartias ( G266) (Hamartias, G266, is the singular of hamartion, G266) , as, for instance, in Leviticus 5:7 and Leviticus 6:30. That is to say, Peter is laying it down that the death of Christ is the sacrifice which atones for the sin of men.

We may put it this way. Sin is that which interrupts the relationship which should exist between God and men. The object of sacrifice is to restore that lost relationship. The death of Christ upon the Cross, however we explain it, avails to restore the lost relationship between God and man. As Charles Wesley put it in verse:

No condemnation now I dread:

Jesus, and all in him, is mine!

Alive in him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

It may be that we will never agree in our theories of what exactly happened on the Cross, for, indeed, as Charles Wesley said in that same hymn: "'Tis mystery all!" But on one thing we can agree--through what happened there we may enter into a new relationship with God.

(iii) He lays it down that that sacrifice was vicarious. Christ died once and for all for sins, the just.for the unjust. That the just should suffer for the unjust is an extraordinary thing. At first sight it looks like injustice. As Edwin H. Robertson put it: "Only forgiveness without reason can match sin without excuse." The suffering of Christ was for us; and the mystery is that he who deserved no suffering bore that suffering for us who deserved to suffer. He sacrificed himself to restore our lost relationship with God.

(iv) He lays it down that the work of Christ was to bring us to God. Christ died once and for all for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. The word for "to bring" is prosagein ( G4317) . It has two vivid backgrounds.

(a) It has a Jewish background. It is used in the Old Testament of bringing to God those who are to be priests. It is God's instruction: "You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tent of meeting" ( Exodus 29:4). The point is this--as the Jews saw it, only the priests had the right of close access to God. In the Temple the layman might come so far; he could pass through the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of the Israelites--but there he must stop. Into the Court of the Priests, into the nearer presence of God, he could not go; and of the priests, only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies. But Jesus Christ brings us to God; he opens the way for all men to his nearer presence.

(b) It has a Greek background. In the New Testament the corresponding noun prosagoge ( G4318) is three times used. Prosagein ( G4317) means to bring in; prosagoge ( G4318) means the right of access, the result of the bringing in. Through Christ we have access to grace ( Romans 5:2). Through him we have access to God the Father ( Ephesians 2:18). Through him we have boldness and access and confidence to come to God ( Ephesians 3:12). In Greek this had a specialized meaning. At the court of kings there was an official called the prosagogeus, the introducer, the giver of access, and it was his function to decide who should be admitted to the king's presence and who should be kept out. He, as it were, held the keys of access. It is Jesus Christ, through what he did, who gives men access to God.

(v) When we go beyond these two verses, further into the passage, we can add two more great truths to Peter's view of the work of Christ. In 1 Peter 3:19 he says that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison; and in 1 Peter 4:6 he says that the gospel was preached to them that are dead. As we shall go on to see, this most probably means that in the time between his death and his resurrection Jesus actually preached the gospel in the abode of the dead; that is to say, to those who in their lifetime had never had the opportunity to hear it. Here is a tremendous thought. It means that the work of Christ is infinite in its range. It means that no man who ever lived is outside the grace of God.

(vi) Peter sees the work of Christ in terms of complete triumph. He says that after his resurrection Jesus went into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to him ( 1 Peter 3:22). The meaning is that there is nothing in earth and heaven outside the empire of Christ. To all men he brought the new relationship between man and God; in his death he even brought the good news to the dead; in his resurrection he conquered death; even the angelic and the demonic powers are subject to him; and he shares the very power and throne of God. Christ the sufferer has become Christ the victor; Christ the crucified has become Christ the crowned.

(1) The Descent Into Hell ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6)

3:18b-20 He was put to death in the flesh, but he was raised to life in the Spirit, in which also he went and preached to the spirits who are in prison, the spirits who were once upon a time disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built.... For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, so that, although they have already been judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.

We have already said that we are here face to face with one of the most difficult passages, not only in Peter's letter, but in the whole New Testament; and, if we are to grasp what it means, we must follow Peter's own advice and gird up the loins of our mind to study it.

This passage has lodged in the creed in the phrase: "He descended into hell." We must first note that this phrase is very misleading. The idea of the New Testament is not that Jesus descended into hell but that he descended into Hades. Acts 2:27, as all the newer translations correctly show, should be translated not: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," but, "Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades." The difference is this. Hell is the place of the punishment of the wicked; Hades was the place where all the dead went.

The Jews had a very shadowy conception of life beyond the grave. They did not think in terms of heaven and of hell but of a shadowy world, where the spirits of men moved like grey ghosts in an everlasting twilight and where there was neither strength nor joy. Such was Hades, into which the spirits of all men went after death. Isaiah writes: "For Sheol cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for thy faithfulness" ( Isaiah 38:18). The Psalmist wrote: "In death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?" ( Psalms 6:5). "What profit is there in my death if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise thee? Will it tell of thy faithfulness?" ( Psalms 30:9). "Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?" ( Psalms 88:10-12). "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence" ( Psalms 115:17). "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going" ( Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Jewish conception of the world after death was of this grey world of shadows and forgetfulness, in which men were separated from life and light and God.

As time went on, there emerged the idea of stages and divisions in this shadowland. For some it was to last for ever; but for others it was a kind of prison-house in which they were held until the final judgment of God's wrath should blast them ( Isaiah 24:21-22; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:1-7). So, then, it must first of all be remembered that this whole matter is to be thought of, not in terms of hell, as we understand the word, but in terms of Christ's going to the dead in their shadowy world.

(2) The Descent Into Hell ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 Continued)

This doctrine of the descent into Hades, as we must now call it, is based on two phrases in our present passage. It says that Jesus went and preached to the spirits who are in prison ( 1 Peter 3:19); and it speaks of the gospel being preached to the dead ( 1 Peter 4:6). In regard to this doctrine there have always been differing attitudes amongst thinkers.

(i) There are those who wish to eliminate it altogether. There is the attitude of elimination. Some wish to eliminate it altogether and attempt to do so along two lines.

(a) Peter says that in the Spirit Christ preached to the spirits in prison, who were disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, when the ark was being built. It is argued that what this means is that it was in the time of Noah himself that Christ did this preaching; that in the Spirit long ages before this he made his appeal to the wicked men of Noah's day. This would completely do away with the idea of the descent into Hades. Many great scholars have accepted that view; but we do not think it is the view which comes naturally from Peter's words.

(b) If we look at Moffatt's translation, we find something quite different. He translates: "In the flesh he (Christ) was put to death, but he came to life in the Spirit. It was in the Spirit that Enoch also went and preached to the imprisoned spirits who had disobeyed at the time when God's patience held out during the construction of the ark in the days of Noah." How does Moffatt arrive at this translation?

The name of Enoch does not appear in any Greek manuscript. But in the consideration of the text of any Greek author, scholars sometimes use a process called emendation. They think that there is something wrong with the text as it stands, that some scribe has perhaps copied it wrongly; and they, therefore, suggest that some word should be changed or added. In this passage Rendel Harris suggested that the word Enoch was missed out in the copying of Peter's writing and should be put back in.

(Although it involves the use of Greek some readers may be

interested to see how Rendel Harris arrived at this famous

emendation. In the top line in italic print, we have set down

the Greek of the passage in English lettering and beneath each

Greek word its English translation:

thanatotheis ( G2289) men ( G3303) sarki ( G4561)

having been put to death in the flesh

zoopoietheis ( G2227) de ( G1161) pneumati ( G4151)

having been raised to life in the Spirit

en ( G1722) ho ( G3588) kai ( G2532) tois ( G3588)

in which also to the

en ( G1722) phulake ( G5438) pneumasi ( G4151)

in prison spirits

poreutheis ( G4198) ekeruxen ( G2784)

having gone he preached.

(Men ( G3303) and de ( G1161) are what are called particles;

they are not translated but merely mark the contrast between

sarki, G4561, and pneumati, G4151) . It was Rendel Harris'

suggestion that between kai ( G2532) and tois ( G3588) the

word Enoch ( G1802) had dropped out. His explanation was that,

since most manuscript copying was done to dictation, scribes were

very liable to miss words which followed each other, if they

sounded very similar. In this passage:

en ( G1722) ho ( G3588) kai ( G2532) and Enoch ( G1802)

sound very much alike, and Rendel Harris thought it very likely

that Enoch ( G1802) had been mistakenly omitted for that reason).

What reason is there for bringing Enoch ( G1802) into this passage at all? He has always been a fascinating and mysterious person. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him" ( Genesis 5:24). In between the Old and New Testaments many legends sprang up about Enoch and famous and important books were written under his name. One of the legends was that Enoch, though a man, acted as "God's envoy" to the angels who sinned by coming to earth and lustfully seducing mortal women ( Genesis 6:2). In the Book of Enoch it is said that he was sent down from heaven to announce to these angels their final doom (Enoch 12: 1) and that he proclaimed that for them, because of their sin, there was neither peace nor forgiveness ever (Enoch 12 and 13).

So then, according to Jewish legend, Enoch did go to Hades and preach doom to the fallen angels. And Rendel Harris thought that this passage referred, not to Jesus, but to Enoch, and Moffatt so far agreed with him as to put Enoch into his translation. That is an extremely interesting and ingenious suggestion but without doubt it must be rejected. There is no evidence for it at all; and it is not natural to bring in Enoch, for the whole picture is of the work of Christ.

(3) The Descent Into Hell ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 Continued)

We have seen that the attempt at the elimination of this passage fails.

(ii) The second attitude is limitation. This attitude--and it is that of some very great New Testament interpreters--believes that Peter is indeed saying that Jesus went to Hades and preached, but that he by no means preached to all the inhabitants of Hades. Different interpreters limit that preaching in different ways.

(a) It is argued that Jesus preached in Hades only to the spirits of the men who were disobedient in the days of Noah. Those who hold this view often go on to argue that, since these sinners were desperately disobedient, so much so that God sent the flood and destroyed them ( Genesis 6:12-13), we may believe that no man is outside the mercy of God. They were the worst of all sinners and yet they were given another chance of repentance; therefore, the worst of men still have a chance in Christ.

(b) It is argued that Jesus preached to the fallen angels, and preached, not salvation, but final and awful doom. We have already mentioned these angels. Their story is told in Genesis 6:1-8. They were tempted by the beauty of mortal women; they came to earth, seduced them and begat children; and because of their action, it is inferred, the wickedness of man was great and his thoughts were always evil. 2 Peter 2:4 speaks of these sinning angels as being imprisoned in hell, awaiting judgment. It was to them that Enoch did, in fact, preach; and there are those who think that what this passage means is not that Christ preached mercy and another chance; but that, in token of his complete triumph, he preached terrible doom to those angels who had sinned.

(c) It is argued that Christ preached only to those who had been righteous and that he led them out of Hades into the paradise of God. We have seen how the Jews believed that all the dead went to Hades, the shadowy land of forgetfulness. The argument is that before Christ that was indeed so but he opened the gates of heaven to mankind; and, when he did so, he went to Hades and told the glad news to all the righteous men of all past generations and led them out to God. That is a magnificent picture. Those who hold this view often go on to say that, because of Christ, there is now no time spent in the shadows of Hades and the way to paradise is open as soon as this world closes on us.

(4) The Descent Into Hell ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 Continued)

(iii) There is the attitude that what Peter is saying is that Jesus Christ, between his death and resurrection, went to the world of the dead and preached the gospel there. Peter says that Jesus Christ was put to death in the flesh but raised to life in the Spirit, and that it was in the Spirit that he so preached. The meaning is that Jesus lived in a human body and was under all the limitations of time and space in the days of his flesh; and died with that body broken and bleeding upon the Cross. But when he rose again, he rose with a spiritual body, in which he was rid of the necessary weaknesses of humanity and liberated from the necessary limitations of time and space. It was in this spiritual condition of perfect freedom that the preaching to the dead took place.

As it stands this doctrine is stated in categories which are outworn. It speaks of the descent into Hades and the very word descent suggests a three-storey universe in which heaven is localized above the sky and Hades beneath the earth. But, laying aside the physical categories of this doctrine, we can find in it truths which are eternally valid and precious, three in particular.

(a) If Christ descended into Hades, then his death was no sham. It is not to be explained in terms of a swoon on the Cross, or anything like that. He really experienced death, and rose again. At its simplest, the doctrine of the descent into Hades lays down the complete identity of Christ with our human condition, even to the experience of death.

(b) If Christ descended into Hades, it means that his triumph is universal. This, in fact, is a truth which is ingrained into the New Testament. It is Paul's dream that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth ( Php_2:10 ). In the Revelation the song of praise comes from every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth ( Revelation 5:13). He who ascended into Heaven is he who first descended into the lower parts of the earth ( Ephesians 4:9-10). The total submission of the universe to Christ is woven into the thought of the New Testament.

(c) If Christ descended into Hades and preached there, there is no corner of the universe into which the message of grace has not come. There is in this passage the solution of one of the most haunting questions raised by the Christian faith--what is to happen to those who lived before Jesus Christ and to those to whom the gospel never came? There can be no salvation without repentance but how can repentance come to those who have never been confronted with the love and holiness of God? If there is no other name by which men may be saved, what is to happen to those who never heard it? This is the point that Justin Martyr fastened on long ago: "The Lord, the Holy God of Israel, remembered his dead, those sleeping in the earth, and came down to them to tell them the good news of salvation." The doctrine of the descent into Hades conserves the precious truth that no man who ever lived is left without a sight of Christ and without the offer of the salvation of God.

Many in repeating the creed have found the phrase "He descended into hell" either meaningless or bewildering, and have tacitly agreed to set it on one side and forget it. It may well be that we ought to think of this as a picture painted in terms of poetry rather than a doctrine stated in terms of theology. But it contains these three great truths--that Jesus Christ not only tasted death but drained the cup of death, that the triumph of Christ is universal and that there is no corner of the universe into which the grace of God has not reached.

The Baptism Of The Christian ( 1 Peter 3:18-22)

3:18-22 For Christ also died once and for all for our sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but he was raised to life in the Spirit, in which also he went and preached to the spirits who are in prison, the spirits who were once upon a time disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built, in which some few--that is, eight souls--were brought in safety through the water. And water now saves you, who were symbolically represented in Noah and his company, I mean the water of baptism; and baptism is not merely the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge to God of a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, because he went to heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been made subject to him.

Peter has been speaking about the wicked men who were disobedient and corrupt in the days of Noah; they were ultimately destroyed. But in the destruction by the flood eight people--Noah and his wife, his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives--were brought to safety in the ark. Immediately the idea of being brought to safety through the water turns Peter's thoughts to Christian baptism, which is also a bringing to safety through the water. What Peter literally says is that baptism is an antitype of Noah and his people in the ark.

This word introduces us to a special way of looking at the Old Testament. There are two closely connected words. There is tupos ( G5179) , type, which means a seal, and there is antitupos ( G499) , antitype, which means the impression of the seal. Clearly, between the seal and its impression there is the closest possible correspondence. So there are people and events and customs in the Old Testament which are types, and which find their antitypes in the New Testament. The Old Testament event or person is like the seal; the New Testament event or person is like the impression; the two answer to each other. We might put it that the Old Testament event symbolically represents and foreshadows the New Testament event. The science of finding types and antitypes in the Old and the New Testaments is very highly developed. But to take very simple and obvious examples, the Passover Lamb and the scapegoat, who bore the sins of the people, are types of Jesus; and the work of the High Priest in making sacrifice for the sins of the people is a type of his saving work. Here Peter sees the bringing safely through the waters of Noah and his family as a type of baptism.

In this passage Peter has three great things to say about baptism. It must be remembered that at this stage of the Church's history we are still dealing with adult baptism, the baptism of people who had come straight from heathenism into Christianity and who were taking upon themselves a new way of life.

(i) Baptism is not merely a physical cleansing; it is a spiritual cleansing of the whole heart and soul and life. Its effect must be on a man's very soul and on his whole life.

(ii) Peter calls baptism the pledge of a good conscience to God ( 1 Peter 3:21). The word Peter uses for pledge is eperotema ( G1906) . In every business contract there was a definite question and answer which made the contract binding. The question was: "Do you accept the terms of this contract, and bind yourself to observe them?" And the answer, before witnesses was: "Yes." Without that question and answer the contract was not valid. The technical word for that question and answer clause is eperotema ( G1906) in Greek, stipulatio in Latin.

Peter is, in effect, saying that in baptism God said to the man coming direct from heathenism: "Do you accept the terms of my service? Do you accept its privileges and promises, and do you undertake its responsibilities and its demands?" And in the act of being baptized the man answered: "Yes."

Some use the word sacrament. Sacrament is derived from the Latin sacramentum, which means a soldier's oath of loyalty on entering the army. Here we have basically the same picture. We cannot very well apply this question and answer in infant baptism, unless it be to the parents; but, as we have said, baptism in the very early church was of adult men and women coming spontaneously from heathenism into the Church. The modern parallel is entering upon full membership of the Church. When we enter upon Church membership, God asks us: "Do you accept the conditions of my service, with all privileges and all its responsibilities, with all its promises and all its demands?" and we answer; "Yes." It would be well if all were clearly to understand what they are doing when they take upon themselves membership of the Church.

(iii) The whole idea and effectiveness of baptism is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the grace of the Risen Lord which cleanses us; it is to the Risen, Living Lord that we pledge ourselves; it is to the Risen, Living Lord that we look for strength to keep the pledge that we have given. Once again, where infant baptism is the practice, we must take these great conceptions and apply them to the time when we enter upon full membership of the Church.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Peter 3:15

sanctify the Lord God -- Some MSS have "Christ" so the reading is “set apart in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshiped.

Christ as Lord -- The King James Version has “Lord God,” which reflects Isaiah 8:12-13, but a few ancient Greek manuscripts P72, S, A, B, and C have “Christ as Lord.”

[Which MSS are often regarded as "old" but unreliable.]

to give … the reason -- (apologian, the “defense” which a defendant makes before a judge. The Greek term apologia, is a compound of apo (from) and logos (word). It refers to a legal defense in a courtroom setting (cf. Acts 19:33; Acts 22:1; Acts 25:16; Acts 26:1-2; Acts 26:24).    

for the hope that is in you -- Hope here is a collective word for the gospel and its [anticipation]. Believers live now in godly ways because of their confidence in Christ’s promises and return. - Utley

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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,.... Still referring to Isaiah 8:13 not by making him holy, which need not, nor cannot be, he being essentially, infinitely, and perfectly holy; but by declaring and proclaiming his holiness, as the seraphim in Isaiah's prophecy, and the four living creatures in the Revelation did; and by glorifying of him, praising and applauding all his perfections, and among the rest, this of his holiness, and giving thanks at the remembrance of it; which he has so much displayed in the works of creation, providence, redemption, and grace; hence the Arabic version renders it, bless the Lord God in your hearts: the Lord God is sanctified by his people externally, when they regard his commands, attend his ordinances, and call upon his name, and praise him; but here an internal sanctification of him, a sanctification of him in their hearts, is intended, and what is opposed to the fear of men, and unbelief, and lies in the exercise of the grace of fear upon him; see Isaiah 8:13 and which has for its object his goodness, and is a fruit of the covenant of his grace, and is a child like and godly fear; and in the exercise of faith upon him, upon his covenant and promises, his faithfulness, and power to help, assist, and preserve; whereby glory is given to him, a witness borne to his truth, and he is sanctified: some copies, as the Alexandrian, and one of Stephens's, read, sanctify the Lord Christ; and so read the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions; and certain it is that he is intended in Isaiah 8:13 as appears from 1 Peter 3:14 compared with Romans 9:33

and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear; by the hope that is in the saints, is not designed the grace of hope itself, which is given to them, and implanted in them in regeneration; the reason, ground, and foundation of which are, the love, grace, and mercy of God, through Christ, and his person, blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and redemption; but the Gospel, the whole Christian doctrine, the doctrine of faith, and which the Syriac version here calls the "hope of faith"; and the profession of Christianity, called in Hebrews 10:23, the profession of hope; in which persons profess their hope of eternal life and happiness through Christ, as doctrine of the Gospel directs them to. Now, a "reason" of this is to be given; not that they are to account for the Gospel, upon the foot of carnal reason; for that is not of men, nor according to the carnal reason of men; nor is it to be thought that every Christian should be capable of defending the Gospel, either in whole, or in part, by arguments and reasons, in a disputatious way, or to give a reason and argument for every particular truth; but that he should be well acquainted with the ground and foundation of the Christian religion; at least, with the first principles of the oracles of God, and be conversant with the Scriptures, and be able to point out that in them, which is the reason of his holding this and the other truth, though he is not able to give a gainsayer satisfaction, or to stop his mouth: and this is to be done with meekness and fear; with meekness, before men; in an humble modest way; not with an haughty air, and in a morose and surly manner, which serves only to irritate and provoke: and with fear; either of God, and so the Ethiopic Version renders it, with the fear of the Lord; considering the subject of the argument, and the importance of it, and how much the honour of God is concerned in it; and taking care lest the answer should be delivered in a light, trifling, and negligent manner, and that no part of truth be dropped or concealed, in order to please men, and be screened from their resentments; or with all due reverence of, and respect to men, to superiors, to the civil magistrates, who may ask the reason; for they are to be treated with honour and esteem, and to be answered in an handsome and becoming manner, suitable to the dignity of their persons and office; as the sanhedrim was by Stephen; and as Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, by the Apostle Paul: and this answer, or reason, is to be given to every man; that has authority to ask, and that asks in a modest manner, and with a reverence suitable to the subject; for the phrases, "with meekness and fear", may respect him that asks the reason, as well as him that gives the answer; for that which is holy is not to be given to dogs, to impudent persons, mockers and scoffers, nor are pearls to be cast before swine, filthy and irreverent persons; see Matthew 7:6 the Alexandrian copy, and some others, and so the Vulgate Latin version, read, "but with meekness and fear"; for if it is not asked in such a way, there is no obligation to give an answer: and this is to be given "always"; whenever it is asked in such a manner, and by proper persons; when there is a necessity of it, and as opportunity offers: and saints should be always "ready to" give and therefore it becomes them daily and diligently to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and get all the help and assistance they can, to lead them into an acquaintance with them, that they may be so; for though the apostles had extraordinary assistance promised them, and therefore were bid not to consider beforehand what they should say, when brought before kings and princes; yet this is not to be expected by ordinary persons, nor in ordinary cases. Agreeably to this is the advice of R. Eleazar z;

"be diligent to learn the law, and know what thou shouldest answer to an Epicure,''

or heretic: says R. Jochanan a,

"in every place where the Sadducees object, תשובתן בצידן their answer is at their side,''

or ready; that is, in the same Scriptures on which they form their objections.

z Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 14. a T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 38. 2.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Duties towards Friends and Enemies. A. D. 66.

      8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:   9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.   10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:   11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.   12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.   13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?   14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;   15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

      The apostle here passes from special to more general exhortations.

      I. He teaches us how Christians and friends should treat one another. He advises Christians to be all of one mind, to be unanimous in the belief of the same faith, and the practice of the same duties of religion; and, whereas the Christians at that time were many of them in a suffering condition, he charges them to have compassion one of another, to love as brethren, to pity those who were in distress, and to be courteous to all. Hence learn, 1. Christians should endeavour to be all of one mind in the great points of faith, in real affection, and in Christian practice; they should be like-minded one to another, according to Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5), not according to man's pleasure, but God's word. 2. Though Christians cannot be exactly of the same mind, yet they should have compassion one for another, and love as brethren; they ought not to persecute or hate one another, but love one another with more than common affection; they should love as brethren. 3. Christianity requires pity to the distressed, and civility to all. He must be a flagrant sinner, or a vile apostate, who is not a proper object of civil courtesy, 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 John 1:10; 2 John 1:11.

      II. He instructs us how to behave towards enemies. The apostle knew that Christians would be hated and evil-entreated of all men for Christ's sake; therefore,

      1. He warns them not to return evil for evil, nor railing for railing; but, on the contrary, "when they rail at you, do you bless them; when they give you evil words, do you give them good ones; for Christ has both by his word and example called you to bless those that curse you, and has settled a blessing on you as your everlasting inheritance, though you were unworthy." To bear evils patiently, and to bless your enemies, is the way to obtain this blessing of God. Learn, (1.) To render evil for evil, or railing for railing, is a sinful unchristian practice; the magistrate may punish evil-doers, and private men may seek a legal remedy when they are wronged; but private revenge by duelling, scolding, or secret mischief, is forbidden Proverbs 20:22; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15. To rail is to revile another in bitter, fierce, and reproachful terms; but for ministers to rebuke sharply, and to preach earnestly against the sins of the times, is not railing; all the prophets and apostles practised it, Isaiah 56:10; Zephaniah 3:3; Acts 20:29. (2.) The laws of Christ oblige us to return blessing for railing. Matthew 5:44, "Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those that persecute you. You must not justify them in their sin, but you must do for your enemies all that justice requires or charity commands." We must pity, pray for, and love those who rail at us. (3.) A Christian's calling, as it invests him with glorious privileges, so it obliges him to difficult duties. (4.) All the true servants of God shall infallibly inherit a blessing; they have it already in a great degree, but the full possession of it is reserved to another state and world.

      2. He gives an excellent prescription for a comfortable happy life in this quarrelsome ill-natured world (1 Peter 3:10; 1 Peter 3:10): it is quoted from Psalms 34:12-14. "If you earnestly desire that your life should be long, and your days peaceable and prosperous, keep your tongue from reviling, evil-speaking, and slandering, and your lips from lying, deceit, and dissimulation. Avoid doing any real damage or hurt to your neighbour, but be ever ready to do good, and to overcome evil with good; seek peace with all men, and pursue it, though it retire from you. This will be the best way to dispose people to speak well of you, and live peaceably with you." Learn, (1.) Good people under the Old and new Testament were obliged to the same moral duties; to refrain the tongue from evil, and the lips from guile, was a duty in David's time as well as now. (2.) It is lawful to consider temporal advantages as motives and encouragements to religion. (3.) The practice of religion, particularly the right government of the tongue, is the best way to make this life comfortable and prosperous; a sincere, inoffensive, discreet tongue, is a singular means to pass us peaceably and comfortably through the world. (4.) The avoiding of evil, and doing of good, is the way to contentment and happiness both here and hereafter. (5.) It is the duty of Christians not only to embrace peace when it is offered, but to seek and pursue it when it is denied: peace with societies, as well as peace with particular persons, in opposition to division and contention, is what is here intended.

      3. He shows that Christians need not fear that such patient inoffensive behaviour as is prescribed will invite and encourage the cruelty of their enemies, for God will thereby be engaged on their side: For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous (1 Peter 3:12; 1 Peter 3:12); he takes special notice of them, exercises a providential constant government over them, and bears a special respect and affection to them. His ears are open to their prayers; so that if any injuries be offered to them they have this remedy, they may complain of it to their heavenly Father, whose ears are always attentive to the prayers of his servants in their distresses, and who will certainly aid them against their unrighteous enemies. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil; his anger, and displeasure, and revenge, will pursue them; for he is more an enemy to wicked persecutors than men are. Observe, (1.) We must not in all cases adhere to the express words of scripture, but study the sense and meaning of them, otherwise we shall be led into blasphemous errors and absurdities: we must not imagine that God hath eyes, and ears, and face, though these are the express words of the scripture. (2.) God hath a special care and paternal affection towards all his righteous people. (3.) God doth always hear the prayers of the faithful, John 4:31; 1 John 5:14; Hebrews 4:16. (4.) Though God is infinitely good, yet he abhors impenitent sinners, and will pour out his wrath upon those that do evil. He will do himself right, and do all the world justice; and his goodness is no obstruction to his doing so.

      4. This patient humble behaviour of Christians is further recommended and urged from two considerations:-- (1.) This will be the best and surest way to prevent suffering; for who is he that will harm you?1 Peter 3:13; 1 Peter 3:13. This, I suppose, is spoken of Christians in an ordinary condition, not in the heat of persecution. "Ordinarily, there will be but few so diabolical and impious as to harm those who live so innocently and usefully as you do." (2.) This is the way to improve sufferings. "If you be followers of that which is good, and yet suffer, this is suffering for righteousness; sake (1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 3:14), and will be your glory and your happiness, as it entitles you to the blessing promised by Christ" (Matthew 5:10); therefore, [1.] "You need not be afraid of any thing they can do to strike you with terror, neither be much troubled nor concerned about the rage or force of your enemies." Learn, First, to follow always that which is good is the best course we can take to keep out of harm's way. Secondly, To suffer for righteousness sake is the honour and happiness of a Christian; to suffer for the cause of truth, a good conscience, or any part of a Christian's duty, is a great honour; the delight of it is greater than the torment, the honour more than the disgrace, and the gain much greater than the loss. Thirdly, Christians have no reason to be afraid of the threats or rage of any of their enemies. "Your enemies are God's enemies, his face is against them, his power is above them, they are the objects of his curse, and can do nothing to you but by his permission; therefore trouble not yourselves about them." [2.] Instead of terrifying yourselves with the fear of men, be sure to sanctify the Lord God in your hearts (1 Peter 3:15; 1 Peter 3:15); let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,Isaiah 8:12; Isaiah 8:13. Fear not those that can only kill the body, but fear him that can destroy body and soul,Luke 12:4; Luke 12:5. We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts when we with sincerity and fervency adore him, when our thoughts of him are awful and reverend, when we rely upon his power, trust to his faithfulness, submit to his wisdom, imitate his holiness, and give him the glory due to his most illustrious perfections. We sanctify God before others when our deportment is such as invites and encourages others to glorify and honour him; both are required, Leviticus 10:3. "When this principle is laid deeply into your hearts, the next thing, as to men, is to be always ready, that is, able and willing, to give an answer, or make an apology or defence, of the faith you profess, and that to every man that asketh a reason of your hope, what sort of hope you have, or which you suffer such hardships in the world." Learn, First, An awful sense of the divine perfections is the best antidote against the fear of sufferings; did we fear God more, we should certainly fear men less. Secondly, The hope and faith of a Christian are defensible against all the world. There may be a good reason given for religion; it is not a fancy but a rational scheme revealed from heaven, suited to all the necessities of miserable sinners, and centering entirely in the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Thirdly, Every Christian is bound to answer and apologize for the hope that is in him. Christians should have a reason ready for their Christianity, that it may appear they are not actuated either by folly or fancy. This defence may be necessary more than once or twice, so that Christians should be always prepared to make it, either to the magistrate, if he demand it, or to any inquisitive Christian, who desires to know it for his information or improvement. Fourthly, These confessions of our faith ought to be made with meekness and fear; apologies for our religion ought to be made with modesty and meekness, in the fear of God, with jealousy over ourselves, and reverence to our superiors.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The epistles of Peter are addressed to the elect Jews of his day, believing of course on the Lord Jesus, and scattered throughout a considerable portion of Asia Minor. The apostle takes particular care to instruct them in the bearing of many of the types that were contained in the Levitical ritual with which they were familiar. But while he contrasts the Christian position with their former Jewish one, in order to strengthen them as to their place and calling now in and by Christ, he takes care also to maintain fully whatever common truth there is between the Christian and the saints of the Old Testament. For it is hardly necessary to say to any intelligent believer, that whatever may be the new privileges, and consequently fresh duties which flow from them, there are certain unchangeable moral principles to which God holds throughout all time. These were insisted on in the Old Testament, particularly in the psalms and the prophets. And the apostle guards against the wrong conclusion, that, because in certain things we stand contrasted with the Old Testament saints, there are no grounds in common.

Let it then be well borne in mind, that God holds fast that which He has laid down for all that are His as to the moral government of God. That government may differ in character and depth; there may be at a fitting moment a far closer dealing with souls (as undoubtedly this is the case since redemption). At the same time the general principles of God are in nowise enfeebled by Christianity, but rather strengthened and cleared immensely. Take, for instance, the duty of obedience; the value of a gracious, peaceful walk here below; the degree of confidence in God. It was ever right that love should go out towards others, whether in general kindness towards all mankind, or in special affections towards the family of God. These things were always true in principle, and never can be touched while man lives on earth.

It is equally true, however, that from the beginning of his first epistle, Peter draws out the contrast of the Christian place with their old Jewish one. It is not that the Jews were not elect as a nation, but therein precisely it is where they stand in contrast with the Christian. Whatever may be found in hymns, or sermons, or theology, scripture knows no such thing as an elect church. There is the appearance of it in the last chapter of this very epistle, but this is due solely to the meddling hand of man. In 1 Peter 5:1-14 we read, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you;" but all concede that the terms " the church that is " have been put in by the translators: they have no authority whatever. It was an individual and not a church that was referred to. It was probably a well known sister there; and therefore it was enough simply to allude to her. "She that was at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you." The very point of Christianity is this, that as to election it is personal strictly individual. This is precisely what those who contend against the truth of election always feel most: they will allow a sort of body in a general way to be elect, and then that the individuals who compose that body must be brought in, as it were, conditionally, according to their good conduct. No such idea is traceable in the word of God. God has chosen individuals. As it is said in Ephesians: He has chosen us, not the church, but ourselves individually. "The church," as such, does not come in till the end of the first chapter. We have first individuals chosen of God before the foundation of the world.

Here too the apostle does not merely speak, nor is it ever the habit of scripture to speak, in an abstract way of election. The saints were chosen "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;" for it was no question now of a Governor having a nation in whom He might display His wisdom, power, and righteous ways. They had been used to this and more in Judaism, but it had all passed away. The Jews had brought His government into contempt by their own rebellion against His name; and Jehovah Himself had found it morally needful to hand over His own nation into the power of their enemies. Consequently that nation as a display of His government was a thing of the past. A remnant, it is true, had been brought up from Babylon for the purpose of being tested by a new trial by the presentation of the Messiah to them; but alas! only to their responsibility, not to their faith; and if it be responsibility, whether to do the law or to believe the Messiah, it is all one as far as the result in man is concerned. The creature is utterly ruined in every way, and with so much the speedier manifestation the more spiritual the trial.

Thus, as is known, the rejection of the Messiah was incomparably more fruitful of disastrous consequences to the Jew than even had been of old their breach of the divine law. This accordingly gave occasion for God to exercise a new kind of choice. Undoubtedly there was always a secret election of saints after the fall and long before the call of Abraham and his seed; but now the choice of saints was to be made a manifest thing, a testimony before men, though of course not till glory come absolutely perfect. Accordingly God chooses now not merely out of men but out of the Jews. And this is a point that Peter presses on them, a startling thought for a Jew, yet they had only to reflect in order to know how true it is: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." He is forming a family, and no longer governing one chosen nation. Those addressed from among the Jews were among the chosen ones, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."

But there is more than this: it was no longer a question of ordinances visibly separating those subject to them from the rest of the world. It was a real inward and not merely external setting apart; it was through "sanctification of the Spirit." God set them apart unto Himself by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost,. We do not hear now of the gift of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is altogether distinct from that gift. His sanctification is the effectual work of divine grace, which first separates from the world a person, whether Jew or Gentile, unto God. When a man for instance turns to God, when he has faith in Jesus, when he repents towards God, even though it may be faith but little developed or exercised, and although the repentance may be comparatively superficial (yet I am supposing now real faith and repentance through the action of the Holy Ghost), these are the tokens of the Spirit's sanctification.

There are those who constantly think and speak of sanctification as practical holiness, and exclusively so. It is granted that there is a sanctification in scripture which bears on practice. This is not the. point here, but if possible a deeper thing; and for the simple reason, that practical holiness must be relative or a question of degree. The" sanctification of the Spirit" here spoken of is absolute. The question is not how far it is made good in the heart of the believer; for it really and equally embraces all believers. It is an effectual work of God's Spirit from the very starting-point of the career of faith. Elect of course they were in God's mind from all eternity, but they are sanctified from the first moment that the Holy Ghost opens their eyes to the light of the truth in Christ. There is an awakening of conscience by the Spirit through the word (for I am not speaking now of anything natural, of moral desires or emotions of the heart). Wherever there is a real work of God's Spirit not merely a testimony to the conscience but an arousing of it effectually before God the sanctification of the Spirit is made good.

If asked why this should be accepted as the meaning of the expression, I acknowledge that one is bound to give a reason for that which no doubt differs from the view of many, and I answer, that in my judgment the just and only meaning of the word is proved from the fact that the saints are said to be "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."

The order here is precise and instructive. Now practical holiness follows our being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, whereas the sanctification of the Spirit of which Peter here treats precedes it. The saints are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience. This is somewhat difficult for theology, because in general even intelligent and godly souls are much shut up in the prevalent commonplaces of men. Never should I for one blame their tenacity in adhering to the truth and duty of advancing in practical holiness, or what they call sanctification. This is both true and important in its place. The fault is in denying the other and yet more fundamental sense of sanctification here shown by Peter in its right relation to obedience. A truth is not the truth. True growth in practice confessedly is after justification; sanctification in 1 Peter 1:2 is before justification. It is very evident when a man is justified, he is under the efficacy of the blood of Christ. He is no longer waiting for the sprinkling of that precious blood, he is already sprinkled with it before God. But the sanctification of the Spirit laid down here is in order to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus; and therefore unless you would destroy the grace of God, and reverse a multitude of scriptures as to justification by faith, this sanctification cannot be one's practice of day by day.

Confound the one with the other and you upset the gospel: distinguish sanctification in principle from the beginning for all from sanctification in practice in the various measures of believers, and you learn the truth of what Peter here teaches, which is forgotten for the most part in Christendom. If you say that practical holiness precedes the being brought under the blood of Jesus, I ask, How is one to become holy? Whence is the power or the growth in holiness? Certainly such is not the teaching of God's word anywhere, still less is it what the apostle Peter insists on here. There is a wider and, if possible, a deeper thought than the measure of our walk, which, after all, differs in all the children of God, no two being exactly the same, and all of us depending on self-judgment as well as growth in the knowledge of the Lord and of His grace. The word of God, prayer, the use that we make of the opportunities that His goodness affords us, both public and private, all the means that teach and exercise us in the will of God no doubt contribute to this practical holiness.

But here the apostle speaks of none of these things, but only of the Spirit separating the saints to obey as Jesus obeyed, and to be sprinkled with His blood. And so we find it in fact and in Scripture. Thus, for instance, Saul of Tarsus had this sanctification of the Spirit the moment that, struck down to the earth, he received the testimony of the Lord speaking from heaven. He went through a profound work in his conscience after that. For three days and nights, as we all know, he neither ate nor drank. All this was thoroughly in season; and after it, as we are told, the blindness was taken away, and he was filled with the Holy Ghost. This is not the sanctification of the Spirit. It was clearly the consequence of the Holy Ghost being given to him, but the gift of the Spirit is not the sanctification of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is that primary action that was experienced before Saul entered into peace with God. When a man is roused to hate his sins through God's testimony reaching him, and convicting him before God, and not in his own eyes, when a man is ashamed of all that he has been in presence of God's grace, ever so little known and understood, still where a real work goes on in the soul, sanctification of the Spirit is true there. Now this ought to be a great comfort even to the feeblest of God's children, not an alarm. There is not one of them who has not really sanctification of the Spirit They may be troubled as to the question of practical holiness, but the fundamental and essential sanctification of the Spirit is that which is already true of all the children of God. I am not speaking of a particular doctrine. It is not a question of that; but of a soul quickened by the Spirit through the truth received in ever so simple and limited a manner. But it is a reality, and from that time this sanctification of the Spirit becomes a fact.

But then, to what are they sanctified of the Holy Ghost thus? Unto Christ's obedience and the sprinkling of His blood; for "Jesus Christ" belongs to both these clauses. This again is a difficulty to some minds. They would rather have placed the sprinkling of the blood first, and obedience next. I can understand them, but do not in the least agree with them. Indeed such difficulties serve to show where people are. The root of all is that people are occupied about themselves first, instead of leaning on the Lord. No doubt if a person were at once to be brought into the comfort of full peace with God through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, this would suit the heart's sense of its own need. But it is not what the word of God gives us by that converted soul, to whose case I have adverted. What is it that Saul of Tarsus says as the effect of the light of God shining on his soul? "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And was not this before he knew all the comfort and blessing of the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus?

The first impulse of a converted man is to do the will of God. There may be no sense of liberty yet, nor even joy in the Lord; there can be no solid peace whatever. All this will come in due time, and it may be very rapidly, even the self-same hour; but the very first thing that a soul born of God feels is the desire at all cost to do the will of God. It is exactly what filled Jesus perfectly. It was not a question of what He was to gain or what He was to avoid; but as it is written, "Lo, I come, to do thy will, O God." To my mind, nothing is more wonderful in our blessed Lord here below than this devotedness to His Father, not merely now and again, but as the one motive that animated Him from the beginning to the end of His course here below. He came to do the will of God, and this not as the law proposed, in order that it might be well with Him, and He might live long in the earth; He never had such a motive though He fulfilled the law perfectly. On the contrary, He knew quite well before coming that He was not here for a long life, but to die on the cross. He was about to be a sacrifice for sin, giving Himself up spite of suffering, not only from man, but from God. But at all cost God's will must be done; "by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The self-same principle is true in the believer, although of course it is pure grace toward him, whereas it was moral perfectness in Jesus. In our case it is all through Jesus. It is the Holy Ghost no doubt producing it. It is the instinct of that new nature, of life in the believer, who, being born of God, has this necessary feeling of the new nature, the desire to do the will of God. In point of fact Christ is the life of the believer; and we can well understand, therefore, that the life of Christ, whether viewed in all its perfection in Him, or whether it is seen modified in ourselves, is nevertheless just the same life, in our case hindered alas! by all sorts of circumstances, and above all by the evil of our old nature that surrounds it, in Him, as we know, absolutely perfect and without mixture.

In this case, then, it seems to me that the order is divinely perfect, and manifestly so. Being sanctified of the Spirit, we are called to obey as Christ obeyed. It is another character and measure of responsibility. The Jew, as such, was bound to obey the law. To him it was a question of not doing what his nature prompted him to do. But this was never the case with Jesus. He in no case desired to do a single thing that was not the will of God. Now the new nature in the believer never has any other thought or feeling; only in our case there is also the old nature which may, and which alas! does struggle to have its own way. Therefore God has His own wise, holy, and gracious mode of dealing with it. We shall see that this comes later on in our epistle, and therefore I need say no more upon it now.

Here we have the first great primary fact, that the Christian Jew does not belong any more to the elect nation; but is taken out of this his former position, and is elect after a wholly new sort. In this case, those actually addressed had belonged to that elect people, but now they were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It was no afterthought, but His settled plan. It was the foreknowledge of God the Father in virtue of ( ἐν ) sanctification of the Spirit, and this unto the obedience of Jesus Christ (that kind of obedience), and the sprinkling of His blood. These two points are carefully to be weighed Christian obedience, and the sprinkling of His blood. I consider them both to stand in manifest contrast with the same two elements under the law in Exodus 24:1-18, which appears to be in view. In that chapter we have Israel agreeing to do whatever the law demanded, and thereupon the blood of certain victims is taken and sprinkled on the people, as well as on the book that bound them.

It is a great mistake to suppose that the blood there is used as a sign of the putting away of sin. This is not by any means the only meaning of blood, even where it was sacrificially employed. The meaning in that sense I take to be this: that the people formally pledged themselves to legal obedience, and bound themselves in this solemn manner to obey. Just as the blood sprinkled was from the animals killed in view of the old covenant, so they shrank not from that dread and extreme exaction if they failed to obey the will of God. It was an imprecation of death on themselves from God if they violated His commandments. Therefore it is observable there was the sprinkling of the book along with it. This had nothing at all to do with atonement a supposition which only arises from people closing their eyes to other truths in the Bible, to their own great loss even in the truth they hold. We must leave room for all truth. Atonement has its own incomparable place. But certainly when the Israelites were binding themselves to obey the law, it was as far as possible from a confession of atonement. It is a total fallacy, injurious to God's glory and to our own souls, to interpret the Bible after this fashion. It only makes confusion in jumbling up law and gospel, to the detriment of both, and indeed to the destruction of all the beauty and force of truth.

In the case of the Christian all is changed. For Christ communicated a new nature which loves to obey God's will, which accordingly is given us from conversion, before (and it may be long before) a person enjoys peace. From the time that this new nature is given, the purpose of the heart is to obey. Such was, unhindered by imperfection, the obedience of Jesus.

But besides this, the gospel, instead of putting a man under blood as a threat or imprecation of death in case of failure, the awful sign of his doom before his eyes if he disobeyed, puts him under the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, which assures him of plenary forgiveness. With this he is intended to start as a Christian; he begins his career with that blessed shelter which tells him that, although he has entered on the path of Christian obedience, he is a forgiven and justified man in the sight of God. Such is the suited and striking preface with which our apostle commences, contrasting the portion of the believer in Christ with that of the Jew, as it stands in their own sacred books, which we as well as they acknowledge to have divine authority.

Next follows the salutation, "Grace unto you, and peace," the usual Christian or apostolic style of address. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to he revealed in the last time." Thus he loves to bring out again confirmatorily the new relationship in which they stood to God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not here blessing them in heavenly places in Christ. Such is not., the topic of Peter; it had been given to another instrument more fitted for revealing the heavenly position of the believer. But if it is not union with Christ, if not our full place in Him before God, there is a clear statement of our hope of heaven. And this is what Peter immediately enlarges on. Speaking of God he says, "Who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven." It is not the universal inheritance of which the apostle Paul treats, so that clearly we have the distinction between his testimony and Paul's very definitely.

Bear in mind that the one is just as truly Christian as the other. There is no difference in their authority, but each has its own importance. The man that would make all his scripture to be the epistle to the Ephesians would soon find himself in want of Peter. And I am persuaded that a hardness of character, quite intolerable to men of spiritual minds, would inevitably be generated by making all our food to consist in what could be extracted from Ephesians and Colossians, the effect of which would soon become painfully sensible to others. The consequence would be that much of the exercise of spiritual affection which humbles the soul, a vast deal which renders needful the gracious present care of the Lord Jesus as advocate and priest on high, would be of necessity left out. In other words, if we think of firmness, as well as the sense of belonging to heaven, a bright triumphant consciousness of glory, surely we must enter into and enjoy the precious truth of our union with Christ. But this is not all; we need Christ interceding for us, as well as the privilege of being in Christ; we need to have Him active in His love before our God, and not merely a condition in which we stand. Peter treats chiefly of the former, Paul of both, but chiefly of the latter. Such was the ordering of matters under God's hand for both. The epistle to the Hebrews of all the Pauline epistles is that which most approaches the testimony of Peter, and coalescing in it to a large extent. There we have not union with the Head, but "the heavenly calling;" and substantially the latter line of truth is that which we have in 1 Peter.

Nor is it only that we find here the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, but the life that grace has given us is characterized by resurrection power. "We are begotten again," says he, "to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The blood of Jesus Christ, however precious and indispensable, does not of itself constitute a man a Christian either in intelligence or in fact of standing. It is the foundation for it; and every one who rests on the blood of Christ is surely a Christian; but I repeat that, both for position before God and intelligent perception and power of soul, we need and have much more. Supposing God only gave the believer according to his own thoughts (often meagre); supposing one believed in the power of the precious blood of Jesus ever so truly, and had nothing more than this our real portion by the Spirit, such an one, I maintain, would be a sorry Christian indeed. No doubt as far as it goes it is all-important, nor could any one be a Christian without it. Still the Christian does need the effect of the resurrection of Jesus following up the sprinkling of His blood I do not say the resurrection without His blood, still less the glory without either. A whole Christ is given and needed. I do not believe in these glory-men, or resurrection-men either, without the blood of Jesus; but, on the other hand, as little are we in scripture limited to that most wonderful of all foundations redemption through Christ Jesus our Lord. To restrict yourself to it would be a wrong, not so much to your own soul as to God's grace; and if there be any difference, especially to Him who suffered all things for God's glory and for our own infinite blessing.

In this case then we have the Christian by divine grace possessed of a new nature which loves to obey. He is sprinkled with Christ's blood, which gives him confidence and boldness in faith before God, because he knows the certainty of the love that has put away his sins by blood. But, besides this, what a spring is conveyed to the soul by the sense that his life is the life of Jesus in resurrection. So, he adds, there is a. similar inheritance for the saints with Christ Himself "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven," where He has already gone. More than this, there is full security, spite of our passing through a world filled with hatred and peril, for the Christian above all. "For you," says he, "who are kept;" for Christian doctrine is not, as men so often say, that of saints persevering. In this I, for one, do not believe. One sees alas! too often saints going astray, comparatively seldom persevering as the rule, if we speak of their consistent fidelity and devotedness. But there is that which never fails, "the power of God through faith," by which the believer is kept to the end. This alone restores the balance; and thus we are taken out of all conceit of our own stability. We are thrown on mercy, as we ought to be; we look up in dependence on One who is incontestably above us, and withal infinitely near to us. This ought to be the spring of all our confidence, even in God Himself, with His own power preserving us. There is given to the soul of him who thus rests on God's power keeping him a wholly different tone from that of the man who thinks of his own perseverance as a saint. Far better is it, then, to be "kept by the power of God through faith." In this way it is not independent of our looking to Him.

But there is discipline also. God puts us to the proof; and, undoubtedly, if there be unbelief working, we must eat the bitter fruit of our own ways. It is good that we should feel that it is unbelief, and that unbelief can produce nothing but death. This may be in various measures, and therefore no more is meant than so far as want of faith is allowed to work. In the unbeliever, where it does work unhinderedly, the consequences are fatal and everlasting. In the believer the evil heart of unbelief is modified necessarily by the fact that, believing on Christ, he has everlasting life. But still, as far as unbelief does work, it is just so far death in effect. The saints, then, are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And here it is well to observe, as an important fact to be recognised, that salvation in Peter's epistle looks onward to the future, where it is not otherwise qualified. Salvation is here viewed as not yet come. In the general sense of the word, salvation awaits the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It supposes that the believer is brought out of all that is natural even as to the body that he is already changed into the likeness of Christ. "Salvation," says Peter, "ready to be revealed in the last time." This is the reason why he connects it with the appearing of Jesus Christ. It is not merely the work effected, but salvation revealed; and hence it necessarily awaits the revelation of Jesus Christ.

There is another sense of salvation, and our apostle, as we shall shortly find, does not in anywise ignore it; but then he qualifies the term. When he refers it to the present, it is the salvation of souls, not of bodies. This also is a very important point of difference for the Christian, on which it will be desirable to speak presently. On the other hand, as here, when salvation simply and fully is meant, we are thrown on the revelation of the last time. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." Such is the path of trial through which the believer goes forward, putting to the proof the faith which God has given him:" That the trial of your faith" (not of flesh as under the law) "being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

It is not said to be at Christ's coming. The trial of our faith will not be revealed then, but "at the appearing of Jesus." This is the reason why the appearing of Jesus is brought in here. The coming of Jesus might be misunderstood, as being a much more comprehensive term than His appearing or revelation. His coming ( παρουσία ) is that which effects the rapture and reception of the saints to Himself; and His appearing is that which subsequently displays them with Himself before the world, and therefore expresses but a part of His presence, being the special (not the generic) term. The appearing of Jesus is exclusively when the Lord will make Himself visible, and be seen by every eye. It is evident that the Lord might come and make Himself visible only to those in whom He is distinctly interested, and who are themselves personally associated with Him; and such, I have no doubt, is the truth of scripture. But then He may do more and display Himself to the world. Such is the "appearing" of Jesus, and of this the apostle Peter speaks when the revelation of the sons of God in glory will take place. Then it is that the trial of the faith of the Christian will be made manifest in glory. Wherever the saints have shown faith or unbelief, whether hindered by the world, the flesh, or the devil, whatever the particular snare that has drawn them aside, all will be made plain then. There will be no possibility of self-love keeping up appearances longer: unbelief will cost as dear in that day as it is worthless now; but the trial of faith, where it has been genuine, will be "found unto praise and honour" then. Proved unbelief will be certainly to the praise of none, but where feeble faltering faith has been put in evidence by the trial, while surely forgiven in the grace of God, nevertheless the failure cannot but be judged as such. The flesh never counts on God for good. All unbelief therefore will be shown plainly to be of the flesh, not of the Spirit, and never excusable.

But this gives the apostle an occasion to speak of Jesus, especially as he had spoken of His appearing, and this in a way that remarkably brings out the character of Christianity. "Whom," says he, "having not seen, ye love." It is a strange sound and fact at first, but in the end precious. Who ever loved a person that he never saw? We know that in human relations it is not so. In divine things it is precisely what shows the power and special character of a Christian's faith.

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith," not yet the body saved, but soul-salvation "the salvation of souls." This at once gives us a true and vivid picture of what Christianity is, of signal importance for the Jews to weigh, because they always looked forward for a visible Messiah, the royal Son of David the object, no doubt, of all reverence, homage, and loyalty for all Israel. But here it is altogether another order of ideas. It is a rejected Messiah who is the proper object of the Christian's love, though he never beheld Him; and who while unseen becomes so much the more simply and unmixedly the object of his faith, and withal the spring of "joy unspeakable and full of glory."

While this is in full and evident contrast with Judaism, it needs little proof that it is precisely what gives scope for the proper display of Christianity, which could not be seen in its true light if at all till Jesus left the world. Whilst the Lord was here, it is ignorance and error to call such a state of things, however blessed and needed, Christianity. Of course it was Christ, which, after all, was far more important in one sense than the work He wrought for bringing us to God. All on which one could look with delight and praise was concentrated in His own person. What were the disciples then? Members of His body? Who told you this? None eau find it in Scripture. Up to that time membership of Christ, or to be in Christ, was not a fact, and consequently could not be testified to any soul, nor known to the most advanced believer. What Christ was to them then was all: not in the least did any suspect (for indeed it was not yet true) that any were in Him. The Lord spoke of a day when they should know it; but as yet the foundation was not even laid for it. This was done in the mighty work of the Saviour on the cross; and not the fact only but its results were made good when Christ, after having breathed His own risen life into them, went up to heaven and sent down the Holy Ghost that they might taste the joy and have the power of it. This gives room for all the practical working of Christianity. It was necessary to its existence that Jesus should go. There could have been no Christianity if Jesus had not come; yet as long as He was visibly present on earth, Christianity proper could not even begin.

It was when He who died went to heaven that Christianity appeared in its full force; and accordingly then came out faith in its finest and truest character. While He was here, there was a kind of mingled experience. It was partly sight and partly faith; but when He went away, it was altogether faith, and nothing but faith. Such is Christianity. But then, again, as long as Christ was here, it could not be exactly hope. How could one hope for One who was here, however different His estate from what was longed for and expected? Thus neither faith had its adequate and suited sphere, nor had hope its proper character till Jesus went away. When He left the earth, especially as the Crucified, then indeed there was room for faith; and nothing but faith received, appreciated, and enjoyed all. And before He went away, He had left the promise of His return for them. Thus hope also could spring forth as it were to meet Him; as, indeed, it is the work of the Holy Ghost to exercise the faith and hope He has given.

This, then, may serve to show the true nature of Christianity, which, coming in after redemption, is founded on it, and forms in us heavenly associations and hopes while Jesus is away, and we are waiting for Him to return. Perhaps it is needless to say how the heart is tried. There is everything, as we have seen, to give not only faith and hope their full place, but also love. As we are told here, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing," no wonder he adds, "ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But none of these wonders of grace could have been, unless by redemption we receive the end of our faith meanwhile, namely, soul-salvation.

A very important development follows in the next verses. "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." How little, it seems, the Old Testament prophets understood their own prophecies! How much we are indebted to the Spirit who now reveals a Christ already come! The prophets were constantly saying that the righteousness of God was near at, hand, and His salvation to be revealed. Thence, we see, they did speak of these very things. They "prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching), what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories after these." Take Psalms 22:1-31 or Isaiah 53:1-12, where we have the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these. But mark, "To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things which are now reported to you in virtue of the Holy Ghost sent from heaven. This is Christianity. It is very far from identifying the state and testimony of the prophets with ours now under grace and a present Spirit. He shows that first of all there was this testimony of that which was not for themselves but for us, beginning of course with the converted Jewish remnant, these Christian Jews who believed the gospel which in principle belongs to us of the Gentiles just as much as to them.

Christianity is come to us now; but when really known, it is not at all a mere question of prophetic testimony, even though this be of God, but there is the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The gospel sets forth present accomplishment redemption now a finished work as far as the soul is concerned. At the same time, the day is not yet come for the fulfilment of the prophecies as a whole. This is the important difference here revealed. There are three distinct truths in these verses, as has been often remarked, and most clearly, as we have seen. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Then the prophecies will be fulfilled. Thus the Lord Jesus, being already come and about to come again, brings before us two of these stages, while the mission of the Holy Ghost for the gospel fills up the interval between them. Had there been only one coming of Christ, then the accomplishment that we have now, and the fulfilment of the prophecies that. is future, would have coalesced, so; far as this could have been; but two distinct comings of the Lord (one past, and the other future) have broken up the matter into these separate parts. That is, we have had accomplishment in the past; and we look for future fulfilment of all the bright anticipations of the coming kingdom. After the one, and before the other, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven is the power of Christian blessedness, and as we know also of the church, no less than of preaching the gospel everywhere.

And when the Lord Jesus appears by and by, there will be not the gospel as it is now preached, nor the Holy Ghost as He is now sent down from heaven, but the word going forth and the Spirit poured out suitably to that day. There may be a still more diffusive action of the Holy Ghost when He is shed upon all flesh, not merely as a sample, but to an extent (I do not say depth) beyond what was accomplished on the day of Pentecost. In due time there will be the fulfilment of the prophecies to the letter. Christianity accordingly, it will be observed, comes in between these two extremes after the first, and before the second, coming of Christ; and this is exactly what Peter shows us in this epistle. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope perfectly," etc. Again in the 14th verse: "As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, be ye also holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." There is an instance of what I referred to that the essential moral principles. of the Old Testament are in nowise disturbed by Christianity. And, indeed, you find this not merely in Peter but in Paul. Paul will tell you so, even after he shows that the Christian is dead to the law; and then a term is used to show that he does not at all mean that the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled in us, but that it is. In fact, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in no one but the Christian. A man under the law never fulfils the law: the man who is under grace is the one that does, and the only one; for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." So Peter takes up a passage of Leviticus, and shows that it is strictly true yea, if one can employ such an expression, more true (of course meaning by this more manifestly true) under the Christian than under the Jewish system. As all know, many things were allowed then for the hardness of the heart, which are thoroughly condemned now. That is, the holiness of the Christian is fuller, and deeper than that of the Jew. Hence he can fairly take up the quotation from the law, not at all conveying that we were under law, but with an à fortiori force. As Christians, we are under a far more searching principle, namely, the grace of God (Romans 6:1-23), which assuredly ought to produce far better and more fruitful results.

It is clearly seen how he treats these Jews, and what they used to boast of. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father" that is, if ye call on Him as Father "who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." What can be more magnificent than this setting of the Christian on his own proper basis?

It will be observed here that there are two motives to holiness: the first is that He has called us; the next, that we call Him, and this by the sweet and near title of Father. It is no longer relationship with and recognition of a God that rules and governs. This was known in Israel, but it could in no wise draw out the affections in the same way as calling Him Father. We are told and meant to know, that as He called us by His grace, so we should call on Him as Father. It is after the pattern, not of a subject with a sovereign, but of a child's dependence on a parent. To this double motive there is added another consideration on which it all rests, and without which neither of these things could be. How is it that He has been pleased thus to call us? and how is it that we can call Him Father? The answer is this: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ." The Jews were all familiar with a ransom price that used to be paid in silver. But it did not matter whether one gave silver or gold, it was all corruptible; and to what did it come at last? The precious blood of Christ is another thing altogether; and there alone is efficacy found before God; so also His incorruptible seed revealing Himself is planted in the heart of the saint.

They were redeemed then with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. It was no new thought. Though but newly brought out, it was in point of fact the oldest of all purposes. Did they boast about their law, the apostle can say that Christianity the present blessed revelation of grace in Christ was in God's mind before the foundation of the world. Therefore there could be no comparison on that score, not even for a Jew. And this was an important point; for the Jews reasoned, that because God brings out one thing today, He could not bring out another tomorrow. They consider that, because God is unchangeable, He has not a will of His own. Why even your dog has a will; and I am sure you have a will yourselves. And here is the wonderful infatuation of unbelief. That very system of reason that makes so much of the will of man, and is not a little proud of it, would deprive God Himself of a will, and under penalty of man's accusation of injustice forbids its exercise according to His own pleasure. But thus it is He brings out one part of His character at one time, and another part at another time. Therefore be would have them know that, as to the novelty with which they reproach Christianity, it was altogether a mistake; for the Lamb without blemish and without spot, though only lately slain, was foreordained before the foundation of the world. When he refers to Him as a "lamb without blemish and without spot," he evidently points to their types, yea, to Christ before the types, because we had that from the very beginning in the first recorded sacrifice, long before there was a Jew and still more before the law. To what did it all point? To "the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." It is plain that, if God foreordained it, He at the same time took care to act on it, and this is long before either Judaism or the law.

Thus there was a most thorough conviction of the folly of the Jewish argument as to Christianity being a mere novelty; but it was "manifest in these last times for you who by him do believe in God." Here it is not merely believing in the Messiah, but believing in "God that raised him up from the dead."

Now I do not believe there ever can be settled peace in a man's soul till he has confidence in God Himself, according to the truth of His raising up Christ from the dead. Simply to believe in Christ may make a man quite happy, but it never of itself gives solid unbreakable peace. What brings a man into that peace which resists all efforts from without to take it, all weakness within in giving it up, is the certainty that all is clear with God. It is He that raises the question of conscience in His sight, and this is so much the more dreadful, because when renewed we know better our own subtlety and His unstained essential holiness. It belongs to the condition in which man is that, being fallen, and yet having a conscience of the good that alas! he does not do, and of the evil that he does, he has a dread of God, knowing that He must bring into judgment the good that he knew but did not, and the evil that he knew and did. So guilty man cannot but quake, still by scepticism he may reason himself out of his fears, or he can find a religion that soothes and destroys his conscience. But that man has this conscience in his natural state is most certain.

Christianity alone settles all questions. There we have not merely the blessed Saviour who in unspeakable love comes down and attracts the heart, and searches the conscience, but He settles all for us with God by redemption. Nor is it only that He comes down from God, but He goes up to God. That we receive the peace we need as Christians is mainly connected, not with His coming out from God, but with His going back to God; as it is said here, "Who by him do believe in God that" what? Gave Him to shed His blood? There can be nothing without this: impossible to have any holy and permanent blessing for the soul without it; nevertheless this is not what is said. We have the value of Christ's blood already spoken of, but now it is added of God that He "raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory." Where? In His own presence. Even the kingdom on earth does not suffice. According to Christian light nothing will do but ability to stand before the glory of God. And this by Christ's work is made good for us, because the very one that became responsible for our sins on the cross is in glory now. God has raised Him from the dead and given Him glory. The consequence is that all for ever is made clear and settled for those who believe in God, that our "faith and hope might be" not " in Christ," though it is so, assuredly, but more than this "in God." This is the more important, because of itself it completely dissipates a thought as common as it is grievous to the Lord, that Christ is the one in whom the love is, and that His task for the most part is to turn away the totally opposite feeling that is in God Himself. Not so; for as He came out in the love of God, who none the less must by this very Christ judge every soul that lives in sin and unbelief, He would not go back to heaven until He bad by His own sacrifice completely put sin away. But this was the will of God. (Psalms 40:1-17; Hebrews 10:1-39) Thus He goes in peaceful triumph into the presence of God, establishing our faith and hope in God, and not merely in Himself.

But there is another thing to be considered. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren," for this is the sure effect "see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." There was the best and weightiest reason for this, because the nature thus produced in them is this holy nature that comes by grace from God Himself. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth; because all flesh is as grass, and all its glory as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

1 Peter 2:1-25. Next he shows some of the privileges as well as wants of the Christian. First he is surrounded by an evil world, but, besides, he has not lost in fact something nearer that is quite as bad as what is in the world. "Laying aside," he says, "all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby to salvation." "To salvation" you will not find in your common Bibles, but it is none the less true for all that. The apostle represents us as growing by the word to salvation ( i.e., the end in glory). It is not often that words are thus left out. The more usual fault of those who copied the scriptures was that they added words. They assimilated passages one to another; they thought that what was right in one case must be right in another; and thus the tendency was to blunt the fine edge of the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. But in this case they omitted. At first sight, perhaps, these words may be startling to some, that is, to such as think that the sense of "salvation" is weakened thereby. But you need never be afraid of trusting God or His word. Never fear for the honour of the scripture, never shrink from committing yourself to what God says. I have no hesitation in saying that this is in my judgment what God said, if we are to be guided by the most ancient and best authorities.*

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious; to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Two characters of priesthood are here shown us. We have first seen one of them, "a holy priesthood;" there is another lower down, in verse 9, where he says, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood." Both flow from Christ and are in communion with Him who is now carrying on a priesthood according to the pattern of Aaron, but in His own person is a priest after the order of Melchisedec. That is, He is a royal priest just as truly as His functions are now exercised on the ground of sacrifice, interceding after the Aaronic pattern within the veil but a veil that is rent. He is now fulfilling the Levitical types in the holiest of all. On this is founded the spiritual priesthood, and in consequence we who are His draw near and offer up spiritual sacrifices. Besides that, not only is there holiness in drawing near to God, but royal dignity stamped upon the believer. This too is of the greatest importance for us all to remember and seek to realize by faith. Where is each to be proved? Before God we bow down in praise and adoration; before the world we are conscious of the glory grace has given us. We do honour to the world and shame to this our place by seeking its favours. Alas! how often and readily the. Christian forgets his proper dignity. Let us then bear in mind that we are a royal priesthood "to show forth," as it is said here, "the virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light." But when it is a question of drawing near, let us not forget that we are a holy priesthood. We can all understand this: holiness, when one has to do with God; royalty, before the world when the temptation is to forget our heavenly honour.

*In fact but one uncial (Cod. Angelicus Romanus) of the ninth century with many cursives warrants the omission; but , A, B, C, K, more than fifty cursives, and all the versions but the Arabic of the Parisian Polyglott support the words. The early quotations, Greek and Latin, save of Oecumenius, point to the same reading.

"Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." Here again we have a scripture of the Old Testament applied; and this has often been, and still is to this day, exceedingly misunderstood; as if the persons here spoken of must be Gentiles because they are called the strangers of the dispersion. It means Jews, and none but Jews, who believe in the Lord Jesus. What he refers to is the loss of their title to be the people of God, which Israel sustained at the time of the Babylonish captivity. They then ceased to be manifestly God's people. Accordingly their land became the possession of the Gentiles; and so it has gone on to this day. As we know, from that day to this there has never been a real recovery, but only the return of a remnant for special purposes for a season. The times of the Gentiles are still in course of accomplishment. They are not yet finished; and they must be punctually fulfilled. Hence it is evident that, as long as the times of the Gentiles proceed, the Jews cannot regain their ancient title, nor become the real owners of Emmanuel's land. Indeed, it is too plain a fact for any one to dispute. All this time they are not a people; they are dependent on the will of their Gentile masters. But even now grace gives the believer (here believing Jews) to enter that place; we are now God's people. We do not wait for times and seasons. Israel must wait; but we do not.

This is just the difference between the Christian and the Jew. The Christian does not belong to the world, and consequently is not bound by accidents of time. He has everlasting life now, and is a heavenly person even while upon the earth. This is Christianity. Thus he says to the Jews addressed that they were not a people (that is, in the days of their unbelief), but are now. So far was their believing in Christ from taking them out of the people, it is then alone that they became, a people. They "were not a people, but now are the people of God;" they" had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." It is a quotation from Hosea 2:1-23.

And this is exceedingly interesting, because if the prophet be compared, it will be seen to illustrate what has been remarked before the difference between the present accomplishment made good in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and the future fulfilment of the prophecies. If persons take the actual application as the fulfilment of the prophecies, it in fact not only nullifies the future of scripture, but destroys the beauty and point of the present; for what the apostle intimates is, that they had obtained mercy now, though none were yet sown in the earth. These Christian Jews were not sown in the earth. The earth will be sown with the seed of God when the Jewish nation, as such, obtains mercy. They will be the greatest people on the face of the earth, and all the Gentiles shall own it. They will have everything at their command, and worthily use all for God. Not only are they to be set publicly at the head of the nations, but God himself will link His own glory from above with them as His earthly people here below, and nothing but peace, righteousness, and plenty will be found all over the earth in that day of glory. Such will be "that day," and of that day Hosea prophesies. You can easily judge whether that day is come now. It is only a theologian who finds a difficulty. His traditions wrap him up in fog.

I do not think it requires much argument to show whether under the gospel the Jews or the world are in such a condition as the prophet describes, or whether there, is anything in progress that is intended or calculated to bring about such a result. But what will not men believe, provided it be not in the Bible? I admit that what is in the Bible requires faith; and this is as it should be. It is, however, too evident that there is nothing like incredulity for swallowing anything that panders to the first man, and leaving out the glory of the Second. In the word of God, then, we find that the accomplishment of the prophecy supposes an earthly place, with visible power and glory given to the Jewish people. But the wonderful place given to the Christian is that, though we do become the people of God now, whether Jew or Gentile, and although the believing Jew does obtain mercy now, he is not sown on the earth, but called out for heaven, and, in consequence, becomes a pilgrim and stranger here below till Jesus appears. This will not be the case when the Jews shall be brought back to the land. In a certain sense they are strangers now; but it is an awful sense, because it is the fruit of judgment. They are scattered over the earth, and can find no rest for their souls, any more than their feet. This is notorious to every one even to themselves. Least of all can the Jews be said to be sown in the land of Palestine. I do not mean that they may not acquire previously a delusive glory; nor that the antichrist by fraud will not palm himself off as the Messiah, and settle some of them in the land, according toDaniel 11:1-45; Daniel 11:1-45. Nor do I believe that this day is far off. The hour of temptation is near.

But while fully looking for this, it is sweet to see the place of the believing Jew now as divine wisdom here applies Hosea, mutatis mutandis. Although he is of the people of God, instead of getting an earthly character by Christianity, on the contrary he becomes a pilgrim and stranger. "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." It is as if God had purposely put verse 11 to negative the conclusions which men have drawn from a misunderstanding of verse 10.

Then he begins his exhortations, and first of all with the personal snares of every day, with what the Christian had to contend with in himself. Next he proceeds to bring in what had to do with others. There he says, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and praise to them that do well."

I suppose there was a danger of these Christian Jews being somewhat turbulent. Certainly the Jews of old were rarely good subjects. They were apt to rise against oppression and to fail in obedience to a superior, at least among the heathen. They were ever a rebellious people, as we know; and the Christian Jews were in danger of using their Christianity in order to justify insubjection. We can easily comprehend it. They could see how gross, dark, and dissolute these Pagan governors were; and in such circumstances one needs the distinct sense of God's will to abide in the duty of obedience. "How can we obey men that worship stocks and stones, whose very religion makes them immoral and degraded?" However this may have been, it is of all importance for the Christian that he should be established in the place of patient submission; as we see Paul elsewhere taking especial pains to insist that the Christians in Rome should obey, even where they had to do with one of the most abandoned men that had ever governed the empire, persecuting themselves to death a short time after. Nevertheless the apostle there claims the most unqualified subjection to the powers that be. So here we find that the Christian Jews, who might have exonerated themselves from the burden laid on them by their heathen masters, are earnestly exhorted by the apostle Peter to do their bidding for the Lord's sake. I do not say that there are no limits. Obedience is always right, but not to man when he would force the dishonour of God. Nevertheless obedience abides the principle of the Christian. But the lower obedience is absorbed by the higher one when they come into collision; and this is the only seeming exception.

After this Peter not only branches out into the outward life, but takes particular note of the family and its relationships. Some of those addressed were domestics, whether or not they were slaves. The apostle Paul pressed on the Christian slave the beauty and responsibility of obedience; but Peter insists on it whether a man be a slave or not. This is founded on the very principle of Christianity itself; that is, doing good, suffering for it, and taking it patiently. I admit it requires faith; but then the Lord cannot but look for faith in Christian people. Nay, we have Christ Himself brought in to enforce and illustrate it. It is not merely the Christian who is called to this, but this is what Christ was called to. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." To be reviled was a pain to which as domestics they would be particularly exposed, as well as to suffer in all sorts of ways. What had Christ not gone through in the same path?

"When he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously; who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." He suffered in other ways; in this He stands alone for us; "that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Since He came and showed the perfect pattern, it was less than ever the time to sanction disobedience; it was more than ever unbecoming to shirk the path of suffering.

The exhortation is not limited to slaves. Here we find the various relations of life practically met. At any rate the most important part is noticed; and in particular the great social bond, wives and husbands (1 Peter 3:1-22). Then comes the general exhortation: "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, pitiful, lowly-minded: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." What a place for the Christian! called to blessing, and to be a blessing. And this is fortified, singular to say, (but confirming what has been already remarked) by the Psalms. He had quoted the law in 1 Peter 1:1-25, the prophets in1 Peter 2:1-25; 1 Peter 2:1-25, and now the psalms in 1 Peter 3:1-22. Thus all the living oracles of God are turned into use for the Christian, only you must take care that you do not abuse them or any part of them.

"For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." And then he asks, "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts."

This leads to another important point; that if we do suffer, it ought never to be for sin, and for the affecting reason that Christ has once for all suffered for sins. Let this be enough. Christ has suffered for sins; He has had there, if we may so say, a monopoly; and there let it end: why should we? He alone was competent to suffer for sin. We ought never to suffer but for His name, unless it be for righteousness, as is said here, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison."

Carefully observe that Peter does not say that Christ went to prison and preached to the spirits there. No such words are used, nor is this what he means. The spirits are characterised as in prison. They are waiting there for the day of judgment. God may have judged them in this world, but this is not all. He is going to judge them in the next world. There may have been a judgment, but this is not the judgment. So he says these very spirits which are spoken of were "once disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved through water."

It is not a description of all that died in unbelief, but of a generation favoured with a special testimony and smitten by a particular stroke of judgment. The preaching was in the days of Noah. It was just before that judgment fell on them, and this because they despised the testimony of Christ through Noah. Just as the Spirit of Christ prophesied in the prophets, so the Spirit of Christ preached by Noah. There is no difficulty that I see about it. There is nothing at all in the verse that warrants a web of doctrine strange to the rest of the Bible. It is a mistake to construe it of one that knows not what took place in the lower parts of the earth. Nothing is said of preaching in prison, but to the imprisoned spirits not when they were there. He is speaking about the people that heard Noah, and despised the word of the Lord then. It was not Noah's own spirit that preached; it was the Spirit of Christ.

It may be well to point out that the Spirit is used particularly in connection with Noah, as we find in Genesis 6:1-22: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh." There was a term of patience assigned: "Yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years." That is, the Spirit went on striving in testimony to men all that time. Then the flood came and took them all away; but their spirits are now kept in prison waiting for that judgment which has no end. And why does Peter notice them particularly? For this reason, that very few were saved then, whilst. a great many perished. On reflection it will be evident that there is no instance so suitable as this for the argument in hand so few saved and so many perishing. The unbelieving might taunt the Christians with their scanty numbers, while the great mass still remained Jews, and with the absurdity of such a conclusion to the coming of Messiah. There is no force in that argument, the Christian can reply; for, when the flood came, only a few were saved after all, as is shown by the first book of Moses, their own indisputably inspired history. It is beyond cavil that the many perished then, and still fewer were saved than the Christian Jews at that time. Thus the passage is sufficiently plain. There is not the slightest excuse for misinterpreting the language, or for allowing anything unknown to the rest of scripture. It is a solemn warning to unbelief founded on plainly revealed facts before all eyes in this world, and not something to be understood as relating to another world.

"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request. of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This, again, is somewhat peculiarly put in our version. It is not exactly "the answer of a good conscience." The real meaning may make the difficulty appear to be greater for a moment (as, I suppose, the truth often, if not always, does); but when received and understood, what has such strength of appeal to the conscience? The word is a somewhat difficult one; but I believe the force is that it is what conscience wants and asks for from God. Now, when a conscience is touched by the Holy Spirit, what is it that satisfies such a conscience? Clearly nothing less than acceptance in righteousness before God; and this is precisely the position that baptism does set forth. That is to say, it is not simply the blood of Christ, which indeed is never the meaning of baptism; still less is it the life of Christ: baptism means nothing of the sort. It really is founded on the death of Christ; and therein further our due place is shown us by His resurrection. Thus he says, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." Never do we see salvation in its real force so affirmed apart from resurrection. You may find that which meets guilt in death, but never is salvation short of or separable from the power of resurrection. Hence, when he says it saves us, he necessarily brings in resurrection. "Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh . . .") He did not mean the mere outward act of baptism. This could save nobody; but what baptism represents does save. It declares that the Christian man has a new place and standing not in the first Adam at all, but in the Second in the presence of God man without sin, and accepted according to the acceptance of Christ before God. This it is that baptism sets forth; and what of course as a sign it brings one into. "Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."

"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind." In this chapter (1 Peter 4:1-19) we come to the divine government in dealing with nature opposing itself to the will of God. "For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." If you yield to nature, you gratify it; but if you suffer in refusing its wishes, then "he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." It is practical; and holiness costs suffering in this world. Suffering is the way in which power in practice is found against the flesh; so that "he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." The time past might well suffice for the wretched gratification of self. Do men wonder at one's abstaining? They are going to be judged. "For for this cause was the gospel preached to the dead also, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." Thus he shows that even if you look at those that are dead, there was no difference. They too, those who had been before them, had been put to the proof in this way. He is keeping up the link with saints of old by a general principle. Whatever the form, God never gives up His righteous government, though there is His grace also. Hence, if any received the gospel, they were delivered from judgment, and lived according to God in the Spirit. If they despised it, they none the less suffered the consequences.

"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." After this episode which has to do with men here, not in the unseen world, he returns to the relative duties of Christians, and exhorts them to watchfulness with sobriety, to fervent love, and also to "use hospitality one to another without grudging." And then he takes up what is distinctly spiritual power, which should be used not in charity only but with conscience before God, and for His glory through our Lord Jesus. We saw in a similarly characteristic way in the epistle of James the connection of his moral aim with teaching. But they both suppose an open door for ministry among Christians in the Christian assembly. Why was there the mighty action of the Spirit of God producing such various gifts for profit if they did not create the responsibility to exercise them?

No Christian should think or talk about a right of ministry; for although liberty of ministry may be legitimate enough in itself, still I think it is a phrase apt to be misunderstood. It might easily be interpreted as if it meant a right for any one to speak. This I deny altogether. God has a right to use whom He pleases, according to His own sovereign will and wisdom; but the truth is, that if you have received a gift, you are not only at liberty but rather bound to use it in Christ's name. It is not a question of merely having license. Such a principle may be very well for man; but responsibility is the word for men of God, "as each man hath received the gift." It is not merely certain men, one or two, but "as each man," whatever the number, whether few or many.

"As each man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, [let him speak] as [the] oracles of God." According to this none ought ever to speak unless he has a thorough conviction that he is giving out God's mind and message, as suited for that time and those souls. Were this felt adequately, would it not hinder a great many from speaking? Nor is there any reason to fear that silence in such a case would inflict a real loss on the church of God. It does not seem to be of such prime importance that much need be said. The great matter is, that what is spoken should be from God. Persons ought not to speak unless they have a certainty that what they wish to say is not only true (this is not what is said) but the actual will of God nor the occasion. The speaker should be God's mouthpiece for making His mind known there and then. This is to speak "as oracles of God." It is not merely speaking according to His oracles, which is the usual way in which men interpret the passage, and thence derive their license for speaking as they judge fitting without thinking of God's will. They think they have an understanding of scripture, and that they may therefore speak to profit; but it is a totally different thing if one desire only to speak as God's mouthpiece, though it is granted that one may here as elsewhere mistake and fail.

The principle, however, is sound; and may we heed it in conscience, looking to the Lord's grace in our weakness. "If any man speak, [let it be] as oracles of God; if any man minister, [let it be] as of the ability which God giveth." Let it be observed here that ministry is distinguished from speaking. What a vast change must have passed over Christendom, seeing that now a man is chiefly thought a minister because he speaks! whereas real service of the saints is as precious in its place as any speaking can be. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth." Ministry, then, is clearly in itself a distinct thing from speaking; it is another kind of service to which he is called of God. It is granted that, even in connection with spiritual gift in the way of speaking, there is such a thing as the natural ability of the person taken into account; but this is not the gift, though it be the suited vehicle for it. We must always distinguish the ability of the man from the spiritual gift which the Lord gives; and, besides both, there is also the right use of the gift. One must exercise and give oneself up to the cultivation of that gift which God has given. There is nothing contrary to sound truth or principle in that, but indeed a very great defect in those who do not believe it; in fact, it is flying in the face of scripture. And scripture is clear and peremptory as to all these things. "He," it is said of Christ, "gave them gifts, to each man according to his several ability." There we have the gift, and this given according to the man's ability before he was converted. That is the outward framework of the gift, which latter is suited no doubt to that ability; but the gift itself is the power of the Spirit according to the grace of Christ. No ability constitutes a gift; but the spiritual gift does not supersede natural ability, which becomes the channel of the gift, as the gift is given and works in accordance with that ability. But there is need also of present strength from God to those who look to Him. Thus He is in all things glorified through Jesus Christ, "to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever."

Next we have the trial that the saints were passing through alluded to, and the call to suffer not for righteousness merely but for Christ's sake. Finally a warning is given as to the importance of suffering according to God's will, committing meanwhile their souls in well-doing to Him as a faithful Creator. He is righteous; He is jealous of His house; but if this be serious for His own, where shall the sinner appear?

Again we have an exhortation to the elders (1 Peter 5:1-14). Here it is a pain to be obliged once more to make a depreciatory remark on our common English version. It is indeed a forcible and, in general, a faithful version, but it not seldom fails in accuracy. The elders are told to feed or shepherd the flock of God which was among them, exercising the oversight, not by necessity, but willingly; not for base gain, but readily, etc. They have to bear in mind first that the flock is God's. If a man does not carry the sense in his soul that it is God's flock, I do not think he is fit to be an elder or in any other office of spiritual trust: he is far from the right ground for being a blessing to what, after all, is God's flock. In short, we find here too a guard which shows the meaning more clearly. "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage." It will be observed that "God's" is inserted in italics. Now there need be no hesitation in declaring that the phrase does not mean God's heritage at all, but another idea wholly different. The true drift is this "Nor as lording it over your possessions." The elders are not to treat the flock as if it belonged to them. This is exactly what modern presbyters think they may and ought to do every day of their lives. It is into this very snare that unbelief has brought men in Christendom. It is the constant and notorious source of the difficulties that one has continually to contend with, because feelings are roused by this all sorts of jealousies and wounded feelings are created by a position so false. In short, one may find here and there a truly excellent man, and, we will suppose, a number of godly people. But then they are "his congregation;" they think so, and the godly man really believes it. He thinks they are his congregation, and they think so too. The consequence is that when minds get disturbed, it may be, about their position, then all sorts of difficulties come in. He feels exceedingly wounded because, as he will tell you very often, "Why, it is one of the best of my people. I have lost the cream of my congregation." Accordingly he is exceedingly annoyed because one of the most spiritual of his congregation goes away, though it may be to follow God's word more faithfully; and no doubt there is a great deal of pain and feeling on the part of the member of the congregation who is leaving his minister.

Now all this is here judged and set aside as quite wrong The elders are exhorted and warned. There are those who guide, and it is a most proper thing. At the time of this epistle, it was in due order. Now, I need not tell you, things are in a certain measure of confusion. You may have the real substance of the truth, but you cannot have it in all official propriety at the present time. However, apart from that, on which I do not mean to enter more tonight, one thing is remarkable, that even when all was in apostolic, order, and where pastors and teachers and prophets and so on were, and besides, where the elders had been fitly appointed by the apostles themselves or by apostolic men, even there and at that very time they were exhorted against the notion of considering, "This is my congregation, and that is your leader." Nothing of the sort is ever said in God's word but what excludes it.

What they were here directed to was to "feed the flock of God." I repeat, it is God's flock, not yours; and you are not to lord over it as if it were your own belongings. If it were your heritage, you would have certain rights; but the truth is that he who stands in the position of an elder has no small responsibility. Assuredly he is to shepherd the flock, and this as God's flock, not his own. Where this is duly weighed, it is wonderful what a change is produced in the mind, tone, and temper a change both in those who tend the flock, and in those who are cared for; because then God is looked to, and there is no petty feeling of infringing the rights of man in one form or another. It is not then a question of wounding; for why should it hurt you, if I see a particular truth and must act according to it? Why should this be a cause for vexation? The truth is that the assumption of "my flock," or "yours", is the root of endless mischief. It is God's flock; and if a person is charged of the Lord to shepherd His flock, how blessed the trust!

The rest of the chapter consists of exhortations to the younger ones, and finally to all, with a prayer that "the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, when ye have suffered a while, himself shall make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen. By Silvanus, the faithful brother, as I suppose, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. She that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of love. Peace be with you all in Christ Jesus."

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. 1860-1890.