Welcome back to 1 Peter, we will be picking up at chapter 3. Sorry for the delay, but I dropped my computer and cracked the screen so I had to wait for a new one to come so I could fix it. Anyway, think back with me to the end of chapter 2. Peter talks about how we have been called to suffer with Christ, how died to save us and how we have come under His authority, as he says returning to the shepherd. Chapter 3 picks up right here. Remember, these letters did not originally have chapters and verses, but were one continuous dialogue. Each chapter informs the next and every verse must be examined in light of the whole. Peter moves from submission to the shepherd (God) to submission in marriage. Let’s dig in and see what God’s word has to say.
1 In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live 2 when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 5 For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming. 7 Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
It is extremely important to note that Peter calls for all believers to be submitted to God before he talks about wives and husbands. This is not the kind of submission most people picture. When most women hear this phrasing, they see an overbearing husband that merely silences his wife with no regard for her. This is not the case. Peter first clarifies all believers must be submitted to God, which means all husbands must submit to God. If they do this they will not lord their authority over their wives, but as Paul says they will seek out her good (Ephesians 5:28-30). However, Peter is addressing another situation here. The idea is that women who were already married had turned to Jesus and had been saved, but their husbands had not. Peter calls on these women to submit to them, that by doing so they will be a constant witness to their husbands that may bring them to Jesus. There is a lot of debate that can come up from this passage, but I am not going to address all of it. I just want to point out what Peter is saying. Christians are called to join in suffering with Jesus. The kind of abuse, neglect and loneliness suffered by Him is incomparable. Jesus calls us to live sacrificially. Therefore, those that are married to an unbeliever are called to endure their ungodly and selfish leadership as a testimony of what God has done. Does this mean God commands that you must stay with an abusive husband? I do not believe so, but it gives you a guideline. Endure what you can in the hopes of leading your husband to the Lord, but on the same token Jesus never commands believers to stay in an abusive relationship. He told His disciples to leave towns that would not welcome them. Regardless of what you do and what happens, we are called to live a life worthy of the gospel as a witness to those that harm us or seek to destroy us. Is this easy? No, it is very hard, especially for us who have not endured persecution. Thankfully our strength does not come from us, but from God and He strengthens us to stand for His name.
Peter gives an example of submission in the form of Sarah. Now Sarah did submit to her husband, but Abraham did not lord it over her. He took care of her and listen to her. Submission of a wife is not permission for husbands to abuse them. It is the exact opposite. Peter tells husbands that if they are not treating their wives well it will hinder their prayers. Paul tells us we are called to love our wives as Jesus loved the church, willing to die for them. That is the kind of love and caring God expects of godly husbands.
8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. 10 For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11 and he must turn away from evil and do what is good. He must seek peace and pursue it, 12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.
Peter then jumps into this next section, giving several instructions to the believers as to how they are to act. Peter calls for unity in the body, that they will be on the same page, be sympathetic of others, that they must love other believers, and that they are to be compassionate and humble. Humility is putting others first which includes not repaying wrongs, but loving and forgiving people who have wronged us. We are called not to lie or be deceitful. We are called to turn from evil and practice good. We are called to seek peace, because God is watching us. If we seek God’s will and do what He asks we can be confident that He is open to our prayers, but if we live in sin or wrong then God will be set against us.
13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
Peter makes another point here saying, ‘who will try to hurt you if you are trying to do good for all?’ People we bless and care for are not likely going to attack us, but even if they do Peter points out that if we suffer for doing what is righteous then we are blessed. We are to suffer for doing good, but it is no benefit to us if we suffer because of our own sin. We are not to be afraid, but instead focus on pleasing God and being able to explain to people why we trust in God. We are not called to abrasively yell the truth at people, but to do so with gentleness. We are to do this remembering that Jesus suffered for us to make us alive through the Spirit.
19 In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison 20 who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 22 Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.
Now this part is confusing and has met with much debate. Peter tells us that Jesus preached to the dead who were disobedient. Some take this to mean Jesus was preaching to give them a second, but this is not supported by the rest of Scripture. Others take it to mean that He descended to the land of the dead (or hell) to proclaim His victory over death, redemption for those who believed in Him, and to confirm that the sentence past on them was just because of His victory. There is endless debate over this point, but frankly it does not dramatically affect us here and now. Some take it to mean they too will get a second chance when they die, but if you do not want Jesus now, you will not want Him then. This live is where we set our course, if we reject Jesus here, we will always reject Him.
Peter then draws a connection between Noah and baptism. The water cleansed the people and saved them. However, Peter is quick to point out that the act of being submersed in what is not what saves us, but our devotion to Jesus. It is a symbol, an outward show of an inward condition. This is accomplished by Jesus’ resurrection. He now sits in heaven and everything is subject to Him.
So What Do I Do With This Now?
All the information is great, but what do I do with it now?
1 Wives with unbelieving husbands are called to submit to them as a witness of what Jesus has done in their lives. As long as your husband is not endangering your life or your children’s lives then you should stay with them, trying to bring them to Jesus through your actions.
2 We must love fellow believers, seeking to do good and be at peace. If we do so God will be open to our prayers, but if not He will be set against us.
3 Do not lie and do not be deceitful. Be honest and trustworthy in all you do so that people will see Christ in you.
4 Be prepared to tell people why you have faith and hope in Jesus, giving them the reason for your faith.
5 Enduring suffering as a testimony to unbelievers.
6 Be baptized, but remember it is not baptism that saves, but faith and devotion to God. It is way to express who we have become on the inside to the whole world.