1 Peter 3

1 Peter applies the analogy of shepherd and sheep to the family unit. He starts with the topic of a believing wife's role in a family when her husband does not believe. She is not to try to usurp his authority to run the household the way he sees fit. Instead, she is to voluntarily submit to his authority the same way that a sheep submits to the shepherd. However, we are not sheep, of course, and the wife does have influence in the family. She is to use the principles of godly living that she has learned from the Gospel to influence her family through her behavior, even if she does not speak directly about her faith.
2 The word "chaste" here includes more than simply a wife's purity concerning the marital relationship, but purity in all respects of her behavior. It is unclear whether the phrase "with fear" refers to her respect for her husband or for God. Of course, awed reverence for God is to be a characteristic of all Christians. About the family relationship, it may mean that she is to be respectful of her husband, not demeaning him because she has understood the truth of the Gospel while he has not yet understood or believed.
3 In most cultures, the beauty of women is highly prized. Throughout history, women have used ornamentation to enhance their appearance for both social and self-esteem reasons. When taken to the extreme, however, the woman's obsession with her looks can interfere with values that are more important. This verse encourages Christian women to develop good character, which can be an even more appealing adornment than jewelry. For example, a woman who is drenched in diamonds, but has a poor personality, will probably only garner the attention of those who are interested in her jewels. However, a woman known for her good nature will gain many intimate friends and honor from people and God regardless of how many or few decorations she wears. This verse does not prohibit ornamentation, per se, since such an interpretation might lead to the conclusion that it also prohibits clothing. Instead, it encourages Christian women to keep their priorities in proper order. Fancy apparel will pass away, but one's good deeds are remembered forever.
In eastern countries of that time, braiding of hair was an art form of sorts, sometimes used to show one's social status or place in life (e.g., married or single). Braids could be very complex and infused with ribbons, pearls, gems, and gold or silver bands. Paul notes that a woman's hair can glorify her (1 Cor 11:15), but both he and Peter exhort women not to allow such things to degenerate into vanity (1 Tim 2:9-10). If outward splendor is all a woman has, then she has little from the eternal standpoint. The loveliness of a Christian woman should radiate primarily from the inside.
4 God much prefers that a person have a gentle and quiet heart rather than extravagent outward dress. After all, on Judgment Day, we will each stand before Him "naked" of worldly things. He regards all people based on their faith and love, not on their appearance. These good character traits will be eternally valued before God, not jewelry or elaborate clothing. The context of the verse implies that these kinds of characteristics are also attractive to most husbands, even as much as to influence them to believe in God and the Gospel.
5 Peter remembers the accounts of pious women in the times of the patriarchs who would be good examples of this. They were, for the most part, shepherds' wives, and would have been conservative in their dress and ornamentation. Their beautifying characteristics were their hope in God and submission to their husbands. An idealized description of a good wife later in Israel's history is found in Proverbs 31:10-31.
6 Sarah was the wife of the most distinguished patriarch, Abraham. He was a wealthy man, but nothing is ever said about Sarah using their goods to provide herself with extravagant adornment. Instead, we get a picture of a woman who respected her husband as leader of the household and earnestly desired to have a family with him (Gen 18:12). Just as faith makes us "children of Abraham" (John 8:39, Rom 4:11-25), so a wife's respect for her husband likens her to a "daughter of Sarah."

It is unclear what the phrase "without being frightened by any terror" refers to. It might mean that she is to do what is right while trusting in God rather than fearing possible outbursts from her unbelieving husband. Sarah undoubtedly had anxious moments with her believing husband, yet she went with him and trusted in God that things would work out (Gen 11:29-12:6, 22:1-19). Perhaps it indicates that she is to continue to behave appropriately regardless of what persecution might arise from her circumstances or unbelieving neighbors. Possibly this could refer to the peace that comes from not having to worry about guilt and consequences that would come from disrupting family order.

7 Peter also instructs husbands on how to treat their wives. He wants them to act responsibly with the understanding they have from the Scriptures. Husbands are to treat their wives with honor and remember that they are equal heirs to God's kingdom through the same salvation. This was a departure from most cultures where women were seen as little better than slaves. The Scriptures indicate in several places that women have value and rights as humans, but Christianity emphasizes even more that the spiritual needs are the same and the same rewards for faith are available to both genders. The wife being the "weaker vessel" does not refer to intellectual or moral capacities, but is likely a general reference to physical and emotional needs. Men were, in general, designed to lead, protect, and work for the family. Women tend to be more domestic and vulnerable (Gen 3:16). Thus, men are to be aware and behave appropriately, perhaps as one would tend to a rare, valuable, and fragile vase. This definitely rules out abuse and neglect. He is also to live with her, that is, to have a close relationship with her. A frequent complaint of wives is that their husbands do not know how to communicate or spend time with them. The husband must make the effort to gain and enhance these skills.

By honoring his wife, the family's spiritual life is enhanced. He will not be guilty and she will not live in fear or resentment. The children will see God working through the parent's love and respect for each other and will have a good example of Christian living.

Whereas the wives in the previous verses were given instructions as if they had unbelieving husbands, the men here are given instructions as if they had believing wives. This may have to do with the general culture around the family unit in the East. If the leader of the household believed something, the rest of the family was likely to accept it as their belief too (Acts 16:31). Thus, it would be normal for husbands to accept that their wives would have the same beliefs. Considering the previous verses, then, we might understand that if the wife becomes a believer first (as many did) it could cause an awkward social environment in the house. That is why she needed to be extra careful to demonstrate the truth and benefits of Christianity through excellent behavior more so than in words. Similarly, Christian husbands may have wives who wish to continue their old pagan practices. He cannot make her believe by force, but he can try to win her to the faith by honoring and protecting her.

8 Peter begins a new section with some general instructions applicable to all Christians. Peter uses the word for "same mind" to indicate that we should live in harmony because we have the same frame of reference regarding spiritual and moral matters. Unity in the church is important, as is unity in any family.

Christians know that each of us has our moral weaknesses. Thus, when one sees another believer struggling with sin, he should sympathize with him, even if it is not a problem he has himself. A person is likely to willingly receive help from someone who loves him and shares the burden, but will be more likely to hide a problem if he feels too afraid of people's reaction if he were to reveal it.

Christians are to have a special love for each other that sets us apart from the rest of the world. We are to care for each other as close family members. We are to forgive one another freely.

We are to be on the lookout for each others' needs and help, if we can, in satisfying what is lacking in another's life. We are to do this out of the goodness that God puts in our hearts, not expecting any return, but only hoping that the kindness we show to another will be passed on and draw others to want to know God.

The last word in this verse has the word for "friendly-minded" in some texts, but those texts considered more reliable have the word for "humble-minded." We are to recognize that we are not perfect, but must live lives submissive to God and with respect for one another.

9 When Christians are persecuted, they are not to respond in like manner. When someone hates us, we are not to hate back. When someone taunts us with insults, we are not to retort in return. Instead, we are to be good to them, displaying love for even our enemies and enlightening them with the knowledge of God (Mat 5:39-44 Luke 6:27-28). Our confidence that we have an inheritance in the Kingdom of God gives us the courage to do right when we are wronged.

Two of a Christian's primary responsibilities after salvation are to do good and let others know about the blessings we have received so that they might also receive them. If an enemy to God and Christians changes his mind and believes, then heaven is jubilant with one more inhabitant, and those instrumental in witnessing are blessed with the humble knowledge that God was able to use their lives to save the life of another.

10 Peter supports his instructions with a variation of Psa 34:12-16. This tie back to the Old Testament indicates that Christians are to accept and believe the Scriptures and asserts that we are indeed serving the God of Israel. He does not change, and all the laws of the Old Testament are still requirements. What is different for us is that we live in an age of grace where Christ has paid for our sins, freeing us from the rigorous religious laws and rituals. We are still obliged to live up to the moral standards of God, but even there, when we fail, Christ's sacrifice makes up for our weaknesses.

Most people like life and do not wish to die. This is a normal and right behavior. Although in a sense we are to hate life because of the pervasiveness of sin and desire the completion of our relationship with God in heaven, in another way we are to enjoy the time we have on earth and desire to experience the good things that are here (John 12:25, Eccl 2:10-11, 17, 24-26). Even in difficult times, people often find ways to enjoy life.

Peter may also have been speaking of our spiritual and eternal life. If one wants to live forever in God's presence, then he must turn away from evil and do the good things God desires - the foremost being faith in Him, of course.

What this Psalm of David recommends first in order to live a happy life is to keep from speaking lies and evil. One cannot be truly happy knowing that something they have achieved is based on lies. Deceit will always be found out, and if the anxiety of this does not lessen the joy, then the consequences when it does happen certainly will. In fact, falsehood is more likely to get one in trouble than gain him some reward.

Speaking evil, even if one does not do it, will likely have the effect of eroding relationships. Those who might make life more enjoyable will likely only develop superficial relationships with someone they feel they cannot trust. If anything, one who speaks evil is likely to gain "friends" who do likewise. These tense relationships tend to be more about power and control than mutually beneficial love and understanding. It would be difficult to live happily under these circumstances.

11 It is difficult to live a happy life when one if anxious and fearful. Thus, another key to happiness is seeking peace, that is, good relationships with other people. The world today often tries to gain "peace" through the threat of mutual destruction. However, simply the absence of war does not mean there is peace. The kind of peace we are to seek is the assurance of good relationships based on our respect for one another as people, even better if we all recognize that God made us in Him image. The superior form of peace should be between Christians as we share the hope of salvation. Peace, in general, leads to longer days because of the lack of wars, fights, and the health problems caused by anxiety.
12 God sees and hears all things, so this verse is not a statement of His limited scope, but rather a reference to His responses. The Lord's eyes being "toward the righteous" indicates His care for them as He sees the good and bad times in their lives. Christians can be assured that God sees and understands our situations at all times. When He hears our prayers, He pays special attention to them since He often uses prayer to release power to accomplish His will.

To the wicked, however, the Lord's attention is to their disfavor because He is against them. His eye is towards their punishment, and their prayers are ignored.

A person who trusts in the Lord is bound to have a happy life if for no other reason than their hope for heaven. Certainly there is comfort in knowing that He cares for us even when we suffer persecution.

13 As a general principle, those who are good citizens are respected and protected in open societies, regardless of their beliefs. However, considering that the context of this letter is comforting the persecuted, Peter is likely alluding to deeper principles. One implication is, "who would dare harm someone who was doing good as God's child?" Of course, those who despise God and His principles might do so. Perhaps Peter is referring to the idea that God can undo any harm, as is stated in the next verse (Rom 8:28).
14 So, if one is persecuted because of their righteousness, which stems from his faith in God, he is blessed in the grand scheme of things (Mat 5:10). Christians should not be fearful of those who might terrorize them or even become apprehensive. Those opposed to God might even go as far as to harm the body, but to the spirit, they can do no damage. The only One who should be feared is God (Isa 8:12-13, Luke 12:4-5).
15 The sense of the first phrase is to "revere Christ as holy and as Lord in your heart." Our attitudes should reflect our devotion to and reliance on Jesus as our Savior. People will undoubtedly notice our behavior and possibly ask us about our beliefs. Peter encourages us to think ahead on this subject. Answers like "my parents are Christians, so I am too" or "I go to church and therefore I am a Christian" are insufficient. We each must remember why we became Christians and why be continue to believe. We must be able to tell how God affects our lives. Very few people have one of those astonishing testimonies (e.g., desperate criminal to helpful Christian), but each of us has personal reasons to believe. Non-Christians are interested in these things. When we are telling people about our testimony, it should be with respect for them as people. No one will be pushed into the Kingdom of God by force, nor should we answer harshly to those who taunt us about our faith. Instead, we must give reasonable answers about our lives in the hopes that the Holy Spirit might move those listening to also put their faith in God.
16 One is far better off if he knows in his heart that he did what was right. It will one day be revealed as such. Ideally, those who falsely accuse him will eventually see their own prejudices, regret having persecuted the Christian, and possibly follow Christ themselves. If the Christian is publicly exonerated in this life, then those who troubled him will be put to shame. If not here, then they will be revealed in heaven where God will openly put slanderers to shame before the universe.
17 If someone does something wrong and then is punished, the only benefit he might gain is if he learns from his errors. Ironically, Peter states that better things come from the persecution of the innocent than from the punishment of the wrongdoer. This is why God allows His followers to endure such trials. 1) Such persecution draws attention to the Christian's behavior and beliefs, opening opportunities to witnessing for Christ. 2) The Christian's faith becomes stronger as he learns to rely on God more during the trial. 3) The Christian receives God's approval as he proves his loyalty by remaining steadfast in his faith.
18 During times of unjust persecution, we come to understand the ordeals that Jesus went through. He was sinless and innocent, yet many of the religious leaders considered Him a criminal and forced the local government to execute Him. This is undeniably a horrifying scenario, yet God's plan was to turn the situation into the best event that would ever happen for humanity. Jesus not only bore the physical traumas and death of the flesh, but for three days was also spiritually separated from the Godhead. However, Jesus did not remain dead and separated. On the third day, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, raised Jesus in the flesh to rejoin the Trinity. Thus, by suffering the physical and spiritual punishments for sin while remaining blameless, He became the ultimate sacrifice - able to pay for all the sins of everyone who would believe in Him and qualify us for eternal life in the presence of God. There can be no doubt that God loves us tremendously to have purposely do all this for a world of people who do not deserve it.

Now we know that we are not perfectly innocent like Christ was, but even still, when we suffer unjustly, God will accomplish something good from it, either in this lifetime or in eternity. With this knowledge, we can be comforted when we are persecuted.

19 The same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is the same one that proclaimed, through Noah, judgment against the people in the antediluvian time. They did not believe or obey, and are thus now spiritual prisoners awaiting Judgment Day when God will deliver the verdict against them and sentence them to eternal punishment.

Some have suggested that this verse refers to Jesus going into Sheol (or hell) between His crucifixion and resurrection. However, the context of the verse rules out that interpretation, and there is no other scriptural support for it.

It is apparently on this verse that Catholicism builds the idea of Purgatory, but again, the context does not warrant such an interpretation.

20 The fact that only eight people survived the flood proved that the majority is not always right. It is apparent from this passage that Noah preached during the time he and his family were building the ark, attempting to persuade others to believe his message and be saved, but nobody did. God very much wants people to believe Him rather than suffer the consequences, and so He waits patiently, giving the message from His servants sufficient time to reach as far as possible, but He also respects people's right not to choose Him (Ezek 33:11). There were millions of people alive during the days of Noah, but not one of them had enough faith to step on the ark on the fateful day before the Flood. It is reasonable to believe that Noah's preaching had been met with taunting, and possibly persecution. Yet, when the Flood came, Noah's faith and words were proven true. Christians should likewise be encouraged to stand firm. Even though the vast majority of the world ignores or scoffs at God, we are to remain confident that our faith will be proven true on Judgment Day.
21 Peter draws another analogy between Noah's family and Christians today. Noah's faith prompted him to action. He not only built the ark, but also stepped inside it. These things were a public testimony to his generation concerning his faith in God. We know that baptism is not merely a bath for the cleansing of the flesh, but it is our statement of obedience and faith before God and the world. Jesus' death and resurrection becomes the "ark" that saves us from the floodwaters of death and judgment that will occur on the Last Day.

There is some question as to what the "good conscience" part of this verse means. Some translations cast it as an "appeal" for cleansing from God. Others translate it as a pledge to keep our minds true to the faith we proclaim at baptism. Still others see it as the question and answer of one's faith before they are baptized to orally confirm their beliefs.

22 Jesus, after His resurrection, reassumed His position at the right hand of God. This place showed two things. First, He was subject to the Father, and second, that He is second in authority after the Father. As such, all the angels and every other created authority are subject to Him. God the Father has ascribed to His Son all the authority to judge the universe so that He would be honored as much as the Father within the Godhead (Mat 28:18, John 5:22, Phil 2:9-11). Through faith in Jesus, we can likewise endure persecution, experience death, be raised to life, and share His authority (Rev 3:21). In this, we should also be encouraged.