This Bible Study is part of the "1st and 2nd Peter" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
The Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter to a group of churches in northern Asia Minor. Peter was writing to these Christians during a time of persecution. He was encouraging them to endure, and trying to encourage them to live as Christians in the midst of persecution. In Chapter 2, Peter discussed the subject of submitting to authority.
I am Doug Winnail, a Pastor with the Living Church of God. We are continuing with our study of 1 Peter. The Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter to a group of churches in northern Asia Minor. Peter was writing to these Christians during a time of persecution. He was encouraging them to endure, and trying to encourage them to live as Christians in the midst of persecution. In Chapter 2, Peter discussed the subject of submitting to authority. He talked about being submissive to constituted authority of governments, even when that authority may be persecuting them. The key to consider is found in Acts 5:29, which mentions that we are to obey God rather than men. Paul mentioned in that scripture that we should obey government as long as it does not cause us to disobey God. Peter is mentioning here that as long as we are not asked to disobey God, we do need to be subject to authority. He also talked about servants who are slaves (in our modern terminology today, this can include employees), saying that we need to be subject to our employers. He said that even if they give you a rough time, God notices, and He will reward and will take care of the situation as long as we are subject to authority.
Continuing in Chapter 3 of 1 Peter:
1 Peter 3:1
Peter is continuing with the theme of being subjected to authority. Chances are, these wives could have been married to men who were not converted, who had not been called yet to become Christians. It would be difficult for a wife to begin to keep the Sabbath, to begin to keep the Holy Days, to begin to believe differently than her husband, because it would appear that she would not be subject to his authority. Peter is giving guidelines—and these guidelines are not just limited to the first century, as we will see. He is giving guidelines that are practical and that work.
1 Peter 3:1
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands [The Greek word here is hupotasso, which means to subject to, subordinate yourself to. Be willing to be under their authority.], that even if some do not obey the word…
Here is the reason for that instruction. If you have a mate that does not believe as you do, an uncalled or unconverted mate, without the Word, that mate may be won not by your beating him or her over the head with your beliefs, but by your example—by the conduct of a wife who is respectful, who is helpful, who is considerate—as opposed to one who is trying to be bossy and trying to push someone around and declare her rights and so on. Peter is saying that a man will respond to a person who behaves this way.
1 Peter 3:2
When they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
That does not mean you are being "chased" all around. It means a very converted conduct. It means a pure, modest conduct accompanied by fear. It does not mean you tremble before your husband. It means that you respect him, that you defer to him and that you give him esteem and appreciation.
1 Peter 3:3
Do not let your adornment be merely outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel.
This does not mean that a woman should not take care of herself. It does not mean that she should not be well groomed. It is saying: "Don’t depend on those things. Focus on the inward person."
1 Peter 3:4
Rather let it be the hidden person [The inward person, the character, the attitude.] of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…
This doesn’t mean that you can’t say anything. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk. It doesn’t mean that you can’t express your opinion. But I think most of us realize that if we are always expressing our opinion, others get tired of listening to our opinions. Peter is very practical. The books of 1 Peter and 2 Peter are kind of like the book of James. They are New Testament "Proverbs" in one sense. Peter gives very practical advice. He says to focus on your hidden person—be a gentle and quiet and respectful spirit, which he says is very precious in the sight of God.
We are living in a society today in which the radical woman’s liberation movement is having an impact on all kinds of people. I was reading a book here recently entitled I Am A Woman, Listen to Me Roar. The author was saying "I have been abused, I am victim and I am this and that." When people run around and make a lot of complaints, other people get turned off. What God is saying through Peter is that a woman who is gentle and quiet and respectful, but still thinks and still is able to make observations, is going to win not only her husband’s respect but have a more joyful marriage. It says she might wind up winning him to Christianity, because he notices how different she is.
1 Peter 3:5
For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God…
Even if your husband is not the most converted person, or if your husband gives you a hard time, the principle here is to respect him and work with him. It says here "the holy women of God trusted in God." You are trusting God to watch out for you. You are trusting God to intervene.
1 Peter 3:5-6
The holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive [or in subjection to or respecting] to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord [Or "sir"—basically a term of respect], whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid…
Peter is possibly writing to women who were being persecuted, or being given a difficult time by husbands who had not been called into the Church and had not been converted yet. He was trying to give them practical advice that they could use, not only for their own benefit, but to be lights and examples as Christians.
In verse 7, he talks about the husbands, but you will notice he is not saying to the husbands, "You be submissive to your wives." He is saying…
1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, dwell with them with understanding
Historically, many men have in effect beat their wives over the head by saying, "You have to be submissive to me and you have to submit." Yet Peter is focusing on something more important with the husbands. He says: "Husbands, you need to dwell with your wives with understanding. You need to understand that they are different from you. You need to understand they think differently from you. You need to understand how to treat them." Historically, the Church has not focused as much on the conduct of husbands. Historically, the Church has focused on the submission of women. Yet this is a big verse. It is only one verse. There were many verses describing a woman’s behavior and what it should be, yet there is only one verse directed to a man. Yet when we understand what the verse means, it is very important.
There are books on the market talking about men’s and women’s needs. Women’s needs, interestingly enough, are almost the opposite of the needs of men. Women have a need for affection and conversation, whereas husbands, in many cases, are satisfied with sex. But women need the affection. They need the conversation. Men look for companionship. Women are attracted by honesty and openness. Men would like an attractive spouse. Women want solid financial support. It is very interesting when you study the needs of men and the needs of women. This is where men need to understand. It is not just a matter of having a wife being submissive to him, he needs to understand the needs of his wife. This is what Peter is talking about. It is not that because there is just one verse here that he is just brushing the men off and saying: "Their role is not important." When we understand what this verse is talking about, it is extremely important.
1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, [It does not mean a weaker vessel. It is talking about physical strength. IT is not talking about moral, spiritual or intellectual abilities.] and as being heirs together [Men and women are called to become members of God’s family, distinctly different, but still members.] of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Keep in mind that this advice to men and women is being given to Church members in areas where persecution was taking place. The admonishment here is to men—they may have had wives who were not being called, not being converted. Peter is trying to help them deal with that situation so that they can function better and have a better marriage and get through the trials.
In verse 8 of Chapter 3, Peter shifts to talking about general Christian duties, again, in the face of persecution and trials.
1 Peter 3:8-12
Finally, all of you [Talking to everyone in the Church.] be of one mind [Think together, focus on the same thing.], having compassion for one another; love as brothers [Be loving and gentle and not bossy and judgmental, but love as brothers.], be tenderhearted, be courteous; [Be humble.] not returning evil for evil [Now, again, in a situation where we are being persecuted and things are difficult, we are going to want to tend to strike out. Peter says, "No, you can’t do that."] or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing [Someone comes at you in a very antagonistic way, a soft, gentle answer will turn that person away in many cases.], knowing that you were called to this [Peter says. Again, Peter’s advice is very practical.], that you may inherit a blessing. [He quotes Psalm 34:12-16.] "He who would love life and see good days [If you really want a good life and want peace.], Let him refrain his tongue from evil [Be careful the way you respond. Your speech should be clean; it should be an example.], And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil [avoid evil] and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD [God is watching, especially those that He is calling to see how they grow and how they respond in trials.] are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their [cries] prayers [If we are doing what we know we need to be doing, God will be listening to our prayers.]; But [it also says] the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."
If we are claiming to be Christians and we live contrary to the instructions of Christ, God is not going to be listening to our prayers.
Then he launches into a section talking about suffering. He says:
1 Peter 3:13
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of [God] what is good?
Paul mentions in Romans that all things work to our good if we trust God. If God is before us, if we follow Him, no one can stand against us.
1 Peter 3:14-15
But even if you should suffer [Again, Peter returns to the subject of suffering and trial.] for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. [He quotes Isaiah again by saying…] "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." But sanctify [That is, set God apart in your life.] the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.
This is something that we have to be doing as Christians—making sure we know what we believe and following what we believe. If someone asks us a question, being able to give an answer for what we believe. But, he says to do it "with meekness and fear"—not with a chip on our shoulders.
1 Peter 3:16-17
Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Then he concludes, talking about the suffering of Jesus Christ, and he draws some analogies here:
1 Peter 3:18-20
For Christ also suffered once for sins [He was put to death. He suffered for our sins.], the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom [That is, once he was resurrected.] also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah…
This subject of spirits in prison has a number of interesting connotations to it. Some people think that Christ went and preached to the dead while He was in the grave. Yet, the Bible says that people in the grave don’t think, and don’t hear. So He was not preaching to anybody in the grave.
It talks about spirits in prison. The Bible mentions in several different places—2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6—that the evil spirits, the demons, are going to be held in a place of confinement. It does not exactly say where that is going to be. But the implication here is that when Christ was resurrected, He basically told the evil spirits "I have succeeded, I have had victory over you." The focus, though, in this verse, is Christ’s suffering and how God suffered, in a sense, patiently watching and waiting during the time of the flood. It is not pleasant watching people die, but these were people who were disobedient to God.
1 Peter 3:20-22
…waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype [In other words, this is just a type.] which now saves us; baptism [Peter here is drawing an analogy between the water of the flood, which was a judgment on the earth, and the water of baptism, which will wash away our sins. Just like the ark saved people from the flood, the act of repentance and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will also save us.] (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
Just as we have been urged by Peter in first Chapter 2 and then Chapter 3 to be subject to authority, Jesus Christ—because He was subject to authority—will be over, in authority, all these other preachers.
We will continue next time with our Bible Study in 1 Peter. My name is Doug Winnail; I am a Pastor with the Living Church of God.