1 PETER CHAPTER 3
How To Succeed In
Marriage (1 Peter 3:1-7)
You hear them all the time: marriage jokes. For instance,
You Know you are
Addicted to the Internet When, among other things . . .
Your wife drapes a blond wig over your monitor to remind you
of what she looks like . . . Your wife says communication is important
in a marriage... so you buy another computer and install a second phone line so
the two of you can chat.
Or this one: A man was walking along a California beach
and stumbled across an old lamp. He picked it up and rubbed it and out popped a
genie. The genie said, "I’m not your
run of the mill genie. I’m very busy with my consulting business and only have
time to grant you one wish. So make it snappy!”
The man thought about it for a moment and then said, "I've always wanted to go to Hawaii but
I'm scared to fly and I get very seasick. Could you build me a bridge to Hawaii
so I could drive over there.?"
The genie laughed and said, "No way! Think of the logistics of that! How would the supports
ever reach the bottom of the Pacific Ocean? Think of how much concrete...how
much steel!! No, you will have to think of another wish."
The man said OK and after thinking for another moment
or two said, "My wife always says
that I do not care about her and that I'm insensitive. So, I wish that I could
understand women.... know how they feel inside and what they're thinking when
they give me the silent treatment.... know why they cry, know what they really
want when they say, 'nothing'.... know how to make them truly happy...."
The genie then asked, "Do you want that bridge to have two lanes or four?"
And here is a story that is a bit
more related to today’s message: A man was having a bit of marital tension in
his household and was trying to figure out just what to do about it. So he
talked it over with a friend. In the course of the conversation, the friend
happened to mention to him that: "You
know, quite often God speaks to us through our wives."
The man looked at his friend kind-a funny and said, "Wow! I did not know God used that kind of language!"
Why is marriage such a brunt of humor? There are many
reasons, including the so-called “war
between the sexes.” But one important explanation is that many people are
disillusioned with marriage. They went into it with great expectations and
high hopes only to be bitterly disappointed. So they tell jokes as a way of
covering up their hurt and pain. But God has much to tell us in the Bible about
marriage, especially how to have a successful one. Today’s passage in 1 Peter
is one of the sections on this subject.
First Peter 3:1-7 continues the discussion regarding
submission, also referred to as respect in some translations. Note that Peter
begins verses 1 and 7 with the words, “in
the same way,” which refer back to his discussion in chapter 2 of how to
relate to governmental authority and to employers. If you recall, we emphasized
that we are to respect the office of such persons even if we cannot respect the
individual holding that office.
let us begin with a clear
understanding so that we do not get in trouble from the outset. The submission
of a wife to her husband does not suggest inequality, for Christ was submissive
to and yet equal with the Father. Submission does not mean domination or
control of one human being over another (because only God the Holy Spirit is to
control any believer), nor does submission permit physical or emotional abuse
of any kind. If any such behavior is present in the relationship, these
principles we are about to study will not apply. Rather, in marriage there is
to be a mutual submission of husband
and wife. And if we continue with the comparison with Christ and the Father, we
see that they had equality and unity in their relationship (John 17:22).
When a man loves and treasures a woman according to God’s standards and a woman
respects her husband openly and deeply as God directs, then both will
experience the oneness and the happiness they desire in marriage.
As we consider this passage today,
we have to understand the cultural context here. Failure to consider this
aspect has led in the past to serious misinterpretations and misunderstandings
of the biblical teachings regarding marriage. In Peter’s day Christian women
were often married to unbelieving husbands, and Peter stresses the importance
of Christ-like behavior to win them to faith in Jesus. Marriage is then lifted
to the highest rung on the ladder in verse 7 by the call to husbands to treat
their wives with consideration and respect. This is expected because they
have a shared faith and they are a praying partnership, and no
misunderstandings or wrong behavior should get in the way of that partnership’s
effectiveness. While in the beginning of the passage Peter addresses the needs
of Christian wives married to unsaved husbands, Peter’s instruction at the end
of the passage applies to Christian couples and illustrates how they are to
share the inheritance of God’s gracious gift of eternal life.
We will also see in verse 7 that
it is the husbands’ turn to follow the pattern of submission as Peter again
begins the verse with, “in the same way.” The bottom line of all seven verses is mutual understanding, submission, and
respect between husband and wife. The husband submits to the requirements by
meeting the wife’s needs. The point of husbands and wives being equal before
God in receiving honor is the underlying theme in these first seven verses.
Note that the husband who fails to understand and honor his wife will have a
hindered prayer life. What it means to have hindered prayers will be
explained in 1 Peter 3:12. However, a man in a godly obedient relationship with
his wife has the full attention of God in his prayers. God is against those
who mistreat their wives in any way, and their prayers will not be heard.
So let us begin by taking a closer look at:
Peter 3:1-4, NAS
1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own
husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may
be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
3 And let not your adornment be merely external--
braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the
imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the
sight of God.
Peter is clearly coming out in
support of wives as he did slaves back in
chapter 2. The ancient world classified women and slaves together as inferior
beings. Christianity gave dignity to the status of both and Peter, in verse
7, will emphasize the spiritual equality of man and wife as heirs together.
Paul urges married couples to mutual
submission, where the wife’s submissiveness and respect is to be matched by
the husband’s love (Ephesians 5:21-28). Scripture teaches that men and women complement one another in the
In a world where the domestic
economy depended on the husband earning a living for the family, it was natural that the wife should look to him to make
certain major decisions. Sarah’s readiness to go with Abraham in obedience to
God’s call is an example of this kind of relationship. However, our task today
is to interpret the principles laid down in Scripture for the times in which we
live. And that means separating cultural norms from scriptural injunctions.
“In the same way” in
verse 1 refers back to the passage on slaves (2:18–25). Like Judaism and other
non-Roman religions, Christianity spread faster among wives than husbands;
husbands had more to lose socially from conversion to an unpopular minority
religion. Wives were expected to obey their husbands in the Greco-Roman
culture, and this obedience included acceptance of their husbands’ religions.
Anyone who spoke against participation in Roman religious rites, including
prohibiting worship of a family’s household gods, was considered a trouble
maker, and Jewish or Christian women who refused to worship these gods could be
charged with atheism. Thus by his advice, and this is very important to
understand here, Peter seeks to reduce marital tensions and causes of hostility
toward Christianity and Christians. Silence was considered a great virtue for
women in the first century. “Pure and
reverent” is the behavior that was most approved for women in that time.
In verse 1 Peter reminds Christian wives to be submissive to
their husbands. For a clearer understanding of the word submissive as used in this verse, let us read it from the Amplified
1 Peter 1:1, Amplified Bible:
IN LIKE manner, you married women, be submissive to your
own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on
them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the
Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives
of their wives,
Note that in the culture of the day there were no working
wives as we have today and women were quite dependent on their husbands for
income, food, and a roof over their heads. In a culture where men were
considered dominant and women considered inferior, Peter was acknowledging that
Christian women should not be revolutionaries and should adhere to the cultural
expectations. Yet he was also telling them how to do it in a Christian way and
he was teaching the biblical standard that men and women are equal in God’s
Those who try to read hierarchy into this passage are
mistakenly being influenced by a culture that continues to subordinate women.
Christ never intended to establish hierarchy in the church. Since marriage is
to be a model of the Church, and is often used as illustrating relationships
within the Church, then we can infer that there is also to be no hierarchy in
marriage. Indeed the scripture speaks rather of the unity that is to exist
between husband and wife. They are to become “one flesh” and be one as God and Christ are one.
they are one in a manner similar to how God and Christ are one, then they will
function as a unit, not as a hierarchy or a top-down relationship.
This command in 1 Peter 3:1 does not require women to be
subordinate to men in general but to their own husbands. Women, especially
if they are married to a non-believer, are to be examples of godly behavior:
gentle, soft-spoken (Proverbs 15:1), and pure (1 Peter 1:15, 16), living a life
of integrity and love (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35; Titus 3:2), qualities all
Christians are called to exhibit, including Christian men. But the powerful
purity of a godly woman’s life can soften even the hardest male heart without
even speaking a word (Titus 2:5).
A woman who follows the direction of Jesus in this manner
demonstrates a beauty that comes not from her appearance but from what she is
on the inside. It is the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Timothy
2:9-11). Such an inner beauty means a great deal to God. While the world is
impressed by costly and stylish clothing and jewelry, a woman with a gentle
and quiet spirit is the woman who is precious to God.
Peter was not saying, however, that women should not wear
jewelry and fine clothing, but that Christian wives should not think of outward
decoration as the primary source of beauty. Roman women were captivated by the
latest fashions of the day, as are women in the United States today, and
competed with each other in the ways they dressed and fixed their hair. It was
not unusual for the women to have elaborate hair
dos, studded with gold and silver combs and even jewels. They wore
elaborate and expensive garments, all for the purpose of impressing each other.
A Christian wife with an unsaved husband might think that
she must imitate the world if she is going to hang on to him; but just the
opposite is true. Glamour is artificial and external; true beauty is real
and internal. Glamour is something a woman can put on and take off, but
true beauty is always there. Glamour is corruptible; it decays and fades. True
beauty from the heart grows more wonderful as the years pass. A Christian
woman who cultivates the beauty of the inner person will not have to depend
on cheap externals.
Of course, this does not mean that a wife should neglect
herself and dress only in dowdy clothing. It simply means that she is not to
attempt to be a fashion plate just to keep up with the crowd. Much of
today’s so-called “fashion” looks
sloppy and shows lots of skin and underwear, hardly the modesty that
scripture talks about. Note that Peter did not forbid the wearing of
jewelry any more than the wearing of attractive clothing. It is possible to
wear jewelry and still honor God, and we must not judge one another in this
matter. Any husband is proud of a wife who is attractive, but that beauty must
come from the heart, not the store. We are not of this world, but we must not
dress in a way that makes Heaven seem like a cheerless place. (Actually some of
this also applies to men in today’s world.) We are to be clean, modest, decent
in our attire (1 Timothy 2:9, 10), and as attractive as our means allow. We
are not to make our looks the main focus of concern, or spend money on clothes
that we need for food, or to pay other bills.
God has designed this relationship between a husband and a
wife because He knows that this is the best arrangement for a happy, fulfilling
marriage. Submission does not mean that a wife is inferior to her husband. It
means she shows him respect. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter makes it clear
that the husband and wife are “equal
partners.” The man and woman are made by the same Creator out of the same
basic material, and both are made in God’s image. God gave dominion to both
Adam and Eve. Here is what Genesis 1:28 says: “Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the
earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and
all the animals that scurry along the ground.’” And in Jesus Christ
Christian husbands and wives are one as Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or
free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So in a good Christian marriage we see husbands and wives
working together as a team. We see them each contributing their unique gifts to
the marriage in order to make it stronger. We see that where one is weak the
other may have a strength, and that they each benefit from the contributions of
the other with a humble attitude. In a healthy Christian marriage
competition is missing and cooperation is the prevailing mind-set. There is
the spirit of mutual submission and attentiveness to each other’s ideas. We see
them restoring the unity that was lost when Adam and Eve sinned, so that a
Christian couple following God’s plan will have the oneness that enables them
to function as a unit.
Submission has to do
with respect and unity, not with control.
For example, the slaves in the average Roman household were
superior in many ways to their masters, but they still had to respect
authority. The co-pilot may be a lot smarter than the pilot of a 747 but he is
still the co-pilot, and in order to provide the maximum safety for the
passengers, he respects the ultimate authority of the pilot. You may be a lot
smarter than your boss, but in order for the company to function as
productively as possible and for you to have a good relationship with him or
her, it is best you respect the position he or she has been given. Even
Christ Himself became a servant and submitted to God’s will.
There is nothing degrading about submitting to one another
or accepting God’s order. If anything, it is the first step toward fulfillment.
Husbands and wives must be partners, not competitors. And they cannot be
partners if one always dominates.
Submission is an opportunity to win an unsaved
husband to Christ. God not only commands submission, but He uses it as a
powerful spiritual influence in a home. This does not mean that a Christian
wife “gives in” to her unsaved
husband in order to manipulate him and get him to do what she desires. This
kind of selfish persuasion ought never to be found in a Christian’s heart or
home. In fact, these Christian women to whom Peter is writing were deliberately
disobeying their husbands by worshipping a God whom the husband did not
worship. So Peter was telling them that in other ways they could be gentle and
cooperative and thereby convince their husbands they still loved and respected
them. Such behavior could then bring those husbands to Christ.
“Without any words” in
verse 1 means without speaking. Christian wives who preach at their husbands
only drive them farther from Christ. I remember hearing of one wife who used to
keep religious radio programs on all evening, usually very loud, so that her
unsaved husband would hear the truth. She only made it easier for him to go out
and spend his evenings at the bar.
It is the character and conduct of a wife that will win over
the unsaved husband, not arguments. But rather by demonstrating such attitudes
as submission, understanding, love, kindness, and patience. These qualities, by
the way, are not developed by a wife from her own will and strength. They are
the fruit of the Spirit that comes when people are submitted to Christ and to
One of the finest examples of a godly wife and mother
throughout Church history is Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. God used
Monica’s witness and prayers to win both her son and her husband to Christ,
though her husband was not converted until shortly before his death. Both the
husband and the son lived pretty wild lives. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “she served him as her lord;
and did her diligence to win him unto Thee . . . preaching Thee unto him by her
[behavior]; by which Thou ornamentest her, making her reverently amiable unto
In a Christian home everyone needs to minister to and
submit to each other. A Christian husband must minister to his wife and
show the love of Christ to her. A Christian wife should encourage her husband
and help him grow strong in the Lord. In addition, parents and children must
share responsibilities as well as blessings and seek to maintain an atmosphere
of godly excitement and growth in the home. If any members of the family are
unsaved, they will be won to Christ more by what they see in the lives and
relationships of one another rather than by what is said.
1 Peter 3:5, 6 NLT:
This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God
and accepted the authority of their husbands.
6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her
master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of
what your husbands might do.
Peter closes this section by pointing to Sarah as an example
of a godly submissive wife (Genesis 18). The believing wife who submits to Christ
and who cultivates a meek and quiet spirit will make an important impact
on her husband. A parallel today to the situation Peter was addressing here in
1 Peter 3:1-6 is a Muslim woman who receives Christ as Savior even though some
Muslims threaten death to members who become Christians. The promise is that a
woman can trust Christ with her life as well as with her soul.
Examples of holy women in the Old Testament support Peter’s
statement. Purity of life (verse 2) and a submissive spirit (verse 5) have
always been a godly woman’s lasting source of beauty and attractiveness. Peter
chooses Sarah as a specific example of a woman who was submissive to her
husband. She obeyed Abraham and called him her master. That is she recognized
him as the leader and head of their household because that is what her culture
expected (Genesis 18:12). Like other holy women of the past, Sarah put her hope
in God. This kind of conduct gives women the spiritual heritage of Sarah. Peter
says to the women in his audience, “You
are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear of being
murdered for your faith.” This is instruction for a woman coming out of
a heathen religion and whose husband is still in that heathen religion. In no
way is this to be construed as instruction to stay with an abusive husband or
with one who deliberately and consistently disobeys God’s Word, as other
It is interesting that in Genesis.18:12 the word “husband” can also mean “lord” or “master.”
We believe this confirms that the
interpretation of these verses in no way suggests that a woman is to be
dominated and controlled by a power freak of a husband. The word “master” in that culture could have
simply carried a meaning we would interpret as “husband” today. The love and submission called for by both the
wife and the husband is the same kind of love and submission they are called to
have for Christ, and that Christ had for His Father. If a husband loves his
wife according to Jesus’ commands, she is going to be as happy as she can be.
And if a wife loves and respects her husband according to Jesus’ commands, he
is going to be doing back flips every day. We would suggest all married couples
give it a try for 30 days and see what happens.
1 Peter 3:7 NLT:
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than
you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers
will not be hindered.
Why did Peter devote more space to instructing the wives
than the husbands? Because the Christian wives were experiencing a whole new
situation and needed more guidance. In general, women were considered inferior
in the Roman Empire, and their new freedom in Christ created new problems and
challenges. Furthermore, many of them had unsaved husbands and needed added
encouragement and instruction.
As Peter wrote to the Christian husbands, he reminded them
of four areas of responsibility in their relationship with their wives:
1) Understanding - Somebody once asked Mrs. Albert Einstein
if she understood Dr. Einstein’s theory of relativity, and she replied, “No, but I understand Dr. Einstein.” I have heard a story about a pastor who said
that when he did premarital counseling for couples planning to be married, he
often gave the couple pads of paper and asked them to write down the three
things each one thought the other enjoyed doing the most. Usually the
prospective bride made her list immediately; and the man would sit and think
about it. More often than not the woman was right and the man was wrong. What a beginning for a marriage!
It is amazing that two married people can live together and
not really know each other. Ignorance is dangerous in any area of life, but it
is especially dangerous in marriage. A Christian husband needs to know his
wife’s moods, feelings, needs, fears, and hopes, and not to make fun of them.
He needs to listen with his heart and share meaningful communication with her.
There must be in the home such a protective atmosphere of love and submission
that the husband and wife can disagree and still be happy together.
“Speaking the truth in
love” is the solution to the communications problem according to Ephesians
4:15 NLT: “Instead, we will speak the
truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head
of his body, the church.”
It has been said that love without truth is hypocrisy, and
truth without love is brutality. We need both truth and love if we are to grow
in our understanding of one another. How can a husband show consideration for
his wife if he does not understand her needs or problems? To say, “I never knew you felt that way,” is to
confess that, at some point, one partner did not listen to the other. When
either partner is afraid to be open and honest about a matter, then he or she
is building walls and not bridges and the spouse has not made it safe for him
or her to say what is really in their heart and mind.
2) Living Together – This implies much more than sharing the same address. Marriage is very
much a physical relationship. According to the scriptures “The two shall be one flesh.”
course, Christian couples also enjoy a deeper spiritual relationship, but the
two go together as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 NLT:
1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter.
Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.
2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man
should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and
the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.
4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband,
and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife.
5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations unless you
both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time, so you can give
yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward you should come together again
so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
This passage clearly spells out the mutual submission that
is essential in marriage, not only in the physical relationship but in all
aspects. While it is not wrong for a wife to have a job or career in our
culture today, her first responsibility is to care for the home according to
Titus 2:4, 5 NLT: “These older women must
train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live
wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to
their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” It is
the husband who should provide, according to 1 Timothy 5:8 NLT:
“But if someone does
not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and
is worse than an unbeliever.”
A husband who is genuinely walking with Jesus will fulfill
his marital duties and love his wife. The husband must make time to be home
with his wife. Christian pastors and Christian leaders who get too busy running
around solving other people’s problems, as well as businessmen who spend too
much time at the office or off on business trips, may end up creating problems
of their own at home. One survey has revealed that the average husband and
wife had thirty-seven minutes a week together in actual communication. that
is slightly over five minutes a day! Is it any wonder that marriages fall apart
after the children grow up and leave home? The husband and wife are left alone
to live with strangers.
3) Honor Your wife - Chivalry may be dead, but every
husband had better be a “knight in
shining armor” who treats his wife like a queen. Peter did not suggest that
a wife is “the weaker vessel”
mentally, morally, or spiritually, but only physically. There are exceptions,
of course, but generally speaking, the man is the stronger of the two when it
comes to physical accomplishments. The husband should treat his wife like an
expensive, beautiful, fragile vase, in which there is a valuable treasure. I
wish I could say that I do that all the time.
When a young couple starts dating, the young man is usually
courteous and thoughtful. After they get engaged, he may show even more
courtesy and almost always act like a gentleman. Sad to say, soon after they
get married, many a husband forgets to be kind and gentlemanly and starts
taking his wife for granted. He forgets that happiness in a home is made up of
many little things, including the small courtesies of life.
Big resentments often grow out of small hurts.
Husbands and wives need to be honest with each other, admit hurts, and seek
forgiveness and healing. “Giving honor to
one’s wife” does not mean “giving in
to the wife.” A husband can disagree with his wife and still respect and
honor her. A spiritual, godly couple will pray together for God to give them
the same mind regarding decisions that must be made. Amos 3:3 NKJ states, “Can two walk together, unless they are
agreed?” Over time a Christian couple can learn to come to a point of
having one mind, God’s mind, and of having unity in their decisions. When we (Ron and Betty) got married, the
pastor doing our premarital counseling told us to keep in mind a traffic light.
When it came to making a decision, if either one of us saw a red or yellow
light we should hold off on making the decision and continue in prayer about
it. A decision should only be made and acted on when we both sensed a green
light from the Lord or when the Lord had given us the same leading and ideas.
That illustrates one aspect of the unity that should exist between husband and
wife and “that a cord of three strands is
not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The three strands in the cord are,
of course, God, the husband, and the wife.
Giving honor means that the husband respects his wife’s
feelings, thinking, and desires. He may not agree with her ideas, but he
respects them. Often God balances a marriage so that the husband needs what
the wife has in her personality, and she likewise needs his good qualities. An
impulsive husband often has a patient wife, and this helps to keep him out of
The husband may be the thermostat in the home, setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife
often is the thermometer, letting him
know what the temperature is. Both are necessary.
The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not
only make her happy, but will also grow himself and help his children live in a
home that honors God.
4) So that a
husband’s prayers will not be hindered
Peter assumed that
husbands and wives would pray together. Often, they do not; and this is the
reason for so much failure and unhappiness. If unsaved people can have happy
homes without prayer, and they do, how much happier Christian homes would be
with prayer. In fact, it is the
prayer life of a couple that indicates how things are going in the home. If
something is wrong, their prayers will be hindered. A husband and wife need to
have their own private, individual prayer time each day. They also need to pray
together and to have a time of family devotion.
How this is organized will change from home to home and even
from time to time as the children grow up and schedules change. The Word of God
and prayer are basic to a happy, godly home (Acts 6:4).
A husband and wife are ‘heirs
together.” If both the husband and the wife submit to each other and have
consideration for each other, and if both submit to Christ and follow His
example, then they will have an enriching experience in their marriage. If not,
they will miss God’s best and rob each other of blessing and growth. It might
be good if husbands and wives occasionally took inventory of their marriages.
Here are some questions, based on what Peter wrote:
1. Are we partners or competitors?
2. Are we helping each other become
3. Are we depending on the externals or the eternals? The artificial or
4. Do we understand each other
better with each passing year?
5. Do we feel safe with each other?
Do we each try to provide an
environment of safety for the other?
6. Are we sensitive to each other’s
feelings and ideas, or do we take
each other for granted?
7. Are we seeing God answer our
8. Are we enriched because of our
marriage, or are we robbing each
other of God’s blessing?
Honest answers to these questions might make a difference!
husband who fails to recognize his wife’s spiritual equality jeopardizes his
own prayers, for the reason Peter gives in 1 Peter 3:12.
Marriage requires a great deal of work and effort on the part
of both husbands and wives. But it requires even more submission one to the
other according to the Lord’s commands. A couple who is obedient to observing
God’s manual for marriage will be fulfilled in a way that comes from allowing
the Holy Spirit control of the relationship. Such mutual submission will bring
to the relationship: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, along with a deep sense of
security. In the words of Proverbs you will rejoice in your spouse and feel
exhilarated in their love (Proverbs 5:18, 19). Why would anyone try to do it
any other way?
LOVE REVEALS ITSELF
TENDER HEART TOWARD
1 Peter 3:8-12
How many times have people hurt you deeply by things they
have said and done? What is your reaction when they do this to you? If you are
at all like me the hurt may fuel instant anger and a desire for retaliation.
The thought of hurting them as much or more than they have hurt you can be very
appealing. There was also a time in my life when I would not hesitate to
retaliate to such hurt with a vengeance. And do you know how I felt after doing
so? I simply felt miserable. I still felt the hurt and on top of that I felt an
anger and rage that would not go away. No matter how badly I could hurt the
person who hurt me, it did not give me a feeling of relief to retaliate.
Peter taught that believers should offer a sincere blessing
to those who hurt them, not just one muttered through
clenched teeth. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:22—2:12 that this sincere blessing
should flow out of sincere love. There is a close relationship between giving and receiving a blessing, according to 1 Peter 3:9. We will see how this
plays out later in today’s message. We will also see in verse 10 how “Enjoying life” and seeing “happy” or “good days” is the miraculous possible outcome of faith and
obedience in the midst of life’s problems.
We sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and lives by doing
the will of His Father, as we will see in verses 13-16. “Sanctify” here means to set aside for a special purpose.
Peter continues the discussion in verse 20 concerning suffering for the sake of
righteousness. He pointed out that believers who maintain a clear conscience
while suffering unjustly will put their critics to shame.
get to that next week. Now let us see exactly what Peter is teaching us in
1 Peter 3:8-12 NLT:
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with
each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be
tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.
9 do not repay evil for evil. do not retaliate with insults when
people insult you. Instead, pay them
back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and
he will bless you for it.
10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy
days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling
11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to
their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”
Peter calls us to “be
of one mind” in verse 8. Another translation of that verse calls us to “all be harmonious.” Harmony in music
means the various parts go well together, and produce a pleasant sound; the
parts are not dissonant or working against each other. This may well grow out
of Peter’s experience at Pentecost where, as we learn in Acts 2:1 the disciples
were “of one accord” in the same
place, the upper room, when the Holy Spirit came upon them. It also reminds us
of Paul’s injunctions to the people in Philippians 1:27 NLT, where he writes:
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in
a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you
again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together
with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is
the Good News.
..and in Philippians 2:2-5 Paul says:
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one
another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
do not be selfish; do not try to impress others. Be humble, thinking
of others as better than yourselves.
4 do not look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others,
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
And James continues this reasoning as he describes the
attributes of Christ in James 3:17 NLT:
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace
loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others.
It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and
is always sincere.
Perhaps you have already recognized that love is a
recurring theme in Peter’s letters, not only God’s love for us, but also our
love for others. Peter had to learn this important lesson himself, and he had a
hard time learning it. Jesus had great patience with Peter on more than one
occasion. And during Jesus’ trial, when Peter denied he even knew Jesus,
what did Jesus do later? He made it perfectly clear that He had forgiven
Peter. How tremendously blessed Peter must have felt when Christ gave him
opportunity to affirm and re-affirm his love for Jesus (John 21:15-17).
All of God’s people should show love and forgiveness
to one another. Human relationships are fulfilled in love and provide many
opportunities to forgive. This applies to every Christian and to every area of
life. This love is evidenced by a unity
of mind (Philippians 2:1-11). Unity does not mean uniformity; it does not
mean that we think and act the same, like a community of robots. Unity means
cooperation in the midst of diversity. The members of the body work together in
unity and harmony, even though they are all different. Christians may differ on
how things are to be done, but they must agree on what is to be done and why. A
man once criticized D.L. Moody’s methods of evangelism, and Moody said, “Well, I’m always ready for improvement.
What are your methods?” The man confessed that he had none. “Then I’ll stick to my own,” said Moody.
Whatever methods we may use, we must seek to honor Christ, win the lost, and
build the church.
So we have seen that one evidence of love among Christians
is harmony or unity. Another evidence of love is compassion, which is a sincere feeling for the needs of
others. Our English word “sympathy” comes from this word. We dare not get hardhearted toward each other. We must
share both joys and trials (Romans 12:15(. The basis for this is the fact that
we are brothers and sisters in the same family.
in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 that we are “taught
of God to love one another.”
Love reveals itself in a tender heart toward others.
In the Roman Empire this was not a quality that was admired; but the Christian
message changed all of that. In today’s world we are overwhelmed with so much
bad news that it is easy for us to get numb to almost any kind of feeling. We
need to train ourselves to be compassionate, and actively show others that
we are concerned about their needs. Peter in verse 8 also calls us to be humble as we show love. Another
translation of this could be to say that our love will be courteous. Now being courteous involves much more than acting like a polite
lady or gentleman.
Humility is the foundation for courtesy, for the humble
person puts others ahead of himself or herself; it is totally lacking in
arrogance of any kind.
Not only should we love God’s people, but we should also love our enemies (1 Peter 3:9). Christ
had taught this concept in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-47) and now
Peter is showing clearly some ways to practice it. The recipients of this
letter were experiencing a certain amount of personal persecution because they
were doing the will of God. Peter warned them that official persecution was
just around the corner, so they had better prepare. The Church today had better
prepare as well, because all the indications are that difficult times are
ahead for us as well.
As Christians, we can live on one of three levels. 1) We can
return evil for good, which is the satanic level. 2) We can return good for
good and evil for evil, which is the human level. Or, 3) we can return good for
evil, which is the divine level. Jesus is the perfect example of this latter
approach as we learned back in 1 Peter 2:21–23. Peter told us:
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as
Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his
22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when
he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges
As God’s loving children, we must do more than give “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38-48), which is the basis for justice. We must operate on the basis of mercy, for that is the way God deals with
us (Ephesians 4:32). Mercy includes
This must have meant a great deal to Peter himself because
he once tried to fight Christ’s enemies with a sword (Luke 22:47-53). Paul,
before his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, used every means
possible to persecute the Church. But after he became a Christian, Paul never
resorted to such tactics when fighting God’s battles.
Peter and the Apostles were persecuted, they depended on prayer and God’s
power, not on their own wisdom or strength (Acts 4:23ff). What a tremendous
model for us today.
We as believers in Christ and God’s children are called
to inherit a blessing. “Blessing” is a very misunderstood word in our culture today so let us take a few minutes
here to try to define it. When you hear many people using the word blessing these days they are often using
it synonymously with “good luck” or “feeling
If we look at how the word blessing is used throughout the
Scripture, we see that the term is used in several ways. One of the meanings is
an expression of grateful praise. When
God has done something good for us and we want to say “Thank you,” we praise Him. In that way we are blessing God. When
people give praise, honor, and glory to God they are blessing Him. For
instance, the psalmist called us in Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22, NAS to:
the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and
Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like
Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
obeying the voice of His word!
Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the LORD, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; bless the
LORD, O my soul!
When Christ, took the five little loaves and two fish from
the young boy and used it to feed the 5000 (Matthew 14:16-19; John 6:9-11), He
first took the bread in His hand and blessed it or gave thanks to God for it and for the miracle God was about to perform.
So giving thanks to God can often be a way of providing a
blessing for other people.
So we often use the word blessing to describe the many good things God provides for us daily, whether material
things such as sunshine, food, air to breathe, water to drink, or most
importantly, the spiritual blessings including: love, joy, peace, improved
relationships, closeness with God, and answered prayer.
We see, therefore, that there are 3 kinds of blessing: 1) God blessing people; the
most supreme blessing of all being the grace God gives us to receive Christ as
our personal Savior and having the Holy Spirit within us at all times, to
guide, teach, and strengthen us. 2) people blessing God by giving Him thanks
and praise; and 3) one person blessing another person. We have written records
of such blessings in both the Old and New Testaments, including the passage we
are looking at today.
Peter in these verses in chapter 3
links blessing with suffering. The suffering we experience on earth today only
adds to that blessing of glory in Heaven some day. Jesus said in Matthew
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of
Heaven is theirs.
blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and
say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.
Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in
heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
But we also inherit a blessing today when we treat
our enemies with love and mercy. We should love one another, love our
enemies, and love life (1 Peter
3:10–12). By sharing a blessing with our enemies, we receive a blessing
ourselves. Persecution can actually, believe it or not, be a time of
spiritual enrichment for a believer. The saints and martyrs in Church history
all bear witness to this fact. The news of impending persecution should not
cause a believer to give up on life. What may appear to be “bad days” to the world can be “good
days” for a Christian, if he/she will only meet certain conditions.
Verse 10 begins by stating: For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life.” Here Peter looks back to the
Psalmist in Psalm 34:12-16 to support his teaching that this Spirit-directed
and empowered way of denying oneself for others is what really provides a life
of blessing, the outcome of which is protected and guaranteed by God. In these
verses Peter is giving practical principles for living peacefully in a hostile
King David, long
ago in the Old Testament, gave us the secret for a successful life when he
wrote in Psalm 34:12-16 NLT:
Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from
14 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to
15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are
open to their cries for help.
16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase
their memory from the earth.
Peter quoted His statements in chapter 3 from Psalm
34:12–16, which describes what God means by “happy
days.” They are not necessarily days free from problems, for the psalmist
wrote about fears (Psalm 34:4), troubles (Psalm 34:6, 17), afflictions (Psalm
34:19), and even a broken heart (Psalm 34:18). A “happy day” for the believer who wants to “enjoy life” is not one in which he/she is pampered and sheltered,
but one in which he/she experiences God’s help and blessing because of life’s
problems and trials. It is a day in which he/she shouts praises to the Lord
(Psalm 34:1–3), experiences answers to prayer (Psalm 34:4–7), tastes the
goodness of God (Psalm 34:8), and senses the nearness of God (Psalm 34:18). The
next time you think you are having a “bad
day,” and you hate life, read Psalm 34 and you may discover you are really
having a “good day” to the glory of
There are three major emphases in 1 Peter 3:10-12, which
come from Psalm 34:
1) Whoever desires to
love life must not speak evil
First, we must deliberately decide to love life. This
is an act of the will. It is an attitude of faith that sees the best in every
situation. We can decide to endure life and make it a burden, escape life as
though we were running from a battle, or enjoy life because we know God is in
control. Peter was not suggesting some kind of unrealistic mental gymnastics that
refused to face facts. Rather, he was urging his readers to take a positive
approach to life and by faith make the most of every situation.
Verse 8 contained a
listing of Christian characteristics that keep a tongue from speaking evil.
Christians are to be like minded. Christians are urged to be sympathetic, loving one another. Christians are to be compassionate and humble.
The language Peter uses here stresses the importance of Christian qualities
which keep the Christian from cheating and taking advantage of others.
We must control our tongues. Many of the problems of
life are created by using the wrong words, spoken in a harsh manner. Every
Christian should read James 3 regularly and pray Psalm 141:3 daily.
James 3 NLT says:
Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the
church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.
2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we
would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its
4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go,
even though the winds are strong.
5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a
tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.
6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness,
corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set
on fire by hell itself.
7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,
but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who
have been made in the image of God.
10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my
brothers and sisters, this is not right!
11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you
cannot draw fresh water from a salty spring.
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable
life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, do
not cover up the truth with boasting and lying.
15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are
earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find
disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all
pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to
others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is
And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of
..and Psalm 141:3 NLT prays: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
Peter knew first hand the sad consequences of blurting out
things without thinking first. There is no place for this type of conduct in
the life of a saint, and there is also no place for lying as well.
2) Do not repay evil
This is the message in verse 9. Verse 11 tells us to Turn
from evil. This means that there is to be no retaliation against those who
have hurt you.
Listen to Paul’s words on this same subject in Romans
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that
everyone can see you are honorable.
18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger
of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give
them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame
on their heads.”
taught this same law of love in Matthew 5:39: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other
also.” This is easy to talk about, but much harder to actually do. In fact,
I searched for several hours trying to find some current illustrations of
people obeying this verse. And it was extremely difficult to find any. We can
think of Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose husbands were martyred by the
Auca Indians in Ecuador almost 50 years ago, leaving these two women widows
with young children. And what did they do? They returned to the same tribe of
Indians who had killed their husbands and ministered to them, eventually
winning them to the Lord. Then there is the following story, which was
originally told by Jim McGuiggan in Jesus,
Hero of Thy Soul:
An army sergeant and his buddies were all
"hard men"; none harder than one corporal. But then the corporal gave
his life to Christ and was baptized. He was transformed: no more booze, foul
language, brawling or lascivious stories. The soldiers were first amused, then
skeptical, then awed. But eventually they began to provoke the corporal with
insults, jeers, vile jokes, bawdy songs, drunken truculence and threats of
One day the men returned from a long day's
march, mud covered and bone weary. The sergeant pulled off his boots and
collapsed on his cot. Glancing across the tent, he saw the corporal down on his
knees by his cot. Irritated, he grabbed a muddy boot and flung it at the man,
hitting him on the shoulder. The corporal continued to pray. Now the sergeant,
incensed, grabbed the other boot, and flung it hard at the praying man's head.
It struck home, and the corporal grunted and rubbed and rubbed his head … and
prayed and prayed.
Later the sergeant wakened to find the corporal gone and
his own filthy boots shined and polished, sitting by his cot. That, said the
sergeant, was the last straw. He, too, turned to God.
3) Rather than returning evil for evil, Christians are to
seek peace and pursue it, according to
verse 11 of 1 Peter 3.
In verse 9 Peter told us that peace is pursued by returning
a blessing when someone insults us. “Blessing” (eulogountes) here means to speak well of someone.
In Matthew 5:44 Jesus said, “Pray for those who persecute you,” and Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:12: “When we are cursed, we bless.” This is the compassionate way in
which Christians should pursue peace. As a result, again according to verse 9,
believers inherit a blessing. Look back at verse 9: “do not repay evil for evil. do not retaliate with insults when people
insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called
you to do, and he will bless you for it.” And just what is that blessing?
Look back to 1 Peter 1:4; “we have a
priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and
undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” What more of a blessing
could anyone ask for than eternity in a perfect place?
We must do good and hate evil. It is not enough for us to
avoid sin because sin is wrong; we ought to avoid it because we hate it.
In Matthew 5:9, In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall
be called the children of God.” If a Christian goes around looking for
trouble, he or she will find it; but if they go around seeking peace, they can
find that as well. This simply means that a Christian does not create problems
because he or she wants to have his or her own way.
But what if certain people take advantage of us? A Christian
might ask. “We may be seeking peace, but
they’re looking for a fight.” Peter gave them the assurance that God’s eyes
are on His people and His ears are open to their prayers. We need to work hard
at trusting God to protect us and provide for us, for He alone can defeat those
who are looking for a fight.
Verse 12 said “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who
do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.” The “eyes” and “ears” of the
Lord are figures of speech,
which attribute human physical characteristics to God. Here the figures
emphasize God’s watchful care and never ending attention to His people’s needs.
What did Peter say back in chapter 2, verse 25? “Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to
your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.”
1 Peter 3:12 is a sobering verse in some ways. Because while
it contains the glorious promise that God hears the prayers and cries of His
children and He responds to them, it also contains a grave warning. “The Lord turns His face against those who
do evil.” Please note, this is written to Christians, not to unbelievers.
Are you wondering why your prayers are not being answered? While there could be
a number of reasons, one important reason that you cannot overlook is that you
are not living as God wants you to live. You are not practicing what Peter has
been talking about in these verses. David knew this truth well, when he wrote
in Psalm 66:18-19 NIV:
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.
As Peter wrote in chapter 1 verses 15 and 16 we are to be
holy. We are to let the Holy Spirit work in our lives so that we can follow the
guidelines Peter has been giving us. In that way we will be living the kind of
life that God wants us to and He can freely answer those prayers we pray which
are for the good of ourselves or others and that are in accordance with His
will and His timing. When we are living as Christ wants us to live, we need
have no fear of God turning His face from us and not listening to our prayers.
Our Lord was called the Prince of
Peace (Isaiah 9:6). When we turn to Him to be our Savior from sin, He empowers
us through the Holy Spirit to be what He calls us to be. However, we must
constantly yield our hearts and lives to the power and control of the Holy
Spirit if we want to walk in the paths that Jesus calls us to. God told His
people that when they were obedient to Him, He would cause them to live in
peace with even their enemies (Proverbs 16:7); and in Romans 12:18 we are told
that as much as we can we are to live in peace with others. But would not peace be the crowning blessing
when we can follow these guidelines Peter has given us?
NO REAL HARM CAN COME
THOSE WHO BELONG TO
1 Peter 3:13-18
When reading this passage we were reminded of a living
illustration of the principles we learned in 1 Peter 3: 8, 9, not to return
evil for evil, but to bless those who would persecute us. The tragic killing of
young innocent schoolgirls in the Amish community in Pennsylvania captured the
attention of the nation. It was interesting to note how puzzled the reporters
were at the attitudes of the Amish parents who had lost their precious children
when the Amish made a point of letting it be known that they forgave the
killer. And what really seemed to blow the mind of one reporter was not only
that the Amish parents forgave the killer of their children, but also that the
elders of the community had set up a trust fund for the three children of the
murderer. That is a living illustration of what it means to bless those who
have done evil to you.
In 1 Peter 3:8-12, Peter told us that all Christians were to
be of one mind and have compassion and love for one another; that
we should be courteous, not returning evil for evil, but instead to give a
blessing to those who persecute us. In so doing we will receive a blessing from
God. We were also told to discipline our tongues from speaking evil against
anyone. Peter tells us to turn away from evil and do good. Instead of
retaliating, we are to seek peace with everyone. When Christians follow those
instructions God will see their good behavior and hear their prayers. But to
those who do evil, the Lord will turn away from them and not hear their
However, in spite of believers’ desires to live peacefully
and their eagerness to do good, persecution eventually came. Peter encouraged
his readers with the fact that the right response to undeserved suffering will
also result in blessing, because when we do the right thing and suffer for
it, we can be sure that God intends to use our experience for good. Christ
was a perfect example of someone who did the right thing and was punished for
it. He tried to bring the gift of eternal life to everyone, and rather than
being grateful to Him, they killed Him. Peter presents what we should do here
in verses 13-17 and then provides examples in verses 18-22.
1 Peter 3:13, 14 NLT:
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?
14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for
it. So do not worry or be afraid of their threats.
Though Satan, through physical suffering or material
hardship, will try to harm those who are eager to do good, no real harm can come to those who
belong to Christ. For even if suffering should occur, Christians are blessed
and thus should not be frightened. Christians are not to be afraid of what the
world can do to them. In fact, listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28-31 NLT:
“do not be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch
your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow
can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.
30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
31 So do not be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock
Peter concluded verse 14 with a quotation from Isaiah 8:12
which calls believers to fear God rather than men.
gave the following advice in Isaiah 8:10-14 NLT:
Call your councils of war, but they will be worthless. Develop your strategies,
but they will not succeed. For God is with us!”
11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else
does. He said,
12 “do not call everything a
conspiracy, like they do, and do not live in dread of what frightens
13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you
should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.
14 He will keep you safe.
These last few verses from Isaiah introduce the important
spiritual principle that the fear of the Lord conquers every other fear. Peter
quoted Isaiah 8 to back up his warning to the people: “you must worship Christ as Lord of your life.”
As Christians, we are all faced with crises, and we are
tempted to give in to our fears and make the wrong decisions. But if we have
made Christ Lord in our hearts, we need never fear men or circumstances. Our
enemies might hurt us, but they cannot harm us. We, however, can harm ourselves if we fail to trust God.
Generally speaking, people do not oppose us if we do good; but even if they do,
it is better to suffer for righteousness’ sake than to compromise our
testimony. Peter will discuss this in detail in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Instead of
experiencing fear as we face the enemy, we can experience blessing, if Jesus
Christ is Lord in our hearts. In verse 14 whereas the NLT says, “God will reward you,” most of the
translations of verse 14 use the word “blessed” as for instance the NIV:
1 Peter 3:14 NLT:
even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do
not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."
Now the word translated as “blessed” can also be translated as “happy.” It is the same word used in Matthew 5:10ff, often referred
to as “The Beatitudes.” This is part
of having unspeakable joy and being filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8).
1 Peter 3:15 NLT:
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone
asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain (answer)
When Christ is Lord in our life, His concerns become our
concerns. His ways become the ways we want to live. His values become our
values. When Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, each crisis that we
experience becomes an opportunity for sharing our faith in Christ with others.
We are always ready to give an answer as to why we believe that Jesus is the
Son of God and died for our sins so that we might have eternal life. Our
English word apology comes from the Greek word that means “answer” in verse 15, but it does not mean “to
say I’m sorry.” Rather, it means “a
defense presented in court.” There is also a branch of study in
theology called “Apologetics” which deals with defending why we believe the Bible to be the only true Word from God.
Every Christian should be able to give a carefully thought
through reason for his or her hope in Christ, a reasoned defense in other
words, especially in “hopeless” situations.
Suffering unjustly for whatever reason creates the opportunity for witness when
a believer behaves with faith and hope, because the unbelievers will then sit
up and take notice. Again, just as we saw happen in the Amish community.
But our witness must show humility and respect toward
unbelievers. We are not to have an arrogant, superior, or know-it-all attitude.
We are witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys. It is our job to testify, not to
deal out judgment or condemnation. We must also be sure that our lives are living
evidence of our defense, that our lives demonstrate the reasons for our faith.
Peter did not suggest that Christians argue with lost
people, but rather that we present to the unsaved an account of what we believe
and why we believe it; in a loving manner. The purpose is not to win an
argument but to win lost souls to Christ.
What does it mean to “sanctify Christ as
Lord” in our hearts in verse 15? How do we make Christ the Lord in our
hearts? It means we turn everything over to Him, and to live only to please Him
and glorify Him. When Christ is Lord in our life, it means we have put Him in
charge of every aspect of our lives: our finances, our decisions, where we
live, what kind of work we do, our relationships, our families—everything.
We consult Him for every decision. We give Him control over our tongues.
We put doing the will of God before doing what we want. When Christ is Lord in
our hearts, the only thing we fear is displeasing Him; we do not fear
what men might do to us. We obey God’s Word no matter what the consequences. It
means being satisfied with nothing less than the will of God in our lives.
One proof that Jesus Christ is Lord in our lives is the
readiness with which we witness to others about Him and seek to win them to
1 Peter 3:16 NLT:
But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see
what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
Peter, who probably learned this the hard way himself,
zeroes in on our attitude. When we talk to others about our faith in Christ, we
should not be arrogant, that is, we should not act like we are better than they
are, or look down our noses at them because they are “sinners.” We humbly remember that we are sinners also, although we
are sinners who have been saved by God’s grace. A believer’s testimony should
not be given in an arrogant manner but with
gentleness and respect. Christians who are not afraid of suffering unjustly
are able to effectively tell others about their faith and hope in Christ. Peter
may have been thinking back to the time when out of fear he refused to admit
that he was a follower of Christ, doing so in words that were neither gentle nor
respectful. Christians who suffer unjustly and keep a clear conscience put to
shame those who ridicule their good behavior as followers of Christ. Peter
encouraged his readers by repeatedly telling them that good behavior is their
best defense against unjust punishment and persecution.
In verse 16 Peter says, “Keep
your conscience clear.” You may think of conscience as that little voice
inside you that says, “Uh, uh, uh—you
shouldn’t have done that” when you have misbehaved, or “Way to go!” when you have done something right. The conscience is
that internal judge that notifies us, with either approval of our
actions or disapproval of them. Paul says this clearly in Romans 2:14-15 NLT:
Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law
when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.
15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own
conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.
Conscience may be compared to a window that lets in
the light of God’s truth. If we persist in disobeying, the window gets dirtier
and dirtier, until the light cannot enter. This leads to a “defiled conscience” (Titus 1:15). A “defiled conscience” is one that has been so sinned against that it
no longer is sensitive to what is right and wrong (1 Timothy. 4:2). It is even
possible for the conscience to be so poisoned that it approves things that
are bad and rejects what is good. The Bible calls this “an
evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). A criminal may feel guilty if he “squeals” on his buddies, but happy if
he succeeds in his crime.
Conscience depends on knowledge, which is the “light” coming through the window. As a
believer studies the Word, he/she better understands the will of God, and
his/her conscience becomes more sensitive to right and wrong. A “good conscience” is one that accuses
when we think or do wrong and approves when we do right. It takes exercise
to keep the conscience strong and pure (Acts 24:16). If we do not grow in
spiritual knowledge and obedience, we have a “weak conscience” that is upset very easily by little things (1 Corinthians 8).
That means each of us needs to read and study God’s Word, the Bible, for
ourselves every day so we will know God’s standards for our behavior.
How does a good conscience help believers in times of trial
and opposition? For one thing it fortifies them with courage because they know
they are right with God and people, so that they need not be afraid. Inscribed
on Martin Luther’s monument at Worms, Germany are his courageous words spoken
before the church council on April 18, 1521:
“Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” His conscience,
bound to God’s Word, gave him the courage to defy the whole established church.
A good conscience also gives us peace in our hearts;
and when we have peace in our hearts, we can face the battles all around us.
The restlessness of an uneasy conscience can cause a person a great deal of
stress so that they are unable to function at their best. How can we boldly
witness for Christ if our conscience is telling us we are living outside of the
will of God?
When we have a good conscience, we do not have to be afraid
of what other people may know about us, say against us, or do to us. When
Christ is Lord and we fear only God, we need not fear the threats, opinions,
or actions of our enemies. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 118:6: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear:
what can man do unto me?” that is where Peter failed when he feared the
enemy and denied knowing Jesus when Jesus was arrested.
In these verses Peter also made it clear that our conscience
is not the only thing that helps us know what is right and what is wrong. Our
words and actions must also be consistent with what the Bible teaches. A person
can be involved in either doing good or doing evil. For a person to disobey
God’s Word and claim it is right simply because their conscience does not
convict them, is to admit that something is radically wrong with their conscience.
Conscience is a safe guide only when the Word of God, the Bible, is the
More and more, Christians in today’s society are going to be
accused and lied about. So many TV commentators and newspaper writers today
condemn Christians who take a stand for morality. But you see our personal
standards are not those of the unsaved world. As a rule, Christians do not
create problems; they reveal them. Let a born-again person start to work in an
office, or move into a secular college dormitory, and in a short time there
will be problems. Christians are lights in this dark world (Philippians 2:15),
and they reveal “The unfruitful works of
darkness” (Ephesians 5:11).
Do you remember the story of Joseph and his coat of many
colors in the Old Testament? After Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, he
became the steward (or the supervisor) in a governor’s (Potiphar’s) home.
Joseph was always careful to live as God wanted him to and he refused to sin.
But even so he was falsely accused and thrown in to prison. Then, also in the
Old Testament, there was Daniel who was very godly and prayed three times every
day. The government officials in Babylon schemed to get Daniel in trouble
because his life and work were a witness against them. Our Lord Jesus Christ by
His very life on earth revealed the sinful hearts and deeds of people, and this
is why they crucified Him (John 15:18-25). “Yea,
and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2
If we are to maintain a good conscience and keep Christ as
Lord in our hearts, we must deal with sin in our lives and confess it
immediately (1 John 1:9). We must “keep
the window clean.” We must also spend time in the Word of God and “let in the light.” A strong conscience
is the result of obedience based on knowledge, and a strong conscience makes
for a strong Christian witness to the lost. It also gives us strength in times
of persecution and difficulty.
No Christian should be surprised if they suffer for doing
good. Our world is so mixed up that people call evil good and good evil, and
claim darkness to be light and light darkness (Isaiah 5:20). The religious
leaders of Jesus’ day called Him “a
malefactor,” which means “a person
who does evil things” (John 18:29-30). How wrong people can be! Today, many
of them are also calling Christians “intolerant,”
“narrow minded,” and “opposed to
scientific advances” when we assert there is right and wrong and we take a
stand that respects all human life.
As difficult times come to the church, we must show
Christian love. We will need one another’s help and encouragement as never
before. We must also maintain a good conscience, because a good conscience
makes for a strong backbone and a courageous witness. The secret is to practice
the lordship of Jesus Christ. If we fear God, we need not fear men.
Samuel Johnson said: “Shame arises from
the fear of men; Conscience, from the fear of God.”
1Peter 3:17 NLT:
Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God
wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
None of us, if we are honest, really wants to suffer. But
suffering does come in life. Peter pointed out that it may be God’s will
for Christians to suffer for doing good.
he had told them earlier in chapter 2, verse 20, “is commendable before God” and so is better than deserved
suffering for doing things we know are wrong (1 Peter 2:14). First Peter 3:17
is a good summary of the content of chapter 2:15, 19-20.
These verses should change our lives if Jesus is Lord of our
lives. We should never again lash out in anger and rage, never again gossip, or
cheat or steal or lie, or be sexually immoral. Do you think you can handle that
task? If you will, you will glorify God and be in line for a blessing far
beyond what you are capable of imagining. Now let us find out how we get the
ability and strength to live like this.
1 Peter 3:18 NLT:
18 Christ suffered for our sins once
for all time. He never sinned, but he died for
us sinners to bring you safely home
to God. He suffered physical death, but
he was raised to life in the
Jesus Christ died for our sins, accepting the guilt and
punishment of sin for all men. The author Max Lucado adds tremendous
insight to this wonderful truth.
“The decision had been made. The troops
had been deployed and the battleships were on their way. Nearly three million
soldiers were preparing to slam against Hitler's Atlantic wall in France. D-Day
was set in motion. Responsibility for the invasion fell squarely on the four-starred
shoulders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.... A correspondent wrote that as
Eisenhower watched the C-47s take off and disappear into the darkness, his
hands were sunk deeply into his pockets and his eyes were full of tears.
“The general then went to his quarters
and sat at his desk. He took a pen and paper and wrote a message—a message
which would be delivered to the White House in the event of a defeat.
“It was as brief as it was courageous.
"Our landings... have failed... the troops, the Air, and the Navy did all
that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches
itself to the attempt it was mine alone." ("D-Day Recalling Military
Gamble that Shaped History," Time, 28 May 1984).
“It could be argued that the greatest
act of courage that day was not in a cockpit or foxhole, but at a desk when the
one at the top took responsibility for the ones below. When the one in charge
took the blame—even before the blame needed to be taken.
“Rare leader, this general. Unusual, this
display of courage. He modeled a quality seldom seen in our society of
lawsuits, dismissals, and divorces. Most of us are willing to take credit for
the good we do. Some are willing to take the rap for the bad we do. But few
will assume responsibilities for the mistakes of others. Still fewer will
shoulder the blame for mistakes yet uncommitted. Eisenhower did. As a result,
he became a hero. Jesus did. As a result, He's our Savior.”
In 1 Peter 3:18–22 Peter gives us the perfect example of
undeserved suffering in the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus suffered death on the cross for the sins of all mankind from the very beginning
of time all the way up to the time He will return and establish His kingdom
here on earth during the thousand year millennium. Jesus’ suffering was
God’s will for the salvation and eternal life of those who would accept
Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf, receive Him as their Lord and Savior, and
trust and follow His teaching. In similar fashion, some innocent followers
of Christ throughout the centuries have and will continue to experience
suffering in accordance with God’s will for the ultimate good of mankind
and the Kingdom of God. You might not like to hear that and question why good
people have to suffer if God is a loving God. But go ahead and question God
about that because He will understand and not hold it against you. After all,
Jesus did not want to suffer either.
Matthew 26:36-40 NLT:
Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit
here while I go over there to pray.”
took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and
told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and
keep watch with me.”
went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My
Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.
Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
However, even if you do not like the idea of suffering, be
willing to go through it anyhow if Christ calls on you to do so. You can be
assured He would not ask you to go through anything that was not good for you
or the Kingdom of God. Remember, Jesus has reasons we cannot always understand
no matter how smart we think we are.
Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are
far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than
your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
According to 1 Peter 3:18 Jesus’ death prepared the way for
the reconciliation of sinners with God. Paul gives us further insight into this
truth in 2 Corinthians 5:15-20 NLT:
15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no
longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and
was raised for them.
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time
we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we
know him now!
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself
through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to
19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s
sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We
speak for Christ when we plead, “Come
back to God!”
Those that were alive at the time saw Christ’s death as He
hung there on the cross as a defeat. But Christ’s death was not a defeat.
Having “suffered physical death,” He
was “raised to life in the Spirit.” Both
terms, “physical” and “Spirit,” emphasize different aspects of
Christ’s existence: His earthly existence as a man, which was His physical
existence, and His heavenly existence as a divine “Spirit.”
Christ was fully God
and fully man.
Let us now take a closer look at 1 Peter 3:18:
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the
unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. (ESV)
For Christ also
suffered once for sins. Peter wants us to understand right at the outset of
this verse that Jesus suffered, not for the wrong things that He did, but
rather as an innocent victim for doing good. He very likely intends for this to
be a comfort to us by example for the sufferings we may have to endure. Then
Peter begins to identify the various ways in which Christ suffered and how He
won the ultimate victory in spite of those sufferings. Our faith in Jesus can
also lead to suffering and persecution. The chances of that happening are
increasing every day as certain segments of society are encouraging an
atmosphere of hatred and intolerance toward the Christian faith and those who
embrace it. This suffering by the way will also be the result of doing what is
right, not for doing what is wrong, immoral, or illegal. Christ is the best
example possible in all of history for doing what is right in the eyes of God
and yet He was required by God to suffer in order to complete His mission here
on earth. The word Once in this
verse, referring to His beating and death for sin, means once and for all. The writer of Hebrews says this in Hebrews
the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first
for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.
What we need to see in this verse, however, along with the
fact that Jesus needed to suffer just once for the sins of all people of all
time, is that He did in fact suffer, and in doing so provided an example for us
to follow. And we must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus’ suffering was far
beyond anything most believers will ever have to endure.
The righteous for the
unrighteous. Here Peter goes on
to tell us that the One who was righteous, Jesus, took the place of those
who were not righteous. The One who was without sin was willing to take the
place of, and pay the price for, those who had no way of paying the price for
their own sin.
Romans 5:6 NRSV:
while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV:
our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God.
Hebrews 9:28 NRSV:
Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a
second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting
Jesus, who had no sin, who was perfect in every way, is our
example that one may well suffer for doing good and remaining firm in their
faith that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
The phrase, that he
might bring us to God, in 1 Peter 3:18 clearly points us to the truth that
Jesus’ death would provide the opportunity for all people (sinners) to be made
righteous in the sight of God.
John 3:14 NRSV:
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be
John 12:32 NRSV:
I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
It is through Christ’s death that mercy is offered to each
and every person ever born, all of whom are guilty of sin.
Romans 3:23 NLT:
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
1 John 1:10 NLT:
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing
that his word has no place in our hearts.
Salvation through the death of Jesus could not be offered in
any other way. There had to be a perfect sacrifice for sin and God Himself in
the form of Jesus the man was the only One who could provide that sacrifice. No
human being ever born could pay it and that fact holds true to this day. If it
was not for Jesus Christ alone and His willingness to pay the penalty for our
sins, no one could enter Heaven because God will not allow sin in Heaven.
Everyone would end up in Hell for eternity. God hates sin, but He loves the
sinner, and please do not ask me to explain that because I cannot. So faith in Jesus’
payment for the penalty of our sin is the only way that we are able to make
ourselves eligible to be offered and to receive God’s grace in the form of
salvation and Heaven. And please remember that we do not automatically make
ourselves fit for Heaven through faith in Jesus. That would be like receiving
salvation through our own efforts. But that faith places us in a position where
God is able to accept us and bless us with salvation by His grace.
We need only confess our sin, ask forgiveness for our sin,
and accept the fact that Jesus died for our sin, and God will grant us
forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life in Heaven by His grace and mercy to do
Can you think of any greater expression of love than for
someone to sacrifice their life for you? For someone to be willing to go
through a savage beating so severe that the beating alone could have killed
them, and then after all of that be willing to hang on a cross for hour after
hour in excruciating pain from the nails in His hands and feet, and then die
for you? That has to be one of the most powerful pieces of evidence
imaginable that God loves you and wants you to be with Him in Heaven for
eternity. How can anyone refuse such an offer? He makes it so easy. What is
it within a person that they will not even allow themselves to investigate the
possible validity of this incredible story? No other deity in any other
religion offers the depth of love that Jesus not only has for you but was
willing to demonstrate for you by His own suffering and death. If you have not
accepted Him already, please, please at least ask Him to reveal His truth to
you. He promises He will do that if you only ask.
Matthew 7:7 KJV:
and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be
opened unto you:
Revelation 3:20 KJV:
I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I
will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Back to 1 Peter 3:18, we read, being put to death in the flesh. This simply means that as a man in
His human nature, in His human flesh, the human part of Jesus died just like
all of mankind dies.
In Romans 1:1-4 (NRSV) Paul writes:
a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of
God, 2 which
he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the
gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and
was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness
by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 1:4 tells us that although Jesus was a direct descendant
of David in His flesh, that is His human body, He was also God in His
spirit with all the power that is available to God, which allowed Him to
raise His physical dead body from the grave. This statement in 1 Peter 3:18 is
a very unique way of describing a person’s death, is it not? When I die do you
think people will say, “Ron was put to
death in the flesh?” There would be no reason for that because that is the
only way I could be put to death. But Jesus was also God and had the power on
His own to bring His body back to life.
When we refer to one’s spirit, what are we referring to?
Well, that could almost be the subject of a separate sermon in itself. But we
will try to give you at least a working knowledge of what the Bible has to say
about the spirit, and we are not referring here to the third member of
the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
One would think that the best definition of the “spirit”
would be found in extensive discussions in theological journals, but the
definition I found that was closest to what I consider best was found in
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition: “spirit, an animating or vital principle held to give life to
physical organisms.” The spirit gives life to the body and soul.”
and spirit,” are complementary and contrasting terms whose meaning
must be derived from the context in which they are used. The phrase “the
spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 16:22; 27:16) refers to human beings as animated
physical bodies. Their spirit, or breath, comes from God. He can withdraw it
from flesh so as to produce death (Genesis 6:3) or grant it to flesh so as to
produce life, even life after death (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
So a living human being is composed of body, soul, and spirit. There is the physical body, the soul, or
the emotional make-up of a person, and then there is the spirit which is kind
of a mysterious source that gives life to the body and soul. When the human
body dies, the soul, and spirit die with it, but when a person is a follower of
Christ, Jesus somehow restores all three.
believe that is all we will need to know to be able to understand 1Peter 3:18.
Remember, however, that Jesus was fully God and fully man,
and as God death had no power over Him as we are told in the following verses:
Revelation 1:18 NAS:
am the first and the last,
the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore,
and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Romans 6:8,9 NAS:
if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never
to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
John 8:51-52 KJV:
truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death."
52 The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham
died, and the prophets also; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word, he will
never taste of death.'
When 1 Peter 3:18 uses the phrase, But quickened (KJV) or Made
alive (NAS) it comes from the Greek zoopoieo
(dzo-op-oy-eh-o) [æùïðïéïò [zōopoios]
which means making alive or revitalize.
does not mean kept alive, but made alive; recalled to life.
The word is never used in the sense of maintained
alive, or preserved alive. This meaning is used many times
in the New Testament.
John 5:21 NRSV:
just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to
whomever he wishes
John 6:63 NRSV:
63 It is
the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have
spoken to you are spirit and life.
Romans 8:11 NAS:
if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who
raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies
through His Spirit who dwells in you.
1 Corinthians 15:45 NAS:
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last
Adam became a life-giving spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:6 NAS:
who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but
of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
We must conclude after reading these verses that although
Jesus’ physical body died, there was some power within Him which restored Him
to life after He was dead.
First Peter 3:18 says, In or By the spirit. The word spirit might refer to Jesus’ own soul,
to His Divine nature, or to the Holy Spirit. We can exclude the possibility
of the spirit being His own soul because when Jesus’ physical body died, the
soul died with it. Anything that pertained to Him as a person died and that
included His soul. It might be interesting if we could find out just how many
people know what the soul is. Well for the sake of clarification we are going
to provide what we hope to be a simple, easily understood concept of the soul.
Frequently “soul” can mean “person,” or “personality.””
Acts 2:43 KJV:
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the
Acts 7:14 KJV:
Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred,
threescore and fifteen souls.
Romans 13:1 KJV:
every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God:
the powers that be are ordained of God.
The expression “every
living soul” in Revelation 16:3 (KJV) describes the emotional aspect of
living that combines with the physical to make a whole person. It speaks of
the whole person which includes one’s inmost being. For example, when Jesus was
agonizing about his death, he spoke of his soul being crushed.
an entirely different setting, Jesus promised rest to the souls of those who
come to Him (Matthew 11:29). Here, as elsewhere, “soul” denotes the complete person.
There was no power in Jesus’ own soul which was part of His
humanness to raise Him up from the dead, any more than there is such a power in
any other human soul. That power does not belong to a human soul. Jesus was God
and had the ability to raise His physical body from the grave. We are not God,
and therefore we will require the power of the Holy Spirit of God to raise us
from the dead. If this seems a little difficult to understand, it should be
because these supernatural characteristics of God and Jesus are beyond our
human ability to fully comprehend. We must just stand in awe of it all and be
ever so grateful that we have a God with such power and love.
The Apostle Paul was so impressed with this mighty power
that he wrote,
Philippians 3:10 NIV
want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of
sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
What remains then is that the power for resurrection after
Jesus was crucified and buried must have come from His own Divine nature. We
come to this conclusion not only because of what we have already determined but
also because it is stated in the next verse that it was in or by this spirit
that Jesus had preached through the person of Noah to the people who were alive
in the time leading up to the Flood.
Let us look at how the two verses compliment one another.
1 Peter 3:18-19 NAS:
Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He
might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive
in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits
now in prison.
It was not His soul as a man that did this, for His human
soul had gone out of existence with His body. He therefore did this because of
His own deity.
Jesus was fully man and fully God and
when the man died God was left.
Romans 1:3-4 KJV:
his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to
the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the
spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
“The Spirit of
holiness” refers to Jesus’ Divine nature by being resurrected from the
dead. And Jesus’ words in John 10:17-18 KJV leave little doubt that this must
be the meaning:
doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to
lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I
received of my Father.
The conclusion therefore that we draw from this passage is
that Jesus as a man, a human being, was put to death. As a man, He died; as the
Son of God, the Messiah, He was made alive again by the power of his own Divine
Spirit. Further, by His own divine Spirit He returned to Heaven.
And let us not lose sight of the fact that the main point in
1 Peter 3:18 is that Christ’s death was not a defeat but a triumph.
While Christ died to His earthly existence as a man, by His resurrection, being “raised to life,” He returned to His
existence as God which allowed for a far greater ministry according to Matthew
came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on
go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of
this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
And also John 14:12-14:NLT:
tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have
done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.
can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring
glory to the Father.
ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!
So because Jesus has all power and all authority, when we have received Him
as our personal Savior we can live each day fully alive. We can do what He
wants us to do because He gives us strength to accomplish the tasks. When life
gets rough and your spirit feels heavy, look to the One whose Spirit lived
through death and brought Him back to life. Look to the One who answers your prayers.
Ever Wonder What
Happened To Christ
As we conclude our study of first Peter chapter three, we
will get into some heavy theological considerations. Theology, as you recall,
is the study of things pertaining to God and faith. Theologians, the people who
do theology, are often quite deep thinkers who are very adept at making a
simple subject quite complicated. For instance the story is told of a minister
who had just become the pastor at a country church. Three of the deacons came
to see him. He showed them into his study while he went to answer the phone.
The deacons were surprised to see that their new minister was using a bale of
hay to sit on.
Being well versed in things theological, they began to
discuss this strange occurrence.
the first, “it is an act of penance. Our
minister is doing penance for his sins.”
“It is quite
fascinating,” said the second deacon, “but
I would prefer to think that our new pastor is trying to copy the simplicity of
the life of our Lord.”
“No, no, no,” said
the third deacon, “surely the pastor is
making a social statement. He is identifying with the poor and needy workers on
At that point, the pastor returned to his study.
“It would deeply
interest us to know,” said one of the deacons, “what is the significance of your sitting on a bale of hay?”
“That is quite
simple,” said the pastor. “The moving
van hasn’t arrived yet with my office chair.”
We spent a considerable amount of time in verse 18 of 1
Peter 3. Let us go back and read it again in order to get a running start on
verses 19 and 20.
1 Peter 3:18-20 NLT:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the
unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the
flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the
days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is,
eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
At first glance his passage suggests that sometime between
His death and His resurrection Jesus made a special trip to deliver a special
message to “the spirits in prison.” Where exactly did Jesus go and to whom exactly did He speak, and what did He
say to them? Theologians down through
the centuries have tried to explain this passage. It has been said by someone
that, “If all the theologians in the
world were laid end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion.” We
will see the truth of that as we consider these verses in 1 Peter 3, which we
believe to be one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to interpret
accurately. We think you will understand why as we move along.
It is critical at this point to understand the meaning of
several Greek words used in this verse if we are to interpret the meaning of
this verse correctly. First, let us look at the Greek word for “spirits.” We touched somewhat on this
meaning a little earlier and there is no way we can lock down such a term
because it is way beyond our human understanding. But the Greek word used here
is “neshamah” and it means “the inner-most part of a person that can
respond to God.” We believe that meaning is
confirmed in Proverbs 20:27 NAS, where Solomon writes: “the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost
parts of his being.”
The next critical word we need to define is the word used
here for “prison.” The Greek word used in1 Peter 3:19 is φυλακή [phulake /foo·lak·ay/], meaning a guarding,
place of guarding.”
Now let us see what kind of a definition we can find for the
term “Hell.” “Hell” is the English word used to translate Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in
Greek; and Gehenna in Aramaic. In
Christian tradition it is usually associated with the place of eternal punishment,
especially by fire. This idea appears in Isaiah 66:24, but it is not clearly
associated with a place.
must conclude, therefore, that when the Bible, Old and New Testament, refers to “Hell,” “Hades,” “Sheol,” or “Gehenna,” it is referring to the same
Some believe this passage in 1 Peter 3 18-20 refers to
Christ’s descent into Hell after His crucifixion to proclaim His victory to the
imprisoned fallen angels referred to in 2 Peter 2:4-5, equating them with “the sons of God” Moses wrote about in
Genesis 6:1-2. Though there is much to be said about this view as a possible
interpretation, the context and the original Greek seems more likely to be
referring to humans rather than angels.
There is another point of view that holds that Christ went
to Hades, the place of the dead which is referred to in Luke 16:22-26. Luke
tells us that Hades had two sides: the “Hell” side and the Paradise or Abraham’s bosom. There was a great gulf dividing
the two sides, although obviously there could be communication between the two
sections. So some believe that this passage in 1 Peter 3 indicates that Christ
went to this Paradise and preached during His three days in the grave.
Now if we look at the context carefully we see that the “spirits” are described in 1 Peter 3:20
as those who were disobedient when God
waited patiently for Noah to
finish building the ark. These are
people who had repeatedly ignored the message of God delivered to them by Noah.
If this seems very confusing, believe me we understand because we wrestled with
this passage hour after hour until our heads ached. But if you will stay with
us, we believe you will begin to see once again the incredible intricacy of the
Bible and see once more that only God could be the author of this amazing Book.
We would like now to give you just a little more background
as to what Peter is referring to here, and in order to do that I would like you
to look with us at Genesis 6:3,5-14,17,18,22 NLT:
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will
not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In
the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything
they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It
broke his heart.
7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe
this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I
will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the
small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am
sorry I ever made them.”
8 But Noah found favor with the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the
only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close
fellowship with God.
10 Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence.
12 God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was
13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for
they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along
with the earth!
14 “Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and
out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior.
“Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every
living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die.
18 But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife
and your sons and their wives.
22 So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.
If you are curious about when all this occurred, we cannot
give you an exact date for this part of the book of Genesis, but we do know
that Noah was born while Adam was still alive, and Noah lived five
hundred years before the birth of his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 5:32). Noah was a “just man and
perfect in his generation,” and “walked
with God” (Ezekiel 14:14,20). But then the descendants of Cain and of Seth,
the sons of Adam, began to intermarry, and they produced a race of evil men
and women. Mankind became more and more corrupt and God decided to
destroy the entire evil and corrupt population. But Noah and his family
would be the exception. God entered into a covenant with Noah, promising Noah
and his family protection from the promised flood (verse 18). Noah was
instructed by God to build an ark (6:14–16) to house himself and his family. It
would take 120 years for the ark to be completed (6:3).
During that time Noah repeatedly warned the people of what
would happen to them if they did not repent.
When the ark was completed, the living creatures that were
to be preserved entered into it; and then Noah and his wife and sons and
daughters-in-law entered it, and the “Lord
shut him in” (Genesis 7:16). The threatened judgment of which Noah warned
now fell on a guilty world, “the world
that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6).
Now that we have laid some groundwork in order to better
understand 1 Peter 3:18-22, we will now continue this fascinating passage by
picking up in verse 19, remembering what was said in verse 18 as well as what
we are about to be told in verse 20 regarding the connection to the days of
Noah. Let us put these verses together for clarity.
1 Peter 3:18-20 NAS:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He
might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive
in the spirit;
19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in
who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of
Noah, during the construction of the
ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely
through the water.
The first thing that needs to be said is that this is an
extremely difficult passage to interpret. There are a number of various interpretations by a number of different
commentators. After hours of research, prayer, and study we are sharing with
you the conclusions we have come to regarding understanding these verses. With
that said, let us now look closely at these verses.
The words “in which” in
verse 19 in the Greek text are en hoi,
and could be translated either “in which
spirit,” or “by means of which
spirit.” We could therefore read this part of the verse as:
Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He
might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive
in the spirit (in which spirit or by means of which spirit) He went
and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.”
The idea presented here is that Jesus had at one time
preached to the spirits who were in prison at the time Peter wrote these words.
Jesus had preached to them back in the time leading up to the Flood and He had
delivered His message through His prophet Noah and that it was done not by the
Holy Spirit, but by Jesus Himself, the very same spirit of God that resided in
Jesus at all times because He was God. In these verses we get involved with the
complexity of understanding the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
something no human being can ever truly understand. We need to realize,
therefore, that Jesus’ spirit could have been the source of Noah’s preaching to
all the people who lived before the Flood. Therefore the message in this
passage refers to Jesus preaching through Noah to the people who were living at
the time leading up to the Flood. This does not refer to Jesus going down to
Hell and preaching to the "spirits" living there, whether fallen
angels or fallen people or both. There would be no purpose to Jesus preaching
to the dead because it would have been too late for them. And it certainly was
not in Jesus’ character to rub it in. Jesus did not preach to anybody after
they were dead. He did not then go and preach to anybody while His body was
lying in the grave.
So what did happen to Him after His dead body was placed in
the tomb? Well Jesus’ earthly body may have been dead but His spirit could
not die because He is God and death has no power over Him as we learned
earlier. Where did He go and what did He do between the Friday afternoon
when His body was placed in the tomb and the Sunday morning when He appeared
alive again in His earthly body? He could have done any number of things. Maybe
He returned to Heaven for a couple of days. After all, He had not been home for
35 years and He probably longed to get back home as soon as possible. Perhaps
He spent time placing thoughts and actions into His disciples as well as
comforting them without their seeing Him or knowing He was there. This of
course is all speculation, but I can tell you this for a fact. Jesus would have
no problem keeping Himself busy for some 36 hours before His reappearing on the
earthly scene. So we should not feel that we deserve an explanation from Him
through the Bible as to exactly where He was and what He did because that is
His business, and if He felt we needed to know He would have made it clear for
Continuing in verse 19, Peter writes, “and made proclamation,” which means “preached.” The word used
here simply means to make a proclamation of any kind or to deliver a message.
It does not mean that it was the Gospel that was preached, nor does it suggest
anything in regard to the content of the message. If Jesus had preached the
Gospel, Peter would have used a different Greek word. The word Peter used here
had the same meaning as the one Noah used to speak to the people of his time,
or to any message that God would have given to mankind.
God is really the One who delivers a message to mankind when
He does it through one of His prophets, or apostles, or other ministers; and
that is exactly what Jesus did in this instance through Noah. It is God who is
delivering this message to you. We are only the means by which He delivers it.
Next Peter writes, “the
spirits now in prison.” We believe it is clear that Peter is
referring to spirits who are now in
prison at the time he is writing this epistle. They were not spirits at the
time Jesus spoke to them through Noah before the flood.
Now let us back up just a little bit here. Because this is
the only passage in the New Testament on which the Roman Catholic doctrine of
purgatory is based, it is important to determine the exact meaning of the
language that is used here. There are three issues that need to be addressed to
make this determination. Who are the spirits?
What is meant by in prison? Was the
message brought to them while in the prison, or at some previous time? We have
already suggested partial answers to some of these questions, but we are sure
you would like us to be as thorough as possible.
Who Are The Spirits?
Who specifically is Peter referring to when he says “spirits?” The answer actually comes in
verse 20. They were those “who once were
disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah." So
we can begin with the knowledge that Jesus delivered this message to people who
were disobedient before the flood destroyed the world and everything in it
except for Noah, the seven members of his family that he took with him, and
also all the animals that were brought aboard the ark. Jesus’ message was
therefore delivered to all people who were alive just before the great Flood.
Now if we were to accept the logic of some scholars who
maintain that Jesus went down to Hell,
or to Sheol, and preached to those
who were confined there, He would have had to, according to this verse,
separate all those who were alive at the time of the flood from all of those
who had gone to Hell since the Flood and preached only to them. There is no indication or purpose anywhere in
the Scripture that we know of that even suggests God or Jesus ever did such a
thing. Why would Jesus do this? How would such a separation be made of the
people in Hell? What was the nature of the message he delivered to that group?
These are all questions which it is impossible for any scholar holding to that
opinion to answer.
But if the meaning here is that Jesus preached to those who
lived in the days of Noah, while they were yet alive, someone is going to ask
the question, “Why are they then called
‘spirits?’” We believe we have already answered that question. Peter speaks
of them as they were when he wrote, not as they had been or were at the time when the message was preached to them. The idea is that those
spirits Peter refers to are now in prison, but formerly they had lived in the
days of Noah, when the message had actually been delivered.
Now we continue in 1 Peter 3:20: “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in
the days of Noah.” Seems pretty
clear, does it not? The spirits referred to in verse 19 are the people who were
alive before the great Flood. So now that we know who these spirits were, let
us find out what is meant by in prison in
What Does Peter Mean
Purgatory, or the limbus
patrum, is the answer the Catholic Church would give us. A place in which
departed souls are to be confined for an undetermined period of time depending
on their sin. The Catholic Church teaches they can be freed by prayer and any
number of good works performed by those who are still alive. That is simply an
invention of certain individuals who held positions of authority in the early
Church in order to increase their own power or wealth. There is no purgatory
and once a person dies in their own sins without the blood of Christ to save
them, they are eternally damned and sent directly to Hell without passing “Go.”
There is no “holding place” from which they can eventually enter into Heaven.
Several Scriptures affirm this (Psalm 73:24; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 5:8;
The word used here for prison means watch or guard, the act of keeping watch, or the guard itself; or any one
who is watched or guarded, as in a prison. The meaning in this passage is
undoubtedly to confine or imprison in Hell. This passage, therefore, cannot be
interpreted to support the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory for three
(1) The founding ideas which enter
into the doctrine of purgatory are not to be found in the meaning used here.
(2) There is no evidence in the
interpretation of the passage that any message is delivered to these people while
(3) There is not the slightest hint
that they can be released by any prayers or offerings of people who are still
alive on the earth. The simple idea here is one of people being confined as
they are when in a prison.
Let us now move on to the third question to be answered.
When Was The Message
Given to Them?
Was the message brought to them while they were in prison,
or at some previous period? The Roman Catholic Church says that it was while in
prison. It is their position that Christ, after he was put to death in the
body, was still kept alive in his spirit, and went and proclaimed His Gospel to
those who were in prison.
Christ was certainly kept alive because He was God, but Scripture gives us no
record that He ever went to speak to dead people or fallen angels anywhere.
If the meaning here is that Christ went and preached after his death to residents of Hell or
the Abyss or any other place outside of Heaven, why would there be a specific
reference to those only who had been disobedient in the days of Noah? Why were they alone selected for this message?
Are they separated in some ways from the others? Were they the only ones in
purgatory who could benefit from Jesus’ preaching? To think that Christ
preached to these spirits after His death appears to be a very weak position
and we are about to explain why.
We suggest that the meaning of this verse is found in
Peter’s statement that Christ once preached to the spirits in prison in the
days of Noah; Christ preached to the people before the Flood through His
We find this interpretation to be in accord with Peter’s
primary purpose in this passage, which was to encourage those to whom He was
speaking. His purpose was to encourage them in times of trouble by pointing to
Christ as their example, who suffered so many trials and even persecution as
far back as the time of Noah. Even back then Jesus’ message was opposed,
reviled, disbelieved, and persecuted.
It was Peter’s purpose to alert his listeners to the fact
that Jesus’ message to mankind has been rejected by people even long before He
came to earth as the Messiah, but in spite of all the rejection Jesus
persevered and eventually won the victory over Satan because He was willing to
endure whatever He had to endure to be totally obedient to His Father.
A view that can be traced as far back as Augustine holds
that 1 Peter 3:19–20 refers to the pre-incarnate preaching of Christ through
Therefore the point that we must not miss in 1 Peter 3:19,20
is that Christ’s past ministry during the Old Testament period was resumed at His
death. Christ’s death was a victory, not a defeat. While death ended the
physical, earthly part of Jesus’ life and ministry, it allowed once again, and
in a new and better way for His divine Spirit to be at work in the life of all
Now let us put 1 Peter 3:18 and 19 together and continue
into verse 20 to complete this fascinating passage from Scripture:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God,
having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
in which also He (Jesus)
went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days
of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that
is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
The ark built by Noah which is referred to in 1 Peter 3:20
appears to be a symbol of a person’s passage to Heaven. It is the means of
bringing people to God, which we saw in verse 18. The people in the ark were
brought safely through the water (verse 20). In a similar way, believers are
brought safely to God through the cross. Water baptism and all it symbolizes is
the picture of the believer coming to God through Christ. Like Noah, the people
Peter was addressing had responded to God’s message and were trusting Christ to
bring them to God. The implication is that believers are not to jump out or
give up but wait patiently in their ark of Christ’s cross through the storms of
life. Believers are not to jump out of the ark to fight or retreat back into
the world’s ways.
This interpretation seems to fit the general theme of this
section (1 Peter 3:13-22), that is holding to your course even during the
storms of persecution. Noah is presented as an example of one who committed
himself to a course of action for the sake of a clear conscience before Jesus
even though it meant enduring harsh ridicule. Noah did not fear men but obeyed
Jesus and proclaimed His message. Noah’s reward for remaining faithful during
unjust suffering was the salvation of himself and his family, who were saved through water, being brought
safely through the Flood.
1 Peter 3:21 NLT:
And that water is a
picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your
body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective
because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Since death comes when the spirit leaves the body (James
2:26), then resurrection involves the spirit returning to the body (Luke 8:55). The Father raised Jesus from the
dead (Romans 6:4; 8:11), but the Son also had authority to raise Himself (John
10:17–18). It was a miracle. It is because of His resurrection that
Christians have the “living hope” mentioned
in 1 Peter 1:3, 4 NLT:
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great
mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from
the dead. Now we live with great expectation,
4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in
heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
We must never minimize the importance of the resurrection of
Jesus. It declares that He is God (Romans 1:4), that the work of salvation is
completed and accepted by God (Romans 4:25), and that death has been conquered.
The Gospel message includes the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1–4; Romans
10:9), for a dead Savior cannot save anyone. It is the risen Christ who
gives us the power we need on a daily basis for life and service (Galatians
Water here symbolizes baptism. Baptism represents a
complete break with one’s past life. As the Flood wiped away the old sinful
world, so baptism pictures one’s break from his/her old sinful life and his/her
entrance into new life in Christ. Peter now applied to his readers the
principle he set forth in verses 13-17 and illustrated in verses 18-20, that
is, of suffering for the sake of Christ, because Christ was punished for our
sins. Peter urged them to have the courage to commit themselves to a course of
action by taking a public stand for Christ through baptism. For a first-century
Christian, baptism meant they were following thorough on their commitment to
Christ, regardless of the consequences.
Baptism does not
save one from sin, but from a bad conscience. Peter clearly taught that baptism
was not merely a ceremonial act of physical purification, but the pledge of a
good conscience toward God. Baptism
is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has
trusted Christ as Savior.
make the source of salvation perfectly clear Peter added, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3).
1 Peter 3:22 NLT:
Now Christ has gone to heaven. He
is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and
authorities and powers accept his authority.
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven
to sit at the right hand of the Father, the place of reverence and worship.
Believers are seated with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:4–6), and through
Him we are able to “reign in life” (Romans
5:17). He is ministering to His Church as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14–16; 7:25)
and Advocate (1 John 1:9; 2:2). He is preparing a place for His people (John
14:1–6) and will one day come to receive them to Himself.
But again the main point Peter wanted to emphasize here was
Christ’s complete victory over all “angels
and authorities and powers” (1 Peter 3:22), referring to the
evil servants of Satan.
The un-fallen angels were always subject to Him. As Christians, we do not fight for victory, but from victory—the mighty victory that Jesus Christ won for us in
His death, resurrection, and ascension.
Even though various theologians have differing ideas about
the meaning of the phrase that Christ “made
proclamation to the spirits now in prison,” something by the way that has
no bearing on our salvation, it is easy to agree on the main lessons Peter was
sharing with his readers. Those are the lessons that we need today.
First of all, Christians
must expect opposition. As the
coming of Christ draws near, our faith will fuel the anger and attacks of
godless people. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, and yet He was crucified
like a common criminal. If Jesus, who was without sin, was treated cruelly,
what right do we who are imperfect have to expect to escape suffering?
A second lesson is that Christians
must serve God by faith and not trust only in results. Noah served God and kept only seven other people from the Flood;
yet God honored him for His faithful service. From those seven people, we
may take courage. Jesus appeared to be a total failure when He died on the
cross, yet His death was a great victory. His cause in the world today may seem
to be failing, but He will accomplish His purposes in this world.
Third, we can be encouraged because we are identified
with Christ’s victory. This is
pictured in baptism, and the doctrine is explained in Romans 6. It is the
baptism of the Holy Spirit that identifies a believer with Christ (1
Corinthians 12:12–13), and this is pictured in water baptism. We are cleansed
of all our sin when the Holy Spirit of Jesus comes to live in us after our
salvation. It is through the Spirit’s power that we live for Christ and witness
for Him (Acts 1:8). The opposition of mankind is energized by Satan, but
do not forget for a moment that Christ has already defeated these
principalities and powers. He has “all
authority in heaven and on earth” according to Matthew 28:18 NIV, and
therefore we can go forward with a sense of confidence and victory.
Another practical lesson is that our baptism is important. It does not save us, but it is an
important step in our walk with Christ. It
identifies us with Christ and gives evidence that we have broken with the old
life (1 Peter 4:1–4) and will, with His help, live a new life. The act of water
baptism is a pledge to God that we shall obey Him. To use Peter’s illustration,
we are agreeing to the terms of the contract. To take baptism lightly is to sin
against God. Some people make too much of baptism by teaching that it is a
means of salvation, which it is not, while others minimize it. Both are wrong. If
a believer is to have a good conscience, he/she must obey God.
Having said this, we want to make it clear that Christians
must not make baptism a test of fellowship or of spirituality. There are
dedicated believers who disagree on these matters, and we respect them. When
General William Booth founded the Salvation Army, he determined not to make it “another church,” so he eliminated the
ordinances. There are Christian groups, such as the Quakers, who, because of
conscience or doctrinal interpretation, do not practice baptism. I love the
verse in Romans 14:19, where Paul writes: “Let
us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith
one may edify another.” As well in Romans 14:5: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
The important thing is that each Christian proclaims his or
her faith in Christ and makes it a definite act of commitment. Many Christians
do this in baptism, but even the act of baptism can be minimized or forgotten. It
is in taking up our cross daily that we prove we are true followers of Jesus.
Finally, Jesus is the
only Savior, and the lost world needs to hear His Gospel. Some people try
to use this passage of Scripture (1 Peter 3:19) to prove a “second chance for salvation after death.” As we have seen, Hebrews
9:27 makes it clear that death ends the opportunity for salvation. This is why
the Church needs to get concerned about evangelism and missions, because people
are dying who have never even heard the Good News of salvation, let alone had
the opportunity to reject it. And chances are very good that one of them lives
right next door to you.
Peter made it clear that difficult days give us many
opportunities for witnessing to unbelievers. Are we taking advantage of our opportunities?