1 Peter 3:1
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,
(a) In the same way that Christ gave us example to follow by laying down his life for us (see 1 Pet. 2:21, 24), husbands and wives are to yield and lay down their lives for each other. Speaking first to wives and then to husbands (see 1 Pet. 3:7), Peter encourages both to submit to each other in love.
(b) Be submissive. Putting the needs of the other first is the essence of love. “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5). We give ourselves to others as an act of worship to the One who gave himself for us.
True submission stems from love, not power. It is saying, “Because I love you, I choose to put you first.” Submission is not forced on us from above; it is something we offer to another. It’s choosing to surrender because we want to, not because we have to.
(c) Disobedient to the word. Unbelievers; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:8.
In a healthy marriage, wives submit to husbands and husbands submit to wives and both submit to Christ (Eph. 5:21). But what if the husband is an unbeliever. What can the Christian wife do then? She can follow the lead of Queen Esther who won her husband with sacrificial love (see entry for 1 Pet. 3:5). A believing wife is a priest in her marriage. Through her loving deeds and gentle speech she may lead her man to righteousness.
(d) They may be won or convinced that the Lord is good.
If your husband is an unbeliever, the temptation may be to write him off or settle for a second-rate marriage. A better strategy is to own the situation. Step up and take the lead. Pray for your husband. In your actions, reveal the love of the Father to him. Don’t love him more when he goes to church or less when he doesn’t. Love him unconditionally as Christ loves you. Unconditional love is winsome. It melts hard hearts and penetrates thick skulls.
1 Peter 3:2
as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
(a) Chaste means innocent, modest, and pure.
(b) Respectful. The original word (phobos) means fear, but the translation fits the context. A wise woman does not try to dominate or manipulate her husband. Instead, she listens to him and defers to him with genuine love and respect.
(c) Behavior. Actions speak louder than words.
1 Peter 3:3
Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
Not merely external. True beauty comes from within (see next verse). What you wear or don’t wear is a secondary concern.
1 Peter 3:4
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.
(a) The hidden person. The inner you (your spirit and soul) which can be contrasted with the outer you (your mortal body). See entry for Rom. 7:22.
(b) Imperishable quality. Our physical appearance will age, but true godliness lasts forever.
(c) A gentle and quiet spirit is gentle and meek like Jesus (Matt. 21:5). The Prince of peace does not shout, nag, or bully people.
(d) Precious in the sight of God. God is more interested in the heart than the hairdo (1 Sam. 16:7). A heart that pleases the Lord is one that trusts him and leans on him.
1 Peter 3:5
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;
In former times. In the Old Testament godly women won over their husbands through gentleness and respect rather than external adornments and nagging. Esther is the stand-out example. “If it pleases the king…” (Est. 5:4). With five words and a gentle spirit, Esther turned the heart of foolish Xerxes.
1 Peter 3:6
just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
(a) Sarah obeyed Abraham. Abraham made some terrible decisions but his wife stood with him through thick and thin.
Peter has been discussing godly wives submitting to unbelieving husbands (see 1 Pet. 3:1), and strangely the example he chooses is a man revered for being the father of the faith. But even good men miss the way from time to time and Abraham was no exception. He pretended his wife was his sister and allowed her to be taken into Pharaoh’s household (Gen. 12:11–15), and then he repeated his deception with Abimelech (Gen. 20:2). Yet even when Abraham acted foolishly, Sarah never called him a fool. She remained a faithful wife.
(b) Calling him lord (see Gen 18:12). The point is not that Sarah served Abraham in the way a servant serves a master, but she submitted to him in the way a loving wife (or husband) submits to her husband (or wife). A wife may refer to her husband as “my king,” and a husband refers to his wife as “my queen.” But both do so out of love and affection rather than coercion and control.
(c) You have become her children. Just as Abraham is the spiritual father of all who have faith in God (see Gal. 3:7), Sarah is the spiritual mother of those who follow her godly example.
(d) If you do what is right. If you choose to love (see 1 Pet. 3:1).
Equality and mutual respect are essential ingredients of a healthy marriage, but equality is never the goal; love is. A good marriage is a partnership between equals who ironically don’t see themselves as equal. The husband loves his wife more than his own life, and the wife submits to her husband as to the Lord. Each prefers the other to themselves.
Further reading: “Equality is not the goal”
(e) Without being frightened. Fear is a symptom of an unhealthy relationship.
The children of God are meant to be fearless and there is no fear in love. But there will be fear if your spouse is threatening, abusive or violent. The exhortation to be submissive should not be read as “let him (or her) mistreat you.” But as God has given you grace, sow grace into your marriage.
1 Peter 3:7
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
(a) You husbands in the same way. As Sarah obeyed and submitted to Abraham, husbands are to submit and obey their wives. Love is other focused. Love trusts, obeys, and yields. Some men are familiar with the verse about wives submitting to their husbands, but they miss the bit where Peter says, “You submit too.” And they miss where Paul says to husbands and wives, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). Love is two-way street (see entry for 1 Pet. 5:5).
(b) As with someone weaker. Peter is not saying females are feeble. He’s saying women have been victims of an ancient prejudice.
Every time he went to the Temple, Peter passed through the outer Women’s Court on his way to the male-only Court of Israel. Every time he attended the synagogue or saw a woman get stoned for adultery, Peter was reminded that women have not had a fair shake. From the day women were born, their rights were weaker, and their prospects were bleaker. Taking his lead from Jesus, Peter spoke out against this injustice. He encouraged women to prophesy and speak as though speaking the very words of God (1 Pet. 4:11). He treated women with respect, and he instructed husbands to treat their wives as fellow heirs of grace.
(c) Weaker. Science tells us that women have better immune systems, better genes, and they live longer than men. They experience less stress and lower heart disease, and are much less likely to start wars. Women perform better academically (when given the chance), companies run by women are more profitable, and countries led by women do better at surviving pandemics. Women are surely different, but it’s inaccurate to say they are weaker. Yet many men think women are weaker, and this is the mindset that Peter is addressing here. It’s not his view, but their view, and as a result their prayers are hindered. If the original language allowed punctuation marks, this word “weaker” would surely be in quotation marks.
(d) Show her honor. The original word for honor (time) describes how God views Jesus (2 Pet. 1:17). It also captures the high worth with which believers value the Lord (1 Pet. 2:7). If you have been taught to view your wife as weaker or inferior, renew your mind and learn to see her as her Father’s beloved daughter. She is as precious and highly-valued by the Lord, and worth infinitely more than mere rubies.
(e) A fellow heir. If you see others as equal in grace, you are walking in grace. But if you see yourself as superior to others, you are not walking in grace and your prayers will be hindered.
That wives were fellow heirs in grace would have been a radical notion for first-century men. Yet even today there are some who have trouble accepting their wives as equal partners in the Lord. Those who dismiss their wives as weaker or subordinate, will find their prayers hindered.
(f) Heir of the grace of life. Life is God’s gracious gift to humanity and women have just as much a share in it as men. This is especially true when it comes to the gift of eternal life.
(g) So that your prayers will not be hindered. The prayers which are hindered are those that begin, “Thank God that I am not like other people” (Luke 18:11).
If you look down on your spouse or others your prayer life will be impeded by your own infernal pride. You will have trouble receiving grace because your haughty heart has no room for it. You may not say it in so many words but your attitude is “They need grace, but I don’t.” Since your heart is in the wrong place, it will seem like heaven is closed to your prayers (see 1 Pet. 5:5).
Further reading: “Are women weaker vessels?”
1 Peter 3:8
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;
(a) To sum up. The secret to a happy and healthy relationships is not complicated.
(b) Be harmonious. Be likeminded.
In any marriage or church or organization there will be a diversity of viewpoints. To enjoy harmony requires a commitment to compassion and love that exceeds any differences of opinion. Putting the other one first, means hearing what they say and feeling what they feel. It’s choosing to love and support them even if you do not love and support their viewpoint.
(c) Sympathetic. Compassionate.
(d) Brotherly. Treat believers like family.
(e) Humble in spirit. Where there is humility there is harmony. Where there is selfish ambition, there are quarrels and strife and all sorts of trouble (Jas. 3:16).
1 Peter 3:9
not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
(a) Not returning evil for evil. Any relationship that is based on keeping score is doomed. But a relationship that keeps no record of wrongs will endure any storm.
(b) Insult for insult. Trading insults is a fast track to discord and strife. Instead of repaying in kind, repay with kindness (Luke 6:28). Sow what you want to reap. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31).
(c) You were called. When God called you out of darkness (1 Pet. 1:15, 2:9), it was for the purpose of including you in his family so that you might become an heir and inherit a blessing.
(d) Inherit a blessing. In Christ we are heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14), heirs of eternal life (Matt. 19:29, Mark 10:17, Eph. 1:14, Tit. 3:7), and heirs of blessed and gracious life (Eph. 1:3, 1 Pet. 3:7, 9). See entry for Inheritance.
1 Peter 3:10–11
For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
(a) Life. The secret to a long and happy life is to pursue peace and Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). When we proclaim the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) we are revealing the way of peace (Luke 1:79) which leads us to the God of peace (Rom. 15:33) who gives us life and peace (Rom. 8:6).
(b) Tongue. Someone with an old covenant mindset reads these words (from Psalm 34:12–14) as a collection of aphorisms and life hacks. “If you want a good life, learn to control your tongue.” But the tongue cannot be untamed (Jas. 3:8). The tongue is a restless evil and all the effort in the world cannot cure it. Only the Holy Spirit can give us a new heart and a new tongue.
The divine life that God offers is more than a collection of tips and tricks. The Christian life is the Prince of Peace living in us. Abide in Christ and everything you say and do will be good.
(c) Do good. In the old covenant, doing good meant keeping the rules, but in the new covenant, doing good is what we do when we experience the goodness of the God.
When Jesus said “those who have done good will rise to live” (John 5:28), he was speaking in the context of walking by faith in him (see John 5:24). Similarly, when Paul said God will give eternal life to those who persist in doing good, he meant the same thing (Rom. 2:6). Doing good in a spiritual sense is living in union with the One who is good and allowing his goodness to flow through us to others.
Further reading: “Rewarded for doing good.”
(d) Peace is something to pursue and in Christ you have it.
The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). If the message you’re listening to doesn’t reveal Jesus and the gift of his righteousness, you will never experience the peace and joy that comes with it. But if you receive the righteousness that comes by faith, you will be satisfied, content, and enjoy peace with God.
1 Peter 3:12
“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”
(a) The eyes of the Lord. Peter quotes an Old Testament scripture (2 Chr. 16:9) to make a new covenant point: The Lord is watching over you (1 Pet. 1:5), and he hears your prayers (1 John 5:15). You don’t need to fast and pray to get the Lord’s attention for his face is shining upon you with love.
(b) The righteous are those who have humbled themselves before God and have received, by faith, the free gift of his righteousness. When the Lord looks at the believer, he sees someone who is 100 percent righteous. See entry for Righteousness.
(c) The Lord is against. The Lord is opposed to the haughty and self-righteous.
An old covenant mindset reads this as “The Lord hates sinners.” But Jesus is the friend of sinners. He doesn’t hate them; he loves them enough to die for them (Rom. 5:8).
(d) Those who do evil are the proud and ungodly who show contempt for God’s kindness (Rom. 2:2–5). They resist his Spirit and scorn the Son who might otherwise save them (2 Pet. 2:5).
1 Peter 3:13
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
(a) Who is there to harm you? Why should you experience trouble if you are enthusiastic in serving the Lord? Christians are good citizens (1 Pet. 2:13).
(b) What is good. God is good (Mark 10:18). To be zealous for what is good is to be passionate about the goodness of God. It’s being so full of your Father’s love that you want others to experience his goodness too.
1 Peter 3:14
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,
(a) To suffer for the sake of righteousness is to suffer for being a Christian (1 Pet. 4:16). Trials and tribulations are a normal part of the Christian life. See entry for 1 Pet. 1:6.
(b) You are blessed because God is in your corner; your persecution proves it. If you belonged to the world, you would not be suffering for the sake of righteousness. You are a citizen of an eternal kingdom. Your affliction is evidence of that.
(c) Do not fear. The children of God can face trials and tribulations without fear because they know that God has the last word (Jas. 5:8). No matter what happens the Risen Lord is mighty to save.
(d) Intimidation. The original noun (phobos) is related to the verb fear (phobeo), so Peter is saying the same thing as Isaiah 8:12: “Do not fear what they fear.” When trials come, the unbeliever has no choice but to fear. But when you are resting in the Lord, your heart will be untroubled and you will smile at the storm (John 14:1, 27).
1 Peter 3:15
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
(a) Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Honor Jesus as the Lord of your situation.
When you are suffering through trials or afflictions, the temptation is to think that God doesn’t know and doesn’t care. But Christ is the Good Shepherd and Guardian of your soul (1 Pet. 2:25). His eyes are upon you (1 Pet. 3:12), and his power protects you (1 Pet. 1:5).
To say “Jesus is Lord” is to declare “He is greater than what I am going through.” It is having the confidence that he will bring you safely through (Is. 41:10).
(b) Being ready. What looks like persecution may actually be an opportunity to reveal the love of God to those who are attacking you (1 Pet. 2:21).
(c) Defense. Be ready to explain why you have hope in a hopeless situation. Be ready to talk about the Risen Lord who gives life and hope to those who are as good as dead (1 Pet. 1:3).
(d) The hope that is in you. If faith is the confidence we have for today, hope is the confidence we have for tomorrow. Jesus is the Source of our faith and hope and the reason we can be fearless in the face of death (see entry for Rev. 2:10).
1 Peter 3:16
and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
(a) Keep a good conscience. Don’t let those slanderers and their false accusations get to you.
Walk in grace and you will be accused of being anti-law and pro-sin. You will be dismissed as extreme, unbalanced, or hyper-grace, as though that were a bad thing. Heed the voice of accusation and you risk casting away your good conscience and shipwrecking your faith (1 Tim. 1:18–19). The best response to slander is to reassure your heart that your heavenly Father knows you and loves you (1 John 3:20–21). If God justifies you, who can condemn you (Rom. 8:31–33)?
(b) Slandered; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:12.
(c) Your good behavior in Christ. The good life you live in response to the goodness of God.
Again, good behavior means more than keeping the rules. Good behavior in a new covenant sense is the fruit of feasting on the goodness of God. It is receiving God’s love and grace and freely sharing it with others.
(d) Put to shame. When the truth comes out, those who slandered you will be embarrassed over the shoddy way the treated you.
1 Peter 3:17
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
(a) If God should will it. Some read these words as though God was behind their suffering. “God gave me this trial to teach me character.” But the context is unjustly suffering for the sake of righteousness (1 Pet. 3:14). Why would God persecute you for being a Christian?
A just God cannot author unjust suffering and it is not his will for his children to be abused or mistreated. God redeems our suffering; he doesn’t cause it. What others intend for evil, he uses for good.
A better way to read it is “if you suffer according to the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:19), meaning, it is better to suffer for being a Christian (1 Pet. 4:16) than to suffer for being a criminal.
(b) Doing what is right. Living righteously because your faith is in the Righteous One; see entry for 1 Pet. 2:15.
(c) Doing what is wrong; see entry for 1 Pet. 4:15
1 Peter 3:18
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;
(a) Died for sins once for all. All our sins – past, present, and future – were dealt with once and for all time at the cross (Heb. 10:12).
God doesn’t do partial redemptions. On the cross, Jesus took away the sins of the whole world and no further sacrifice for sin remains (Heb. 9:26, 10:18, 1 John 2:2).
(b) In the flesh. In the body.
(c) Made alive in the spirit. Jesus was raised to life by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11).
1 Peter 3:19
in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
(a) The spirits now in prison. Those who were dead at the time of the crucifixion (1 Pet. 4:6).
Although some Old Testament prophets glimpsed God’s plan for salvation (1 Pet. 1:10), most people had no idea what was coming (Heb. 9:8). They died without hearing the gospel. But after his death on the cross, Jesus went and preached the good news to these spirits imprisoned in the grave (Eph. 4:9).
Some interpret this tricky passage as though Jesus went and preached to fallen angels, but Jude said that the angels who abandoned heaven are being confined in darkness until Judgment Day (Jude 1:6). The imprisoned spirits belong to people not angels or demons (1 Pet. 4:6).
(b) Made proclamation. He announced or declared the good news (see entry for 1 Pet. 1:12).
(c) Prison. The context suggests the prison is the grave – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek. It is the abode of the dead and should not be confused with Hell.
The Apostles’ Creed claims that after Jesus was buried “he descended to hell” before rising on the third day. The Creed was included in the English Book of Common Prayer in the 17th century. At that time, the Middle English word hell meant to conceal or hide. The hell of the Apostles’ Creed is likely a reference to the depths of Hades and does not refer to what we understand as a fiery Hell.
See also the entry for Matt. 16:18.
1 Peter 3:20
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.
(a) Who once were disobedient. Dead unbelievers (1 Pet. 4:6), including those who were destroyed in the time of Noah (2 Pet. 2:5).
(b) The patience of God kept waiting. The God who is not willing that any perish (2 Pet. 3:9), waited for the ancients to repent.
(c) The days of Noah. Noah, the heir of righteousness, condemned the ancient world (Heb. 11:7); Jesus, the king of righteousness, went and showed them the way of righteousness so that they might be saved.
(d) Eight persons. Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives were saved through the flood (Gen. 7:13).
1 Peter 3:21
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
(a) Corresponding to that. Noah’s salvation through water is a prophetic picture of spiritual baptism.
(b) Baptism now saves you. The baptism that saves is the baptism done to every believer by the Holy Spirit. This is not a direct reference to water baptism or any kind of baptismal ritual other than the one baptism that counts (Eph. 4:5). The moment you came to Jesus, you were baptized or placed into his body by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12–13). See entry for Baptism.
(c) An appeal. If you want to have a good conscience, put your faith in Christ’s cleansing work.
(d) A good conscience is what you have when you are walking in step with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 9:1).
The conscience makes judgments based on knowledge, and the most reliable source of knowledge is the Spirit of Truth. When the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that this is the way to go, and your conscience heeds this instruction, your conscience will be good and clear.
Further reading: Conscience
(e) Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not a dead savior of no use to anyone; he is the Risen Savior who saves to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25).
The moment you put your faith in the risen Lord, you received the baptism that saves. Your old man was buried with Christ and you were instantly raised and seated with him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). “We have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
1 Peter 3:22
who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
(a) At the right hand of God. The Son shares his Father’s throne (Heb 10:12). See also the entry for Matt. 22:44.
(b) Having gone into heaven. Jesus is no longer in the grave but he has returned to heaven in triumph with “captives” (Old Testament saints) in his train (Eph. 4:8).
(c) Authorities and powers. Some people make much of the various authorities and powers that populate the spiritual realm. They like to speculate about their influence and effects on the affairs of men. These speculations can miss the point, which is that all angels and authorities and powers are subjected to King Jesus.
(d) Subjected to him. The One who was despised and rejected by men has been given a Name above all names (Php. 2:9). “‘You have put all things in subjection under his feet.’ For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb. 2:8).
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.
- 1 Peter 3:1
- 1 Peter 3:2
- 1 Peter 3:3
- 1 Peter 3:4
- 1 Peter 3:5
- 1 Peter 3:6
- 1 Peter 3:7
- 1 Peter 3:8
- 1 Peter 3:9
- 1 Peter 3:10-11
- 1 Peter 3:12
- 1 Peter 3:13
- 1 Peter 3:14
- 1 Peter 3:15
- 1 Peter 3:16
- 1 Peter 3:17
- 1 Peter 3:18
- 1 Peter 3:19
- 1 Peter 3:20
- 1 Peter 3:21
- 1 Peter 3:22