1 Peter 3 Commentary

v.1 “It may seem strange that Peter’s advice to wives is six times as long as that to husbands. This is because the wife’s position was far more difficult than that of the husband. If a husband became a Christian, he would automatically bring his wife with him into the Church and there would be no problem. But if a wife became a Christian while her husband did not, she was taking a step which was unprecedented and which produced the acutest problems.

“What, then, must have been the problems of the wife who became a Christian while her husband remained faithful to the ancestral gods? It is almost impossible for us to realize what life must have been for the wife who was brave enough to become a Christian.”[1]

vv. 3-4 “Peter’s critique here joins a long list of ancient writers who chastised women for their concern with appearance […] External appearance is relatively unimportant, but internal virtue is the prime pursuit of life.  Yet this interpretation ought not to lead to the view that Christian women can dress as they like; rather, Peter urges them to regard their external appearance as a secondary matter to personal beauty and to dissociate themselves from the cultural trend of that day to adorn themselves so as to attract attention.”[2]

v.7 “He must remember that the woman has equal spiritual rights. She is a fellow-heir of the grace of life. Women did not share in the worship of the Greeks and the Romans. Even in the Jewish synagogue they had no share in the service, and in the orthodox synagogue still have none. When they were admitted to the synagogue at all, they were segregated from the men and hidden behind a screen. Here in Christianity emerged the revolutionary principle that women had equal spiritual rights and with that the relationship between the sexes was changed.”[3]

v.8 sympathy […] One thing is clear, sympathy and selfishness cannot coexist. So long as the self is the most important thing in the world, there can be no such thing as sympathy; sympathy depends on the willingness to forget self and to identify oneself with the pains and sorrows of others. Sympathy comes to the heart when Christ reigns there.”[4]

brotherly love.  […] The simple fact is that love of God and love of man go hand in hand; the one cannot exist without the other. The simplest test of the reality of the Christianity of a man or a Church is whether or not it makes them love their fellow-men.”[5]

compassion. […] It is easy to lose the sense of pity and still easier to be satisfied with a sentimentalism which feels a moment’s comfortable sorrow and does nothing. Pity is of the very essence of God and compassion of the very being of Jesus Christ; a pity so great that God sent his only Son to die for men, a compassion so intense that it took Christ to the Cross. There can be no Christianity without compassion.”[6]

humility. […] Christian humility comes from two things. It comes, first, from the sense of creatureliness. The Christian is humble because he is constantly aware of his utter dependence on God and that of himself he can do nothing. It comes, second, from the fact that the Christian has a new standard of comparison. It may well be that when he compares himself with his fellow-men, he has nothing to fear from the comparison. But the Christian’s standard of comparison is Christ, and, compared with his sinless perfection, he is ever in default. When the Christian remembers his dependence on God and keeps before him the standard of Christ, he must remain humble.”[7]

vv.10-12 “The psalm text [psalm 34] explains how 1 Peter 3:7 understands the unusual expression ‘that your prayers may not be hindered.’  Those who do not live as God intends cannot expect God to attend to their prayers. […] The suggestion to respond with a ‘blessing’ need not mean that we suddenly spout prayers.  It could mean quiet words of respect, sympathy, or even disagreement.  The psalm text presents a challenge.  It suggests that God hears not only how we pray but also how we speak to others.” [8]

“The Christian is supposed to be motivated by a desire to receive a ‘blessing from God’ (3:9), a desire grounded in the fact that God is the final Judge.  Christians have been called to inherit a blessing, which is God’s reward for an obedient life.  Peter supports his exhortation by quoting an Old Testament text that describes the close relationship between one’s life and God’s assessment of that person.  Knowing that God knows everything and is control of everything gives Christians a serenity and acceptance of injustices while they await the truthfulness of God’s final assessment. […] The fundamental point Peter makes is that God is omniscient and omnipresent – he sees all, knows all, and is always present.  People must not think that they can get by with evil behavior, for God is watching and evaluating; his eyes are on the righteous.  Moreover, he hears their prayers – that is, God is on their side, protecting and shielding them.”[9]

vv.13-15 “It has been well pointed out that we are involved in two kinds of suffering. There is the suffering in which we are involved because of our humanity. Because we are men, there come physical suffering, death, sorrow, distress of mind and weariness and pain of body. But there is also the suffering in which we may be involved because of our Christianity. There may be unpopularity, persecution, sacrifice for principle and the deliberate choosing of the difficult way, the necessary discipline and toil of the Christian life. Yet the Christian life has a certain blessedness which runs through it all. What is the reason for it?

“Peter’s answer is this. The Christian is the man to whom God and Jesus Christ are the supremacies in life; his relationship to God in Christ is life’s greatest value. If a man’s heart is set on earthly things, possessions, happiness, pleasure, ease and comfort, he is of all men most vulnerable. For, in the nature of things, he may lose these things at any moment. Such a man is desperately easily hurt. On the other hand, if he gives to Jesus Christ the unique place in his life, the most precious thing for him is his relationship to God and nothing can take that from him. Therefore, he is completely secure.”[10]

“Those who are innocent will shame their persecutors.  Christians look to the suffering of Christ as an example.  They should remember that baptism meant a regeneration of their moral lives.  Relationships within the community have a heightened significance for those facing the trials of the end time.”[11]

vv. 15b-16 “Earlier in the letter, the ‘lifestyle’ of Christians was the primary form of witness to others (2:15,3:1-2). Now a verbal response includes more than a blessing, it engages the outsider in a conversation.  The apology must do more than ‘explain’.  Its ultimate goal must be conversion of the other party.  Two adjectives describe the demeanor of the individual who makes such a defense, ‘humility’ or ‘gentleness,’ and ‘fear,’ that is, ‘reverence.’”[12]

“Christians are, in other words, expected to be prepared to speak at any moment about God’s salvation of his people through Jesus Christ and how that salvation will manifest itself at the end of history.  This very hope sustains them through persecution and gives them strength to carry on when everything looks dismal (cf. 1:6-9).”[13]

“I would emphasize at this point the need to see this passage in light of its context: the overall theme of vindication.  Jesus was righteous and suffered for the unrighteous; God vindicated him by exalting him to his right hand.  The churches of Peter need to know that if they remain faithful, like Jesus they too will be vindicated.  That is the hope that ought to sustain them as they endure suffering, the hope of which they are to be ready to speak, and the hope that Peter urges them to embrace.”[14]

vv.18-20 “Few passages have so many themes and different ideas intertwined. It is no wonder that commentators have shaken their heads in despair! But the main point is not complex. Just as Jesus suffered as a righteous man and was vindicated, so too if the churches of Peter live righteously (as he has exhorted them to do), they will be vindicated and sit with Jesus in the presence of God. Such an understanding of this passage is a typical way of putting this section into focus with the previous verses (3:13 – 17).”[15]

“This section contains some of the most difficult exegetical problems in the NT. […]  Before giving the exposition of the passage, a brief view of the major types of interpretations is in order. The three main groups of interpretation may be easily differentiated if the following questions are kept in mind: (1) Who are the ‘spirits’ to whom Christ made a proclamation? (2) When was this proclamation made? (3) What was its content?

1. In the first group of interpretations, Christ during the interval between his crucifixion and resurrection went down to the realm of the dead and preached to Noah’s contemporaries. This group is subdivided by various opinions on the nature of the proclamation. (1) Christ’s soul ministers an offer of salvation to the spirits. (2) He announces condemnation to the unbelievers of Noah’s time. (3) He announces good tidings to those who had already been saved.

2. In the second interpretation group, the pre-existent Christ is viewed as preaching in the time of Noah to Noah’s sinful generation.

3. In the third interpretation group, Christ proclaimed to the disobedient spirits (fallen angels) his victory on the cross. This proclamation took place either (1) during the three days in a descent into hell or (2) during his ascension. The writer takes the position that after Christ’s death, he made a victorious proclamation to the fallen angels during his ascension. The exposition of 3:18-4:6 develops and defends this position.”[16]


[1] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 218.

[2] Scot Mc Knight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 184-185.

[3] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 223.

[4] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 226.

[5] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 227.

[6] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 227.

[7] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 228.

[8] Pheme Perkins, 1 Peter, Interpretation Series (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1995) 60-61.

[9] Scot Mc Knight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 202.

[10] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 229.

[11] Pheme Perkins, 1 Peter, Interpretation Series (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1995) 61.

[12] Pheme Perkins, 1 Peter, Interpretation Series (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1995) 62-63.

[13] Scot Mc Knight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 214.

[14] Scot Mc Knight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 217.

[15] Scot Mc Knight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 215.

[16] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response