This week we discuss 1 Peter 3:1-22; there is so much to unpack in these verses, but here we will only paint broad strokes and encourage you as you dig deeper into this chapter. We are called for what purpose? As the discussion of humility and honor unfolds, Peter reminds us of our inheritance. (Ever wonder why? How often ought you to set your mind on your inheritance?)
In this chapter, Peter continues his discussion of submission and humility, moving on to discuss how that pertains to marriage, and especially to marriage after one person becomes a believer and the other is still a professing Jew. Peter then carries this submissive inner quality into our relationships within the local church (verses 8-12) and beyond that to life within a culture that is suspect and even critical, reminding us of how to pair humility with confidence in our conversations (verses 13-17). In this, Peter also reminds his readers that Jesus is God, and is not spoken of as less than the Father, or as partially God, or merely a creature from God. This chapter closes with one of the most misunderstood NT passages, but I’ll discuss how one commentator sheds light on the meaning. Let us begin then with verses 1-7.
Honor in Marriage
At the time of Peter’s writing, both Jewish and pagan alike treated women as less than human. Some men did honor and value their wives, but overall women were possessions, a means to an end, or a servant. Some Jewish writers at the time even regarded women as equal to dogs.
No wonder then that Christians needed to be reminded often of God’s ideals. Peter reminds women that they are submissive to their own husbands, this is good news in a marriage wherein men are told to honor their wives as fellow heirs of the grace of life! Fellow heirs! From the beginning God created us to be companions, best friends, yoke-fellows yoked together walking side by side through all the ups and downs of life. We cannot be yoked together if we are not submissive and honoring one another; otherwise that yoke will dig into our skin and hurt as one spouse pulls away seeking his own way.
Honor within the local church
Sometimes this generation scoffs at a “to do” list; they see lists of rules as oppressive. This is probably the case in many generations. Peter tells his readers to “be” which puts a slightly different emphasis on what he, through the Holy Spirit, is commanding.
Humble actions will flow out of hearts filled with the meekness and gentleness of Christ. But before that, we must “be harmonious.” Harmony. Oh find some beautiful music to listen to, and consider the beauty of a group of musicians playing in harmony. Consider something by Bach, or Offenbach, or Vivaldi. (seriously, try this one)
How delightful when the local church is in harmony, all its members being humble toward one another; being sympathetic, being compassionate–in thought, word, and deed. Some mistakenly think we need to find people outside the church who have all the same scars we have, have all the same fears, all the same anxieties, all the same circumstances–because “they will understand me.” This is wrong, we need every different instrument united in Christ to make the harmony beautiful, to make the compassion full (each member helping in different ways). We will not be harmonious if we are all the ‘same.’
What we need is a harmonious, sympathetic, compassionate body of Christ followers, filled the Spirit and abiding in His Word and His love, who will show us the same comfort they have received from God (cf 2 Corinthians 1). The One True God making us like Himself, filling each of us, that we may humbly serve one another.
For This Purpose: to inherit a blessing
Remember Peter’s reaction as Jesus began to wash his feet? Remember Jesus’ words, of how all His disciples ought to do this for one another? Remember His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, that we would pray for those who…persecute us? We bless rather than revile; we receive the mockery, the scorn, even the persecution and martyrdom–yet we walk in His victory, blessing rather than returning evil for evil. “Blessed are those who…” It is healthy for us to spend time musing upon all the beatitudes, especially the ones found in Revelation!
Honor in Conversations with unbelievers
Peter has already told us to “prepare our minds for action” and to “fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” To a community of believers who have this mindset, Peter then shows how this will shape your conversations. We will, in this mindset, “prove zealous for what is good.” Prove, show, make it known.
The world will see our good deeds (as described by Jesus in Matthew 5:16) and know our zeal, our passion, our delight. Yet this will lead to suffering. Why? Have you experienced this?
On a small scale, it appears like, being joked about and told to “lighten up.” Suffering could also appear like being excluded from family gatherings because…you would ruin the mood. Sometimes more subtly, or like gaslighting: wherein those who are “deconstructing” their faith and have declared they are not the bride of Christ, yet they know what love and truth and justice really are, give you the cold shoulder, and use social media to rail on “people who…” and show you their fake smile when seen out and about.
It hurts. It cuts deep, the wound festers and the grief is overwhelming at times. Remember Jesus looking down on Jerusalem weeping, expressing His desire to gather them, yet they refuse… He shares the grief we feel when we want others to partake of the true Gospel, but they will not be gathered unto Him who is our refuge.
“Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 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…” 1 Peter 3:14b-15
Christ as Lord in our hearts
Jesus is the second person in the Godhead, fully divine, having the title κυρίου , which in the Greek as it is used has the same emphasis as the Hebrew title YHWH. And as God does not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11), Peter is here teaching that Jesus Christ is God–but he is not really putting this teaching forth for the first time, he is referencing what he already taught and preached (see those sermons in Acts). κυρίου is also a favorite name used by Paul.
Declaring Jesus “Lord” is to the glory of God the Father! Philippians 2:11
I suggest that we continue (or begin, as the case may be) teaching robust doctrine and theology in your home and in our local churches, so that Christians who are commanded to grow in knowledge will; and that they would understand what these names and titles mean, and would use them with delight. Peter and Paul used this title in a time when calling Jesus “Lord” would get you martyred–only Caesar was lord for the Romans. The Caesar must be worshiped. For a more indepth look at God’s Name, YHWH, see here.
Verses 18-22 is a beautiful summing up of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Christ died for sins once for all–good news, no more sacrifices needed! His work is sufficient, and enduring, and powerful. He died so that He might bring us to God. Jesus is the Way, and no one comes to the Father but by Him, through the cross. His death was not the end of Him, for He was made alive in the spirit.
Jesus made proclamation, in the spirit, in His resurrection body. He proclaimed His victory! (Cf Colossians 2:12-15 and Cf Ephesians 2; He came and preached peace to you who were far off, and peace to those who were near.)
At the time of Peter’s writing, the end had not come; nor has it yet come–so the spirits now in prison are in a time of waiting–waiting for final judgment, though they all now know He is Victorious. This prison is not something we should try to “figure out” concerning location, etc. If it were important, He would have described those details. Think not of location, but of situation and circumstance.
Twice now Peter has mentioned a clean conscience. Our inner voice, our thoughts, shaped by what we hear, read, believe. Our conscience will prick us when we go against what we believe; even if that belief is false. Before being made alive in Christ our conscience is shaped by so many voices. Voices telling us how to earn approval, telling us how to find ‘self worth,’ or how to be acceptable in our culture. Some of those voices will seep in unknowingly; others you will accept whole heartedly. In Christ, we have a clean conscience–the Spirit at work in us to conform our thoughts to His, our affections to His, and to ground our wisdom and beliefs in His wisdom and truth.
Thus Peter tells us to “keep a good conscience” and that is rooted in having already appealed to God for a clean conscience (verses 16 and 21). No one makes peace with God. No one cleans his own conscience. The Triune God does this work in us, for us; from start to finish. To Him we appeal, to Him we listen, as we choose the good portion. https://abidedeep.com/she-chose-the-good-portion/
Our hope, our comfort, in this age of tribulations, (and for future generations in their tribulations) is both in knowing Jesus’ resurrection proves all that He promised is true; and in knowing He is “at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” Subjected to Jesus, and therefore we can walk by faith knowing that nothing that happens to us in this world is ultimate, it can not ruin the future God has planned for us (that inheritance which is imperishable, chapter 1:3-5).
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash