For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 7, 2008This chapter begins with a discussion of the Christian marriage relationship and teaching for women and men in general.
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external— the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." (3:1-6)
Peter addresses women first. First of all, he says that a believing wife should try her best to live with her lost husband and hopefully lead him to salvation. Notice the way she can lead him: by her daily life. Peter says Christian ladies should not be characterized by their sense of style or ostentatious display, but by the inner beauty of the heart. Of course this does not mean that they should not look nice or have expensive things, but a Christian lady should have a deeper sense of what is important in life than the world.
The last part of that passage is kind of strange. I think what Peter means (and I may be completely wrong) is that married women should not be afraid to follow their husband, even if he is lost. God will take care of the woman who follows His will by obeying her husband.
"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (3:7)
Of course you remember that Peter was married, so he was a voice of experience on these matters. I really can't say much about this passage, except that I am looking forward to trying to live out this verse in the near future. It does seem that the Lord takes the man's responsibility seriously, since it says here that a man's prayers will be hindered if he does not treat his wife right.
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For 'Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'" (3:8-12)
The quote in this passage is from Psalm 34. The Lord will always honor those who follow his plan for their life. That is the main thrust of the quote and of the entire passage, the rest of which follows:
"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." (3:13-17)
God has special rewards for those who suffer in this life for serving him. That is a comfort and an encouragement for us to stay the course and not be discouraged when bad things happen.
"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, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him." (3:18-22, ESV)
This is a wide-ranging passage. First of all, Peter points out that Christ left us an example, since he suffered for things he did not commit. Then Peter goes beyond the natural world and points out that Christ defeated the forces of wickedness by his death. There are several theories as to what it means when Peter talks about the demons who sinned before the Flood. I don't know exactly what to think, but I think it does indicate that God in his grace is now hindering the work of Satan and his demons in a way that he did not before the Flood. Mankind at that time was so degenerate that Noah preached for 120 years and only converted his little family.
I think it is clear that the reference to baptism in this passage is a reference to the spiritual baptism that all believers experience at salvation. Noah and his family were saved from the flood waters by their obedience, and we are saved from the power of Satan by our obedience to God.