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Bible: What Does 1 Peter 3 Teach Us About Marriage and Righteous Suffering?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Wedding Rings



Addressing the topic of the marriage relationship, the apostle first commands wives to submit themselves to their own husbands (v. 1a; cf. Paul’s imperative in Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18).

Having the salvation of husbands in view, he instructs the women to behave chastely and reverently so that they might win their spouses to Christ “without a word” (vv. 1b-2).

[Apparently, Christian women often had unsaved husbands who did not allow their wives to talk to them about such a sensitive subject as salvation.]

Peter advises that they employ a spiritual methodology—that is, showing their husbands the hidden “gentle and quiet spirit” that God regards as precious —rather than merely a physical, external approach (for example: wearing nice clothes and jewelry, and arranging their hair attractively) to reach their spouses (vv. 3-4).

Sarah, Wife of Abraham


Proper Submission

The apostle chooses Sarah of the OT as someone who did not have to use the first method to persuade Abraham to obey the LORD, but still exemplified “the holy women who trusted in God,” apparently modeling a submissive spirit before her husband in her daily life (vv. 5-6a).

If Peter’s female readership manifest good works and do not grovel in slavish fear before their husbands, then they are behaving as Sarah’s spiritual daughters would act (v. 6b).

Peter issues only one long sentence/message to husbands regarding their conduct toward their wives.

He enjoins that they should make their home with their weaker vessels with an understanding spirit, and honor them as “fellow heirs of the grace of life” so that they could pray together in harmony (v. 7).

[Does Peter refer to physical strength when he calls a wife a “weaker vessel”?

Peter seems to regard men as naturally inconsiderate toward women; he wants to make sure that Christian men do not treat their wives as pagan masters abuse their slaves.]

The Marks of True Believers

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The apostle sums up his message with a series of commands exhorting his readers to respond to others in the proper way (vv. 8-12); this section eventually leads him into a lengthy discussion about suffering (3:13- 4:19).

Relationships in the Church ought to exemplify harmony, exhibit compassion, brotherly love, kindness, and humility, and confer benefits upon others, not insults and curses.

Knowledge of their own eternal blessing should motivate them to ask God to bless their enemies (vv. 8-9).

As support for his argument, Peter cites Psalm 34: 12-16—an exhortation (for those who want personal peace and happiness) not to speak evil of others, but to do right and seek to be on good terms with them.

God sees what the just do and hears them when they pray, but He opposes evildoers (vv. 10-12).

Suffering the Right Way


Attitude Toward Persecutors

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Maintain Good Testimony Amid Suffering

Returning to the issue of how to respond to those who are persecuting them for practicing righteousness (cf. v. 9), Peter concludes that believers will receive divine benefits (“blessed”) if they suffer for doing what is right.

He quotes the LORD’s word to Isaiah, a prophet who needed to fear God rather than human opponents (vv. 13-14; cf. Is. 8:12).

Instead of fearing others, believers should reverence Christ in their hearts and prepare themselves to defend their faith humbly before those who challenge them (“always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”) [v. 15].

They should make sure to maintain a clear conscience—that is, do not harbor any wrongdoing; make sure to cleanse sinful attitudes through confession and repentance—so that slanderers of their good behavior can find no support for their accusations (v. 16).

If God permits believers to suffer, it is better for them to endure pain for righteous deeds rather than for evil ones (v. 17).

Suffering at the Cross, Preaching Through Noah, Ascending to the Right Hand


Christ At the Cross, the Flood, the Ascension

For the supreme example of Someone who suffered righteously, Peter now points to Christ who endured the pain of the Cross for the sins of the unjust (v. 18a).

Jesus died physically, and God raised Him from death so that He might bring believers to heaven (v. 18b).

Through the Holy Spirit, Christ proclaimed a message to imprisoned spirits who once, as inhabitants of Noah’s world, disobeyed God’s warning about the Flood (vv. 19-20a).

[Jesus’ announcement of His victory over sin delivered between His death and resurrection appears to constitute this message to the spirits in Hades.

Ryrie thinks that it refers to the pre-incarnate Christ preaching through Noah to his contemporaries who are now spirits in prison.

Jesus may have been done that, but the text says that He preached to spirits in prison, not to the people in Noah’s day (New Testament Study Bible 431).

What message Jesus preached to them and when He preached it remain debatable issues.]

Peter sees the fulfillment (“antitype”) of God’s salvation of Noah and his family through the waters of the Flood in the symbolic washing of the conscience through immersion (“baptism”) [v. 21].

[Immersion (or any form of so-called baptism) does not wash away sins, but it does present a picture of what happens when an individual trusts in the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus for his salvation.]

This Jesus, Whom God raised from death, has ascended to heaven and reigns over His universal kingdom from the place of honor, having all spiritual beings under His command and control (v. 22).

[Jesus suffered righteously and took all authority over the angelic hierarchy.]

© 2014 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Ha! Ha! You have the right to remain silent. . .

    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 4 years ago from East Cackalacky

      Marriage and righteous suffering, eh? Come to think of it, those two are a pair ...

      err ...

      On second thought, maybe I should say no more.