Devotional: 1 Peter 3:1-22
While Peter seems to move from speaking of following Christ’s example when persecuted and entrusting ourselves to His saving sacrifice on our behalf to a pointed teaching to the women in his audience, I believe he is actually continuing his call to honor authority that he began in verses 12 to 20 of chapter 2. In verse 12 of chapter 2, Peter calls on his Jewish background trusters to “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God on the day of visitation.” I think that, starting with verse 18 of chapter 2, he began to be more specific on how to apply verse 12 in their lives. First, he addressed believing slaves and masters, now he addresses the believing women.
Looking at verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3, I do not believe that Peter is saying that women should not take care to look nice, or that jewelry or certain hairdos are not “godly”. I believe that he is saying that the outward “picture” that we women seek to present to the world should not be our main focus. Instead, we need to spend time on our character. We should focus on “working out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13), that is seeking to have our inner change of heart and mind because of the new life birthed within us through trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for our sin(s) be more and more visible to the watching world, starting with our own families. Just like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:10-24, our lives lived out in gratitude to Christ can speak volumes to those who see us day in and day out. One could say that our first (and maybe toughest) mission field is within our own household.
I noticed another clue as to who Peter is addressing in this letter here in verses 5 and 6 of chapter 3. While Jewish trusters in Christ would relate to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, Gentile trusters would not have that knowledge of and respect for her in their background.
One more item from verse 1, what does it mean to be “subject to” or to be “submissive to”? The word used here in the Greek originally was “a military term meaning to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader. In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” Here Peter is using it as voluntarily “being made subject”, or as subordinate yourselves to your husbands. This is not because he is to “rule” over the wife, but it falls more into the military aspect of the word. I think that God has set up a hierarchy of responsibility. He is head over Christ, Christ is head over the Church (the Body of trusters), husbands and wives are thus both in submission to Christ. This responsibility means that they have to answer to God for what happens to those they are in responsibility for. Within the home, the husband has the responsibility to care for his family (as Christ does for His Bride, the Church), the wife is called to voluntarily allow him to submit to Christ and be the head of the family. Husbands and wives share equally in household duties and the decision-making process, but I think that because husbands are held accountable for what happens to those who are under their direct care, as the “responsible one” they have the final say in matters that could adversely affect those whom they are responsible for.
It is interesting to me that Peter calls on husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman”. The word translated “weaker” means “strengthless (in various applications, literal, figurative and moral)”. This makes me think back to Adam and Eve. Eve was the one that the Serpent beguiled; she displayed moral weakness. While it is true that Adam also partook of the forbidden fruit, it is possible that he would have withstood the temptation to begin with had Satan approached him first. Along this line, Paul (in 2 Timothy 3:2-7) cautions against false teachers who prey on “morally weak” women.
Verses 8 and 9 sums up what he began in Chapter 2, verse 12, and concluded with Chapter 3 verse 7. His whole point has been unity. Unity not only in the Body of believers at church, but in the marketplace, and in the home. Remember, we are called to be at peace if possible with all men, “as far as it depends on us” (Romans 12:18).
Verses 10-12 are a quote from Psalm 34:12-16. The end of verse 12, “But the face of the Lord is against evildoers” reminds me of what Pastor said Sunday: Christ’s sacrifice saves us ultimately from being an enemy of God. Verse 11 enumerates behaviors that might catch the attention of God, that might be considered “righteous”. However, it is important to note that doing these behaviors is not enough to be “righteous” or to no longer be considered an enemy by God. Only by accepting the gift of God’s Son dying in your place, for your sin(s), will you be transformed from enemy to friend. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” In 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, Paul tells us “20 We are therefore ambassadors for Messiah, as though God were making His appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Messiah, be reconciled to God. 21 He made the One [Christ Jesus] who knew no sin to become a sin offering on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” And he notes in Philippians 2:13, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” So while Peter is quoting Psalm 34, reminding his readers of what God is looking for in a righteous person, he is not saying that this is a blueprint for attaining God’s good opinion. Instead, these are the behaviors and the resulting blessing that come from having our sin(s) washed away by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice.
I think verses 13-17 are reflecting back to what Peter said back in chapter 2, verses 13-15. We are to live in such a way that those who are a part of the world system around us will have to admit (at least to themselves) that our God is alive and worthy of honor and obedience. However, Peter also recognizes that his readers are suffering persecution—especially because they are honoring and obeying God! I like the way the Amplified version puts this: “14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness [though it is not certain that you will], you are still blessed [happy, to be admired and favored by God]. Do not be afraid of their intimidating threats, nor be troubled or disturbed [by their opposition]. 15 But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. 16 And see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused, those who attack or disparage your good behavior in Christ will be shamed [by their own words].” This is the attitude that is exemplified for us by Christ Himself, as pointed out in verse 18.
Verses 19-21 are a little confusing, and when I looked at commentaries, they did not clear it up for me. I think that baptism here is not necessarily talking about water immersion. The word translated here can mean the “processes of immersion, submersion and emergence”, but it is not just used in talking about John’s baptism or Christian baptism. It is also used for the “overwhelming afflictions and judgments to which the Lord voluntarily submitted on the cross” and “of the sufferings His followers would experience, not of a vicarious character, but in fellowship with the sufferings of their Master.” I believe that this “baptism” is what takes place when the Holy Spirit places us in Christ (overwhelms us in a sense) causing us to be part of Christ’s death and resurrection. Colossians 2:11-13 I think bears this out. In any case, we are NOT saved by water baptism, but by the resurrection of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit making us a part of His resurrection.
In verse 22, Peter gives us a glimpse of our LORD today: Risen from the dead, in heaven, seated at God’s right hand (a place of honor), ruling over all angels, authorities and powers. In the midst of persecution, this is important to remember: the victory has already been won. No matter how “out of control” it seems that this world system gets, nor how much we may experience persecution in the coming days or years, Christ is already (and still!) in charge and is orchestrating things to come out as His word has proclaimed it will. For this reason, we trusters in Christ (be we Jew or Gentile) should live our lives in such a way as to bring honor and glory to Him. As Paul writes to Timothy in his first letter (1 Timothy 6:11), “11 But you, O man of God . . . pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”
Devotional reading to be shared on August 5thth: 1 Peter 4:1-19