AJBT. 1 Peter 3:1-12. A Life of Faith Begins at Home.

From: "Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <editor@biblicaltheology.com>
Subject: AJBT. 1 Peter 3:1-12. A Life of Faith Begins at Home.
Date: September 30th 2016

1 Peter 3:1-12.
A Life of Faith Begins at Home

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV

It is probably fair to say that the structure and integrity of the nuclear family is under tremendous attack in today’s society.  The “Father Knows Best” image of the family seems to be archaic and even laughable by today’s cultural standards.  The nuclear family, one with a father and mother, who together raise their children through adulthood, is becoming increasingly rare.  Single-parent homes are so common that it is becoming the norm in many communities, in itself redefining the concept of the nuclear family.  Currently over 40% of births take place without the advantage of a married mother. Recently the acceptance of legalized marriages of single-gender partners has become a badge of tolerance by an increasingly hedonistic and epicurean culture, and its acceptance is becoming common in modern Christian church polity.   It almost seems like the family is becoming obsolete and even culturally disdained, and if not in this generation, it may fully become so in the 21st century.  What is causing the escalating degeneration of the family structure in our society? 

There are at least three major New Testament passages that provide specific guidance on maintaining a godly family.  Discussions on slaves are also household guidelines since slaves were fully integrated members of the ancient household.


1 Peter 3:1.  Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

Consider the vast cultural differences of the ancients and what we experience today concerning the state of women.  Most ancient cultures held that women were considered a possession of the man, similar to his possession of property and animals.  Note that the LORD, Peter, Paul, the apostles and the first-century church held women with an equal respect with men in all ways.  This was a radical teaching of the early church.

Redemptive Behavior. 

When referring to the relationship between husband and wife, Peter uses the same word that is rendered "submissive" as in the relationship between servants to masters and citizens relating to the state.  Submission is not spineless groveling.  Rather, it is a voluntary selflessness which sets aside pride for a desire to serve.  It is not a submission of fear, but a submission of love.  This word, hypotasso refers to one’s choosing to submit to another for the benefit of both.

Lest we become one-sided when it comes to submission in the marriage union, we might take a look at Ephesians 5:21, Paul’s statement that immediately precedes his instructions on wives’ submission to husbands, and vice-versa.

Ephesians 5:21.  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

There is no biblical instruction that gives one member of the marriage a pass on submitting to the other.  The submission of one spouse to the other is fully mutual for the benefit of the marriage.  Both Peter and Paul give instructions on ways that the wife submits to the husband, and the ways that the husband submits to the wife.

Note, the Greek term idosis, idiosis,  refers to the submission of a wife to her own husband only.  This is a clear identification of the unique role of the husband that is not shared with other husbands or men in general.  This mutual submission is an important property of the “one flesh” of marriage.  Peter also addressed the advantages of submission by wives who are in marriages to unsaved husbands. 

Note the method that is to be employed by the wife in appropriately witnessing to an unsaved spouse.  Her obedience to the Word of God can serve as a model to her husband, and can serve to bring him to faith.  Only then will the mutual submission of their marriage be complete.  Note that nagging is not recommended!

1 Peter 3:2.   While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.


The word that is rendered conversation/behavior is the same as used in 2:12 to represent a lifestyle of uncompromised godly conduct.  Peter spells out this conduct as both reverent and chaste.  Peter appealed for behavior among Christian wives that show reverence to God, not for conduct that was based upon fear of their husbands.

To be chaste is to be pure, without any mixture of taintedness.  It was a word that referred to an attribute of an immutable and perfect deity.  It came to refer to moral uprightness and integrity.

Her character is to be one that loves the LORD, is obedient to the Word of God, and demonstrates sincere faith and obedience continually in her behavior, showing appropriate respect for her husband as she makes the Word of God the foundation of that relationship.  It is by this spiritual integrity that she will be known.

1 Peter 3:3.   Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

First-century Roman ladies typically wore no hats.  Fashion was defined by elaborate adornment of the hair and clothing.  The Greek word that is rendered outward adornment comes from the Greek word cosmos, which in their day, depending upon the context, referred to the known physical universe, the world, or that which is worldly.  It is the same word form from which we get the words cosmetics and cosmetology.  It is not the purpose of this passage to present a legalistic argument abolishing braided hair, jewelry and fine clothes.  This verse identifies that true beauty simply does not come from physical adornment but from the integrity of the internal spirit of the individual.  Adornment can serve as a  sham and cover-up that can never take the place of a humble, joyful, and gentle godly spirit.

Also, there was a wide range of near-eastern culture present in the early church that included people from both the lower and upper economic levels.  Making such a statement, Peter indicates that he knew that the church had some wealthy members.  It was, and still is, common for those at the higher levels to flaunt their wealth by wearing precious jewelry.  Such a display is inconsistent with the humility that the Holy Spirit would lead the faithful to demonstrate in their lives.  

Peter is not setting down a legalistic rule against the use of cosmetics.  The Apostle Peter dedicated his Christian life and work to the abolition of legalism.  Peter simply states that outward adornment should not be the basis for beauty.  However, lavish adornment can overpower the appearance of the actual individual, making a statement that is not consistent with the spirit of the wearer.  How should a Christian woman approach the wearing of cosmetics, jewelry and fine clothes?  The wearing of cosmetics is much like most things in life:  it is to be done in wisdom, moderation and in good taste.

1 Peter 3:4.   But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

“The Holy Spirit led Peter to remind women of the temporary happiness found in outward ornaments.  Rather, lasting joy comes from choosing love, compassion, and humility.”  Peter’s appeal calls, not for Sterling silver, but sterling character.  The inner-self refers to the true person that may be kept hidden under the hypocrisy of false disguises.  Compare the beauty of a well-adorned frown or scowl with an unadorned, impulsive, beaming, ear-to-ear smile.  What does the latter example show that the former does not?  There is a beauty in a sincere smile that cannot be obtained with any amount of cosmetics simply because a smile communicates the joy in the heart of the individual.

Cosmetics are both false and fleeting.  They do not last.  Peter urged Christian wives to adorn themselves with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit.  For Peter, Christian beauty was a matter of modesty, not makeup.  Peter wrote that such traits were precious in God's sight.  The term translated precious was an old Greek word that carried the idea of something of great intrinsic value.  It is used only two other times in the New Testament.

A Godly Example. 

1 Peter 3:5-6.   For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham XE "Abraham" , calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Peter's example of a Godly woman was Sarah.  “Although Peter mentioned Sarah specifically in verse 6, the plural "women" refers generally to godly women in the Old Testament.”  “The women in Peter's audience were holy in that they were set apart by God and belonged to Him. They were chosen by God (2:4) and possessed an eternal inheritance and salvation through Christ (1:4-5, 9). The word "holy," when used in 3:5 of women of ages past, seems connected to this thought previously expressed.”  Peter gave the example of Sarah as one who was holy, and was obedient and respectful of her husband through the many years of her adult life when she was marginalized and despised by those around her simply because she had born Abraham XE "Abraham"  no children.

Note that women are not to fear their husbands, yet hold them in respect due to the responsibilities that the LORD demands from them.  The word rendered, lord, does not refer to an attitude of spineless cowering, but is rather a title of respect for one who has been granted great responsibility.  A search of the Old Testament for Sarah’s reference to Abraham as lord is relatively complex, as Peter was using a multiple of circumstances to point out the respect and submission that Sarah demonstrated toward Abraham.  “There is no place where the Genesis stories state explicitly that Sarah obeyed her husband, and the only recorded instance of her calling him lord" is in derision.”  “The occurrence of the term "lord" does indeed come from Genesis 18, but that it is used by 1 Peter to typify what he sees as the commendable attitude of a wife as seen in Genesis 12 and 20.”  In these situations, Abraham’s treatment of Sarah was less than honorable.  From this example Peter urged Christian women to hold fast to their faith, even under provocation of their husbands.


1 Peter 3:7.   Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Hellenistic culture treated women as slaves.  “Peter's ethical instructions to Hellenized Jewish- Christians are grounded in the actions of their ancestors, and challenge husbands within a strongly patriarchal Greco-Roman culture to honor and value their wives as equal partners in God's work on historical grounds.”  Consequently, Peter's first implication (and final in this verse) alludes to the equality of responsibility of both partners.  The "likewise" refers to the command of submission by wives in verse 1.  Peter agrees with Paul that submission in the marriage union is mutual.  Second, the phrase "dwell with them" is in the aorist imperative, and carries the idea of continual domestic association.  It could be rendered, "as you will keep on sharing your life with your wives."  This is an instruction to encourage the permanence of marriage.

Weaker vessel:  this word "vessel" could be rendered "partner", or "utensil",  referring to something which specifically is to be used of God.  In ancient near-eastern culture, the woman was profoundly handicapped in her ability to influence society for Christ.  The Greek word rendered "weaker" literally means "with lesser strength", “fewer resources,” or "lesser ability to accomplish the task."  Because of this, some hold that this English rendering fails to denote that the text refers to non-Christian wives who lack the understanding of the faith. The “weakness” to which Pater refers has nothing to do with physical or spiritual weakness, nor is it setting up any form of pecking-order in the marriage, but rather Peter is noting that the wife is attempting to serve the LORD from a weaker position, subject to significant cultural limitations the male did not then experience. 

“Two things should be remembered when comparing ancient and modern political attitudes. First, Christian slaves and wives, the two groups addressed at length in I Peter, were not voting citizens in the Roman world, unlike contemporary Christians who live as full citizens in egalitarian democracies. Women never attained voting rights in Rome.”

This cultural bias gave the husband an additional responsibility to respect her, encourage her, and support her in a way their culture would not.  He is to be considerate of her, and allow her room to serve God, since they are equal partners in the ministry, joint heirs of salvation.  He is to be her strong defender in a world that works to marginalize her. 

Note that Peter implies that if this respect, consideration, and marital partnership is not supported by the husband, his fellowship with God is adversely affected.  When the relationship in the home is not in order, it is difficult to maintain a proper relationship with God.  On the other hand, when the husband's relationship with God is in order, he will also respect, consider, and work beside his wife in the ministry.


Basic Christian Virtues. 

1 Peter 3:8.   Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

This verse is probably intended for all in the Christian community rather than just the husband and wife in the Christian home, though its message is certainly applicable to the home life as well. The summary of Christian virtues applied not only to interpersonal relationships within marriage but also to interpersonal contact throughout the church and community.

Peter enumerated five imperatives concerning the Christian response to one another.

LIVE IN HARMONY. Live a life that is deliberately characterized by a unity of spirit, proactively putting away friction, hostility, and division in the home or church family which are destructive tools of satan; literally "like-mindedness."  Like-mindedness requires deliberate compromise that comes from the application of hypotasso submission that stands on a foundation of true agape love.  When you have true agape love for another, there is no need to force the other person to agree with you, as you love them enough to both allow them their own likes and dislikes, and support them in those opinions.

The next four traits contribute to this form of harmony.  Each is only a single Greek word.

BE SYMPATHETIC, The literal Greek translation would be "with suffering," or suffering with or feeling with those whom he or she loves.  One who is sympathetic hurts with those who hurt and seeks to understand their pain, and demonstrate a caring spirit that is responsive to other’s needs.  Sharing pain is also rewarded with shared joy.  Shared joy divides our sorrows and multiplies our joys.

LOVE AS BROTHERS (filadelfoi), philadelphoi,  a non-gender brotherly love.  The relationship among Christians is not based upon their acceptance of one another:  it is based upon the acceptance of Christ.  Christians are to choose to love one another simply because (1) God loves without condition, and (2) Christians have been called to love each other by God, Himself.  Treat one another as dear brothers and sisters, making friends from strangers, sharing uncompromised love with all.

BE COMPASSIONATE, tenderhearted, opposite of hard-hearted, moved by the needs of others.  Compassion can be thought of as “sympathy in action.”  Where sympathy is exercised in attitude and feelings, compassion is exercised in action.  When Jesus is described as having “compassion” some form of ministry to the object of that compassion immediately followed.  Be quick to address the needs of others when so led by the Spirit of God.

BE HUMBLE, Not driven by pride, humility is an awareness of one’s true lowliness before God, looking upon no one else as inferior in value to themselves.  Humility is expressed in meekness: strength under control. 

1 Peter 3:9.   Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

     Response to Evil.

Peter spells out a sixth characteristic of the Christian response, and in more detail. "To return evil for good is animal-like, to return evil for evil is human-like, to return good for evil is God-like."

Such a pattern of returning good for evil was inconsistent with ancient near-eastern culture, as it still tends to be today.  Even the Jews defended their right to repay evil with equal evil.  Today's Judaism repays evil with amplified evil, creating never-ending cycles of retaliation.  If Christians were to follow the teachings of Jesus, Paul, and Peter concerning this, they would stand out in their society.  Peter shows that he believes that when Christians act in this graceful manner they will BE a blessing to others, and RECEIVE a blessing themselves as a result.

     Achieving the Good Life. 

1 Peter 3:10.  For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

Peter concluded this passage with a quote from the Psalms.  It is a poem, and has a positive thrust.  What defines the "Good Life"?  It is an attitude of spirit, not an attitude of geography, of personality; not of possessions; but of love not power.

First, Peter writes that we are to keep our verbal conversation clean.  Two negatives are described here: "evil speech" and "deceitful speech."  Evil speech is that which is not brought under the control of the Holy Spirit.  It is that which elevate one’s self, seeks to injure, hurt, or destroy such as an evil repayment for a perceived injustice.  Evil speech serves to hurt others. 

Deceitful speech has a similar purpose but is more subtle and conniving.  Deceitful speech is misleading and misdirecting, producing the same results as evil speech but using misdirection in order to avoid the responsibility for the message.  What are the opposites of these?  1)  Speech that is good, edifying, and constructive blesses others when it is based upon agape love.  2) Godly speech is always honest and yet tactful; its predominant characteristics are wisdom and integrity.  When considering your words, it might be instructive and constructive to ask the question, “would the LORD use these words?”  If the answer is “no,” a godly alternative, or silence is in order.

1 Peter 3:11.   Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

Second, Christians should shun all manner of evil, whether it be produced of ourselves, or others.  Christians are continually bombarded with the evils of this world, both in our home and outside of it.  What are some of the evils which we can shun?  We can avoid bringing the sinful culture of this world into our homes through the avenue of audio and video media.  We can tactfully refuse to engage with others when their attitudes and actions are ungodly. 

The statement to do good is an imperative.  It implies action, not just attitude.  The Apostle Paul speaks to this imperative in a key passage in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 12:9.  Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

The love that people of faith share is to be consistent, and without any mixture of hypocrisy.  The choice to do so informs virtually every decision in life. When our life is consistent, we are empowered to express that consistency in the manner in which we respond to the many and varying influences in this life.  Paul’s statement concerning the Christian’s response to good and evil is similar to Peter’s, but expressed in a dynamic manner. 

If you placed your hand on an extremely hot stove, you would, upon realizing what you have done, remove your hand as fast as your reflexes will allow.  There is no time invested to make the decision whether or not to remove your hand.  This is the idea behind the word that is rendered, “abhor.”  It is though, as we recognize evil in our grasp, to immediately throw it as far away as possible as though it were a live grenade.

The opposite is to cleave – it is to cling firmly to something.  Imagine you are standing on a platform with a pole in the center, and the platform is 1,000 feet above the ground, the pole being the only thing to hold on to.  You are almost cleaving to the pole.  Suddenly the platform drops away.  Now, you are cleaving.  Our grasp on that which is good and godly is a firm one.

Third, Peter notes that people of faith are to seek peace, and be peacemakers.  The Church is immersed in a wicked, violent, and fallen world that is drawing its people away from the LORD into all manner of turmoil, fear, and even terror.  A peacemaker is one who works to bring peace to turmoil, calm to conflict.  People of faith are not to produce or contribute to turmoil.  In an Old Testament list of seven things that God hates, the seventh is stated as an abomination:  “he that soweth discord among the brethren.

People of faith have been ordained to a ministry of reconciliation, bringing people out of chaos into peace, and from an hopeless future to the peace that comes from faith in God.

1 Peter 3:12.  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

To use the concept of the Lord's face was to refer to His divine presence.  Peter and the psalmist understood God to be relating to his people either with mercy or with judgment, depending on their dominant lifestyle as it relates to their faith in Him.

For Christians, beauty is a matter of character, not cosmetics.  A basic foundation for Christian marriage must include the following attitudes:  equality, mutual submission, reciprocal responsibility, honesty, forgiveness, mutual respect and love.  The good life is not measured by money, possessions, status or power but by the true quality of one’s redeemed character.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics, Summer, 2016.

Ephesians 5:21-6:4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-12.

1 Peter 2:18.

1 Peter 2:13.

Slaughter, James R.  Submission of wives (1 Peter 3:1a) in the context of 1 Peter.  Bibliotheca sacra, 153 no 609 Jan - Mar 1996, p 71.

Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:8; Ephesians 5:31.

Ancient Greek philosophy had historically held largely to a dualistic “theology” that taught that all things physical were separated from all things spiritual.  The parallel position was that which is physical is evil, and that which is spiritual is good.  Consequently, the word cosmos lacks a connotation to that which is good, or that which is eternal.

Ray, Jr.  Charles A.  Rewards Among the Romans.  Biblical Illustrator.  43 no. 1, Fall 2016, p 30.

Jones, Roberta.  Jewelry: What the Bible Says.  Biblical Illustrator, 41 no. 1 Fall, 2016, p. 60.

(Poluteles) Mark 14:3, 1 Tim 2:9.

Grudem, Wayne. 1 Peter, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988, p 141.

Slaughter, James R.  Sarah as a model for Christian wives (1 Peter 3:5-6.)  Bibliotheca sacra, 153 no 611 Jul - Sep 1996, p 358..

Genesis 18:12

Sly, Dorothy I.  1 Peter 3:6b in the light of Philo and Josephus.  Journal of Biblical Literature, 110 no 1 Spr 1991, p 127.

Kiley, Mark Christopher.  Like Sara: the tale of terror behind 1 Peter 3:6.  Journal of Biblical Literature, 106 no 4 Dec 1987, p 691.

c.f. Proverbs 3:25.

Bott, Nicholas T.  Sarah as the 'weaker vessel': Genesis 18 and 20 in 1 Peter's instructions to husbands in 1 Pet 3:7.  Trinity Journal, ns 36 no 2 Fall 2015, p 244.

Gross, Carl D.  Are the wives of 1 Peter 3:7 Christians.  Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 35 Feb 1989, p 89-96.

Balch, David L.  Early Christian criticism of patriarchal authority: 1 Peter 2:11-3:12.  Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 39 no 3 1984, p 167.

Ray Sommers

Cf. Mathew 5:38.

Psalm 33:13-17.

Proverbs 6:16.

2 Corinthians 5:18.


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Written each week by our publisher and editor, John W. (Jack) Carter, these are original, researched, commentaries that may be used for individual study or small-group discussion.
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