1 Peter 3

The opening verses of chapter 3 continue the exhortation to submission. The apostle commenced this exhortation at 1 Peter 2: 13. In verse 18 he applied it to those who socially are in the subject place. Now he applies it to those who hold the subject place in that great natural relationship which is the foundation of all human relationships.

The Christian wife is to be in subjection to her husband. If he is a Christian he obeys the word and she obeys him. A most excellent and delightful arrangement made according to the wisdom of God! Subjection, be it remembered, does not mean inferiority. In business partnerships two men may be equal partners and yet one is recognized as the senior with whom the final decision rests. So in the marriage bond the man has been creatorially fitted for the senior, directing place in the partnership, the woman for the subject place, though she is an heir together with her husband of the grace of life, and a sharer together with him in his exercises and prayers. If the husband loves and honours his wife as a fellow-heir and partner, and she honours and obeys him, an ideal marriage is the result.

But, as the first verse indicates, some believing women may have husbands who, not being converted, do not obey the word. In this case, the converted wife is still to act towards him as the word directs. She, at any rate, is to be a Christian woman and let her Christianity shine in her pure manner of life (v. 2), her avoidance of worldly artifices for self-adornment and self-display (v. 3), her meek and peaceful spirit, which is so great a thing in God's estimation (v. 4), and her subjection to him, coupled with the doing of good and a spirit of calm confidence in God (vv. 5, 6). By such "conversation" or "manner of life" many a husband has been won "without the word."

The "church," dominated by the principles of the twentieth-century world, may cut the word "obey" out of its marriage service, but see what you Christian wives are going to miss if you cut it out of your hearts and minds! Should your husband be unconverted you may miss the joy of winning him. Should he be a Christian, how much of the grace of life and of prayer may be forfeited.

Verse 8 brings us to the final word of the apostle in connection with the matter of subjection. The gracious, gentle, humble spirit is to characterize the whole Christian company. We are never to indulge in evil or recrimination on the principle of tit for tat, but always to be in the spirit of blessing since blessing we receive from God, and this because we are left to pursue our pilgrim way under His holy government.

The principles of God's government of His people do not change. When David wrote Psalm 34, it was the age of law and God's people were in the place of servants. Today is the age of grace and we are before God as His sons, as Galatians 3: 23-4: 7, shows. Yet the apostle Peter can quote David's words from Psalm 34 as applying equally to us. We reap what we sow in the government of God; and the way to "see good" is to "do good," as verses 10 to 13 of our chapter show. Many a disagreeable event in our lives is clearly the result of our own disagreeableness. If we sowed more good we should reap more good.

At this point let us notice the remarkable way in which the apostle has set before us in its main outlines the truth set forth typically and in historical fashion in the books of Moses.

Genesis is the book of ELECTION. It shows us how God chose Abel and Seth and not Cain, Shem and not Ham. Abram and not Nahor, Isaac and not Ishmael, Jacob and not Esau, Joseph and not Reuben, Ephraim and not Manasseh. Peter brings before us first of all God's electing mercy (1 Peter 1: 2).

Exodus is the book of REDEMPTION. Israel was redeemed out of Egypt, and brought to God. Peter proceeds to tell us how we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ and brought to God with our faith and hope in Him (1 Peter 1: 18-21).

Leviticus is the book of the PRIESTHOOD. It contains directions as to sacrifices for priestly guidance, and as to customs and cleanness for priestly fitness. Thirdly, Peter sets before us the Christian priesthood, its constitution and its privileges (1: 22-2: 10).

Numbers is the book of the WILDERNESS. It specially reveals the wilderness journey of Israel with all its vicissitudes and lessons. Fourthly, Peter instructs us as to our pilgrimage and the conduct that befits us in it (1 Peter 2: 11-3: 7).

Deuteronomy is the book of the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. In it Israel were warned of the consequence of their disobedience, the reward of obedience. And we have just got to the part of the epistle in chapter 3 where Peter warns us that though we are as Christians set in the grace of God we still come under His government and have to make our reckoning with it.

Verse 14 introduces another consideration. We may of course suffer for our own folly in the government of God. We may, on the other hand, be receiving blessing in the government of God, and yet be called upon to suffer for righteousness' sake. If so, God guarantees our happiness in it and under it. We are not to be afraid of men but, sanctifying the Lord God (or "Lord Christ" as it probably is) in our hearts, to testify meekly to the truth while maintaining a good conscience by holy living.

Notice in passing how verse 15 makes manifest the true force of the word "sanctify." It is not primarily "to make holy," for the Lord cannot be more holy than He is. He can, however, in our hearts be set apart in His own proper place of glory and supremacy and authority. To sanctify is to set apart.

Now no one ever suffered as Christ. He is our supreme Example. Yet His sufferings as verse 18 presents them, were in a class by themselves and altogether beyond us, for He suffered for sins as a Substitute-the Just for the unjust ones. The actual word substitution does not occur in our English version, but that which the word represents is very clearly in this verse. Note the object of His substitutionary sufferings-"that He might bring us to God," making us thoroughly at home in His presence, having a fitness to be there. Are we all in our own hearts and consciences happily at home with God?

The Lord Jesus suffered for sins even to death and He rose again by or "in" the Spirit, the day of His flesh being over. In the Spirit also He had preached before the flood to those who now are spirits in prison. These people who now are spirits in prison once walked the earth as men and women in Noah's day and through Noah's lips Christ in Spirit (or, the Spirit of Christ) spoke. They were disobedient, hence their present imprisonment in hades, the unseen world. The Spirit of Christ spoke in the Old Testament prophets, as we noticed when reading 1 Peter 1: 11. He also spoke in Noah. If any of our readers have doubts as to whether this is the correct explanation of the passage, let them turn to Ephesians 2: 13 to 18. Having done so they will find that the "He" of verse 16 (which "He" refers also to verse 17) is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus. In verse 17, "you which were far off" were Gentile: "them that were nigh" were Jews. The passage states then, that having endured the cross the Lord Jesus "came and preached peace" to the Gentiles. When? How? Never, in a personal way. Only by the lips of the apostles and others who were filled with His Spirit did He do so. Exactly the same figure of speech is used in this passage as in the one we are considering in Peter.

As a result of this ante-diluvian testimony of the Spirit of Christ only eight souls were saved through the waters of the flood; a tiny handful that, the merest remnant of the former age. Now baptism, which is but a figure, has just that force. The flood cut off that little remnant of the antediluvian age that through the waters of death they might be disassociated from the old world and enter the new. The converted Jews to whom Peter wrote were exactly in that position. They, too, were but a small remnant, and in their baptism they were dissociated from the mass of their nation that was under wrath and judgment, that they might come under the authority of their risen and glorified Messiah. Baptism is in figure dissociation by means of death and in that sense it saves. The Jews as a nation were like a foundering ship, and to be baptized was to formally cut one's last link with them which meant salvation from their national doom. Hence Peter's words in Acts 2: 40. "Save yourself from this untoward generation." What followed? "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized."

Baptism accomplishes nothing vital and eternal, for it is "a figure." It is, however, not a mere ceremonial washing as were Jewish "baptisms." It is rather the "answer" or "demand of a good conscience toward God," as we see with the eunuch and with Lydia (see Acts 8: 36; Acts 16: 15). A good conscience gladly accepts it, and even demands it, accounting it as faithfulness to the Lord to be in figure cut off from the old life, even as He was actually cut off in death; and thus identified with Him.

All, however, is only effectual "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." For if there were not really and actually a new world of life and blessing opened for us by His resurrection who would cut their links with the old? It was by the resurrection that these Christians had been begotten again to a living hope, as 1 Peter 1: 3 told us. They would cheerfully go down into the waters of baptism, and so bid a formal goodbye to the old Jewish footing with its impending judgment (See 1 Thess. 2: 14-16), in view of the vast range of grace and glory with its living hopes, that stood revealed to them and secured for them in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Not only is Christ risen, however, but He is gone into heaven and is already at the right hand of God, which signifies that He is the appointed Administrator of all God's will. A man of large business interests who has someone of great ability acting for him and carrying out his wishes, will often speak of him as "my right-hand man." The Lord Jesus is indeed the "Man of Thy right hand" of whom the Psalmist spoke (Ps. 80: 17), and we have been baptized to Him and come under His authority. To Him all angels and authorities and powers are subject.

How great an encouragement for us! All these verses (15-22) have sprung, remember, out of the thought that we may have to suffer for righteousness' sake. It was just when the converted Jew formally severed his links with Judaism by being baptized that he did suffer. But then being baptized to the Lord Jesus he came under the authority of the One who sat in the place of supreme authority and administration and since all powers were subject to Him, no power could touch them without His permission.

Similarly, when we, who are converted Gentiles, cut our links with the world, we have to taste suffering, but we, too, are under the mighty authority of Christ and need have no fear.