I Peter 3 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
I would like to choose 3 passages that might be difficult to understand in this chapter. First, 3:1-7; second, 3:18-20; and third 3:21. The first seven verses would not be well received by many in our country, let alone the world. Let’s try to make sense of these verses. What does “be in subject” mean? First, we know that Christ teaches us that all of us are created in the image of God and therefore equal before God. Second, all believers are equal and share in the faith with no one better than others. However there are different callings that place some people over others such as political leaders, pastors, parents, bosses, teachers, etc. In this case, there is a yielding to the husband (not all men).
Go to www.cbmw.org or read Rediscovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem for the best treatment of the issues revolving around these passages. Here is how Piper understands how men and women compliment one another (and oh are these fighting words to large segments of our population). This is broader than our specific verses but he provides broad perimeters for understanding men and women. “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead1, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, page 35) and later in the same book, Piper writes, “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”
Out of these dispositions, comes the radical call: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (Eph 5:25 ESV) or as Peter writes, “7 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.” It is fascinating to me that men’s prayers can be hindered by the way they treat their wives. Would you connect the two? Have you ever suggested to a man who has not experienced an answered prayer, “How are you treating your wife?”
Second, 3:18-20 almost could be understood that Christ went to spirits that have died and preached to them. Some even think these verses teach that Christ went to hell and preached the gospel to those in hell. Well, that is not what this passage teaches. Rather, Peter is saying, the same Spirit that was in Noah was also in Jesus and is in you now. Yes, unbelievers do not believe you and persecute you. This is what unbelievers did during Noah’s time and certainly Jesus time. But like them do not be overcome with fear. Keep on speaking for Christ. This certainly makes more sense of the passage and is consistent with Peter’s message.. You could almost revise v. 19 to say that “he (Christ through the Holy Spirit) went and proclaimed (through Noah) to the spirits (now)in prison,” (but who were alive during Noah’s preaching) the same message you are preaching and like Noah and Jesus you can expect the same treatment. But keep on speaking up for Christ!
Third, the phrase in 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you . . .” seems to say that it is baptism that saves us. Since there is nothing in the New Testament that says that baptism, by itself, saves, we know this is an incorrect understanding of baptism. Baptism is not merely washing with water but a looking to God for salvation. That is the essence of baptism. If just getting wet is all we need, we can offer mass baptisms. We could also say that a confession of faith does not save you. Christ saves us. Christ saves us by grace alone through faith alone. But do we have spell everything out each time we mention salvation? No. Baptism is a part of becoming a believer. We all have to appeal to God and we do that by faith.
Notice that one of the reason we are to submit, love, suffer hardships, be holy is that we are called to witness for Christ. So much of what Peter is exhorting us to be and do is so we can be a credible witness and when we speak for Christ, people will recognize the authenticity of our lives. Notice verse 1, “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,” or v. 15, “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. . . .”
These each require a more lengthy explanation so notice what is urged upon us and why. Peter is telling us it matters to God and others how you treat your wife or husband. It matters to God and others the way you treat fellow believers. The world is watching us. Maybe they are watching with a critical eye, maybe just watching. But hopefully, their criticism will not be validated by others. Wouldn’t it be great that “when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame?” How I wish I lived that way. How we need all the churches in our area, our state, our country and in the world to live and speak that way.