1 Peter 3 Study Notes


3:1-6 Peter instructed wives to submit to their husbands because they bear distinctive witness to them through their God-honoring lifestyles. The statement you have become her children means that Christian wives in essence show themselves to be Sarah’s spiritual children when they do what is good and do not fear any intimidation.

3:7 Peter enjoined husbands to live in harmony with their wives and to show them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, or to treat them as fellow inheritors of salvation and its privileges. Weaker partner denotes physical weakness and should not be taken to mean that wives are morally or intellectually inferior to their husbands. Husbands are typically stronger physically.

3:8-12 Christians (“exiles,” 1:1) are not to return evil for evil so they could receive God’s blessing. The apostle’s teaching here (v. 9) reflects that of Christ elsewhere (Mt 5:43-44; Lk 6:27-28).

3:13-4:19 Believers are commanded in this section to distinguish themselves by doing good, even when faced with pagan hostility, because God will vindicate the righteous.

3:13-17 Believers are commanded to suffer only for the doing of good and not for evil among those who call this world their home.

3:13-14 Doing what is good will harm no one, though believers may suffer for it—in which case they should count it a privilege to suffer for a lifestyle that pleases God (Jms 1:2).

3:15 Peter urged believers to regard Christ the Lord as holy from the center of their being. This inner reverence for Christ should lead believers to be ready at any time, especially in the midst of persecution and suffering, to give a frank defense of the hope within them. On “hope,” cp. v. 5; 1:3,21.

3:16-17 Christians ought to defend their faith with gentleness and respect, not anger and arrogance. By this means, unbelievers will be humiliated when they malign believers at the last judgment. Note from v. 17 that suffering is ultimately from the will of God.

3:18-22 Peter pointed to Christ’s example of innocent suffering at the hands of this world’s citizens. Jesus’s innocent suffering, death, and resurrection/exaltation are the foundation for the salvation and vindication of believers.

3:19-20a The statement that Christ made proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient is extremely difficult to interpret. According to one plausible view, the term spirits refers to the souls of people who died in the great flood (Gn 6-7). The “proclamation” was made by the pre-incarnate Christ through Noah’s preaching to his disobedient contemporaries. This preaching of repentance occurred while Noah made preparations for the flood. Peter could refer to Noah’s contemporaries as the “spirits in prison” because when he wrote this letter they had long been dead, were incorporeal spirits, and were under confinement awaiting God’s final judgment. The position taken in the text of the CSB is that Christ after his death and resurrection made a proclamation of victory over the demonic spirits. In this view the “spirits” are evil angels.


Greek pronunciation [ma krah thew MEE ah]
CSB translation patiently
Uses in 1 Peter 1
Uses in the NT 14
Focus passage 1 Peter 3:20

Makrothumia refers to patient perseverance in withstanding a difficult situation. The patience of the faithful witnesses and martyrs of old is an example for present-day believers (Heb 6:12; Jms 5:10). Paul prayed that the Colossian church would have great endurance and patience (Col 1:11). Elsewhere, makrothumia speaks of patience within the context of personal relationships, referring to the patience of people toward one another or of God toward humanity. Paul exhorts Timothy to encourage his congregation with patience (2Tm 4:2), and believers should demonstrate patience toward each other (Col 3:12). In reference to God, makrothumia always indicates his slowness in bringing about judgment. God’s patience waited while Noah prepared an ark (1Pt 3:20), and God’s patience in bringing judgment provides present opportunity for repentance (Rm 2:4). Similarly, the patience of Jesus in bringing judgment should be considered as a present opportunity for salvation (2Pt 3:15).

3:20b-21 Noah and his family were saved through water, or brought safely through the floodwaters, whereas the wicked were destroyed (Gn 7:22-23). Baptism in the NT corresponds to this OT event in that both involve breaks from past lives and a fresh start and entrance into new life. Water cannot save, but baptism with water does symbolically depict the changed life of a person whose conscience is at peace with God through faith in Christ. That the act of “baptism” is viewed symbolically and does not actually save us is explained by Peter in the latter half of v. 21 with the words not as the removal of dirt from the body.