I Peter 3



1 “Likewise, ye wives,” -  Peter has spoken of the duties of servants: why does he

omit those of masters? There must have been Christian masters in Asia Minor, as is

plain from Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1. But we notice that Paul, though he has a

few words for masters, addresses slaves at much greater length. Probably Christian

masters were comparatively few, while large numbers of slaves had

embraced the religion which could do so much to comfort and elevate the

oppressed. Again, the immediate purpose of the apostle is to inculcate

submission to authority; therefore, having enforced upon Christian servants

the example of their Lord, he proceeds to speak of the duty of Christian

wives. Christianity was in its infancy; it was to be the means of abolishing

slavery, and of raising woman to her proper place in society; (but not

above – see I Corinthians 11:7-16 – CY – 2012) )but as yet slaves were

cruelly oppressed, and women were ill treated and despised. Aristotle tells

us that among the barbarians (and a large proportion of the population in

the greater part of Asia Minor was barbarian, i.e. non-Greek) the woman

and the slave hold the same rank (‘Pol.,’ I. 2:4). In Greek communities the

case was different; but even among the Greeks women occupied a

very subordinate position. Christianity would introduce a great

and sweeping change in the relations of the sexes, as well as in the

relations of master and slave. But the change must be gradual, not violent;

it must be brought about by the softening and purifying influences of religion,

not by revolt against recognized customs and established authority. Indeed,

Christianity would introduce an element of division — the Lord had said so

(Luke 12:51-53); families would be divided. It could not be otherwise;

Christians must not set even family ties above the love of Christ. But

Christian wives must be peacemakers; they must, as far as possible, live at

peace even with unbelieving husbands. They would often have much ill

treatment to endure in those coarse, cruel days; they must bear it with the

quiet strength of gentleness- “be in subjection to your own husbands;” –

literally, submitting yourselves. The participle, as in ch.2:18, seems to look

back to the imperative, “submit yourselves,” in (Ibid. v.13). The present

participle implies that this voluntary submission is to be habitual. The

adjective (ἰδίοις - idiois - your own) emphasizes the duty -  “Be in

subjection to your husbands;” equivalent to a summary of the various duties

of the position. The expression is harsh at first, but the harshness wears off as

we think of it, for LOVE IS ALWAYS IN SUBJECTION!   He whose life

was the embodiment of love came not to be ministered unto, but to minister

(Mark 10:43-45).  Love cannot help serving. This word lays no burden on

love but what she lays on herself. Nor is this a one-sided requirement; for

the same Word says, “Husbands, love your wives” — so that THE

SUBJECTION IS MUTUAL “submitting yourselves one to another

in the fear of God.” Yet, though the harshness be removed, the command

remains and means something, and it is remarkable that in the three instances in

the Epistles where the duties of wives are referred to, the same idea of

subjection occurs (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; and here). Woman was

made for a “helpmeet for man” (Genesis 2:18,20); Thy desire shall be to thy

husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Ibid. 3:16); Man was not created for

 the woman, but the woman for the man” (I Corinthians 11:9).  The subjection,

therefore, was to be real, yet not that of a servant, but of a companion;

man’s other self, yet still subject! - “that, if any obey not the word, they also

may without the word” - There is a well supported reading,  “Even if any.”

Husband and wife would often be converted together;  but if this should not be

the case, and if the unbelieving husband should set himself in direct opposition to the

Word of God (for the words “believe not” have more than a negative meaning,

as in ch.2:7), still Christian wives must submit themselves. They must do this

for the glory of God, and with the hope of saving their husbands’ souls;

that those unbelieving husbands may be won to Christ and to everlasting life by

the silent eloquence of the quiet self-restraint and holy behavior of their wives,

without argument or preaching on the wives’ part. A self-denying holy life will

do more to win those with whom we live in close intercourse than even holy

words, and much more than debate and controversy. This seems to be the meaning

of ἄνευ λόγου aneu logou – without saying - rather than the other possible

interpretation, “without the preaching of the Word” -   “be won by

the conversation of the wives;” - Be won; literally, be gained. Each soul

converted is a gain to Christ, to the kingdom of heaven, to itself, in this case

also to the wife who is the happy instrument of saving her husband (compare

I Corinthians 9:19-20). The word rendered “conversation” here, as

elsewhere, means “conduct, behavior.” (Compare, on the whole subject,

the teaching of Paul, Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; I Timothy 2:9-11.)


These heathen husbands did not frequent the sanctuary, nor listen to the Word,

and thus their case seemed hopeless.  But the Divine Word may be carried to

heart and mind as much by a Divine life as by a Divine book. Feeding on this book,

we become its embodiment, living Epistles of Christ, read of all; and the

promise is as true of the Word lived as of the Word spoken, “My Word shall not

 return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it

shall proper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)


A true Christian life is a standing proof of the Divinity of Christianity.

How can the doubting husband be undeceived? By BY THE LIFE OF THE

WIFE!   An exemplification of the beauties of holiness is a constant

persuasion.  Acts of forgiveness, endurance, sacrifice, adherence to right,

etc.,  gradually tell even on the hardened, and often loudly plead for Christ.

God impresses His image on the soul that is much with Him and others


(Acts 4:13)


Two hearts, two lives, are often bound together by the closest human ties, one

devoted to Christianity, the other not. The case here, however, is not of those

who had been united after one had become a Christian; the nature of spiritual life

and the direct Word of God forbid union of that kind (I Corinthians 6:14-16),

and there is no consolation here for the trouble that comes from

DISOBEDIENCE IN THIS RESPECT.   Here the wife is supposed to have

become a Christian since she gave herself to the ungodly husband. The Divine


when husbands are here spoken of that “obey not the Word!”


“Be in subjection to your husbands;” equivalent to a summary

of the various duties of the position. The expression is harsh at first, but

the harshness wears off as we think of it, for love is always in subjection.

He whose life was the embodiment of love came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister (Matthew 20:28).  Love cannot help serving. This word lays

no burden on love but what she lays on herself. Nor is this a one-sided requirement;

for the same Word says, “Husbands, love your wives” — so that the

subjection is mutual “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of

God”  (Ephesians 5:21).  Yet, though the harshness be removed, the command

remains and means something, and it is remarkable that in the three instances in the

Epistles where the duties of wives are referred to, the same idea of subjection occurs

(Ibid. v.22; Colossians 3:18; and here). Woman was made for a “helpmeet for

 man” (Genesis 2:18-20);  Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall

 rule over thee”(Ibid. 3:16);Man was not created for the woman, but the

woman for the man” (I Corinthians 11:9).  The subjection, therefore, was to be

real, yet not that of a servant, but of a companion; man’s other self, yet still

subject.  (Wouldn’t it be a great blessing if every husband and wife could say,

“If two were ever one, then we!” – CY – 2012)


2 “While they behold (see note on ch.2:12, where the same verb occurs) your

chaste conversation coupled with fear.” Literally, your chaste behavior, in fear.

Certainly the holy fear of God is the sphere in which true Christians must always live.

But the close connection with the word “chaste (τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνὴν ἀναστροφὴν

ὑμῶν - taen en phobo hagnaen anastrophaen humon – in the fear of your pure

behavior), and the parallel passage, Ephesians 5:33 (in the Greek), make it probable

that the fear here inculcated is reverence for the husband — an anxious avoidance of

anything that might even seem to interfere with his conjugal rights and authority.


3 “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair,” –

A common Hebraism, like our Lord’s injunction in John 6:27, “Labor not for the

meat which perisheth, but for that meat which cndureth unto everlasting life.”

Peter does not forbid the moderate use of ornaments, but asserts their utter

worthlessness compared with Christian graces. The ladies of the time seem

often to have had their hair dressed in a very fantastic and extravagant manner -

“and of wearing of gold” - rather, golden ornaments -  “or of putting on of

apparel. This verse shows that, although the mass of believers at this time belonged

to the poorer classes, yet there must have been a proportion of persons of rank

and wealth among the Christians of Asia Minor (compare I Timothy 2:9;

Revelation 3:17-18).  (For a negative picture of obsession with looks see

Isaiah 3:16-26 – CY – 2012)


4  “But let it be the hidden man of the heart,” -  The “hidden” is here

equivalent to the “inward man” of Romans 7:22; II Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians

3:16. It is that life which is “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), the life of

Christ (“the Second Man”) in the heart, FASHIONING THAT HEART

AFTER THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST,  forming in it “the new man

which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him”

(Ibid. v.10). This is hidden; it does not display itself like those conspicuous

ornaments mentioned in the last verse – compare again Isaiah 3:16-26 -

“in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet

Spirit,” - literally, in the incorruptibility of the meek and quiet spirit. This

ornament is incorruptible; not like those corruptible things (compare ch.1:18).

The meek spirit does not flash into anger, does not answer again, takes harsh

words gently and humbly. The quiet spirit is calm and tranquil; peaceful in itself,

it spreads peace around (compare I Timothy 2:2) -  “which is in the sight of

God of great price.” The adjective πολυτελές – poluteles – of great price;

costly – is used in Mark 14:3 of the ointment with which Mary anointed our Lord,

and in I Timothy 2:9 of the “array” which Paul discourages for Christian women.

Those adornments are costly in the sight of the world; the meek and quiet

spirit  is precious in the sight of God.



Woman’s True Apparel and Ornament (vs.3-4)


That attention to dress and personal decoration is natural to woman, is obvious from

an observation of the customs of every nation in every age. The Apostle Peter must

not be understood as in this place censuring such attention, but as pointing out that

there is apparel, that there is ornament, far preferable to any bodily costume

and jewelry that taste can devise and wealth can purchase. Christian women

of every position in life are exhorted to provide themselves with these precious and

incomparable recommendations; to cultivate, above all things, “a meek and quiet





Empty fools may admire as supremely admirable in woman the outward

display of riches and of fashion, with which the worldly sometimes seek to

dazzle and captivate those who are as worldly as themselves. To men of

sense such things are utterly indifferent; to men of discernment and

character gentle and virtuous dispositions and habits are in a woman

beyond all price (See Proverbs 31:10-31).  Such qualities as Jesus found

in the sisters of the home at Bethany won His friendship, and similar

qualities will never cease to elicit the approval and appreciation of the upright

and the pure.




IMPERISHABLE. Poverty may deprive a woman of the power to dress

with expensiveness; advancing years may make the adventitious attractions

excused in youth unseemly and ridiculous. But “the meek and quiet spirit”

remains unchanged with changing time. Often does it happen that the

feminine character, refined and sweetened by the experience of life and by

ministrations of pity and of self-denial, shines with a fairer luster with

advancing years.




Of our fellow-creatures may be sought with too earnest diligence, and their

attachment may be valued beyond its true value. But the qualities which are

commended by Him who alone judgeth with perfect justice are qualities

which cannot be cultivated with too great assiduity and care. Our Lord has

spoken with severity of those who seek honor from men in preference

to that honor which cometh from God. Of the “meek and quiet spirit”

we are told that it is “OF GREAT PRICE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD!”

What greater inducement than this could be offered to Christian women to

look with comparative unconcern upon all those social and external

recommendations which are so often OVER-ESTIMATED  and to cultivate

with all diligence and devotedness the graces of the Christian character and

the charities of the Christian life?


5 “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in

God,” -  rather, who hoped in God (εἰς Θεόν – eis Theon – in God); whose hope

was set toward God and rested in God. Peter is the apostle of hope - “adorned

themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:” The apostle bids

Christian women to consider the example of the saintly women of the Old Testament.

With their hope resting upon God, they could not care for finery and costly

jewels. They adorned themselves with the more costly ornament of a meek

and quiet spirit: they showed their meekness by living in subjection to their

husbands. Submission to authority is the key-note of this part of the Epistle.


6 “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord:” -  Peter singles out Sarah,

as the mother of the chosen people. She obeyed her husband habitually (the imperfect

ὑπήκουεν – hupaekousen – obeyed -  is the reading of some of the oldest

manuscripts; the aorist, also well supported, would represent her obedience as a whole,

the character of her life now past); she called him lord (compare Genesis 18:12 - ὁ δὲ κύριος μου πρεσβύτερος – ho de kurios mou presbuteros – my lord being old

also) - “whose daughters ye are,” - literally, whose children ye became. This is

another indication that the Epistle is addressed, not only to Jewish Christians, but

also, and that in large measure, to Gentile converts. Gentile women became

by faith the daughters of Sarah; just as we read in Paul’s Epistles that “they which

 are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” - (Galatians 3:7); and that

Abraham is “the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised”

(Romans 4:11); compare Galatians 4:22-31, where Paul tells us that we, like Isaac,

are the children of promise; children, “not of the bondwoman, but of the free.”  -

“as long as ye do well,” -  This clause represents one Greek word ἀγαθοπιοῦσαι -

agathopiousai – doing good). Some commentators regard the words from “even

 as Sara” to“whose daughters ye are” as a parenthesis, and refer the participle to “the

holy women” mentioned in v. 5. This does not seem natural. It is better to regard the

second half of this verse as a continuous sentence, and to understand the participle as

meaning “if ye do well.” The doing well, etc., is a mark that Christian women have

become children of Sarah by faith - “and are not afraid with any amazement.”

The Greek word for “amazement”  - πτόησιν ptoaesin – terror; terrify) does

not occur in any  other place of the New Testament, though we meet with the

corresponding verb in Luke 21:9; 24:37. There seems to be a reference to

Proverbs 3:25, (καὶ οὐ φοβηθήσῃ πτόησιν ἐπελθοῦσαν) - kai ou

phobaethaesae pronsin epelthousan - Be not afraid of sudden fear), Πτσήσις -

ptsaesis - dismay, scared terrified excitement, - very different from the calm

thoughtful φόβοςphobos – fear - the fear lest they should fail in proper respect

for their husbands, and that out of the holy fear of God, which Peter inculcates

upon wives (v. 2). The Christian wife might often experience cruel treatment from

an unbelieving husband, but she was not to live in a flutter of excited terror; she

was to be calm and quiet, trusting in God. As to the construction, the accusative

may be cognate, as the Authorized Version takes it; or the accusative of the object,

as in Proverbs 3:25. The last view is, perhaps, the most suitable: “And are not

 afraid of any sudden terror.”


7 “Likewise, ye husbands,” -  As wives are exhorted to be in subjection to their

own husbands, so husbands also must do their duty to their wives. The

construction (participial as in v. 1) seems, like v. 1, to look back to ch.2:13. The

relation, indeed, is no longer directly one of subjection, and marriage is an ordinance

of God; but Christian husbands must submit themselves to the duties arising out of

the marriage tie; and marriage involves a civil contract, though to us Christians it

is a holy estate instituted of God, A PARABLE OF THE MYSTICAL UNION

THAT IS BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH.   Peter, we observe, does

not consider the case of a Christian husband with an unbelieving wife; probably that

would be very uncommon - “dwell with them according to knowledge,

giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel,” -  literally, living

together with the feminine as with the weaker vessel. This connection seems

best suited to the balance of the sentence, and also to the sense. The apostle

bids the husband, first, to give due consideration to his partner on the

ground of her comparative weakness; and, secondly, to give her due honor

as being an heir, like himself, of the grace of life. The disparity of the sexes

was the cause of the degradation of woman among the heathen;  Christianity makes

it the ground of tender consideration. Christian love should abound in knowledge

(Philippians 1:9); it should throw its softening light upon all the relations of life. Man

and woman are alike vessels — vessels made by God for His service (compare

Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6: also I Thessalonians 4:4-5); the woman is the weaker,

and must, for that very reason, be treated with gentleness. For “according to

knowledge,” compare II Peter 1:5. Christians must be thoughtful; they must consider

what becomes them in all the relations of life; not act carelessly and at random -“and

as being heirs together of the grace of life;” - rather, rendering honor as to

 those who are also fellow-heirs, or, according to another well supported reading,

rendering honor (to them) as being also fellow-heirs (with them). The sense is not

materially affected: husband and wife are joint-heirs of the grace of life, that is,

OF GOD’S GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE!  - (This is one of my favorite verses

in the Bible, an expression of my wife and I – CY – 2012) - “that your prayers

be not hindered.” - or, according to another reading, be not cut off. If husband

and wife live together without mutual reverence and affection, there can be

no sympathy in united prayer; the promise made by Christ in Matthew 18:19 –

“if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall

ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” CANNOT

BE REALIZED!  Nor can either pray acceptably if they live at variance; jealousies

and bickering are opposed to the spirit of prayer; they hinder the free flow of prayer,

and mar its earnestness and devotion.


Tertullian wrote, “What a union is that which exists between two believers, who

 have in common the same hope, the same desire, the same service! Like brother

and sister, united both in spirit and in flesh, they kneel together, they pray

and fast together, they teach and support each other with gentleness, they

share one another’s trials, and conceal nothing from each other, and they

rival each other in singing with their heart to God. Christ is pleased to see

and hear these things. He sends down His peace upon them. Where two are

thus met he is with them, and where he is the evil one cannot come.” That

is, perhaps, Peter’s thought here.



The Twofold Claim of Womanhood (v.7)


In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28); the man and the

woman, as possessors alike of our common humanity, participate alike in the

privileges of Christianity, and come alike under the law of Christian

principle and motive. And if this is so in the Church, it is the case in

ordinary social life, that, whilst the man and the woman have their several

and distinct places to fill and services to render, in their relations to each

other duty is reciprocal. The New Testament is altogether opposed to the

too common notion that the rights are all on the side of the man, and the

duties all on the side of the woman. Peter is no more stringent in laying

down the obligations of wives, than in prescribing the treatment due to

them from their husbands. Himself a married man, as the Marriage Service

in our Prayer-book reminds us, he writes explicitly and wisely to husbands

as to the spirit and tone which should be apparent in their domestic life.

The grounds upon which he here bases his injunctions are very different

from each other, and yet thoroughly harmonious.




The fact is unquestionable that woman is less robust in constitution, less

powerful muscularly, and of more delicate nervous organization, than man.

Now, this fact is often made a reason for overbearing demeanor,

contemptuous language, unjust dealing, and even brutal abuse, on the

 part of the man towards the woman. This is so, not only in savage

communities, but not infrequently even among civilized nations. Irresponsible

 power and selfishness concur in leading to feminine degradation. But the

apostle brings forward the fact that woman is the weaker vessel as a reason

why husbands should live with their wives in a reasonable and kindly manner,

and should render to them all due respect.


Ø      Human sympathy requires that this should be so. There is a

natural principle within leading us to cherish kindness towards the

weak and defenseless; and this principle is to be encouraged as

against selfishness and brutal indifference and injustice.


Ø      In addition to this natural feeling, there is a cultivated habit of

Chivalry which tends to the exaltation of woman in human

 society.  Not simply of the young and beautiful, the highborn and

accomplished, but of all who are stamped with the seal of TRUE,


sense only that we can speak approvingly of sentiments of chivalry.




Granted that there is on the average physical inferiority in the one point of

strength, it must be maintained that, in a higher plane, inferiority vanishes.

Husbands are reminded that their wives, being Christians like themselves,


then, the former motive was addressed to compassion, this appeals to

reverence. God Himself acknowledges “the weaker sex” as appointed

unto immortal blessedness THROUGH HIS SON, OUR

REDEEMER!  How justly, then, are men required to give

all honor to those who are fellow-inheritors with themselves of a domain



Ø      The woman is by the Father of the spirits of all flesh regarded with the

same interest as the man. Womanhood is God’s own creation, and the

feminine characteristics and graces are revelations of God’s

own thoughts and purposes. Humanity without the FEMININE

ELEMENT  would be INCOMPLETE,  one-sided, and lacking

 in the harmony of “perfect music set to noble words.”


The woman is equally with the man redeemed by THE FRIEND

AND SAVIOUR  of mankind. Our Lord’s ministry upon earth was

a ministry to both sexes.  He counted holy women among His friends;

hHe comforted sorrowful women in their distress; He saved sinful

women from their debasement.  And His death was for all mankind;

His mediation brings near to God all who were afar off — woman

as well as man.


Ø      The woman is appointed with the man to share the happiness and the

service of heaven. The grace which bestows eternal life is extended to

the wife as well as to the husband. As there is a place for woman in

God’s gracious heart, so is there a place for her in God’s glorious

and blessed home. Such are the high considerations which hallow and

dignify the Christian home!




Duties of Husbands and Wives (vs. 1-7)




  • Obedience. Holy matrimony is a very sacred thing. It is not a mere

human ordinance (ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσις – anthropinae ktisis –

ordinance of man; human creation  - ch.2:13); it is not a creation

of human law. Human law, indeed, surrounds it with its sanctions,

regarding it as a civil contract; but it was instituted of God in the time of

man’s innocency; it is an image of the mystical union between

Christ and His Church. It is a school of holy love, a discipline of sweet

self-denials for the loved one’s sake, which ought to help Christian people

greatly in the pursuit of holiness. But it is Christianity that has restored wedlock

to what it was at the first, and given it a yet deeper and a far holier meaning.

The frequency of divorce among both Jews and heathens; the dislike of

marriage, which had become so serious at Rome; the Greek habit of

regarding the wife as the mistress of her husband’s house, the mother of his

children, but not as the helpmeet, the partner of his cares, the sharer

of his joys and sorrows; THE DEPRECIATION OF WOMEN  

all this had made the ordinary view of marriage very different from what

 GOD HAD INTENDED IT TO BE;  from what it now is in Christian

families. It is to Christianity, not to civilization (for the Greeks and Romans

were as civilized as we are), that we owe the sweet sanctities of wedded

 life and the quiet happiness of home. But at first Christianity introduced

a fresh element of division. From time to time one member of a family circle

would have to put the constraining love of Christ above the love due to father

or mother, husband, wife, or child. The case of a Christian wife with an

unbelieving husband would be one of especial difficulty. She would probably

have to hear her religion derided, her Savior insulted; she would have to endure

constant reproaches and sarcasms, often hardships, and even brutal cruelty.

Paul had considered the case in I Corinthians 7:13-17. Peter here counsels

submission; the power of gentleness might succeed in winning those who

could be won in no other way. Let Christian wives be very careful to respect

their husband’s authority; let them fear to give them so much as the shadow

of a reason to suspect their purity. Let the holy fear of God lead them to regard

even the unbelieving husband with due reverence; let them carefully avoid giving

any unnecessary offense, or unduly putting forward the differences, great and

fundamental as they were, which separated them from one another. Thus let

them hope and pray for their husbands’ conversion. The silent eloquence of a

holy, self-denying life will generally be more powerful than argument and

controversy. Thus they would have the best hope of winning their

husbands to Christ, of “gaining them,” as the word literally means.

The earnest words of Christian men and women are sometimes greatly blessed,

but a humble holy life will often win souls which no eloquence could touch.


  • Simplicity in dress. Christian women should be quiet and modest in their

attire. Peter’s language is, of course, comparative, like Hosea’s words,

twice quoted by our Lord, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice”

(Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7; Psalm 40:6).  He does not mean to forbid

all plaiting of hair or wearing of gold any more than putting on of apparel;

he means that these are poor and contemptible compared with the

costlier ornaments which he recommends in their stead.

Christian women should be simple and unaffected in dress as in behavior.

In general, the best rule is to avoid singularity. “There may be,” Leighton

says, “in some an affected pride in the meanness of apparel, and in others,

under either neat or rich attire, a very humble, unaffected mind .... ‘Magnus

qui fictilibus utitur tanquam argento, nec ille minor qui argento tanquam

fictilibus,’ says Seneca. ‘Great is he who enjoys his earthenware as if it

were plate, and not less great is the man to whom all his plate is no more

than earthenware.’” In this, as in other aspects of Christian duty, the

enlightened conscience is the best guide. But Christians must never allow

their thoughts to dwell on these things; they must learn not to care for

finery, not to love display. To quote Leighton again, “Far more comfort

shalt thou have on thy deathbed to remember that at such a time, instead of

putting lace on my own clothes, I helped a naked back to clothing, I abated

somewhat of my former superfluities to supply the poor man’s necessities;

far sweeter will this be than to remember that I could needlessly cast away

many pounds to serve my pride, rather than give a penny to relieve the



  • The true adorning. The soul is far more precious than the body. It is of

far greater importance to adorn the soul than to decorate the body. The

soul is unseen, so is its garniture; it is hidden from the eye of man, but seen

of God. The proper ornament of Christian women is THE HIDDEN

MAN OF THE HEARTthe hidden life of the regenerate soul.

It is hidden; it will not always be asserting itself; it is retiring in its modest

beauty. But that inner man is very fair and lovely, for IT IS


its beauty lieth in the incorruptibleness of a meek and quiet spirit. The

beauty of the Christian life consists in these softer graces rather than in

self-assertion and denunciation of the faults of others. Christian women

should be meek and calm, not angry, not fretful; they should bear their

daily cross quietly and submissively; they should not allow the unkind

words or deeds of others to excite them to wrath. THIS TRUE


lost by death, it will follow the holy dead into the paradise of God;


world admires rich dress and costly jewels; GOD PRIZES THE

MEEK AND QUIET SPIRIT!  Which of the two should Christians seek

to please — God or the world?


  • The example of holy women. They hoped in God. They who have that high

and holy hope cannot care for the pomp and vanity of this sinful world.

They adorned themselves with the more precious ornaments, meekness and

humility and wifely obedience. Such a one was Sarah, the wife of the father

of the faithful. Christian women are her daughters in the faith, while they

persevere in the way of holiness, and preserve a calm unruffled spirit, not

easily excited, not terrified by every sudden scare, but resting in the Lord.





  • Arising from the greater weakness of the wife. Husband and wife are

both vessels: they should be “vessels unto honor, sanctified and meet for

the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Timothy 2:21).

But both are weak; the woman, as a rule, is the weaker. The weaker the

vessel the more tenderly it should be treated. The husband must dwell

with his wife according to knowledge (v.7); he must treat her with thoughtful

consideration.  True love (and marriage without love is a profanation of

God’s holy ordinance), especially if REFINED BY RELIGION,, will

give him tact and discernment; he will care for his wife, nourish and cherish

her, “even as the Lord the Church” (Ephesians 5:29).


  • Arising from their mutual hope of heaven. Husband and wife are

FELLOW-HEIRS OF THE GRACE OF LIFE (Ibid) - each must honor

the other. There is no true love which is not founded in mutual respect, and

that respect will be truest and deepest when each regards the other

as a CHRISTIAN SOUL, living in the faith of Christ, looking for

the blessed hope of eternal life with God. Then husbands and wives

love one another best WHEN THEY LOVE GOD FIRST OF ALL!

“That love which is cemented by youth and beauty, when these molder

and decay, as soon they do, fades too. That is somewhat purer, and so

more lasting, which holds in a natural or moral harmony of minds; yet these

likewise may alter and change by some great accident. But the most

refined, most spiritual, and most indissoluble, is that which is knit

with the highest and purest spirit. And THE IGNORANCE AND

DISREGARD OF THIS is the great cause of so much bitterness,

or so little true sweetness, in the life of most married persons;  

BECAUSE GOD IS LEFT OUT, , because they meet not as one in Him!”


  • Danger of neglecting these duties. Their prayers would be hindered (v.7).

The apostle takes it for granted that the Christian man and wife live in constant

prayer. (“Pray without ceasing.” – I Thessalonians 5:17).  The heirs of the

grace of life must pray; they must hold frequent converse with Him who gives

that life, on whom all their hopes depend. He takes it for granted that they

know something of the sweetness and blessedness of prayer. Knowing this,

as they do, they must be very jealous of anything that can make their

 prayers less acceptable, less earnest. Then let them live together in

HOLY LOVE!   Jars and bickerings disquiet the soul, disturb its communion

with God, put it out of harmony with the spirit of prayer. They cannot pray

aright who sin against the law of love. GOD HATH MADE HUSBAND

AND WIFE ONE BY HOLY MATRIMONY!   They must not allow

misunderstandings and jealousies to put them asunder even for a season,

lest they sin not only against one another, but also against God, and so

their prayers should be hindered, and be unable to reach the throne of grace.



8 “Finally,” - Peter is bringing to a close the exhortations to submission, which

depend on the imperative in ch.2:13. He turns from particular classes and relations

to the whole Christian community, and describes what they ought to be in five Greek

words, the first three of which are found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures –

“be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another,” - literally,

sympathizing; feeling with others, rejoicing with them that do rejoice,

and weeping with them that weep. (Romans 12:15) - This does not mean

unanimity of sentiment and action in all matters; for that is manifestly impossible.

Variety of thought and feeling and action there must obviously be; but there is,

of course, a limit to this variety. The Church cannot fulfill her calling as the

“pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15) unless there be a consent

of opinion as to what that truth in its essential features is. We have

different work, different positions in the Church, and sometimes different

views as to the best things to do; but if Christian love is to be maintained,

as the different colors into which the prism diverges the light — red, and

purple, and orange, and the rest — all blend and are lost in the pure white

ray they form, so we must learn the secret of blending our differences in a

holy unanimity. Perhaps nothing is harder than to sink, and that gracefully,

so that no one knows we are doing it, our personal feeling into the common feeling

of the rest. How can all be like-minded? In the Revised Version the word

“courteous” drops out, and in its place we have “humble-minded.” That is it;

heart-culture, personal discipline, stern struggle, are needed if we are to be like-

minded, laying a strong hand on self, and keeping it under when it wants to rise –

“love as brethren,” -  An adjective (φιλάδελφι – philadelphi – love as

brethren; be fond of the brethren) in the Greek; the corresponding substantive

occurs in ch.1:22 - love will at least constrain the world TO ACKNOWLEDGE

ITS DIVINITY and we may expect to hear more frequently that welcome

utterance, “I will go with you, for I perceive that God is with you.”

(And God Himself will triumph over such, in the ancient words, “I drew them

with cords of love.” (Hosea 11:4) -“be pitiful,” -  This word (εὔσπλαγχνος

 eusplanchnos – compassionate; tenderhearted) has undergone a remarkable

change of meaning. In Hippocrates, quoted by Huther, it is used literally of one

whose viscera are healthy; it is also sometimes used figuratively, as equivalent to

εὐκάρδιος ἀνδρεῖος – eukardios andreios -  “goodhearted” with the heathen

would mean “brave;” with Christian writers “tender,” “pitiful.” “be courteous:”

This represents a reading (φιλόφρονες – philophrones –  friendly thoughtfulness)

which has very little support. The true reading is ταπεινόφρονες – tapeinophrones -  



9 “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing:” - Peter. like Paul (Romans

12:17; I Thessalonians 5:15), repeats his Master’s teaching in the Sermon on the

Mount (Matthew 5:39). He forbids revenge in word, as well as in deed - “but

contrariwise blessing;” -  The word “blessing” is not the substantive, but the

participle (εὐλογοῦντες – eulogountes - blessing), and thus corresponds with the

participle “rendering” (compae Matthew 5:44, “Bless them that curse you”) –

“knowing that ye are thereunto called,” -  rather, as in the Revised Version,

for hereunto were ye called. The word “knowing” is omitted in the best manuscripts

(compare ch.2:21). Some commentators take these words with the preceding: “Ye

were called to bless others, that so ye may inherit a blessing.” But, on the whole,

it seems better to connect them with the following clause: “that ye should inherit a

blessing.” Christians bless others, not in order that they should inherit a blessing,

but  because IT IS GOD’S WILL and THEIR DUTY and that duty follows from

the fact that God has made them inheritors of His blessing. GOD HAS BLESSED

THEM; therefore they must bless others!


10 “For he that will love life,” -  literally, he that willeth to love life.  Peter

deviates somewhat from the Septuagint Version of Psalm 34:12-16, which he is

quoting. The literal rendering of it is, “What man is he that desireth life, loving

 good days?” His connection of the participle θέλων Thelonone willing –with

ἀγαπᾶν – agapan – to be loving -  is remarkable. Perhaps the meaning

is best given by Bengel, “Qui vult ita vivere, nt ipsum non taedeat vitro” —

“Who wishes to live so that he will not weary of life;” so that he may love it, so

that he may have a life really worth living. There is a love of life which can only

lead to the loss of the true life (John 12:25). Peter is teaching us to love life

wisely, not with that selfish love which Christ condemns - “and see good days,” - 

Not necessarily in outward prosperity, but in the favor of God; days of suffering

may be good days in the truest sense - “let him refrain his tongue from evil,

and his lips that they speak no guile:”  We have here the usual parallelism of

Hebrew poetry. The word “refrain” (παυσάτω – pausato - literally, let him

 make it cease) implies a natural tendency to sins against charity.


11 “Let him eschew evil, and do good;” - literally, let him turn away from evil -  

“let him seek peace, and ensue it.”  Let him seek it as a hidden treasure, and

pursue it as if it might escape from him.


12 “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are

open unto their prayers:” - The apostle adds the conjunction “for”

(ὅτι oti - because) to mark the connection. God’s people must turn away

 from evil and do good, because THE ALL-SEEING EYE  is upon them;

 they will find strength to do so, because GOD HEARETH PRAYER!  

Perhaps when the apostle was writing these words he remembered how once

“the Lord turned, and looked” upon Peter -  “but the face of the Lord is

against them that do evil.”  The preposition in the two clauses is the same

(ἐπί - epi - over, or upon). The Lord’s eye is upon the good and the evil.

The apostle omits the words that follow in the psalm, “to cut off the

 remembrance of them from the earth,” perhaps because he wishes us to

regard the spiritual rather than the temporal consequences of our actions.


From vs. 9-12,  you can hardly read these words without feeling you

are listening to one who heard the sermon on the mount, and is inspired

with its spirit; and we cannot help noting the change they imply in Peter

himself. But perhaps it was what he saw in his Lord, more than what he

heard from Him, to which the change was due; Christ’s character carrying

His words home with transfiguring force. We do not wonder that it was

Peter who wrote, Not rendering evil for evil”  (v.9), and it is the word and

example of the same gracious Lord that lays the same burden on us. And

mark the blessing to ourselves that grows out of that. Never give place to

evil in word, or act, or thought, let the provocation be what it may. Yea,

not only so, return evil with good, recompense wrong with right, and your

fidelity to Christ will make an open way through the skies, through which

you shall see His smile and hear His “WELL DONE!  and find for your

prayers and spirit a clear path to His throne.


13 “And who is he that will harm you,” -  The apostle, as he began

his quotation from Psalm 34, without marks of citation, so adds at once his

inference from it in the form of a question. The conjunction “and” connects

the question with the quotation. If God’s eye is over the righteous, and His

ear open to their prayers, who shall harm them? Peter does not mean —

Who will have the heart to harm you? He knew the temper of Jews and

heathens; he knew also the Savior’s prophecies of coming persecution too

well to say that. The words remind us of the Septuagint rendering of

Isaiah 50:9, Κύριος βοηθήσει μοι τίς κακώσει με – Kurios boaethaesei

moi tis kakosei me – the Lord will help me, who will condemn me; afflict

me, affect me.  None can do real harm to the Lord’s people; they may

 persecute them, but He will make all things work together for their

good (Romans 8:28) -  “if ye be followers of that which is good?” -

rather, if ye become zealous of that which is good, with the oldest

manuscripts. The Authorized Version adopts the reading μιμηταί -

mimaetai -  followers or imitators, which is not so well supported. The genitive

τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ - tou agathou - admits the masculine translation, “of him that is

good,” but it is probably neuter in this place (compare  v. 11). With the

masculine rendering, compare Acts 22:3, (ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ -

zaelotaes huparchon tou Theou - and was zealous toward God).


Men must have a person to love, and their desire after purity is deepened and

changed into a more ardent earnestness when “that which is good” takes human

form and becomes “Him who is good, the perfect Christ, the Image of God,

the only Good.” All earnest seeking after moral excellence leads the seeker at

last TO JESUS CHRIST and the merchantman’s quest for many goodly pearls

ends in the finding of one entire and perfect chrysolite in which all fragmentary

preciousnesses are sphered.  (Matthew 13:4-46).





There is an antithesis in the original which is lost in our versions, but may be

represented by some such rendering, “Who is he that will do bad things to

you, if you be zealous of the good?” That principle thus forcibly put, by the

triumphant challenge of the question and by this sharp antithesis, may be

illustrated by several considerations which are linked together in such a

way that each comes into play where the preceding ceases or fails.


  • The first of these is that, as a rule, a character of obvious single-minded

enthusiasm for goodness conciliates. Men are not so bad but that there is

a place in their hearts and consciences which can be touched by goodness,

especially if it is accompanied with that self-forgetfulness and

consciousness of imperfection which zeal for goodness will always bring.

When good men are disliked it is very often not for their goodness but for

some accompaniment of it which would be better away, such as their want

of tact or of sympathy, their apparent sense of superiority, or the like. But

even if men are not won to love purity, or even to be at ease in the

presence of good men, they will very seldom go so far as to put dislike

into action and do harm to one who does good to them. The traveler

without a revolver is safest. Fire at the gaping crowd on the banks, and

they will overwhelm you. Meet them with a smile and a handful of gifts,

and you will almost always make friends. Gentleness and patience,

sympathy and love, clear a path for their possessors. It is not vinegar,

as the old legend has it, which will split the rocks. “When a man’s

ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with

him” (Proverbs 16:7).  Of course, this is not true without exception,

as the whole history of good men shows, and as Peter goes on to admit.

Sometimes, righteousness excites men’s enmity, and, when it fails,

then the second consideration comes in.


  • That is, that God will protect those who for righteousnesssake suffer.

The grand promises which Peter has been quoting from Psalm 34

come into play. A tacit comparison is suggested between the good

man’s enemies and his defenses. “The eyes of the Lord are on the

righteous,” and that being so, though deadly foes prowl round him with

their cruel eyes gleaming like a lion greedy of his prey, the question of

our text rings out the same assurance as Paul’s proud challenge, “If God

be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)  Many a time the

persecutor has had to confess that just as he seemed to have the prey in

his power:


“The man sprang to his feet,

Stood erect, caught at God’s skirts and prayed!

So I was afraid.”


The man whom an angel had brought out of prison when the morning of

his martyrdom was dawning might well preach that God would take care

of His children even when man’s wrath was hottest.  (Acts 12:1-12)


  • But that Divine protection is not always granted. Peter had indeed

experienced deliverance at the eleventh hour, but his Lord had told, him

that one day the putting off of his tabernacle was to come by violence

(John 21:18-19); and more, one of the apostles had already trod that

brief and bloody path of martyrdom which he knew lay before him

and before many of those to whom his writings would come. What, in

such extreme cases, should be the worth of such a saying? Is it not grimly

contradicted by the scaffold and the fire? No; for even if these two outer

walls of defense are carried by the enemy, and men’s malice is not softened

but rather embittered by goodness, and God’s love does not see fit to shield

us from the blow, the inner line of fortification remains impregnable. In the

utmost extremity of outward suffering, ay, even from the midst of the fire,

the Christian may ring out the triumphant words of our text (Compare

the death of Stephen - Acts 7:54-60); for no real harm can touch us if

we be zealous of that which is good. THE EVIL IN THE EVIL WILL

BE AVERTED!  The bitter will be changed into sweet, as in the old

legend the shower of burning coals became a shower of rubies. The

poison will be wiped from the arrow. The loving heart that cleaves to

Christ and desires most to be united to Him will not count that an evil

which brings it nearer its home and its joy, nor think the wildest storm

a calamity which blows it to Christ’s breast. The same events may be

quite different in their character to different men. Two men may be

drowned in one shipwreck. To the one it may be the opening of the door

of his Father’s house to the weary pilgrim and the very crown of God’s

mercies. To the other it may be misery and truly a sinking in a boundless


WHO IS THE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD!  If we love Him in Christ,

and are seeking as our highest aim amid the illusory and fleeting good of

earth to press closer to Him, then He will deliver us from all real evil; and

“who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?”

“All things work together for good to them who love God.” (Romans




Christian Zeal (v.13)


Zeal is a habit of feeling and purpose. It supposes that a certain cause, a

certain end of action, is apprehended by the understanding and approved

by the judgment. As the etymology of the word implies, this quality is one

characterized by warmth, fervor, ardor, in the pursuit of the object

approved. It manifests itself in effort, in endurance, in perseverance. Zeal is

in itself neither good nor bad; but it is always powerful, giving efficiency to

toil, and an impetus to the cause which calls it into activity. In a bad project

zeal does harm, for it assists in DIFFUSING ERROR and IMMORALITY!

 In a holy enterprise zeal does good; no great and worthy cause was ever

brought to success and victory without zealous labors. There are cases in

which abundant zeal compensates slender abilities and mean position. Yet

it is possible for zeal to outrun judgment and discretion.




Ø      Its spring, its source, is grateful love and ardent consecration

to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Here no fanaticism is

possible. There is the best reason and ground for such emotions;

the danger is in the direction of INDIFFERENCE and

COLDNESS.  Interest in Divine truth cannot be too keen;

consecration to Divine service cannot be too complete.


Ø      Its tokens and evidences are these — earnestness in devotion,

in praise and prayer, both public and private; earnestness in the

discharge of daily duty, however secular (Mr. Spurgeon says

that “The purpose of Christianity is to sanctify the secular”-

CY – 2012), yet sanctified by the Christian motive and spirit;

earnestness in discouraging and repressing all sin; earnestness

in exerting social influence for the spread of truth and





Ø      The Scriptures expressly enjoin and encourage zeal. “Be zealous!”

 is the admonition the ascended Savior addresses to His Church.

“It is good always to be zealously affected in a good cause”

(Galatians 4:18), is the assertion of the apostle).


Ø      Our Lord Christ was supremely zealous, He was “clothed with

zeal as with a cloak.” In His conduct was a fulfillment of the

words, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Psalm 69:9;

John 2:17).  Zealous in love, He loved to the end; zealous in labor,

He finished the work given Him to do.


Ø      The best and most useful men have been zealous. This is true of the

apostles, of the great thinkers and scholars of the Church, of the

Reformers, of leaders in benevolent effort and missionary enterprise.


Ø      The presence or absence of zeal affects the character beneficially or

injuriously. Its absence is accompanied by SPIRITUAL

DECLENSION; its presence promotes the true prosperity of the

Church and the advance of the gospel; and these in turn react upon

the individual character and further its higher development and

everlasting well-being.


14 “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye:” - better,

but although ye should suffer. Peter knew that persecution was coming; he wished

to prepare his readers for it. He recalls to their thoughts the eighth beatitude, almost

reproducing the Lord’s words (Matthew 5:10). Such suffering would do them no

real harm; nay, it would bring with it a true and deep blessing. “Righteousness”

here seems synonymous with “that which is good” in the last verse. Christians

had often to suffer, not only because of their confession of Christ, but because

of the purity of their lives, WHICH WAS A STANDING REPROACH TO

THE HEATHEN!  Compare St. Augustine’s well-known saying, “Martyrem tacit

non poena, sed causa ” ("Martyrdom is made not by the suffering but by the cause"

i.e. you do not become a martyr just because you've suffered, but rather because

you've suffered for the true faith) - “and be not afraid of their terror, neither

be troubled;” From Isaiah 8:12. The genitive may be taken as objective: “Be not

 afraid of the terror which they cause;” or as subjective, “with the terror

which they feel.” The former view is more suitable here.


15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:” -  From Isaiah 8:13. The

reading of the best and oldest manuscripts here is Κύριον δὲ τὸν Ξριστόν

Kurion de ton Christon - the Lord Christ “Sanctify the Lord Christ” or,

“Sanctify the Christ as Lord.” The absence of the article with Κύριον (Lord)

is in  favor of the second translation; but the first seems more natural, more

in accordance with the original passage in Isaiah, and the common expression,

Κύριος ὁ Θεός – Kurios Ho Theos – The Lord God -  is in its favor. Whichever

 translation is adopted, Peter here substitutes the Savior’s Name where the prophet

wrote, “the Lord of hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth” — a change which would be

nothing less than impious if the Lord Jesus Christ were not truly God. “Sanctify

Him,” the apostle says (as the Lord Himself teaches us to say, in the first words

of the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:9); that is, regard Him as most holy, awful in

sanctity; serve Him with reverence and godly fear; so you will not “be afraid

of their terror.” The holy fear of God will lift you above the fear of man. “Let Him

be your fear, and let Him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13; see also Leviticus 10:3;

Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 38:23 – May we not overlook the import of the last clause

of Ezekiel 38:23 which says, “I WILL BE KNOWN IN THE EYES OF MANY


Think of this in reference of the 21st Century – CY – 2012).  Peter adds the words,

“in your hearts,” to teach us that THIS REVERENCE,  this hallowing of the


BEING! – “and be ready always to give an answer to every man” - literally,

ready always for an apology to every man. The word ἀπολογία – apologia –

a verbal defense -  is often used of a formal answer before a magistrate,

or of a written defense of the faith; but here the addition, “to every man,”

shows that Peter is thinking of informal answers on any suitable occasion –

“that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” -  literally,

an account concerning the hope. Hope is the grace on which Peter lays

most stress; it lives in the hearts of Christians. Christians ought to be able

to give an account of their hope when asked, both for the defense of the

truth and for the good of the asker. That account may be very simple; it

may be the mere recital of personal experience — often the most

convincing of arguments; it may be, in the case of instructed Christians,

profound and closely reasoned. SOME ANSWER EVERY CHRISTIAN

OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO GIVE!  -  “with meekness and fear:”

The best manuscripts read, “but with meekness and fear.” The word

“but” (ἀλλά - alla) is emphatic; argument always involves danger of

weakening the spiritual life through pride or bitterness. We must sometimes

“contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3); but it must be with gentleness

and awe. We should fear lest we injure our own souls by arrogant and angry

controversy; we should seek the spiritual good of our opponents; and we should

entertain a solemn awe of THE PRESENCE OF GOD with a trembling anxiety

to think and to say only what is acceptable unto Him!


There is a broad sense, no doubt, in which we might apply these words to the

Christian hope generally, and the duty of being able to give an intelligent and

satisfactory reason for its possession; but their meaning here seems to be more

defined. The good conduct that issues from the good conscience and puts to

shame the evil speakers, leads them to question us about the hope which they

see hidden within us and sustaining us, and they come to envy it, and secretly

to want to know what it is. Now, says Peter, “be ready to tell them; let them

know that it is the grace of Christ which renews and sanctifies.” One of the

benedictions of persecution endured and triumphed over is that it may bring

the very persecutors themselves to the feet of Jesus. (Like the example of

Stephen before Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul – Acts 7:54-60 – CY –

2012),  Then, brethren, can we not endorse the truth in the verse which closes

this long passage, “It is good, if the will of the Lord be so, that ye suffer for

 well-doing.” It is good in its purifying efficacy on ourselves; it is good in its

tendency to glorify God; it is good as a saving power on our fellow-men.


16 “Having a good conscience;” -  This word “conscience” (συνείδησις

suneidaesis ) is one of the many links between this Epistle and the writings of Paul.

Peter uses it three times; Paul, very frequently.  There is a close connection between

this clause and the preceding verse. A good conscience is the best reason of the

hope that is in us. An apology may be learned, well-expressed, eloquent; but it

will not be convincing UNLESS IT COMES FROM THE HEART  and is

backed up by the life - “that, whereas they speak evil of you, as

of evildoers,’ -  The Revised Version follows the Sinaitic Manuscript in reading, “

Wherein ye are spoken against,” and omitting “as of evil-doers? It is possible that

the received reading may have been interpolated from ch. 2:12, where the same

words occur; except that there the mood is indicative, here, conjunctive,

“wherein they may possibly speak evil of you” -  ‘they may be ashamed that

falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” - rather, as the

Revised Version, they may be put to shame; that is, “proved to be liars”

(compare II Corinthians 7:14). The word translated “falsely accuse” is that

which is rendered “despitefully use” in Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28. It

is a strong word. Aristotle defines the corresponding substantive as a

thwarting of the wishes of others out of gratuitous malice (‘Rhet.,’ 2:2).

For “good conversation,” see ch.1:15, 18. The Christian’s life is in

Christ, in the sphere of His presence, He dwelling in us, and we in Him

(compare John 17: 23; II Corinthians 5:17).


17 “For it is better,” -  Peter meets the common objection that suffering could

be borne more easily if it were deserved; the Christian must take the cross, if it

comes, as from God, sent for his good (compare ch.2:19-20) - “if the will of

God be so,” -  literally, if the will of God should so will. Θέλημα – thelaema –

will - denotes the will in itself; θέλεινthelein -  its active operation -  “that

ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”  The construction is participial,

as in ch. 2:20. As there, the participle expresses, not merely the circumstances,

but the cause of the suffering; they would have to suffer, not simply while they

were doing well, but because they did well.




The Duty of Patience in Suffering (vs. 13-17)


  • The true Christian cannot be really hurt by external troubles. If we are

zealous of what is good, no one can harm us. In truth a man can be really

hurt only by himself, through his own consent; for those who suffer for

righteousness’ sake are blessed; their suffering does them no real harm; it is

turned by the grace of God into a blessing. Suffering is a test of our

religion; IT SHOWS WHAT IT IS WORTH!   The mere outward semblance

of religion fails under it; deep spiritual religion grows brighter and more

 refined in the furnace of affliction. But only true religion can endure that

searching fire. True religion is zealous, fervent, growing; it cannot be lukewarm;

it zealously seeks everything that is really good, zealously supports every

good work. The true Christian cannot be hurt by external troubles, for they

will only deepen and purify that religion which is the life of his soul, the joy

of his heart. Sickness, pain, poverty — any trouble meekly borne, is

blessed to the soul’s inward happiness; but especially blessed is that

suffering which is borne for righteousness’ sake. When a man is

content to suffer voluntarily in the cause of truth and righteousness, he is

brought very near to Christ the Lord, for he is imitating His example,

sharing His cross. The kingdom of heaven is his, for he is very near to the

King; and the King dwelleth in his heart, filling him with His sacred



  • Advice to suffering Christians.


Ø      In their relations to God. They must not fear, they must not allow

themselves to be distressed and agitated by surrounding troubles.

Restless excitement is destructive of that tranquility which is the

characteristic Christian temper. And the antidote to anxious fear

is the hallowing presence of the Lord within us. The apostle

bids us, especially in times of trouble and anxiety, to sanctify the

Lord Christ in our hearts. The Christian heart should be a sanctuary,

cleansed and purified for His indwelling by the gracious influences

of the Holy Spirit. There Christ dwelleth enthroned; doubts and

fear vanish when the Christian soul falls down and worships Him,

crying, “My Lord, and my God!” Therefore we are bidden to sanctify

Him, to regard Him as alone holy, the Most Holy One, holiest of

holies; to hallow His holy Name, to reverence His most sacred presence

within us, and in all awe and love and thankfulness to offer unto Him

the deepest adoration of our hearts. Outward worship is not enough;

outward forms of reverence have their value when they are the

expression of the inward reverence of the heart; but it is in the

 heart that we must sanctify the Lord Christ, if we are to be blessed

with that holy tranquility of spirit which results from His sacred

presence. As we sanctify Him, He sanctifieth us; the more we

learn to regard Him with a deep, awful, loving reverence, the more

does He shed His sanctifying grace throughout our soul, cleansing

it from all that is unworthy, and creating it anew after His own image.

When our heart is His sanctuary, “He shall be for a sanctuary” to us

(Isaiah 8:14); He dwelling in us and we in Him; and then we need not

fear. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,”

said David, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

He who fears God aright fears nothing else but God; he who

sanctifieth the Lord Christ in his heart hath a sacred presence there

which keeps  him calm and tranquil amid dangers and anticipations

of coming troubles.


Ø      In their relations to men. As they must live for Christ, so they must,

when occasion serves, speak for Him. The best evidence of the power

of religion is the holy lives of Christians. But men will sometimes ask for

a reason of the hope that is in them. That hope seemed a strange thing in

the days of persecution and unbelief; men thought it wild folly, fanaticism.

Christians had often to speak or to write in defense of their faith. We

should be ready to do so still both for the glory of God and for the

sake of the inquirer’s soul.  Therefore we should imitate the Bereans,

who “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so”

(Acts 17:11). We should take care that our faith is established on the

holy Word of God; those who are able should pursue such other studies

as may assist us in the defense of the faith. “But,” the apostle adds (the

conjunction is emphatic), “with meekness and fear.” There is always

danger in theological controversy — danger lest, in heated argument, we

transgress the law of love and truth; and danger lest we tread irreverently

on holy ground, and speak thoughtlessly of holy things. There must be a

mingling of awe and sweetness and wisdom in the temper of him who

would by his words win souls to God and the truth. And he must have

a good conscience. A good conscience is the consciousness of good

thoughts, motives, desires; the Christian must exercise himself, like Paul,

“to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and

toward men” (Acts 24:16).  Such an inner consciousness will give

warmth, reality, energy, to his words when he is contending for

the faith. Words will not convince if they are out of harmony with

the life; unreality will soon betray itself. A good life without words is

a better defense of religion than the most learned apology without a

godly life. The good life puts to shame the false accusations of the

enemies of Christianity; it proves the truth and the strength of Christian

motives. But the good life must flow from the good conscience. Men

sometimes begin at the wrong end; they try first to reform the outward

life; they should begin with the mind and conscience.  If Christians

in their progress in grace would eye this the most, that the conscience be

growing purer, the heart more spiritual, the affections more regular and

heavenly, their outward carriage would be holier; whereas the outward

work of performing duties, and being much exercised in religion, may,

by the neglect of this, be labor in vain, and amend nothing soundly. To

set the outward actions right, though with an honest intention, and not

so to find out and regard the inner disorder of the heart, whence that

in the actions flows, is but to be still putting the index of a clock right

with your finger, while it is foul or out of order within, which is a

continual business, and does no good. Oh! but a purified conscience,

 a soul renewed and refined in its temper and affections, will make

things go right without, in all the duties and acts of our callings.


  • Christians have comfort in their sufferings. For


Ø      they know, if they are called to suffer, that it is the will of God, and

that His will is better than our will. He willeth that we should be saved,

that we should come to repentance and live; He willeth our

sanctification; and he makes our earthly afflictions, if we bear them

patiently, work together for our souls’ good. And


Ø      it is better to suffer while well-doing and (as was once the case often,

and is sometimes the case now) for well-doing than for evil-doing.

The world thinks otherwise; people often say that they could bear this

or that trouble better if they had deserved it. But those who say that

seldom bear deserved afflictions well; and the Christian knows that

suffering for well-doing, when it comes, is the highest form of suffering,

for it makes the suffering Christian most like unto the suffering Lord.

If only he has a good conscience, if his conversation (his life and

conduct) is in Christ, in the sphere of His presence, — he can look

inward and find Christ, he can look upward and see by faith the

prize of the high calling; and then he can say, even in the midst of

suffering, like Job,  “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

(Job 1:21).



Sufferers Fortified (vs. 14-17)



EXPECT. These, of course, are many and various; but it is instructive to

notice what those are which are here singled out and placed in

prominence, doubtless by the wisdom of the inspired apostle.


Ø      Christians may expect to suffer for well-doing. That is, they

will have to endure injustice from the world, which will not

appreciate their character and their efforts for its good.


Ø      They may expect to be evil spoken of, as if evil-doers. That is,

they will have to endure calumny from those who will take

pleasure in detracting from their merits, magnifying their faults,

misrepresenting their motives, and traducing their life.





Ø      They should not forget that it is the will of God that His people

should suffer, even wrongfully.

Ø      They should cherish the assurance that none can really harm them.

Ø      They should consider that their lot is compatible with happiness.

Ø      And they may even believe that some who have ill treated and

slandered them may come to be ashamed of their sinful conduct.


18 “For Christ also hath once suffered” -  rather, because Christ also once

 suffered. Two of the oldest manuscripts read “died;” but “suffered” corresponds

best with the previous verse. The connection is — It must be better to suffer for

well-doing, because Christ Himself, the ALL-INNOCENT ONE,  thus suffered,

and they who so suffer are made most like unto Him. The apostle refers us again to

that transcendent Example which was ever before his eyes (compare the close

parallel in Hebrews 9:26-28).  Christ suffered once for all (ἅπαξ – hapax - once);

so the sufferings of the  Christian are soon over “but for a moment”  (II Corinthians

4:17) -   “for sins,” - (περί - peri – for; concerning sins; on account of sins),

He, Himself sinless (“undefiled, separate from sinners” - Hebrews 7:26)

suffered concerning the sins of others.  The preposition περί is constantly used

in connection with the sin offering in the Septuagint (see Leviticus 6:25, Σφάξουσι τὰ περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας – Spaxousi ta peritaes amartias  the sin offering

shall be killed - -compare Ibid. 5:8-11; also Hebrews 10:6,8,18, 26) -  “the just

for the unjust,” - literally, just for unjust. There is no article. The apostle began

to speak of the death of Christ, both here and in ch.2 as an example; in both places

he seems to be led on by an instinctive feeling that it is scarcely seemly for the

Christian to mention that stupendous event without dwelling on its deeper

and more mysterious meaning. The preposition used in this clause (ὑπέρ

huper – for the sake of ) does not necessarily convey the idea of vicarious

 suffering,) as ἁντί  - anti -  instead for - (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; compare also

I Timothy 2:6) does; it means simply “in behalf of,” leaving the character of the

relation undetermined; here the context implies the particular relation of substitution

(compare Romans 5:6; Peter’s description of our Lord as “the Just,” in Acts

3:14) – “that He might bring us to God,” - The Vatican and other manuscripts

read “you.” Peter opens out one of the deeper aspects of the death of Christ.

The veil that hid the Holiest was then rent in twain, and believers were invited and

encouraged to draw near into the immediate presence of God. The verb used here

 is προσάγεινprosagein – he might bring -  the corresponding substantive

(προσαγωγή - prosagogae - access) occurs in Ephesians 2:18; 3:12; also in

Romans 5:2. In those places it is rendered “access” — we have access

to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ  -“being put to death in the flesh,

but quickened by the Spirit:” The Greek words are, Θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ

ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματιThanatotheis men sarki zoopoiaetheis

de pneumati -  being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the spirit –

the article τῷ - to - inserted before πνεύματι in the received text being without

authority. We observe the absence of any article or preposition, and the exact

balance and correspondence of the two clauses. The two datives must be taken in

the same sense; it is impossible to regard one as the dative of the sphere, and

the other as the dative of the instrument; both are evidently datives of “the

sphere to which a general predicate is to be limited; they limit the extent of the

participles (compare I Corinthians 7:35; Colossians 2:5). Thus the literal translation

 is, “Being put to death in flesh, but quickened in spirit.” For the antithesis of

“flesh” and “spirit,” common in the New Testament, compare Romans 1:3-4,

“Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the

 Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness;” and I Timothy

3:16, “Manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit;” see especially the close

parallel in ch.4:6, “That they might be judged according to men in the flesh,

but live according to God in the spirit.” It seems to follow, from the opposition

of flesh and spirit, and from a comparison of the passages quoted above, that by

πνεῦμα – pneuma – spirit - in this verse we are to understand, not God

the Holy Ghost, but the holy human spirit of Christ. In His flesh He was put

to death, but in His spirit He was quickened. When the Lord had said,

“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46); when He

bowed His head, and gave up the spirit; — then that spirit passed into a new

life.  Christ, being delivered from the burden of that suffering flesh which He had

graciously taken for our salvation, was quickened in His holy human spirit —

quickened to new energies, new and blessed activities. So it shall be with those

who suffer for well-doing; they may even be put to death in the flesh, but “if we

die with Him, we shall also live with Him”(II Timothy 2:11).  It is

far better (πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον – pollo mallon kreisson – much

rather better) to depart and to be with Christ – Philippians 1:23), to

be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8).

They that are Christ’s shall, like their Master, be quickened in the spirit; they

pass at once into the new life of Paradise; their works follow them thither; it

may be, we cannot tell, they will be employed in blessed work for Christ, being

made like unto Him not only in some degree during their earthly life,

 but also in the intermediate state of rest and hope.



Sacrificial Sufferings (v.18)


To Peter, the memory of his Lord’s Passion must have been peculiarly

pathetic and peculiarly precious. He could not but connect the Master’s

constancy with the servant’s unfaithfulness, and the servant’s penitence

with the Master’s grace and pardoning favor. The woe he had witnessed

could never be long absent from his recollection. And the bearing of

Christ’s sufferings upon human redemption and upon Christian

consecration must have constantly occurred to him when communicating

Divine truth, and inspiring his fellow-believers to devotion and endurance.

In this verse, compact with precious fact and doctrine, we have set before us





that the mystery of the fact is to be found. THE SUFFERER WAS

THE RIGHTEOUS ONE, blameless in character, upright in conduct,

beneficent in ministry. Yet He suffered, notwithstanding all this. That

the unrighteous should suffer, this appears to us natural; they eat of the

fruit of their doings; they reap as they have sown. But in the agony and

death of JESUS OF NAZARETH we see the undeserved sufferings of




consideration increases the mystery and enhances the interest of the

Passion of our Redeemer. At first sight it seems as though, if undeserved

sufferings are to be endured, this must be at least on behalf of the

virtuous, the meritorious, the pious. But it was otherwise, it was exactly

contrary, with the sufferings of Christ. He died for the unrighteous, for

those who had violated the laws of God and the laws of man!



brought to the cross by the sins of men; and it was on account of those sins

that He deliberately and graciously consented to die. The connection

between sin and suffering is obvious in God’s providential treatment of

men; it is equally obvious in GOD’S MERCIFUL REDEMPTION




Nothing more sublime in itself, or more welcome to the sinner’s ear, can be

found than the statement in this verse of the purpose for which our Lord

Jesus accepted the death of humiliation and shame — it was “THAT HE

MIGHT  BRING US TO GOD!   Surely the simplest and yet the grandest

statement of Immanuel’s voluntary and sacrificial death!



Christians see to it that, if they suffer, it be not for ill-doing, but (like their

Lord) for well-doing. Such endurance may be wholesome discipline for

them, and it may be the means of good to others.


19 “By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison;” -

rather, (εν ω΅- en ho - in which). The Lord was no longer in the flesh; the

component parts of His human nature were separated by death; His flesh lay

in the grave. As he had gone about doing good in the flesh (Acts 10:38),

so now He went in the spirit — in his holy human spirit. He went. The Greek

word (πορευθείς – poreutheis – went; being gone) occurs again in v. 22,

“who is gone into heaven.” It must have the same meaning in both places; in

v. 22 it asserts a change of locality; it must do the like here. There it is used of the

ascent into heaven; it can scarcely mean here that, without any such change of place,

Christ preached, not in His own Person, but through Noah or the apostles.

Compare Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:9 (the Epistle which seems to have been so

much in Peter’s thoughts), “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also

descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” And preached (ἐκήρυξεν

ekaeruxen – He preached; He proclaimed). It is the word constantly used of the

Lord from the time when “Jesus began to preach (κηρύσσειν – kaerussein –

preach; proclaim), and to say,  Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”

(Matthew 4:17). Then, Himself in our human flesh, He preached to men living in the

flesh — to a few of His own age and country. Now the range of His preaching was

extended; Himself in the spirit, He preached to spirits: “"Πνεύματι – Pneumati –

Spirit – (last word in v. 18) -  πνεύμασι – pneumasi – spirits – (this verse).

He preached also to the spirits; not only once to living men, but now also to spirits,

even to them. The καὶ - kai – and -  calls for attention; it implies a new and

additional fact; it emphasizes the substantive (καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασιν – kai tois

pneumasin – and the spirits). The preaching and the condition of the hearers

are mentioned together; they were spirits when they heard the preaching. It seems

impossible to understand these words of preaching through Noah or the apostles

to men who passed afterwards into the state of disembodied spirits. And He

preached in the spirit. The words seem to limit the preaching to the time

when the Lord’s soul was left in Hades (Acts 2:27). Huther, indeed, says that

as both expressions (θανατωθείς – thanatotheis – being put to death - and

ζωσοποιηθείς – zosopoinaetheis – quickened; being made live) apply to

Christ in His entire Person, consisting of body and soul, what follows must not be

conceived as an activity which He exercised in His spirit only, and whilst separated

from His body.” But does θανατωθείς apply to body and soul? Men “are not

 able to kill the soul.” (Luke 12:4-5).  And is it true, as Huther continues, that

the first words of this verse are not opposed to the view that Christ preached in His

glorified body, “inasmuch as in this body the Lord is no longer ἐν σαρκί  - en

sarki – in the flesh – but entirely ἐν πνεύματιen pneumati – in the

spirit”? Indeed, we are taught that flesh and blood cannot inherit THE

KINGDOM OF GOD(I Corinthians 15:50) and that that which is sown a

 natural body is raised a spiritual body” (σῶμα πνευματικόν – soma

pneumatikon – spiritual body – Ibid. v. 44); but Christ Himself said of

His resurrection-body, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me

have” (Luke 24:39). He preached to “the spirits in prison (ἐν φυλακῇ -

en phulakae – prison; guard house; jail).” (For φυλακῇ, compare Revelation

20:7; Matthew 5:25). It cannot mean the whole realm of the dead, but only that

part of Hades in which the souls of the ungodly are reserved unto the day of

judgment. It seems doubtful whether this distinction between φυλακῇ and

δεσμωτήριον – desmotaerion – a place of bonds – Matthew 11:2 - can be

pressed; in Rev. 20:7 fulakh> is used of the prison of Satan, though, indeed,

that prison is not the ἄβυσσος – abussos –bottom; bottomless pit INTO



20 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once” - Omit the word “once”

(ἅπαξ - hapax), which is without authority - “the longsuffering of God waited

in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is,

eight souls were saved by water.” Wherein; literally, into which; they were

saved by entering into it. The last words may mean, “they were carried safely

through the water,” or, “they were saved by water;” that is, the water bore up

the ark (Genesis 7:17-18). The argument of v. 21 makes the second interpretation

the more probable.  The verse now before us limits the area of the Lord’s preaching

without it we might have supposed that he preached to the whole multitude of the

dead, or at least to all the ungodly dead whose spirits were in prison. Why

does Peter specify the generation that was swept away by the Flood?

Did they need the preaching of the Christ more than other sinful souls? or

was there any special reason why that grace should be vouchsafed to them

rather than to others? The fact must have been revealed to the apostle; but

evidently we are in the presence of a mystery into which we can see only a

little way. Those antediluvians were a conspicuous instance of men who

suffered for evil doing (see v. 17); as Christ is the transcendent Example

of one who suffered for well-doing. It is better to suffer with Him than with

them: they are in prison. His chosen are with Him in Paradise. But Peter

cannot rest in the contemplation of the Lord’s death as an example; he

must pass on to the deeper, the more mysterious aspects of that most

stupendous of events. The Lord suffered concerning sins, for the sake of

unrighteous men; not only did He die for them, He did not rest from His holy

work even while His sacred body lay in the grave; He went and preached to

some whose sins had been most notorious, and most signally punished. The

judgment had been one of unexampled awfulness; eight souls only were

saved in the ark, many thousands perished. It may be that Peter

mentions the fewness of the saved to indicate one reason for this gracious

visit. It seems that the awful destruction of the Deluge had made a deep

impression upon his mind; he mentions it twice in his Second Epistle (2:5;

3:6); he saw in it a solemn anticipation of the last tremendous judgment.

Doubtless he remembered well how the Lord, in His great prophetic

discourse upon the Mount of Olives, had compared the days of Noah to

the coming of the Son of man (Matthew 24:37-39); those words seem

to give a special character to the Deluge, separating it from other lesser

judgments, and investing it with a peculiar awfulness. It may be that the

apostle’s thoughts had dwelt much upon the many mysterious problems

(such as the great destruction of infant life) connected with it; and that a

special revelation was vouchsafed to him to clear up some of his

difficulties. These spirits, in prison at the time of the descent into Hades,

had aforetime been disobedient. The Greek word (ἀπειθήσασι - apeithaesasi –

disobedient; ones being stubborn) means literally “disbelieving;” but here, as in

ch.2:7 and elsewhere, it stands for that willful unbelief which sets itself in

 direct opposition to the will of God. They were guilty of unbelief, and of the

disobedience which results from unbelief. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness”

(II Peter 2:5, where the Greek word is κῆρυξ – kaerux – preacher; hearld) the

substantive corresponding with the verb ἐκήρυξεν – ekaeruxen – he proclaims;

he heralds  (v.19); the vast structure of the ark was a standing warning as it rose

slowly before their eyes. The long-suffering of God waited all those hundred and

twenty years (Genesis 6:3), as now the Lord is “long-suffering to usward,

not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”

(II Peter 3:9). But they heeded neither the preaching of Noah nor the long-suffering

of God; and at last “the Flood came, and took them all away. So shall also

the coming of the Son of man be.” Eight only were saved then; they doubtless

suffered for well-doing; they had to endure much scorn and derision, perhaps

persecution. But they were not disobedient. “By faith Noah, being warned

of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the

saving of his house” (Hebrews 11:7).  The eight were brought safe through

(διεσώθησαν – diesothaesan – were saved); they were saved through the

water; the water bore them up, possibly rescued them from persecution. But the rest

perished; the destruction of life was tremendous; we know not how many thousands

perished: they suffered for evil-doing. But the degrees of guilt must have varied

greatly from open profanity and hostility to silent doubt; while there were many

children and very young persons; and it may be that many repented at the

last moment. It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing; but

even suffering for evil-doing is sometimes blessed to the salvation of the

soul; and it may be that some of these, having been “judged according to

men in the flesh,” now “live according to God in the spirit” (ch. 4:6).

For it is impossible to believe that the Lord’s preaching was a “concio

damnatoria.” The Lord spoke sternly sometimes in the days of His flesh, but

it was the warning voice of love; even that sternest denunciation of the

concentrated guilt and hypocrisy of the Pharisees ended in a piteous wail of

loving sorrow. It cannot be that the most merciful Savior would have

visited souls irretrievably lost merely to upbraid them and to enhance their

misery. He had just suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust: is it not

possible that one of the effects of that suffering might have been “to bring

unto God” some souls who once had been alienated from God by wicked

works, but had not wholly hardened their hearts; who, like the men of Tyre

and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, had not the opportunities which we

enjoy, who had not been once enlightened and made partakers of the

heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come? (Matthew 11:21-24;

Hebrews 6:4-5)  Is it not possible that in those words, “which sometime were

 disobedient,” there may be a hint that that disobedience of theirs was not the

“eternal sin” which, according to the reading of the two most ancient manuscripts

in Mark 3:29, is the awful lot of those who have never forgiveness? The Lord

preached to the spirits in prison; that word (ἐκήρυξεν – ekaeruxen –

he preached; he proclaims; he heralds) is commonly used of the heralds of

salvation, and Peter himself, in the next chapter, tells us that “the gospel

was preached (εὐηγγελίσθη – euaeggelisthae – gospel preached ) to

them that are dead.” The gospel is the GOOD TIDINGS OF


just died upon the cross: is it not possible that, in the moment of victory, He

announced the saving power of the cross to some who had greatly sinned;

as at the time of His resurrection “many bodies of the saints who slept

arose”? (Matthew 27:52)  There is one more question which forces itself

upon us — What was the result of this preaching? Did the spirits in prison

listen to the Savior’s voice? Were they delivered from that prison where they

had been so long confined? Here Scripture is almost silent; yet we read the

words of hope in ch.4:6, “For this cause was the gospel preached also to

them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the

flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” The good news was

announced to them that they might live; then may we not dare to hope that

some at least listened to that gracious preaching, and were saved even out

of that prison by the power of the Savior’s cross? May we not venture to

believe, with the author of the ‘ Christian Year,’ that even in that dreary

scene the Savior’s eye reached the thronging band of souls, and that His

cross and Passion, His agony and bloody sweat, might (we know not how

or in what measure) “set the shadowy realms from sin and sorrow free?” It

seems desirable to add a brief summary of the history of opinion on this

controversial passage. The early Greek Fathers appear to have held,

with one consent, that Peter is here speaking of that descent into Hades

of which he had spoken in his first great sermon (Acts 2:31). Justin

Martyr, in his’ Dialogue with Trypho’ (sect. 72), accuses the Jews of

having erased from the prophecies of Jeremiah the following words: “The

Lord God of Israel remembered his dead who slept in the land of the tomb,

and descended to them to preach to them the good news of his salvation.

Irenseus quotes the same passage, attributing it in one place to Isaiah, in

another to Jeremiah, and adds that the Lord’s purpose was to deliver them

and to save them (extrahere eos et salvare cos). Tertullian says that the

Lord descended into the lower parts of the earth, to make the patriarchs

partakers of Himself (compotes sui; ‘De Anima,’ c. 55). Clement of

Alexandria quotes Hermas as saying that “the apostles and teachers who

had preached the Name of the Son of God and had fallen asleep, preached

by His power and faith to those who had fallen asleep before them”

(‘Strom.,’ 2:9). “And then,” Bishop Pearson, from whose notes on the

Creed these quotations are taken, continues, “Clement supplies that

authority with a reason of his own, that as the apostles were to imitate

Christ while they lived, so did they also imitate Him after death, and

therefore preached to the souls in Hades, as Christ did before them.” The

earliest writers do not seem to have thought that any change in the

condition of the dead was produced by Christ’s descent into Hades. The

Lord announced the gospel to the dead; the departed saints rejoiced to hear

the glad tidings, as now the angels rejoice over each repentant sinner.

Origen, in his second homily on I Kings, taught that the Lord, descending

into Hades, brought the souls of the holy dead, the patriarchs and prophets,

out of Hades into Paradise; no souls could pass the flaming sword till he

had led the way; but now, through his grace and power, the blessed dead

who die in the Lord enter at once into the rest of Paradise — not yet

heaven, but an intermediate place of rest, far better than that from which

the saints of the old covenant were delivered. In this view Origen was

followed by many of the later Fathers. But Peter says nothing of any

preaching to departed saints. Christ “went and preached,” he says, “unto

the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient.” Hence Jerome,

Ambrose, Augustine, and others were led to suppose that the Lord not

only raised the holy dead to a higher state of blessedness, but preached also

to the disobedient, and that some of these believed, and were by His grace

delivered from “prison.” Some few, as Cyril of Alexandria, held that the

Lord spoiled the house of the strong man armed and released all his captives.

This Augustine reckoned as a heresy. But in his epistle to Euodius (Ep. 99 and

164) Augustine, much exercised (as he says, “vehementissime commotus”) by

the difficulties of the question, propounded the interpretation which

became general in the Western Church, being adopted by Bode, Thomas

Aquinas, De Lyra, and later by Beza, Hammond, Leighton, Pearson, etc.

“The spirits in prison,” he says, “are the unbelieving who lived in the days

of Noah, whose spirits, i.e. souls, had been shut up in the flesh and in the

darkness of ignorance, as in a prison [comp. ‘ Paradise Lost,’ 11:723].

Christ preached to them, not in the flesh, inasmuch as he was not yet

incarnate, but in the spirit, i.e. according to his Divine nature (secundum

divinitatem).” But this interpretation does not satisfy Peter’s words.

The hypothesis that Christ preached through the instrumentality of Noah

does not adequately represent the participle πορευθείς – poreutheis –

 went; being gone - the word φυλακῇ (prison) cannot be taken metaphorically

of the flesh in which the soul is confined. If, with Beza, we understand it as meaning

“who are now in prison,” we escape one difficulty, but another is introduced; for

it is surely forced and unnatural to make the time of the verb and that of the dative

clause different. The words ἐν φυλακῇ (in prison) must describe the condition

of the spirits at the time of the Savior’s preaching. Some commentators, as Socinus

and Grotius, refer Peter’s words to the preaching of Christ through the

apostles. These writers understand φυλακῇ of the prison of the body, or

the prison of sin; and explain Peter as meaning that Christ preached

through the apostles to the Jews who were under the yoke of the Law, and

to the Gentiles who lay under the power of the devil; and they regard the

disobedient in the time of Noah as a sample of sinners in any age. But this

interpretation is altogether arbitrary, and cannot be reconciled with the

apostle’s words. Other views are — that our Lord descended into hell to

triumph over Satan (on which see Pearson on the Creed, art. 5.); that his

preaching was a concio damnatoria — an announcement of condemnation,

not of salvation (which is disproved by ch. 4:6); that the spirits in

prison were holy souls waiting for Christ, the prison being (according to

Calvin) “specula, sire ipse excubandi actus;” that they were heathens, who

lived according to their light, but in idolatry.


21 “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” –

The reading of the Textus Receptus ω΅- O -represented by “whereunto,” is

without authority; all the uncial manuscripts have ο} – ho “which,” in the

nominative case. The oldest manuscripts also read “you” instead of “us.”

The antecedent of the relative o] must be the word immediately preceding,

ὕδατος – hudatos -  water; the word “baptism” is added in

apposition, to define more clearly the apostle’s meaning; the water which

saves is the water of baptism. Thus the literal translation will be, “Which

(as) antitype is saving you also, (namely) baptism;” that is, the water which

is saving you is the antitype of the water of the Flood. That water was

made the means of saving a few; it bore up the ark in which they were. It

saved them, perhaps, from the malice of the ungodly; it saved them from

that corruption which was almost universal; it was the means of saving the

race of men as by a new birth through death into a new life, a new

beginning; it washed away the evil, those who suffered for evil-doing, and

so saved those who had doubtless been suffering for well-doing. Thus it is

the figure (τύπος – tupos – type; figure; pattern ) of the antitype (ἀντίτυπον

 antitypon -) baptism; the two (the water of the Flood and the water of baptism)

correspond as type and antitype. The ἀντίτυπον is the counterpart of the τύπος;

and as τύπος sometimes means the original, sometimes the figure, there is a

correspondent variation in the meaning of ἀντίτυπον. Delitzsch says, on

Hebrews 9:24, “We have found τύπος at ch.2:21, used in the sense

from an original (or architype) is that designated as ἀντίτυπα here. Τύπος

again (as at Romans 5:14) is used in the sense of a prophetic foretype,

of which the accomplishment is reserved for the future (τύπος τῶν μελλόντων

tupos ton mellontos – figure of Him that was to come); and

that accomplishment is again  called ἀντίτυπον (antitype); e.g. baptism, (this

verse) is in this sense an ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge. The earthly reflection of the

heavenly archetype,  and the actual fulfillment of the prophetic τυπον, are each

called ἀντίτυπον.”  Here the water of the Flood is the prophetic fore-type;

baptism is the accomplishment. “Baptism,” Peter says, “is saving you,” the few

Christians, separating you from the vast number of Gentiles, whom in

some sense it condemns through their rejection of God’s offered mercy

(compare Hebrews 11:7), saving you from the corruption of their evil

example, bringing you into the ark of Christ’s Church, bearing up that ark

through the grace of the new birth. The apostle says, “Baptism is saving

you;” he does not say, “has saved;” he is using the present tense in its

proper sense of an incomplete action; it brings us into a state of salvation,

into covenant with God. But it is only the beginning, the birth; the growth

must follow; the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness, must be

realized in actual life; otherwise, alas! we shall have received the grace of

God in vain (compare Titus 3:5). (not the putting away of the filth of the

flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) -  Peter

hastens to explain his statement. Baptism doth save us, but not the mere

outward ceremony; you may “make clean the outside” with the most

scrupulous care; you may be very careful in putting away the filth of the

flesh (or, if the genitive is to be regarded as subjective, with Bengel, the

flesh may put away its filth); but more is needed than the old Jewish

washings, the frequent purifications. Observe that Peter uses the

word here rendered (ἀπόθεσις – apothesis - putting away; putting off) again

in II Peter 1:14) of putting off the earthly tabernacle (compare also ch. 2:1, where

he uses the corresponding participle, ἀποθέμενοι – apothemenoi –laying

aside; putting off ). The next clause presents great difficulty. Is the genitive

subjective or objective? What is the meaning of ἐπερώτημα – eperothaema –

answer; inquiry? ἐπερώτημα is not, as in the kjv, an “answer.” It was used

by the Greeks in a legal sense, as a” demand or appeal.” Baptism is therefore

the ground of an “appeal” by a good conscience against wrong doing.

 The word ἐπερώτημα occurs only in one other place in the Greek Scriptures

(Daniel 4:17, where it is translated “demand;”  the corresponding verb is of

frequent occurrence; as in Romans 10:20, “them  that asked not after me;”

and II Samuel 11:7, where it is joined with the preposition εἰς – eis – toward –

as in this verse.  Thus ἐπερώτημα seems to mean an “inquiry,” and the genitive

is probably subjective. The inner meaning of baptism is not that the flesh puts

away its filth, but that a good conscience inquires after God. The outward and

visible sign doth not save if separated from the inward and spiritual grace.

The first is necessary, for it is an outward sign appointed by Christ; but it

will not save without the second; those who draw near to God must have

their bodies washed with pure water, but also their hearts sprinkled

from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22). The inner cleansing of the soul

results in a good conscience, a consciousness of sincerity, of good intentions and

desires, which will instinctively seek after God. And that good conscience

is the effect of baptism, when baptism has its perfect work, when those

who have once been grafted into the true Vine (Romans 11:17-24) abide in

Christ, when those who have once been baptized in one Spirit into one body

keep the unity of the Spirit, Christ dwelling in them, and they in Christ.

Archbishop Leighton explains the word ἐπερώτημα as “the whole

correspondence of the conscience with God, and with itself as towards God, or

in the sight of God.” If the genitive is regarded as objective, the meaning will be,

“an inquiry addressed to God for a good conscience;” the soul, once

awakened, seeks continually fuller purification, hungers and thirsts

after righteousness. This gives a good sense, but seems less suitable in this

context. It is possible also to join the preposition εἰς with συνείδησις

suneidaesis – conscience – in the sense of a good conscience in relation to

God; but it seems much more natural to connect it with ἐπερώτημα. Some

commentators follow AEcumenius in paraphrasing ἐπερώτημα by ἀῥῤαβών

ἐνέχυρον ἀπόδειξις – arrabon enechuron apodeixis - they take the ground

that, in legal language, the word was used in the sense of a contract, and they

see in Peter’s words a reference to the covenant made with God in baptism, and

to the questions and answers in which, from the earliest times, that covenant was

expressed; ἐπερώτημα being used in a general sense so as to cover answers as

well as questions. This is a possible alternative, but the word seems to have

acquired this meaning in later times -“by the  resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

These words refer back to “baptism doth also now save us.” Baptism

derives its saving effect from the resurrection of our Lord; without that

resurrection it would be an empty form (see note on ch.1:3).


22 “Who is gone into heaven,” - The word here rendered “gone” is

that used in v.19, He went and preached (πορευθείς – poreutheis)

(compare Ephesians 4:9, “Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also

descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”) -  “and is on the right

hand of God;” - (compare Psalm 110:1; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1;

Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3). It is better to suffer for well-doing than

for evil-doing, for HE WHO IS THE SIGNAL EXAMPLE, WHO



able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him, seeing He

ever liveth to make intercession for them” – (Hebrews 7:25) -  “angels

and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.” God “hath

 set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all

 principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name

that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”

(Ephesians 1:21).  All the angels of God, in the various grades of the

heavenly hierarchy, ARE MADE SUBJECT TO CHRIST!   The words

seem to include, especially when read in comparison with Colossians 2:15,

the evil angels also; they are made subject against their will to Christ; they

asked Him once if He was come to torment them before the time (Matthew

8:29).  He can restrain their malice and save His people from their power.



Consider Christ (vs. 18-22)




Ø      Their cause. Even He suffered. The universality of suffering is a

Common topic of consolation. “Man is born to trouble” (Job

5:7).  But the thought of the suffering Savior is a source of sweeter

comfort and holier patience. A great saint has said, “They feel not

their own wounds who contemplate the wounds of Christ.” He

endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was

set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).  If we, in our sufferings, look unto

Jesus, sacred thoughts of His cross will fill our heart more and more,

and prevent us from dwelling overmuch on our own afflictions. He is

the transcendent Example of suffering for well-doing. But His death is

unique; it stands alone in its unapproachable glory; it is surrounded

with an atmosphere of awful and yet most blessed mystery. He is not

simply a martyr for the truth; he suffered, indeed, for well-doing, but

He suffered also on account of sins. Sin was the cause of His death,


was just, the Just One; but He gave Himself in His wondrous love to

suffer for the unjust, for their sake, in their behalf, that He might do

them good. Their sin caused His death; if man had not sinned, there

had been no need that the Son of God should die. The sin of the

world was a burden that none but He could bear; He took it upon Him.

As the high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders

and on his breast, so Christ the great High Priest bore the names of His

chosen in His heart, and the tremendous burden of the world’s sin upon

His innocent head. And this He did of His own free will, in His own

generous love (John 10:17-18); we must think of Him when we are

called to suffer, especially when we suffer for well-doing.


Ø      Their purpose. It was “that He might bring us to God” (v.18).

Our sin had separated us from God; we were afar off from Him.

“But now hath He reconciled us by His cross, having slain the

enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:15-16).  He has suffered our

punishment; therefore, if we are His, we have boldness to enter

into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Apart from God there can be


 Separation from God means DARKNESS, MISERY,

SPIRITUAL DEATH!   Christ suffered that He might bring us to

God; then we must follow Him by the way which He trod, the way

of the cross. He Himself is the Way (John 14:6); and we can walk in

that way only by imitating Him; if, then, we would come to the Father

by the new and living Way, which is Christ Himself, we must learn to

imitate Christ, always in patient submission to the will of God, sometimes

in patient suffering for the truth’s sake.


Ø      Their extent. Christ’s sufferings extended even unto death; they could

reach no further. “He humbled himself, and became obedient unto

 death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).  It was His own

free act; He laid down His life of Himself; none could take it from Him

(John 10:17-18).  The heathen thought it a good omen when the victim

came quietly to the altar. No victim ever came with such entire consent

of will as the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:7); for he knew with perfect

foreknowledge all the circumstances of His bitter Passion, and at

each moment of that long agony He submitted Himself of His own will

to the tortures inflicted by those poor weak creatures whom He might

by one word have swept into utter death. He set us the example of

obedience unto death. Let us learn of Him. “Be thou faithful unto

death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

The Lord was quickened in the spirit; so shall it be with His chosen.

From the moment of death they are blessed; for they shall be

with Him in Paradise. From that moment they are quickened in the spirit;

the spirit is filled with a new life, with new powers and energies; the life of departed saints is “far better” (Philippians 1:23) than this earthly life;

indeed, they are absent from the body; they have not yet reached that

perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul, which can be

realized only in GOD’S EVERLASTING GLORY,  but they are

with the Lord; they rest from the labors of this anxious, restless life;

their works do follow them (Revelation 14:13); they are quickened in

the spirit to a new life of love and blessedness, and, it may be, of

holy work for Christ.  That work will be full of happiness; there will be

no more suffering, no more weariness. The natural tendency of

goodness is to produce happiness; those tendencies are marred and

impeded here; there they will have their perfect work; perfected

holiness will issue in perfected happiness.




Ø      The Preacher. It was the Lord Himself, the Word of the Father.

He is the Word: “God has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews

1:2).  He preaches the Word, the Word of eternal life. He preached

all the years of His earthly ministry; and when His holy body lay in

the grave, after He had been put to death in the flesh, still He preached

in the spirit. The ministers of God’s holy Word and sacraments must

learn of the great Preacher; they must preach faithfully, diligently, for

His sake, for the love of the souls whom He loved; they must count

it not a labor, but a high and holy privilege, to preach the gospel of

salvation. He preached in the spirit; then we may be sure that the spirits

and souls of the righteous do not sleep idly in the intermediate state.

Even Dives in torment prayed for his five brethren (Luke 16:19-31),

can we doubt but that departed saints pray still for those whom they

loved on earth, for whom they were wont to pray? It is full of

sweetness to believe that they still think of us; that they are witnesses

(Hebrews 12:1) of our heavenward course; that they help us with

their prayers; that as the number of the blessed who have died in

the Lord increases in ever vaster multitude, so a fuller volume of

prayer rises from Paradise up to the glory-throne. They pray, we

may be sure; it may be (for Peter throughout this passage is speaking

of Christ as our Example – see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) they

also spread the glad news of the gospel among the kingdoms of

the dead????


Ø      The listeners. They too were absent from the body; but they were not

In Paradise, on the happy sides of Hades; they were in prison. They

were in some dreary place, apart from the souls of the blessed; for they

had once been disobedient through unbelief. There had been a preacher

among them then — Noah, a preacher of righteousness” (II Peter

2:5); but they heeded him not. They were eating and drinking, marrying

and giving in marriage, until the very day that Noah entered into the ark

(Matthew 24:38).  Noah and his sons ate and drank too; but his main

work was to preach righteousness, and to build the ark according to

the word of God. Still God’s ministers preach; still the Church,

which is the ark, bears witness to the mercy and long-suffering of


COME!  And still, alas!  vast multitudes live on in unbelief, eating and

drinking and spending their whole time in worldly pursuits, as if eating

and drinking were the end of life, as if this world with its vain pomp

and glory were to abide for ever. So it was with these unhappy men;

the long-suffering of God waited many years while the ark was

a-preparing (v.20); as, BLESSED BE HIS HOLY NAME, HE

IS WAITING NOW till the number of His elect is complete. Then

few only were saved (8 people) ; now, alas! it is the few who find the

strait and narrow path. The “prison” must be the end of unbelief and

disobedience; the word suggests FEARFUL THOUGHTS AND

UNSATISFIED QUESTIONS.  The Lord preached even

there; He brought, we may be sure, the glad tidings of salvation: may we

not venture to trust, in humble hope, that some who had not listened to

Noah, the preacher of righteousness, listened then to Christ, the Preacher

of salvation?????




Ø      The outward and visible sign. It is water — “water wherein a person

Is baptized.” Water once saved the world, water cleansed it from that

wickedness which was bringing down the wrath of God; the world passed

then through a baptism of water which was death unto sin, but a new birth

unto righteousness; there was a new beginning, new possibilities, new

hopes. And water saved the few that had entered into the ark; it bore up

the ark, and saved those in it from the wrath of men and from the

contagion of surrounding pollution. Yet one of those few brought upon

himself his father’s curse (Genesis 9:20-27).  So baptism, the antitype

of the water of the Flood, is now saving those who by it are admitted

into the ark of Christ’s Church. It is saving us, for it is the beginning

of our salvation, bringing us, as it does, into covenant with God. But it is

only the beginning; still the Lord adds daily to the Church those who

are being saved (τοὺς σῳζομένους - tous sozomenous – the ones

being saved - Acts 2:47). But that salvation has to be worked out by

the grace of God who worketh within His chosen.


Ø      The inward and spiritual grace. Ananias said to Paul, “Arise, and

Be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16).  But mere

outward washing cannot cleanse the soul. The conscience must

be good, the heart must be sprinkled from an evil conscience (Hebrews

10:22).  The inward and spiritual grace is a death unto sin

and a new birth unto righteousness; the conscience will bear witness

whether this, the inner meaning of our baptism, is realized in our life.

Conscience, is God’s deputy in the soul.  Its business is to sit and

examine and judge within; to hold courts in the soul.... Not a day

ought to pass without a session of conscience within; for daily

disorders arise in the soul, which, if they pass on, will grow and gather

more, and so breed more difficulty in their trial and redress. The good

conscience will inquire after God, will be ever seeking God. If we

have not that good conscience, we are not abiding in the grace of our

baptism, and then the holy sacrament ordained for our salvation loses

its saving power???????


Ø      The connection between them. Baptism becomes a means of grace

through the appointment of the risen Savior. His people could not rise

with Him in baptism save through the power of His resurrection; that

resurrection is the pledge of new life, new energies, new hopes (Acts

17:31), to all who are baptized in one Spirit into the one mystical body

of Christ. He can give grace through the sacraments, for all power is

given unto Him; He is at the right hand of God, EVER

INTERCEDING FOR US, able to save us to the uttermost.

There is no guardian, no helper,  LIKE UNTO  HIM,  for all the

highest spiritual intelligences are made subject unto Him; the elect

angels are His ministers; He gives them charge over His chosen; the

evil angels are under His control; He can restrain their malice,

He can baffle their devices.



       The Remembrance of Our Lord’s Atonement a Help to Persecuted

                                                  Christians (vs. 18-22)


 “For Christ hath once suffered for sins”  (v.18),  the death of Christ is not only

the purchase of OUR REDEMPTION,  it is also THE POWER by which we

enter into what redemption means. Christ’s cross is not only the secret of pardon,

but also of holiness. It must be Christ crucified, every step of the way, till what

has been the inspiration of our spiritual life down here, of every duty, every

conflict, every joy, every hope, will be the inspiration of our song up there:

“WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN”  (Revelation 5:12).   Let us

see how Christ’s sufferings bear on the conduct of His persecuted people.



hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring

us to God.”


Ø      A plain statement of the substitutionary character of our Lords

sacrifice. How does Christ save? By substitution. In that word

is the explanation of our Lord’s sacrifice and of His sufferings;

they were endured by Him as our Substitute, in our stead. They

were undoubtedly the expression of His perfect consecration

to the Father, the great proof of His obedience; they were also

the great revelation of God’s love and mercy to the sinful, of His

yearning for the restoration of the lost; but they were this, without

which they would have been in every other respect unavailing, they

were the endurance in the stead of the sinner, of that which alone

makes His righteous forgiveness possible. But it is said that Jesus

was simply revealing what God was willing to bear for man’s

redemption, and that it is by this revelation of love He saves us.

That is not what Scripture says. “God made Him to be sin for us,

that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”

(II Corinthians 5:21); “Who His own self bare our sins in His

own body on the tree [or, ‘to the tree,’ and left them there]

(ch. 2:24), But, says another, “Christ saves by his holy example,

leading us to holiness, and not by His cruel sufferings. So far

from that, the apostles, in their teaching, gave weight to

the death of Christ as the world’s hope. “In Him we have

redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins”

(Ephesians 1:7), “We are redeemed by the precious blood of

Christ;”  (ch. 1:18-19), “Without shedding of blood there is no

remission” (Hebrews 9:22).  Others say that this was a mere

Jewish mode of expression; the apostles were only meeting

Jewish prejudice when they spoke thus. But we find they use

the same words in writing to the Gentiles — to the Churches

at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc. It is also said that there is an

element of injustice in the idea of substitution. Is it not unjust

to inflict the punishment incurred by one on another who is

innocent? But that is not the case here.  JESUS WAS GOD –

THIS WAS GOD HIMSELF making the atonement necessary

for our forgiveness by shedding His own blood.


Ø      The necessity for such a sacrifice is implied in its design. What

was its design? “TO BRING US TO GOD” says the text. But

there are two great obstacles to our coming back to God — one

on His part, and one on ours. How can He receive us sinners?

How can we dare to come? How can God receive us? “Cannot I,”

says a father, “forgive my child just because I will?” No, you

cannot, if, like the great Father, you have been compelled to declare

what the penalty of transgression must be. That is God’s position.

He can only forgive if He forgives righteously. How shall He do


Apart from that, how could we dare to go to Him? Some say

Christ saves by revealing God’s love, by alluring us

to follow His example of self-sacrifice. If that is all the gospel

you have for me, I am condemned the more; for I am conscious

of the UNUTTERABLE DISTANCE between what Jesus was

 and what I am. I dare not go to God, and I must pass into the

unseen hopeless. But when we follow the meaning of these words,

“Christ hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,

that He might bring us to God,” we can go Back to God then,





Ø      Quickened spiritual power. “Being put to death in the flesh, but

quickened by the Spirit” should read, “in the spirit,” not “by the

Spirit.” There is no reference here to the work of God the Spirit,

to whom elsewhere the resurrection of Christ is attributed; it is

here simply a contrast between Christ’s flesh and His spirit. His

spirit did not die; it was raised by the death of the flesh into

new energy, and He became able to do what before was

impossible. He had often thought of this: “I, if I be lifted

up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).


Ø      Influence on spirits in prison. This subject we will leave for

the present.  (see notes on v.19)


Ø      Ascension to heavenly authority. “Who is gone into heaven,”

What see we now? “I looked, and behold in the midst of the throne,

a Lamb as it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6).  REDEMPTION

ENTHRONED!   All things required to glorify redemption:


o       Devils restrained by the Redeemer’s will;

o       angels His swift-winged messengers;

o       providences, His servants;

o       history, the unfolding of His purpose;

o       the kingdoms of this world become His kingdom;

and He ever living to secure this glorious consummation.


But this had been impossible APART FROM THE ATONEMENT,

 it was only through the cross that Jesus changed the throne of heaven

from that of almightiness and mercy to that of redemption.




Ø      It sets forth Christs claim on our suffering for Him. There surely

is nothing like a remembrance of His cross to constrain us to take

up ours.


Ø      It reminds the persecuted of the spiritual quickening that may

come through the suffering. For what was true of Jesus is to be

as true of us: “Put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit.”

The storm which shakes us to the center sends our roots down

deeper, mooring us the faster to THE ROCK OF AGES! 

 Suffering has a rare tendency to send us down to the

foundation of things, a rare tendency TO SEND US HOME

TO THE LIFE OF ALL and closer contact with Him MEANS



Ø      This points to the glorious end of the suffering of the saints. First

the cross, then the crown. Jesus once suffered, then heaven and

the right hand of God, and “angels and authorities and powers

subject unto Him.”  (v.21)



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