PREPARE FOR SUFFERING
1 Peter 3:13-4:6 April 15 2007
Much of 1 Peter indirectly addresses the issue
of suffering for the name of Jesus Christ. Peter
began by reminding his readers of their secure
eternal salvation in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:1-12).
Then he reminded them God had called them to
live holy lives – lives separated to God’s service
(1 Pet. 1:13-25). He went on to urge them to live
out their identity as the people of God
(1 Pet. 2:1-12). He taught them to refute some of
the charges against them by living in submission
to the legal authorities and to their superiors
(1 Pet. 2:13-25). He taught them to refute other
charges by living exemplary family lives
(1 Pet. 3:1-12).
1. Prepare Your Heart (1 Pet. 3:13-15a)
1Pet. 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to
do good? 3:14 But even if you should suffer for what is
right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do
not be frightened.” 3:15a But in your hearts set apart
Christ as Lord.
Who. . . Harm you. . . ? As a general rule, people are not
harmed for acts of kindness. This is especially true if
one is an enthusiast (“eager”) for doing good. Even if
you should suffer. In the Greek, this conditional clause
is the furthest removed from stating a reality.
Suffering for righteousness is a remote possibility, but
even if it does occur, it brings special blessing to the
sufferer (Mt 5:10-12). What they fear. NIV text note.
In Isaiah’s context God’s people are not to view things
as unbelievers do. They are not to make worldly
judgments or be afraid of the enemies of God. Instead,
they are to fear God (Isa 8:13). Set apart Christ as Lord.
An exhortation to the readers to make an inner
commitment to Christ.
2. Prepare Your Witness (1 Pet. 3:15b-16)
1Pet. 3:15b Always be prepared to give an answer to
everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope
that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
3:16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who
speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.
Then they need not be speechless when called on to
defend their faith. Instead, there will be a readiness
to answer. With gentleness and respect . The Christian
is always to be a gentleman or gentle woman, even
when opposed by unbelievers. Our apologetic (“answer”)
is always to be given with love, never in degrading terms.
Ashamed of their slander. Because it is shown to be
obviously untrue and because the believer’s loving
attitude puts the opponent’s bitterness in a bad light.
3. Prepare Your Attiude (1 Pet. 3:17-22)
1Pet. 3:17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for
doing good than for doing evil. 3:18 For Christ died for
sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring
you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by
the Spirit, 3:19 through whom also he went and preached
to the spirits in prison3:20 who disobeyed long ago when
God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was
being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved
through water, 3:21 and this water symbolizes baptism
that now saves you also —not the removal of dirt from the
body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It
saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3:22 who
has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand —with
angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Once for all. (Heb 9:28). The righteous for the
unrighteous. Peter, like Paul in (Php 2:5-11),
refers to Jesus as an example of the type of
conduct that should characterize the Christian.
We are to be ready to suffer for doing good (1 Pet.
1:13-14,17). The thought of Christ’s suffering and
death, however, leads Peter to comment on what
occurred after Christ’s death —which leads to
tangential remarks about preaching to the spirits
in prison and about baptism (1 Pet.3:19-21). Made
alive by the spirit. Referring to the resurrection.
Elsewhere the resurrection is attributed to the
Father (Acts 2:32; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20) and to the Son
(John 10:17-18). If the NIV text note is correct, the
reference would be to Christ’s own spirit, through
which also “he preached to the spirits in prison”
(1 Pet.3:19-20 a). Three main interpretations of
this passage have been suggested: 1. Some hold that
in his preincarnate state Christ went and preached
through Noah to the wicked generation of that time.
2. Others argue that between his death and
resurrection Christ went to the prison where fallen
angels are incarcerated and there preached to the
angels who are said to have left their proper state
and married human women during Noah’s time ( Gen.
6:1-4; 2Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). The “sons of God” in (Gen
6:2,4) are said to have been angels, as they are in
(Job 1:6; 2:1 ). The message he preached to these evil
angels was probably a declaration of victory. 3. Still
others say that between death and resurrection Christ
went to the place of the dead and preached to the
spirits of Noah’s wicked contemporaries. What he
proclaimed may have been the gospel, or it may have
been a declaration of victory for Christ and doom for
his hearers. The weakness of the first view is that
it does not relate the event to Christ’s death and
resurrection, as the context seems to do. The main
problem with the second view is that it assumes
sexual relations between angels and women, and such
physical relations may not be possible for angels since
they are spirits. A major difficulty with the third view
is that the term “spirits” is only used of human beings
when qualifying terms are added. Otherwise the term
seems restricted to supernatural beings.
WATER SYMBOLIZES BAPTISM. There is a double figure
here. The flood symbolizes baptism, and baptism
symbolizes salvation. The flood was a figure of
baptism in that in both instances the water that spoke
of judgment (in the flood the death of the wicked, in
baptism the death of Christ and the believer) is the
water that saves. Baptism is a symbol of salvation in
that it depicts Christ’s death, burial and resurrection
and our identification with him in these experiences
(Rom. 6:4). Now saves you also. In reality, believers
are saved by what baptism symbolizes —Christ’s death
and resurrection. The symbol and the reality are so
closely related that the symbol is sometimes used to
refer to the reality ( Rom. 6:3-4). Pledge of a good
conscience toward God. The act of baptism is a
commitment on the part of the believer in all good
conscience to make sure that what baptism symbolizes
will become a reality in his life. Saves you by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the final analysis
people are saved not by any ritual, but by the
supernatural power of the resurrection.
Gone into haven. (Acts 1:9-11). At God’s right hand.
(Heb 1:3; 12:2). Angels, authorities and powers.
(Eph 1:21; 6:12).
4; Prepare Your Resolve (1 Pet. 4:1-6)
1Pet. 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body,
arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because
he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 4:2
As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life
for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 4:3
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what
pagans choose to do —living in debauchery, lust,
drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
4:4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with
them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap
abuse on you. 4:5 But they will have to give account
to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 4:6
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to
those who are now dead, so that they might be judged
according to men in regard to the body, but live according
to God in regard to the spirit.
Therefore. Since (1 Pet.3:19-22) is parenthetical,
(1 Pet.4:1) ties directly back to (1 Pet.3:18). The
aspect of Christ’s suffering that these passages
stress is suffering unjustly because one has done
good. Furthermore, it is physical suffering —“in his
body.” Arm yourselves also with the same attitude.
Believers are to be prepared also to suffer unjustly,
and to face such abuse with Christ’s attitude —with
his willingness to suffer for doing good. (For a
similar principle in Paul’s writings Php 2:5-11.)
Because. . . is done with sin. Such suffering enables
one to straighten out his priorities. Sinful desires
and practices that once seemed important now seem
insignificant when one’s life is in jeopardy. Serious
suffering for Christ advances the progress of
sanctification. (Some see a parallel between this
passage and Rom. 6:1-14, but Peter is not referring
to being dead to sin in Paul’s sense.)
For evil human desires. . . for the will of God. Now
that Christ’s attitude prevails, God’s will is the
determining factor in life.
Time in the past. The time before conversion. Pagans.
Lit. “the Gentiles.” Along with the term “idolatry,”
this suggests that at least some of the readers were
Gentiles (1 Pet.1:1) who had been converted from a
They think it strange. . . and they heap abuse on you.
One of the reasons for the suffering the readers were
undergoing. Have to give account. (Acts 17:31; Ro 2:5,
16). Him who is ready to Judge. In the NT both the
Father and the Son are said to be judge on the great,
final judgment day. The Father is the ultimate source
of judgment, but he will delegate judgment to the Son
( John 5:27; Ac 17:31). The living and the dead. Those
alive and those dead when the final judgment day
For this is the reason.. The reason referred to is
expressed in the latter part of the verse (in the “so
that” clause), not in the preceding verse. Was
preached even to those who are now dead . This
preaching was a past event. The word “now” does not
occur in the Greek, but it is necessary to make it
clear that the preaching was done not after these
people had died, but while they were still alive. (There
will be no opportunity for people to be saved after
death; Heb 9:27.) That they might be judged according
to men in regard to the body . The first reason that the
gospel was preached to those now dead. Some say that
this judgment is that to which all people must submit,
either in this life ( John 5:24) or in the life to come
( 1 Pet.4: 5). The gospel is preached to people in this
life so that in Christ’s death they may receive judgment
now and avoid judgment to come. Others hold that these
people are judged according to human standards by the
pagan world, which does not understand why God’s people
no longer follow its sinful way of life (1 Pet.4: 2-4). So
also the world misunderstood Christ ( Acts 2:22-24,36;
3:13-15; 5:30-32; 7:51-53). But live according to God
in regard to the spirit . The second reason that the
gospel was preached to those now dead. Some believe
this means that all gospel preaching has as its goal
that the hearers may live as God lives —eternally —and
that this life is given by the Holy Spirit. Others
maintain that it means that the ultimate reason for
the preaching of the gospel is that God’s people, even
though the wicked world may abuse them and put them
to death, will have eternal life, which the Holy Spirit
Summary: A Godly Life
The Christians who received Peter’s letter were
being slandered by others (1 Pet. 2:12,15,23; 1 Pet. 3:9,
16; 1 Pet. 4:4,14). Peter told them that the best weapon
against slander was a godly life that nobody could criticize.
Anybody can suffer for doing wrong, but Christians must learn to suffer for doing what is right . Of course , Jesus is the example for us to follow(1 Pet.1 Pet. 3:18; 2:18-25).