What does 1 Peter chapter 3 mean?In the first two chapters of his letter to the scattered Christians of Asia Minor, Peter has made three things abundantly clear. First, believers' future with God, who caused us to be born again, is absolutely secure. Second, Christians are God's holy people. That means we are set apart here on earth to accomplish His purposes. Third, believers may very well suffer in this life even for doing good. Hardship sometimes comes to those who seek to live as Jesus did.
In chapter two, Peter revealed that God's holy people are called to live in submission to every human authority, even those human authorities who may cause us to suffer.
In this chapter, he extends that idea of submission to Christian wives. Peter commands them to be subject to their own husbands—even unbelieving husbands. Why? For one thing, their Christ-changed lifestyle of "respectful and pure conduct" may be enough to win their husbands to Christ without having to use words.
Instead of following a superficial path to seeking beauty, Peter calls on Christian wives to cultivate beauty from the inside out, by developing a gentle and quiet spirit. That's a beauty which is valuable to God and a powerful contrast to the culture around us.
Taken together, Peter calls the least powerful people in that time and place—including slaves and women—to become powerfully influential. They can use their freedom in Christ to willingly submit and serve, allowing the world to see how Christ brings both beauty and fearlessness to those who follow Him.
Peter also addresses Christian husbands, commanding them to give honor and respect to their wives. He reminds them of their spouse's equal standing in God's eyes; they are co-heirs of His grace. In fact, husbands are warned that their prayers will be hindered if they fail to honor their wives.
Next, Peter addresses all believers, commanding us to set ourselves aside for the sake of being unified together. Then he tells us to refuse the natural human instinct of seeking revenge when we are insulted or treated with evilness. Part of our purpose as the set-apart people of God is to give blessing to those who hurt us.
Peter quotes from both David and Isaiah to support a particular point. This is that God's people have always been called to live set-apart lives, influencing their culture even through suffering. In fact, it may be God's will for us to suffer because we are doing good. If that happens, how should we respond? In our hearts, Peter writes, we Christians should honor Christ as Lord. We should fully submit to Him. As we do so, we will be changed, living with great hopefulness even in our suffering. Those who know us will see that and think it strange. They will ask, Peter says, "How can you be so hopeful in these terrible circumstances?"
We must be ready to tell them, Peter writes, with gentleness and respect, the story of how we came to be redeemed by God through faith in Christ. But it matters that we continue to do good so that even those who accuse us of wrongdoing will be ashamed.
Once again, our example is Christ. He suffered and died for our sins before being made alive in the spirit. In some way, Christ preached to those in prison who failed to obey in the days of Noah. Christ was resurrected; we affirm that when we are baptized, and we are saved. Finally, Christ ascended to heaven and is there now at God's right hand reigning over every authority and power in the universe.