Notes on 1 Peter 3:12-22
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
1 Peter 3:12, KJV For the eyes of the Lord (are) over the righteous, and his ears (are open) unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord (is) against them that do evil.
The first part of this verse seems to be a paraphrase of Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry”. The last part is a paraphrase of Psalm 34:16, “The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”
13 And who (is) he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
This is perhaps a rhetorical question, especially since the believers were being persecuted already. Peter does not give the details of what happened (no New Testament writer did) but the readers knew very well and personally what the situation was. The thing which Peter seems to be driving home is that there is really no excuse for someone harming you or causing you harm if you’re doing good and not evil. It is a tragedy when good deeds are considered evil and evil is considered good—but it happened then and is still happening even today.
14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy (are ye): and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
Now Peter acknowledges the possibility that some may, and would, suffer for righteousness’ sake. Jesus Himself pronounced a blessing for those who would be persecuted for His sake (Matt 5:11, Luke 6:22).
The second part of the verse could be a paraphrase of Psalm 91:5, “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;” as well as a reminder of what the Lord Himself said in John 14:27b, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and (be) ready always to (give) an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
“Sanctify” means to set something apart. Examples include the holy vessels in the Tabernacle and Temple. This could mean to put Him in first place—and what better place?
Peter also encourages the believers to be prepared when people ask about the “hope within” each believer. What an opportunity for a testimony (here’s what I was but here’s what I am after Jesus saved my soul!) and possibly a chance to lead another person to saving faith in Jesus too! The only caution is to do this with meekness (as compared, perhaps, to arrogance?), knowing that pagans may know very little about the Christian faith; also with fear, perhaps reverence and not being scared or nervous.
If the pagans thought all Christians were like the Pharisees, no wonder they might have a poor understanding of the Christian faith.
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
Peter may have had the executions of Stephen, James, and others in mind. They had done nothing evil but were put to death anyway. The same could be said of Naboth, who refused to sell his vineyard to Ahab, king of the northern tribes (Israel). He was upset about it so Jezebel, his wife, arranged to have two witnesses testify—falsely—that Naboth had blasphemed God (which one?) and the king. Naboth was stoned to death, Ahab got the vineyard, but he didn’t live very long after this was done (see 1 Kings 21).
17 For (it is) better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
Believers have lived in times of relative peace and security. They have also lived in times of persecution, sometimes extremely severe, simply for following the Lord Jesus Christ. No believer should ever be surprised when suffering arises—even Jesus Himself warned the disciples in John 15 that since the world hated Him, the world would hate His followers as well.
Sometimes suffering comes because of sin, however. Peter couldn’t have forgotten the encounter with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They lied about a donation to the Church, and both died on the spot.
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
“Once” perhaps means “once and for all”, not just one time with additional times to come. Christ only died one time and there is no Scriptural indication that His sacrifice was anything less than perfect or complete.
Notice also Peter’s admiration and admission, “the just (One) for the unjust”. Did he remember the words of Pilate, “I find no fault in Him (Jesus)" several times in Luke 23 and John 19; and/or even the words of the centurion in Luke 23:47, “Certainly this was a righteous man”?
And note these words, “that (Jesus) might bring us to God". Jesus had said at least once (Luke 19:10) that the Son of Man (Jesus Himself) came to seek and to save what was lost—including people (paraphrased). Few if any leaders have ever come to even try to do what Jesus did.
The phrase “put to death in the flesh” speaks first about Christ’s literal death. Some believe Jesus (however “Jesus” is defined: not everyone has believed, or does believe, in the Jesus Christ of the Bible, the Virgin Born Son of God) either never died, or that there was a “phantom” on the cross, or that Jesus somehow survived the act of crucifixion. There is no doubt that Jesus died: besides John, Mary, and any number of others who were at the cross when He died, even the priests told the guards to say the disciples stole the _body_ while they were asleep (Matthew 28:11-15). They had even requested a guard to be stationed by the tomb because they had heard Jesus say, “while He was yet alive (Matt 27:63)” that He would rise again. Hence, there were multiple witnesses to the actual death of Christ.
And yet there were over 500 who saw Him alive, after the Resurrection! Note the list of appearances in the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 15.
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once 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.
There has been a great deal of discussion on these two verses, much beyond the scope of these relatively brief notes. The only things that seem evident at first glance is that Jesus “preached” to the spirits in prison. It is not specified who these spirits are, or what Jesus preached, or when this preaching took place. One suggestion is that these are spirit beings because Peter makes reference to the days of Noah, which was centuries before Peter’s time. No person has survived for that long a period of time (excepting Enoch and Elijah). Peter also vouches for the reality of Noah and the ark, mentioning him and the other seven people who survived the Genesis flood (Genesis 6-8).
21 The like figure whereunto (even) baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
“Baptism” is a Greek word spelled with English letters. Generally the word signifies one thing placed in another (one such example is a piece of bread “dipped” in gravy, or the tip of a soldier’s spear being plunged into a bowl of blood). The word can also mean identification with something else: Noah and his family were in the ark, but the ark was never in them, and they would never have survived the Flood unless they got in, and stayed in the ark. Believers’ baptism is a testimony to others and sign of good conscience before God, as Peter stated above.
22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
Peter saw the Lord ascend into Heaven (Acts 1)!
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)