Christian Spouses. 1* Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct 2when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior.a 3Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes,b 4but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; 6thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord.” You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation.
7c Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.*
Christian Conduct.* 8Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. 9Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.d 10For:
“Whoever would love lifee
and see good days
must keep the tongue from evil
and the lips from speaking deceit,
11must turn from evil and do good,
seek peace and follow after it.
12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears turned to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.”
Christian Suffering.* 13Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,f 16but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
18For Christ also suffered* for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.g 19In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,* 20who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water.h 21This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God* for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,i 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.j
* [3:1–6] The typical marital virtues of women of the ancient world, obedience, reverence, and chastity (1 Pt 3:1–2), are outlined here by the author, who gives them an entirely new motivation: Christian wives are to be virtuous so that they may be instrumental in the conversion of their husbands. In imitation of holy women in the past (1 Pt 3:5) they are to cultivate the interior life (1 Pt 3:4) instead of excessive concern with their appearance (1 Pt 3:3).
* [3:7] Husbands who do not respect their wives will have as little success in prayer as those who, according to Paul, have no love: their prayers will be “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). Consideration for others is shown as a prerequisite for effective prayer also in Mt 5:23–24; 1 Cor 11:20–22; Jas 4:3. After all, whatever the social position of women in the world and in the family, they are equal recipients of the gift of God’s salvation. Paul is very clear on this point, too (see 1 Cor 11:11–12; Gal 3:28).
* [3:8–12] For the proper ordering of Christian life in its various aspects as described in 1 Pt 2:11–3:9, there is promised the blessing expressed in Ps 34:13–17. In the Old Testament this refers to longevity and prosperity; here, it also refers to eternal life.
* [3:13–22] This exposition, centering on 1 Pt 3:17, runs as follows: by his suffering and death Christ the righteous one saved the unrighteous (1 Pt 3:18); by his resurrection he received new life in the spirit, which he communicates to believers through the baptismal bath that cleanses their consciences from sin. As Noah’s family was saved through water, so Christians are saved through the waters of baptism (1 Pt 3:19–22). Hence they need not share the fear of sinners; they should rather rejoice in suffering because of their hope in Christ. Thus their innocence disappoints their accusers (1 Pt 3:13–16; cf. Mt 10:28; Rom 8:35–39).
* [3:18] Suffered: very many ancient manuscripts and versions read “died.” Put to death in the flesh: affirms that Jesus truly died as a human being. Brought to life in the spirit: that is, in the new and transformed existence freed from the limitations and weaknesses of natural human life (cf. 1 Cor 15:45).
* [3:19] The spirits in prison: it is not clear just who these spirits are. They may be the spirits of the sinners who died in the flood, or angelic powers, hostile to God, who have been overcome by Christ (cf. 1 Pt 3:22; Gn 6:4; Enoch 6–36, especially 21:6; 2 Enoch 7:1–5).
* [3:21] Appeal to God: this could also be translated “pledge,” that is, a promise on the part of Christians to live with a good conscience before God, or a pledge from God of forgiveness and therefore a good conscience for us.