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 2 when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. 3 Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, 4 but 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. 5 For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; 6 thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him "lord." You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation. 7 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.

8 Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. 9 Do 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. 10 For: "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, 11 must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. 12 For 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."

13 Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15 but 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, 16 but 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. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

18 For 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. 19 In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20 who 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. 21 This 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.  Version: New American Bible



  • The pressures of persecution and suffering strain all human relationships. Nowhere is this more obvious than in marriage (vv.1-7).
    • When trying to win over a spouse in a pressurized situation, do not rely on words alone. Behavior -- deportment -- can make all the difference.
    • Dress (and adornment) should not be tools for influencing others, as this could violate principles of Christian modesty.
    • Wives ought to emulate Sarah (vv.5-6), and husbands ought to show genuine respect to their wives. Then the Lord may give us what we ask for.
  • In addition to familial relationships, we are to bear with our brothers and sisters in Christ (v.8ff).
    • This is especially important when we feel like retaliating (v.9ff).
    • Since the Lord forbad it, retaliation is evil-doing, whether "justified" or not.
  • Another area where suffering strains us is non-Christian relationships (v.13ff).
    • Normally when we are eager for good, non-believers will leave us alone.
    • But not always (v.14)! When they oppose us, we must:
      • Truly reverence Christ in our hearts -- remembering who and whose we are (v.15).
      • Be prepared to explain why we believe (v.15). Reason, not force, will prevail.
      • Show gentleness and respect (v.16). Both preparation (v.15) and gracious presentation (v.16) are vital.
  • As in chapter 2, Christ models for us the way we should be. He suffered for sins (v.18), a righteous man suffering for the sins of the unrighteous.
    • The way of the Cross was the way to glory; now Christ in heaven and all the spiritual powers are in submission to him (v.22).
    • Though his words on the Cross were few, as soon as he died he preached in Hades (v.19).
      • Those who had died millennia before heard Jesus' proclamation.
      • The Flood in which they died represents Christian baptism. As the waters separated them from the world, lifting them above the destruction, so baptism separates us from the world, raising us up through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      • Yet there is one problem with the term"spirits" (v.19): it normally does not refer to human beings. Accordingly some take this as a victory proclamation to the evil spirits. There are a number of possible interpretations. In contrast, 4:6 refers to departed humans.
  • Chapter 4 will continue to urge us Christians to react spiritually to hardship and suffering...


  • For insight into pressure faced by wives in N. T. times, consider the words of Plutarch (c.46-110 AD): "A married woman should therefore worship and recognize the gods whom her husband holds dear, and these alone. The door must be closed to strange cults and foreign superstition. No god takes pleasure in cult performed furtively and in secret by a woman" (Advice on Marriage 19 [Mor. 140D].
  • Notice that baptism is not a pledge made from a clear conscience, but an appeal for a clear conscience. Also click here.
  • For more on the spirits in prison, click here.
  • Re: v.19, see also 4:5-6.
  • Peter may well have fallen angels in mind. It is unusual to refer to dead humans as "spirits." Traditional Jewish stories about fallen angels in prison are found in many sources, like 1 Enoch, from which Jude quotes (Jude 14-15).

Thought questions:

  • Do I nag at my husband (words), or do I win him over by my spiritual qualities (heart)?
  • Do I show honor to my wife? Am I a gentleman to the woman I promised to "honor and cherish" for life?
  • In my outreach, do I show gentleness and respect to strangers? younger persons, including my own children? those who oppose the message of Christ? those who have misrepresented or mistreated me?