1 Peter 3:13-20 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. In verses 14-15a (printed below) Peter alludes to a passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, applying it to the New Testament church and the situation they were presently facing. What does Peter tell them to do? What do you think this means?

But if, indeed, you should suffer for the cause of righteousness, you are blessed! It is written, “Do not fear their terror, nor be troubled.” (15) On the contrary, “sanctify the Lord,” Christ, in your hearts; being always prepared with an answer for everyone who asks you for an explanation concerning the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:14-15)

In verses 14-15 Peter is alluding to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Applying this passage of Scripture to us as New Testament believers Peter exhorts us, “‘sanctify the Lord,’ Christ, in your hearts.” That is to say, we are to honor Christ above all others—better that we should offend men in our obedience and faithfulness to Christ than acquiesce to men at the cost of offending Christ. We must let our holy fear of Christ dictate and govern our conduct, rather than an unholy fear of men.

2. What further exhortation does Peter give the Christian in verse 15b (printed above under question #1?)

The apostle Peter tells us that we should be ready at all times to give “an answer” for our Christian faith. The Greek term translated “answer,” or, “apology,” means to defend and explain our beliefs and practices as a Christian. To be able to give such a defense implies that we know what we believe and are so convinced and committed to our Christian beliefs that they are being expressed in our everyday conduct and are making a noticeable difference in our lives.

3. In what manner and with what attitude should we give our Christian testimony? See 1 Peter 3:16 (printed below)

But do so with humility and respect, maintaining a good conscience, so that by the very thing for which you are slandered those who insult your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:16)

We as Christians are to express our hope and make our defense with humility and respect. We are not to be self-effacing, timid and intimidated; but neither are we to be obnoxious and arrogant and haughty. Furthermore, we are to testify to our Christian hope and give our Christian “apology” with a good conscience. A good, or, clear, conscience will give moral strength and authority (note Deuteronomy 11:8,22,25). Our testimony in word and life must compliment each other: our words must define our life, explaining why we live as we do and our life must give credibility to our words, demonstrating that our words are sincere and true.

4. Even if he is living a blameless life, what may the Christian encounter in this spiritually hostile world? What should the Christian remember on such occasions? See 1 Peter 3:17-18 (printed below)

It is better, if it be the will of God, to suffer for doing what is right, than for doing what is wrong; (18) because Christ also died for sins once for all, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones, so that he might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive again by the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:17-18)

Peter holds out before us the distinct possibility—even the certain fact—that our Christ-like conduct will be met with opposition. Peter points us to the example of Christ our Savior: he reminds us that Christ suffered. Christ suffered despite the fact that He is “the Righteous One,” the one who is blameless before God and man.

5. What Old Testament figure does Peter mention in verses 19-20 (printed below?) What does he say about that person and the time in which he lived? Why do you suppose Peter mentions him and his generation?

By the Spirit he also went and preached to the spirits who now are bound; (20) namely, those who were disobedient back when the patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built. By means of that ark a few, that is, only eight souls, were brought safely through the water. (1 Peter 3:19-20)

In verses 19-20 Peter turns our attention back to the days of Noah. By the Holy Spirit dwelling in Noah, Christ preached to “the spirits who…were disobedient back when the patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah.” Peter is referring to Noah’s inspired testimony that he gave before the ancient world. But that ancient generation who lived in the days of Noah was disobedient and unresponsive; and they continued in that state throughout the long period of God’s patience while the ark was being built. The point Peter is making: not only did the world persecute Christ in the days of His incarnate presence during His earthly ministry, they opposed Him in the days of Noah, too; so, why should we be surprised if we as Christians should encounter the world’s opposition and enmity?