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The duty of wives to their husbands, how they are to be adorned, and be in subjection as Sarah was to Abraham, 1 Peter 3:1-6. The duty of husbands to their wives, 1 Peter 3:7. How to obtain happiness, and live a long and useful life, 1 Peter 3:8-11. God loves and succours them that do good; but his face is against the wicked, 1 Peter 3:12, 1 Peter 3:13. They should suffer persecution patiently, and be always ready to give a reason of the hope that is in them; and preserve a good conscience, though they suffered for righteousness, 1 Peter 3:14-17. Christ suffered for us, and was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, 1 Peter 3:18. How he preached to the old world, while Noah was preparing the ark, 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 3:20. The salvation of Noah and his family a type of baptism, 1 Peter 3:21. Christ is ascended to heaven, all creatures being subject to him, 1 Peter 3:22.
Ye wives, be in subjection - Consider that your husband is, by God‘s appointment, the head and ruler of the house; do not, therefore, attempt to usurp his government; for even though he obey not the word - is not a believer in the Christian doctrine, his rule is not thereby impaired; for Christianity never alters civil relations: and your affectionate, obedient conduct will be the most likely means of convincing him of the truth of the doctrine which you have received.
Without the word - That your holy conduct may be the means of begetting in them a reverence for Christianity, the preaching of which they will not hear. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 14:34, and the other places referred to in the margin.
Chaste conversation - with fear - While they see that ye join modesty, chastity, and the purest manners, to the fear of God. Or perhaps fear, φοβος , is taken, as in Ephesians 5:33, for the reverence due to the husband.
Whose adorning - Κοσμος . See the note on Hebrews 9:1, where the word κοσμος , world or ornament, is defined; and also the note on Genesis 2:1.
Plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold - Plaiting the hair, and variously folding it about the head, was the most ancient and most simple mode of disposing of this chief ornament of the female head. It was practised anciently in every part of the east, and is so to the present day in India, in China, and also in Barbary. It was also prevalent among the Greeks and Romans, as ancient gems, busts, and statues, still remaining, sufficiently declare. We have a remarkable instance of the plaiting of the hair in a statue of Agrippina, wife of Germanicus, an exact representation of which may be seen in a work of Andre Lens, entitled Le Costume de Peuple de I‘ Antiquite, pl. 33. Many plates in the same work show the different modes of dressing the hair which obtained among the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, and other nations. Thin plates of gold were often mixed with the hair, to make it appear more ornamental by the reflection of light and of the solar rays. Small golden buckles were also used in different parts; and among the Roman ladies, pearls and precious stones of different colors. Pliny assures us, Hist. Nat., l. ix. c. 35, that these latter ornaments were not introduced among the Roman women till the time of Sylla, about 110 years before the Christian era. But it is evident, from many remaining monuments, that in numerous cases the hair differently plaited and curled was the only ornament of the head. Often a simple pin, sometimes of ivory, pointed with gold, seemed to connect the plaits. In monuments of antiquity the heads of the married and single women may be known, the former by the hair being parted from the forehead over the middle of the top of the head, the latter by being quite close, or being plaited and curled all in a general mass.
There is a remarkable passage in Plutarch, Conjugalia Praecept., c. xxvi., very like that in the text: Κοσμος γαρ εστιν, ὡς ελεγε Κρατης, το κοσμουν· κοσμει δε το κοσμιωτεραν γυναικα ποιουν· ποιει δε ταυτην ου χρυσος, ουτε σμαραγδος, ουτε κοκκος, αλλ ‘ ὁσα σεμνοτητος, ευταξιας, αιδους εμφασιν περιτιθησιν· Opera a Wyttenb., vol. i., page 390. “An ornament, as Crates said, is that which adorns. The proper ornament of a woman is that which becomes her best. This is neither gold, nor pearls, nor scarlet; but those things which are an evident proof of gravity, regularity, and modesty.” The wife of Phocion, a celebrated Athenian general, receiving a visit from a lady who was elegantly adorned with gold and jewels, and her hair with pearls, took occasion to call the attention of her guest to the elegance and costliness of her dress, remarking at the same time, “My ornament is my husband, now for the twentieth year general of the Athenians.” Plut., in vit. Phoc. How few Christian women act this part! Women are in general at as much pains and cost in their dress, as if by it they were to be recommended both to God and man. It is, however, in every case, the argument either of a shallow mind, or of a vain and corrupted heart.
The hidden man of the heart - Ὁ κρυπτος της καρδιας ανθρωπος . This phrase is of the same import with that of St. Paul, Romans 7:22, ὁ εσω ανθρωπος , the inner man; that is, the soul, with the whole system of affections and passions. Every part of the Scripture treats man as a compound being: the body is the outward or visible man; the soul, the inward, hidden, or invisible man. The term ανθρωπος , man, is derived, according to the best etymologists, from ανα τρεπων ωπα , turning the face upward. This derivation of the word is beautifully paraphrased by Ovid. The whole passage is beautiful; and, though well known, I shall insert it. After speaking of the creation and formation of all the irrational animals, he proceeds thus: -
“Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius altae
Deerat adhuc, et quod dominari in caetera posset.
Natus Homo est: sive hunc divino semine fecit
Ille opifex rerum, mundi melioris origo;
Sive recens tellus, seductaque nuper ab alto
Aethere, cognati retinebat semina coeli. -
Pronaque cum spectent animalia caetera terram,
Os Homini Sublime Dedit; Coelumque Tueri
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere veltus.”
Metam, lib. i. ver. 76.
“A creature of a more exalted kind
Was wanting yet, and then was Man design‘d;
Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast,
For empire form‘d, and fit to rule the rest.
Whether with particles of heavenly fire
The God of nature did his soul inspire,
Or earth but new divided from the sky,
Which still retain‘d th‘ ethereal energy. -
Thus, while the mute creation downward bend
Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes
Beholds his own hereditary skies.”
The word ανθρωπος , man, is frequently applied to the soul, but generally with some epithet. Thus ὁ εσω ανθρωπος , the inner man, Romans 7:22, to distinguish it from the body, which is called ὁ εξω ανθρωπος , the outer man, 2 Corinthians 4:16; ὁ κρυπτος ανθρωπος , the hidden man, as in the text; ὁ καινος ανθρωπος , the new man, the soul renewed in righteousness, Ephesians 2:15, to distinguish him from ὁ παλαιος ανθρωπος , the old man, that is, man unregenerate or in a state of sin, Romans 6:6. And the soul is thus distinguished by the Greek philosophers.
A meek and quiet spirit - That is, a mind that will not give provocation to others, nor receive irritation by the provocation of others. Meekness will prevent the first; quietness will guard against the last.
Great price - All the ornaments placed on the head and body of the most illustrious female, are, in the sight of God, of no worth; but a meek and silent spirit are, in his sight, invaluable, because proceeding from and leading to himself, being incorruptible, surviving the ruins of the body and the ruins of time, and enduring eternally.
For after this manner - Simplicity reigned in primitive times; natural ornaments alone were then in use. Trade and commerce brought in luxuries; and luxury brought pride, and all the excessive nonsense of Dress. No female head ever looks so well as when adorned with its own hair alone. This is the ornament appointed by God. To cut it off or to cover it is an unnatural practice; and to exchange the hair which God has given for hair of some other color, is an insult to the Creator. How the delicacy of the female character can stoop to the use of false hair, and especially when it is considered that the chief part of this kind of hair was once the natural property of some ruffian soldier, who fell in battle by many a ghastly wound, is more than I can possibly comprehend. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 11:14-16 (note); and 1 Timothy 2:9 (note).
Who trusted in God - The women who trust Not in God are fond of dress and frippery; those who trust in God follow nature and common sense.
Being in subjection unto their own husbands - It will rarely be found that women who are fond of dress, and extravagant in it, have any subjection to their husbands but what comes from mere necessity. Indeed, their dress, which they intend as an attractive to the eyes of others, is a sufficient proof that they have neither love nor respect for their own husbands. Let them who are concerned refute the charge.
Even as Sara obeyed - Almost the same words are in Rab. Tanchum, fol. 9, 3: “The wife of Abraham reverenced him, and called him lord, as it is written, Genesis 18:12: And my lord is old.” The words of the apostle imply that she acknowledged his superiority, and her own subjection to him, in the order of God.
Whose daughters ye are - As Abraham is represented the father of all his male believing descendants, so Sara is represented as the mother of all her believing female posterity. A son of Abraham is a true believer; a daughter of Sarah is the same.
As long as ye do well - For you cannot maintain your relationship to her longer than ye believe; and ye cannot believe longer than ye continue to obey.
And are not afraid with any amazement - It is difficult to extract any sense out of this clause. The original is not very easy; Μη φοβουμεναι μηδεμιαν πτοησιν may be rendered, And not fearing with any terror. If ye do well, and act conscientiously your part as faithful wives, ye will at no time live under the distressing apprehension of being found out, or terrified at every appearance of the discovery of infidelities, or improper conduct. Being not guilty of these, you will not have occasion to fear detection. On this subject a learned man has quoted these words, which I have produced elsewhere, Ephesians 6:14: -
- hic murus aheneus esto,
Nil conscire sibi, nulla pallescere culpa.
“Let this be my brazen wall, to be self-convicted of no private delinquency, nor to change color at being charged with a fault.”
Happy is the wife, and happy is the husband, who can conscientiously adopt the saying.
Dwell with them according to knowledge - Give your wives, by no species of unkind carriage, any excuse for delinquency. How can a man expect his wife to be faithful to him, if he be unfaithful to her? and vice versa.
Giving honor unto the wife - Using your superior strength and experience in her behalf, and thus honouring her by becoming her protector and support. But the word τιμη honor, signifies maintenance as well as respect; - maintain, provide for the wife.
As - the weaker vessel - Being more delicately, and consequently more slenderly, constructed. Roughness and strength go hand in hand; so likewise do beauty and frailty. The female has what the man wants - beauty and delicacy. The male has what the female wants - courage and strength. The one is as good in its place as the other: and by these things God has made an equality between the man and the woman, so that there is properly very little superiority on either side. See the note on 1 Thessalonians 4:4.
Being heirs together - Both the man and woman being equally called to eternal glory: and as prayer is one great means of obtaining a meetness for it, it is necessary that they should live together in such a manner as to prevent all family contentions, that they may not be prevented, by disputes or misunderstandings, from uniting daily in this most important duty - family and social prayer.
Be ye all of one mind - Unity, both in the family and in the Church, being essentially necessary to peace and salvation. See on Romans 12:16 (note); Romans 15:5 (note).
Having compassion - Συμπαθεις· Being sympathetic; feeling for each other; bearing each other‘s burdens.
Love as brethren - Φιλαδελφοι· Be lovers of the brethren.
Pitiful - Ευσπλαγχνοι· Tender-hearted; let your bowels yearn over the distressed and afflicted.
Courteous - Φιλοφρονες· Be friendly-minded; acquire and cultivate a friendly disposition. But instead of this word, ταπεινοφρονες , be humble-minded, is the reading of ABC, more than twenty others, with the Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, and some of the fathers. This is probably the true reading, and Griesbach has admitted it into the text.
Not rendering evil for evil - Purposing, saying, doing nothing but good; and invariably returning good for evil.
Ye are thereunto called - This is your calling - your business in life, to do good, and to do good for evil, and to implore God‘s blessing even on your worst enemies. And this is not only your duty, but your interest; for in so doing you shall obtain God‘s blessing, even life for evermore.
For he that will love life - This is a quotation from Psalm 34:12-16, as it stands in the Septuagint; only the aorist of the imperative is changed from the second into the third person, etc. He who wishes to live long and prosperously, must act as he is here directed.
1.He must refrain from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering.
2.He must avoid flattery and fair speeches, which cover hypocritical or wicked intentions.
3.He must avoid evil, keep going away εκκλινατω , from evil.
4.He must do good; he must walk in the way of righteousness.
5.He must live peaceably with all men; seek peace where it has been lost; restore it where it has been broken; and pursue it where it seems to be flying away.
He who lives thus must live happy in himself. And as excess in action and passion always tends to the shortening of life, and nothing preys on the constitution more than disorderly passions, he must live not only happiest but longest who avoids them. It is an edifying story that is told in the book Mussar, chap. 1., quoted by Rosenmuller: “A certain person, travelling through the city, continued to call out, Who wants the elixir of life? The daughter of Rabbi Joda heard him, and told her father. He said, Call the man in. When he came in, the rabbi said, What is that elixir of life thou sellest? He answered, Is it not written, What man is he that loveth life, and desireth to see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile? This is the elixir of life, and is found in the mouth of man.”
The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous - That is, He is continually under God‘s notice and his care; God continually watches for him and watches over him, and he is under his constant protection.
And his ears are open unto their prayers - The original is very emphatic: The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears to their prayers. The righteous man ever attracts the Divine notice, and wherever he is, there is the ear of God; for, as every righteous man is a man of prayer, wherever he prays, there is the ear of God, into which the prayer, as soon as formed, enters.
But the face of the Lord - Far from his eye being upon them, or his ear open to their requests, (for prayer they have none), his face, his approbation, his providence and blessing, are turned away from them; and he only looks upon them to abhor them, and to turn the arm of his justice against them.
Who is he that will harm you - Is it possible that a man can be wretched who has God for his friend? “All the devices which the devil or wicked men work against such must be brought to naught, and by the providence of his goodness be dispersed.”
If ye be followers, etc. - Εαν Του Αγαθου μιμηται γενησθε· If ye be imitators of the good One, i.e. of God. Ὁ Αγαθος , the good One, is one of God‘s prime epithets, see Matthew 19:17, and Satan is distinguished by the reverse, ὁ πονηρος , the Evil one, Matthew 13:19 (note). Instead of μιμηται , followers, or rather imitators, ζηλωται , zealous of what is good, is the reading of ABC, fifteen others, both the Syriac, Erpen‘s Arabic, the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian and Vulgate, with some of the fathers. This is a very probable reading, and Griesbach has placed it in the margin as a candidate for the place of that in the text.
But and if ye suffer - God may permit you to be tried and persecuted for righteousness‘ sake, but this cannot essentially harm you; he will press even this into your service, and make it work for your good.
Happy are ye - This seems to refer to Matthew 5:10, etc. Blessed or happy, are ye when men persecute you, etc. It is a happiness to suffer for Christ; and it is a happiness, because if a man were not holy and righteous the world would not persecute him, so he is happy in the very cause of his sufferings.
Be not afraid of their terror - Τον δε φοβον αυτων μη φοβηθητε· Fear not their fear; see Isaiah 8:12. Sometimes fear is put for the object of a man‘s religious worship; see Genesis 31:42; Proverbs 1:26, and the place in Isaiah just quoted. The exhortation may mean, Fear not their gods, they can do you no hurt; and supposing that they curse you by them, yet be not troubled; “He who fears God need have no other fear.”
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts - To sanctify God may signify to offer him the praises due to his grace, but as to sanctify literally signifies to make holy, it is impossible that God should be thus sanctified. We have often already seen that ἁγιαζω signifies to separate from earth, that is, from any common use or purpose, that the thing or person thus separated may be devoted to a sacred use. Perhaps we should understand Peter‘s words thus: Entertain just notions of God; of his nature, power, will, justice, goodness, and truth. Do not conceive of him as being actuated by such passions as men; separate him in your hearts from every thing earthly, human, fickle, rigidly severe, or capriciously merciful. Consider that he can neither be like man, feel like man, nor act like man. Ascribe no human passions to him, for this would desecrate not sanctify him. Do not confine him in your conceptions to place, space, vacuity, heaven, or earth; endeavor to think worthily of the immensity and eternity of his nature, of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Avoid the error of the heathens, who bound even their Dii Majores, their greatest gods, by fate, as many well-meaning Christians do the true God by decrees; conceive of him as infinitely free to act or not act, as he pleases. Consider the goodness of his nature; for goodness, in every possible state of perfection and infinitude, belongs to him. Ascribe no malevolence to him; nor any work, purpose, or decree, that implies it: this is not only a human passion, but a passion of fallen man. Do not suppose that he can do evil, or that he can destroy when he might save; that he ever did, or ever can, hate any of those whom he made in his own image and in his own likeness, so as by a positive decree to doom them, unborn, to everlasting perdition, or, what is of the same import, pass them by without affording them the means of salvation, and consequently rendering it impossible for them to be saved. Thus endeavor to conceive of him; and, by so doing, you separate him from all that is imperfect, human, evil, capricious, changeable, and unkind. Ever remember that he has wisdom without error, power, without limits, truth without falsity, love without hatred, holiness without evil, and justice without rigour or severity on the one hand, or capricious tenderness on the other. In a word, that he neither can be, say, purpose, or do, any thing that is not infinitely just, holy, wise, true, and gracious; that he hates nothing that he has made; and has so loved the world, the whole human race, as to give his only-begotten Son to die for them, that they might not perish, but have everlasting life. Thus sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and you will ever be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in you to every serious and candid inquirer after truth. Most religious systems and creeds are incapable of rational explanation, because founded on some misconception of the Divine nature.
“They set at odds heaven‘s jarring attributes,
And with one excellence another wound.”
The system of humanizing God, and making him, by our unjust conceptions of him, to act as ourselves would in certain circumstances, has been the bane of both religion and piety; and on this ground infidels have laughed us to scorn. It is high time that we should no longer know God after the flesh; for even if we have known Jesus Christ after the flesh, we are to know him so no more.
What I have written above is not against any particular creed of religious people, it is against any or all to whom it may justly apply, it may even be against some portions of my own; for even in this respect I am obliged daily to labor to sanctify the Lord God in my heart, to abstract him from every thing earthly and human, and apprehend him as far as possible in his own essential nature and attributes through the light of his Spirit and the medium of his own revelation. To act thus requires no common effort of soul: and just apprehensions of this kind are not acquired without much prayer, much self-reflection, much time, and much of the grace and mercy of God.
Instead of τον Θεον , God, ABC, four others, both the Syriac, Erpen‘s Arabic, the Coptic, Vulgate, and Armenian, with Clement and Fulgentius, read τον Χριστον , Christ. Sanctify Christ in your hearts. This reading is at least equal to the other in the authorities by which it is supported; but which was written by St. Peter we know not.
A reason of the hope - An account of your hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life in God‘s glory. This was the great object of their hope, as Christ was the grand object of their faith.
The word απολογια , which we translate answer, signifies a defense; from this we have our word apology, which did not originally signify an excuse for an act, but a defense of that act. The defences of Christianity by the primitive fathers are called apologies. See the note on Acts 21:1.
With meekness and fear - Several excellent MSS. add the word αλλα , but, here, and it improves the sense considerably: Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, But with meekness and fear. Do not permit your readiness to answer, nor the confidence you have in the goodness of your cause, to lead you to answer pertly or superciliously to any person; defend the truth with all possible gentleness and fear, lest while you are doing it you should forget his presence whose cause you support, or say any thing unbecoming the dignity and holiness of the religion which you have espoused, or inconsistent with that heavenly temper which the Spirit of your indwelling Lord must infallibly produce.
Having a good conscience - The testimony of God in your own soul, that in simplicity and godly sincerity you have your conversation in the world. See on the term conscience at the end of Hebrews.
Whereas they speak evil of you - See the same sentiment in 1 Peter 2:11 and the note there.
For it is better - See on 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 2:20 (note).
Christ also hath once suffered - See the notes on Romans 5:6; Hebrews 9:28 (note).
Put to death in the flesh - In his human nature.
But quickened by the Spirit - That very dead body revived by the power of his Divinity. There are various opinions on the meaning of this verse, with which I need not trouble the reader, as I have produced that which is most likely.
By which - Spirit, his own Divine energy and authority.
He went and preached - By the ministry of Noah, one hundred and twenty years.
Unto the spirits in prison - The inhabitants of the antediluvian world, who, having been disobedient, and convicted of the most flagrant transgressions against God, were sentenced by his just law to destruction. But their punishment was delayed to see if they would repent; and the long-suffering of God waited one hundred and twenty years, which were granted to them for this purpose; during which time, as criminals tried and convicted, they are represented as being in prison - detained under the arrest of Divine justice, which waited either for their repentance or the expiration of the respite, that the punishment pronounced might be inflicted. This I have long believed to be the sense of this difficult passage, and no other that I have seen is so consistent with the whole scope of the place. That the Spirit of God did strive with, convict, and reprove the antediluvians, is evident from Genesis 6:3: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, forasmuch as he is flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years. And it was by this Spirit that Noah became a preacher of righteousness, and condemned that ungodly world, Hebrews 11:7, who would not believe till wrath - Divine punishment, came upon them to the uttermost. The word πνευμασι , spirits, is supposed to render this view of the subject improbable, because this must mean disembodied spirits; but this certainly does not follow, for the spirits of just men made perfect, Hebrews 12:23, certainly means righteous men, and men still in the Church militant; and the Father of spirits, Hebrews 12:9, means men still in the body; and the God of the spirits of all flesh, Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16, means men not in a disembodied state.
But even on this word there are several various readings; some of the Greek MSS. read πνευματι , in spirit, and one Πνευματι Ἁγιῳ , in the Holy Spirit. I have before me one of the first, if not the very first edition of the Latin Bible; and in it the verse stands thus: In quo et hiis, qui in carcere erant, Spiritualiter veniens praedicavit; “by which he came spiritually, and preached to them that were in prison.”
In two very ancient MSS. of the Vulgate before me, the clause is thus: In quo et his qui in carcere erant Spiritu venient praedicavit; “in which, coming by the Spirit, he preached to those who were in prison.” This is the reading also in the Complutensian Polyglot.
Another ancient MS. in my possession has the words nearly as in the printed copy: In quo et hiis qui in carcere Conclusi erant Spiritualiter veniens praedicavit; “in which, coming spiritually, he preached to those who were Shut Up in prison.”
Another MS., written about a.d. 1370, is the same as the printed copy.
The common printed Vulgate is different from all these, and from all the MSS. of the Vulgate which I have seen in reading spiritibus, “to the spirits.”
In my old MS. Bible, which contains the first translation into English ever made, the clause is the following: In whiche thing and to hem that weren closid togyder in prison, hi commynge in Spirit, prechide. The copy from which this translation was taken evidently read conclusi erdnt, with one of the MSS. quoted above, as closid togyder proves.
I have quoted all these authorities from the most authentic and correct copies of the Vulgate, to show that from them there is no ground to believe that the text speaks of Christ‘s going to hell to preach the Gospel to the damned, or of his going to some feigned place where the souls of the patriarchs were detained, to whom he preached, and whom he delivered from that place and took with him to paradise, which the Romish Church holds as an article of faith.
Though the judicious Calmet holds with his Church this opinion, yet he cannot consider the text of St. Peter as a proof of it. I will set down his own words: Le sentiment qui veut que Jesus Christ soit descendu aux enfers, pour annoncer sa venue aux anciens patriarches, et pour les tirer de cette espece de prison, ou ils Pattendoient si long tems, est indubitable; et nous le regardons comme un article de notre foi: mais on peut douter que ce soit le sens de Saint Pierre en cet endroit. “The opinion which states that Jesus Christ descended into hell, to announce his coming to the ancient patriarchs, and to deliver them from that species of prison, where they had so long waited for him, is incontrovertible; and we (the Catholics) consider it as an article of our faith: but we may doubt whether this be the meaning of St. Peter in this place.” Some think the whole passage applies to the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles; but the interpretation given above appears to me, after the fullest consideration, to be the most consistent and rational, as I have already remarked.
When once the long-suffering of God waited - In Pirkey Aboth, cap. v. 2, we have these words: “There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, that the long-suffering of God might appear; for each of these generations provoked him to anger, and went on in their iniquity, till at last the deluge came.”
Were saved by water - While the ark was preparing, only Noah‘s family believed; these amounted to eight persons; and these only were saved from the deluge δι ‘ ὑδατος , on the water: all the rest perished in the water; though many of them, while the rains descended, and the waters daily increased, did undoubtedly humble themselves before God, call for mercy, and receive it; but as they had not repented at the preaching of Noah, and the ark was now closed, and the fountains of the great deep broken up, they lost their lives, though God might have extended mercy to their souls.
The like figure whereunto, etc. - Dr. Macknight has translated this verse so as to make the meaning more clear: By which (water) the antitype baptism (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) now saveth us also, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He remarks that the relative ᾡ being in the neuter gender, its antecedent cannot be κιβωτος , the ark, which is feminine, but ὑδωρ , water, which is neuter.
There are many difficulties in this verse; but the simple meaning of the place may be easily apprehended. Noah believed in God; walked uprightly before him, and found grace in his sight; he obeyed him in building the ark, and God made it the means of his salvation from the waters of the deluge. Baptism implies a consecration and dedication of the soul and body to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He who is faithful to his baptismal covenant, taking God through Christ, by the eternal Spirit, for his portion, is saved here from his sins; and through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, has the well-grounded hope of eternal glory. This is all plain; but was it the deluge, itself, or the ark, or the being saved by that ark from the deluge, that was the antitype of which St. Peter speaks? Noah and his family were saved by water; i.e. it was the instrument of their being saved through the good providence of God. So the water of baptism, typifying the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, is the means of salvation to all those who receive this Holy Spirit in its quickening, cleansing efficacy. Now as the waters of the flood could not have saved Noah and his family, had they not made use of the ark; so the water of baptism saves no man, but as it is the means of his getting his heart purified by the Holy Spirit, and typifying to him that purification. The ark was not immersed in the water; had it been so they must all have perished; but it was borne up on the water, and sprinkled with the rain that fell from heaven. This text, as far as I can see, says nothing in behalf of immersion in baptism; but is rather, from the circumstance mentioned above, in favor of sprinkling. In either case, it is not the sprinkling, washing, or cleansing the body, that can be of any avail to the salvation of the soul, but the answer of a good conscience towards God - the internal evidence and external proof that the soul is purified in the laver of regeneration, and the person enabled to walk in newness of life. We are therefore strongly cautioned here, not to rest in the letter, but to look for the substance.
Who is gone into heaven - Having given the fullest proof of his resurrection from the dead, and of his having accomplished the end for which he came into the world.
On the right hand of God - In the place of the highest dignity, honor, and influence.
The Vulgate, one copy of the Itala, Augustine, Fulgentius, Cassiodorus, and Bede, have the following remarkable addition after the above words: Deglutiens mortem, ut vitae aeternae haeredes efficeremur. “Having abolished (swallowed down) death, that we might be made heirs of eternal life.” But this addition is found in no Greek copy, nor in any other of the ancient versions.
Angels and authorities and powers - That is, all creatures and beings, both in the heavens and in the earth, are put under subjection to Jesus Christ. He has all power in the heavens and in the earth. He alone can save; and he alone can destroy. None need fear who put their trust in him, as he can do whatsoever he will in behalf of his followers, and has good and evil spirits under his absolute command. Well may his enemies tremble, while his friends exult and sing. He can raise the dead, and save to the uttermost all that come unto the Father through him.
If he have all power, if angels and authorities and powers be subject to him, then he can do what he will, and employ whom he will. To raise the dead can be no difficulty to him, because he has power over all things. He created the world; he can destroy it, and he can create it anew. We can conceive nothing too difficult for Omnipotence. This same omnipotent Being is the friend of man. Why then do we not come to him with confidence, and expect the utmost salvation of which our souls and bodies are capable?