Father MAcEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15-18

This post begins with the Fr. Mac’s brief analysis of chapter 3 follwed by his commentary on the reading. Fr. Mac has included a paraphrase of the text he was commenting on and these have been reproduced here in purple text.

Analysis:  In the preceding chapter the Apostle had been inculcating the duty of political subjection, on the part of the governed, to their rulers, and the domestic subjection of servants to their masters, from which he digressed at verse 18, to treat of the benefits of redemption. In this, he resumes the subject with reference to another species of subjection, somewhat different from the preceding, viz., that which is due by wives to their husbands ; and he inculcates this duty, by pointing out the advantages its observance might confer on the husbands, in case they should have continued to be unbelievers (verses 1, 2).  H next shows, in what manner women should adorn themselves, viz., by attending more to the decoration of their souls than of their persons (3, 4). He inculcates the same duty of subjection, by the examples of the wives of the patriarchs of old, and particularly by that of Sara (5, 6).

He then enjoins on husbands the faithful observance of the reciprocal duties of more abundant attention and respect, which they owe their wives.

He briefly and summarily enjoins on all, the exercise of charity and compassion for one another (8). He prohibits retaliation for injuries, whether in word or deed (9); and proves from the Psalms, that in order to be heirs to their destined benediction, they must return blessing for cursing, avoid evil, and do good (10-12). He shows that if they are zealous in the practice of good works, unjust persecutions will not only be ultimately harmless (13), but will procure a special benediction for them (14). He exhorts them to fear God only, and to be prepared with some satisfactory answer when questioned, in due circumstances, respecting their faith. He encourages then to suffer patiently for justice sake; since, in doing so, they conform to God’s will (17); and moreover, by so doing, they perfectly conform to the example of Christ, who also suffered unjustly, even death, for our sins; he shows, for their consolation, the efficacy and good effects of the unjust suffering of Christ, both in reference to himself, who was raised to a glorious and immortal life, enlivened in the spirit” (18), and with reference to his creatures, whether we regard past generations—and among them the most signal instance of the great efficacy of his merits was the salvation of the Antediluvians; to whom he went a d preached during the interval between his death and resurrection, in the prison of Limibo, the glad tidings of their approaching admittance into glory (19, 20)—or, whether we regard present or future generations during the entire term of the law of grace, during which, men are saved by the waters of baptism, received with due dispositions, of which waters those of the deluge were a type figure (21, 22).

1Pe 3:15  But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.

But reverence in your hearts the Lord Christ, and manifest this reverence in the edifying practice of all Christian virtues; and be always prepared to give some satisfactory answer or apology to every one that asks, in due circumstances, for some reason of the hope that is in you.

“But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts.” The word “sanctify” means to proclaim him “holy,” and endeavour to show him forth as such to the world. The Apostle adds this to show that, if the fear of the Lord reign in their souls, they will be proof against every other base fear which would prompt to acts opposed to his holy will. These words, as well as the words in the preceding verse, “and be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled,” are taken from Isaiah 8:13, with this difference, that in the latter the words are, “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself,” whereas here it is “the Lord Christ;” and St. Peter adds “Christ,” probably to show that Christ is “the Lord of Hosts ” referred to by Isaiah. In some Greek copies the reading is,  Sanctify the Lord God. But the Vulgate reading is supported by the Syriac, and found in the chief manuscripts.
“Being always ready to satisfy everyone,”‘ which, in the Greek, runs thus: ετοιμοι αει προς απολογιαν, “being always ready for an apology to every one” &c., that is to say, being always furnished with, and having ready at hand, some satisfactory reply to give to those who, in due and proper circumstances, interrogate you about the grounds of that hope which you entertain, and which supports you against the pressure of evil and persecution. In this the Apostle does not require that every person among the faithful should be a Theologian,
able to account for all the truths of faith, and to dispute regarding them; neither
does he require that under all circumstances, whether interrogated from idle, impertinent curiosity, without any regard for instruction, or, from motives of embarrassing us, we should enter on a defence of our holy faith or give answer: all he requires is, that when interrogated at proper times, and in due circumstances, every Christian should be instructed in some general satisfactory reasons for embracing and adhering to the Catholic faith (v.g.), if the question were proposed by infidels, he might ground his hopes in Christ on the fact, that He was proved to be the God predicted of old by the Prophets, from the circumstances of the prophecies being all fulfilled in Him and Him only; from his having confirmed by miracles his declaration that He was the Son of God; and finally, as he had foretold, from his having raised himself from the dead; that this infinitely veracious God promised us eternal life, provided we adhered to his true faith and kept his commandments; and that the enduring of crosses here below, far from showing that he did not exercise a paternal care over us, was, on the contrary, a necessarv condition for obtaining the heavenly inheritance marked out by him beforehand for his followers; he himself having first given us the example, by taking up the cross, and despising the ignominy attached thereto, even when joy had been proposed to him.—(Hebrews 12) To heretics, one general answer should be:— That we believe all the truths which the Catholic Church proposes, because that Church is infallible, being “the pillar and ground of truth”—having been vested unto the end of time with power and knowledge, “to preserve usfrom being carried atvay and tossed about by
every wind of doctrine” (Ephes 4)—having the plentitude of truth deposited with HER by the Holy Ghost, in teaching which he promised to abide with her for ever — having Christ hin[iself remaining with her “all days even to the end of the world.”

1Pe 3:16  But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

But your answer should be always marked by gentleness and due reverence for those who interrogate you, having a good conscience and leading lives conformable to the principles of your holy faith, so that instead of speaking evil ofyou, those may be confounded and put to shame, who now falsely accuse and calumniate your virtuous edifying life and Christian conversation.

Our answer should be wholly exempt from harshness or contentious arrogance
of any kind. In truth, no man was ever converted by abuse; and it is to be feared that the practice of abusing such as differ from us in religion, under ordinary circumstances, proceeds from another spirit than the spirit of God, from passion and caprice rather than from zeal. The ample benedictions poured on the labours of a De Sales and an Xavier are the clearest evidence of the will of God in this repect.  “Haying a good conscience,” otherwise our reasonings will prove prejudicial; for, it may fairly be said, if we believe what we say, why not live up to this belief? Hence, in order that our disputations or instructions may prove of any avail, we should lead lives conformable to our faith; and then, by this readiness to account, with meekness, for the hope which is in us, and by our exemplary lives, we will confound such as now calumniate us and our holy faith. In some Greek copies, after the words, “who speak evil of
you,” are added the words, ως κακοποιων, as malefactors. It is likely, however, that they were added from verse 12, of the preceding chapter. In the Syriac version, the words run thus—that your enemies may be confounded as calumniators of your good conversation in Christ.

1Pe 3:17  For it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer than doing ill.

For, it is much better and far more meritorious to suffer for our good actions (if such be the will of God, without whose will nothing happens, except sin), than to be forced to undergo punishment for our misdeeds.

To such as are suffering for justice sake, the Apostle proposes motives of consolation founded on the advantages and merit of such suffering, and also on the consideration of God’s holy will, that they should thus suffer.  “For, it is better,” &c. These words would appear to be immediately connected with verse 14. “It is better,” that is, more meritorious for you (” if such be the will of God.”) This he adds to show, that in thus suffering, they are only conforming to God’s holy will; for, everything happens by his positive will, sin excepted.  “Than to suffer doing ill,” because, then you would be only paying the just penalty due to your misdeeds. No doubt the very act of submitting to merited punishment may be rendered a just and meritorious thing; but, still not so meritorious as suffering for justice sake. This latter is “better” than the former, which may sometimes be good.

1Pe 3:18  Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,

(And by thus suffering unjustly you will more perfectly conform to Christ). For he also suffered, nay, even died, once, not for his own, but for our sins; the just suffered for the unjust; that he might offer us to God; and, by breaking down the enmities that existed between him and us, bring us nearer to him, by a conformity of our virtues, by our faith and belief in his gospel, “being indeed put to death in the flesh,” when his mortal life was put an end to, but again resuscitated in the reunion of his soul—now become the principle of a glorious and immortal life—with his body, on which were conferred tlie properties of glorification.

In this verse, the Apostle adduces another motive for consolation under the
unjust sufferings for justice sake, to which the faithful, whom he is addressing, may have been exposed. This is, the example of Christ, to whom in such circumstances they most perfectly conform. “Because Christ also died once for our sins.”  “Also,”shows that the Apostle is exhorting them to suffer for justice sake even unto death; which can happen only once, “and Christ also died once for our sins,” for, he was himself incapable of sinning; “the just for the unjust;” hence, he could not himself merit the tortures and death to which he was subjected. “That he might offer us to God,” for which we have in the Greek, προσαγαγη, “that he might bring us to God.” The meaning furnished by both readings is given in the Paraphrase. We were afar off from God owing to our sins. Christ “broke down the wall of separation,” “the enmities in his flesh” (Ephes 2:14), and by paying an adequate and sufficient ransom, of which a Man-God alone was capable, purchased the grace by which we were enabled to draw near and approach to God.  “Being put to death indeed in the flesh,” that is, his mortal and animal life, requiring the aid of earthly aliments, for its continuance—which life Christ voluntarily led, and preferred up to the time of his death, although he might, if he pleased, have enjoyed, from his Incarnation, a life independent of all the requirements of animal existence—was put an end to by the separation of his soul from his body on the cross.  “But enlivened in the spirit.” By “the spirit,” some interpreters understand, the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of Christ, by whom Christ was raised from the dead; this resuscitation was an act of the Divinity, of the three Adorable Persons of the Trinity, to whom all acts, ad extra are common. Others, and it would seem with greater probabihty, understand it of the Soul of Christ, in which Christ “was enlivened,” just as it is said (1 Cor 15:45), “the last Adam was made into a quickening spirit,” inasmuch as his soul, after his Resurrection, imparted to his glorified body the gift of spirituality, in virtue of which it subsists without the aid of earthly aliments, such as food, clothing, &c.—required for the continuance of an animal life,—and will also be the principle of similar spiritual life, at a future day, to others. Of course, from his very Incarnation, Christ could have led such a life, exempt from all the necessities of animal existence; but it was only after his glorious birth at his Resurrection, that he actually entered on that glorified spiritual state.— Vide 1 Cor 15:45, Commentary.

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One Response to Father MAcEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Peter 3:15-18

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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