Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:13-17: Verse 16
3:16, “…having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
The exhortation to gentle and reverent discourse is further qualified by the participial phrase suneideisin exontes agathein (“having a good conscience”). This participle of attendant circumstance reinforces the concept that the truth of a Christian’s reasons must be accompanied by an attitude which is consistent with that truth. Believers live coram Deo and must not use manipulative or vituperative speech in proclaiming the Gospel; neither fear nor moral compromise are permitted.
The purpose for prohibiting moral compromise is revealed in the following hina clause: so that those who speak against believers might be ashamed. Shaming unbelievers is not an end in itself; it may be that this shame becomes the ground for considering the reasons a believer has given for hoping in Christ (cf. 2:12). (24)
The shame of the unbeliever is contrasted with the good conscience and behavior of the believer – in Christ. “Christ, then, defines what is good conduct, and Christ is the power and motivation for good conduct in even the most provoking situations.” (25) This “good in Christ manner of life” will be recognized as good in general by the broader culture, but still vilified at times by some, as mentioned in the discussion of verses 13 and 14. As the “good conscience” and “good behavior in Christ” of the believer are contrasted with the “slandering, reviling shame” of the unbelieving interlocutor, the judgment of God looms in the background (referenced in 3:11-12, 20-22). “Those who now demand an accounting from Christians will themselves have to give an accounting to the Judge of all (cf. 4:5). On the ‘day of visitation’ they will either ‘glorify God’ if they have repented, or be ‘put to shame’ if they have not.” (26)
Kataisxunthosin is rightfully translated as a divine passive, “be put to shame,” (27) which carries both missiological and eschatological senses. (28) An unbeliever may be ashamed by their sinful conduct and led to repentance by a believer’s faithfulness – or they will be finally put to shame on the Day of Judgment.
(24) Wayne A. Grudem, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, An Introduction and Commentary. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 162.
(25) Peter H. Davids, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle of Peter. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 133.
(26) J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary: 1 Peter (Waco: Word Publishers, Inc., 1988), 191
(27) Walter Bauer, W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, F.W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed, ed. Frederick William Danker (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 517.2.
(28) Dubis sets these two categories in opposition to each other in his critique of Michaels’ emphasis on eschatology (Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 113.). I see no reason for viewing the senses as mutually exclusive, given the broader themes of the epistle.