1 Peter 3:17-22 (Part 1)

1 Peter 3:17-22

In the preceding verses Peter had spoken of submission to authority:

  •  To civil governments
  • To the boss
  • To husbands

And then he speaks of suffering — suggesting, perhaps, that submission does not necessarily bring an easy life, even though it is the right thing to do.

Why is it better to suffer for doing what’s right than for doing what’s wrong?  More particularly, why is it better to be a Christian when suffering this way?

Firstly, suffering is not good, suffering does not make a person noble or morally superior to others who have not suffered.

Suffering is the result of sin in this world.

But God can and does bring good out of evil. The supreme example of God bringing good out of the evil of suffering is the death of Jesus Christ.

Peter points us to the Lord Jesus Christ, who always did good, never evil, yet he suffered more than any human being.

Jesus suffered once for sins, referring to his death on the cross, but this was not the only time Jesus suffered.

  • The Eternal Son of God humbled himself to become a human being.
  • He suffered hunger, thirst, fatigue, physical pain.
  • He suffered abuse from sinful human beings, living in a world that we had blighted with sin.

Yet on the Cross the Lord Jesus paid once, for all time, the debt of sin for unjust, unlovely people like us. The Just One died once in the place of unjust ones.

Jesus was not treated unjustly by God, as he is God himself, and he came for this precise reason, to give his life a ransom for many.

  • Jesus was treated unjustly by us, the evil ones he came to save.
  • He healed the sick, fed the hungry, befriended marginalised people, forgave sins, raised the dead, told the truth.
  • He did all this for the ‘evil and unthankful’.

How did we respond to his goodness? We

  •  mocked and reviled him
  • told lies about him
  • formed a kangaroo court and condemned him, an innocent man
  • nailed him to a cross as if he were a criminal

These things were done to the Lord Jesus in his life here on earth, and human beings have done similar things to his reputation ever since.

When Peter preached his first sermon (Acts 2), he said that what we intended for evil, God intended for good. What we did with wicked hands, God had pre-determined for good.

The suffering of Christ Jesus on the cross, Peter tells us, was the means God used to bring ‘us’ to back to himself.

We were once on good terms with God, because that is how he had made us.

We rebelled against our creator, and have made war with him ever since. Only a free and merciful act on God’s part would ever redeem us. We were justly condemned, but the one we wronged came to suffer at our hands to restore us and save us from judgement.

In his life, death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus represented humanity. What he did, what he suffered, he did and suffered for ‘us’.

Who are the ‘us’ that Peter refers to?

Not every single human being on earth — see v.19

Not those ‘good’ or ‘clever’ enough to choose Jesus. We are all, by Adam’s sin and our own, made utterly unresponsive toward God, except for our hatred toward him.

The ‘us’ in this passage refers to people whom God chose to save — a huge number from every age, but only those God selected.

  •  John 1:12-13 “Those who did received [Jesus] were born … of God”
  • John 3:3-5 “Unless you are born again, you cannot see … [or] enter the Kingdom of God”
  • John 6:65 “For this reason I said to you, that no one is able to come to me unless it is given to him by my Father.”
  • John 10: 11 “I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep”
  • John 10:26 “But you are not able to believe because you are not from my sheep.”
  • John 17:9 “I do not pray for the world, but for those you [Father] have given me, because they are yours”

It is most important to see this. Our safety depends utterly on the God we offended. God was pleased to save, but if he had only sent his son to earth to live and die and rise again and left it at that, no one would put their trust in him.

Without the particular work of the Holy Spirit moving people to repent and believe, not one sinner would ever repent and believe.

Our problem is not merely intellectual. It is not the case that given enough information a person will say, ‘Oh, I get It’, and trust Jesus.

A miracle similar to that which raised Jesus from the dead is needed for any individual to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

If you are trusting Jesus Christ, as he is offered to us in the Bible, then God has done an extraordinary thing for you. He has brought you to himself.

(continued in Part 2)

1 Peter 3:17-22 (Part 2)

1 Peter 3:17-22 (continued from Part 1)

If you are trusting Jesus Christ, as he is offered to us in the Bible, then God has done an extraordinary thing for you. He has brought you to himself.

  •  put to death by flesh — we killed him
  • raised to life by the Spirit — God raised him from the dead

‘By which Spirit, Christ went and preached to the spirits now in prison, to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah, when the patience of God waited while the Ark was being prepared.’

This is a difficult passage, but I invite you to think of it this way.

Noah, Peter tells us in 2 Peter 2:5, was a preacher of righteousness. In other words, Noah would have spoken to the people about how they might be saved if they trusted themselves to the message of judgement and mercy that God had given Noah to preach.

Noah might have said something like this:

‘Our sins have offended our creator, and he will bring a terrible judgement — a deadly flood. But he has given a way of escape — an ark is being prepared. Believe God’s assessment of your behaviour. Repent of your distrust of God and come to him. Come into the ark and be saved.’

 It was Christ who, by his Spirit, spoke through Noah long ago. It was the same sort of message that Peter and the Christians of his day heard and believed.

Many in Noah’s day heard that message but ignored it. They most likely made fun of Noah and his sons as they built a huge boat far from the sea. They died in the flood and their spirits are now in prison awaiting the resurrection and their final condemnation.

Those who believed the message were saved, but they also endured the mockery and other sufferings associated with trusting God and trying to do good in a sinful world.

Remember that Noah, as much as anyone else in his day, deserved to die for his sins. But God was pleased to show mercy to Noah and his family. Noah found grace from God.

Eight were saved, but the mere presence of the ark saved no one. The gift of saving faith was needed to get any human being into the ark before the flood came.

They were saved through water, which is an antitype (a picture) as baptism now saves us.

It is not water baptism that saves anyone, just as it was not the water that saved Noah.

Safety did not come through the action of water as if water could remove guilt as easily as it can take dirt off our skin. No, rather Baptism is a sign that we are in Christ (Romans 6). If we are in Christ (by God’s goodness, through faith) then we are saved from sin and condemnations.

Just as Noah was saved by being in the Ark (sprinkled by the rain — a sign of baptism), we are saved because we are in Christ (of which baptism is a sign).

We have our real guilt dealt with by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection points back to his faultless life that he lived in our place, to his death on the cross by which he removed from us our sin and its judgement.

By his resurrection the benefits of forgiveness and righteousness are now available to his people — those for whom he died, those to whom the Holy Spirit gives faith and new life.

Because of these things that Jesus alone has done for us, we can have a clean conscience before God. We can know that God is no longer angry with us, if we are trusting his Son.

And this Jesus is trust worthy. He is at the right hand of God. He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth. The world is in his control. Nothing happens without his command.

Remember where we started.

Why is it better to suffer as a Christian than for being an evil doer?

God brings his good out of evil. This might not mean we experience that good ourselves in this world, but God is served when his people do what pleases him in difficult situations.

  • No matter what evil we may suffer here and now, it cannot take from us that good which God has stored up for us in heaven.
  • The suffering of this life is nothing compared to the sufferings of the next if we go on in our rebellion against our Creator. Remember the spirits in prison. They have nothing to look forward to but continually experiencing the consequences for their unchanging rebellion against God.
  • Christ has saved his people and they can never be lost. Their safety depends on the victory and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not depend on us. We are simply to trust him.