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)