I Peter 3:18-20 Persecution (Part 2 of 3): Christ’s Example
Recall that Peter is discussing the duties that a Christian has in this short time we have on earth. He has discussed the duties of our privileged position in Christ. He has addressed the duties of our place that God has us in this life. Now he is talking about our duties during a time of persecution. The first point he has made so far is that if we go through persecution, we are to have a sanctified conversation. In other words, we are to be willing to suffer for the sake of a good conscience ... we are to fear God rather than fear man.
Peter now proceeds to his second point about how to respond to persecution which is … consider Christ’s example: (Read I Peter 3:18-22)
The word “also” is used three times in this passage. It is designed to create a parallel situation between Christ’s experience and our experience. Peter is saying, “I’ve told you to live according to your conscience even if it means persecution. Right? So let’s look at the life of Christ and we will see the same thing also.” And since the word “also” is repeated three times, I am assuming he has three comparisons he wants us to look at.
I. The first “also” is Christ also suffered verse 18
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins”
- Christ has done what he asks us to do. He lived righteously even though it meant that he suffered. He feared God not fearing man. Read I Peter 2:21-24.
- “Once” indicates that there is no longer any sacrifice needed to please God to pay for sins ... not animals, not our works, not even any suffering … nothing more. The price has been paid once and completely.
- The word “once” could also imply that it was unique. No one else could have done what he did. So even though his example is an encouragement to us, we need to understand our suffering is not the same. His suffering is apart, far worse, than any others.
- Quote from Charles Spurgeon a Baptist preacher in England in the 1800’s:
“I remember reading in Foxe’s book of Martyrs the story of a man of God who was bound to a stake to die for Christ. There he was, calm and still, until his legs had been burned away, and the bystanders looked to see his helpless body drop from the chains … black as coal. Not a feature could be discerned, but one who was near was greatly surprised to see that poor black carcass open its mouth and two words came out of it. What do you suppose they were? “Sweet Jesus!” And then the martyr fell over the chains and at last life was gone.”
That saint had the sweet presence of Jesus to help him through his suffering. Jesus did not. God his father treated him as an enemy, the target of the righteous wrath of God. The suffering of Jesus was far worse, perhaps not in physical pain, but his spiritual suffering was as he carried the sins of the whole world.
“The just for the unjust”
- This is a reference to the substitutionary aspect of Christ’s death. He was sinless … we were the sinners. He paid the penalty for us.
“Just” refers to conformity to the law just as “unjust” means that we had fallen short of the law.
Jesus is the perfect example of suffering for doing good.
“That he might bring us to God”
- The word “bring” is translated from a Greek work which means to present someone to an audience with the king. Christ’s death gave men a way that we could be in God’s presence. It infers a personal relationship with God.
The fancy word is “reconciliation”.
When Absalom was banished from the kingdom for his revenge on his brother, Joab asked a woman from Tekoah to confront King David about bringing his son back into the kingdom. Her logic, which convinced King David, is found is II Samuel 14:14 … “Yet doth (God) devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.” God devised a means by which we could be presented before Him in His presence.
God’s character above all else is love and mercy. Psalm 103:8
“Being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit”
- “Put to death” indicates a violent death.
- Jesus died in his body which refers to his humanity.
- “Quickened by the Spirit” means raised from the dead. He was made alive by the Holy Spirit. He was raised by the Father (Rom 6:4). He was raised by himself (John 2:18-22). His resurrection was the work of the triune God.
II. The second “also” is Christ also preached verses 19,20
“By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
- “By which” is referring back to the Spirit who brought Jesus back to life but also now empowers him to preach.
- Matthew 12:40 states that Jesus would spend 3 days and 3 night in the heart of the earth. Between his death and his bodily resurrection Jesus went to Hades/Sheol.
- “Preached” is not the same Greek word that Peter uses for preaching the gospel in I Peter 1:12,25; 4:6,17. This word means make an announcement or a proclamation of judgment. Christ has now promised salvation to be offered for the human race, but there is now a guarantee of final destiny of judgment for Satan and his demons.
- “Spirits in prison” could mean human spirits disembodied from their bodies but the most common usage for this term is angelic spirits. He connects the time of these disobedient spirits directly to the days of Noah.
- Right now in Lima, Peru where my daughter lives there is terrible flooding going on. I watched a few clips of this on You-Tube and it made me realize how devastating it must have been in the days of Noah.
- Piecing together other Scriptures we can suggest this scenario of what happened, although I’m not sure we can be dogmatic about this:
1. God planned creation and salvation Eph 1:4
2. Man sinned Rom 5:12
3. Satan was told that salvation would come from the seed of the woman. Gen 3:15
4. Satan tried to corrupt the seed of man by instructing fallen angels to intermarry with human women creating the Nephlim, a race of “fallen ones” so that the prophecy could be thwarted. This way Jesus could never come and die for the sins of humanity. Gen 6:4
5. Noah’s flood was a judgment from God which destroyed the product of Satan’s attempt. Gen 6:5-13
6. These angels were placed in a prison in a section of Sheol/Hades – a place created to hold spirits and souls until the coming final judgment. II Pet 2:4,5
7. Sheol/Hades has compartments … One side for unbelievers which we call hell, and the other part for believers which we call paradise which are separated by a great gulf. Luke 16:19-31
8. Jesus died and went to this place to make the proclamation that God’s plan is finished, that he was the salvation born of the seed of the woman, and that judgment and justice is guaranteed. I Pet 3:19
9. Jesus ascended to God taking the Paradise section with him to be in God’s presence until the rapture and the final glorification and salvation of the body. Eph 4:8-10
10. In the meantime, we preach what Christ did to a fallen world (and what Noah did) waiting for the second coming and final judgment where Christ will cast death and hell into the Lake of Fire. Jude 21-23 II Tim 41,2 Rev 20:14
We will finish the third “also”, in verses 21-22 next Sunday. But let’s discuss what this means to us. Peter is talking to Christians who are going through persecution. These are the “persecuted church” that we pray for each Sunday. I don’t know why God allows suffering for some Christians and not others although we are seeing some of this happening in our nation right now … suffering for following our conscience in worshipping God.
Notice, however, that the directions Peter is giving applies whether or not we are persecuted for our faith. He is saying, “Remain faithful to God whether or not it means you suffer.” Therefore we should be doing this week the two things Peter has mentioned. Here are the two things the Lord convicted me about:
1. “Sweet Jesus” – Jesus is with me all the time, not just when we suffer. My tendency is to be upset when things don’t go my way, or impatient, or short. I am praying that when I am feeling that way I stop and realize that Christ is in me and I can come back to a place of rest.
2. “Preach Jesus” – I have lived next to certain neighbors for many years and have not asked about their spiritual condition. I want to pray, now that spring is coming and I will bump into them more outside, that the Lord will provide an opportunity for me to share with them.