Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
- Peter 3:18-22
Turn to 1 Peter3. We have before us a very difficult passage, yet a very relevant passage before us this morning.
“For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing wrong. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring you to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”
1 Pet 3:17-22 (LSB)
Let’s pray. Lord, may You guide and direct us this morning. May we know and understand Your desire and Your truth for us. And would You work in every heart here this day. For we ask this in the name of Christ, amen.
“For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing wrong.
- Pet 3:17 (LSB)
It says, good that you would suffer for doing good if God so wills. Know that God’s plans for you are better than any plan we could have for yourself. Now notice what Peter says next, verse 18, “for.” Therefore, what follows is a reason or an explanation or a “why” for what Peter has been teaching. Anytime you read a “for” in the Bible, what follows brings greater depth to what has already been taught. So, what has he been teaching? That we are slaves of Christ. That we are to be submissive to those the Lord has placed us under. And most importantly, because he has just written this, that we are to serve Christ as Lord, that we are to prove zealous for what is good, that we will be ready to make a defense of your faith, and that we are to have a good conscience. Therefore, this has something to do with the very core of our faith. And should be the focus of what we are to be willing to share with those who would ask us. As notice here the context of these five verses, that they are on the heels of verse 15, making a defense.
“… but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and fear.”
1 Pet 3:15 (LSB)
I want to speak about that hope for just a moment. The command here from Peter is that we are to give an account of the hope, and therefore we need to think about what that account is. See, if someone asks my opinion, I may give an opinion. If someone asks me about some general topic, sports-related, government, work. You and I may tell them a little that we know about whatever it is. But an account, that involves more doesn’t it? That seems to involve something that is quite thorough. And the fact that someone might ask me about my hope, assumes that I am hopeful. So, two things here, I must live in hope, and I must be ready to give an account of this hope when asked. And part of the attraction that we would be asked in the first place, seems to be due to the fact that our character is flavoured with such compassionate qualities, that we would show an interest, and care for those who the Lord places before us. Asking about them, their families, concern for their concerns.
You know the Christian life is so unusual, as it gives us a way in which to live which combats our human thinking. For our “fighting” for the sake of the gospel is not with human means, human arguments. No, it is fighting with things such as our character, our gentleness, our humbleness, and the hope that we express. It does not hard-nose the culture. But it undercuts the culture, by living in such a way that convicts the hearts of the culture. See, this is not the way in which the world fights its battles. In fact, it is not even in the way which many Christians fight their battles. And somehow God uses right living, godly fear, humility, and even suffering, for us to convict the world of sin.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Eph 6:12 (LSB)
Verse 18, “for,” Peter is going to deepen his argument here.
“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring you to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”
1 Pet 3:18 (LSB)
Christ “also” suffered. Why also? To remind us that we too will suffer (vs 17). So, Christ also suffered “once for all.” The death of Christ was a one-time sacrifice that contained the power to save. Why? Well it tells us, because the one-time sacrifice was the Righteous for the unrighteous. The One righteous for the billions of unrighteous. We have been learning in our Sunday evening Genesis series that both Adam and Eve were born without a sin nature, unlike the rest of mankind who are all born sinners with a sin nature. Therefore, Adam and Eve were born sinless, we are born in sin. They were born to live forever, we are born to someday die. Yet, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit they too were condemned to die, and this was the result of sin that we see in Genesis, that in the genealogies, so and so were born, they lived, and they died. And that same sin nature the Bible tells us was passed onto mankind through Adam, not Eve, not the woman. Why? Well this is the teaching of the Bible.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Rom 5:12 (LSB)
Yet Christ was born of a virgin, His mother Mary. And His Father was God the Father, not an earthly father through Adam. Therefore, Christ becomes the first man to be born sinless after Adam. And as Adam sinned, yet in Christ, the Bible tells us there was found no sin (Heb 4:15), though he was tempted as we are. Verse 18, For Christ also suffered in the flesh, so that, here it is, so that he might bring you to God. Sin is removed so that we are able to have a relationship with God. For sin makes a barrier in all relationships, but once it is removed, there is a relationship. And if we do not have “God” we have nothing and we are condemned. Look again at that phrase, “might bring you to God.” Heaven, yes, we will be with God in eternity someday. But we are also able to live with God now, as His Spirit lives within us, and therefore we also live with the direction of God on our lives. God’s Spirit has an influence on our conscience. So, He determines our thinking, and directions and our choices, and this is why Jesus died for us.
And do not miss the privilege here of you and I, as we experience the hopelessness of a sinner, who has no access to the King, the Heavenly Father, and yet Christ died that He might bring us before His Father.
Then notice it says, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. Christ died in the flesh. In other words, His earthly body died. Some have suggested that this next phrase that he was made alive in the spirit, means that He was then resurrected. Yet when Jesus was resurrected, His flesh too was resurrected, for He appeared in a fleshly body in Luke 24 and John 20. Therefore, that He was made alive in the spirit must mean that though He was dead physically for the three days, He was alive spiritually, in some ways like the thief on the cross. As I would suggest that His spiritual separation from God was the hours He spent on the cross. And during that time His Father turned His back on His Son. And Jesus cried, “My God My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Yet after those hours passed, He said, “It is finished.” Sin had been paid, He had suffered once for all. And though His physical body was dead in a tomb, Christ was alive spiritually.
Understand that Christ is God, therefore, His spiritual Being could not die. And during this time, Christ (vs 19), made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, and here Christ proclaims His victory to His enemies. Because the enemies of Christ are not only humans that oppose Him. But it also includes the myriads of angels, who chose to serve Satan, demons, who some have already been confined in prison (a topic we will discuss when we get to 2 Peter2). And Christ shows them His victory. “Having disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them in Him” (Col 2:15). “The Son of God was manifested for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Do not lose sight of the fact of the spiritual battle going on, as Christ here displays His victory over Satan, his followers, and over sin and death. See, this was the mission, to someday destroy the works of Satan. And this was prophesied from the very beginning in Genesis 3:15, that someday the seed of the woman, Christ, would crush the head of Satan. Mission accomplished! Now notice where Peter takes us:
“… who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water”
1 Pet 3:20 (LSB)
The question is Peter, what is this all about, going to the proclamation of Christ and now the mention of Noah. Let me share a few things. He wants to point out the conditions of the days of Noah so that we are better able to endure suffering, which is Peter’s goal. Verse 17, “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing wrong.” Remember Noah’s day, the people were not very obedient either, yet God was patient, and yet throughout this time of waiting, God only chose to save a few. And here we have encouragement from Peter. Remember the context of this passage is that we are going to suffer for doing good. And therefore, we cannot question God’s watch care over us just because we may be going through some difficulties when the vast majority of people are going to reject Christianity. And even if things were ever as bad as they were in Noah’s day, God will still deliver. Look at the end of verse 20:
“… in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
1 Pet 3:20b-21 (LSB)
In other words, the salvation of Noah and his family corresponds to the salvation of the New Testament believer as both have left the old behind and turned to the new. For imagine entrusting your soul to God as they enter the ark, as we entrust our soul to Christ as we enter into Him. They were brought safely through the waters. And this act of faith by Noah and his family saved them. In other words, their baptism saved them. Yet, the belief that some kind of literal baptism saves you is heresy, though it is taught by the Roman Catholics. For we were saved through faith in believing what the Lord has told us. Look back:
“… for you have been born again not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”
1 Pet 1:23 (LSB)
This Word was preached to you and you were saved. The water going over you does not save you, for it says, “not the removal of dirt from the flesh,” not talking about getting wet in a tank. Therefore, it is not the actual act that saves, but what it means and what it represents that saves us. It depicts the act of faith of a sinner, who has given his life to Christ as a slave. And he or she dies with Christ, as you go under the water; and you then rise with Christ anew, as you come out. And Peter teaches here that this is also pictured by Noah, who went into the water, yet the Lord saves them, and they come out alive. And this is the importance of baptism, an amazing picture of a spiritual reality. And it has been commanded to all those who have chosen to become a slave of Jesus Christ. And if you have never been baptized as a believer, I would challenge you to consider this obedient step of faith, commanded by our Lord to all those who would follow Him. One of the greatest blessings we had when Anne and I were up in Blind River was the outdoor baptisms. And just north of the church was Galilean Lake. I mean who would not want to be baptized in the Sea of Galilee. Well not really, but close. And there were teens, a great young Dad, and I remember baptizing a middle-aged woman who and just come to know the Lord. And even an older woman, who had been a believer for a long time, yet had never been obedient in the waters of baptism. What a blessing for her and the congregation!
Finally, Peter reminds us of the reason Christ is able to boast of His greatness. For (vs 22), He is now at the right hand of God and all powers and authorities are subject to Him. Whether Christians, angels, rich, poor, young, old, even those who oppose Him, Satan and his demon followers, all are subjected to Christ And this is why we serve Him as Lord, because He is Saviour and Lord!
Let me close with this. Remember in the context of this passage Peter has just stated that we are to be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us. Then he goes into this explanation of the sufferings of Christ, the disobedience of the world at the time of Noah, the patience of God, and finally the exaltation of Christ. It would seem to me that Peter is giving us an account to share with people. And this is not an account that we necessarily start to preach to people. No, it is an account that we would give to those who would ask us. And, why will they ask us? Well we spoke about that last week, because what Peter is talking about here is the privilege of people noticing our Christian walk, and that we are able to face life with such a hope compared to others. For we said that people watch Christians. They watch our reactions to others, to blessings, to hardships, to disappointments. Therefore, our lives need to showcase that which is most important to us, that which we are most zealous about. And therefore, others will soon see that there is a hope within us that is unusual from others, that even in difficulties, there is a hope in our lives, that we do not argue or complain or be rude. Yet there is a seated joy within us that is so odd in our society.
And I would add that this passage 1 Peter 3:18-22, teaches us that we are to keep focused on that which is most important, as our tendency is much of our witnessing focuses on often opinions and disputes. Maybe on what the schoolboard should do. Or maybe how the government should be more ethical. Or how our economy is going in the tank. Or that gas prices and food prices are getting higher. And I admit, these are all important topics, and there may be opportunity to share things like these. But we do need to be cautioned here. May not these things be our Christian witness, what we are known for. Because frankly, I do not see Peter or Paul or John showing a great deal of concern of any of these. Because so much of what we speak about or give our opinions about, might be the same argument a good Jew would give or a good conservative citizen of Canada might give, though an unbeliever. But let me give you, or should I say, let me give you what Peter focuses on when he defends his faith, as he centres on Christ.
- Christ died for the unrighteous (vs 18)
The good Jew doesn’t preach this message. This is not the hope of the good conservation neighbour who does not know Christ. Good for people to know that all are unrighteous. Not too hard to convince anyone of that. But there is One who is sinless. Yet He died:
- So we could have a relationship with God (vs 18)
God the Father is perfect, so no one is able to come into His presence except through the Son. That someday all people will be judged, and the only way in which we can be forgiven is by faith in what Christ has done. The Righteous for the unrighteous. Now not all people will agree with that, but they will absolutely understand what you are speaking of. People can understand the idea of someone being willing to take the place of another, but they must first see themselves guilty before God. Thirdly:
- God is Patient (vs 20)
Before the flood, for 120 years, Noah built an ark. In fact, the Bible tells us that during this time Noah actually preached to those around him. 2 Peter 2:5, tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. And even unbelievers today will see and understand the wrong in society. As some will often agree with us. They will be aware of the evil around the world. Because our world today is similar to the days of Noah. And, as in Noah’s day, God is being patient with our society, though the world was in unbelief, except for eight people. The negative thing today is the condition of the world, as in the days of Noah. God said in Genesis 6:5 that “the evil of man was great on the earth.” Yet the positive thing is that God is patient as He is today, as Peter will later tell us that God is “not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Yet:
- Judgment is Coming
Why? Because the flood came. See, just because God does not seem to step in does not mean that God is unaware, or that God is not acting. For in Noah’s day, after the 120 years, God sent judgment, and the world was destroyed. The Bible says that in those days (Matt 24) people “before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and [warning] they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” That someday, God will demand an accounting from our world. Though people will be enjoying God’s blessing, they will marry they will buy stocks and sell stocks, they will renovate, buy cars, go on holidays, and will have children, all good things. Yet, God’s patience, His long-suffering with mankind will end as it did in Noah’s day. Therefore:
- Union with Christ is Necessary (vs 19, 22)
Why? For Christ will be exalted and everyone will be subject to Him! (vs 19, 22). As it is necessary to have a relationship with Christ to avoid the coming judgment of God. Let’s pray. Lord, would You make us a people who live what is the most important. Might we be convinced that You indeed are necessary for us to live. And may we be willing and ready to share that truth with those who would ask. Amen.
What I find in this study of the Peters is God sort of breaking down many of my own opinions, as the letter is all about submission, humility, gentleness, patience. Peter says things such as to proclaim the excellencies of Christ (2:9), that we are just sojourners and exiles (2:11), to display excellent conduct before the Gentiles or unbelievers (2:12), to be subject to government, employers. He even tells us to honour all people and honour the king (3:17), and to be sympathetic, brotherly (3:8). And when others revile us, we do not revile in return (3:9). And if you do all these things, God might will that you suffer. Noah must have suffered, as only eight people in all the world were saved. I am sure Noah would not run for mayor or prime minister. Not sure many would have voted for him. Chuck Swindoll said:
God’s purpose is unfolding and I cannot hinder it.
God’s plan is incredible and I will not comprehend it.
God’s reproof is reliable and I dare not ignore it.
God’s way is best and I must not resist it.
Sometimes it is not that our situation needs to change, it is that we need to understand that God cares and knows what we are enduring. The New Testament promise which we can rejoice in is “all things work together for good, to those who love God” (Rom.8:28). For some in this life, but for others in eternity. See, the promise to the Christian is not necessarily great blessing, health, but eternal life, forgiveness, relationship, as He will never leave us. And we know that God is completely sovereign, and that ultimately He will bring justice. You and I may face things in the days to come that we could never explain. And sometimes we might question the very justice of God. What God would ask of us, as He asked of Noah, “would you trust Me.” Would you get into the boat and trust Me. Listen to what Peter will teach us in a few weeks:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree you are sharing the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
1 Peter 4:12-14 (LSB)
Let’s pray. “Father, for what we know not, would You teach us. For what we have not spiritually, would You give us. And for what we are not, would You make us.” And all God people said, amen.