1 Peter 3:18 ~ 20090426 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/26 1 Peter 3:18 The Goal of The Gospel
18 oti kai cristov apax peri amartiwn apeyanen dikaiov uper adikwn ina umav prosagagh tw yew yanatwyeiv men sarki zwopoihyeiv de pneumati
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Peter is writing to believers who are suffering, or will soon be suffering because of their faith in Jesus. He has told us that suffering, rather than a detour in the Christian life, is the pathway to blessing. Blessing comes to those who suffer for righteousness sake. Suffering should be met, not with fear and anxiety, but with a reckoning in your heart that Jesus is King. And our hope should be infectious, causing unbelievers to interrogate us. When that happens, we must be ready to answer; our answer should be filled with a humble meekness and fear of God, knowing that we too are undeserving sinners that have been shown mercy.
In the next paragraph, Peter gives us the reason why we should not fear suffering, but rather look at suffering as a pathway to blessing. Jesus is our hope, and in his suffering we find maximum reason to hope for a good outcome.
This verse is almost exactly parallel to 2:21. Peter had told slaves that it was grace in God's sight when they suffer for doing good. The reason he holds out to them is Jesus in his suffering.
2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
And he goes on there to elaborate on the sinless example of Jesus' suffering. In verse 24 he gives us the magnificent verse:
2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
There he moved from Jesus' behavior during his passion to his redemptive death on the cross, to our present experience of being returned to our Shepherd. Here in 3:18, he begins the same way:
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
But here he moves from Jesus' death and its redemptive effects to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, which have consequences for the readers and for the whole visible and invisible universe. Jesus' suffering is followed by triumphant vindication, and we who suffer can have hope that we too will be vindicated.
This passage is challenging to understand. There is the issue of the proclamation to the spirits in prison who were disobedient in the days of Noah, and we have to answer the question 'in what way can Peter say that baptism now saves you?' after Peter has been abundantly clear that salvation is God's work and we receive it by faith alone. And, Lord willing, we will attempt to carefully navigate those deep waters next week. But I don't want for us to get all caught up in controversy about the secondary issues that are less clear and miss the big picture which is quite clear. And I don't want for us to rush past the simple clarity of the good news in verse 18. This is the substance of the hope that is in us. So today, I'd like us to linger over and meditate on, even memorize this compact statement of the goal of Christ in the gospel
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,
Christ also suffered. We suffer; Christ also suffered. There are similarities. The context here is encouragement in suffering for doing good. In the rare event that we do good and suffer for it, our suffering is similar to Christ's suffering. But that is where the similarities end. The rest of this statement details how different Christ's suffering was from ours.
Christ suffered 'once'. His suffering was a one-time event. We instantly think of the cross, and that is right. But Christ's suffering began long before the cross. John 1 tells us:
John 1:1-4...the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life...
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...
That was the beginning of the suffering of Christ. Being God, infinite, self-existent, omnipotent; who spoke the galaxies into being; to be born a fragile dependent human child who learned to roll over and crawl and make sounds and had to have his diaper changed; that was a bigger sacrifice than we will ever understand. He was misunderstood by many. Most that did understand rejected his claims and sought to put him to death. Even his closest friends deserted him in his hour of need. Justice was mocked as a notorious criminal was released and an innocent man was nailed to a tree, suspended between heaven and earth. The suffering of Christ began at his incarnation and found full expression on the cross as he cried out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'
Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But the suffering of Jesus was 'once'. In contrast to the sacrifice made by the Jewish high priest on the Day of Atonement that was repeated year after year after year, the suffering of Jesus happened only once in history. Jesus cried out from the cross 'It is finished'.
John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
And he spoke the truth. No other offering would ever be needed. His suffering was absolutely sufficient. The author of Hebrews expands on this thought:
Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Christ suffered 'for sins'. Peter uses language that is rooted in the sin offering of Leviticus, where an animal would die for the sin of a person. The wages of sin is death, and the death of the animal would take the place of the death of the person. Jesus fulfilled this role and paid the penalty for our sins. This language shows up in Isaiah 53:10
Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Paul uses this language as the essence of his gospel message:
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
Christ suffered as 'the righteous for the unrighteous'. Peter does an interesting thing here; he takes his readers who are unjustly suffering for doing good and moves them to the category of unrighteous sinners in need of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus alone is in the category of 'righteous'.
The sinless character of Jesus was so central that 'The Righteous One' became a title for the Lord Jesus in the early church:
Acts 3:14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
The contrast is striking, that the people killed the author of life, while God gives life to the dead. They substituted a murderer for the Righteous One, while God gives his Righteous One as the substitute for us unrighteous sinners. Jesus saw this as his own ministry:
Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
This language also comes out of Isaiah 53:
Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
Jesus came as to suffer, righteous for unrighteous. It is precisely because he had no guilt of his own to pay for that in his suffering he could carry our guilt and bear the punishment that we deserved. And it is because he was the infinite God-man that the value of his substitution was infinite. The concept of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus is inescapable. Jesus took my place. Paul says it this way:
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This is the great exchange. I am a sinner. He was perfectly righteous. He suffered as a sinner in my place. I enjoy the benefits of his righteousness in the presence of God. He takes my sin and gives me his righteousness!
Christ suffered 'that he might bring us to God'. Now we come to the ultimate purpose of the suffering of Christ. We often look at the good news as a way to escape the fires of Hell. But he does not tell us that Christ suffered so that we can escape Hell. We think of the gospel as the way to get to Heaven when we die. But he doesn't say Christ suffered to bring us to Heaven. We are told that Christ suffered 'that he might bring us to God'. This is the core and the beauty of the gospel message. God is at the center of the good news. The greatest problem with our sin not that it sends us to hell or that it keeps us out of heaven; the greatest problem with our sin is that it causes a separation between us and God.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Sin is lethal because it severs our relationship with God. We cannot know and love and serve the one we were created for. Listen how Paul describes us:
Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
'Brought near by the blood of Christ'; Christ suffered 'that he might bring us to God'. The Psalmist said:
Psalms 73:28 But for me it is good to be near God;
God is the greatest good and God is our greatest need. We were created for relationship with God. This is the definition of eternal life that Jesus gives:
John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Do you want to avoid hell? Demons want to avoid hell. Do you want to go to heaven? Self-centered hedonists and pleasure seekers want to go to heaven. Do you long for God? Saints want to be with God.
Psalms 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
What a beautiful picture of Jesus:
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
1 Peter 2:25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
The Shepherd of my soul, bringing me back to God to find the green pastures and still waters of intimacy with him, he restores my soul.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...