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Peter’s Perplexing Passage – Part 1.


Peter’s Perplexing Passage – Part One.

Text: 1 Peter 3:18-22

1 Peter 3:18-22 are one single body of teaching, staring in 18 with Peter returning once again to the suffering of Christ on the cross, and ending in verse 22 with his glorification. In between these two positions comes two major teaching points; Christ’s death preaching the greatest sermon ever, and illustrated for us in the sacraments, in particular baptism. Let’s see what we can learn from it…

PART ONE: The Ungrateful Dead!

Peter’s readers must prepare to suffer persecution, and the way to face persecution is to be living in humble obedience to the Lord, to continually have in our minds the extent of his suffering for us. It is with this fact that Peter begins this difficult passage…

1. The Suffering of Christ. 1 Peter 3:18 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,

  • The FACT of His suffering. Christ also suffered.
  • The UNIQUENESS of His suffering. also suffered once. He never had to suffer again. This marks his atoning death as being different from the OT sacrifices which were a shadow, a type of what was to come. It was this important fact that meant that the Reformers could no longer remain in Rome, for in the Roman mass Christ is sacrificed again and again. Hebrews 10:11
  • The OBJECTS of His suffering. Notice the comparison between the One who suffered and those for whom he suffered. the righteous for the unrighteous. Romans 5:6
  • The PURPOSE of His suffering. that he might bring us to God,.
  • The METHOD of His suffering. being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit HE PHYSICALLY DIED. In the time of Peter there were heretics, people like the early gnostics, who believed that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, – the very same belief of the Moslems, whose Koran teaches that Jesus (Isa) didn’t die on the cross at all. So Peter emphasises it here, he died in the flesh, physically, and through the power of the Holy Spirit he rose again from the dead. In AV and NKJV ‘Spirit’ has a capital S.

So the first and most important lesson here is that when suffering comes, we remember that it is Christ’s DEATH that saves us, not our religion – even our evangelical religion!

2. The Ungrateful Dead. 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.
Throughout history, many have tried to establish the meaning of this verse. The key is to understand what is meant by ‘proclaimed’ It’s PREACHING. So, to keep it simple, to whom did Jesus preach, in his death and resurrection?

They are:

  • People with Imprisoned Spirits. See…
    • The BONDAGE they are in. proclaimed to the spirits in prison Now, whose spirits are being held captive? Luke 4:18 To whom is he referring? People who are slaves, bound in sin and misery.
    • The REALM in which they are held. This is spiritual bondage. These people to whom Peter is referring are being held in a form of spiritual captivity. It is not a physical confinement (although sometimes that ensues from this spiritual bondage) – it is a ‘bondage of the will’ cf Martin Luther.
  • People with Rebellious Attitudes. because they formerly did not obey, They are at war with God. They are by nature disobedient. Romans 8:6-8
  • People who try God’s patience. when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah Peter uses an illustration from the Old Testament. He uses the story of Noah to illustrate his point, for God was very patient with the sinners of Noah’s day. The ark took many years to construct, and all the time Noah was preaching righteousness, and pleading with men to repent of their sins and turn to God, but they were rebellious and stubborn refused, and yet God was patient with them. He is a long-suffering God. 2 Peter 3:9 But we must never test his patience…

But isn’t this text about the days of Noah? It says so, and we know that the sinners of Noah’s day were very wicked. Of course it is! But as we saw when we studied Noah, the nature of man has not changed. We are living in ‘the days of Noah!’ Peter will have heard Jesus teaching that in the last days, before God pours out his judgement upon mankind, it will be like living the the days of Noah, or the days of Lot. Luke 17:26

So here’s my suggestion, for what it’s worth, to add in with all the others, – Christ’s death on the cross PROCLAIMS REDEMPTION to sinners of every age! Ephesians, 2:17  To the OT saints like Noah, who were saved by God’s grace and to the sinners who refused to take heed, to the disciples and apostles of the NT, to the saints of the church in every era, the death of Christ is God’s proclamation; to every one of them the cross is the supreme declaration that God loves sinners and wants them to repent of their sins and return to Him.

So there really is no mystery. Christ’s death preaches to sinners of every age, just as he verbally preached to sinners during his earthly ministry. That death preaches across time, and preaches to sinners of the last days, just as much as it preached to sinners in Noah’s day through the words and works of Noah.

In the second part of this study we have a much more difficult questions to ask, “How does Baptism save?”

© BobMcEvoy September 2018

From → 1 Peter, Bible Study

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