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Last week we weren’t able to finish our message. We reviewed some behaviors that Peter expects us to demonstrate because we are children of God. No matter the circumstances of our lives, we must demonstrate godly behavior so that people will be drawn to us and ask us why we have hope. Let’s finish this passage this morning by looking at a very difficult section of Scripture.
I encourage you to read 1 Pet. 3:17-20 and see what Peter writes.
Peter has told us to stay pure and to stay focused, now he says stay humble. Remember that it was Christ who suffered and died for you, but He also died for everyone. Don’t draw the conclusion that you are somehow more special than anyone else because you made the choice for Christ. It’s interesting to note that the word translated “died” in v. 18 should have been translated suffer. That’s what Peter’s talking about. He’s tying the suffering of the people he’s writing to Christ’s suffering. 1 Pet. 2:21 told us, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” Christ absolutely did die, that is not in dispute. He suffered and died once for all men that He might bring all men to God. His sacrifice is not to be repeated like the sacrifices made by the priests because His sacrifice was final and complete.
Peter is talking to us about suffering and how we are supposed to act. Suffering does not mean God has turned His back on you. If you suffer because of your own wrong doing, don’t blame God. If you suffer for the cause of Christ, you’ll be glorified just like He was. Jesus Christ is our ultimate example. Back in 2:22, Peter told us that Christ was without sin, yet He was crucified. The reason His sacrifice was sufficient was because He was sinless. In Rom. 5:8 Paul said that, “Christ died for sinners.” He added that, “Christ died for our sins” in 1 Cor. 15:3. John said in 1 Jo. 4:10 that Jesus was the propitiation or satisfaction for sins. Is. 53 tells us that Jesus bore our sins. Christ certainly did no wrong, yet He suffered more than any of us will ever know. He did not lash out at His accusers. He did not fight back. He died in the flesh. His physical body died. This fact is foundational to our faith. Jo. 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” Rom. 1:3, “Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” 1 Tim. 3:16, “He who was revealed in the flesh.” 1 Jo. 4:2, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” 2 Jo. 1:7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” Christ died just as all men die. When His flesh died, His spirit was made alive. KJV renders this word quickened. This word does not mean kept alive, but recalled to life or reanimated. Jesus Christ really did die, he did not pass out; He was not rendered unconscious. He physically died. His heart stopped beating, His brain activity ceased. He was really dead. Christ’s flesh was dead, but His spirit was recalled to life. For the Christian, we will not experience real life until our flesh dies and our spirit is reanimated.
After Christ died His body and spirit were separated, “He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.” This verse has caused trouble for some people. Some would argue that this is a proof text for the doctrine of purgatory. Others may try to convince you that you can be saved once you are in hell. You cannot separate verses 19 and 20 when trying to understand this. I’m not going to go through all the possible meanings of the verse, but it’s important to understand some words used here. We need to use our good biblical investigative questions, the five Ws and the H. We know from the context that the pronoun He refers to Christ. What did Jesus do? He went and made proclamation. Where? To where the spirits are imprisoned. Spirits most certainly refers to angels and specifically in this passage evil spirits. Only one place in the N.T. does this word refer to humans and the word righteous is added to spirits. That’s tied to v. 20 that tells us the spirits were disobedient. What did they do? Gen. 6:1-4 tells us that there were some things going on between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Genesis then gives the account of the flood. The word prison is never used as a place of punishment for humans after death. This same word is used to describe Satan’s 1000 year confinement in Rev. 20:7. In light of this, it is most reasonable that Jesus Christ physically went to the prison where the evil angels are imprisoned and declared His victory over death. Jesus didn’t preach through Noah as some think. It doesn’t make sense since Jesus went. If He had to “went” somewhere, why would He need to speak through Noah? Remember that Peter is trying to reassure Christians that they must endure suffering and persecution.
Suffering is a part of our walk with Christ. It doesn’t mean that you will always suffer, but don’t let it catch you by surprise. Don’t let it get you down, don’t allow circumstances of this life to control you. Stay pure, stay focused, and stay humble because we know that our refuge is in the Lord.