Unjust Suffering Accomplishes Divine Purposes
1 Peter 3.18-22
Unjust Suffering Accomplishes Divine Purposes
1 Peter 3.18-22
Truth Taught – Jesus is the supreme example of what suffering unjustly can accomplish.
There are passages in the Bible that are very clear and easy to understand, most are this way. Then, there are passages like this one today that are more difficult.
2 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV)
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
I found great encouragement this week from Martin Luther. Listen to what Martin Luther, the great reformer, said about this text. This quote gave me a lot of encouragement as I approached this text: This is a strange text and certainly a more obscure passage than any other passage in the New Testament. I still do not know for sure what the apostle meant.—Martin Luther
There are some very odd but amazing truths found in our passage for today. Let’s gather treasure together as we sift through this text. I’m so glad we looked at Psalm 19 and discovered that God’s Word is to be desired more than gold and honey. This was great encouragement for me to try and tackle this text and reign it in for our good and God’s glory.
Last time we discovered (in case you didn’t already know from experience) that there are times when we suffer even if we do the right thing. We learned that when this happens, we should not be fearful or troubled and that we should continue in obedience because God is at work doing something we may not understand. We learned that in these times to continue honoring Christ and be ready to give an account of the hope you have and to make sure to keep a clear conscience. So unjust suffering is a real part of the world in which we live but never forget God is also at work and His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts.
Well, if there ever was a clear-cut case of someone suffering unjustly for doing what is right it is our Lord, Jesus Christ. In this passage we are to learn that suffering for doing what is right is not the final word in any Christian’s life. It wasn’t the final word for Jesus, and it’s not the final word for us either. Jesus’ unjust suffering made us presentable to God. His suffering was a victory not a defeat, and the same is true for our suffering as well. So, that’s where Peter takes us today.
1 Peter 3:18–22 (ESV)
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.
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,
This verse is connected to the previous verse we covered last time . . .
1 Peter 3:17 (ESV)
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Peter’s point here is that unjust suffering especially has a purpose. As Christians our suffering is not accidental or random just like Jesus’ suffering was not random. His suffering and death had a purpose and accomplished eternal redemption for all of God’s elect. Peter tells us that the purpose was that Jesus died for the sins of His people. Unlike the OT sacrifices, Jesus died only once not repeatedly like the sacrificial lambs in Jerusalem.
Hebrews 7:27 (ESV)
27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Jesus’ unjust suffering and death opened the way for all believers to come to God, and it literally brought us to God. This is dramatically shown as the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom showing that Jesus is the way that believers come into God’s presence not through the temple veil.
His death was a victory because His death is what accomplished bringing us to God. So, very clearly, Jesus’ death had a divine purpose. His unjust suffering, the just for the unjust, accomplished a divine directive, the salvation of God’s people.
Hebrews 6:19–20 (ESV)
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus died as a human. He died in the flesh but remained alive in the spirit. For those three days while in the grave His flesh laid waiting for His spirit to return. Where was His spirit for those three days?
I love movies with a twist. God had more than one twist in the suffering and death of Jesus. It was not a defeat but a victory. It wasn’t random but accomplished our redemption.
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.
The way this fits into Peter’s purpose to show us that suffering even for doing good is okay because God is doing more than we could ever imagine. Jesus’ unjust suffering and death was the power to free all His people from the grip of sin. It even did something else . . .
There have been times recorded in the Scripture which Satan may have thought he won the victory.
In the Garden of Eden Satan thought he won. After he convinced Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, he thought he won only to discover a curse from God—Satan lost.
In the Book of Job Satan believed that he could get Job to curse God and tried with all his might only to discover Job still loved God even though everything was taken away from him—Satan lost.
Satan tried to kill Jesus when He was an infant, the murder of the male infants 2 years old and younger carried out by Herod. Joseph and Mary fled taking Jesus with them—Satan lost.
In the temptation of Christ, Satan thought he could convince Jesus to go down another path, one of ease, if only He would bow and worship Satan, He would be given all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus loved His Father and His will more than anything Satan had to offer—Satan lost.
Then there was the cross. Satan thought that since Jesus wouldn’t worship him then if he killed Him, he would win. Satan worked so hard to get Jesus out of the way. When Jesus breathed His last, Satan thought he had finally won. Then the tombs broke open, the veil was torn, the earth shook, the sky went dark. Satan was used by God, and through the death of Jesus, all of God’s people were saved—Satan lost.
There are currently demonic spirits imprisoned waiting for the final day when they will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire. Ever since the fall of Satan and the angelic realm that followed him, there has been a cosmic conflict between evil spirits and angelic spirits, between God’s people and demonic forces.
The Epistle of Jude tells us the circumstances surrounding this event.
Jude 5–7 (ESV)
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
So, Jesus is dead, goes out the announcement to all the demons kept in chains awaiting final judgment. The Messiah has been put to death; the Davidic line is broken. There will be no one to continue the kingdom of David; God has been beaten. Satan has finally defeated the Messiah they thought, and our imprisonment is over.
Then Jesus shows up to proclaim that the Messiah has won the victory for the sin of His people. Not only did the devil not destroy the Messiah, but he also just lost all those who were bound by sin. Satan now has nothing. Jesus proclaimed the victory to those in chains.
This place where the demons are kept in chains until the last day is known in Revelation as the bottomless pit. 2 Peter calls this place hell.
2 Peter 2:4 (ESV)
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
Peter mentions the Days of Noah as the time frame for these fallen angels’ sin. What exactly did they do to earn God’s imprisonment until the final day?
The spirits who are currently held captive by God in the abyss, hell, or the bottomless pit are those who did an abominable act during the days of Noah. Their crime was to cohabitate with human women to seek to corrupt humanity.
Genesis 6:1–4 (ESV)
6 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
These demons are held in the prison of hell waiting their final judgment. This does not include all demons because during the days of Jesus they were terrified of also being imprisoned by Christ.
Luke 8:26–31 (ESV)
26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.
Now, Jesus enters the domain of this prison and has a message to share with them. He is going to rise from the grave, and Satan will be once and for all defeated and their doom is final.
So the twist is that what Satan fought so hard to accomplish, namely the death of the Messiah, only served God’s greater purposes to save His people and as the demons who are in chains began to celebrate what they thought was Satan’s victory, Jesus walked in and proclaimed His victory . . . Satan lost.
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 continues with Noah and changes his focus to show us that Jesus’ unjust suffering and death saves us much the same way the ark saved Noah and his family. Unjust suffering accomplished an amazing feat, the salvation of God’s people.
Noah’s ark was the object lesson of his generation. For 120 years Noah and his family worked to build the ark out of obedience to God’s command. The ark was a sermon, in a sense, that Noah preached. It showed his faithfulness and also showed the evil of the generation around him. No one listened. The ark was the means of salvation and the object that also stood for God’s judgment. Enter the ark and be saved, stay on the outside and perish. All who were in the ark lived, and all who did not enter drowned in God’s judgment.
The flood waters that brought judgment on the world in Noah’s day reminds Peter of Christian baptism. Verse 21: “And corresponding to that [the flood], baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Verse 18 says Christ died for sins and brought us to God. In other words, Christ saves us. But the question is: who is us? Whom does Christ’s death actually save? That’s what verse 21 answers: those who are baptized. But Peter knows that this will be misunderstood if he does not qualify it. So, when he says, “Baptism now saves you,” he adds, “Not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience.” This is virtually a definition of baptism. Baptism is an outward expression of a spiritual, inward appeal to God for cleansing. In other words, baptism is a way of saying to God: “I trust you to apply the death of Jesus to me for my sins and to bring me through death and judgment into new and everlasting life through the resurrection of Jesus.”
Baptism may cleanse the body because it was by immersion. But that is not why he says it saves. It saves for one reason: it is an expression of faith. It is an appeal of faith. Paul said in Romans 10:13 that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Baptism is such a calling. It is an appeal to the Lord.
So to be immersed in the Ark saved Noah, and to be immersed in Christ saves God’s people. This is what saves. Water baptism does not save; it is a very good picture of what salvation really is. All who were in the Ark were saved from God’s wrath, and all who are in Christ are saved from God’s wrath as well.
All this was accomplished when the Righteous One suffered unjustly for the unrighteous ones.
Remember, when we are called to suffer, God is accomplishing many things and there will be a divine twist, and you will be amazed at the ending.
Teaching 1 Peter by Angus MaCleay
1 Peter by Karen Jobes
1 Peter by David Helm
1 Peter by John MacArthur
1 Peter by Peter Davids
1 Peter by Wayne Grudem
1 Peter by Edmond Clowney
 Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, 236