by Mike Ratliff
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2 ESV)
When our Lord went to the cross, he also endured torture and suffering. When we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection on “Easter Sunday” or Resurrection Day, we should do so with much do so with much joy, praise and worship. Why? Without our Lord’s resurrection our faith is empty and worthless. Those of us in Christ have the promise of our own resurrection at some point in the future. But, let’s not forget that before He was resurrected He had to die and before He died He suffered.
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. (1 Peter 3:18-22 ESV)
No one can argue that the suffering and execution of our Saviour was just or deserved. He was sinless. He suffered unjustly because it was God’s will. However, as we know, He triumphed in a way that no one could have imagined. His obedience to the will of God in death and by actually being separate from God because of our unrighteousness being imputed to Him as He died, not only purchased those for whom He died, it caused the evil beings who were actually behind His suffering to be eternally subject to Him. Those in Christ, even when persecuted in horrible ways and often unto horrible deaths, also partake of Christ’s victory. That is why we can look at unjust acts of violence against Christians for Righteousness’ sake and proclaim victory. Yes, we must be wise as serpents in avoiding this violence whenever possible, but when it comes we must remember that God is Sovereign and even in death we have victory.
In vv19-20 Peter speaks of Jesus, after His death and prior to His resurrection, proclaiming to the spirits imprisoned because they formerly did not obey. This puzzling statement is used by Peter to lead into an analogy of Baptism corresponding to God saving Noah and his family from the flood via the ark. However, what does it mean that Jesus proclaimed to these spirits? They were imprisoned. They are fallen angels or demons bound in the abyss because of their disobedience or wickedness. Jesus proclaimed to them that He had triumphed over them and probably told them or reminded them of their future in the eternal lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10)
If we casually read vv20-21 we could come away believing that water baptism is a means of salvation, but remember Noah and his family were saved FROM the water. God used the water as a means of judgment. The baptism Peter is speaking of here is not referring to water baptism at all. Noah and his family went safely through judgment. That was their baptism. Christians are saved by being in Christ who is the ark of their salvation. They are “immersed” or “baptized” into Christ. This union with Him as their ark of safety secures them from the judgment of God just as Noah’s ark did that for him and his family. What does Peter mean when he states, “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,” The word “appeal” in Greek means “pledge.” It means that the one pledging is agreeing to certain conditions of a covenant. Of course, Peter is talking about the New Covenant. Therefore, those who are baptized into Christ are saved because they agreed with God to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour by faith in His death and resurrection. This is analogous to Noah and his family agreeing to get into the ark.
After his magnificent triumph, Jesus was exalted to the highest place of honor. He is at the right hand of the Father. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Everything and everyone are subject to Him. His suffering and death were horrible, but it was a magnificent victory. Peter uses Christ’s example here to show us that our suffering can be that which brings our greatest triumph. This is for those, of course, who are eternally focused. They have faces like flint set on the prize. Yes, they may suffer and even die for righteousness’ sake, but that means their glory awaits. Islam is a man-made religion of honor. It demands revenge at every offense. However, genuine Christianity is the opposite. Our Lord Jesus was abused, beaten, hated, and killed. He was insulted and yet took no vengeance upon those who assaulted Him nor does he command us to do it either. In fact, we are called to imitate him in this in every way.
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:1-11 ESV)
We must set our focus on the eternal. If we become temporally focused we become chained to our flesh. Then we become susceptible to its longings and desires. Those who are dead in their sins have little choice about this. After all, that is how they seek fulfillment. But those of us in Christ must be dead to sin and alive to God. Even though we are in the flesh, we must not be controlled by it. We must conquer our passions and instead, submit to the will of God in all things. Of course, only those controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit-led, can do this consistently. We must never forget that judgment awaits. God will judge the living and the dead. The KJV translated “living” as “quick.” I like that because those who are alive in Christ have been “quickened” by God. They are New Creations. However, those who are not in Christ are dead in their sins. If we actively put to death the sin within us we will become targets of wrath from those who are enslaved to their flesh, the lost. However, those of us who are in Christ are called to live in the spirit the way God does (v6).
Those who say that all who pray a sinner’s prayer are saved regardless of how they live must not spend much time studying books like 1 Peter. Peter tells us that time is short. Because of that we must live self-controlled and sober-minded lives. Why? So we will have clear consciences so we can pray correctly. We are also to love the brethren. In yesterday’s post we looked at the attitude we must have in dealing with everyone. It is one of humble care for each other and even for those who persecute us. Finally, we are to use our spiritual gifts for the edification of the Body, and primarily for the glory of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!