Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22
Text: 1 Peter 3:18-22, Title: Hope in Suffering, Date/Place: LSCC, 2/5/06, AM
A. Opening illustration: tell the story of the girl that I met in OT Survey in seminary who had a small scar on her right thumb. But don’t tell the end of it.
B. Background to passage: Peter uses Christ as his first example that even in suffering believers can have hope. Coming off a paragraph about suffering for doing good, and exhorting suffering believers to stay the course, come what may, Peter demonstrates that suffering serves a great purpose, and that the God of glory is far greater than any pain, heartache, or loss that suffering brings. There are several interpretations of this passage and the side notes that it brings. There are godly competent scholars that view things differently; I will do my best, because I have a responsibility to God to get it right! John MacArthur illustration.
C. Main thought: Peter gives us four reasons that we can be hopeful in suffering.
A. Suffering accomplishes the will of God (v. 18)
1. Peter uses the textbook case in the Word of God (although there are many others) of an instance where evil seemingly prevailed, yet God in his infinite sovereignty and wisdom accomplished every purpose planned from eternity past. The evil intentions of Jews were manifest and carried out, but the results were the plan of God. Christ suffering death, and still accomplished the will of God. First “for” should be translated “because.” We see the gospel in a nutshell in this verse. Explain. The last two clauses are intended to be parallel, and should be translated “in the realm of” the flesh and the little “s” spirit.
3. Illustration: To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not—Oswald Chambers, MacArthur’s story about speaking at a large college in LA with a prominent Jewish student body about a philosophical basis for Christianity, and the persecution and salvation that followed, p. 49-51 of Found: God’s Will, reading a book on Depression by Edward Welch from Westminster Sem, and he says that pointless suffering is the worst suffering.
4. We should always view suffering in our lives with the cross in the background. Remember that even when suffering in your life comes from another person; God is allowing it for a purpose. We may not always know the purpose, but we can trust that it is there. Sometimes simply just knowing that there is a purpose, that God is doing something through this is enough to get us through. We should be willing to give our lives to further the purposes of God, knowing the God is working.
B. Vindication will come from God (v. 19-20a)
1. Continuing from v 18, Peter gives us probably the most obscure passage in the NT. He says that in the spiritual realm, after the body was killed, and yet before the resurrection, Jesus went to preach to some spirits in prison. Who and where are the spirits and what and when did Jesus preach. The word used here for spirit, is typically used for non-human spirits. Therefore these angelic or demonic spirits who were disobedient long ago while Noah was building the ark (Gen 6:1-4). They are imprisoned in a special part of hell, called Tarturus in the NT (2 Pet 2:4, Jude 6-7), reserved for the worst of sinning beings. Jesus in the spirit, between the crucifixion and resurrection, literally “went on a journey” to them, and made proclamation or announced something. This was not the gospel, as scripture never teaches a second chance at salvation after death. So, it must have been a triumphal announcement of victory over sin, Satan, death, Hell, and the grave.
2. Ecc 11:3, Heb 9:27, 2 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:36-38, Deut 32:35, 43, Nahum 1:2-3, Psa 94:1-3.
3. Illustration: There are no victories at discount prices. - General Dwight Eisenhower, I placed cinder blocks, rocks, and chunks of concrete in the base of my castles. Then I built the sand kingdoms on top of the rocks. When the local toughs appeared (and I disappeared), their bare feet suddenly met their match, Like a victorious locker room, church is a place to exult, to give thanks, to celebrate the great news that all is forgiven, that God is love, that victory is certain.
4. We must be careful that we not get so caught up in the obscurity and controversy that we miss the point of the passage—Vindication. Christ’s patient suffering unto death was later rewarded with a victory sermon to even the imprisoned forces of darkness. This also reminds us of the constant cosmic battle that rages around us between forces of evil/darkness and the kingdom of God. Remember also that vengeance belongs to God, not to us. However we may pray for vengeance to be taken. And trust that whether we see it or not, the guilty will not go unpunished. And your suffering will not go unavenged.