Suffering For The Sake Of The Savior
I Peter 3:13-22
Back in April Noman Masih, a 14-year-old Pakistani boy was burned alive by a group of Muslim youths, he later died from his injuries. Noman was targeted because he admitted that he was a Christian. Before he died he said "I have neither enemies, nor a dispute with anybody in the area I live. My tailor master asked me to go to the nearest market for some work and, on my way, a few men stopped me, asking my name and religion. I gave them my name and identified my religion as Christian. It was Friday at prayer time and not many people were on the road". The boy added: "Suddenly they started beating and abusing me. I tried to rescue myself, however, I couldn't. One of them threw kerosene oil and the other set me on fire. With the help of the locals around I managed to stop the fire, however, I became unconscious". Masih suffered burns to 55 percent of his body, and despite the hospital's efforts he died from his injuries on Wednesday, April 15.http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-boy-was-set-on-fire-and-killed-by-pakistani-muslims-for-his-faith-in-jesus-watchdog-group-confirms-138447/#TfLCLDSD4zswhKOd.99
It is estimated that over 100,000 Christians are killed because of their faith each year. There is no way for us to know the vast number of Christians who are persecuted and harmed physically all over the world. In North Korea alone an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in concentration camps, prisons and prison-like circumstances under the regime of leader Kim Jong-Un". Christian suffering is as old as the church itself.
Chuck Swindoll said that "Jesus... the perfect God-man, was mistreated, hated, maligned, beaten, and finally nailed cruelly to a cross. He suffered awful consequences, even though He spent His life giving and serving (1 Peter 3:17–18). One thing is certain: if people treated a perfect individual that way, then imperfect people cannot expect to escape mistreatment. If mistreatment hasn't happened to you yet, it will." (http://www.insight.org/resources/devotionals/suffering-for-doing-what-isright.html#sthash.XnnmrbZW.dpuf)
I Peter has much to say about suffering. Here in chapter 3 Peter focuses on suffering for doing what is right. We can understand suffering for doing what is wrong. But is can be hard for us to wrap our minds around the concept of suffering great harm for doing what is right. I hope as we walk through these verses today you may better understand the purpose of Christian suffering. This evening I want to consider the thought "Suffering For The Sake Of The Savior"
This text contains two of the most complex verses in the entire new testament. - 1 Peter 3:18 ¶For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
If you read 5 different commentaries on these verses you will most likely get 5 different explanations as to it's true meaning. I have read dozens of commentaries on this text. I have also read and listened to several different sermons from some men whom I have a great deal of respect for. I would like to share two separate views from two of the most respected theologians and pastors of our day. There is one view that is held by Dr. John Macarthur: Among Christians there is almost zero debate concerning the crucifixion and resurrection. But there is a wide range of opinions as to where Jesus went in-between His death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. We are told in I Peter 3:18-19 that He descended into the place of bound demons Jesus went to that place where the demons are bound until they will eventually be cast into the lake of fire. As the demons were celebrating the fact that Jesus was dead Jesus showed up among them and crashed their party. In the midst of them He declared his triumph of evil and His victory over death. ......I like Dr. Macarthur's explanation!
There is another explanation of this text that comes from a different Pastor that I have great respect for.... John Piper: He says: I take (this text) to mean that Jesus went to preach in the days of Noah to people who, because they rejected that preaching, are NOW in prison awaiting final judgment. Many (like Piper) have the view, that in the days preceding the flood, that 120 year period, Jesus preached through Noah. The message was delivered to many but only 8 souls were saved. The rest of them were "disobedient".
I can see validity in both points of view, but I can't tell you which is correct. In fact, it is entirely possible that both are wrong. So...WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS TEXT?!?! We focus on what we do know! We do not get distracted by things that we cannot fully comprehend. The Devil loves it when Christians get distracted and argue and debate theology. But scripture was not given to us to satisfy our curiosity. The purpose of scripture is to glorify the Risen Christ and to change our lives. When we get bogged down on what we cannot fully explain, we miss out on the Majesty of our Master. Though this is a complicated text, there is still much benefit in what we can comprehend.
In these verses, Peter illustrates the suffering of our Savior. The sufferings of Christ strengthen, encourage and prepare us for the suffering that we may face in this life. May we find encouragement and hope for those times when we "Suffer For The Sake Of The Savior". (that is the thought for this evening) - Look again to verses 18 & 19 as we consider:
I. The Suffering Of The Savior - 1 Peter 3:18 ¶For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
There is no way to fully explain nor comprehend the suffering of our Savior. But we know that Jesus suffered greatly for our sins. He suffered because it was the will of His Father. He was put to death in the flesh so that we might live eternally. But it did not end with His suffering and death! In fact that was only the beginning!!!
Not only do we see the Suffering Of The Savoir, we also see:
II. The Victory Of The Savior - v20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 ¶The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
Even though Jesus suffered the pain of the crucifixion after He died He was resurrected. And His ultimate victory is seen in the fact that He now abides "at the right hand of the Father."
In these verses Peter recounts the story of Noah and the flood. God looked at the wickedness of mankind and He repented that He had made man. He then prepared to destroy the earth with a flood. But a man named Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God then instructed him to build an Ark. For 120 years Noah was faithful to preach and to build this ark. Eventually God flooded the world and all the wicked people drowned. Only 8 souls made it onto the boat and were saved from the flood waters. Those 8 souls were delivered and given victory. Everyone else died... Peter calls them "those that were disobedient" . - For 120 years the Holy Spirit spoke through Noah. He warned the people to stop their wicked behaviour. But they would not obey God, so they died in the flood.
Look to verse 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
We are not saved by the water of Baptism ....we are saved by faith in Christ. Baptism is a sign of what has happened to us through Christ. The water is like the flood that washed away all the evil in the days of Noah. The Ark is a picture of Salvation through Jesus. When people put their trust in Jesus, God forgives their sins. Our sins are cleansed (washed away) by the precious blood of Jesus. Because of Jesus' victory over sin and death we can possess that same victory. Though Jesus suffered greatly at the Cross, HE WAS VICTORIOUS!
Verse 22 speaks of His great victory - "Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him".Jesus has the same power and authority as God. Even the powerful angels with their great privilege and authority are under his control. THAT IS VICTORY!!!!
The sufferings of Christ serve to strengthen, encourage and prepare us for the suffering that we may face in this life. In verse 17 we are called to suffer if that is God's will for us - "It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong." - Sometimes it is God's will that we suffer for doing what is right. This is not an easy thing for us to understand. And we may not like it! But through these verses we find encouragement and hope if that is the case.
Look with me to verse 13 as we see:
III. The Suffering Of The Saint - v13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
We must do what is right even if we have to suffer for it. We may suffer for a while, but God will bless us! No matter how bad things get...Regardless of how deep the valley and even in the darkest storm we are not alone! In the Bible we have example after of example of those who suffered for the cause of Christ. Peter was imprisoned and eventually died, James was beheaded, John was exiled to Patmos, Paul was beaten, stoned and imprisoned and he too died for his faith. History records the stories of countless others who suffered and died. Even those who lost their lives for the sake of the Savior had victory! And if you find yourself suffering for doing what is right, you can rest in the victory through Jesus Christ.
IV. The Victory Of The Saint - v15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 ¶Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
Those who persecute Christians are not in control. We must remember this and put our trust in Christ! If we suffer for doing what is right people will take notice. And the natural question that they would ask us is "where does our hope in the midst of suffering come from"? This opens the door for us to share our faith with unbelievers. Verse 17 says that "it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil."
What Peter writes in these verses he had experienced first hand. By this point in his life and ministry he had suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. Back in Acts chapter 4 the apostles were jailed, tried, and threatened. This was brought about because of what happened back in Acts chapter 3: Peter and John went to the temple to pray. As they came near the temple they saw a man who was lame from birth. Every day someone would place him beside the temple gate. And he spent his days begging people for money. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Peter told the man that he did not have any silver or gold for him. But what he had was better! He said to this man "In the name of Jesus rise up and walk" . The lame man received strength in his legs and he began walking and leaping and praising God. Everyone that was there heard him praising the Lord. They knew who he was... they realized that a miracle had happened. And they were astonished. They rushed over to where Peter was. Peter took this opportunity to preach to the crowd. He told them that he had not healed this man but v13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; - The same Jesus that they handed over to Pilate...The same Jesus that they rejected...The same Jesus that they killed...The same Jesus that God raised from the dead.....By faith in HIS name this man was healed!
Peter also told them how they could be healed of their sin problem - 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
After this... the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees came to them. They were angry that they were teaching resurrection through Jesus. They arrested them and put them in jail. Even still, many people heard Peter's sermon and turned to Christ! Peter and John did not back down from the rulers. The next day they were brought before Annas, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and relatives of the High Priest. They asked “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” Notice Peter's response in - Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, They commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.And Peter responded this way - Acts 4:19 .... Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. - Because of what he experienced in Acts Chapters 3&4 Peter knew that suffering for the sake of the Savior is well worth it!
Notice what he says in verse 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; - Peter suffered harm for doing what was right. He was seized, arrested, imprisoned and threatened. Peter was happy to suffer for Jesus! And he was not afraid of the consequences!
Notice also what he said in verse 15 ...But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: - Peter was questioned and was ready and willing to give an answer of the hope He possessed. And even though he was facing persecution he answered his accusers "with meekness and fear"
Look with me to verse 16 - Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
What Peter did he did with a clear conscience and he silenced his enemies. These things happened because it was God's will!! God had a greater plan than the religious rulers of the day. Because Peter was faithful, MANY people were saved!!!! There was suffering in Peter's life but there was also victory!!! This should encourage us when and if we suffer harm for doing what is right! We don't like to think about suffering for any reason. And we are blessed in America to have the freedom to worship without fear of physical harm. But we must not think that it is impossible. In fact the way things are going Christian suffering in America is probable.
Just a couple of weeks ago a man entered a college campus with a gun and began to ask people if they were Christian. If they said yes, he pulled the trigger. 9 people were killed in America because they professed faith in Christ! Before our very eyes things are rapidly getting worse. There may come a day when you stare down the barrel of a gun while someone gives you the option to renounce Christ or die. Suffering for the sake of the Savior may very well be in our future.
No matter what the future holds, we can be encouraged to know that God promises to bless those who stand up for Him in the face of persecution. Jesus said in - Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What will you do if you are faced with the choice to suffer or to compromise? In these verses we see just how to respond when suffering comes. Christ suffered, not for doing what was wrong, but for doing what was right. His crucifixion freed us from the power of sin. With this incredible burden lifted, we can now concentrate on following Christ’s will for our lives rather than on our own needs. But the Bible is clear that difficult times are coming - 2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. - Remember this... no matter what happens, there is nothing that “will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Rom 8:39) - And our suffering produces “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:7-18). - Are you willing to suffer harm for doing what is right? Are you willing to face the horrific persecution that may come your way in the future?
Will you trust in God to provide you with victory even if it costs you your life? We should pray that our freedom will remain. May we never forget the millions of Christians who are suffering for the cause of Christ right now. Let us also remember the over 100,000 who will die for their faith this year! May we all come to a place where we are willing to "Suffer For The Sake Of The Savior"