Summary: We are to have the right perspective, recollection, aspiration, actions, and attitude in suffering.
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
This does not mean that every Christian will suffer physical abuse as evidence of true salvation. While many Christians have sealed their faith with their blood, many more have had to withstand the social temptations and pressures of the world in order to live effectively for Christ.
Jesus said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).
Jesus often spoke of Christianity as a banquet—because He has invited us to the table of salvation—but never as a picnic.
I. HAVE THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE IN SUFFERING (3:13-18).
The suffering in these verses mainly deals with Christians suffering at the hands of the unsaved.
A. There is a reward (vv. 13-14).
Peter asks the question, And who is he that will harm you, if ye followers of that which is good? Generally, if you are doing good, people will not harm you. But there are exceptions to every rule.
Jesus warned us that His followers would be persecuted for doing good: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).
Both Jesus and Peter tell us to be happy when we are suffering for doing right. This does not mean we should be singing about suffering, but rather we should be privileged to suffer for the sake of Christ. And if we do endure suffering for Christ, we will receive a great reward.
Now some people can take this to the extreme. Some Christians are obnoxious and, as a result, suffer.
Illustration: people with John 3:16 signs at sporting events.
B. There is an opportunity for witness (v. 15).
C. There is an example to follow (vv. 16-18).
Christ suffered for doing right. He did the Father’s will and that means dying for the sins of the world.
It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
II. HAVE THE RIGHT RECOLLECTION IN SUFFERING (3:19-20).
When did Christ preach to the spirits in prison? The key to the answer is the little word “when.” When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah. In Christ’s day, the spirits of those men to whom Noah had preached were in prison because they had rejected the message of Noah. For 120 years Noah had preached the Word of God. His family was saved but no one else. It was the Spirit of Christ who spoke through Noah in Noah’s day. In Christ’s day, those who rejected Noah’s message were in prison.
A. Noah was ridiculed by the world.
Noah preached that God was going to judge the world by sending a flood, but he was laughed at because at that time it had never rained upon the earth.
We are often ridiculed for trusting in a God that cannot be seen.
B. Noah and his family were few in number compared with the world.
C. Noah’s message was not accepted by the world.
D. Noah was taken care of by God.
III. HAVE THE RIGHT ASPIRATION IN SUFFERING (3:21-4:1-6).
A. Desire to please God (vv. 1-2).
In verse 21, the phrase "baptism doth also now save us" may be puzzling to you. Here Peter is comparing the ark and baptism. Technically, of course, it is not true that baptism saves; the merely mechanical performance of water baptism would only make a sinner into a very wet sinner. Peter explains this when he writes, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh. In other words, the water in baptism does not wash away a person’s sins. What Peter was saying was that just as the ark had something to do with the deliverance of Noah and his family from the judgement of the Flood, so baptism, assuming that a person has accepted Christ as Savior and desires to obey in this ordinance, has something to do with deliverance from sin. Both the ark and baptism are pictures of salvation. What water baptism does save a person from is a bad conscience toward God.
When a person is baptized it is a public declaration that he has trusted Christ and is committed his life to following Him. It demonstrates his desire to please God. To please God, a person must do His will, and sometimes it is God’s will that we suffer. Peter gives the example of Christ in verse one. Jesus did the will of the Father, and it cost Him His life. Peter writes that if a person is willing to suffer for Christ, then he has decided to stop sinning. He is done with pleasing himself and pleases God.