Summary: Living on Mission in a Foreign Land Sustaining Grace: What Christ's Suffering and Glory Secures for Us
Living on Mission in a Foreign Land
Sustaining Grace: What Christ's Suffering and Glory Secures for Us
We are close to finishing our second mini-series in 1 Peter, “Living on Mission in a Foreign Land,” based on 1 Peter 2.11-4.11, where Peter connects the way we live to the mission of Christ, making disciples. He tells us that 'God has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light with a purpose - to proclaim His Excellencies.' We are at 3:18-22, “Sustaining Grace - What Christ's Suffering and Glory Secures for Us.” This is the most difficult passage in the New Testament but fortunately that does not obscure the point of the passage, suffering is the path to glory, which is not a popular message in American church. But we cannot ignore difficult texts or ignore those texts that confront our cultural assumptions that we too easily uncritically embrace.
Big Idea – Suffering is the path to glory.
Peter wants to strengthen his readers with grace in their suffering in a world hostile to the gospel.
Christ's Suffering and Death Brought us to God
If the greatness and the glory of the work of Christ capture your heart then you will find the strength, the courage, to obey Christ or to suffer for Christ. So Peter writes, 'Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.' Christ suffered only once because his suffering and his death was sufficient. Christ bore our sin, absorbing the fullness of God's wrath for our sin overcoming the infinite enmity between God and us as sinners so that we are no longer enemies of God but become his children who have an inheritance. Nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Christ, neither suffering nor even death. He is making it clear that the suffering and hardships of life does not mean that God has forsaken or abandoned us.
Christ's Resurrection Secured His Victory
Christ was put to death in the flesh but made a live by the Spirit. Peter is referring to Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ was put to death in his earthly existence and made alive by the Spirit into another, spiritual realm, the life of the age to come. It is a resurrected state, a Spirit animated existence so that He was able to eat but also walk through walls. His death was not his defeat but his victory; suffering is the path to glory.
Now we start wading into deep and murky water. I want to look at four things here: when Christ preached; where Christ preached; to whom Christ preached; what Christ preached. Let's start with when he preached. “In which” generally points back to something just said or written, in this case 'in the spirit,' meaning Christ preached to the spirits in prison after his death and resurrection. So who are these spirits in prison to whom Christ preached? I think they are fallen angels, demons, who are kept chained up until Christ comes back and judges them. The term prison is often used of a place of punishment for humans during this life but never to a place of punishment for human beings after death. But it is used for Satan’s' confinement. In addition, the idea that fallen angels or demons being punished by imprisonment prior to the flood is taught in Jewish tradition and alluded to elsewhere in the New Testament. So at this point, we see that after Christ's death and resurrection he went and preached or proclaimed to demons that are in prison. His resurrection points to his victory over the demonic realm and so now we can see that Christ proclaimed his victory after his resurrection and subjected the demonic world as he ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God.
Now why does he mention Noah? Peter is talking about God's judgment, the flood, against unrepentant and rebellious humanity. God's patience does not mean God is indifferent. Noah suffered for doing the right thing, trusting God just as Peter's readers were. As Noah found deliverance in the ark from the coming judgment, Peter's readers will find deliverance in Christ. God was patiently withholding judgment while Noah built the ark and proclaiming the coming judgment. Noah persevered in the midst of suffering both ridicule and rejection yet in the end he was delivered safely from the coming judgment because he sought refuge in the ark. Peter is telling them that God's grace will sustain them through suffering in a hostile place and God promises to deliver them in the end. Suffering is the path to victory. The waters of judgment upon the world were the very same waters of deliverance for Noah and his family because they sought refuge in the ark.