1 Peter 3 Part 6: Jesus Shows the Power of Suffering
1 Peter 3:18 - He suffered and died for our sins, the just for the unjust so that we can go to God.
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:18 NASB1995
The last verses in 1 Peter 3 are very difficult to understand and not just for this amateur devotional writer! In fact, the writers of Precept Austin put in a disclaimer starting at their aggregation of commentary for verse 18 saying that verses 18-22 are notoriously difficult for even erudite Biblical scholars to comprehend, which is particularly ironic coming from Peter, who complained that Paul was difficult to understand. I plan to parse them into smaller pieces, starting with just verse 18, which is fairly straightforward and a splendid encapsulation of what Jesus did for us.
We have discussed this many times in our devotionals, but it is worth looking again at sin, as it is the centerpiece of why Jesus suffered and died on the cross (for our sins). Sin comes from the Greek word ἁμαρτία or hamartia and has these definitions:
to be without a share in
to miss the mark
to err, be mistaken
to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong
to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin
that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act
collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many
Ray Stedman has an intriguing description of sin as self-centeredness and its companions, a sense of guilt and of fear. Stedman begins by asking "What is sin? Well, basically and fundamentally, sin is self-centeredness, that's all. We commit sins because we are thinking of ourselves, loving ourselves, indulging ourselves, looking out for ourselves, taking care that no one get ahead of us. That is the essence of sin -- self-centeredness. We are all victims of it. There is not one of us who does not struggle in this area. We find ourselves trapped in it constantly. That is the curse which hangs over our whole human race. We were made by God to be vessels to convey his outgoing love, to reach out with it to everyone around us. Somehow that has become twisted, so that now -- instead of reaching out -- we reach in, and we love ourselves first."
“And sin always produces guilt. Guilt is dislike of ourselves. We do not like the fact that we hurt others -- and we know we do. We feel responsible because we see the damage we do in other people's lives by our self-centeredness, and we feel guilty about it. We learn to hate ourselves to a considerable degree. That is why psychologists say that the great problem humanity wrestles with is self-hatred. Carl Menninger wrote a book, Man Against Himself, in which he documents that this is what we do. We hate ourselves. We do not like ourselves. We lose our self-respect. That is guilt.”
“Guilt is always accompanied by fear, because fear is self-distrust. Fear is feeling unable to handle life anymore, being aware that there are forces and powers we are unable to control, and which eventually are going to confront us. We are not able to handle them, and so we run from them. Even in the Garden of Eden, as soon as Adam and Eve sinned they felt guilty, and they hid in fear. It has been the history of the race ever since. Fear looms up, that uncertainty about the future, and we become fearful, timid people, afraid of what will happen next. We are walking on eggs all the time, afraid of being accepted or rejected, afraid of what people will do to us -- and especially, finally, afraid of what God is going to do to us. That is an inner torment the like of which there is no equal” (Mark 1:1-8 The Place To Begin)
I think this analysis of sin is spot on. Sin puts us into a cycle of grief and fear and back to sin again. I believe I shared an anecdote one time in a previous devotional (not sure where) about meeting a person on a cruise who claimed that he had never sinned. This shocking statement came up in a discussion about religion that we overheard so I jumped into the fray (of course!) This fellow, who came from the UK and was on-board to do lectures on some of the ports we were visiting, was convinced that he had never sinned. I wasn’t as savvy or fast on the draw on scripture then as I am now or I would have pointed him to passages in the Sermon on the Mount and to Romans 1 for starters, not just the Ten Commandments. I assured him that he was, indeed, a sinner because we have all sinned, in many big and little ways (the big and little make no difference to God - it is SIN). He was quite introspective after this discussion, but we never got on the topic of belief and sin again during the rest of the cruise. He was polite when listening to my testimony, but he had an enormous ego because of his elite education.
Jesus took this sin on, He being the epitome of the just, for all of us (the unjust), so that we can be brought to God. He was put to death in the flesh but was alive in the Spirit. And He was alive in the flesh very soon after this suffering, as we will be someday in the New Earth. By the way, the photo below is actually a close-up of the name of a luxury yacht, which makes you wonder if the self-centered owner felt a little grief and fear from spending big bucks on an indulgence (probably not). People are under no obligation to share their wealth and should not be shamed for spending it on material belongings, but those indulgences can easily become idols. Believers are under a different paradigm.
I also like this commentary from David Guzik about this verse; Guzik makes the claim that the Triune God worked for the Resurrection:
For Christ also suffered once for sins: Jesus suffered once for sins. There is no longer any sacrifice or atonement that can please God other than what Jesus provided at the cross. Even our own suffering won’t pay for our sins. The price has already been paid.
Though Peter used the suffering of Christ as an encouragement and strength to his afflicted readers, we must remember that Peter also set Jesus completely apart from all others in his suffering. Spurgeon recalled the heroic suffering of one godly man: “I remember reading, in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the story of a man of God, who was bound to a stake to die for Christ; there he was, calm and quiet, till his legs had been burned away, and the bystanders looked to see his helpless body drop from the chains as black as coal, and not a feature could be discerned; but one who was near was greatly surprised to see that poor black carcass open its mouth, and two words came out of it; and what do you suppose they were? ‘Sweet Jesus!’ And then the martyr fell over the chains, and at last life was gone.”
That saint had the sweet presence of Jesus to help him through his horrible suffering; but Jesus did not have the sweet presence of His Father to help Him on the cross. Instead, God the Father treated Him as if He were an enemy, as the target of the righteous wrath of God. In this sense, the suffering of Jesus on the cross was worse than any ever suffered by a martyr; perhaps not worse in the physical pain suffered, but certainly in the spiritual suffering and total experience.
The just for the unjust: Jesus is a perfect example of suffering for doing good. He, the just, suffered for all of us who are the unjust – and the purpose of it all was to bring us to God, to restore our broken and dead relationship with Him.
Since Jesus did all this to bring us to God, how wrong it is for us to not come to God in fellowship! The ancient Greek word translated “bring” is the same word used for access in Romans 5:2 and Ephesians 2:18. In ancient literature, the word bring was used “of admission to an audience with the Great King.” (Edwin Blum)
Being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit: Jesus did die in His body but was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. Here, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. It also tells us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:4), and it says that Jesus raised Himself from the dead (John 2:18-22). The resurrection was the work of the Triune God.
Spurgeon’s example of a martyr for Christ makes me tremble. I am afraid of fire and being burned and can’t imagine being burned at the stake and being stoic about it for the Lord. Humans over the centuries have certainly come up with horrible ways to torture and kill other humans, especially when ethnicity, beliefs or politics are involved. It’s all part of that miserable cycle of self-centeredness, grief and fear that drives so many atrocities and so much anger and hatred.
My next devotional will attempt to tackle 1 Peter 3:19-20 Jesus Preached to the Spirits in Prison.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord: Your suffering and sacrifice for our sins on the cross to bring us to God is the heart of what we should believe. We can never worship, praise or thank You enough through all eternity for Your love. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.