Humble yet Glorious King: Devotional Commentary for August 7-13
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
19by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
Peter continues to explain Christian suffering in the context of Christ's suffering and God's Will. Christ suffered because it was God's Will to send His Son to earth as the suffering Lamb of God to deal with sin and sinful mankind. He suffered judgment for sin even though He is sinless, the Just for the unjust. He was willing and obedient to the bitter end. He laid down His life. His delight was to do His Father's Will. Looking to Jesus as our example, nothing or no one can prevail against us if suffering in God's Will is to do God's Will.
Jesus experienced physical death and was physically buried. But He was physically resurrected with a glorious body by the Power of the Spirit. Christ suffered persecution and death so that, by His Resurrection, He might bring the lost into His Glory having redeemed them.
Christ came to His own but was rejected by His own. He preached the Good News by the Spirit to all the souls in bondage even to those of Noah's time through Noah His servant. But only eight souls received redemption through Noah's ark borne by the flood waters. God in His loving-patience waited for the disobedient souls until each one responded to His gracious drawing.
21There is also an antitype which now saves us - baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
Continuing with his reference to Noah's family saved from judgment by the ark which floated over the flood waters, Peter points to the baptism of the Christian as having been foreshadowed by the flood waters which carried the ark to safety while the condemned drowned to their demise. Bear in mind that Peter does not suggest any saving value in the act of baptism itself. But he says the act of baptism is the answer, indeed the testimony of the Christian's faith out of a good, clear, and redeemed conscience. Just as the flood waters were the means God used to deliver Noah's family from judgment, Baptism is also the testimony of the redeemed through which one's faith is publicly acknowledged, affirming that the Power which raised Jesus from death is the same Power which also raised the lost from death to life in Jesus Christ: the victorious conqueror yet the suffering Lamb of God, willing and obedient.
It is this Lamb of God Who came to earth in the flesh to take away our sins, and Who now reigns in heaven as the LORD of lords and the KING of kings. We share in His suffering and His victory because He took away our condemnation and gave us His righteousness. We were once lost souls in prison but are now free and alive in Christ.
We were children of disobedience like the lost around us. We were not different from anyone else in the world. We once served the flesh and its master the devil, but now we are priests of the Royal Priesthood, a holy nation, God's unique treasure birthed anew by the Holy Spirit.
We are the redeemed of God by His Grace. We are His ambassadors to the lost world. We are the messengers of peace and the Good News of God's redemption. If Christ suffered because His own rejected Him, we shall also suffer because the world continues to resist the Spirit of Christ in us. But we do not respond in kind because Christ did not. Instead, we faithfully echo His call:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Many controversial questions have been raised over some of the verbiage in this passage. However, arbitration among sagely theological pundits is not our mandate here. Our conviction is to faithfully search for the devotional rewards of such a rich text. It must be noted nevertheless, determining whether the "spirits in prison" were fallen angels, dead saints of old, the unregenerate dead, everybody, nobody, or just the depraved of Noah's time does not directly speak to the surpassing magnificence of the Good News of the redemption of the lost through Christ's undeserved suffering and His Resurrection. Arguing whether salvation is by faith, through baptism or both confuses the truth that we are saved by God's infinite Grace and applied to us by the Holy Spirit through faith, but not by anything we have done: faith or baptism.
The earnest appeal of the passage before us is to make suffering Christians aware that our willingness to be persecuted for Christ's sake is motivated by His loving commitment to suffer for our redemption. Like those who have not yet responded to the Spirit's touch, we too were once dead in our trespasses, indeed prisoners in bondage, but are now made eternally alive in Jesus Christ. That, we do not forget. The good News of the Gospel was preached to us while we were yet "spirits in prison" condemn to damnation. That, we do not forget. There is now no condemnation toward us because we are free in Christ. That, we do not forget nor take for granted.
Peter's teaching on the suffering of Christ signifies two important connotations. Christ's humility and His Glory. So far, Peter has been diligent in showing us how Christ accepted His suffering humbly as unto God His Father. He was obedient even to death on the Cross. In this sense, Christ is our example to follow in accepting suffering as unto the Lord even as He did in humility and in obedience, so long as the suffering is God's Will and it is for the sake of the right and the good.
In this passage however, Peter shows us Christ's suffering leading to His glorious Resurrection and ascension to His Father. In this sense, Christ is our example to follow in counting suffering as Joy even as Christ Himself joyfully suffered for the Joy set aside for Him. In His humiliation at the hands of wicked men, Christ is our perseverance, and in His Glorious Resurrection, He is our vindication. So we persist in spite of suffering and persecution and through suffering we are glorified. Christ is the stabilizing Power in our perseverance and the Glory of God in our eternal hope.
Christ told His Disciples that they were not greater than Him as He was their Master. So they would share in His suffering, in His humiliation, and in His Glory. He told them to be of good cheer even though they would face trials and tribulations for His sake, because He had overcome the world on their behalf. The Spirit speaks those same words to all Christians of all ages, assuring us that the suffering we face in this world cannot be compared with the glory awaiting us in heaven.
Christ is our victory both in His suffering and in His Glory. Therefore, dying to sin and living for righteousness we share in Christ's triumph as conquerors over evil by the Power of His Goodness. By our Lord's humiliation we are humbled. By His glorification we are exalted. Christ in us, the Hope of Glory.