1 Peter 3:13-22
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Why is the victorious resurrection of Jesus so important to our everyday lives? Have you ever asked yourself that question? When you step back and think about the totality of the gospel; is it simply something that was applied once to your life and then moved away from or is it something you see as integral to your everyday experience of life? For Peter it was the later, and in conclusion to the 3rd chapter of his epistle he makes it clear that the power of Christ’s resurrection should be the power and motivation for which we stand, speak, and live.
So to begin with this is not an easy passage in any way but the message it paints is quite remarkable, for in this we see Peter begin to wrap up his discussion on all the ways that as Christians we are to be subject to the authorities that are around us, even when that may lead to distress or suffering. Peter paints for us this concluding picture that the experiences of this temporal life are a means of experiencing the final victory in Christ, so the adversity that we experience here on earth is but momentary, and compared to the glory of the victorious Christ they have no eternal effect on your soul. So Peter wants us to see that with the knowledge of the resurrection, the suffering of this world should be met with a spirit who is set on Christ, with words that proclaim the gift that he has given us and actions that reflect the forgiven life we now possess.
So firstly we see that when we come to the realization that this world cannot truly harm us in a spiritual sense, for we have been granted life and safety in the arms of our Father, our very nature is transformed. We begin to believe and echo the words of Isaiah 8:12 no longer fearing the things of this world but honoring Christ as supreme and the only one worthy of our fear. In this we see that we don’t need to fear the things this world fears like sickness, suffering, injustice, pain, or even death for in Christ’s victory all these things are swallowed up and no longer have a hold on our hearts. We now operate under the knowledge that our hope and security is in Christ, so when these things occur around us we can stand knowing that God has our back and in doing so the world will wonder how we endure, and when the world wonders and asks we must give a response for that hope. What is amazing to remember is the command to be prepared to give a defense wasn’t given to theological scholars or the most educated it was given to the early church which was made of a broad range of people, but as seen in the previous chapter was made up of some of the most beaten down by society. It is to this church that the command was given to know why you endure and share that hopeful gift with others.
This hope also leads to a second lesson we see. That our actions in the midst of adversity affect the perception of the truth of the gospel we proclaim. We are to proclaim the truth of Christ to all who ask in a spirit of gentleness and respect. In this we see the motivation behind the command, we exemplify Christ when we give an answer to the faith, and especially should the question arise out of suffering or injustice. So what we say and what we do should line up with the reality of the identity we have as sojourners and strangers. Our lives should reflect our citizenship in heaven and our heavenly Father who called us out of the darkness and gave us hope, when hope was gone. In this way we reflect the gift of Christ to those around us, for blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake, but should the pain you experience in life be the product of our own sinfulness than that too is an opportunity to show what it means to repent and be restored in the family of God and in doing so show and unbelieving world what it means to experience forgiveness and grace and be transformed by it not excused by it.
Finally why can we do this: because Christ suffered and died for our sins, resurrecting on the third day. He didn’t have to, for he was the righteous one of God, and yet for our unrighteousness He took on the cross bearing the full wrath of the Father and in doing so made a way for us to be reconciled to God anew. The text though doesn’t end there and while the conclusion may be complicated in its parts the picture as a whole is painted to show us that the trials of this life are nothing because Christ is victorious over them. In his death & resurrection He proclaimed victory over the spiritual forces who thought that they had power greater than His. In His death and resurrection we have passed through the wrath of God, through faith and baptism, for we have been placed into Christ who has absorbed the waves of God’s judgment keeping us secure, those whose faith is in Him, and in doing so He claimed victory.