Who is he who will harm you if you follow that which is good?1 Peter 3:13 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This is a rhetorical question. One that Peter asks knowing the obvious answer. For us believers, as the previous citation of Psalms 34 teaches–the eyes of the Lord on the righteous, and He’s set His face against those who do evil. Considering that, there is nobody that can really harm us if we’re doing good.
It’s About Perspective.
In other words, we are to set our minds ahead, just as Jesus did. It is easy to see a simple explanation. Suffer here to live there, which is far better than living here to suffer there.
But even if you suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. “Do not be afraid of their terror, do not be troubled.”1 Peter 3:14 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
When we do good and suffer for it, there is a blessing in that. Peter cites Isaiah 8:12 to bolster the truth that for the believer, eternity is secure. It is our real home. Remember, earlier he says we are aliens and refugees in this world. We should not partake of its lusts.
There is nothing in this world from which we ought to be afraid. It’s the next world where we reside already. This is inherent as Peter discusses this. He uses the dichotomy of flesh and spirit. We would die in the flesh. But live in the spirit. We ought not live in the flesh and die in the spirit.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear.1 Peter 3:15 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
The expectation here is to be ready. Whether we are a newfound believer or not, we all ought to be able to give an answer to anyone that asks.
Given this era and the tendencies of the culture, suffering is right here in these sorts of discussions. Often the God-deniers would attempt to easily twist us up with all sorts of controversies. Their hope is that we will lose cool. But we are encouraged to learn to give an answer with gentleness. That is, to suffer under their needling.
We are to set aside the Lord in our hearts. This is to know that we have a ready-made sanctuary from where we can rest. It’s always in us as the Spirit of God dwells in us. Understand that. Rest in that. Even when being asked the most daunting of questions or confronting the most difficult of challenges—it is our conduct that brings shame to those who would accuse. Not the eloquent and erudite answers we might give.
Have a good conscience so that evildoers who speak evil of you and falsely accuse your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, that you suffer for doing good than for doing evil.1 Peter 3:16–17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Peter has circled back to this juxtaposition of living it up here while in the flesh only to suffer in the next life. That is as opposed to suffering here to live in the next life. The latter is far better than the first.
In other words, there is no amount of suffering that can happen to you in this fleshly body that can even begin to compare of the suffering coming to those who do evil.
Live like Jesus
For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit, by whom He also went and preached to the spirits in prison, who in times past were disobedient, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.1 Peter 3:18–20 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This is a long sentence to digest. Jesus once suffered for sins. He being just, died for the unjust. He put Himself in flesh and made Himself subservient to even death. By His death, that suffering once for sins, He satisfied the wages of sin. (The wages of sin being death, not an eternity in Hell.) This provides a respite of judgment due for sin. That is, sudden and sure death, which is often alluded to as being cut-off.
That He Might Bring Us to God.
It is not an automatic thing. There is a tacit understanding in that statement that each of us has a responsibility to come to God. This is the long-suffering of God.
He has put up with all sorts of evil and wickedness from the foundation of the world. It surely grieves Him. Yet He subjected Himself to that same evil, and even died. For what cause may be a question on the mind. It’s for us humans… You, me… All of us.
He suffers through the grief we all give Him, waiting patiently for the maximum number of folks to be saved. He gently asks us to do the same, and even gives us provision to do just that.
He Was Made Alive by the Spirit.
And that is how we are made alive. It’s by the Spirit. Of course, as believers, He indwells us, that’s that provision I spoke of previously. But it is by the same power in Jesus’ resurrection that we are made alive. Remember how Paul said it.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.1 Corinthians 15:19–20 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
It’s the resurrection. It’s the Spirit life that’s important.
He Went and Preached.
Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison. Most scholars agree that Jesus descended into Sheol, the abode of the dead. There is some disagreement on who the spirits are. Some say it is the dead people, good and evil. Others say it was to preach to those real fallen angels who are locked in chains until judgment that their plan to overthrow God didn’t work.
Let me explain succinctly. Since the fall, when God promised to destroy the enemy by the seed of the woman, Satan has sought to prevent that from happening. Before the flood, he ensures evil was rampant knowing God would have to judge that generation. The goal was to destroy humanity. Thus destroying the advent of the Savior. Yet evil was so bad, God did have to judge.
So God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.Genesis 6:13 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
When the promise of the seed was given to Abram, Satan had a people to destroy. He set in motion all sorts of ways to waylay Abraham’s lineage to prevent the Anointed One from being born.
When the Messiah came, Satan knew it. He persuaded Herod to put babies to death in order to stop God’s plan. When Jesus began ministry as John baptized Him, Satan met with Jesus. He (Satan) knew immediately Who Jesus is, the very God Who made him. In his mind, Jesus had come into his domain. Satan had the power there, he could kill God and cement his dominion of creation.
How that plan backfired with the resurrection! For all those minions of the evil one in prison and held for judgment, Jesus did go and preach. He assured them by showing them Himself alive in the Spirit, that they had made a grave error.
When you read the Scriptures, note how we never here another word ascribed to Satan after the resurrection of Jesus.
A Way of Rescue.
Just as God had planned to destroy the evildoers, He had a way of rescue in mind for Noah and his family. They were saved through water.
It is with this imagery that Peter continues.
Figuratively this is like baptism, which also saves us now. It is not washing off the dirt from the body, but a response to God from a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him.1 Peter 3:21–22 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Figuratively… Peter is not going to say that the water saves. Think of the dichotomy that has presented before, the difference between living in flesh and living in spirit.
It’s not that water baptism saves us. Water can only can wash dirt off of the body. It is the same Spirit that made Jesus alive that makes us alive. It is the one baptism, that immersion in the Spirit that rescues us.
Figuratively, it’s a picture given to us by baptism, being buried in the grave and rising in newness of life. It’s a proclamation of the good triumphing over evil. It’s a reminder to everyone looking on, that God surely saves. Yet as He did with Noah in times before, He saves us now.
It’s by pledge of a good conscience that we do water baptism. It’s symbolic. It’s a reminder of reality. In a way, it’s spiritual warfare. Every single time someone is baptized in water, it’s a visual reminder of the promises of God to both the believer and the scoffer. Even to the fallen angels that are of the principalities and powers that are now subjected to Jesus.
Time is short for those who do evil, and the coming incarceration is inevitable. There is a time of escape for humans. And just as God called Noah and his family into the ark and left the door open for seven days, He is still waiting for you to believe; to cease living in the flesh, and to live in the Spirit, for Him.
You are the only one responsible for how you will spend eternity.