1 Peter 3:17-18

1 Peter 3:17‑18  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In a fallen world and a sinful nature, with God on one side and Satan on the other, there must needs be suffering, and especially for the saint till Christ take His great power and reign. Satan is still the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience. So far is the enemy from having lost his bad eminence, though defeated by our Lord perfectly dependent and obedient, it was by the world's rejection of Him that he became the ruler of the world, yea, the god of this age, as we read in 2 Cor. 4:44In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4). No doubt exceeding his commission by inciting the world to crucify the Lord of glory, he has, as it were, sealed his own everlasting ruin in that precious blood. For to this end, as to others of greater moment still, Christ died, that through death He might annul him that has the might of death. But the full execution of the sentence awaits (not the coming age merely when the Lord will reign and he is shut up in the abyss, but) the end, when he is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the Beast and the False Prophet had been consigned a thousand years before; and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of the ages.
Here in the present evil age (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4)) the Christian pre-eminently is called to suffer, not merely under divine discipline when he fails, but because he has a new nature as possessing life in Christ, and is faithful to God. Why should the fact seem hard? This the apostle here meets and explains.
“For [it is] better, if the will of God should will [it], to suffer [for] well-doing than [for] evil-doing. Because even Christ once suffered for sins, just for unjust that He might bring us to God, put to death indeed in flesh, but made alive in [the] Spirit” (vers. 17, 18).
How simple yet weighty and conclusive is scripture! Who that considers it, when declared, can doubt that it is better to suffer when we are doing well than when we deserve chastening for ill-doing? Yet it is not at first obvious to him who, feeling the iniquity done him, is apt to complain of the hardship. Christ suffered throughout for righteousness, for truth, for love; and we have it as our privilege to share these sufferings of His, as the apostle Paul pressed on his beloved Philippians: “To you was granted in behalf of Christ not only the believing on him but the suffering for him also, having the same conflict as ye saw in me and now hear of in me” (1:29, 30). Peter too had already in chap. 2:21 presented Christ as a model in this, but there as here, distinguished from that following in His steps, the foundation of all which He only could lay, in that He bore our sins in His body on the tree, that dead to sins, we might live to righteousness (ver. 24). So here the apostle turns to what is and must be solely His: “because even (or, also) Christ once suffered for sins, Just for unjust.”
For sins it was His alone to suffer. He suffered but once in this atoning way where none could follow; for it was not from man because He was faithful to God, but from God because of His grace to man, whatever it might cost in bearing God's righteous judgment of man's sins. For on His holy head Jehovah made to light, as Isaiah says, the iniquity of us all. “It pleased Jehovah to bruise him,” not only to put Him to grief, but “to make his soul an offering for sin.” Thus only could we be pardoned righteously and saved. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes are we healed. What pathos as well as force in the apostle's cheer for suffering as doers of good and not evil, that He suffered for our sins once and once only. Let this suffice: so perfectly was it done, as He alone could bear that burden, intolerable to Him above all, yet borne by Him that they might be, as they are, borne away for all that are His. Let us therefore now suffer only for what is good on our part.
But there is more. Christ also suffered once for sins, Just for unjust. He was alone in that one act of suffering supremely at God's hand. It was for unjust or unrighteous men; Alas! here all were unrighteous, all sinned; and those who by grace benefited through faith would be the first to own it of themselves. Henceforward they are righteous, and so live by faith, as through it they became so; nor do they forget that they believed on Him that justifies the ungodly, and thus their faith is reckoned for righteousness. Such was His grace.
Think too of the efficacy of His suffering thus, “that he might bring us to God,” not yet actually to heaven but meet for it, and therefore “to God” Who is far more than heaven. Christ on the cross cleared us from both our evil works and the evil root and sap, sin in the flesh that produces them. We are therefore no longer far from God but brought nigh, as he had said in chap. ii., a holy and a royal priesthood with a better reality of nearness to God by the blood of Christ than the Aaronic priest had typically. To assert a sacerdotal class on earth now between the Christian and Christ is to deny the gospel. None can wonder who believe in the glory of His person who was put to death in flesh, and made alive, or quickened, in the Spirit. His death rolled away the evil before God, and His resurrection proclaimed the victory to faith.
If any one desire a fuller discussion of these remarkable expressions and of what follows, he may find help in a small treatise entitled, “The Preaching to, the Spirits in Prison” (Weston, 53, Paternoster Row).