Easter 6 · 1 Peter 3:13-22 · April 27, 2008
By Thomas E. Manteufel,
In this Easter season we hear the apostle Peter exhorting the Christians to live righteously, turning from evil and doing good, seeking peace and pursuing it (1 Pe 3:8-12). In doing this he wants us to look at:
Jesus Christ, the Guide to Right Living
I. The followers of Christ are called to serve God and do good.
A. We are to be eager to do good, with a whole-hearted zeal, even if it entails suffering for it (w. 13-14). But this is a daunting challenge, and we are often unwilling and fearful. So he continues:
B. Remember that this is the life that honors Christ as Lord and confesses hope built on Him (v. 15). How important—and how comforting—to know the reason for it!
C. A good conscience is a precious blessing and useful for the Christian life, since it recognizes that it is always right to follow Christ, come what may (w. 16-17).
II. Christ gives a guide for the Christian life—Himself!
The section in verses 18-22 is often regarded as a digression from Peter’s main line of thought in chapters 3-4. But in fact it gives that line of thought (the call to righteous living even to the point of suffering) impressive support.
A. The apostle has set forth Jesus as our example (2:22), who sets the pattern (suffering followed by glory, 1:11). In faith we see this as the pattern into which God leads us, as his fellow apostle Paul also says (Ro 8:17), a pattern which ends in victory and full vindication of one’s cause. Jesus suffered to carry out the will of God (v. 18). He was able to announce His victory and vindication as the risen Savior to wicked spirits in hell who have vehemently opposed the divine purpose to save (v. 19), like the souls of Noah’s detractors (v. 20) and demonic powers (v. 22; 5:8-9).
B. Most important of all, Christ gives us the basis for the hope by which we live. He has suffered and died for our sins to reconcile us to God (v. 18). This gracious atonement is bestowed upon us in Baptism. Peter says that Baptism saves us and that it is to be seen not as a removal of dirt but as an erotema (v. 21), which C. E. B. Cranfield feels is best understood to mean that “baptism is a pledge of God’s forgiveness” (Peake’s Commentary, 1029). This is the blessing of a good conscience (v. 21), cleansed by forgiveness for all failures and stirred to loving obedience to such a marvelous Savior, so that it is of service in the Christian’s life (v. 16). Baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because Easter is His victory over the curse of death, won by Him through His atonement and shared with us in our Baptism.
Conclusion: The reason for our hope, which we gladly proclaim (v. 15), is Jesus’ eternal lordship over all things, which has indeed been proclaimed throughout the universe at the commencement of His exaltation, as this passage assures us. “The descent, the resurrection appearances, and the session at the right hand belong together as a unified proclamation of Christ’s victory in the three different but related realms of hell, earth, and heaven” (David Scaer, “He Did Descend into Hell,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35:99).