1 Peter 3:18–4:6 (NKJV)
In the last passage, Peter discussed the need for having one mind, loving one another and submitting to one another. In this passage, Peter goes on to discuss the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the gospel. He then gives them an additional charge to be of the same mind so that the accounting at the end of time will be favorable toward each believer.
18 For 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, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who 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. 21 There 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.1 Peter 3:18-22
Peter continues with his thought of suffering by offering this aside concerning the suffering of Jesus. He seeks to further describe the suffering, its need, and its effects on those who would believe. Jesus suffered for sins, the Just suffered for the unjust, in order to bring us to God, dead to the flesh but alive through the Spirit. Peter then offers a statement concerning Christ’s redemptive work toward those who were disobedient and suffered in torment prior to His death and resurrection. He said that Jesus, by the Spirit, “went and preached to the spirits in prison,” those who formerly disobeyed God. He likens this to the period of grace offered to those who saw Noah building the ark prior to the flood. Unfortunately, only eight people, the family of Noah, responded to the opportunity to be saved from the flood. This evangelistic opportunity was given by Christ because they did not have a chance to hear the gospel message while alive.
Peter then speaks of baptism as a comparative experience to the saving of Noah’s family in the flood. His comparison says that just as the waters saved Noah and his family because they were in the ark, today baptism “saves” a sinner by the fact that the water symbolically lifts him or her above their sins safely in the ark of God. Note, though, that Peter clarified that the salvation that baptism provides is not the removal of sin, but rather a response to the forgiveness received from Christ and the call to “repent and be baptized.” This efficacy of faith is wrought, as always, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior Who is gone into heaven to the right hand of God, with all authority and power being made subject to Him.
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.1 Peter 4:1-6
Peter returns to the subject of Christians suffering for their faith. His justification for expecting and embracing suffering springs from the fact that Christ suffered for us. We must equip ourselves with the same mind. If you suffer for sin, it is because you have reached a place in Christ where sin no longer rules you. This is descriptive of sanctification, being set apart by God for a holy purpose. It is not likely that Peter is guaranteeing that believers will never again sin, but that they are out of the regular practice of sin once sanctified. Sin is no longer the norm, but the exception. The believer who is able to bear the suffering in the flesh is no longer subject to the flesh. She or he is committed to live the rest of their lives according to the will of God and not their own fleshly desires. There has been more than enough time spent fulfilling what is called the “will of the Gentiles.” Plenty of lewdness, drunkenness, and idolatries have taken up the time of believers. Sinners will marvel that you do not run with the flow of sinfulness in which you once did, and may even speak ill of you. However, they will give an account to God, the righteous judge, for their own actions and their accusations against you. The gospel was preached to the dead so that they might be called into account at the judgment for their reaction to the gospel. The hope was that they would believe in Christ and be saved if they were once condemned to eternal torment but were now given the chance to believe.
It is hard to imagine that a soul in torment would refuse salvation through Christ. After being in torment, some for thousands of years, it would seem like an easy decision to accept salvation through Christ and be delivered. However, the free will of man and the depravity of sin actually saw some not receive the grace of Christ. I would like to think if I had been in that torment, that I would have leaped at the chance for deliverance from that pain and suffering, and would gladly accept Christ’s offer of salvation. That is the situation we live with today, though. Men and women everywhere live in the torment of sin, some thinking that they are fine and have no need of redemption. However, they are offered a life of freedom and forgiveness, but do not take advantage of the great gift of Christ. Be of the same mind as Christ, willing to suffer and serve, because even the suffering is good when it is offered to Christ.