In 1 Peter 3:17-22, the Apostle Peter says this:
“For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. Because Christ also suffered for sins once, 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; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that [once] were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was . . . preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness [baptism] doth now save you, . . . not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the [appeal] of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”
If you read this passage together with verses 13-16, you will find that, in verses 17-22, Peter is giving his audience reasons to live in such a way so as to be vulnerable to persecution, and to accept it. He gives 3 main reasons:
- it is better
- it is blessed
- it is baptistic.
In verse 17, Peter states that it is better, if God should will it to be, that believers in the gospel suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. Why? In verses 18-20, he tells us it is because it is blessed. How does he know that it’s blessed? Because Christ, the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King, died to pay for sins once for all time, the just (Christ), for the unjust (those for whose sins He died), so that He would bring Peter and his audience to God, having been put to death in the body, but made alive in his spirit, in which He proclaimed to the spirits who are now in prison, who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few persons, numbering 8, were brought safely through the water.
How does this tell Peter that suffering for doing what is right is blessed? First, he says that Christ suffered for doing what is right by dying for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, that He would bring Peter and his audience to God. Second, he explains how He was blessed by doing so:
- He was made alive in His spirit
- He proclaimed to the spirits that were in prison that He had brought unjust sinners to God by dying for their sins
Also, Peter adds that Noah and his family were blessed by suffering persecution because they helped to build the ark. How were they blessed? They were brought safely through the water of the worldwide flood by the very thing that had cost them persecution from the disobedient people for whom God’s patience waited.
In verses 21-22, Peter adds his last main reason in this passage for which his audience ought to accept persecution: it is baptistic. He explains this reason by saying that, corresponding to Noah’s family being brought safely through the water of the worldwide flood, baptism now saves his audience — baptism that is not, he says, the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal, or pledge, to God for a good conscience — and baptism saves his audience through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One, who is at the right hand of God, His hand of authority and power, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
So, how does baptism saving Peter’s audience correspond to Noah’s family being saved by the ark? Just as Noah’s family appealed to God for good consciences by entering the ark, so Peter’s audience appealed to God for good consciences by entering the water of baptism, and were saved by their appeals of faith through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One.
Let me give some reasons for believing that Peter is speaking of being baptized in water, and not a figurative sense of baptism:
- Peter immediately clarifies that he is not saying that the removal of dirt from the body is how baptism saves his audience, which is not something he would have any reason to say if his audience understood him as referring to a figurative baptism.
- Peter describes this baptism as an appeal to God for a good conscience, which is something that the believer does, not something that happens to the believer, such as the baptism of the Spirit.
- This baptism saves Peter’s audience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is explicitly linked to saving faith in Romans 10, the most public demonstration of which is being baptized.
- It is very clear that Peter links Noah’s family being brought safely through the water to baptism when he says that the fact of baptism saving his audience corresponds to Noah’s family being saved through the water.
- Paul says that believers are justified, or basically saved, by faith, which is something they exercise, just as they use their body to be baptized as an appeal to God for a good conscience, which requires faith in God.
Again, how is accepting persecution baptistic? Because persecution is something that comes with being saved by baptism. The Apostle Paul wrote that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. People who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus ought to be baptized, not because baptism in and of itself saves them, but only insofar as it is done as an appeal to God for a good conscience, which is trusting in the gospel of Christ’s death for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, and His resurrection from the dead, to have Him bring one to God.
So, are you persecuted for doing what is right, or do people make you suffer for doing what is wrong?
Do you know if Christ died for your sins, so that He would bring you to God?
Have you been saved by baptism — not the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One?
Do you understand what it means that the Anointed One died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousnessof men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13