1 Peter 3:13-22
As we begin our consideration this time, we must remind ourselves as to why Peter wrote his letter in the first place. Persecution from Rome had broken out because a very unrighteous man was the emperor of the world, that being Caesar Nero, and he wanted to rebuild Rome according to his own vision. To make way for this, he secretly ordered the burning down of a section of the city. I don’t know that he actually wanted for people to suffer and die when he did this, and I actually find that hard to imagine, but I do think that when Nero saw the backlash that his actions had caused, he did what all humans do and played the blame game. He found a new sect called Christians that did not worship the Roman gods, and he blamed the fire on them, suggesting that they were trying to overthrow the rule of Rome. I suppose you could call that the biggest fake news of all time, but it is this set of events that led to the almost instantaneous energetic persecution of Christians all over the Roman empire.
Paul was re-arrested and beheaded, Peter was ultimately crucified, and many of our first-century brothers and sisters met their ends in the Coliseum in the mouths of starvation-crazed animals, were killed by gladiators when they wouldn’t fight back, like that. These events inspired Randy Alcorn to explain, “When Paul was taken in chains from his filthy Roman dungeon and beheaded at the order of the opulent madman Nero, two representatives of humanity faced off, one of the best and one of the worst. One lived for prosperity on earth, the other didn’t. One now lives in prosperity in heaven, the other doesn’t. We remember both men for what they truly were, which is why we name our sons Paul and our dogs Nero.” (Money, Possessions, and Eternity, ed. 2011)
Peter knew these events were likely to cause a mass exodus of people from the church because it was now very dangerous to be a Christian. Some were not actual believers, and these events would drive them from the ranks of a faithful church. Some would go underground and flee, and they would spread the word of the gospel, that is that Jesus died to set us free from our sins, and some would face torture and death. ALL of those who would remain in the church needed strong encouragement, and so this eyewitness wrote his treatise to confirm them in the faith as far as he was able. This part of 1 Peter talks very clearly about these events and ones like them in our present day. You know that old French proverb that translates as “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” It’s true here. After about hundreds of years of relative safety to be a Christian, particularly in the western world, we now live in a day that at least 5 pastors I am aware of have been arrested for the crime of being a pastor, HERE IN CANADA. The US is about to put Canada on it’s freedom of religion state watchlist! Beloved, these are NEWS headlines, not conspiracy theories.
This kind of societal bad behaviour towards us should surprise NO ONE. Our Lord Jesus Christ told us that they hated Him, and if they hated Him, they would hate us as well. It is the height of unreasoning arrogance to believe that we will escape what has been the case for our Christian brothers and sisters over most of the globe for most of the last 2000 years. Peter had answers for our current dilemma and wasn’t shy about sharing them. Let’s have a look at the text and see what I mean.
I broke the text down as follows:
KV17: Suffering for what is right (and not what is wrong)
13-17: Suffer according to the will of God for what is right
18-22: Christ is our great example in suffering for what is right
Many people here in the country of Canada do not know what it means to suffer injustice in a legal sense, but this doesn’t mean we do not understand what this is about. Certainly all of us have had a small taste in grade school, being punished for something somebody else did, and when you tried to tell your story, nobody believed you. If you haven’t, then at some point you will, because this is a nearly universal experience in the human world. Certainly there have been examples in the news in Canada. The case of David Milgaard comes to mind, where he spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, and was cleared by DNA evidence, the murder having been committed by a man who (at the time) was unknown to him named Larry Fisher.
One could expect that there might be some kind of demand that this be made right, but it isn’t always possible. How does one “make right” an illegal execution about 2000 years ago? Paul, Peter, and the rest of those martyrs will still be just as dead. It’s a good thing that real Christianity isn’t about reparations, it is about setting people free from their sin, and we are going to stay in our lane on that point. The topic that very clearly arises from our text this evening is the subject of being the one doing the suffering for doing what is right, not on what we may or not be owed as a result of that injustice. Frankly, the Scriptures tells that vengeance belongs to the Lord, and I would rather let Him repay what injustice I suffer, because He does it SO much better than I ever could. Instead, we should be concentrating on doing that next right thing. Let’s look into the text here.
KV17: Suffering for what is right (not what is wrong)
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
Now, I can guess what many of you are thinking, because the thought occurs to me also. “Who wants to suffer for doing the right thing, or for being innocent of all charges?” You’re quite right to ask that question. What I’m getting from Peter here though has to do with what our conduct should be, and not the need to repay or gain vengeance. Remember, that’s God’s job, and He WILL get it. All we will have to do is watch in awe as He returns evil on the head of its perpetrators. That may not happen until He sits on His throne to judge the nations, but does the timing of the vengeance matter? God’s justice will be meted out on God’s schedule, and it will be perfect, and perfectly timed. Instead, we should concentrate on that worthy walk right up until our last steps on earth. Here is where I will jump into the text.
13-17: Suffer according to the will of God for what is right
There are times that things go drastically wrong for us despite our best foot forward and walking with Christ in a worthy manner. I’m sure Pastor James Coates could tell you that. Here was a faithful pastor who was simply trying to guide the sheep that God placed in his care, and the Alberta government forced him into a no-win situation. Stop meeting against the command of our Lord Jesus Christ and allow Caesar to dictate the actions of Christ’s body, or do what God says to do and face the consequences, which were foreknown as surely as all believers are to God. We all know what James Coates chose. I even wrote to him while he was in prison. But here is the real question. I’m not going to ask you to answer it out loud, because I know what will happen. Some folks won’t say anything, and others will bluster about how they would have joined pastor Coates in jail. You know, Jesus heard that from the man that wrote this letter, Peter. “I’ll never leave you, Master! I’ll die with you!” And yet, he denied His very name. So let’s not pretend how brave we are, because reality is likely very different. Jesus knew this about His disciples:
Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. (Matt. 26:31-35)
One of the first rules of living a fulfilled life is to know yourself. It’s too bad they omit this essential truth so we don’t blow sunshine up our own personalities: BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT IT. We all know how that bit with Peter worked out for Peter. Cue the crowing rooster. Rather, we must humbly admit to ourselves that we in and of ourselves do not have the ability to stand. It is only through the energizing power of the Holy Spirit that we can stand. Our strength is not our own, it is His. Let’s look at what Peter was saying.
13: Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
- What Peter is saying is that the actions that are associated with being a follower of Christ have no legal penalty attached. Paul says the same thing, and we’ve looked at it before:
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)
- Sometimes, it is a strong temptation to make political action our emphasis, because we want to live godly lives in all tranquility before the Lord, but this is not the Lord’s instruction to us. See what Paul has to say:
- First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Tim. 2:1-2)
- I’m not saying don’t get involved in politics, but I am cautioning against a political activism that very easily can take hold, going back to that “life of significance” we discussed. Rather than being a political activist, be a spiritual activist. Bathe everything in prayer, and God will do His will on the earth, just as it is done in heaven at all times. What the bottom line here is that the displayed fruit of the Spirit in our lives will start to “poison” the evil around us! Where there is seemingly mandated hate, bring God’s agape love, which has emotion with it, but isn’t only dependent on that, it comes with a commitment to better the situation for others before yourself. That’s just one good example. And Beloved, if that kind of love ever becomes a crime, or joy, or peace, or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or even self-control, then I want there to be a preponderance of evidence to convict me on the spot. Because THAT would be walking in a worthy manner. I suggest that, because Peter here is telling us because if you are walking worthily of our Lord in this manner, who is actually going to complain about you? And before you get all dark on me and say today is different, no it isn’t. The same enemy that hated god’s people then hates us today. The same Lord that provided them with everything that pertains to life and godliness (next letter from Peter, you have to come back for that) has also provided us His Spirit, which is everything we need to walk in that worthy fashion in reality. And what law have we actually broken by controlling ourselves and walking like this? I’m aware of not one, and this is something I try to track!
14: But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,
- And the very next thing Peter says is along those lines. Even if we do suffer wrongly by trying to be the salt and light of the world like the Lord told us to be, we are to consider ourselves blessed. You can see this in Peter and John’s encounter with the Sanhedrin Council in Acts:
- “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…” (Acts 5:28-29)
- Later in v.40 of that passage, they beat Peter and John, and then we get to vv.41-42:
- So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41-42)
- They did not let the ill treatment at the hands of civil authority change their godly response, as we are so often wont to do. Believe me when I say that James Coates and Tim Stephens did not allow the threat of legal action of some kind influence their chosen actions. And they did suffer for being faithful shepherds.
- Now, you who have been following in your bibles will note the use of all caps in the last part of the verse, and that means it is a quote from the Old Testament, and we always look those up. And I have to warn you, this comes from Isaiah 8:12, and I personally find it encouraging and in light of some of the names they have branded me with around here, really funny! Here we are:
- “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
- In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
- And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
- (Isa. 8:12)
- In case you’re wondering what I am talking about, I was identified as a conspiracy theorist for stating the fact that Pastor James Coates was arrested because he would not stop being a Christian pastor. Given that those are the facts of what happened, and it later came out that the guy that was pushing for all the arrests of pastors was an avowed atheist and was deliberately targeting Christians through the Alberta health system (as published in Canadian News Media), I cannot say this is a conspiracy theory, it actually happened. And for those folks that said that I was simply talking about men whose nature and disposition it was to break the law, these men are true Christian pastors. Generally, if you have a predisposition for lawbreaking, you don’t become a pastor, because that behaviour actually disqualifies you from service. I have to say, you folks aren’t using the brains God gave you, and I know you have them, because I’ve seen you use them in His service. Or did you think this would intimidate me into “behaving?” I think you can see that result. What are you going to do? Fire me? I’m a volunteer. Kick me out of the church? I hope you have the sign “Ichabod” prepared for the door. I’ll let you look that one up yourself. I don’t work for you. I work for my Lord and Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t like what I’m saying, take it up with Him, He’s the one that gave me the words. You are not troubling me, you’re troubling HIM. That’s not a good thing, brothers and sisters.
15: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
- Although I took a minute to address an ongoing situation here, I did not do so by means of ridicule. I do such things to wake the individuals up that are saying such things, in the hope that they will open their eyes and turn to Christ.
- Peter here tells us what to do when we suffer wrongly as a Christian: we are to “sanctify” Christ as Lord in our hearts. What? Can WE make stuff holy? No, that isn’t what the word means. The old way of saying this is “hallow,” or to hold or worship as holy. Think of how the Lord Himself used this word:
- Pray, then, in this way:
- ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
- Hallowed be Your name.
- (Matt. 6:9, Luke 11:2)
- The Lord Jesus used this word as a word to worship the Father! This is saying, Worship Christ in your hearts. And with that worship, be ready to “make a defense.” Really, Vine tells me that the word in this usage is better translated as “answer,” to distinguish it from a defense. If you’ve ever had to “defend your thesis” at university, you’ll know why they call it a “defense!” You have to rigourously defend yourself and your paper! That is not what is being said here necessarily. If someone askes why you aren’t protesting your wrongful treatment or such, you tell them: My hope is in Jesus Christ for my ultimate justice. Words to this effect have come out of the mouths of all the Christian martyrs of which I am aware in some form or other, from Stephen who saw the Lord standing to receive him into His presence to Jon Huss who saw the coming of the swan 100 years or so before he came (the swan being Martin Luther’s banner). As these, and other men died for Christ to make full evidence of their faith, They all spoke gentle and reverent words at God’s command. When Tyndale was martyred, He actually prayed for the king of England’s eyes to be opened to the truth. Hollywood likes to make strong statements come out of people’s mouths, but in reality, I am willing to think that they were much more reverent than what Hollyweird puts out there for consumption.
16: and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
- Now remember the context here! This is the thing by which you are being slandered, or libeled if it is in writing. In terms of logic, it is an ad hominem attack on you as a person because they cannot actually deal with your arguments, and that means as far as the debate goes, you’ve won anyway.
- What is the governing principle here? To keep a good conscience. To use an example, go back to my comments about my being accused of being a conspiracy theorist and holding heroes that are just men who are predisposed to being lawless. My conscience says that I must tell people the truth, not let the lie stand. And look at it now: all the evidence I need to defend my position has come to light. So, gently, and reverently, in fear of my own soul’s ability to stumble as well, I implore these individuals to repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness for their unbelief, not of me, but of the gospel so they may be saved, or repent, whatever is appropriate for their situation.
- I do this because I know what will happen if they do not and continue to revile the truth: They will be put to shame when God holds them accountable. Beloved, that’s the last thing I want to happen, because believe it or not, I CARE about these people that God has brought me into interaction with, probably for that very purpose!
- That’s just an example. It means though, that if you are the one that is offended here, get off your greatly elevated equine mount and repent of your hubris. That’s for you guys that like me to use big words. Let me now say that in plain language for the rest of you: Get off your high horse and repent of your pride. You too can be put to shame, and Christ doesn’t want to do any of that to His people, but He will.
17: For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
- I will say this again, though I have said this repeatedly outside of these Bible study times. Not everyone will encounter this kind of suffering. If you have not, be thankful, and walk with the Lord. But if it is the will of God that you do, Peter simply flat-out says that it is better to suffer for doing what is right than what is wrong. He is so simple and clear in his language that there is no difficulty understanding this point.
I say it again, not everyone will suffer the way some of us have, and I haven’t really suffered more than a little inuendo and backbiting. I have never been physicall assaulted for my preaching of Christ, I have never even been in trouble with the law, though I was once questioned over a film the club I was president of by police for a potential hate crime. I simply told the truth, and the officer told me to keep doing the work I was doing. Now, that was over 30 years ago, but you get the idea. Not all of us will suffer like this. We only experience what the Father has already approved. Beloved, that helps with the response. Realize that He has given you an opportunity to walk in a worthy manner as you navigate the trials and suffering He has allowed to come into your life. Think of it as an opportunity to serve Christ! Don’t waste your sorrows. Instead, like the author of the book of that name, let them have God’s desired effect in your life.
And if you think you are alone in this, you’re very wrong. The Holy Spirit indwells you, believer. Read your Bible and let God speak to you from the text. Follow Christ, who is our great example in all this.
18-22: Christ our great example in suffering for what is right
A couple of studies ago, we talked about how Christ is our example in everything. We will continue that thought here, and ALSO note the rich theology that comes from this part of the text. Christ of course suffered, the just for the unjust, to give us an example in which to walk, but He also actually suffered for US! We were the unjust! He was ever only the only just One! We cannot follow that example completely, because only He is truly and completely just. Let’s just get into the text.
18: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
- Can you have a much stronger gospel statement? Do you understand that statement? Because some do not, and think this means that Christ died for everyone, and that everyone as a result will go to heaven! And this statement does not say that at all. We can look at the Greek here a bit, and it is very revealing.
- For Christ also died for sins once for all: This is the phrase that gives rise to that misinterpretation I mentioned. See? Christ died for all! No, that isn’t what this says. The entire Greek phrase reads, hoti kai Christos hapax peri hamartiōn hepathen. Literally, it should be translated as “For also Christ died one time for sins died.” That even preserves the Greek word order. Those of you who have grown up in Canada will be familiar with the hockey phrase, “one-timer from the point to score.” The image I am using here is the forward at the top of the zone inside the blue line takes a moving puck and one time takes a (usually) slap shot to score. And this is a the biggest goal in all of recorded history, Beloved!
- The Just for the unjust: Again, shades of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “He [God the Father] made Him [God the Son] who knew no sin [Just] to become sin on our [unjust] behalf, so that we [unjust] might become the righteousness of God in Him [God the Son].” I know it can be argued (successfully!) that all men are unjust and sinful before God, but that still doesn’t make it so that it is a universal salvation.
- So that He might bring us to God: We can substitute “for the reason of” for “so that” here, the meaning will remain the same, but for modern English speakers more easily grasp the point. “He” here is referring to Christ from the context of the verse, and “us” refers to believers, not all men. How do we know? Peter is writing to believers, and is himself a believer. Unbelievers are not mentioned in the general context of the passage here, because they are not really mentioned in the letter itself.
- That means in context that the last phrases about being put to death in the flesh and made alive in the spirit apply to? Christ. Out of all of us, he is the one that was put to death in the flesh. Sure, we’re supposed to be taking our cross up daily, but we haven’t died yet. Does that mean Christ was made alive in the spirit? Sure, why not? Some will doubtless say that He never died in His spirit. I don’t actually know that, and I did not have the luxury of unlimited time before this study, so we will have to take that up at another time.
19: in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
- One of the reasons that I think this was speaking about Christ, is because THIS verse, which is a continuation of sentence in the last verse! I can tell you that none of US have ever gone to anywhere and spoken to spirits in prison. I mean, I certainly haven’t! I don’t have that kind of capability! But our Lord Jesus does, and that’s why He had to be the one to do this! But what does this mean?
- Some theologians like Dr. MacArthur and a number of theologically minded brothers I have fellowshipped with over the years, think that this is telling us that after His death on the cross, His spirit descended into the depths of whatever “space” or “dimension” (I’m not even sure what terms to apply, but I’m thinking dimension here) and proclaimed that He had died as a sacrifice to take away the sins of all those who were in a place called Paradise (theologian Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse called it “West Hell” in His book, The Invisible War), and He went to set them all free also.
- If you don’t see that He proclaimed the gospel, I’m not sure how I can help you though. What else would you speak to spirits in prison? That they have to stay there, maybe? That would be “East Hell,” where the rich man went from that text. But why would anyone possibly think that? Next verse.
20: 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, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
- See, here, Peter describes those spirit in prison. These are human spirits to be sure, and they have been waiting there since God destroyed the world in the flood and saved eight people alive to start over, those eight being Noah, Ham, Shem, and Japheth, and all of their wives.
- These were once disobedient spirits, too! He made proclamation to them, and that is usually what we do with the gospel, which is why I think that. The ones who decide they don’t want to submit (and there will be some of those too) just get to stay there, I suppose. I mean, Jesus is God, it isn’t like they could pull the wool over His eyes, right?
21: Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
- Have you ever done something that has completed a number of things at once? I have, so I kind of get the concept. All of these things are related in an undeniable way to Christ and His death and resurrection, and they all were completed in His work on the cross. That’s what this verse makes me think of.
- Anyway, this is one of the proof texts that people like to use to say that it is baptism that actually saves you, but that is a little less than precise. Baptism does not justify you before God. Christ’s substitutionary penal atonement does that. The theological bible word for that is “propitiation,” and it means “atonement.” It has two parts, atonement, in that your sins are made right before God, and expiation, in that your record is cleansed before God. But baptism is not associated with this, it is associated with your sanctification, or if you like, the salvation of your souls, which Peter opened with in chapter 1 of this letter. This is a choice you make, an appeal to God for a good conscience, as Peter says. You are quite literally following Him in Baptism, because He Himself was baptised by John in the Jordan River. It is a symbol that you have died with Him as you go down into the water, and that you have been raised with Him into new life as you rise out of the water. And the water here speaks of death, because of the flood, right from the previous two verses.
- This here is the important part. Baptism has NO CLEANSING EFFECT. Peter says so here directly. It is NOT removal or dirt from the flesh. So for all you people that tell me that you aren’t saved until you’re baptized in water because the water mixes with the blood as it flows out of Christ’s side, Peter is directly contradicting that. For those of you that claim it is the seal of the New Covenant on your life, Peter says otherwise, he claims it is, as Darby puts it in his translation, “a demand as before God of a good conscience, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” It cannot be a seal of a covenant AND a demand of a good conscious before God, that makes no logical sense. Honestly, guys, do your reading, please. An appeal for a good conscience is an appeal, not a seal. And if you try to say it is the good conscience is the seal, that happened at expiation, so you’re still not there. There is no such thing as baptismal regeneration. Do you know what the difference is between an unregenerate person and an unregenerate person who is baptised is? One is wet and one is dry. Baptism has no salvific effect. This is a matter of God making you regenerate so you can respond to Him. Last verse.
22: who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
- Who is at the right hand of God? From the context, Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God [the Father]. Peter even tells a bit about the events that surrounded. First, He went physically into heaven, and that happened in front of witnesses, both earthly and heavenly witnesses!
- And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
- His disciples saw Him ascend into heaven with their own eyes! What must THAT have been like, right? And like the bunch of us nerds like we are, they all just stood around looking into the air, and this is how we know there were also heavenly witnesses! These two men in white clothing in my thinking are angels, and they called out the disciples for just staring in the air. Look at what they said! And they even tip a little of God’s hand when they explain that Jesus will be returning to us the same way, in the same spot! Other places in scripture tell us that when He returns, it will rearrange the landscape and a bit of how.
- After He ascended to heaven, angels were subjected to Him. Although it is true that as God, they were always subjected to Him, this time, they were bowing to an actual man, one of us! And after the angels, who would have joyfully submitted to him shouted for joy, the other heavenly authorities and powers were placed under him, and there is that Greek word hupotasso again, to place in rank under a commander, in this case THE commander. Whether they liked it or not.
Beloved, if Christ had all these things done with Him as he returned to heaven to take His place on His Father’s throne with His Father, there is something that Peter hasn’t said, probably because it isn’t his point. However, Paul DID say it. Look for a moment in Ephesians 1:
which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:20-23)
This establishes in Paul’s teachings that our Lord Jesus is right now seated beside the Father on his throne, and that everything is now subject to Him as a MAN, not just as God (because of who He is and what He has accomplished, it has nothing to do with us), and He is also the head of the Church, which Paul informs us is His body! That in itself is pretty awesome, but there is more. Skip ahead just a couple of verses to chapter 2:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-7)
Did you catch that? He is seated on His Father’s throne, and WE ARE SEATED WITH HIM! Right now, in real time! Already! I suppose, whether we like it or not! We aren’t able to compare with His power and authority, we are still in our sinful flesh, he didn’t take us bodily right into heaven when we were saved from the coming wrath of God, but we are there! And we will ACTUALLY be there in the ages to come to see the “surpassing riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Peter here is setting the stage for a discussion to begin in the next chapter about how because Christ has suffered in the flesh, we must arm ourselves with the same mindset, and how we must, as Paul puts it, conduct ourselves in a worthy manner. And if you are not doing that, you are not a Christian, not because you are not doing good works, but because God has not regenerated you and changed your nature to be like His Son just yet. If that is the place you find yourself, then follow His instruction in the word of God!
But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Rom. 10:8-13)
How does a sinner escape the coming wrath of God? He asks forgiveness for his own sins and then forsakes them. Don’t worry about the struggle to stop sinning after, all believers have fought with this, even Paul (see Romans 7). God will give you a new nature that will WANT to do those things that please Him. Then he believes that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid for his own actual personal sins. He confesses Jesus as His Lord who has forgiven his sins, and believes in his heart that God was so pleased by Christ’s work on his own behalf, that God Himself raised Christ from the dead as a result! Because whoever will do that will be saved from the wrath of God that is coming on the whole planet, to every man, woman, and child. And ALL will be held accountable for how they have lived and what they did with the knowledge that they need to repent of their sins and turn to Christ in faith.
And that’s what I saw in the text this time.
Next time, We will look at chapter 4:1-11. I’m looking forward to it!