Christ Also Suffered (1 Peter 3:18-22)

Christ Also Suffered (1 Peter 3:18-22)


Luther A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.

  • Audience: Jewish Christians exiled to Asia Minor.
  • Peter has focused upon building fellowship within the covenant community (inward) as well as providing a witness to those outside the covenant community (outward).
  • v.15 summarizes well. We’re prepared to make a defense when Christ is set above everyone and everything else.
  • v.17 in particular sets up this morning’s passage. Christ is an example of suffering for doing good.

Read 1 Peter 3:18-22

  • Oftentimes, our suffering leads to complaining, doubt, and failure.
  • But we know that Christ also suffered.
  • The suffering of Christ brings us to God and the victory of Christ secures us in God.
    1. Christ Brings Reconciliation (18)
    2. Christ Proclaims Salvation (19-20)
    3. Christ Receives Exaltation (21-22)

Christ Brings Reconciliation (18)

  • Christ Suffered…
    1. Once – Not repeatedly as in the Old Testament (Hebrews 9:25-26).
    2. For Sins – He paid a debt, the penalty for sins.
    3. As A Substitute – His death was substitutionary/vicarious.
    4. For Reconciliation – Christ’s suffering brought peace with God. “Might” here suggests a future reality, not the mere possibility of reconciliation.
    5. Physical Death But Spiritual Life – Emphasizing his death in the human realm, but glorified in the spiritual realm.
  • Where would we be if Jesus did not suffer?
  • We would need to repeatedly bring a sacrificial offering to atone for the sins we continue to commit.
  • Even then, no matter how often or how sincere our offering, sin would remain in our hearts and God’s judgment would remain unsatisfied.
  • If Jesus did not die we would have no hope of reconciliation with God.
  • If Christ did not suffer, then we must suffer eternal separation from God.
  • What Christ accomplished through his suffering is not something we should try to mimic. No amount of personal suffering could ever atone for our own sins, let alone all the sins of the elect.
  • But resting in the truth of this reality should encourage and enable us to persevere.
  • Peter reminds those suffering in Asia Minor, even for doing good, that Christ “also suffered” even though he was entirely righteous.

And this is where things get tricky…

Christ Proclaims Salvation (19-20)

  1. Roman Catholics Purgatory – Flesh/body died, spirit/soul preached. Greek contrast soma/psuche not sarx/pneuma. In what sense was Christ’s soul “made alive”? Only 8 were “saved”. Makes endurance unnecessary.
  2. Augustine, Grudem Preaching Through Noah (i.e. 1:11) Christ preaching to unbelievers through Noah before the flood. “Made alive” preincarnate? Good theology, poor Greek.
  3. Calvin Preaching to Saints who Died Before Noah (4:6). 20a Preached to disobedient? Hidden. Prison? Refuge.
  1. Apostles’ Creed, Schreiner Descent Into Hell – Proclamation of victory over evil spirits who disobeyed during Noah’s age.
    • Rev. 20:7 Prison = captivity of Satan.
    • Gen. 6:1-7 The Nephilim immediately precedes the Flood.
    • 1 and 2 Enoch Interprets Gen. 6:1-4 with reference to judgment of “spirits”. Familiar tradition to Jewish readers.
  • Noah relevant to region.
  • Difficulties: Reinterpret Gen. 6:1-7. Preach? Metaphorical proclamation of victory upon Christ’s ascension. “He went”?

Jobes The practical value of Christ’s victory over all spirits and all evil is that the forces of evil that opposed God and brought the unjust suffering of Peter’s readers were also subjected to Christ’s rule.

  • Noah’s family endured ceaseless ridicule for building the ark. God’s salvation of them, through the flood waters, provides another example of his victory through suffering.
  • Our suffering reminds us that victory is secure.

But we have one more section to clarify…

Christ Receives Exaltation (21-22)

  • Noah’s salvation through water was similar to our salvation by baptism.
  • Baptismal regeneration? Notice the parallel is “through” water (20b)/resurrection (21b).
  • Immediately following, Peter clarifies that the sign is powerless apart from the spiritual reality.
  • Why baptize infants in whom the spiritual reality may not be present?
    1. The reality must correspond to the sign spiritually, but not chronologically (i.e. circumcision).
    2. The sign may point to their judgment (i.e., circumcision).
  • The Old Testament utilized the sacrament of circumcision to symbolize cleansing.
  • “Removal” (v.21) = “Putting Off” (2 Peter 1:14).
  • However, probably general reference to the removal of moral filth (from the flesh).
  • Their baptism represents a pledge (better than appeal) to persevere with Christ. Their pledge to maintain a clear conscience applies even in the midst of suffering.
  • In fact, moral obedience in the face of suffering is one way we “improve our baptism”.
  • Christ suffered in order to enjoy exaltation (Heb. 12:2). His ascension proclaims his victory!
  • The ascension of Christ is the culmination of his exaltation. It is the proclamation of his victory over every evil authority.
  • Our recognition and appreciation of Christ’s ascension not only provides us with the assurance of his victory, but it also reminds us that he is coming again soon.
  • Let us be faithful watchmen, guarding against worldly temptations.

In closing…


  • This entire passage follows three critical elements of Christ’s redemptive work: death, resurrection, and ascension.
    • Death > Reconciliation, Peace With God.
    • Resurrection > Proclamation of victory over evil.
    • Ascension > Exaltation above all authorities.
  • Regardless of all the interpretive challenges we face when we come to this text, a few things are quite clear: The suffering of Christ brings us to God and the victory of Christ secures us in God.
  • The point of this passage is not to give us something to do, but something to know. It provides comfort and peace when everything around us is at unrest.