1 PETER 3:13-22 NIV
Persecution of The Believer

Read 1 Peter 3:13-22

Verse 13. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? The history of the martyrs seems to prove that enemies of the gospel do harm faithful disciples. The worst that the foe can do to a Christian does not give eternal harm. The enemy can injure his body but he can't damage his soul.

Verse 14. But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."

What happens if a Christian suffers persecution because of his loyalty to the Savior?

Three things can result.
1. God overrules the suffering for His own glory.
2. He uses the suffering to bring blessing to others.
3. He blesses the one who suffers for His name.

Don’t be afraid of men, or terrified by their threats. The early martyrs lived their beliefs well. When Polycarp was promised to be released if he would blaspheme Christ, he said, “Eighty six years I have served Christ and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” When the authorities threatened to put him in with wild animals, he said, “It is well for me to be speedily released from this life of misery.” Finally the emperor threatened to burn him alive. Polycarp said, “I fear not the fire that burns for a moment: You do not know that which burns forever and ever.

Verse 15. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

In the last part of verse 14 and in this verse, Peter refers to Isaiah 8:12-13, "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. [13] The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread,

There's a saying that goes; “We fear God so little because we fear man so much.”

To reverence [or regard] the Lord means that all we do and say should be in His will, for His pleasure, and for His glory. He should dominate every area of our lives-our possessions, our occupation, our marriage, our worship and our time.

Then we read; "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." "The hope" applies primarily to the Christian's faith. Non believers want to know why we are able to accept these things with peace of mind and the "Reason" is Jesus living in us. This applies to everyday life. Sometimes people ask questions that open a door for us to speak to them about the Lord, and we should be ready to tell what the Lord has done for us.

That's why it's so important to preach the Gospel, even to the saved, to keep it fresh in our minds so we can be an effective witness for Christ when someone gives us the opportunity.

Verses 16-17. Keep a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. [17] It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

The believer must have a clear conscience. If we know we are innocent of wrongdoing, we can go through persecution with confidence. If we have a bad conscience, we'll have feelings of guilt and won't be able to witness for the Lord.

Meekness toward our antagonist and fear toward God are to be accompanied by “a clear conscience” (v.16). Conscience is the ability to evaluate the right or wrong of something and to act accordingly. Our opposition may try to make the Christian look bad and slander our good conduct, but a good conscience won't let us be adversely affected by that. Our good conduct “in Christ” is acting as He would act, even acting in union with Him.

Lot's of people wear an emblem of some sort that has "WWJD?" on it. What Would Jesus Do? The more we are like Him-gentle, truthful, fearing God-the more annoyed our detractors will be. Our conduct should speak for itself and when it does it will put them to shame.

Keeping a good conscience may not alter the situation of the suffering Christian. Suffering for righteousness can't always to be avoided. Peter says it may even be the will of God, "For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (v.17).

We are to patiently accept persecution for righteousness sake, but avoid any evil word or act that causes persecution and dishonors our Lord. This is a difficult task and against the normal human sinful nature we are born with. It's only when God has changed our nature through salvation that one is able to willingly do this. Even if a believer’s life is blameless, the enemies of the gospel will still find fault with him.

Verse 18. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, In this statement, Peter wants his readers to be aware of several things. One is that they themselves were “brought to God” through the suffering of Christ, so it shouldn't surprise them when their own efforts to bring others to God result in suffering.

Peter further encourages us by pointing out that Christ’s suffering ended in the victory of resurrection, ascension, and dominion (vv.18, 22). We can look past hardship to a future and complete salvation when we will be the victors with our Lord.

He died for our sins. Before we were saved we were separated from the living God, but His death bridged that gap and brought us to Him.

There is a contrast between Christ’s physical death as a real man on earth and His risen life as the glorified Lord. “Body” and “Spirit” indicate His life as the incarnate Son of God. He was on earth “in the body” and He was made alive “in the Spirit.” His crucifixion was the bodily death of His human existence. In contrast His resurrection took Him out of the earthly sphere and into the heavenly.

Believers can look forward, too, to being lifted out of the earthly state to the heavenly state. We were “brought to God” through the suffering of Christ.

We can be encouraged because we know that Christ’s suffering ended in the victory of His resurrection, ascension, and dominion. We are promised a still future completed salvation when we'll be the victors with our Lord.

We see four different aspects of His suffering on the cross given here.
[1] He suffered “for sins.” That is, He bore the sins of all humanity of all time on the cross.
[2] His suffering was “once.” It was finished and never will be repeated, not like the annual sacrifices of the Jews that were repeated yearly. On the cross, God, in the body of a Man said "It is finished!"
[3] He suffered “the righteous for the unrighteous" meaning He was sinlessness and therefore qualified by God to bear the punishment for all the sins of mankind.
[4] He suffered “to bring you to God." Before we are saved we are separated from the living God, but Jesus death bridged that gap and brought us to Him.

These next verses are interesting and puzzling. Let's break them into sections. Verses 19-20. "through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison [20] who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water," Who are the spirits in prison? When did Christ preach to them? And what did He preach? Here it likely refers to the fallen angels, probably the “sons of God” in several Old Testament scriptures.

Genesis 6:4 speaks of them as cohabiting with the “daughters of men" producing a corrupt race of giants called “nephilim” (Hebrew “to fall” or fallen ones).

Genesis 6:4 "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown." The end result of these unions produced violent, wicked, and immoral individuals. They were heroes only to men, not to God. God sent the flood to remove them from the earth.

Genesis 6:5. "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
Genesis 6:6. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
Genesis 6:7. So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."

Peter referred to them in 2 Peter 2:4. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;"

Jude 6 also refers to them and the fact that they are now in prison. "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day." These are the spirits of the disobedient ones who are kept in bondage and are waiting the coming judgment day. The Lord Jesus didn't preach the gospel to them. That would involve the doctrine of a second chance and that isn't taught anywhere in the Bible. Peter is describing what happened in the days of Noah. It was the spirit of Christ who preached through Noah to the unbelieving generation before the flood.

They weren't disembodied spirits at that time, they were living persons who rejected Noah's warnings and were destroyed by the flood, and their spirits are in the prison of Hades.

"He went and preached." It was Christ's sermon, but he preached through Noah. In 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is described as a “preacher of righteousness.” "if He did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others--"

"The spirits now in prison" from verse 19 were the people Noah preached to- living men and women who ignored the warning of God's judgment to come for disobedience and also of a coming flood and ignored the promise of salvation in the ark. They rejected the message and were drowned in the flood. They're now in spirit form in prison, waiting for the final judgment. The verse could read like this: “(through the Holy Spirit) He (Christ) went and preached (at that time through Noah) to the people whose spirits are now in prison (Hades).”

Verse 20. "who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water," Here the spirits in prison are unmistakably identified as those who were disobedient toward God in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. The final outcome was that only a few, actually eight souls, were saved through water.

My dad preached for 70 years and saw many souls saved, but for 120 years Noah faithfully preached that God was going to destroy the world with water and as far as we know, only seven other souls got saved.

Noah's thanks from his fellow man was ridicule and rejection. God vindicated him by saving him and his family through the flood.

Here's a problem, “If we're right as believers, why are there so few of us? Remember, there was a time when only eight in the world were believers and the rest rejected God!” True believers are usually a small number, so our faith shouldn't falter because we only know a small number of saved. There were only eight believers in Noah’s day; but there are millions today.

We read eight souls were saved through water. Water wasn't the savior, water killed all the others. It was God's judgment that these were righteous that brought them through safely.

The ark is a picture of Christ. The flood depicts the judgment of God. The ark was the only way of salvation. When the flood came, only those who were inside were saved; all those on the outside perished. Christ is the only way of salvation; those who are in Christ are as saved as God Himself can make them. Those on the outside could not be more lost.

The water wasn't the means of salvation, because everybody who was in the water drowned. The ark went through the water of judgment; it took the full brunt of the storm. Christ bore God’s judgment against our sins. For those who are in Him there is no judgment. John 5:24. "you shall not come into condemnation."

The ark had water under it, water coming down on top of it, and water all around it. But those inside went through God's judgment safely to a new creation. Everyone who trusts the Savior is brought safely through a scene of death to resurrection and a new life, a new creation.

Verses 21-22. "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, [22] who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."

In Noah’s day the eight believers (Noah and his three sons, with their wives) came through the flood safe inside the ark. When the flood was over they began a new life. After we get saved, Christians go through the water of baptism and come out of the water to give evidence of a new life in Christ.

Actually, there is a baptism that saves us. It's not our baptism in water, but a baptism which took place at Calvary almost 2000 years ago. Christ’s death was a baptism. He was baptized in the waters of judgment. This is what He meant when He said, in Luke 12:50, "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!"

This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you. The water has no saving power. It refers to the true baptism of death on the cross which Christ went through to save us. Then He rose again from the dead. This is the truth that believers only physically demonstrate by being baptized and publicly identifying themselves as being saved through the crucified and risen Christ.

Peter says that it's “not the removal of the dirt from the body” (v.21b). The water of baptism can't wash away one sin. It's “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”

As Noah and his family had to enter the ark to be saved from the judgment of the flood, we have to enter into Christ's forgiveness to be saved from the judgment of hell. Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Romans 6:4 "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

We have been buried with Him and we've been raised with Him from death to eternal life. All this is pictured in the believer’s baptism. Believer's water baptism is an outward sign of what has taken place spiritually inside. When we go under the water, we acknowledge that we have been buried with Him. When we come up out of the water, we show that we're risen with Him and want to live a new life.

The Lord Jesus Christ not only arose from the dead, but He ascended to heaven from where He had originally come. He's there today, not as an invisible, intangible spirit-being, but as a living Man in a glorified body of flesh, and yet with all His power as God. He has scars on His body that He received at the hands of man. They'll be there for eternity. The wounds are everlasting evidence of His love for us. The only man-made things in heaven will be His scars!

He paid a tremendous price for you. Won't you accept Him as your Savior today?

Click here for additional recommended reading: Romans 8:34-35 and Ephesians 1:18-23.