Suffering > Sin
Suffering instead of Sin
1 Peter 3:18–4:6
We’re in the middle of this sermon series on the book of 1 Peter, so I invite you to turn there as we begin. If you’re new, let me catch you up to speed a little. Peter is writing to a group of Christians who have been exiled to another part of the Roman empire as part of Roman colonization.
And these Christians had started taking some heat, because, first of all, if you live under a Roman emperor and claim allegiance to another king, that doesn’t go very well. And secondly, because the cultural practices were to pray to various gods for various things, and the success and peace of a society depended on the gods being happy with them.
You pray to this god for crops to grow, this god for rain to fall, this god for victory in war, fertility, etc. And the gods would only be happy if everyone did this. So, when a new group of people show up, and say there is one God and it’s not any of those you’re praying to, AND, here’s the worst part, that YOU will answer to this God whether or not you believe in him – that doesn’t go very well either.
If there’s a drought, Christians are blamed. If lightning strikes and burns a forest, if another nation attacks, if the crops aren’t as good as they could be, Christians take the heat because they refuse to pray to the gods. And persecution spread.
And Peter’s encouragement to this group of believers is to not be afraid of that, to not be intimidated by others, but v15, to regard Christ as holy and be ready at any time to gently and respectfully share the reason for the hope that you have to those who are hostile. “Because,” Peter says, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Last week we asked the question, “why?” Why is it better? And we answered the question with, “because he’s worthy!” When you play on a sports team, getting better as a team is worthy of practicing every day. Maybe dropping a couple pounds is worthy of denying yourself some food for a season. Having a house you like in a neighborhood you want to live in is worthy of taking out the loan.
What makes Jesus so worthy that we would endure persecution and suffering because of him? And we answered that with Revelation chapter 5 that says he’s worthy, because he died for us. While we were still sinners, Romans 6 says, Christ died for us. And heaven can’t get over that – that Jesus would give himself for sinners in order to bring them to God. So that’s what makes Jesus worthy of enduring persecution. We pick up today in verse 18 of chapter 3, but as you’re turning there, I’ll pray and we’ll jump in.
So let’s read 3:18-22 again, and then we’ll talk about it.
In those verses you see so much about Jesus, and his heart for us, so here’s a couple things:
- He’s righteous (v18). He is right in everything he does; he’s fully God. Jesus said in John 10, “I and the Father are one. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God.” Not only is he the picture of moral perfection, he is holy – unified with the Father in every way; and for that reason, He’s the only one able to bring us to God. There is no other way to be right with God, except to have your full hope, trust, and life anchored on the sin-cleansing person and work of Jesus Christ the Righteous who died for the unrighteous. He suffered for sins (he didn’t commit) once for all time, in order to bring us to God.
- He’s fully human. He was put to death in the flesh, verse 18, but that can’t happen unless he became human; born the way humans are born, living the way humans live (heartbeat in his chest, air in his lungs; he had the full range of emotions, he got tired, he got hungry, he felt pain, he bled). As a human, He died the way humans die – bleeding, suffocating on the cross, experiencing excruciating pain and agony.
- He was also raised to life again by the Holy Spirit still verse 18 – in the spiritual realm, something happened where his life was returned to his body and he was made alive again. And that resurrection wasn’t just so Jesus could go back to heaven and live with his father again – it accomplished something for us as well, as we’ll see in a minute.
- Read 19 – This is a pretty difficult verse, and quite honestly I don’t know what it means. In the spiritual realm, Jesus went and proclaimed to some spirits in prison. People have made some educated guesses at what this means – did Jesus visit hell at some point? Were these spirits OT people who died before Jesus came, and he was preaching the gospel of himself to them? Or is Jesus preaching to demons to show them his power? If you want to chat about it after worship this morning, I’m happy to have a conversation about it.
- God is patient. V20 Just like God spoke through Noah to the people of his day, warning them of coming judgment, and had him build an ark that would have been their rescue, there is a patience that God still has to this day. It seems a little random that Peter mentions Noah here, but these Christians are scattered across what is modern day Turkey, which is where Noah’s ark came to rest. So there were a lot of stories about Noah’s ark in the region, that both Christians and pagans would have been familiar with. But Peter points out that God is patient. He gives them time to repent.
- Jesus is the better ark.
- In Noah’s day, which you can read about in Gen 6-9, the whole world was under the power of evil. Every thought and inclination of their hearts were evil all the time. There was a flood of judgment coming for their sin, and not only was God patient – he provided a way of escape. The ark! There was plenty of room inside for anyone who would repent and believe. Those who believe are saved, those who don’t are drowned in the judgment for sin.
- In our day, the whole world is still under the power of evil. In John 14:30, Jesus calls Satan the ruler of the world. There is a second flood of judgment coming for sin, and not only is God patient with the disobedient – he has provided a way of escape: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
- Peter says baptism is a picture of this!
- This is a tricky verse that many have misunderstood, because word for word, it says baptism saves you. But as we read the rest of scripture, we know that the act of baptism cannot be what secures your eternal salvation, because we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (including the action of baptism), so that no one can brag about what they did (Ephesians 2). So what does he mean that baptism saves you? Well, it’s right there.
- V 21
- So first of all – salvation isn’t based on what baptism accomplishes, it’s based on what the resurrection of Jesus accomplishes! Take away the parenthesis – baptism now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus!
- Secondly, inside those parenthesis is another key – its not the removal of dirt (moral filth) from your body, but the pledge of a good conscience
- That is to say, baptism doesn’t wash away all of your moral filth in a once-and-for-all way that you don’t have to think about how you live afterward. It’s not a ticket to heaven that means you can live however you want.
- It is a pledge of a good conscience, meaning in baptism I publicly demonstrate that Jesus has washed away my sin, and my conscience is clear. I am a new man.
- As much as baptism is a public celebration of what Jesus has done for you internally, it is also a pledge to live rightly after baptism. It is your pledge to God that you will avoid your sinful desires that wage war against your soul, and that you are willing even to suffer for the One who died for you.
- The Latin word sacramentum means “military oath” – and it’s where we get our word Sacrament. Like a military oath, it’s not just something you say, but it’s a way of life. Baptism isn’t just publicly saying, “I follow Jesus!” It’s also a pledge to God that you are going to be faithful with his help to live rightly, even in the face of persecution. That’s why we hold to believer’s baptism at River City, and not infant baptism.
- V 21
So Peter points to baptism to say, baptism is a picture of Christ’s suffering for you, and your pledge to suffer for him. I mean let’s be honest though. We really hate suffering, and we believe the solution to it is to avoid it or quickly get rid of it.
- We hate having a foggy brain in the morning, so we drink coffee.
- We take pills for headaches, muscle aches, stuff like that. Most of them just mask the pain; they don’t fix the problem.
- The pain of being hungry is annoying, so we reach for snacks
- The pain of being cold is uncomfortable, so we turn up the heat. Or the heat is uncomfortable so we turn on the A/C.
- I mean each side of the car has its own temperature control.
- You can even get beds where you can make one side softer than the other
- If that’s how we are with the bed we sleep on and the cars we drive, when it comes to cultural pressure because of our faith, if we work with or go to school with someone who just won’t stop badgering us about our faith, Peter knows the temptation is that we’ll just give in so we can avoid suffering. But Peter says, let me point to your baptism to encourage you to stay the course! You’ve entered into this union with Christ, and he suffered! You can fully expect to suffer in this life. That’s part of what you signed up for, as we talked about last week.
Lastly about baptism, and I know we’re just scratching the surface of the conversation here, but there may be some of you here or watching online who need to take that step of obedience and be baptized. You’ve believed in Christ, you’ve committed inwardly that you will follow him – but it’s time to do that publicly. If that’s you, or you want a little more conversation about what all that entails, please come talk to me afterward.
- He ascended into heaven. V22 – he has gone into heaven where he is at the right hand of God, and has all angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. The people in Peter’s day were being persecuted. People in Noah’s day were persecuted. People in our day are being persecuted for the sake of Christ. And here Peter’s encouragement to them and to us is that all angels, authorities, and powers are subject to Jesus Christ. Two important reasons why that is good news:
- Jesus is Lord of all. Satan may be ruler of this world, but even he is under the feet of Jesus. He and Jesus are not equal powers, where they are duking it out like a football game in overtime, not sure who will come out on top. No, Jesus is far superior, and Satan is under Jesus’ power. He needs permission from God to act at all. Which means there is nothing you can experience in this life that Jesus hasn’t allowed. There’s no sickness too severe for him to heal, there’s no amount of sin that he can’t forgive, no suffering so great that he won’t be with you through it and deliver you from it.
- Our battle is not against people. That as Ephesians 6:12 says, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, powers of darkness, against evil spiritual forces in the heavens. Behind rioting, murdering, stealing – behind human trafficking and pornography, behind pastors who fall and leaders who cover it up, and behind people persecuting you for your faith are evil, spiritual forces who want to see you and the rest of the church destroyed. So they play out their wicked schemes in the lives of any human who will listen to them instead of to the will of God.
- Peter is recalling jesus’ words in John 16:33 – You will face suffering in this world, but be courageous: I have overcome the world! Jesus has overcome the world! He’s overcome every single wicked scheme! We don’t have to fear or be intimidated by anyone coming against you, because behind that person is an evil force that knows he’s already done. Defeated. Beaten. Destined for hell. But because Christ suffered for you, he is with you in your suffering, and it’s not the end of the story. In fact, even if they take your life, they are doing you a favor because they are ushering you right into the loving arms of the Father!
So if that’s true, then how should we live?
1 Peter 4:1-6 CSB
 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, (since Jesus died in your place):
- arm yourselves also with the same understanding – because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin –  in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God's will.
In John 6:38, Jesus said, I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of the one who sent me. So the first thing is to take up the attitude of Christ, so that like him, we don’t live only for ourselves, but first and foremost to do the will of God.
But there’s a tough line in there: the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin. Peter seems to be saying that a person who has the same attitude as Christ, is choosing to suffer instead of sin. It’s not that they never sin. They may have a terrible attitude in suffering that they later have to repent of. But to regard Christ as holy, like Peter said back in chapter 3, to remember Christ’s suffering for us, is to be willing to suffer for him.
I read a story this week about a 15yr old girl in Laos named Sa. She had a friend about her age who, when they would get together, would talk to her about Jesus. And after many conversations, Sa’s eyes were opened to the good news of Jesus, and she received him as her Savior. Her parents found out that she had started going to church and were quite angry with her. They tried to get her to change her ways, but Sa was set on Jesus. One day she came home and all of her belongings were outside on the street. Her parents told her she’s not welcome there anymore.
15 yrs old, kicked out of your home, parents angry with you – and yet for Sa, armed with the attitude of Christ, she sees that it’s better to suffer than to sin.
Maybe you have never thought about this, but do you realize that as a human being, like Sa, Jesus had to choose every day what he would do? He had the choice to disobey God multiple times throughout the day. To tell the dirty joke to get a laugh. To be honest with his parents or lie. To take shortcuts on the job. To cheat in a game. To use his God-ness for personal gain. To escape the agony of the cross and find another way. And yet again and again, he chose to follow His Father instead of sin, even if it meant suffering.
Peter encourages us to arm ourselves with the attitude that Jesus had, that we would rather suffer for our Savior than sin against him.
So our mission is to keep living and speaking the gospel, no matter what happens in this life! The reason the gospel is preached at all, v6, is so that a few more might get into the ark that is Jesus! That’s why River City Church exists. That’s why we’re here! That’s why one of our goals for this coming year is to get out into Riverside more than we’ve been. It’s why we want to be thoughtful about how and where we build a building in the future. It’s why we do Biblical Training and work on our marriages and do family worship in our homes. It’s why we think Community Groups and prayer meetings are important. It’s why we pray for our government and our country.
Here is your take-home for today:
- God is patient with disobedient people. That’s such good news for me. I’m so thankful for his patience. And because he’s been patient with me, I can be patient with others.
- He doesn’t want anyone to perish. God’s heart is to see people receive his gift of grace and be saved. Because he doesn’t want anyone to perish, I shouldn’t either. I can love my enemies, and pray for those who persecute me (Matt 5:44)
- So he’s provided a rescue from the coming flood of judgment. Jesus, the righteous who died for the unrighteous, is the rescue, and because he died and was raised to life again, all powers of evil and darkness are subject to him. So I don’t have to live in fear. Anything that happens to me has to run through Jesus first. And if he gave permission, then it is somehow for my good and I can praise him for his kindness to me
- But he won’t be patient forever. So I can look forward in faith to the day when God is ready to send Jesus to remove all evil and suffering from this world and restore it to what it was meant to be – the showcase for God’s unending grace toward sinners.