To encourage believers to endure suffering for righteousness’ sake on account of their faith in Christ, in chapter 3:18-22 of his first letter, Peter gives us a most beautiful description of the redemptive work of Christ on our behalf as a motivation. Through His suffering and death, Christ conquered sin in order to bring us to God (v18); secondly, we saw last time that upon His death on the cross, He went in the spirit to declare a victory sermon over fallen angels whose spirits were bound in prison awaiting the final judgment. Through His death, Christ “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them..” (Col 2:15); and through faith in Christ, we overcome Satan’s temptation to fear and despair in our time of suffering.
In verses 20c-21, Peter draws another encouragement from the suffering of Christ to motivate believers to suffer for righteousness, that in His suffering, Christ delivered us from the wrath to come. He uses Noah’s deliverance as a prefigurement (type) of our deliverance. (“20 because they [the spirits in prison] formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”)
There are many similarities between Noah’s deliverance from God’s wrath and our deliverance. We will briefly look at some of those similarities: (1) Like Noah and his family, God saved us by His grace out of the multitudes of people in the world, not because of any inherent goodness in us. (2) As the ark became the means of Noah’s deliverance, Christ became the means of our deliverance. We were in Him as He went under the bellows of God’s wrath. (3) Noah and his family came out to a “new” world. Corruption and rebellion against God had been dealt with, and now they get to start over. They were given the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). When we are born again, we are new creatures in Christ. Old things pass away and all things become new; the Holy Spirit dwells within us and sin no longer dominates us; our new mandate is to be fruitful and multiply by the spread of the gospel. This deliverance from wrath gives us a joyful confidence to know that there is now no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus.
A fourth motivation that Peter gives suffering saints is that as we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him. In the same way that Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, as our representative, we too will rise to be with Him forever. He has gone to prepare a place for us and then come again to receive us to Himself. The suffering of this present age cannot be compared with the glory that awaits us.
A fifth and final motivation that Peter gives to those suffering saints is that Christ is now at the right hand of the Most High, with angels, authorities, and powers all subject to Him. There is absolutely no demonic or human power that can touch His people outside of His will. He will keep them in the midst of their suffering and bring them safely to glory. May these truths encourage our hearts, that we too may suffer well for righteousness’ sake, if it be the Lord’s will for us.