Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 25 2013 - 1 Peter 3:8-4:6 – Always be prepared…

In his second letter, Peter says that Paul wrote his letters by the wisdom of God, nevertheless there are some things in them which are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). I think that the same could be said of the apostle Peter. What does he mean when he writes that, after his resurrection, Christ went and preached “to the imprisoned spirits – to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (1 Peter 3:19-20). When did Jesus perform the preaching referred to here and who are those to whom he preached? Did he go to free these imprisoned spirits or simply to declare his own triumph over death? And what does Peter mean when he says, “the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead” (4:6)? As someone has wisely said, “There are more questions than answers.”

When there are passages or verses in Scripture that seem too difficult to understand, it’s best to focus on what is quite clear, praying always that God may increase our understanding. That’s what I plan to do this morning

The passage this morning begins with an echo of Jesus’ words in what is commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Peter writes that our lives are to be marked by love one for another, by compassion and humility. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult”, he says. “On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (3:8-9).

Many admire the Sermon on the Mount and are quite ready to admit that the world would be a far better place if people would only live the life described by the Lord Jesus. But it just does not seem possible to do so. We live in a competitive world and if we don’t grab for ourselves the things we want – the things we tell ourselves we need – someone else will grab them first and we will be left behind in the race to have the most stuff. What could persuade us to live differently?

Peter writes, “Christ … suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (3:18). Christ died for us. He did not play the game of “Get them before they get you”. He died precisely for those who do play that game, for the unrighteous – for us. He died for us to bring us to God. And he has been made alive in the Spirit to enable us to live as he lived.

When Peter writes of Jesus that he has been “made alive in the Spirit”, he is not denying Christ’s bodily resurrection – remember how he began this letter (1:3). He is saying that the risen Christ inhabits the realm of the Spirit and that he is the one who has poured out his Spirit on those who have come to trust in him. By the Spirit he has begun a work in our lives of making us like him – enabling us to live the life of the kingdom described in the Sermon on the Mount. The resurrection of Jesus is not only the source of our hope, it is also the power by which we live transformed lives.

And such lives will promote questions; “Why do you live like that? Why don’t you want to live the way we live?” (see 4:4). Our lives may prompt abuse but they will also provide opportunities for us to tell others of the Lord Jesus whose death and resurrection have changed our lives. "Always be prepared”, says Peter, “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (3:15).

Could it be that our few opportunities for sharing the message of the gospel are a reflection of the poverty of our Christian discipleship? It's certainly a question I need to be asking of myself.

Lord Jesus, fill me with your Spirit that my life may reflect the wonderful character of your life. Help me always to be ready to speak of the living hope you have given me through your death and resurrection. And may my proclamation to the dead be used to give them life.

Peter Misselbrook