1 Peterby David Burge
In many sports, if players are injured or exhausted, they can call for a substitute. A substitute takes our place and gives us relief.
Jesus endured suffering not only to be our encouraging model, but also to be our substitute. His unjust suffering was central to God's plan that His Son would be ″the righteous for the unrighteous″ (1 Peter 3:18). He is the sacrificial lamb, the substitute for sinners from God (see Isaiah 53:3-6). Stuck in sin, we needed Christ to suffer in our place as our sin-bearing substitute. Jesus ″suffered once for sins″ that He did not commit, ″to bring you to God″ (1 Peter 3:18).
For Jesus, this unjust suffering ended well. Though He died undeservedly, He was ″made alive″ (v. 19). Undoubtedly, unjust suffering will end well for those who are joined to Christ by faith.
This truth leads to one of the most difficult texts to understand in the New Testament-1 Peter 3:19-22. There is a relationship between physical events and spiritual realities, and Peter seems to be drawing comparisons between the church's situation and Noah's on two points.
First, Peter appears to be saying that after His resurrection, Jesus went to proclaim His victory over the same spiritual beings who were opposed to God in Noah's day (vv. 19-20, see also 2 Peter 2:4-5).
Paul similarly describes the spiritual powers at play in our world when he says: ″Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms″ (Ephesians 6:12). God's servants are victorious in Jesus, whose victory is felt even by God's ancient spiritual enemies.
Second, Noah was preserved on the day of God's judgment with water-water which both judged and cleansed. Similarly, for us, the water from the flood ″symbolises baptism that now saves you also″ (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism reminds us that Christ's physical, substitutionary death (v. 18) has spiritual, cleansing power.
We can be certain of Jesus' victory for us as physical and spiritual beings, and have a clear conscience before God, because of Jesus' resurrection (v. 21)-″he was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit″ (v. 18). We can know, as Noah did, that we are God's saved people because of these physical events with spiritual significance.
In verse 22, we are shown a vision of the glorious place that Jesus now enjoys at God's right hand. The humbled one has been wonderfully exalted-Jesus submitted to suffering and death, but now, angels, authorities, and powers submit to Him.
Jesus, our righteous substitute, is no longer dead but is wonderfully alive. His victory over the spiritual realm is our victory, too. How might you respond to these truths?
In many cultures, belief in the spiritual world generates fear and many rituals. In other cultures, disbelief in the spiritual world leads to complacency about the spirits. How can Christians walk a healthy path between these two responses?