“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
You may remember that last week Mark spoke about verse 8 and its emphasis on love. That verse is worthy of our continued mediations. “Above all, keep on loving one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” That verse emphasizes the priority that love must play in our lives. It takes precedence over everything else. We may breeze over those characters as we read them, but they are some of the loftiest in all of Scripture: “Above all.”
We Reformed folks don’t typically think in these terms. We usually phrase it like this, “Above all, keep on pressing for perfection in doctrine.” Or we say something to that affect. “Above all, make sure that you get every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed when it comes to the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of predestination.”
Now, you know me as a guy who likes heavy hitting doctrine. You know me as someone who puts a great emphasis on Reformed theology and the doctrine that is laid down in the Westminster Standards. But it is interesting that Peter doesn’t do that. He says that the thing that is to take the highest priority in our lives ought to be love.
For some of us, I think that is a sermon in and of itself. We could glean a lot from that if we spend the day meditating on its implications. But this morning, I want us to focus on verse 9, and on what it says. But it is important to see how verse 9 relates to verse 8. In most of our Bibles, there is a period at the end of verse 8, and verse 9 appears as a completely new sentence. But that is not the way the way it should be. Verse 9 is actually a continuation of verse 8. In all reality, it should read, “Above all, keep on loving one another from the heart, for love covers a multitude of sins, showing hospitality to one another, without grumbling.”
Why do I start this message with this little exegetical lesson? It’s because Peter here tells us that one of the chief ways we “keep on loving one another” is by this thing we call hospitality.
Peter wants you to understand that hospitality is not something that is ancillary to our faith. It isn’t something that is to rate down the charts for us or be an after thought. Peter is saying that love is to be our foremost aim in life, and hospitality is one of the chief ways we express this love.
So as we come to this passage, I want you to keep that in mind. For that will help you see how important this message is today. Hospitality is to be one of our defining traits as Christians. It is that important.
But I would assume, that if you are like most people, hospitality is not something you’ve thought much about. Or, if you are like me, you’ve thought a lot about hospitality, but don’t practice much.
We live in a day that there isn’t much interaction between people. We are a disconnected bunch. We don’t see a lot of people interacting on this kind of personal and intimate level.
But the Bible says that we need to interact on a level much deeper than what you can do on facebook. We need to cultivate deep and meaningful relationships. We need to really reach out and love one another. And the way we do that is through this thing we call hospitality.
And in this passage Peter shows us what is involved in true Christian hospitality. And this morning I want you to understand that God calls us show hospitality by opening our homes and opening our hearts.
As you think about hospitality, I want you to understand that true hospitality means doing something that is quite counter-cultural today. It means having an open house.
I. True hospitality means having an open house
Verse 9 starts off by saying, “Show hospitality to one another.” The Greek word here is rather interesting. It is a compound word. Literally it means “Love of strangers.” And what is the greatest way of loving a stranger? It is by having them into your home and making them feel welcome.
So Peter is essentially telling us not to treat each other as strangers. He’s saying we need to open our homes to one another and fellowship together in places that are more convenient (more conducive) than at our local churches.
Now, as we talk about hospitality and opening our homes, I do believe there can be two different ways to take this. On the one hand, this might be an urgent call to provide assistance to those who are being persecuted.
You can imagine what it would have been like in Peter’s day. They were being persecuted. So someone might be turned away from a job because they are a Christian. Or maybe you’ve were on the run. Maybe you are a real exile, and not just one in the spiritual sense of the term. Maybe you’ve had to flee your home or even your country. If that is the case, then you really are in need of some hospitality.
In this case, then, you need to open your house to this person. And as you open your home you need to see to their every need. It may mean providing just a place at the table for them. It may mean giving them a bed and clothes. As you open your house, you may need to open your wallet too in order secure further provisions or basic necessities.
We recognize that most of the time we don’t just give hand-outs to people. The Bible elsewhere states the principle: If you don’t work you don’t eat. When someone comes to us looking for a hand out, most of the time we don’t do it.
But there are extra-ordinary cases. There may be what we call extenuating circumstances. There might be a time, like this one, when a person is impoverished or has become destitute. It’s not that they are not willing to work. It’s just that they are not able to provide for themselves at this time. They have been stripped of all that they have or their personal estate has been severely diminished for their stance for Christ. And we need to be sensitive to that.
A good example of this is the time in England called “The Great Ejection.” During the Reformation the King of England passed a piece of legislation called “Act of Uniformity.” The Book of Prayer that was used by the Anglican Church was imposed upon all the churches of England. They wanted “Uniformity” in all the churches. But a lot of protestant ministers found this offensive. They wouldn’t compromise their Presbyterian and reformed beliefs, and conform to anyone other than Christ. As a result they were ejected from their churches. (And, btw, if you didn’t conform, there were severe penalties. You would be stripped of all your wages and you would spend at least 6 months in prison.)
Over 2000 ministers lost their jobs that day. They were at the mercy of Christ, and they were wholly dependent upon the hospitality of other believers for a while.
I mention this because it is something that may be very relevant to us today. We could easily see this happening in our day. Perhaps even in the near future. Maybe one of you would be so bold as not to conform to the “uniformity act” of our day. I don’t know much about it, but there is talk of mandating coverage for abortions and abortifacient drugs. The Humanistic church of the humanistic faith is pressing for uniformity in the land.
As Christians, we cannot submit ourselves to that kind of thing. So we’ll have to stand up. But standing up might mean that we are kicked out. That’s when the rest of us would need to sacrifice for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We would have to show some real hospitality in that kind of thing ever happened.
I wonder, would you be able to do that? Would you be able to have another family stay with you for a couple days? A couple weeks? Maybe even a couple months until they are able to get back on their feet? I bet for some of you that would be a real stretch. But that is what the Lord commands us to do.
Now, that is an example of the most basic form of hospitality. That’s what we might call the urgent care kind of hospitality.
But there is another form of hospitality, and I would assume that this is the one that is most familiar to us. It is simply having other people into our homes and hosting them for an evening.
Peter might be talking about this form of hospitality. It is not altogether clear from the text. But this may be what he intends. After all, what do people who are facing persecution need most? Isn’t our greatest need during those times the regular fellowship and encouragement that comes from spending time with one another?
But even if you are not being persecuted—let’s say that you just live each day in the world, there’s nothing better than spending time with other brothers and sisters in Christ? The fellowship you have, the communion you share, has a revitalizing effect upon you.
That might be what Peter intends. And certainly that’s something we need to take to heart. We need to open our homes to one another. Especialy us too! We are a church that is rather spread out. We need this so that we can develop deep and meaningful relationships.
And this is where I really want to challenge you all. I want to challenge you to have an open door policy. Really I want you to be intentional about having people into your homes. There is no better way to increase the unity of our church than being in the confines of each other’s homes. There’s no better way to facilitate the care and mutual encouragement that is supposed to go on within the body of Christ than in some good old fashioned hospitality.
And before we go on to the next point, let me give you a quick tip on how to do this.
The first thing you do is invite someone over. Then, once you’ve secured that, you go over to the Save a Lot and you pick up some Oscar Miejer Weiners. When your company comes over, you put them in the microwave for about a minute. Or if you really want to do it up, put them on the grill until they are just starting to bubble and blacken.
The point is that you don’t have to pull a Martha Stewart to show hospitality. You don’t have to pull out the fine china. I’ve found that the more laid back it is the better. Yes, it’s wonderful to shower them with your best. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes that’s overkill, and sometimes the pomp of it all can be what keeps you from doing it. It gets to be a hassle and you don’t end up doing it.
What is more important than how fancy the place setting is is that your home is open to them—and that they know your heart is open to them as well.
And that is what brings us to our next point. I do want you to understand that that is the real focus of our text. Hospitality is not so much about having an open house as it is having an open heart.
II. True hospitality means having an open heart
You’ll notice that Peter doesn’t just command you to open your house and show hospitality. He says you need to do it “without grumbling.”
And by this extra qualifier we understand that Peter doesn’t just want a raw, outward obedience. He’s addressing a deeper issue. He’s addressing your heart. He understands that hospitality can operate on two different levels. Someone can come into your house, but they may never be truly welcomed there because your heart is not open to them.
You might not have wanted to have them over, and the only reason you are doing it is because you know you are supposed to be hospitable. And so you play host. You go through the motions. You smile and do the whole Martha Stewart thing, but in your heart you’re saying, “Please leave.”
Let’s admit it: Hospitality is not an easy thing. Hospitality means that someone is impinging on you. They are taking time from you that could be dedicated to something else. The cooking, the cleaning, the conversing, you expend a lot of energy when you extend hospitality. And that can be a hassle, and it can make you rather grumpy.
I actually like the Greek word here. It’s goggusmon. As I was studying, I wondered if goggusmon is onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is when your word sounds like the word or action for which it stands. Like “spit.” If you say spit right, the person you are talking to should wipe something off of their face. I wonder if goggusmon is onomatopoeia. It sounds like someone grumbling, doesn’t it? “Goggusmon!” You can kind of picture someone throwing down their pots and pans in frustration and saying, “Goggusmon!” Or maybe while they are stirring the soup you hear them murmuring under their breath, “gogusmon.”
I don’t know if it is really onomatopoeia or not. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the meaning of the word, and that is quite clear. It has to do with your attitude towards those whom you show hospitality. And the point is that there shouldn’t be any complaining that accompanies it.
As I was preparing this message I began by having a slightly different outline. I had originally said that true hospitality means having an open house and a closed mouth. That went with the whole grumbling thing. Just think of some of the things you could say:
Your husband asks you if you could have the Jones’ over after church. But you say, “The Jones’! Why them? They always stay so long!” Or, “I don’t want to have them over, their kids are out of control.”
Or maybe its all the preparations that go into having someone over. The cleaning of the house, the fixing of the food, and so forth. Or it’s the fact that you know God has commanded you to do this, but you don’t really want to do it. And you just get downright touchy about it, “I don’t want to do this!”
And it is true; you might need to keep your mouth closed. But as I thought about it more, it is more than just having a closed mouth. Grumbling and complaining so many times can be expressed without words. A heavy sigh, rolling of the eyes, or simply the thoughts that go through your mind.
That’s why I changed it. When Peter says that this is to be done without grumbling, he’s really going deeper than just your outward expressions. He’s talking about your inward disposition. And he’s saying, when it comes to hospitality, your heart to be just as receptive as your house is. You need to put your personal problems aside—get your mind off of yourself, and begin to open your heart to these other people.
Mrs. Roney paused from her chores to answer the girl. The girl was concerned that Mrs. Roney was doing too much. She already had enough troubles of her own. Now she was attempting to care for a sick neighbor too. Mrs. Roney responded by saying, “Your heart is never so full of its own worries that you can’t crowd in a little care for other folks. If you crowd it so full that some of your own worries get crowded out, there isn’t any great loss.”
She continued by posing a question to the girl, “Have you ever noticed that when you are walking along the road, it isn’t the empty handed people who are lending you a hand? It is always those who have burdens themselves that help you carry your load.”
That’s the essence of hospitality, my friends. It’s about the state of your home as it is the state of your heart. True hospitality is about crowding out your own cares, while crowding in the cares of others.
And if you are ever tempted to skip out on showing hospitality or to grumble about hospitality, I want you to remember where you are right now. Think about the fact that you have opportunity to sit here this morning and enjoy the Lord’s hospitality. Do you know that every Lord’s day our God opens his house to you? This isn’t just any old assembly. This is a sacred time where the Lord Jesus draws us into his presence. Sometimes we may even say that we are going to the house of the Lord. And when we say that we know we are not talking about the building or structure that we meet in. We know God doesn’t live in houses made by hands. But as we gather together each week for worship, we come into the holy presence of God and, in a spiritual sense, we are taken up to the Lord.
What’s more, each week our Lord spreads a table for us to feed us and strengthen us. We have an opportunity to come and celebrate the Lord’s Supper here at the communion table. And every week the Lord is happy to host us. He never grumbles or complains, though he has every right to. He could say, “By gum, here come those little sinners again. All they do is profane my house and irritate me to no end with their lack of reverence and disrespect.
No. Our Lord doesn't do that. He gladly welcomes us through the blood of Christ and he rejoices over us with singing. He loves to sup with us while we take communion together. He loves showing us hospitality
And my friends, we need to remember that as we seek to do what the Lord commands here. He doesn’t just tell us to do show hospitality, he shows us how. And that he does should make us more than willing to do what he says.
I like to tell people, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it is the size of the fight in the dog.” In competitive sports, what determines the outcome is never one’s physical makeup. It is always the determination that lies within that makes the difference. You could be the scrawniest fellow on the court, or the puniest mite on the field, but if your heart and mind are determined to overcome, then there is a good chance that you will.
I say this because what is true in sports (or in dog fights, for that matter) is also true when it comes to our faith. The book of first Peter is about suffering. And as we have looked at these passages of sacred texted, we’ve come to remember that we in a rivalry with the world. And in this rivalry we are often outmatched. I might say that most of the time the opposition we face is much greater in size and force.
Yet no matter how great the antagonism of our peers may be or how intense pressure from civil authorities may get, we must always remember that it is not the size of the dog in the fight. It is the size of the fight in the dog.
You will notice in our passage that Peter speaks to this effect. In the first verse he says, “Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” He uses military language here. Soldiers going to war arm themselves with weaponry before they engage. But Peter says, it is not swords or guns that we take up. We are to arm ourselves with the right frame of mind. It is what is in our hearts that really matters.
Peter says that we are to equip ourselves with the same resolution Christ had when he walked this earth. Christ would not turn to the right or to the left. It did not matter how great the onslaught was, He was determined to serve his Heavenly Father all his days.
And this is what we are to do. We must be resolute in following Christ, no matter the opposition we may face.
And Peter says we can have this sort of resolution because we know Christ as our Sovereign, our Savior, and our Judge.
I had us start today by backing up to chapter three. I needed to do that because verse 17 contains a very important point. It is subtle, but poignant. It tells us that Christ is our sovereign.
I. Because Christ is our sovereign [3:17]
It says, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
I want you to take note of those words, “If it be God’s will.” With these words Peter reminds us that our God sovereignly governs all things. He reminds us that He determines the course of history.
And that’s important for us to remember: Nothing in this world happens by chance; not even our oppression. Everything that happens happens because God wills it. He ordains it. He plans it. He chooses to have things pan out in a certain way.
And from these words we understand that God’s providential care of you even includes the evil acts of men. You need to know that our persecutors can do nothing to us, unless God permits it. They can do nothing to us, until God gives the say so. Yet, even as they carry out their cruel plans against us—even if they should put the sword to our throats, God is not absent. He is sovereignty acting in the best interests of His glory and His church.
I love this little line because it just puts everything into perspective. It reminds us that though things might seem crazy all around us—even if things seem to be out of our control, God is still in control. And recognizing this is key to maintaining a strong resolve in the face of those dire circumstances.
This has certainly always been the case. Knowing that there is a God in heaven who imposes his will on creation has always been what makes men bold. This was certainly the case for the early American founder Patrick Henry. In his famous speech, Give me Liberty or Give me Death, Patrick Henry sought to rouse the magistrates of Virginia. He called them to engage the tyranny of the King of England. Amidst that speech he invoked the providential workings of God. He said, “Besides, we will not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.”
What gave Patrick Henry the confidence to oppose his foes? What throttled Virginia’s resolve to stand firm in her liberty? It was the knowledge that God was a sovereign God.
If this be true for the work of nations, how much more will it be true for the church of God. The Lord has his eyes upon all the affairs of the world. But it is his church that he has that particular affection for. And if persecution comes to you, you must understand that it is only because God has permitted it.
You can take comfort in that, just as our Lord Jesus did. Peter here is simply echoing what Jesus himself said on the last night of his life. You may remember that on that sorrow filled night Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane. There he was overcome by the thoughts of pain that were to torment him through the night and into the next day. He was so overcome that the blood vessels broke causing his skin to seep blood. In that extremity of soul he prayed ever so intensely, “Father, let this cup pass from me. Yet not my will, but thy will be done.”
Christ’s only comfort in those moments was the sovereign will of his heavenly father. The only thing that he took solace in was that His Father had so ordered this course of events. And with the recollection of the finer points of God’s decree, He could get up off his knees and face that rabble who came to arrest him.
And that is your comfort too my friends. Let the truth of our God’s eternal rule be that which gives you the same sort of resolve. May you have the mind of Christ because you know him as your sovereign.
But not only do you know him as sovereign, you also know him as Savior. And this should help you too in your time of oppression.
II. Because Christ is our savior [4:1-3]
When we think about Christ saving us from sin, it should move us to be more courageous. It should give us more fortitude to face our opposition and stand strong in the faith. Peter recognizes this too. For in the first part of chapter 4 he reminds that Christ is your Savior. He is the one who saves you from sin’s penalty, power, and presence.
In verse one we see him reminding us once again of Christ’s atonement. He says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” We’re pointed again to the fact that Christ went to the cross. He dealt with the penalty that was due to us for sin in his own body.
This is a theme Peter just can’t get away from. We talked about it last week when we looked at verse 18, where Peter said, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” We’ll talk about it again towards the end of chapter 4.
Peter just can’t get away from this topic. And we shouldn’t, really. It should be that consuming topic for us. When we remember the cross, our hearts should swell with gratitude. When we see Christ dying for us, we should be moved to do the same for him.
But Christ not only saves us from sin’s penalty, he also saves us from sin’s power.
Look at that first verse again. It goes on to say, “Whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
What is Peter saying here? He’s talking about the power sin had over us prior to our faith in Christ. Sin used to be the governing force of our lives. It dominated us. It was what directed our lives. But things have been different since we came to faith in Christ. Sin is no longer what governs our lives. Its power has been broken. The Holy Spirit came in and overthrown sin and He took the throne of our hearts. So we no longer are governed by the sinful nature, but by Christ.
I spoke with my prison students about this just this week. I told them to imagine a country that has a cruel tyrant as its leader. Imagine a country like North Korea with a dictator like Kim Jong Il or his son. Now you’ve been commissioned to go in and take him out. You get him lined up in your scope and you pull the trigger. As soon as you do, he goes down. At that moment the country is a free country. It is no longer dominated by the tyrant any longer. It is under a different rule.
It might take a while for the country to shape up. There are no doubt a lot of devoted communists who are still out there. But a definite change has taken place. The country no longer is under the oppressive forces of communism. It is freed from it and a new life has begun.
The same is true for us as Christians. We have ceased from sin in that it is no longer the ruler of our lives. Christ has come in and taken him out. And though it will be a long time until all the vestiges of sin are cleaned up, there has been a definitive break. We now live for Christ.
That’s why Peter can say what he does in verse 3. Look at it. It says, “The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, etc.”
Peter’s just elaborating on the fact that Christ is our savior. Just as Jesus saves us from sin’s penalty and power, so too does he saves us from its presence.
Peter essentially tells you to look back over your life. Think about all the time you wasted in sin before you met Jesus. Now he says, “Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t that disgust you?”
Some of you have the privilege of never having known a day that Christ was not your savior. That is wonderful! But some of us don’t have that privilege. Some of us look back and remember that there was a time where we were not in Christ. And there is a portion of our life that was wasted. Sin filled our lives. Its presence was everywhere.
I know that when I get caught in those thoughts, I get a little saddened. I regret that I did the things that I did. I get frustrated that I lived that way and talked that way.
Thankfully Christ has saved us from continuing down that path. At some point Christ came along and started taking us in a new direction. Praise God for that. Praise God that he saved us from that life of sin.
But there you have it. Peter summarizes the saving work of Christ in 3 verses. And as he points you to what Christ has done on your behalf, he essentially points out what you need to do. If Christ has saved you from sin, how can you turn your back on him? When we remember that he gave his life to save us from the bondage of sin, it ought to fuel our fire for him.
The old hymn should always ring true: Onward Christian soldier, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.
But we march on for Christ, not just because he is our savior and our sovereign, but because he is our judge too.
III. Because Christ is our judge [4:4-6]
That’s what Peter gets at in verses 4-6. Look at verse 4 with me. It says, “With respect to this [i.e. your former sins] they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
One of the things that will keep us resolute in our walk with Christ is the fact that one day men and women will have to give an account of their lives to Christ. One day we will all have to stand before the judgment bar of Christ. And on that day those who have not looked to Christ as Savior will meet him as their Judge. At that moment they will be held accountable for their actions. They will hear the clacking of the gavel as Jesus announces their sentence.
This is why we have no desire to waffle on the issue. We don’t want to join in those wicked ways or go back to our old way of living because we don’t want to be the ones who are found cast into hell. It is much better to suffer here a little while for believing in Christ than to suffer for all eternity for not having believed in him.
A while back I worked at a factory. It was an assembly position, and I was in charge of putting a certain product together. Once I put the components on the plate, I would wire them together. But you know, there were times when I wanted to take short cuts. Maybe it was late on a Friday afternoon when I really wanted to get out of there. I might have had a stripped bolt or perhaps a wire might not be in as tightly as it should. Whatever it was, I would be tempted to just do a sloppy job. But I rarely ever did that. I don’t think that I purposefully did so, anyway. I always tried to make sure that I did the job right. That’s because I knew that my work would always be checked. Before it could be shipped, the quality control guy had to perform a test on it. If sloppy work was submitted to him, then it would be judged a failure and sent back.
That’s sort of what Peter is talking about. The only difference is that after Christ judges, there are no second chances. But that is why we must remain resolute in our faith despite opposition. We know that there is going to be someone at the end who will look over our deeds and render his decision about them.
Verse 6 re-emphasizes the point made in verse 5. It reminds us that we do not have to face the Judge like this because Christ has taken the judgment for us. He starts by saying, “This is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead.” He’s talking about Christians who had recently passed away. They heard the gospel preached to them, but they have since died. He says, “Though they’ve been judged in the flesh the way people are (again, though they’ve died), they will live in the spirit the way God does.” That is to say, they will live eternally with Christ because of that gospel. As we said earlier, their judgment has already passed.
So he comforts us again with yet another reminder of the saving work of Christ. But here it is to be understood that Christ is a judge. He will not let sins just slip past. Either they must be judged in the cross or they must be judged in the sinner himself. And since he will judge men on the last day, we find every reason to maintain our course.
I might add here that this is also an invitation to you to embrace Christ as your savior if you have not done so. The gospel is that Christ is the Savior of sinners, and you do not have to face judgment if you receive him. I understand that it might not be an easy thing to do. You might suffer for it. But, as Peter says, it is better to suffer here on earth for a little while, than to do so in the life to come.
During the Huganot persecutions in Southern France, a young girl was imprisoned in the tower at Aigues Mortes. She could have been released any day, simply by renouncing her faith, which through many years she refused to do. It was discovered later that she had chiseled into the stone of her prison the word “Resistez!”
The determination that this girl evidenced exemplifies what Peter calls us to. What was chiseled upon that wall was chiseled upon her heart as well. She would not give up on her Savior. She was resolute in tenaciously clinging to her Sovereign Lord. No matter what the earthly judges threatened, no matter how tempting the thought of freedom was, she feared the Judge of all the earth more.
May it be that we are armed with the same mind. May we resist the world and endure our sufferings for the sake of Christ.
Miller, Donald G., On This Rock: A Commentary on 1 Peter. Pickwick Publications (Allison Park, PA 1993).
This is one of those passages that seems to give you more questions than answers. One minister I consulted said that in these five verses there are seven major interpretive challenges.
1.What does it mean that Jesus was “made alive in the spirit”?
2.Who are the spirits now in prison?
3.Where is this prison?
4.Where did Jesus preach to these spirits?
5.What did he preach to them?
6.How does Baptism now save you?
7.What does it mean to “appeal to God for a good conscience?”
I don’t know if I will be able to answer all those questions or any others that you may have rising from the text. I hope to do my best though. I’m certainly going try and accurately express what the Lord is saying here. And it is important that we do grasp what is here because this passage is all about one of the most important subjects in the whole Bible. It’s all about how sinners like us are reconciled to God.
You see, the people to whom Peter needed to be given some reassurance regarding their salvation. We’ve been talking about suffering. We’ve been looking at how we are strangers and outcasts in the world. And when the going gets rough, the owies can make you want to quit. Peter understood that. So in this passage he attempts to reassure his readers that the only way to avert God’s wrath and curse is through Christ.
I think this is something that is good for us to hear too, especially you young people. A lot of young people today are abandoning the faith. They are just dropping it because they don’t see the use of it. But I want to make sure you guys know that eternal life is found no where else.
How can you be sure that Christ is the only way to escape God’s wrath? Well, the only thing I can say is look to Christ himself. That’s essentially what Peter directs you to do. Peter points you to the cross, the words he preached, and the sacrament he instituted.
If you want to know how to avert God’s wrath, the best thing to do is to consider the death that Jesus died.
I. The death Jesus died 
That’s the first thing Peter does. In verse 18 he says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.”
In this verse Peter tells says that Jesus died a vicarious death. That is to say, he died as a substitute. The word vicarious just means “substitute.”
Sometimes you will hear it said about a particular father that he is living vicariously through his kid. As his kid plays sports the father gets way too involved and starts pushing the kid to do more and more. Maybe he shouts too much at the games and yells at the referee all the time. When we say he’s living vicariously through his kid, we mean that he is trying to live his sports dreams through his kid. In other words, his kid’s sports become a substitute for his own.
Here Peter says that the righteous one, Jesus, suffered for (or in the place of) the unrighteous ones, that is us. So we are to understand that our salvation is complete. We do not have to fear the judgment of God because Jesus took it upon himself when he died on the cross.
So let me make sure you understand this: Those nails that pinned Christ to Calvary were supposed to be driven through you. You were the one who offended God. You were the one who was supposed to have died. Christ never did anything to deserve death. But there on Golgotha he stood in your place.
Now, there are a lot of delusions out there when it comes to this notion of the death of Jesus. They just don’t get it. Some people say that Jesus died just to show how great his love for us really is. But that’s the silliest thing in the world. If you were sitting on the beach and someone came running down the pier screaming, “I LOVE YOOOUUUUU!” and jumped in the water and drowned himself, would you say that is love? Of course not.
Maybe you can try this sometime when you are out on a date with your significant other. You can say, “Honey, do you know how much I love you? I love you so much I’m going to shoot myself.” Oooo! That’s really pouring on the romance!
Really though. That’s not what is happening on the cross at all. Jesus isn’t just showing you his love. He’s dying in your place. Yes, he is showing his love for you. But he is showing that love in that he pushes you out of the way and takes upon himself the full measure of God’s wrath that was due to you for your sin.
And please understand how important this is. This notion of a vicarious death is very important because it shows us how God’s wrath is satisfied. Now, because of what Christ has done, you can have communion with God. You can have eternal life because the debt that you owe has been paid. The red hot anger of God has been appeased because it was all consumed in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
You need not fear God’s wrath because of the death that he died. The proof is in his vicarious atonement. But if you need more assurance that God’s wrath is averted through Christ, you can look at the message he preached.
II. The message Jesus preached [19-20]
In verses 19-20 we see Jesus as a preacher. He fulfills his role as a prophet as he preaches to those spirits who are in prison.
Now if you would bear with me a bit. This part of the passage is a bit tough to wade through. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to spare you the alternative interpretations. If you want them, you can find them in any good study Bible. I’m going to spare some time and give you what I think is the right interpretation. [Before I do I’ll just say that my interpretation is in keeping with many other major interpreters.]
With that said, let’s jump into it. Again, in verse 19 it says that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison. Now, the question is who are the spirits and what is the prison? I suggest to you that the spirits were the unbelieving people who existed back in Noah’s day. And the prison is hell. So he’s saying, all those people back in Noah’s day are now in hell. They were destroyed by the flood. They were swept off the face of the planet, and they are now forever consigned to their place of doom.
Are we good on that? Ok. Now we can move on to our second set of questions, which are probably a little more difficult: Where and when did Jesus preach to them? I suggest that it isn’t that Jesus went down into hell after he died and preached, as some believe. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus’ spirit went directly to heaven after he passed away. In the gospel of Luke, you remember that Jesus said to the theif on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” So Jesus could not have gone into hell and preached to these souls.
The construction of this sentence should be taken to mean that Jesus preached back in the days of Noah. The spirit of Jesus was active back at the time of the flood. While Noah lived Christ preached through him. Over in 2 Peter Noah is called a “preacher of righteousness.” So we have some confirmation on this.
Think about it this way: over the 65-75 years Noah spent building his boat he would have plenty of opportunities presented to answer the question, “Hey Noah, whatcha doing?” His response could only evoke a sermon, “I’m building a boat.” “Whatchya doing that for?” “It’s going to rain.” And you can see Noah pleading with people to repent and find their refuge in God.
But what does our text say? It says that the people to whom Noah spoke “did not obey” while God was expressing his patience. The whole time the ark was being built God was holding out his mercy. He was giving them the opportunity to turn from their wicked ways. But no. They wouldn’t do it. So, in the end, only eight persons, as is says, “were brought safely through the water.”
This is extremely tragic. Here was Christ making his appeal, but nearly no one listened. Yet, on the other hand, there is something wildly glorious. The glorious thing about this is that those eight people who did heed the message did survive! God was true to his promise. Those that heard the word of God and put their faith in it, those were the ones who were given the opportunity to live. Death could have swallowed them up, but it didn’t because they put their faith in what God had said, and they entered the boat.
And though this happened a long, long time ago, it has a lesson for us today. For I’m standing here today doing the same thing that Noah did. I’m telling you that there is a flood on the horizon! Not a flood of water, but a flood of fire. God has promised that he will judge the world someday. The Bible tells us that one day Jesus Christ is going to come again. And when he does there will be another world-wide cleansing. All the unbelieving people are going to be judged and they will be wiped from the face of the planet.
That is why you need to listen to the words Christ is preaching to you today. Jesus is here announcing the same message that he did in Noah’s day. He’s telling you that the only way you can survive the flood of fire and judgment is by repenting of your unbelief. Jesus says, “If you want to live, you need to turn from your sins and come to me.” He is calling to you now to do that. You may be hearing the tones of my voice, but the words are those of Christ. And he is telling you that there is only one way to escape the coming wrath. It is only through faith in him. No other god will save you. No other way will provide any sort of safety. Only by taking refuge in the death that he died will you be safe when he comes again in judgment.
And that is the essence of what we find in the sacrament of Baptism too.
III. The sacrament Jesus instituted [21-22]
In verse 21 Peter says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this salvation of Noah, saves you.”
Ok. Let’s pause there. What does that mean? Is Peter teaching Baptismal regeneration? Of course not. We have to keep in mind that the sacraments are signs that point to other realities. And sometimes the sign and the thing signified are so closely identified that they are used interchangeably.
Let me give you a different example. Let’s switch sacraments for a second. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper he held up the bread and said, “This is my body.” Do we believe that the bread is actually the body of Christ? No. We believe that Jesus is speaking metaphorically. Here is a symbol. It represents his body. But we can speak of the symbol as if it was the real thing.
The same is done in this passage of 1 Peter regarding baptism. Baptism saves you in that the reality to which baptism points is effectual in its working. Baptism symbolizes the new life that comes through the Spirit. Our old life dies with Christ. The lifeless sinful nature falls away, even as dirt washes away with water. And we are raised with Christ to live for him.
The rest of the passage brings out this triumph as well. It talks about the resurrection and ascension of Christ and his being at the right hand of God, over and above all angels and powers.
Christ was not able to be kept in the grave. So you too, being united with him, will not be left in the dungeon of death. Christ has triumphed over sin, death and the grave.
That’s what your baptism points to. And that is why he can say “Baptism saves you.”
Now what should you take away from this? Take from it the assurance that your baptism brings. Your baptism is there to be a means of grace to you. It serves as a reminder of what Christ has done on your behalf. It is there to assure you that Christ is a sure savior.
Your baptism isn’t just something that happened in the past. You are supposed to meditate on the significance of it. As it says in this passage, it is not about washing dirt off your skin. It is there to remind you of the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. It is to remind you of what faith can do. That’s what this passage means when it talks about this “appeal to God for a good conscience.” By faith you look to God for the removal of your guilt and shame. And your baptism reminds you that Christ does that for those who put their faith in him.
So, if you are struggling with assurance today—and that is a common thing. Many Christians struggle with having an assurance of their salvation. Its quite common. I mean, here we are, we talk about how sinful we are. And if you even gain a glimpse at how sinful you are, yes, it can be hard to think that God accepts you. And if you are concentrating on your faith, it’s the same thing. We have faith that is very small sometimes. Sometimes that faith doesn’t even seem to be recognizable it is so small. And you can question if you are really saved.
But if that’s the case, just remember what Christ is saying in this passage. Look back at your baptism. Remember the significance of it. Remember why Christ instituted this sacrament. It is there to confirm the abundant grace of God. It is to be that memorial that reminds you that God’s judgment is averted in Christ. God, by His Holy Spirit, washes all your sins away.
As I said before, Peter’s only goal in this passage is to point you to Christ. His one aim has been to remind you that Christ alone is your assurance when it comes to averting God’s wrath. I hope that I have accurately done that for you today. It is my hope that in looking to Christ's death, hearing his preaching, and remembering his sacrament that you know that Christ is the all sufficient savior.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.