The Story: There’s enough here to spark theological debates for the rest of our lives, if we choose. But don’t miss the way this passage begins and the way it ends – focused on the work of Jesus. What Jesus has done for is to have borne the greatest suffering any man could ever know, so that we might be forgiven and saved. And what Jesus is doing for us now, having risen from the dead, is reigning at the Father’s right hand so that we might press on in good works and be ready to proclaim the Good News that has changed our lives. Theologians differ about the meaning of Jesus’ preaching to departed spirits, and I won’t try to resolve that here. As for baptizing saving us, Peter perhaps intends to say that baptism culminates our declaration of faith and inaugurates us into the life of obedience, since, in many cases, baptism is the first act of real obedience a believer can point to and say, “Jesus commanded this, and I will obey” (Matt. 28.18-20).
The Structure: If we read this, the end of chapter 3, in the light of its middle (vv. 8-12), we will strive to avoid controversy and debate over the obscure and difficult parts of this text, for the sake of focusing together on what is clear and undeniable about it. Isn’t this the way Christians should always act toward one another? If we keep our eyes on Jesus and rest together in His work for us, we will make room for differing views about things that don’t pertain to the essence of our salvation. This, too, is part of our “being” His witnesses. The sad history of bitter church squabbles and splits over matters of interpretation not related to salvation has not been the kind of witness Peter envisioned in this chapter.
How can keeping our focus on Jesus help Christians to bear with one another in areas where we cannot agree on what the Bible teaches? Does this mean that we should not debate such matters? We should, but how?
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “First, Be: 1 Peter 3,” simply click here.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.