Christ's message to prisoners
The Message to prisoners
Call to worship
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; or He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Psalm 95:6-8)
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: “Meekness and Majesty”
Scripture Reading Genesis 6:9-22
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Declaration of pardoning
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
Hymn: “We will give thanks to Thee”
Offering and Dedication
Prayer for others
Scripture Reading 1Peter 3:13-22
3:19 Verses 19, 20 constitute one of the most puzzling and intriguing texts in the New Testament. It has been made the pretext for such unbiblical doctrines as purgatory on the one hand and universal salvation on the other.
8 In other words: Do some people get a second chance? Are they in the meantime locked up in an intermediate state of torment until they listen to the Gospel, mediation is made for them and sacrifice by others is made in order to redeem them?
8 Or the other possibility: Those people who die without repentance, end up in hell – but this is not necessarily their last destination. The grace of God is so great that, as Christ went to preach the Gospel to the souls in prison to rescue them from an everlasting death, so He will see to it that all people will eventually inherit eternal life.
Some interpret this paragraph this way: Christ went to Hades in spirit between His death and resurrection, and proclaimed the triumph of His mighty work on the cross.
The question is, were the spirits in prison believers, unbelievers, or both?
But there is fairly general agreement that the Lord Jesus did not preach the gospel to them. That would involve the doctrine of a second chance which is nowhere taught in the Bible. Those who hold this view often link this passage with Ephesians 4:9 where the Lord is described as descending “into the lower parts of the earth.” They cite this as added proof that He went to Hades in the disembodied state and heralded His victory at Calvary. They also cite the words of the Apostles’ Creed —“descended into hell.”
8 The context
We looked at verses 13-18 last week. Paraphrased, this paragraph might sound like this.
But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t be afraid and don’t worry. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
8 The main theme for this paragraph is witnessing to an unbelieving world. Even the reference to Isaiah 8 underscores this theme.
8 Elements in this paragraph refer to “suffer for doing good”; the “blessing of God” for doing good; “fear” for doing good; “prepare to give an answer”, the “reason for hope”; this should be done with “gentleness and respect”; those who slander the people of God will “be vindicated”
8 The focal point
The reason why Christians should behave in such a way, is Christ did the very same thing. As He became our Saviour by dying for our sins – when He became our righteousness before God – He brought us to God. But He did not only die. 8 He was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.
By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison. The relative pronoun whom obviously refers back to Spirit at the end of verse 18. We understand this to mean the Holy Spirit. In 1:11 of this Letter the “Spirit of Christ,” that is, the Holy Spirit, is described as speaking through the prophets of the Old Testament. And in Genesis 6:3, God speaks of His Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, as nearing the limit of endurance with the antediluvians.
8 As it is now, so it was then
The following few verses talks about another witness in another –ungodly – time.
Peter is describing what happened in the days of Noah. It was the spirit of Christ who preached through Noah to the unbelieving generation before the flood. They were not disembodied spirits at that time, but living men and women who rejected the warnings of Noah and were destroyed by the flood. So now they are spirits in the prison of Hades.
8 Elements of the witness of Christians in the time of Peter – those living in Pontus and other places as described in chapter 1:1 – also apply to the preaching of Noah. It refers to “suffer for doing good”; the “blessing of God” for doing good; “fear” for doing good; “prepare to give an answer”, the “reason for hope”; this should be done with “gentleness and respect”; those who slander the people of God will “be vindicated”
8 In the same way, those who lived in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia who mocked the faithful Christians and did not heed their message brought in gentleness and respect, acted in the same spirit of unbelief and rebellion as those in the time of Noah. They heard the message brought to them, they saw the gentleness of the Christians, they saw their holy behaviour in the Lord, yet they still didn’t believe. They went further: they persecuted the Christians and made life extremely difficult for them.
8 The Christians to whom Peter wrote were suffering because of their life and testimony. Perhaps they wondered why, if the Christian faith was right, they should be suffering rather than reigning. If Christianity was the true faith, why were there so few Christians?
8 In that sense Peter wants to encourage the Christians he is writing to: you are not the first ones this is happening to. It happened in the time of Noah. This gentle preacher of righteousness stood out like a sore finger in an ungodly world. People mocked him, yet he just went on to do what God ordered him to do. He did “good”, he “suffered”, he was blessed by God, he did “not fear”. When asked what he was doing, he told them about the impending punishment of God upon their sinful unrepentant hearts. When asked about his hope, he answered them in gentleness and respect. For 120 years this faithful preacher warned that God was going to destroy the world with water. His thanks was scorn and rejection. But God vindicated him by saving him and his family through the flood.
8 What was the final outcome?
8 Peter points to the Lord Jesus. Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake, even to the extent of being put to death. But God raised Him from the dead and glorified Him in heaven (see v. 22). The pathway to glory led through the valley of suffering.
8 No everyone is saved. Then there is the problem, “If we are right, why are there so few of us?” Peter answers: “There was a time when only eight people in the world were right and all the rest were wrong!” Characteristically in the world’s history the majority has not been right. True believers are usually a small remnant, so one’s faith should not falter because of the small number of the saved. There were only eight believers in Noah’s day; there are millions today.
8 Only those in the Ark was saved
At the end of verse 20, we read that a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. It is not that they were saved by water; they were saved through the water. Water was not the savior, but the judgment through which God brought them safely.
– Christ is alive!
– The Holy Spirit is with us
– Preach the Gospel
– God will bring in the elect
Hymn No 366: “Arm of the Lord, awake!”