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The Righteous One Suffering for the Unrighteous

March 27, 2022

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:18–22

The Righteous One Suffering for the Unrighteous

1 Peter 3:18–22 – Perspective: 1 Peter Series – March 27, 2022


Reading 1 Peter 3:18–22.

Sometimes things are a lot more complicated than you expect.

  • Water on the floor from a dishwasher

Our passage is like that, except more redemptive!

  • Starts out with one of the great gospel texts in the NT.
  • Ends with one of the great pictures of Christ exalted.
  • But in the middle is one of the most complex.
  • A hint: Grudems 239 pg commentary on the entire book. 47 pgs of that commentary—1/5 of the whole thing!—is devoted to our passage. 10 pgs in the commentary + 37-pg Appendix!
  • Martin Luther on 1 Peter 3:18–22, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means” (Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, Kregel, 168).

But this text has treasures we don’t want to miss!

Context in 1 Peter:

  • As Peter continues to develop his theology of suffering, he turns once again to the suffering of Christ.
  • Did this before: In 2:21–24 it was Christ the example for us, and the way that his suffering brought about our redemption.
  • He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet 2:24)
  • 3:17 he mentioned our suffering: For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Pet 3:17)
  • Now in our passage Peter again develops the suffering of Christ, except he takes it in some unexpected and complex directions.
  • But his point is once again to point out how RIGHTEOUS SUFFERING BRINGS ABOUT GLORIOUS RESULTS.

3:18–22 is a single sentence in the Greek with three really big ideas about what Christ accomplished for us: (1) Bring Us to God (3:18); (2) Cleanse Us of Sin (3:19–21); (3) Triumph Over Our Enemies (3:22)

Prayer – Benjamin Tangeman

I. Bring Us to God

Read 3:18.

One of those great gospel verses in our NT—memorize it!

First, He took our place.

  • “for sins.”
  • “the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous.”
  • Righteous
    • Tempted and didn’t sin.
    • Never jealous.
    • Never lusted.
    • Never self-indulgent.
    • Never sinfully angry.
    • Never sinfully disobeyed his parents.
    • Never sinfully dishonored civil authorities.
    • Never made a promise he didn’t keep.
  • On behalf of the Unrighteous
    • Tempted and caved
    • Jealous
    • Lusted—and worse
    • Self-indulgent
    • Sinfully angry
    • Sinfully disobeyed and dishonored parents.
    • Sinfully disobeyed and dishonored civil authorities.
    • We’ve made promises we haven’t kept.
  • But…Righteous ON BEHALF OF the Unrighteous.
    • He took our place.
    • BY DYING—not just being obedient during his life.
    • But by facing judgment in death.

The great result? “He might bring us to God.”

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Phil 1:23)

Imagine that…

  • The Unrighteous…
  • Brought to God.

II. Cleanse Us of Sin

 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Pet 3:19–21)

Basic sense of the text:

  • End of V18 and beginning V19: “in the Spirit, in which he went…”
  • In the Spirit Christ did something.
  • Preached to “spirits in prison.”
  • These “spirits in prison” existed at time of Noah building the ark but “did not obey
  • Paraphrases flood narrative—8 saved “through water.”
  • This being saved through water points to baptism
  • Baptism saves you
  • But it’s not because of what the WATER does but the “APPEAL TO GOD” made at baptism.
  • Baptism is effective “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”


3 Basic Views:

  • Christ descended into hell and preached to souls there, some saying a 2nd chance given and others not
  • Christ’s preaching is to angels (either fallen with Satan or later time)
  • Christ’s preaching to unbelievers alive at time of Noah

Descent into hell—doesn’t seem to fit the time-table, says he was “made alive in the Spirit,” which seems to be reference to resurrection.

Angels view strengthened by two NT references:

2 Peter 2:4–10:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly. (2 Pet 2:4–10)

Jude 5–7:

5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 5–7)

Some who hold the angels view think these angels are connected to Genesis 6:

Genesis 6:1–4:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Gen 6:1–4)

I don’t think 2 Peter and Jude give us enough to say absolutely that they mean these Genesis 6 beings when they speak of “angels” in “prison.”

  • It’s possible, but the references make just as much sense if fallen with Satan.[1]

“Spirits in prison” as people

  • All unbelievers who have died are really “spirits in prison” awaiting judgment.
  • Both the angel and unbeliever view makes sense of LANGUAGE and CONTEXT.
  • Speculation about Genesis 6 doesn’t seem out of bounds, but not enough evidence to be dogmatic about it.

Whether angels or unbelievers at the time of Noah, the reference to Noah is key part of Peter’s point.

  • 8 people were righteous and believed and were saved.
  • Multitudes rejected that message and did not believe and are now awaiting judgment.
  • Be encouraged!


Baptism is the antitype (Grk word used here) for the type of Noah’s flood.

  • But baptism is the type for our salvation in Christ—a picture that we have died with Christ, been buried with Christ, been raised with Christ.
  • Why immersion is such a powerful concept.
  • Don’t want to minimize the METHOD of baptism, let alone the RECIPIENT of baptism.


You’re clean. At the deepest level. Clean.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isa 1:18)

Isaiah is contrasting two colors as far apart as they can possibly be: “scarlet” and “crimson,” maybe it’s the color of blood he’s imagining.

  • But that deep and dark red becomes “white as snow.”
  • In nature, is there anything more truly white than freshly fallen snow?
  • That’s what the cleansing of Christ does for us.
  • You’re clean.

You’re saying, “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done.”

  • I don’t. But God does. And he’s the one who says the cleansing of Christ takes your crimson red sins and makes you white as snow.

III. Triumph Over Our Enemies

who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Pet 3:22)

This text answers the question, WHERE IS CHRIST NOW? “At the right hand of God”!

  • Omnipresent yes! — Matt 28:20 — but also “at the right hand of God.”
  • “At the right hand” = Separate from—but equal to.

But this text also answers the question, WILL MY ENEMIES WIN? No!

  • Our sin defeated in v. 18.
  • Our sin cleansed in v. 21.
  • Now our greatest spiritual enemies are seen as defeated—“angels, authorities, and powers.”


Why would this be encouraging to Peter’s readers?

  • A righteous few in the midst of an unrighteous many.
  • Just like in the days of Noah.
  • 8 saved through the true gospel, the true means God provided.
  • A multitude judged and destroyed—because they rejected it.
  • When you’re the 8, tempting to cave and compromise.
  • Peter’s saying, “Hold on. Your vindication is coming. Your triumph is certain.”

More and more the true church is becoming a righteous few in an unrighteous many. But, “Hold on. Your vindication is coming. Your triumph is certain.”

Do you want…

  • To be near to God?
  • To be clean?
  • To have confidence in the face of enemies?
  • Peter’s answer is clear: “Appeal to God for a clean conscience.”
  • Cry out, appeal, ask him for it


  • NT baptism = a person able to “appeal to God for a clean conscience.”
  • So, even if you were sprinkled as a baby, get immersed as a believer.

THEODORE BEZA (1519–1605, 86 yrs old)

  • Beza was the colleague and successor of Calvin. In his last sickness he often repeated this prayer: “Cover, Lord, what has been, govern what shall be. O, perfect that which you have begun, that I suffer not shipwreck in the haven.” Having rehearsed the promises contained in the 91st Psalm, he showed how they had been wonderfully fulfilled in the leading events of his life.

You have often delivered me from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence which walked in secret: Your have been my refuge and fortress when, on the field of battle with my Protestant brethren, thousands were falling on every side. The Lord has given his angels charge over me; and now, having satisfied me with a long life, I have no more to wait for, but the fulfilling of the last words of the Psalm. 'I will show him my salvation,' for which, in confidence, I have longed!"
Theodore Beza (1519–1605)[2]


Closing Song: What Rich a Treasure

[1] The logic of the Gen 6 angels is this: (1) We know from Jude 14–16 that Jude was familiar with 1 Enoch; (2) 1 Enoch makes a big deal of the Gen 6 angels being fallen and imprisoned for their sin; (3) Jude and 2 Peter speak of imprisoned angels; (4) Therefore 2 Peter and Jude are adopting the same perspective as 1 Enoch about these things. But the leap made from #3 to #4 is indeed a leap and may or may not be true. As I said, the 2 Peter and Jude references make just as much sense if the angels fallen with Satan are implied.


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