1 Peter 3:13-22
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Writing a sermon on this text is no easy task. Believe me. I know, I’ve tried.
Peter begins today by telling us Christians to be zealous for what is good. And Peter doesn’t hide the fact that even when we do good, when we do the right thing, we will suffer, we will be reviled and slandered. And yet in the midst of our suffering, we should always be ready to give an answer, a gentle and respectful answer, for the hope that is in us. Peter reminds us that if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we are blessed.
Peter points out that even Jesus suffered for doing good. Christ, the righteous One, suffered for sins He didn’t commit. Instead, Jesus suffered for your sins and for my sins. The Righteous One suffered for all us unrighteous ones that He might bring us to God. He was crucified. Killed. Put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.
Finally, Peter talks about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. He tells us about Noah, the ark, and the deliverance that God granted through water. Peter connects Noah and the ark and the Flood to Baptism clearly saying, “Baptism now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” And Peter concludes saying that Jesus has now gone into heaven, is at the right hand of God, and angels, authorities, and powers are subjected to Him.
It is a hard text. Doing good. Suffering. Jesus’ death and resurrection. Noah. Water. Baptism. The Ascension. There is a lot here. And how is it all tied together?
Like Peter tells us to, let’s consider Noah and the flood. Usually, when we think of the Flood we think mostly of God’s judgment upon sin, and it is certainly right to do that. Noah lived in an evil time. The world was so full of sin and wickedness that God regretted that He had created mankind at all. So, God determined to blot out man from the face of the earth.
But the Flood is also about God’s deliverance and salvation because “Noah found favor (lit. grace) in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).
Though God determined to condemn the world through the Flood, God also determined to save Noah and his family. To save Noah, God told Noah to build an ark, to bring his family and the animals in, and to be delivered from the coming judgment.
For 120 years, Noah suffered as he built the ark. Can you imagine? Day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade people saying, “There’s crazy Noah building a big ol’ box. Hey, Noah, what did you say you are building that for?”
“God told me to.”
He was ridiculed by everyone else, but he persisted in doing good through his suffering. And Noah’s persistence was his preaching to those who did not listen to God’s voice. In fact, in 2 Peter (2:5), Noah is called a “herald (lit. preacher) of righteousness.” Once the ark was completed, God shut Noah and his family into the ark (Gen. 7:16).
The Flood came, and the waters drowned and doomed everything outside the ark.
Peter says that this is what God has done for you in your Baptism. God has drowned and destroyed all the sin and evil that surrounded you, condemning it in a watery death. And God has put you safely into the ark of His Church.
Remember, the flood waters condemned and drowned, but the Flood also delivered. it was those same waters that lifted the ark and everyone inside to safety.
Believer, everything that Christ has done for you – His perfect, sinless life; His death; His resurrection – it is all delivered to you in your Baptism. In your Baptism, God has united you with Christ’s death and resurrection (Ro. 6:3-11). In your Baptism, God has clothed you with Christ (Gal. 3:27).
So, when you suffer for doing good, have no fear. In your Baptism, in that flood of righteousness, God has delivered you from all sin and evil and delivered to you all that Christ has done for you.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.