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,” (I Peter 3:18).
No matter the degree of suffering we may encounter as believers in Christ, it pales in comparison to the suffering Jesus Christ experienced on the cross. In paralleling what he has already said in I Peter 2:24, the apostle returns to the core truth of the gospel: the substitutionary atonement provided by Jesus Christ.
I Peter 3:18 is in harmony with several other passages of Scripture not written by Peter, but which also teach substitutionary atonement.
- Romans 4:24-25: It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
- Hebrews 9:24-28: For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Peter also illustrates the truths he gave in 3:13–17. Christ provides the perfect example. He suffered for doing what was right in the eyes of God (2:14). His sinless and righteous life caused the unjust anger of evil men. However, He did not fear them but kept trusting Himself to God. Jesus Christ died in the sinner’s place, keeping a clear conscience (cf. 2:23). As a result, God gave Him tremendous blessing and reward in His own resurrection and subsequent exultation.
While our suffering for Christ cannot equal what Christ accomplished in His suffering on the cross for sinners, we can be so identified with Him, and therefore bring Him glory, when we suffer for His name. Take time at this moment to thank God for the opportunities to suffer for the gospel.
Soli deo Gloria!