Victory over Suffering (1 Peter 3:18-4:6)

2016-Week 29Last week we looked at how we can honor Christ in our suffering. We can be a witness by responding to suffering in a way unlike the world. The problem, however, is we typically follow the line of the world. When dealing with suffering, our response is not usually, “I can use this hardship in my life to point someone toward my hope in Christ.” Rather, our response goes something like this: “Why is this happening to me? God, why would you send this trouble my way?” It is not that Scripture does not speak to the realities of the Christian life. In this very book, 1 Peter, time and time again the subject of suffering has been brought up. I believe part of the reason we respond as the world does is because we have lost sight of the hope we have as Christians. A trial comes our way and we feel defeated. Yet, the gospel reminds us our hope is not a false hope. Our hope is a living hope. This is all because of Jesus Christ because He “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” (3:18). We can have victory over our suffering because Christ had victory over death. In order to have this victory, we must respond accordingly. Those in Noah’s day heard the proclamation of Christ through Noah but they refused to obey and only Noah’s family, who trusted the Lord, were saved (3:19–20). So it is with baptism. Those who respond in repenting of their sins and placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be saved and will be baptized as an act of obedience that represents an inward change. The basis on such an act is the resurrection of Jesus Christ (3:21). Now, as those who have confessed their sins and trusted in Christ, the call is to respond in a distinct way. They do not live in sin as they once did nor do they live for their human passions. Instead, they live for the will of God (4:2). If believers live out their suffering this way, unbelievers will take notice and be surprised you are not giving in to the sin they are enjoying (4:3-4). By no means does this mean they will praise you for it. No, they may very well mock you. In such an instance, take heed the words of Jesus, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Everyone will have to give account to God of their lives. Those who mock you and reject God will face the eternal wrath of God for their rebellion and sin. Those who heard the gospel preached and died without trusting in Christ face this judgment and death while believers who have died physically will live in the spirit and spend eternity with Christ. Simply put, the only victory over suffering one can have is through Jesus Christ. He is the one who lived a sinless life, died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, the righteous dying for the unrighteous, and rising again to give us the hope of salvation. Without Christ, there is no hope in suffering and no victory over suffering. With Christ, there is hope and honor in suffering because Christ has given victory over suffering. The question remains: Will you trust in Christ, who rose victorious over suffering for our sins, before it is too late?

Reflection Questions:

  • How does understanding the sacrifice of Christ, the righteous, for us sinners, the unrighteous, alter our typical response to suffering?
  • What is the importance and cost of responding to God according to His Word, namely by repentance of sins and faith in Christ?
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