1 Peter 3:18-20, “18 For Christ also suffered[a] 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[b] he went and proclaimed[c] to the spirits in prison, 20 because[d] 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.”
One of the hardest and harshest realities of life in a post-Fall world is when people suffer, even though, they have done good deeds. Even in the church through suffering persecution, we may perform the good and holy task of announcing the hope of salvation to fallen humanity and face suffering.
The Apostle Paul knew the reality of suffering and persecution and was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write to the Church in order to help them respond properly to such suffering. Throughout our study of 1 Peter, we have seen we are not to avoid but endure this suffering (1 Peter 2:20; 3:14-17). As Christians do this, they follow in the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ, the example par excellence of the Person who suffers for performing the will of God.
In 1 Peter 3:18-20, Peter reminds Christians that the Lord Jesus is their model in suffering. Having told them in 1 Peter 3:17 that it’s commendable to suffer for doing good, now in 1 Peter 3:18 that such a thing is good because Jesus suffered to fulfill God’s will. Rather than abandon the will of God, Jesus endured suffering so that He could pay for our wickedness and reconcile man to God through the finished and sufficient work of the Lord Jesus.
1 Peter 3:18-20 tells us that though Jesus was put to death, He was made alive in the Holy Spirit in which He spoke to the “spirits in prison” who disobeyed in the days of Noah. Throughout the history of the Church, many have seen these verses as a literal descent of Christ into hell which is probably not the best interpretation of those verses. The limits of this devotional prevent us from going into all the reasons for rejecting this view, but we must note, Jesus viewed His entire mission as one of freedom to the captives (Luke 4:18-19). Captives were living people and not fallen angels or dead human beings. Second, given the Son of God’s attributes of omnipresence and eternity, as well as His interrelatedness with the Holy Spirit, it is best to see in these verses a reference to the pre-incarnate Son of God speaking through Noah to the sinners of Noah’s day by the Holy Spirit, warning them of God’s impending judgment (2 Peter 2:5).
1 Peter 3:18-20 points Christian readers to Christ as their primary model for enduring suffering. In some ways, Noah also serves as an example for God’s people today. Noah, after all, did good among men who slandered him because of their sin, just as God’s people might way very well be slandered for being in Christ today (1 Peter 3:16). Like, Noah, Christians do not need to fear their foes, for God’s people will too be vindicated and spared the wrath of God because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus. Also, like Noah, the Lord Jesus will speak through His people by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God.