Selected Studies from 1 Peter Part 2: The Suffering and Triumphant Christ: An Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22 -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 139:554 (Apr 1982)
Article: Selected Studies from 1 Peter Part 2: The Suffering and Triumphant Christ: An Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert


Selected Studies from 1 Peter
Part 2:
The Suffering and Triumphant Christ:
An Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22

D. Edmond Hiebert

[D. Edmond Hiebert, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California]

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh. but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven. after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him (1 Pet 3:18–22, NASB).

This paragraph is notoriously obscure and difficult to interpret. Its study readily brings to mind the Petrine comment concerning the Pauline epistles, “in which are some things hard to understand” (2 Pet 3:16). The difficulties center in the central part of the paragraph. But it is a matter of gratitude that the commencement of the passage, which declares the aim of Christ’s vicarious suffering (1 Pet 3:18), and the conclusion, which depicts the culmination of His suffering in triumph (v. 22)—matters which are essential to the faith-are clear and unambiguous.

The unifying theme of this perplexing paragraph is Christ’s undeserved suffering for righteousness. The initial “for” (ὅτι), or “because,” indicates Peter’s intention to encourage the readers to persevere in their own sufferings and to assure them of coming triumph in Christ as risen and exalted.

The treatment of Christian suffering for righteousness in 3:13–17 prompts Peter to refer to Christ’s undeserved sufferings (v. 18a); this elicits an involved treatment of the consequences of His suffering (vv. 18b–21), concluding with a declaration of His triumph (v. 22).

The Character of His Suffering

“For Christ also died for s...

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