Suffering And Salvation:I Peter 3:15-22

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit. In it He also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him. 

Peter begins this this section by reminding us to always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, something we can only do in a growing and thriving relationship with God. Yet we must be gentle and reverent sharing our explanation. There are certainly times when we must teach the commands of God to live a moral and upright life, but is that the reasonfor our hope? So many times we hear the bashing and degrading of groups of people and particular sins, have you ever wondered, “Where is the love. Where is the gentleness and reverence? Is this the way to put to shame those who malign us? Or does it give them the excuse they need  to discount the truth of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings?

It all starts with loving and respecting allpeople. I am no better than you, and you are no better than I. We are both however, significant I we must respect each other – even if we have different values and ideas. My love and respect for those with these differences, may very well be the actions that lead others to Christ and His Church. For just as Christ suffered for sins once that He might lead you to God, our good conduct shall do the same for others.

Peter then gives us some insight as to what Jesus did and why in between His death and resurrection; He went to preach to the spirits in prison as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraphs 632 through 635:

The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell”—Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek—because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

“The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus, “the Author of life,” by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades,” so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

His power over death reveals His power to save us through water. You may ask, “Are you saying that baptism brings us salvation?” Well, yes I am. Yet not I, but the scripture. At the same time, it isn’t baptism alone (we have another instance of a both/and thing happening here). The flood waters prefigured baptism through which Noah’s family was saved. If the flood waters prefigure baptism then naturally the ark prefigures Christ. As Noah and his family passed through the water in the ark, so are those who pass through baptism into Christ.

Our appeal [which can also be translated pledge] to God through baptism, is to live before the Lord with a clear conscience, and a sign [pledge] from God to us, of forgiveness and a cleansed conscience. All this power, we are taught is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This resurrection is the validation of the sacrifice and thus He is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him. Yet with all this power, He still gives us the freedom to choose.

So this week let us choose to:

  • be ready to explain our hope
  • be gentle and reverent when explaining
  • keep a clear conscience
  • maintain good conduct
  • reflect on our Baptismal promises
  • let Jesus have the power over our lives