1 Peter 3:18-22 - The Rocky Gospel
The way Peter frames the passage we'll study this week, 1 Peter 3:18-22, reminds me of the dramatic set-up for all 5 of Rocky's great come-backs. Submit to authorities, Submit to one-another, even be prepared to suffer when you don't deserve it... and then WHAM... "put to death in the body but..." (drum roll please) "... made alive by the Spirit."
From there, we see some unique perspectives on salvation that have historically been de-emphasized in today's evangelical circles. First, a comparison of the New Covenant ordinance of baptism to the Old Testament flood. The suffering and submissive nature that Christ took on ultimately resulted in the death of His flesh, as it will also in ours. But, more than the inevitable physical death, we're called to put to death our own sinful flesh, which we symbolize with baptism. In Genesis 6, water destroyed the wickedness of creation. In Romans 5, we read that water symbolizes the destruction of sin in our own flesh.
Next, with that comparison in view, Peter then explains that our salvation is from Christ's resurrection. Where we as evangelicals typically emphasize the atoning death, we must be careful not to neglect the salvific significance of Christ's resurrection. Even though our bodies will die, we will be made alive in the spirit. The life that Christ's atonement makes possible was actually initiated in His resurrection, making Him the firstborn among many brothers. 1 Corinthians 15 expounds on this truth in detail, telling us that our new bodies will be like his in nature.
It is only with this understanding of death to our sinful bodies that we can understand the relationship of suffering to sinlessness made in 4:1. Once again, on this same basis, Peter encourages his readers in 4:6 that even those who have died awaiting Christ's return have died in the body according to judgment but will live, as He did, by the spirit.