1 Peter 3:18-20
For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh…
I. The due consideration of Christ's sufferings doth much temper all the sufferings of Christians, especially such as are directly for Christ. It is some ease to the mind in any distress, to look upon examples of the like or greater distress, in present or former times. It diverts the eye from continual poring on our own suffering; and when we return to view it again, it abates the imagined greatness of it. The example and company of the saints in suffering, is very considerable, but that of Christ is more so than any other, yea, than all the rest together. Therefore the apostle, having represented the former at large, ends in this, as the top of all (Hebrews 12:1, 2).
1. Consider the greatness of the example; the greatness of the person "Christ." There can be no higher example. Since thus our Lord hath taught us by suffering in His own person and hath thus dignified sufferings, we should certainly rather be ambitious than afraid of them. Consider the greatness and continuance of His sufferings, His whole life was one continued line of suffering from the manger to the Cross. Art thou mean in thy birth and life, despised, misjudged, and reviled, on all hands? Look how it was with Him, who had more right than thou hast, to better entertainment in the world. But the Christian is subject to grievous temptations and sad desertions, which are heavier by far than the sufferings which the apostle speaks of here. Yet even in these, this same argument holds; for our Saviour is not ignorant of those, though still without sin. If any of that had been in His sufferings, it had not furthered but undone all our comfort in Him.
2. Consider the fitness of the example. As the argument is strong in itself, so, to the new man it is particularly strong; it binds him most, as it is not far fetched, but a home pattern; as when you persuade men to virtue by the example of those that they have a near relation to.
3. Consider the efficacy of the example. "He suffered once for sin," so that to them who lay hold on Him, this holds sure, that sin is never to be suffered for in the way of strict justice again, as not by Him, so not by them who are in Him. So now the soul, finding itself rid of that fear, goes cheerfully through all other hazards; whereas the soul perplexed about that question, finds no relief in all other enjoyments: all propositions of lower comforts are troublesome to it.
II. Having somewhat considered these sufferings, as the apostle's argument for his present purpose, we come now, to take a nearer view of the particulars by which he illustrates them, as the main point of our faith and comfort. Here are two things to be remarked, their cause and their kind.
1. Their cause; both their meritorious cause and their final cause; first, what in us procured these sufferings unto Christ, and, secondly, what those His sufferings procured unto us. Our guiltiness brought suffering upon Him, and His suffering brings us unto God.
2. We have the kind of our Lord's sufferings: "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." "Put to death." This is the utmost point, and that which men are most startled at — to die; especially a violent death. "In the flesh." Under this second phrase, His human nature and His Divine nature and power are distinguished. But the "Spirit" here opposed to the "flesh," or body, is certainly of a higher nature and power than the human soul, which cannot of itself return to re-inhabit and quicken the body. "Put to death." His death was both voluntary and violent. That same power which restored His life could have kept it exempted from death; but the design was for death. He therefore took our flesh, to put it off thus, and to offer it up as a sacrifice, which, to be acceptable, must of necessity be free and voluntary; and, in this sense, He is said to have died even by that same Spirit, which here, in opposition to death, is said to quicken Him; "Through the eternal Spirit, He offered Himself without spot unto God." And yet it was also expedient that His death should be violent, and so the more penal, to carry the more clear expression of a punishment, and such a violent death as had both ignominy and a curse tied to it, and this inflicted in a judicial way; that He should stand, and be judged, and condemned to death as a guilty person, carrying in that person the persons of so many who would otherwise have fallen under condemnation, as indeed guilty. "Quickened." For all its vast craving mouth and devouring appetite, crying, Give, give, yet was the grave forced to give Him up again, as the fish to give up the prophet Jonah. The chains of that prison art strong, but He was too strong a prisoner to be held by them. That rolling of the stone to the grave was as if they had rolled it towards the east in the night, to stop the rising of the sun the next morning; much farther above all their power was this Sun of Righteousness in His rising again. That body which was entombed, was united to the spring of life, the Divine Spirit of the God-head that quickened it.
Parallel VersesKJV: For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: