In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the message, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
I’m preaching the traditional services this week, the first Sunday in the season of Lent. The text is 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. Here’s some initial study, with further thoughts throughout the week.
This is definitely a text with a high “huh???” factor for me with Peter’s curious handling of the reference to Noah and the flood and connecting that to baptism and salvation. Anyone with me? But that’s part of the fun of dealing with a text in order to preach it. You have to dig in, think hard and creatively and hopefully faithfully, study, read others and converse with them and wrestle like Jacob for a blessing out of this text whose meaning seems obscured and difficult because you have to preach it.
Comments and engagement welcome.
- Suffering theme: In keeping with a major theme of 1 Peter as a whole, the literary structure seems to emphasize the meaning of Christ’s suffering as grounds for suffering that we experience today. This is seen in references to Christ’s suffering in 3:18 and 4:1, and to references to the hearers’ situation in 4:1 and 4:4.
- Flow of the argument: Seems to be organized around the theme of suffering mentioned above and build it’s case around the narrative arc of Christ’s life: passion (3:18a), death (and whatever experience that included in another realm, 3:18b-21a), resurrection (3:21), ascension (3:22a), and exaltation (3:22b). This continues in the first six verses of chapter 4, establishing the Christian’s embrace of courage and meaningful suffering, and the practical implications of that for persons who are finding that their new commitment to Christ and the Christian Story at odds with others and the alternative stories being pressed upon them by their “abusers.”
- On an individual verse level, there are contrasts: Jesus as the righteous One dying for the ones who are unrighteous (3:18), Jesus being “put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (3:18), Jesus suffered for sins of others (3:18) but is elevated to the right hand of God above “angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (3:22)
- Purpose: Christ suffered “in order to” bring us to God. (3:18)
- Comparisons: Christian baptism and the Genesis flood (3:19-22), and Christ’s suffering and our suffering (4:1-4)
- There is something going on with honor and shame ethics and boundary maintenance in 4:1-6. As appears throughout 1 Peter, in 4:3-6, we see the undercurrents of competing groups—a new Christ-centered community dealing with the impact of disparaging and abusive speech from the surrounding culture—the former community—on new members of the community.
- Also, there is the matter of an assumption on the ability of persons to engage the dead in 3:19 and 4:6.
- Obviously, one big connection is with the flood and Noah (3:18-20, Genesis 6-9).
- Also, baptism is deal with here as well as throughout the New Testament in the Gospels some, Acts, and the letters.