1 Peter 3:18 (ESV)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.
Over the last few months, I’ve been stepping through the gospel tract, Two Ways to Live. Back in February, we learned that God created the world, he is the loving ruler of the world, and he made us rulers under his authority. In March, we learned that we all reject God as the ruler by trying to run our lives in our own way, but we fail to rule the world or ourselves well. In April, we learned that God will not allow us to rebel forever, and that he promises death and judgment as punishment for our rebellion.
Today, we learn that God sends his son, Jesus Christ, into the world; that Jesus lives always under God’s perfect rule; and that by dying in our place, he took our punishment and brought us forgiveness for our sins.
In the next two months, we’ll take a look at Jesus’s resurrection—through his resurrection he conquered death and brought us new life. Then, we’ll examine the choice we all face: we can either live according to our own way or according to God’s.
So today, I have three points. First, God, because he loved the world, sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world. Second, Jesus always lived under God’s rule. And third, by dying in our place, Jesus took our punishment and brought forgiveness.
1. Because God loved the world, he sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world.
Peter, in verses 8 through 17, has been encouraging Christians who suffer for doing good. Peter concludes by saying, “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” And why does he say this? Because, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
The obvious questions are (1) Who is this Christ, and (2) How is it that He can bring us to God? The answer is, of course, that Christ is Jesus. He is the Son of God. He is God. The father sent Jesus to the world because he loves the world and so that the world would be reconciled to him. Let’s see where the Bible itself illustrates this.
John 1—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Christ is true God of true God. He is the word who was with God in the beginning and is God. He can bring us to God because he is God and because the Father sent him for that purpose.
John 3—God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God loved the world, and he sent Jesus Christ, his Son into the world. That is why it is so significant, then, that he suffered as a righteous man for unrighteous men and women.
This leads me to my second point.
2. Jesus always lived under God’s rule
Jesus was God. He was the Son of God. He was made flesh and lived among us. Not only that, but during his time in the world, he lived his life perfectly. Peter says that Jesus suffered as “the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” Jesus was a righteous man. He was a man who lived under God’s direction. He was the blessed man who meditates day and night on the law of the Lord. He lived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can see clearly in Hebrews 4, that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus lived all of his life without sin.
Also, we see that Jesus lived his life in perfect communion with the Father. John 10:30 says, “I (Jesus) and the Father are one.” In John 17, Jesus prays that the church would be united, even as He and the Father are one.
Jesus is a unique person. He is God and he is man, as we see in John 1. He was sent by God to reconcile the world to God, as we see in John 3. Not only this, but Jesus lived his life without sin, in Hebrews 4, and he lived his life in perfect communion with God, as we see in John 10 and 17. All of this leads us to the last point.
3. By dying in our place, Jesus took our punishment and brought forgiveness
Jesus did die in our place. This is the point of our text. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” Christ, the righteous, suffered for you, the unrighteous, so that you might be brought to God.
There is so much here, and we don’t have much time to unpack it all, but this verse is talking about the doctrines of salvation: imputation, substitution, justification, and so on.
To summarize I’ll read a brief quote from a pastor and a learned theologian, J. I. Packer.
God reconciled the world to Himself, says Paul, by means of a judicial exchange: ‘him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor 5:21, RV). Paul has just affirmed that reconciliation means the non-imputation of their trespasses to the trespassers; here he shows that the ground of this non-imputation is the imputing of their trespasses to Christ, and his bearing God’s holy reaction to them. As Paul says in Galatians 3:13 (NIV), ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.’ The reason why we do not have to bear our own sins is that Christ bore them in our place. This points to the thought of substitution.
It was, then, by a substitutionary, propitiatory sacrifice on the part of the sinless Son of God that our reconciliation was achieved. So much did salvation cost and it was for God’s enemies that this price was paid. ‘Christ died for the ungodly … God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:6, 8). God quenched and put away His own just wrath against us by sending His own Son to atone for our sins in the darkness of Calvary. It is this that teaches us the message of the mercy of God; this that shows us the meaning of ‘God is love’ (see 1 John 4:8-10).
Jesus takes our punishment and gives us forgiveness. He gives us the benefit of his righteousness.
My question for you is this: How does this impact your life? As we’ve seen quite clearly in previous times, you are all sinners. I am too, of course. We’re all sinners. Our passage says that Jesus suffered as the righteous for the unrighteous. He suffered once for sins in order to bring us to God. What is your response?
There are a number of appropriate responses. I am assuming that many of you are Christians or have some Christian background. The first response for Christians, then, is to keep on believing this. Jesus suffered as the righteous for the unrighteous in order to bring you to God. Jesus came in order to forgive your sins. And that he will do, if you repent of your sins and trust in his promise! So keep on believing.
The second response for Christians is to allow Christ to bring you to God. Again, Packer says,
Faith both takes and gives: it takes God’s promises, God’s Son, and God’s salvation, and it gives itself up to God’s Service. It takes the Lord as Savior, and gives itself to the Savior as Lord. So the reconciliation is received, and guilty sinners find peace with God.
So be reconciled. Believe in the promise of the gospel, that Jesus Christ because of who He is, and because of God’s love for you will save you from the penalty of your sin. Then allow the word of God to begin to shape you and mold you into the image of Christ who saved you.
Some of you, then, are not Christians. For you, the proper response is to consider your own lives. Consider your life: have you kept God’s law well enough? Have you followed all of his commands? Are you blameless before God? The answer is no. You are a sinner. But Jesus Christ is a great savior. John Newton, the hymn writer, toward the end of his life as his health was failing said that he knew two things for certain: he was a great sinner and Christ is a great savior. You can be certain of this, too. The proper response for you is to repent of your sin and believe the gospel.
Some of you have a Christian background, but you’re living your life trying to make yourself righteous—perhaps so you can measure up on the last day. You’re trying very hard to do your best to get to heaven when you die. The proper response for you is to consider yourself the way the Bible considers you. You are a sinner. You can’t work harder to make yourself holy—there is only one who can make right in God’s eyes. It’s Christ! You too need to repent of your sin—even the sin of trying to earn God’s favor apart from the gospel of Jesus—and believe the Gospel.
Jesus Christ suffered and died for you, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that he might bring you to God.
Date: 14 May 2011
Text: 1 Peter 3:18
Title: Christ for us, the righteous for the unrighteous
Location: Springhurst Health and Rehab
Event: Nursing Home Service