God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

Dead in the Flesh, Alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18-4:6)


  1. Toni Gonzaga interview: “God is a God of second chances”
  2. Is there a second chance for unbelievers who are already dead?
  3. Our passage this morning is often used to speculate or even believe that God provides a second chance for unbelievers to get out of hell and be saved.
  4. [Before getting into this difficult portion of the text, let’s start from the top].


1 Peter 3:18 — “For Christ suffered…”

  • “For” (conj.) denotes connection to the previous passage
  • Previously (v. 15ff), Peter exhorts the believers to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason/word for the hope you have, yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (so that their accusations will be baseless)
  • Ends in verse 17: “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
  • Why?

1 Peter 3:18 — “For Christ also suffered once for sins…”

  • This is one of the Christological highlights throughout 1 Peter. (Christological = Pertaining to Christ, his person and work).
    • 1:18-19 — After exhorting believers to live in holiness and fear of God, Peter gives the reason: “for you were ransomed from your futile ways… not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ”
    • 2:21ff — After exhorting believers to endure suffering and persecution instead of retaliating, Peter gives the reason: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you… When reviled, he did not revile in return”
    • 3:18ff — After exhorting believers to be ready to stand for the faith but still maintain a good conscience even if you have to suffer, he adds next, “For Christ also suffered for sins…” (though this passage adds more emphasis on Christ’s exaltation)
  • Unlike the book of Romans, 1 Peter dedicates a large portion to “Christian Living.” Yet he always refers to the person and work of Jesus Christ as the basis and example for Christian living.

Sermon points:

  1. Christ’s Death in the Flesh and Exaltation in the Spirit
  2. The Believer’s Death in the Flesh and Life in the Spirit

SERMON POINT 1: Christ’s Death in the Flesh and Exaltation in the Spirit

V. 18 — “Christ suffered/died once for sins…”

  • Christ’s purpose was not just to do miracles but to “bring us to God” (i.e., reconciliation)
  • “… put to death in the flesh” (the weakness and corruption of the human nature which the Son assumed)
  • “… but made alive in the spirit” (resurrected by the power of the Spirit)

V. 19 — “spirits in prison” (*a very difficult text)

Options for interpretation (comparing with other Scripture texts)

  1. Souls of unbelievers who already died and are in Sheol (intermediate state)
    1. Objections: 
      1. Luke 23:46 (Christ’s spirit ascended to the Father, not went down in hell)
      2. Hebrews 9:27 (appointed to die once, then judgment)
  2. Fallen angels (“spirits”)
    1. To save them? Objections: Why would Christ still preach to them when their judgment is already sure? (2 Peter 2:4)
    2. To proclaim his victory? Objections: The demons already knew that Christ will be victorious
  3. The OT unbelievers who heard the proclamation by the pre-incarnation Spirit of Christ (i.e., Holy Spirit) through Noah
    1. Alternative translation (NKJV): “… made alive by the Spirit, by whom” 
    2. 2 Peter 2:5
    3. 1 Peter 4:6
      1. “Was preached” (in the past)
      2. “To those who are dead” (now dead)
      3. “Though judged in the flesh the way people are” (i.e., physical death as judgment for sin)
      4. “They might live in the spirit the way God does” (i.e., they’ll be resurrected in case they believed while alive)
    4. Hence, the “spirits in prison” could be the unbelievers during the Flood, who are “now in prison dead but nevertheless heard God’s proclamation of salvation through the Spirit of Christ.
    5. And this is consistent with the fact that there are OT believers (e.g. Seth)

Vv. 20-21

Whatever is meant by “Christ having proclaimed to the spirits in prison,” what’s clear is that the Flood during Noah’s time is a “type & shadow” of baptism. (“Corresponds to this” [ἀντίτυπον])

*Type & shadow — A person, thing, or event in OT that points to ultimate reality / fulfillment in NT (anti-type)

*”Baptism” in its different aspects

    1. The flood that was the means for judgment became the means of deliverance for Noah and family

Christ also speaks of his “baptism” in Mark 10:38-39, referring to his death under the judgment of God. At yung kaparusahan na tinanggap ni Cristo ang siyang naging daan para sa ating kaligtasan.

  1. At the same time, just as the water of the flood saved Noah, so water baptism also saves us. Not the removal of physical dirt, but baptism signs and seals to us the cleansing by Christ’s blood for forgiveness and justification (i.e., “appeal to God for a good conscience”)

Vv. 22 — Our righteousness before God is “through the resurrection of Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God…”

  • Peter repeating the theme of Christ being vindicated.
  • Implications for Peter’s audience: 
    • When Christ suffered for doing good, his suffering and death were not the last word, for he was gloriously vindicated. This suggests that even if believers would suffer for doing good, they will be vindicated and glorified at the end like the Master.
      • Relevance for Today: We may not be persecuted now, but when we suffer or face trials and inconveniences as part of our obedience to God, we must remember that the trial is not the end.
      • Example: When you have to say “no” to a job opportunity that makes you compromise the Lord’s Day.
    • Though they are the minority in the society predominated by unbelievers, God will deliver them just like he did to Noah and his family.
      • Relevance for Today: We are the minority. Looking at the culture, people are more and more being drawn to worldly things and worldly mindsets. (e.g., Not just LGBT and atheism, but materialism, YOLO, self-image)
      • Yet similar to Noah, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).
      • And the sovereign rule of the exalted Christ is our assurance.


Now, Peter keeps doing the same style and encouragement for believers:

  1. Discuss the suffering and exaltation of Christ
  2. Remind God’s sovereignty in justice
  3. Point to the security of believers
  4. Then, encourage believers to live lives congruent to the hope they have in Christ.

This is what we see next in 1 Peter 4:1-6, and that leads us to the 2nd sermon point…

SERMON POINT 2: The Believer’s Death in the Flesh and Life in the Spirit

READ 1 Peter 4:1-6

V. 1

  • “Arm yourselves” (“equip yourselves, as if in military preparation”)
  • “Way of thinking” — knowledge, thought
  • POINT: “Arm yourself with the same thought that as Christ suffered and died in the flesh, you also suffered and died in the flesh”

Since believers are now baptized into Christ, they now share in all the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. Union with Christ means being dead to sin and being alive to God. (READ Romans 6:3-4, 11).

V. 2-3 — 

  • “… live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions”Though we are still in the flesh, we no longer live for the flesh. Sin is no longer our life as believers. 
  • “For the time that is past suffices” — Leave your sins in the past. You’ve had enough.
    • “Sensuality” — Licentiousness (no self-constraint), usually associated with sex
    • “Passions” — Strong desire to get something, lust
    • “Drunkenness” — Drunkenness
    • “Orgies” — Feasts where group of people just indulge in food , alcohol, and sex
    • “Drinking parties”
    • “Lawless idolatry” — Idol worship

Apparently, these notoriously pagan practices are not just in Ancient Greece. They’ve now evolved, even inside our homes, in our TV screens, in our mobile phones, etc. Don’t ever think they are HARMLESS! (E.g., Tinder App)

But as believers, we leave those things behind. 2 Corinthians 5:17. The rest of our life is now to be spent for doing the will of God. We no longer join in these immoralities.

Vv. 4-5

The imminent judgment of God

  • Implication: Though the unbelievers malign them for not joining in the same wickedness, the believers are comforted that God will soon judge them
    • We may experience the same thing from our unbelieving friends. EXAMPLE: Young people: “Virgin ka pa? Hindi ka umiinom? Kawawa ka naman.”
    • Yet God will judge them soon. We just pray for them and share the gospel if God allows.
  • Application (To unbelievers): All of us will be accountable to God in the end. Hence, like the days of Noah, God is proclaiming to you his Word now about what Christ did for sinners. And once you die, there are no more second chances. The opportunity to repent and believe is now.
  • Application (To believers): Since God’s judgment will come ANYTIME, we must all the more be watchful and careful in living in holiness… Pray and long for holiness!

YOLO — “You only live once… Life is short. Play more, enjoy the world more!” “Life is short. Have an affair!” (Ashley Madison).

Since the day of judgment may come ANYTIME, we are to live circumspectly (cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

READ Romans 13:11-14

End with encouragement (cf. v. 6): Though we will still die in the flesh, if we received the gospel of Christ and walked in him, we shall live in the spirit (in glory).


Because Christ died and resurrected for us, we are now dead to sin and alive to God. 

Because God’s judgment is coming fast, we should live the rest of our time in holiness, no longer for our own desires but for God’s will.

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