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Christ suffered for you (1 Peter 3:18)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au
  1. Things in a nutshell

How are you at putting things in a nutshell? How are you at getting to the point and putting things succinctly? Are you good at boiling things down until all you have left is what you need to say to be clear?

1.1 Romeo and Juliet

The other day I was looking at one sentence summaries of different books. These summaries try to capture what the book is all about in a very few words. One person I read summarised Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as follows: “Two star crossed lovers in the depths of forbidden love despite a family feud.”[1]

1.2 Pride and prejudice

It is an interesting exercise boiling something down to a very few words. I had a go at trying to put Jane Austen’s, “Pride and Prejudice” into one sentence. “Arrogant and proud man learns humility through a discerning and intelligent woman who initially rejects and then putting aside her own prejudices accepts his offer of marriage”. It’s harder than you think to summarise and put things in a nutshell.

1.3 The gospel

Today I want to look with you at a single sentence that I think succinctly summarises the gospel message and particular what we remember today on Good Friday. It also just happens to be the memory verses that many of us have been attempting to learn as Easter has approached.

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God[2].

It’s a sentence bursting with significance because of the words that have been carefully chosen by the apostle Peter. Of course, these words are part of a larger argument that the apostle had been making in chapter 2 and 3 of his letter. In these chapters he has been encouraging believers to continue to do good even in the face of evil and suffering. Peter wrote that they were not to repay evil for evil or insult for insult but were to keep on doing good (3:9). He wrote that if it was God’s will for them to suffer that it was better for them to suffer for doing good than doing evil (3:17). The sentence in verse 18 of chapter 3 that we are looking at this morning is the reason Peter gave for why it is better to keep on doing good. It is better because Christ also suffered and as he explained earlier in chapter 2 his example is one that we are meant to follow.

1 Peter 2:21

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

  1. Christ suffered for you

Today we want to look at what the apostle meant when he wrote that Christ suffered for you (2v21) focusing on the sentence in chapter 3 and verse 18, looking how this sentence fits with and summarises what he has said across these two chapters. To do this I want to break the sentence in verse 18 of chapter 3 into three parts and look at each of these with you.

  • Christ also suffered once for sins
  • The righteous for the unrighteous
  • To bring you to God.

2.1 To bring you to God

This morning I want to begin by looking at the last part of the sentence first. It is the last part of the sentence that tells us that Christ had to suffer to bring us to God.

But the first thing that I want us to consider this morning is why we need to be brought back to God at all? To understand this we need to look back at chapter 2 and note the words that Peter wrote that said “you were like sheep that had gone astray” (2:25). Hopefully after having heard the first reading today those words sound a little familiar to you. And they should because Peter has quoted Isaiah’s words from chapter 53 that were read out earlier. Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 53:6

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way…

We need to be brought back to God for we all have rejected and turned away from God to follow our own ways.

It all began with our first parents at the beginning of human history in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ignored what God had told them and by doing so they had turned away from Him to go their own way and as consequences sin, death and destruction came into our world. God had warned them that as soon as they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). But they ignored God and decided to go down the rabbit hole of rebellion and sin and came under the sentence of death. They were driven out from God’s presence, out from the Garden, and they were barred from ever returning (this would be the case so long as sin remained).

But their mistake has also been the same mistake of every one of their descendants. We are their sons and daughters and like our original parents we have followed in their ways. The Bible says that people since the beginning have been following in their footsteps ignoring and rejecting what there is to know about God, supressing the truth and going their own way. The apostle Paul wrote:

Romans 3:10-11

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is not one who does good, not even one.”

Easter is about remembering how people can come back to God. It is about what had to happen so that the way might be opened again for daughters and sons of Adam and Eve to return to the Garden. The Lord Jesus said of himself, that he is “the way and the truth and the life and that “no one comes to Father except through” him (see John 14:6).  He is how it is possible for people who have wandered away can be brought back to God so that they might dwell with him forever. But how the Lord Jesus does this is explained to us in this verse.

2.2 Christ suffered once for our sins

This verse makes it clear that Christ had to suffer to make this possible.  The suffering that is being referred to here is the death of Jesus on the cross for you and for me.  This is clear because in the very next sentence the apostle Peter has written that he was put to death in his body before mentioning that he was made alive in the Spirit.  It would be his death on the cross that would provide the way back for all of us who have gone astray.

The apostle Peter has written that this suffering that he went through was for our sins.

  • He suffered for our sins

In chapter 2 Peter wrote “Christ suffered for you”. Those words are just as true for you as they were for those believers in Thessalonica. Today I want to remind you that Christ suffered for you.  The sins he suffered for were our sins. He didn’t suffer for his own sins. He suffered for your sins. He suffered for my sins. Peter wrote in chapter 2 and verse 22 that he had committed no sin.  He was innocent of any wrongdoing. Peter in chapter 2 has echoed the words of Isaiah applying them to what Jesus was doing on the cross.

1 Peter 2:24

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wound you have been healed.”

The apostle Peter saw that the words of Isaiah were directly applicable to what Jesus was doing on the cross. Quoting Isaiah, he wrote, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross. Peter was saying that the Lord Jesus was the one that Isaiah had spoken of, the one who would bear the sins of many (Isaiah 53:12). On that cross he was dying for you and me and like Isaiah we can say that he took on our pain and suffering on the cross. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace (with God) was laid on him. And by his wounds we have been healed because he bore our sins on that cross.

  • A once for all sacrifice

It was a once for all sacrifice. Unlike the animal sacrifices that were made in the temple that had to be repeated over and over again because they never really could deal with sin once and for all (see Hebrews 10:11), Christ’s sacrifice only needed to happen once. It didn’t need to be repeated like the animal sacrifices of old. It was a perfect sacrifice which he made for all people across all of time and for all our sins. The sins that we have already committed and all those that we are yet to commit. Christ died for all of them, and he died for all of us. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; see also 1 John 2:2).

2.3 The righteous for the unrighteous

Until Christ came into the world such a sacrifice was not possible. The animal sacrifices of old just pointed to the fact that sin needed to be dealt with through a substitute and that it would take a perfect sacrifice, one which was without blemish or defect. We couldn’t deal with our own sin because death is what we all earn for ourselves. The apostle Paul wrote that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Only a righteous one could take the place of the unrighteous. Only a sinless one could pay the penalty that the sinful deserved. So at Easter we remember  that he who knew no sin became sin for us. The righteous one took the place of the unrighteous to pay the penalty that our sin deserved. He suffered for us on that cross and today is a day that we have set aside to remind one another of this.

  1. One way back

As we come together today, we remember that there is only one way back to God.  We are reminded once again that Christ suffered for us. He suffered for you. He suffered for me on that cross. He gave himself for us. The Lord Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. We remember that we were the sheep that had gone astray. We were the ones that had turned from God and gone our own way. We were lost who needed to be found. We needed saving and that it was for us that he suffered.

3.1 Don’t be fooled

Many of you know that one of the things that I do each year is go on a hike with a few guys. We’ve got one coming up in a week’s time 5 days and 4 nights making our way down the coast of New South Wales. Occasionally on a hike once or twice for a time we’ve managed to get ourselves lost. We find ourselves not where we expected ourselves to be. But through not panicking and perseverance we have always managed to find our way out and back. But this spiritual lostness is not something that you can find your own way out of. You need the Son of God to make the way for you – to be the way.

Don’t be fooled. You can’t find your own way back. Your sin isn’t something that you can overcome by your own perseverance or tenacity. It isn’t overcome by your own resolve to mend your ways and to be a better version of yourself. You can’t find your own way back to God no matter how spiritual you feel that you are or how good you think that you have been in life. God says that there is no one who is righteous. There is no one who is good enough. If there was another way, then God would not have had to send his Son into the world as a man to suffer for sin once and for all.

We need to recognise the fact that we are the sheep that went astray. We must stop fooling ourselves thinking that we can find our own way back to God. Friends, there is none so lost as the one who doesn’t even recognise that they are lost who thinks they will be ok so long as they keep going he way that they have been going. You can sometimes be walking a long time in the bush in the wrong direction without even realising it. You can think you are getting nearer to where you are going but you are actually just getting further away. Don’t make the same mistake when it comes to God. You can sometimes get a long way in life thinking that you are OK with God when really you aren’t. Don’t mislead yourself thinking that you can make your own way back to God.

3.2 God’s way

There is only one way back to God and that’s his way. The apostle Peter before the rulers and elders and teachers of Israel told these people who were so sure of themselves that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

This is what we gather to remember today. Christ died for us to bring us back to God. He suffered for you. The righteous one took the place of the unrighteous. It’s the heart of the gospel. It’s the gospel in a nutshell. It’s our testimony as God’s people – that on the cross the Son of God suffered for us. Like the prophet Isaiah today we gather together and say of him that he bore our sins on the cross. He suffered our punishment. He was pierced for our transgressions. It was by his wounds that we have been healed. For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God.


[1] https://www.gradesaver.com/romeo-and-juliet/q-and-a/one-sentence-summary-of-romeo-and-juliet-94775

[2] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citations are taken from The New International Version (2011). Zondervan.