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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 3 - Verse 22

Verse 22. Who is gone into heaven. See Barnes "Ac 1:9".

And is on the right hand of God. See Barnes "Mr 16:19".

 

Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him See Barnes "Eph 1:20,21".

The reason why the apostle here adverts to the fact that the Lord Jesus is raised up to the right hand of God, and is so honoured in heaven, seems to have been to encourage those to whom he wrote to persevere in the service of God, though they were persecuted. The Lord Jesus was in like manner persecuted. He was reviled, and rejected, and put to death. Yet he ultimately triumphed, he was raised from the dead, and was exalted to the highest place of honour in the universe. Even so they, if they did not faint, might hope to come off in the end triumphant. As Noah, who had been faithful and steadfast when surrounded by a scoffing world, was at last preserved by his faith from ruin, and as the Redeemer, though persecuted and put to death, was at last exalted to the right hand of God, so would it be with them if they bore their trials patiently, and did not faint or fail in the persecutions which they endured.

In view of the exposition in 1 Pe 3:1,2, we may remark,

(1.) that it is our duty to seek the conversion and salvation of our impenitent relatives and friends. All Christians have relatives and friends who are impenitent; it is a rare thing that some of the members of their own families are not so. In most families, even Christian families, there is a husband or a wife, a father or a mother, a or daughter, a brother or sister, who is not converted. To all they who are Christians owe important duties, and there is none more important than that of seeking their conversion. That this is a duty is clearly implied in this passage in reference to a wife, and for the same reason it is a duty in reference to all other persons. It may be further apparent from these considerations:

(a.) It is an important part of the business of all Christians to seek the salvation of others. This is clearly the duty of ministers of the gospel; but it is no less the duty of all who profess to be followers of the Saviour, and to take him as their example and guide. Comp. Jas 5:19,20.

(b.) It is a duty peculiarly devolving on those who have relatives who are unconverted, on account of the advantages which they have for doing it. They are with them constantly; they have their confidence and affection; they can feel more for them than any one else can; and if they are not concerned for their salvation, they cannot hope that any others will be.

(c.) It is not wholly an improper motive to seek their salvation from the happiness which it would confer on those who are already Christians. It is not improper that a wife should be stimulated to desire the conversion of her husband from the increased enjoyment which she would have if her partner in life were united with her in the same hope of heaven, and from the pleasure which it would give to enjoy the privilege of religious worship in the family, and the aid which would be furnished in training up her children in the Lord. A Christian wife and mother has important duties to perform towards her children; it is not improper that in performing those duties she should earnestly desire the co-operation of her partner in life.

(2.) Those who have impenitent husbands and friends should be encouraged in seeking their conversion. It is plainly implied 1 Pe 3:1,2 that it was not to be regarded as a hopeless thing, but that in all cases they were to regard it as possible that unbelieving husbands might be brought to the knowledge of the truth. If this is true of husbands, it is no less true of other friends. We should never despair of the conversion of a friend as long as life lasts, however far he may be from the path of virtue and piety. The grounds of encouragement are such as these:

(a.) You have an influence over them which no other one has; and that influence may be regarded as capital, which will give you great advantages in seeking their conversion.

(b.) You have access to them at times when their minds are most open to serious impressions. Every man has times when he may be approached on the subject of religion; when he is pensive and serious; when he is disappointed and sad; when the affairs of this world do not go well with him, and his thoughts are drawn along to a better. There are times in the life of every man when he is ready to open his mind to a friend on the subject of religion, and when he would be glad of a word of friendly counsel and encouragement. It is much to have access to a man at such times.

(c.) If all the facts were known which have occurred, there would be no lack of encouragement to labour for the conversion of impenitent relatives and friends. Many a husband owes his salvation to the persevering solicitude and prayers of a wife; many a son will enter heaven because a mother never ceased to pray for his salvation, even when to human view there seemed no hope of it.

(3.) We may learn 2 Pe 3:1,2 what are the principal means by which we are to hope to secure the conversion and salvation of impenitent friends. It is to be mainly by a pure life; by a holy walk; by a consistent example. Conversation, properly so called, is not to be regarded as excluded from those means, but the main dependence is to be on a holy life. This is to be so, because

(a.) most persons form their notions of religion from what they see in the lives of its professed friends. It is not so much what they hear in the pulpit, for they regard preaching as a mere professional business, by which a man gets a living; not so much by books in defence and explanation of religion, for they seldom or never read them; not by what religion enabled the martyrs to do, for they may have scarcely heard the names of even the most illustrious of the martyrs; but by what they see in the walk and conversation of those who profess to be Christians, especially of those who are their near relations. The husband is forming his views of religion constantly from what he sees on the brow and in the eye of his professedly Christian wife; the brother from what he sees in his sister; the child from what he sees in the parent.

(b.) Those who profess to be Christians have an opportunity of showing the power of religion in a way which is superior to any abstract argument. It controls their temper; it makes them kind and gentle; it sustains them in trial; it prompts them to deeds of benevolence; it disposes them to be contented, to be forgiving, to be patient in the reverses of life. Every one may thus be always doing something to make an impression favourable to religion on the minds of others. Yet it is also true that much may be done, and should be done for the conversion of others, by conversation properly so called, or by direct address and appeal. There is nothing, however, which requires to be managed with more prudence than conversation with those who are not Christians, or direct efforts to lead them to attend to the subject of religion. In regard to this it may be observed,

(a.) that it does no good to be always talking with them. Such a course only produces disgust.

(b.) It does no good to talk to them at unseasonable and improper times. If they are specially engaged in their business, and would not like to be interrupted—if they are in company with others, or even with their family—it does little good to attempt a conversation with them. It is "the word that is fitly spoken that is like apples of gold in pictures of silver," Pr 25:11.

(c.) It does no good to scold them on the subject Of religion, with a view to make them Christians. In such a case you show a spirit the very reverse of that religion which you are professedly endeavouring to persuade them to embrace.

(d.) All conversation with impenitent sinners should be kind, and tender, and respectful. It should be addressed to them when they will be disposed to listen; usually when they are alone; and especially when from trials or other causes they may be in such a state of mind that they will be willing to listen. It may be added, that impenitent sinners are much more frequently in such a state of mind than most Christians suppose, and that they often wonder that their Christian friends do not speak to them about the salvation of the soul.

From the exposition given of the important 1 Pe 3:18-21, we may derive the following inferences:—

(1.) The pre-existence of Christ. If he preached to the antediluvians in the time of Noah, he must have had an existence at that time.

(2.) His divinity. If he was "quickened" or restored to life by his own exalted nature, he must be Divine; for there is no more inalienable attribute of the Deity than the power of raising the dead.

(3.) If Christ preached to the heathen world in the time of Noah, for the same reason it may be regarded as true that all the messages which are brought to men, calling them to repentance, in any age or country, are through him. Thus it was Christ who spake by the prophets and by the apostles; and thus he speaks now by his ministers.

(4.) If this interpretation is well-founded, it takes away one of the strongest supports of the doctrine of purgatory. There is no stronger passage of the Bible in support of this doctrine than the one before us; and if this does not countenance it, it may be safely affirmed that it has not a shadow of proof in the sacred Scriptures.

(5.) It follows that there is no hope or prospect that the gospel will be preached to those who are lost. This is the only passage in the Bible that could be supposed to teach any such doctrine; and if the interpretation above proposed be correct, this furnishes no ground of belief that if a man dies impenitent he will ever be favoured with another offer of mercy. This interpretation also accords with all the other representations in the Bible. "As the tree falleth, so it lies." "He that is holy, let him be holy still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still." All the representations in the Bible lead us to suppose that the eternal destiny of the soul after death is fixed, and that the only change which can ever occur in the future state is that which will be produced by DEVELOPEMENT: the developement of the principles of piety in heaven; the developement of the principles of evil in hell.

(6.) It follows, that if there is not a place of purgatory in the future world, there is a place of punishment. If the word prison, in the passage before us, does not mean purgatory, and does not refer to a detention with a prospect or possibility of release, it must refer to detention of another kind, and for another purpose, and that can be only with reference "to the judgment of the great day," 2 Pe 2:14; Jude 1:6. From that gloomy prison there is no evidence that any have been, or will be, released.

(7.) Men should embrace the gospel at once. Now it is offered to them; in the future world it will not be. But even if it could be proved that the gospel would be offered to them in the future world, it would be better to embrace it now. Why should men go down to that world to suffer long before they become reconciled to God? Why choose to taste the sorrows of hell before they embrace the offers of mercy? Why go to that world of woe at all? Are men so in love with suffering and danger that they esteem it wise to go down to that dark prison-house, with the intention or the hope that the gospel may be offered to them there, and that when there they may be disposed to embrace it? Even if it could be shown, therefore, that they might again hear the voice of mercy and salvation, how much wiser would it be to hearken to the voice now, and become reconciled to God here, and never experience in any way the pangs of the second death! But of any such offer of mercy in the world of despair, the Bible contains no intimation; and he who goes to the eternal world unreconciled to God, perishes for ever. The moment when he crosses the line between time and eternity, he goes for ever beyond the boundaries of hope.

{a} "angels" Eph 1:21

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