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1 Peter 3:18

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Christ also hath once suffered - See the notes on Romans 5:6; Hebrews 9:28; (note).

Put to death in the flesh - In his human nature.

But quickened by the Spirit - That very dead body revived by the power of his Divinity. There are various opinions on the meaning of this verse, with which I need not trouble the reader, as I have produced that which is most likely.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins - Compare the notes at 1 Peter 2:21. The design of the apostle in the reference to the sufferings of Christ, is evidently to remind them that he suffered as an innocent being, and not for any wrong-doing, and to encourage and comfort them in their sufferings by his example. The reference to his sufferings leads him 1 Peter 3:18-22 into a statement of the various ways in which Christ suffered, and of his ultimate triumph. By his example in his sufferings, and by his final triumph, the apostle would encourage those whom he addressed to bear with patience the sorrows to which their religion exposed them. He assumes that all suffering for adhering to the gospel is the result of well-doing; and for an encouragement in their trials, he refers them to the example of Christ, the highest instance that ever was, or ever will be, both of well-doing, and of suffering on account of it. The expression, “hath once suffered,” in the New Testament, means once for all; once, in the sense that it is not to occur again. Compare Hebrews 7:27. The particular point here, however, is not that he once suffered; it is that he had in fact suffered, and that in doing it he had left an example for them to follow.

The just for the unjust - The one who was just, ( δίκαιος dikaioson account of, or in the place of, those who were unjust, ( ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων huper adikōnor one who was righteous, on account of those who were wicked. Compare the Romans 5:6 note; 2 Corinthians 5:21 note; Hebrews 9:28 note. The idea on which the apostle would particularly fix their attention was, that he was just or innocent. Thus, he was an example to those who suffered for well-doing.

That he might bring us to God - That his death might be the means of reconciling sinners to God. Compare the notes at John 3:14; John 12:32. It is through that death that mercy is proclaimed to the guilty; it is by that alone that God can be reconciled to people; and the fact that the Son of God loved people, and gave himself a sacrifice for them, enduring such bitter sorrows, is the most powerful appeal which can be made to mankind to induce them to return to God. There is no appeal which can be made to us more powerful than one drawn from the fact that another suffers on our account. We could resist the argument which a father, a mother, or a sister would use to reclaim us from a course of sin; but if we perceive that our conduct involves them in suffering, that fact has a power over us which no mere argument could have.

Being put to death in the flesh - As a man; in his human nature. Compare the notes at Romans 1:3-4. There is evidently a contrast here between “the flesh” in which it is said he was “put to death,” and “the Spirit” by which it is said he was “quickened.” The words “in the flesh” are clearly designed to denote something that was unique in his death; for it is a departure from the usual method of speaking of death. How singular would it be to say of Isaiah, Paul, or Peter, that they were put to death in the flesh! How obvious would it be to ask, In what other way are people usually put to death? What was there special in their case, which would distinguish their death from the death of others? The use of this phrase would suggest the thought at once, that though, in regard to that which was properly expressed by the phrase, “the flesh,” they died, yet that there was something else in respect to which they did not die. Thus, if it were said of a man that he was deprived of his rights as a father, it would be implied that in, other respects he was not deprived of his rights; and this would be especially true if it were added that he continued to enjoy his rights as a neighbor, or as holding an office under the government. The only proper inquiry, then, in this place is, What is fairly implied in the phrase, the flesh? Does it mean simply his body, as distinguished from his human soul? or does it refer to him as a man, as distinguished from some higher nature, over which death had no power Now, that the latter is the meaning seems to me to be apparent, for these reasons:

(1) It is the usual way of denoting the human nature of the Lord Jesus, or of saying that he became in carnate, or was a man, to speak of his being in the flesh. See Romans 1:2; “Made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” John 1:14; “and the Word was made flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16; “God was manifest in the flesh.” 1 John 4:2; “every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God.” 2 John 1:7; “who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.”

(2) so far as appears, the effect of death on the human soul of the Redeemer was the same as in the case of the soul of any other person; in other words, the effect of death in his case was not confined to the mere body or the flesh. Death, with him, was what death is in any other case - the separation of the soul and body, with all the attendant pain of such dissolution. It is not true that his “flesh,” as such, died without the ordinary accompaniments of death on the soul, so that it could be said that the one died, and the other was kept alive. The purposes of the atonement required that he should meet death in the usual form; that the great laws which operate everywhere else in regard to dissolution, should exist in his case; nor is there in the Scriptures any intimation that there was, in this respect, anything special in his case. If his soul had been exempt from whatever there is involved in death in relation to the spirit, it is unaccountable that there is no hint on this point in the sacred narrative. But if this be so, then the expression “in the flesh” refers to him as a man, and means, that so far as his human nature was concerned, he died. In another important respect, he did not die. On the meaning of the word “flesh” in the New Testament, see the notes at Romans 1:3.

But quickened - Made alive - ζοωποιηθεὶς zoōpoiētheisThis does not mean “kept alive,” but “made alive; recalled to life; reanimated.” The word is never used in the sense of maintained alive, or preserved alive. Compare the following places, which are the only ones in which it occurs in the New Testament: John 5:21 (twice); John 6:63; Romans 4:17; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:36, 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Timothy 6:13; 1 Peter 3:18; in all which it is rendered “quickened, quicken, quickeneth;” 1 Corinthians 15:22, “be made alive;” 2 Corinthians 3:6, “giveth life;” and Galatians 3:21, “have given life.” “Once the word refers to God, as he who giveth life to all creatures, 1 Timothy 6:13; three times it refers to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, or of the doctrines of the gospel, John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Galatians 3:21; seven times it is used with direct reference to the raising of the dead, John 5:21; Romans 4:17; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:36, 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Peter 3:18.” See Biblical Repos., April, 1845, p. 269. See also Passow, and Robinson, Lexicon. The sense, then, cannot be that, in reference to his soul or spirit, he was preserved alive when his body died, but that there was some agency or power restoring him to life, or reanimating him after he was dead.

By the Spirit - According to the common reading in the Greek, this is τῷ Πνεύματι tō Pneumati- with the article the - “the Spirit.” Hahn, Tittman, and Griesbach omit the article, and then the reading is, “quickened in spirit;” and thus the reading corresponds with the former expression, “in flesh” ( σαρκὶ sarkiwhere the article also is lacking. The word “spirit,” so far as the mere use of the word is concerned, might refer to his own soul, to his divine nature, or to the Holy Spirit. It is evident:

(1) that it does not refer to his own soul, for:

(a)as we have seen, the reference in the former clause is to his human nature, including all that pertained to him as a man, body and soul;

(b)there was no power in his own spirit, regarded as that pertaining to his human nature, to raise him up from the dead, any more than there is such a power in any other human soul. That power does not belong to a human soul in any of its relations or conditions.

(2) it seems equally clear that this does not refer to the Holy Spirit, or the Third Person of the Trinity, for it may be doubted whether the work of raising the dead is anywhere ascribed to that Spirit. His special province is to enlighten, awaken, convict, convert, and sanctify the soul; to apply the work of redemption to the hearts of people, and to lead them to God. This influence is moral, not physical; an influence accompanying the truth, not the exertion of mere physical power.

(3) it remains, then, that the reference is to his own divine nature - a nature by which he was restored to life after he was crucified; to the Son of God, regarded as the Second Person of the Trinity. This appears, not only from the facts above stated, but also:

(a) from the connection, It is stated that it was in or by this spirit that he went and preached in the days of Noah. But it was not his spirit as a man that did this, for his human soul had then no existence. Yet it seems that he did this personally or directly, and not by the influences of the Holy Spirit, for it is said that “he went and preached.” The reference, therefore, cannot be to the Holy Spirit, and the fair conclusion is that it refers to his divine nature.

(b) This accords with what the apostle Paul says Romans 1:3-4, “which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,” that is, in respect to his human nature, “and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness,” that is, in respect to his divine nature, “by the resurrection from the dead.” See the notes at that passage.

(c) It accords with what the Saviour himself says, John 10:17-18; “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” This must refer to his divine nature, for it is impossible to conceive that a human soul should have the power of restoring its former tenement, the body, to life. See the notes at the passage. The conclusion, then, to which we have come is, that the passage means, that as a man, a human being, he was put to death; in respect to a higher nature, or by a higher nature, here denominated Spirit ( Πνεῦμα Pneumahe was restored to life. As a man, he died; as the incarnate Son of Gods the Messiah, he was made alive again by the power of his own Divine Spirit, and exalted to heaven. Compare Robinson‘s Lexicon on the word Πνεῦμα PneumaC.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
We sanctify God before others, when our conduct invites and encourages them to glorify and honour him. What was the ground and reason of their hope? We should be able to defend our religion with meekness, in the fear of God. There is no room for any other fears where this great fear is; it disturbs not. The conscience is good, when it does its office well. That person is in a sad condition on whom sin and suffering meet: sin makes suffering extreme, comfortless, and destructive. Surely it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing, whatever our natural impatience at times may suggest. The example of Christ is an argument for patience under sufferings. In the case of our Lord's suffering, he that knew no sin, suffered instead of those who knew no righteousness. The blessed end and design of our Lord's sufferings were, to reconcile us to God, and to bring us to eternal glory. He was put to death in respect of his human nature, but was quickened and raised by the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christ could not be freed from sufferings, why should Christians think to be so? God takes exact notice of the means and advantages people in all ages have had. As to the old world, Christ sent his Spirit; gave warning by Noah. But though the patience of God waits long, it will cease at last. And the spirits of disobedient sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the prison of hell, where those that despised Noah's warning now are, and from whence there is no redemption. Noah's salvation in the ark upon the water, which carried him above the floods, set forth the salvation of all true believers. That temporal salvation by the ark was a type of the eternal salvation of believers by baptism of the Holy Spirit. To prevent mistakes, the apostle declares what he means by saving baptism; not the outward ceremony of washing with water, which, in itself, does no more than put away the filth of the flesh, but that baptism, of which the baptismal water formed the sign. Not the outward ordinance, but when a man, by the regeneration of the Spirit, was enabled to repent and profess faith, and purpose a new life, uprightly, and as in the presence of God. Let us beware that we rest not upon outward forms. Let us learn to look on the ordinances of God spiritually, and to inquire after the spiritual effect and working of them on our consciences. We would willingly have all religion reduced to outward things. But many who were baptized, and constantly attended the ordinances, have remained without Christ, died in their sins, and are now past recovery. Rest not then till thou art cleansed by the Spirit of Christ and the blood of Christ. His resurrection from the dead is that whereby we are assured of purifying and peace.
Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 322

Voluntarily our divine Substitute bared His soul to the sword of justice, that we might not perish but have everlasting life. Said Christ, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17, 18). No man of earth or angel of heaven could have paid the penalty for sin. Jesus was the only one who could save rebellious man. In Him divinity and humanity were combined, and this was what gave efficiency to the offering on Calvary's cross. At the cross mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other. 1SM 322.1

As the sinner looks upon the Saviour dying on Calvary, and realizes that the sufferer is divine, he asks why this great sacrifice was made, and the cross points to the holy law of God which has been transgressed. The death of Christ is an unanswerable argument as to the immutability and righteousness of the law. In prophesying of Christ, Isaiah says, “He will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21). The law has no power to pardon the evildoer. Its office is to point out his defects, that he may realize his need of One who is mighty to save, his need of One who will become his substitute, his surety, his righteousness. Jesus meets the need of the sinner; for He has taken upon Him the sins of the transgressor. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The Lord could have cut off the sinner, and utterly destroyed him; but the costlier plan was chosen. In His great love He provides hope for the hopeless, giving His only-begotten Son to bear the sins of the world. And since He has poured out all heaven in that one rich gift, He will withhold from man no needed aid that he may take the cup of salvation, and become an heir of God, joint heir with Christ. 1SM 323.1

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 95.4

Christ came to our world to die, the Just for the unjust, ... that He might elevate and ennoble men and women and stamp His divine image upon them. For this His Spirit strives with us that there may be an ever advancing vigor and perfection of spiritual life.39 TMK 95.4

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 38.4

These words were presented to me for you: “In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17), through the atonement. The repenting sinner is to believe in Christ as his personal Saviour. This is his only hope. He may lay hold on the merits of the blood of Christ, presenting to God the crucified and risen Saviour as his worthiness. Thus through Christ's offering of Himself, the innocent for the guilty, every obstruction is removed, and the pardoning love of God flows forth in rich streams of mercy to fallen man.... TDG 38.4

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 116.2

I am so thankful to my heavenly Father for His daily blessings to me. About a week ago, I felt completely worn out with the effort I had put forth in writing. My mind would not work, and I felt much depressed. I had almost given up hope of ever feeling rested again. But one night I prayed to God most earnestly for His strengthening, healing power to rest upon me, that I might be able to write out some things that ought to be published. I then went to sleep. In the night season I seemed to be speaking to different congregations, in regard to the healing, quickening power of the Holy Spirit. At half-past two I awoke. My headache was gone, and the soothing influence of the Spirit of God rested upon me. I walked the floor of my room, and praised God. I then took my pen in hand, and found that my mind was clear, and that I could write as well as ever. Since this experience, I have written a great deal. Our Saviour is the most skillful physician in the world. I praise Him for the marked blessing that He bestowed upon me at this time. TDG 116.2

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