“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”
1 Peter 3:18 (NIV, 1984)
1 Peter 3:18 is one of the great gospel verses in which every word is rich in meaning. I would like to consider these words and I trust that they will you encourage you as we look at the very heart of our faith.
For Christ. There are not many more emphatic openings to a verse. I remember as a child thinking that ‘Christ’ was Jesus’ surname however I quickly learnt that it refers to his ministry. He is the Christ, from the Greek for ‘Messiah’ / ‘anointed servant’. We are reminded of passages such as 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 42. Here is the one sent by God the Father to bring hope, peace and salvation to the world. We can be certain that everything that follows in this verse is sure and effective.
Died for sins. This takes us to the sacrificial language of the Old Testament. We think in particular of the Passover Lamb and the sacrificial system of Leviticus. Jesus knew that he came to ‘lay down his life’ and to give his life ‘as a ransom for many’. His death was not an accident. It was God’s perfect plan and purpose. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. On the Cross Jesus took the sin, guilt and punishment of his people so that they could be purified and forgiven.
Once for all. It is tempting to think that we need to reach a certain standard of ‘goodness’ before God will accept us, or that we need to prove that we are worthy or sorry enough. Even as Christians we can fall into the trap of thinking that we need to ‘make up’ for our sins through deeds or devotion. Let us never forget that Jesus died ‘once for all’. If you know that you have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard and glory, repent and believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Keep looking to the Cross. Salvation is found in Jesus alone and there is no other name – or way – by which we can be saved.
The Righteous for the Unrighteous. The contrast here is remarkable and I don’t believe we will really appreciate the power of the gospel until we understand the huge gap between the holiness of Jesus and our sinfulness. The sacrifice is acceptable to God the Father because of Jesus’ glory and blamelessness. It is astonishing enough that the Son of God should take on human flesh and live a uniquely righteous life; but that he should die on a Cross for the unrighteous? This really is divine love and grace. Have you realised that you, like every one of us, are ‘sick’ and ‘lost’ because of your sin and that Jesus came to save people just like that? Have you asked for forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrificial death in your place?
To bring us to God. The blessings of the gospel are endless and we will spend all eternity finding out more about them. I’m sure you have found comfort in many promises in God’s Word during this period. But here perhaps is the greatest blessing of all: to be given the privilege of becoming a child of God and to know him as our Father. Jesus died to bring us to God. As you begin your day why not consider some of the many blessings that flow out of this wonderful truth?
Steffan Jones, Mount Elim Pontardawe