1 Peter – Chapter Three XXVI

by Ed Urzi

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

1 Peter 3:18 represents a difficult to interpret passage that begins with a statement that is far less controversial: “For Christ also suffered once for sins…” This portion of Scripture thus serves to invalidate those belief systems that teach  we can get right with God through doing (or not doing) certain things. Such “do’s and don’ts” might include praying at specified times, abstaining from certain foods, chanting mantras, taking part in ceremonies, or doing certain good deeds to ensure God’s favor.

Instead, this passage tells us that Christ suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. The New Testament epistle to the Hebrews also underscores the finality of this “once for all” sacrifice when it tells us, “…when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12-13 ESV).

So, unlike the Old Testament offerings that had to be presented over and over, Jesus suffered once for sins. In the words of one source, “…Christ’s one sacrifice for sins was of such perpetual validity that it was sufficient for all and would never need to be repeated.” (1)

We should also note the purpose behind Jesus’ sacrificial death: “…that He might bring us to God.” No other elements (such as human effort) were necessary to bring us to God other than Jesus’ work on the cross. That vicarious sacrifice was offered by the One who was “just” (or guiltless) on behalf of those who were “unjust” (or guilty).

The result was that He might bring us “…into the presence of God” (CEB). So those who seek to be accepted into God’s presence must approach Him through the mediator He has established. That mediator is Christ, for “…there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus accepted the death penalty associated with our sin and opened the way that enables us to approach God and establish a relationship with Him. Thus, as Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

(1) John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 1 Pe 3:18.