1 Peter 3:21 – 4:2
21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. 4 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
It’s funny that I didn’t ever hear much about sanctification until about a year ago and now I continually find it in the scriptures. Maybe it’s always been there and I never paid much attention to it. We just read about Noah’s ark saving his family of 8. Well, let me clarify. Here, Peter is declaring that the water is actually what saved them: the cleansing water of God. Yes, the ark was filled with living beings to be preserved for after the flood; however, the flood is what wiped the world clean of sinfulness before it engulfed those that were in the boat. This is the connection that Peter is drawing here between baptism and the great flood.
Peter is still talking about suffering, but a different purpose for it. He instructed us to take on suffering just as Jesus did; he is still discussing its purpose in our lives. The cleansing of sin is a result of suffering. Things had to suffer during the great flood. Animal had to suffer to cover the sins of the Jews. The Israelites had to suffer and be scattered among nations in order to be cleansed of the sinfulness that infiltrated their nation. Jesus had to suffer once and for all for us to regain power over sin. It is our righteous suffering that rids our lives of sinful behavior and washes us clean so we can finally live free.
Suffering is a bittersweet experience. It sucks to go through it but afterwards we are glad we did because there is generally a good result. We suffer through a cold to be protected from it in the future. We suffer through withdrawal of a chemical substance so we are no longer its slave. So too is the process of sanctification; we are suffering through breaking old habits so we can live free in the habit of following Christ. This is why James says to, 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Suffering comes in many flavors, but it always strengthens us in some way. It also strengthens others (as we read earlier).
In what areas of your life do you need to suffer so that you can live free? I often think of the sanctification process as a rough cleansing. Like parts of me need to be chipped off and scraped out in order to be the man God has called me to be. It hurts, it is rough, and usually I don’t enjoy the process when I am going through it, but I am sure glad when it is over not because it doesn’t hurt anymore, but because I know I am rid of it. It’s like cutting out gangrenous flesh. It is similar to pouring peroxide on a fresh cut. It is like reopening an infected wound to flush out the bacteria. Will you let God’s cleansing water rinse out your infections?