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salvation to the disembodied spirits there just as he had done while here on earth. Compare S. Matt. 4:23:
3:20. “ Who were once disobedient.”
The range of our Lord's preaching in Hades seems here to be confined to narrow limits. Why this is so we are not told. What was the result is not dwelt upon. The mere fact is mentioned. And many have been the conjectures as to the meaning of the fact. As a matter of history it is known that the article in the creed which tells us Christ “ descended into hell” was first put in the Apostles' creed when there was a widespread belief, based mostly on this text, that the purpose of Christ's descent into Hades was to liberate its prisoners. He emptied the prison house, that tradition tells us, he set the captives free, and he raised the cross in the midst of Hades, that there also it might proclaim salvation.
“In which few, that is eight souls were saved by means of the water."
S. Peter sees in the very judgment which swept away so many that which brought deliverance to others. Yet but few were thus saved. And now also comparatively speaking, but few are in the way of salvation. Yet in the thought of the long-suffering of God, the complement to this thought is brought out. God is not willing that any shall finally perish.
3:21. “ The counterpart of which now saves us."
At first we may not recognize the likeness between the flood which destroyed the world and baptism as a saving ordinance. Yet the deluge only destroyed the evil and gave the human race a fresh start under new and better conditions. And when we take the previous verse into
consideration the flood seems to S. Peter's mind, even to those who perished in it, not merely an instrument of de struction, but an instrument by which even the souls of the disobedient were placed in a position where they were not shut out from the pitying love of the Father who there also did not will that any should perish.”
“ Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.”
Christian baptism is far more than an external rite or washing Of and in itself the outward form is nothing. We can never wash away sin by a mere outward act. The saving power of baptism varies with the activity and purity of the moral consciousness of the baptized.
Through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
If there was a real ascension into heaven, there was also a real descent into Hades. S. Peter seems to echo the words of S. Paul in Eph. 4:9 above referred to.
4:1. “ For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
It is a general law of the spiritual life that the very act of suffering in the mind of Christ and for him so strengthens the power of will and faith that the sufferer is by that very fact delivered from the life in which sin is dominant. Rom 7:7-11.
4:5. “ They shall give account.” Compare S. Luke 16:2; 1 Cor. 4: 5.
The thought of the final judgment should be to all men a motive for patience and courage under false accusations and unjust judgments of men.
“ For this purpose was the good news preached even to the dead."
Of some of the dead our Lord himself had taught S. Peter that if they had seen the wonderful works which he had done they would have repented (Matth. II :21). Here he tells us that opportunity has been given.
" That they may be judged indeed in the flesh, etc.”
The thought here is very much like that of S. Paul in i Cor. 5: 5 and 11:32.
Following the ideas of analogy and continuity, the Apostle here tells us that death does not change the nature and purpose of the divine judgment. The dead had the good news of salvation preached to them that they might be judged by a judgment which is remedial as well as penal. They were judged by the same law as that by which all men are judged, that is according to their deeds. But the purpose of that judgment, like the judgments which come on men in this life, is to rescue them from a final condemnation.
4:7. “ The end of everything is at hand.”
The times in which the Apostles lived was to them “the last times” (1. S. Tim. 4:1; 1 S. John 2:18).
The end of all they had lived in, the end of one great dispensation of the Father's inscrutable Providence came with the preaching of the Apostles and the destruction of Jerusalem.
“ Being hearty and earnest in your love." A hearty and earnest love is the greatest of all marks of a true Christ-like spirit according to S. Peter, as it is with S. John and S. Paul. Compare i Cor. 13 and S. John's Epistles.
“ Love covers a multitude of sins.”
Love covers, that is, forgives the sins of others and does not expose them. Compare Prov. 10 : 12.
This meaning, however, need not exclude the other suggested by S. James 5:20. Compare also Luke 7:47. With such a double meaning the text reminds one in its width of that well known saying handed down to us by the greatest of all Englishmen when he writes :
“ The quality of mercy—is twice blest.
It blesses him that gives and him that takes." 4:9. Ministering as good stewards."
We cannot too often be reminded that we are but stewards, not possessors, of what God has given us in our material and spiritual life. Compare i Cor. 4:1; Tit 1:7; S. Luke 12:42; 16:1-12.
4:11. “ That in everything God may be praised." Compare S. Matth. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31.
This is naturally followed by an ascription of praise in the manner of S. Paul.
4:12. “Do not be astonished at the fiery trial.”
All those who wish to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3: 12.
This is the leading purpose and character of suffering. It tries our faith. The faith which endures is the stronger and purer for the process.
4:13 Rejoice." Compare S. Matth. 5:12.
When S. Peter first heard such thoughts from the Master he no doubt himself was astonished. But since that time he has tried and proved the truth of them.
4:14. If you are reproached with the name of Christ.”
In chapter 3:14 we found an echo of the beatitude in S. Matth. 5:10.
Here we have the counterpart of the more personal “ for my sake” in S. Matth. 5:11.
4:15. " For let none of you suffer as a murderer.”
Here is a reference to a tendency more or less prevalent in all times of persecution, whether of C stians by the heathen, or of one body of Christians by another, that is, an altogether false idea which leads men to pose as martyrs when they ought rather to be classed with ordinary criminals and to be treated and thought of only as such.
4:17. “ What shall be the end of those ? ”
Compare Rom. 11:21; Jeremiah, 25:29; 49:12; Ezekiel, 9:6.
" And if the good man is scarcely saved.” A time of great tribulation was coming on the earth. At that time, but for the sake of the chosen ones no flesh should be saved. S. Matth. 24:22.
4:19. “ So let those who are suffering according to the will of God.”
Pain and persecution really work out the Father's will in us. They are permitted by him for this purpose and they are controlled by him. He allows nothing to come upon us greater than we can bear and profit by. His grace is always sufficient for us. His will is always good and loving. He plans and executes in us only our completeness in Him in perfect holiness.
I Thess. 4:3
5:1. “ Who am a fellow clder." The apostle puts himself on a level with the elders to