Good Conscience and Good Conversation. A. D. 66.
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you,
as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation
in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer
for well doing, than for evil doing.
The confession of a Christian's faith cannot credibly be supported but
by the two means here specified--a good conscience and a good conversation.
conscience is good when it does its office well, when it is kept pure and
uncorrupt, and clear from guilt; then it will justify you, though men accuse
you. A good conversation in Christ is a holy life, according to the doctrine
and example of Christ. "Look well to your conscience, and to your conversation;
and then, though men speak evil of you, and falsely accuse you as evil-doers,
you will clear yourselves, and bring them to shame. Perhaps you may think
it hard to suffer for well-doing, for keeping a good conscience and a good
conversation; but be not discouraged, for it is better for you, though
worse for your enemies, that you suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing."
Learn, 1. The most conscientious persons cannot escape the censures and
slanders of evil men; they will speak evil of them, as of evil-doers, and
charge them with crimes which their very souls abhor: Christ and his apostles
were so used. 2. A good conscience and a good conversation are the best
means to secure a good name; these give a solid reputation and a lasting
one. 3. False accusation generally turns to the accuser's shame, by discovering
at last the accuser's indiscretion, injustice, falsehood, and uncharitableness.
4. It is sometimes the will of God that good people should suffer for well-doing,
for their honesty and for their faith. 5. As well-doing sometimes exposes
a good man to suffering, so evil-doing will not exempt an evil man from
it. The apostle supposes here that a man may suffer for both. If the sufferings
of good people for well-doing be so severe, what will the sufferings of
wicked people be for evil-doing? It is a sad condition which that person
is in upon whom sin and suffering meet together at the same time; sin makes
sufferings to be extreme, unprofitable, comfortless, and destructive.
Christ's Sufferings. A. D. 66.
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the
unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh,
but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto
the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the
longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing,
wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
Here, I. The example of Christ is proposed as an argument for patience
under sufferings, the strength of which will be discerned if we consider
the several points contained in the words; observe therefore, 1. Jesus
Christ himself was not exempted from sufferings in this life, though he
had no guilt of his own and could have declined all suffering if he had
pleased. 2. The reason or meritorious cause of Christ's suffering was the
sins of men: Christ suffered for sins. The sufferings of Christ were a
true and proper punishment; this punishment was suffered to expiate and
to make an atonement for sin; and it extends to all sin. 3. In the case
of our Lord's suffering, it was the just that suffered for the unjust;
he substituted himself in our room and stead, and bore our iniquities.
He that knew no sin suffered instead of those that knew no righteousness.
4. The merit and perfection of Christ's sacrifice were such that for him
to suffer once was enough. The legal sacrifices were repeated from day
to day, and from year to year; but the sacrifice of Christ, once offered,
purgeth away sin, Heb. vii. 27; ix. 26, 28; x. 10, 12, 14. 5. The blessed
end or design of our Lord's sufferings was to bring us to God, to reconcile
us to God, to give us access to the Father, to render us and our services
acceptable, and to bring us to eternal glory, Eph. ii. 13, 18; iii. 12;
Heb. x. 21, 22. 6. The issue and event of Christ's suffering, as to himself,
were these, he was put to death in his human nature, but he was quickened
and raised again by the Spirit. Now, if Christ was not exempted from sufferings,
why should Christians expect it? If he suffered, to expiate sins, why should
not we be content when our sufferings are only for trial and correction,
but not for expiation? If he, though perfectly just, why should not we,
who are all criminals? If he once suffered, and then entered into glory,
shall not we be patient under trouble, since it will be but a little time
and we shall follow him to glory? If he suffered, to bring us to God, shall
not we submit to difficulties, since they are of so much use to quicken
us in our return to God, and in the performance of our duty to him?
II. The apostle passes from the example of Christ to that of the old
world, and sets before the Jews, to whom he wrote, the different event
of those who believed and obeyed Christ preaching by Noah, from those that
continued disobedient and unbelieving, intimating to the Jews that they
were under a like sentence. God would not wait much longer upon them. They
had now an offer of mercy; those that accepted of it should be saved, but
those who rejected Christ and the gospel should be as certainly destroyed
as ever the disobedient in the times of Noah were.
1. For the explication of this we may notice, (1.) The preacher--Christ
Jesus, who has interested himself in the affairs of the church and of the
world ever since he was first promised to Adam, Gen. iii. 15. He went,
not by a local motion, but by special operation, as God is frequently said
to move, Gen. xi. 5; Hos. v. 15; Mic. i. 3. He went and preached, by his
Spirit striving with them, and inspiring and enabling Enoch and Noah to
plead with them, and preach righteousness to them, as 2 Pet. ii. 5. (2.)
The hearers. Because they were dead and disembodied when the apostle speaks
of them, therefore he properly calls them spirits now in prison; not that
they were in prison when Christ preached to them, as the vulgar Latin translation
and the popish expositors pretend. (3.) The sin of these people: They were
disobedient, that is, rebellious, unpersuadable, and unbelieving, as the
word signifies; this their sin is aggravated from the patience and long-suffering
of God (which once waited upon them for 120 years together), while Noah
was preparing the ark, and by that, as well as by his preaching, giving
them fair warning of what was coming upon them. (4.) The event of all:
Their bodies were drowned, and their spirits cast into hell, which is called
a prison (Matt. v. 25; 2 Pet. ii. 4, 5); but Noah and his family, who believed
and were obedient, were saved in the ark.
2. From the whole we learn that, (1.) God takes exact notice of all
the means and advantages that people in all ages have had for the salvation
of their souls; it is put to the account of the old world that Christ offered
them his help, sent his Spirit, gave them fair warning by Noah, and waited
a long time for their amendment. (2.) Though the patience of God wait long
upon sinners, yet it will expire at last; it is beneath the majesty of
the great God always to wait upon man in vain. (3.) The spirits of disobedient
sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the
prison of hell, whence there is no redemption. (4.) The way of the most
is neither the best, the wisest, nor the safest way to follow: better to
follow the eight in the ark than the eight millions drowned by the flood
and damned to hell.
Christian Baptism. A. D. 66.
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us
(not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is
gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities
and powers being made subject unto him.
Noah's salvation in the ark upon the water prefigured the salvation
of all good Christians in the church by baptism; that temporal salvation
by the ark was a type, the antitype whereunto is the eternal salvation
of believers by baptism, to prevent mistakes about which the apostle,
I. 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 it is that baptism wherein there is a faithful
answer or restipulation of a resolved good conscience, engaging to believe
in, and be entirely devoted to, God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, renouncing
at the same time the flesh, the world, and the devil. The baptismal covenant,
made and kept, will certainly save us. Washing is the visible sign; this
is the thing signified.
II. The apostle shows that the efficacy of baptism to salvation depends
not upon the work done, but upon the resurrection of Christ, which supposes
his death, and is the foundation of our faith and hope, to which we are
rendered conformable by dying to sin, and rising again to holiness and
newness of life. Learn, 1. The sacrament of baptism, rightly received,
is a means and a pledge of salvation. Baptism now saveth us. God is pleased
to convey his blessings to us in and by his ordinances, Acts ii. 38; xxii.
16. 2. The external participation of baptism will save no man without an
answerable good conscience and conversation. There must be the answer of
a good conscience towards God.--Obj. Infants cannot make such an answer,
and therefore ought not to be baptized.--Answer, the true circumcision
was that of the heart and of the spirit (Rom. ii. 29), which children were
no more capable of then than our infants are capable of making this answer
now; yet they were allowed circumcision at eight days old. The infants
of the Christian church therefore may be admitted to the ordinance with
as much reason as the infants of the Jewish, unless they are barred from
it by some express prohibition of Christ.
III. The apostle, having mentioned the death and resurrection of Christ,
proceeds to speak of his ascension, and sitting at the right hand of the
Father, as a subject fit to be considered by these believers for their
comfort in their suffering condition, v. 22. If the advancement of Christ
was so glorious after his deep humiliation, let not his followers despair,
but expect that after these short distresses they shall be advanced to
transcendent joy and glory. Learn, 1. Jesus Christ, after he had finished
his labours and his sufferings upon earth, ascended triumphantly into heaven,
of which see Acts i. 9-11; Mark xvi. 19. He went to heaven to receive his
own acquired crown and glory (John xvii. 5), to finish that part of his
mediatorial work which could not be done on earth, and make intercession
for his people, to demonstrate the fulness of his satisfaction, to take
possession of heaven for his people, to prepare mansions for them, and
to send down the Comforter, which was to be the first-fruits of his intercession,
John xvi. 7. 2. Upon his ascension into heaven, Christ is enthroned at
the right hand of the Father. His being said to sit there imports absolute
rest and cessation from all further troubles and sufferings, and an advancement
to the highest personal dignity and sovereign power. 3. Angels, authorities,
and powers, are all made subject to Christ Jesus: all power in heaven and
earth, to command, to give law, issue orders, and pronounce a final sentence,
is committed to Jesus, God-man, which his enemies will find to their everlasting
sorrow and confusion, but his servants to their eternal joy and satisfaction.