The Spirits in Prison? (Clowney)

 Sometimes when we get into the details of the exegesis, syntax, grammar, and interpretation of a passage we forget or miss the big picture.  I appreciate how Edmund Clowney discussed the “hard text” of 1 Peter 3:19-20 in such a way that he didn’t forget the bigger picture of the surrounding context.  Here’s what he wrote after talking about the “spirits in prison” text:

In this whole passage Peter continues to give reassurance to Christians who must endure suffering and persecution. Christ has conquered by the power of his resurrection. He has prevailed to bring them to God. The devil may still be on the prowl like a roaring lion (5:7), but he cannot destroy those whose refuge is the Lord. Peter reminds suffering Christians of the period before the flood. The power of evil might then have been greater, the number of the elect even fewer. But God was in control. He withheld judgment, then as now, only to display his longsuffering grace. But his judgment did come: Noah and his family were delivered from that evil age by the judgment, the waters of the flood. Yet the judgment of the flood was only provisional, and the deliverance of Noah but a prefiguring, or ‘type’, of the final and full salvation of Jesus Christ.

 Edmund P. Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 164.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015