Devotional 89: Spirits in Prison

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 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, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited, in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

We are bound by flesh, a prison of the senses, subject to sin in order to gratify them.

As believers, we sometimes convince ourselves that indulging in a little compromising, a little backsliding, will remove the barriers that tempt us, and we’ll be forgiven and continue with our walk.

This is not supported by Christ’s example, and it is affirmed by His most volatile, mercurial disciple. Did not the Lord himself tell us to count the cost of following Him, (Luke 14:28), and to take up our crosses on a daily basis (Luke 9:23 ) and that if we look back we are not worthy of the kingdom of G-d? (Luke 9:62)

How then, will we excuse ourselves for lapsing? Had Christ done so, His work would have been unfinished, and in vain, and we’d die in our sins as reprobate as we’ve lived, as if He’d never come at all.

Still, under the covenant of grace, let us rejoice and give thanks for a Savior who showed us by example, through praying for His enemies (Luke 23:34) that He understands we are weak and prone to error and foolishness. He has provided a way of return for us to the Father, and to the kingdom, through His mercy.

Jesus well understands, and indeed instructed the Apostle Paul to write under the power of the Spirit that our battle is in the realm of that which returns to G-d through faith in Him.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The evil days are many, as are the persecutions that come with it.

But we have been set free, called out, chosen, forgiven, and reconciled, though we are presently disobedient daily as well, we are convicted and allowed to begin again. Our lights can shine as brightly from a dungeon as on a hill.

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

It was Paul and Silas who sang, but those in their presence were also released.

Like the Psalmist, we know where our help comes from:

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Be free, and enter into His joy.

Therefore I pray:

Lord forgive us, for sometimes we lay these things at the altar and pick them up again, sometimes we forget, sometimes persecution causes us to compromise, and temptation to backslide. 

In those moments, in the night watches of our suffering souls, we thank You for tearing the veil, that we approach the throne, and throw ourselves on the mercy of our Creator, who is longsuffering, but not eternally so.

Bring to mind there will be a day of reckoning, of final and irrevocable judgment, and help us endure to the end, still wearing the whole armor of G-d, still trusting in You, still moving in the Spirit, still claiming the promises, as the servant who does his work not knowing when the Master will return.

Bless us that we may enter into Your joy with good consciences, steadfast hearts, and childlike faith, claiming the work You gave us to do is finished. Guide us so that the talents of our ministries increase and bear good fruit that withstands the testing of Your holy fire.

Let our hearts and lips be constantly in prayer, no matter what we suffer, that our day of deliverance draws nearer. Open the doors of our spiritual prisons, and free us in such a way those around us not only see, but we bring them with us down the Narrow Way carrying reaped sheaves of everlasting joy.

We ask it in Your Name, believing we’ve received.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.