Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. — 1 Peter 3:18. — World English
There is some dispute as to what “in the spirit” means in 1 Peter 3:18. There are some who claim that the phrase “in the spirit” uses the word “in” as instrument, meaning “by means of” the spirit. (Actually, the Greek word “en” is not used in 2 Peter 3:18.) Similarly others would have it read “by the spirit”, producing almost the same thought. Some point to scriptures such as John 4:23,24 and Philippians 3:3 as proof of this.
John 4:23 – But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in [Greek, en, Strong’s #1722, by means of] spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshippers. — World English.
John 4:24 – God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in [Greek, en, Strong’s #1722 – by means of] spirit and truth. — World English.
These two scriptures are definitely speaking of instrumentality, that is, through, or by means of, spirit.
Philippians 3:3 – for we are the circumcision, who by [no preposition in the Greek here, although it could be understood as instrumental in the context as contrasted with the flesh] the Spirit are serving God, and glorying in [Greek, en, Strong’s #1722 – by means of] Christ Jesus, and in [Greek, en, Strong’s #1722 – by means of] flesh having no trust. — Young’s Literal.
Robertson states concerning *pneumati* (translated “spirit”): “Instrumental case, though the dative case as the object of latreuw makes good sense also (worshiping the Spirit of God) or even the locative (worshiping in the Spirit of God).”
Nevertheless, most, if not all, scholars agree that *pneuamti* is used in the instrumental case in Philippians 3:3.
Of course, there is no doubt that the God and Father of Jesus did indeed use his spirit to raise Jesus from the dead. Romans 8:11 is often misused in an effort to show that it was God’s spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. While we can be sure that God did make use of His spirit to raise Jesus from the dead, that is not what is said in Romans 8:11. Nevertheless, was this what Peter was saying by his words in 1 Peter 3:18? Was Peter speaking of the instrument of the spirit being used, or was he speaking of what Jesus became? We should note that there is no Greek word “en” (Strong’s #1722) in 1 Peter 3:18 before “the spirit”, although the statements made by some may leave that false impression. The English words used (in, to, by) are supplied by translators, thus the argument that says that “in” as used in 1 Peter 3:18 cannot be based upon the Greek instrumental word “en”, since it does not appear there.
What we should note is that whatever is meant by his dying “in the flesh”, he was likewise “made alive in the spirit.” If God’s spirit was the “instrument” to make Jesus alive, then likewise, we would have to conclude that the flesh was the “instrument” of his death. Thus those who propose that, in 1 Peter 3:18, it is speaking of God’s spirit as the instrument of Jesus’ being made alive would need to also show how the flesh was the instrument of Jesus’ death.
Some have claimed that the word “to” should be before “flesh” and “spirit”, making it appear to read that Jesus died to the flesh and was made alive to the spirit. This is evidently done to make it appear to correspond with what is stated to Christ’s followers: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:11) And also: Romans 8:10,11: “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Did Jesus need to reckon himself dead to sin? No, since he actually was never a sinner, he did not have to reckon himself dead to sin. Likewise, did Jesus ever need to reckon himself alive to God? Absolutely not! Did Jesus’ body ever need to become dead because of sin in it? No. It is because of the sinful flesh of the believer that there is a need to be given reckoned life through God’s spirit. Thus, to be joint-heirs with Christ, one can be reckoned as having a “living body” through the spirit, a body that, having God’s spirit, is able to develop perfected fruitage of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-25; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 1:28; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Hebrews 6:1; James 1:4; 5:10; 1 John 4:18), and which body, counted as perfected, can then be sacrificed as joint-sufferers with Christ, so as to attain the prize of joint-heirship with Christ. — Romans 8:17; 12:1; Philippians 3:14.
Similarly, some claim that “made alive”, or “quickening”, in 1 Peter 3:18 means being made spiritually alive. In some vague manner many claim that “died in the flesh” means death to the sinful flesh and “being made alive” means being made spiritually alive. (Of course, this tends toward the dual nature of man that many would impose upon the being of man.) Did Jesus die spiritually for our sins, so that he needed to made spiritually alive? No, again, Jesus actually died as a human, a fleshly being, and his body, his flesh, was an offering for sin. (Luke 22:19; John 6:51; Ephesians 2:5; 1 Timothy 2:5,6; Hebrews 9:14,24-28; 10:5,10) Since his death was actually his flesh death, then he was actually made alive as a spirit being.
Others claim that Adam was created with a sinful nature, and thus his flesh would have died regardless of whether he ate the fruit or not. Some dualists and others even claim that Jesus’ flesh was also of the sinful nature. Thus, in applying this idea to 1 Peter 3:18, some claim that Jesus had to die to his sinful flesh and be spiritually made alive.
See the study:
“How God’s Son Condemned Sin in the Flesh”
If Jesus was born with sinful flesh, this would indicate that Jesus was under condemnation of sin, as all mankind is through Adam. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22) Adam did not have sinful flesh until his flesh became sinful through sin, and then it was that God subjugated all in Adam to the condemnation, so that all of the offspring of Adam were “made sinners” through the one disobedience of Adam. (Romans 5:12,19) To one whose understanding falls short of the wisdom of God revealed in the scriptures, this may seem harsh and unjust on God’s part, to make “innocent” babies before they are born sinners because of another’s sin. From God’s standpoint, however, it is a display of his love, his justice, and his wisdom, all working in perfect accord, for, by condemning all in one, only one who is not sinful can make an offering to satisfy justice, thus releasing all who are condemned in the one. Indeed, if the stillborn, embryos and infants that have died were not ‘made sinners’ due to Adam’s disobedience, then neither could they be included in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, since their death would not have been “in Adam”.
See the study: Divine Economy in the Ransom
In actuality, there would be no need for Jesus to be reckoned “dead” to the sinful flesh, since Jesus’ flesh was never sinful. — Romans 6:11; 8:10.
1 Peter 3:18 — Westcott & Hort Interlinear
hoti kai christos hapax peri hamartiwn apethanen
BECAUSE EVEN CHRIST ONCE FOR ALL ABOUT SINS DIED,
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dikaios huper adikwn hina humas
RIGHTEOUS (ONE) OVER UNRIGHTEOUS (ONES), IN ORDER THAT YOU
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prosagagee tw thew thanatwtheis men
HE MIGHT LEAD TOWARD TO THE GOD, [HE] HAVING BEEN PUT TO DEATH INDEED
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sarki zwopoieetheis de pneumati
TO FLESH HAVING BEEN MADE ALIVE BUT TO SPIRIT;
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The Westcott and Hort text, based on several earlier manuscripts, states that Jesus “died” for sin once. Some ancient manuscripts state that Christ died for sins on our behalf, while other manuscripts read that Christ suffered for sins. It appears that English translations are almost equally divided between the two. The NASB, NIV, NEB, Good News, New Jerusalem Bible, and the RSV all follow the manuscripts that read that Christ “died”. The KJV, NKJV, REB, NRSV, and Phillips have Christ “suffered”. Regardless, Jesus, who knew no sin, physically suffered, died for sin (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3), he did not simply suffer or “die” reckonedly to the flesh. Jesus did indeed suffer death once for all time for sin. (Hebrews 5:1,3; 7:27; 9:12; 10:5,10,12,26) Therefore, Peter does indeed refer to the Father’s giving to Jesus a spiritual body in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:38), but we do not agree to the meaning that the trinitarians and some others would give to this: the thought that Jesus’ spiritual body was actually a glorified body of flesh. The glory of the earthly, fleshly, body is not the same as the glory of heavenly, spiritual, body. (1 Corinthians 15:40) While the joint-heirs with Christ will be raised in a spiritual body, in the resurrection there will be those who receive physical, earthly, bodies also. “It [the seed sown with the prospect of joint-heirship] is sown [reckoned with] a natural [physical, justified] body [reckoned justified and alive as Adam was alive before Adam sinned]; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural [physical] body and there is also a spiritual body [as given by the Father in the resurrection day].” This does not mean, as some have claimed, that all who are raised are given both a physical and a spiritual body. It means that “God appoints it a body [whether physical or spiritual] even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.” (1 Corinthians 15:38) Thus, in the resurrection of the justified, there will be those who have the glory of the eartly, and those who have the glory of the heavenly.
Likewise, Jesus received from his God a “spiritual body” — the glory of the heavenly — when he was raised from the dead; he “became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) He had the full glory of the earthly while on earth, since he never fell short due to sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 3:5; John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21), which sinless human glory he gave in sacrifice. — Hebrews 2:9.
By saying that he “became” this life-giving spirit, this indicates that he was *not* this life-giving spirit until he “became” this life-giving spirit.
As stated before, the Greek word “en” does not appear at all before flesh or spirit. The word “in” is actually inserted by translators. Thus more literally it is “having been put to death flesh, but made alive spirit.” Some argue that “sarki” (body) and pneumati (spirit) are both locative in 1 Peter 3:18, thus referring to what Jesus was contained in, that is, his physical body that died, and then his spiritual body that he received when made alive.
We know that Jesus’ literal flesh did die — his flesh — his fleshly being — was literally killed; his body was the permanent offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:10) It is not speaking of a reckoned condition (as the believer is ‘reckoned dead to the [sinful] flesh’), since Jesus had no sinful flesh to reckon as being dead, but it is talking about the actual death of his sinless flesh. Likewise, Jesus was actually made alive spirit — a spirit being, not just reckoned as such.