1 Peter 04(01–06)

Introduction

We’ve seen how the Apostle Peter was writing to believers who were suffering for their faith and who were suffering for doing good. And he was writing to encourage them. And one of the ways he encouraged them was by reminding all those who were suffering for doing good that the Lord Jesus Christ also suffered for doing good. After all, he was the one who suffered and died on the cross, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring us to God. So, if you find that you’re suffering for doing good, remember that the Lord Jesus also suffered for doing good.

And, of course, for him, suffering and death were not the end, because after he suffered and died, he was raised from the dead and he ascended to heaven. And so, in order to encourage believers who were suffering for their faith and who were suffering for doing good, Peter was saying to them: you too will be raised from the dead to live for ever if you remain faithful to the Lord Jesus.

And then, the Lord Jesus, after he was raised from the dead, sat down at his Father’s side in heaven where he now rules over all things. And so, in order to encourage believers who were suffering for their faith and who were suffering for doing good, Peter was saying to them: remember and believe that your Saviour is seated on a throne and that he rules over all so that he’s able to shield you and your faith by his mighty power.

So, Peter has been writing to encourage and to re-assure believers who were suffering for their faith and who were suffering for doing good. And he continues to write about these things in today’s passage. First of all, in verse 1, he tells his readers — and therefore he’s telling us — he tells his readers to arm ourselves with the same attitude as Christ had, who suffered in his body while he was on the earth. So, arm yourself with the mind of Christ. And then Peter goes on to explain that there’s a connection between obeying the Lord and suffering for the Lord. And so, let’s look at this passage today to see what we can learn about the Christian life.

Verse 1a

And so, look with me again at verse 1 where Peter writes:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude….

Now the phrase ‘arm yourselves’ is an interesting expression, because it’s associated with the military and with soldiers who need to arm themselves with weapons in order to defend themselves against the enemy. So, we can imagine a Roman officer, giving the order for his men to arm themselves with swords and spears and to prepare to withstand their enemy. But, of course, Peter is not commanding believers to arm ourselves with swords or spears or with guns and bombs. He’s commanding us to arm ourselves with a certain attitude. He wants us to arm ourselves with the same attitude which we see in the Lord Jesus. He wants us to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. And what is the mind of Christ? Well, Peter tells us in the same verse. This is the mind of Christ: he was prepared to suffer in the body.

Think of the night when the Lord was arrested. Do you remember? Judas led the soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. And when they arrived, the Lord was willing to hand himself over to them. He even said to them: ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?’ He was saying: You don’t need your weapons, because I’m prepared to hand myself over to you and to suffer for the sake of my people. Well, Peter’s attitude at that time was very different, wasn’t it? Do you remember? Peter had armed himself, not with the mind of Christ, but with a sword. And he took out that sword and swung it at the servant of the High Priest who was there, cutting off his ear. He had armed himself with a sword and was ready for a fight. But the Lord stopped him and the Lord healed the man who had been injured.

And do you remember even earlier in the gospels? When the Lord predicted his suffering and his death? And what was Peter’s attitude at that time? Well, Mark tells us that he took the Lord aside and rebuked him. Peter rebuked the Lord Jesus for talking that way about suffering and dying, because it made no sense to him at that time; and at that time, he did not have the mind of Christ and he did not have the same attitude the Lord Jesus had.

But it’s clear from this letter that something changed in Peter. Before the Lord’s death on the cross, Peter was willing to arm himself with a sword in order to defend himself. But after the Lord’s death, something changed, and Peter now wrote to believers to say to them that we must arm ourselves, not with weapons, but with the mind of Christ; and we must be prepared to suffer for the faith. What was the reason for this change in Peter? Well, it was the resurrection of the Lord, wasn’t it? The Lord not only suffered, and he not only died, and he not only was buried, but afterwards he was raised to resurrection life and he now lives in the glory of heaven. That’s the reason for the change in Peter, because Peter now understood that after the suffering of this life, there will come the resurrection of our bodies and everlasting life in the presence of God. So, don’t arm yourselves with swords and spears and guns and bombs; arm yourself with the mind of Christ who suffered in this life, but who was raised from the dead and who entered the glory of heaven and who now rules over all. And after your suffering, you too will be raised from the dead and you too will enter the glory of heaven.

Verse 1b

Having mentioned suffering in the first part of verse 1, Peter goes on to show that our suffering in this life is connected with our willingness to obey the Lord. Listen again to verse 1 and then I’ll explain what I mean. Peter says:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

So, Peter tells us that he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. What does he mean? Does he mean that if we ever suffer, then we’ll never sin again? Is he saying that suffering makes us sinless? Well no. If we were to turn over a few pages in our Bible to 1 John 1, we’d find the Apostle John saying to believers who were suffering for their faith: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves….’ John was saying: You’re only fooling yourself if you think you’re sinless, because we all sin. So, Peter can’t mean that suffering leads to sinlessness. It would be great if that were the case, because believers don’t want to sin and they don’t want to offend their Lord; and we’d be prepared to suffer if it means we’d never sin again. But that’s not what Peter means.

This is what he means: whoever is prepared to suffer for the faith is done with sin in the sense that they would rather suffer than sin; they would rather suffer than sin. Because they love the Lord and want to obey him, they’re prepared to put up with whatever troubles and trials their commitment to Christ might lead to.

So, in the past, whether they obeyed or not didn’t matter to them; they just wanted an easy life; a trouble-free life. But now — because they love the Lord and want to obey him — they’re prepared to suffer for Christ. If it’s a choice between suffering and sinning, then they will choose — every time — to suffer rather than to sin against the Lord.

Verses 2 and 3

In verses 2 and 3 Peter contrasts two ways to live; and he shows in verse 4 that living your life in one of these two ways may very well lead to suffering in this life. So, he says in verse 2:

As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

So there are these two ways to live. You can either live your life for evil human desires; or you can live your life for the will of God. You can live your life, following your own sinful desires and inclinations; or you can live your life, following the will of the Lord. You can either live an earthly life only, a life of sin and shame; or you can live a heavenly life, which is a life of obedience to the will of your Father in heaven.

And Peter says to his readers in verse 3 that they’ve already spent enough time living that earthly, sinful kind of life. And no doubt he was thinking of their life before they were converted to faith in Christ. In those days, those bad old days, they followed their own sinful desires and inclinations and did all kinds of shameful things. But that time is over now; they’re done with that kind of life now; now they want to live a new kind of life, a life of obedience to the Lord.

And look: in the rest of verse 3 Peter lists some of the things they used to do and which their unbelieving neighbours still do. And it’s all so familiar, isn’t it? He could be writing about what people in Belfast do any night of the week. So, he mentions debauchery and lust, or living in sensuality and passions, as another translations puts it. Well, he’s thinking about sexual sins, people who are driven and controlled by their sinful passions. And then he mentions drunkenness and orgies and carousing, or drinking parties as another translation puts it. So, you know: ‘It’s Friday night. It’s the weekend. No more work tomorrow. Let’s go out on the town and drink as much as we like and we’ll do whatever we like.’ It’s all so familiar. But then Peter adds ‘detestable idolatry’ to the end of his list, because he’s talking about people who do not know or worship the Lord, and who have no desire to do his will.

We often think we’ve made great advances in civilisation and that we’ve come so far as a species; and our attitudes and ideas are much more advanced today compared to the way people were in the past. But really, when we compare the way people behave today with this list of sins in verse 3, we see that people today are not really very different from the way they were in the past. And we’re not very different because we’re still sinners. We’ve still sinners. But when a sinner is converted to faith in Christ, well, it’s what Peter says here:

you have spent enough time in the past doing what the pagans choose to do.

So, when a person is converted, they realise I’ve spent enough time, doing those shameful things. And I want to live a new kind of life now. Instead of living for evil human desires, I want to live for the will of God.

Verse 4

But, living for the will of God — wanting to live a life of obedience to God — may very well lead to suffering in this life. That’s the point of verse 4 where Peter explains that the people who live for evil human desires will think it’s strange that believers don’t want to live that way or to do those things. They’ll say to us: Why won’t you join us? Come on. It’ll be fun! And not only do they think it’s strange, but very often they will heap abuse on us because we will not join them: What’s wrong with you that you won’t join us? Don’t be a party-pooper. Don’t be a kill-joy. Don’t be so unsociable. Do you think you’re better than us? Who do you think you are, judging us?

Again, it’s so familiar, isn’t it? I’m sure many of our young people have been mocked for not going to the same parties as their classmates. And perhaps you’ve been called all kinds of names, because you will not join with them. And those of us who are older, can remember what it was like in school and college, and the pressure on believers to conform. But it’s not only young people who feel this pressure. I wonder, do the young people realise that? Peer pressure is not for teenagers only; we all feel it; and there are people we work with or who live beside us or perhaps they’re members of our family who think it’s strange that we don’t do what they do; and they may despise us for what we believe and for the way we live our lives.

Listen: there are two ways to live. Many people live for evil human desires; they follow their own sinful desires and inclinations; they’re living an earthly life only, because all they think about is this life. But then there are those — and this is the way we’re to be — there are those who have armed themselves with the mind of Christ who was prepared to suffer in this life. And since we’ve armed ourselves with the mind of Christ, then we too are prepared to suffer in this life. And we’re prepared to suffer in this life because we love the Lord and we want to obey him and we want to live our lives for the will of God. So, people may think we’re strange; and they heap abuse on us; and they may do other things to us; but we would rather suffer their scorn than sin against the Lord. So, no matter what they say about us or do to us, we will not join them in their sin.

Verses 5 and 6

So, Peter has said we need to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, which means we should be prepared to suffer in this life, just as he was prepared to suffered in this life. And Peter has shown that our suffering in this life is connected with a willingness to obey the Lord, because those who live for evil human desires may very well heap abuse on those who live for the will of God because we will not join them in their sin. That’s where we’ve got so far.

And so, we come to the final two verses, where Peter reminds us of the eternal perspective which we always need to have. We need to remember that there’s this life and there’s the life to come. So, look at verse 5 first of all. Peter has been writing about those who live for evil human desires; and who choose to live a life of sin and shame; and who think it strange when believers won’t join them in their sin; and who even abuse believers for not doing what they do. Peter has been writing about such people. And in verse 5 he reminds his readers that those who do not believe and who live like this and who heap abuse on believers must give an account of themselves to the Lord Almighty who will one day judge the living and the dead. In other words, God will one day judge everyone who has ever lived. Every single person who has ever lived will have to stand before his judgment seat and explain ourselves to him and explain the way we have lived.

Now, believers are not anxious about that day. We’re not anxious about that day at all. But it’s not because we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong and we’ve done everything right. No, it’s because God has promised that there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ; God has promised that our sins have been paid for in full by Jesus Christ. So, we’re not anxious about that day, because we know that, for the sake of Christ, God will pardon us for all that we have done wrong in this life.

But those who have not believed — and who live their lives for evil human desires instead of for the will of God — they will have to answer to the Lord for what they have done. And so — all those who have lived for evil human desires in this life; and who have lived in debauchery and lust and drunkenness and orgies and carousing and detestable idolatry; and who have committed other kinds of sins without receiving God’s forgiveness when it was offered to them in this life — they will have to answer to the Lord for why they lived like that instead of living for the will of God. And on that day, that judgment day, they will not be able to give any excuses, because it will be clear that all the charges against them are true; and though they were offered forgiveness, time and time and time again, they refused to receive it. And so, they’ll stand before the judge as a guilty sinner who deserves to be condemned.

But look now at verse 6, because this refers to the outcome for believers. You see, Peter is referring in this verse to believers who have died. But before they died, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to them. The good news of Jesus Christ — who died for sinners to pay for their sins — was preached to them. Now, some of the details of this verse are difficult, but the general meaning of the verse is clear enough. Those who heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ when it was preached to them still died, as all sinners do. However, although they have died, nevertheless they will live. In the body — or in the flesh — they died. But in the Spirit — or because of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead — they will live. And they will live for ever with God.

So, all those who have lived for evil human desires will have to give an account to the one who is ready to judge the living and the dead. But all those who believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and who have lived their lives for the will of God are able to look forward to everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.

Conclusion

So, listen: We’re to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, which means we should be prepared to suffer in this life, just as he was prepared to suffered in this life. And Peter has shown that our suffering in this life is connected with a willingness to obey the Lord, because unbelievers may very well heap abuse on those who live for the will of God because we will not join them in their sin. But they will have to answer to the Lord for what they have done, whereas all who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ can look forward to living for ever and ever in the glory to come. And so, to suffering believers, Peter is saying: Lift up your eyes to Jesus Christ, who suffered in this life and who died. But afterwards, afterwards, he was raised from the dead and he entered the glory of heaven where he rules over all. So, lift up your eyes to heaven and look forward to the day when he comes again, because when he comes again, your body will be raised from the dead; and you will enter the glory of heaven; and you will rule with him for ever and ever. So, don’t let the sorrow and suffering of this life put you off or distract you from living for the will of God. Live your life for his will; and in the end, in the end, you will live with him for ever.