As believers, we are still living in this world. And generally, we are in daily contact with people who do not share our faith in Christ. Their influence is all around us. In this passage, Peter tells us to not let the world’s influence lead us into sin. Rather we should stand firm against it and the pressure it brings to bear on us.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV
The opening phrase here looks back to 1 Peter 3:18, where “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” And since that is true, what should be our response?
Peter tells us to arm ourselves with the same attitude. To arm ourselves is reminiscent of Ephesians 6:10-17 and Paul’s discussion of spiritual warfare. To arm is a military term. Get your weapons ready for a fight.
The expression “whoever suffers in the body is done with sin” is a challenging one. One that commentators are in disagreement with. What seems most likely to me is that the one who has committed themselves to suffering for the sake of Christ has left the world of sin behind. He is not saying that they do not sin. Only that they have turned away from that life.
And because they have turned away from that life, they no longer live for it. Their lives are not lived to satisfy their human desires. Instead, they seek to live in accordance with God’s will in their lives. Living in obedience to both his word and the Spirit’s leading. Resisting the world’s influence.
Arm yourself with the willingness to suffer as Jesus did.
Leave the Past Behind
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
1 Peter 4:3 NIV
Peter has called on us to live for the will of God rather than for our human desires. Those human desires belong in our past. And in our past, we did what unbelievers do. Indulging our sinful nature. Seeking to please ourselves.
For some of us, it would be tempting to look at this list of things that Peter mentions and not recognize our past. I know that I never participated in an orgy. Although I must admit that as a teenage boy, that was one of my fantasies. But I never acted out any of these things; apart from a little lust maybe.
But I do not believe that Peter would limit his meaning here to only the more degenerate activities of unbelievers. The contrast is between living to please God and living to please self. In the past, I lived to please myself. It is time, as a believer, to quit that life. Leave it in the past. It has no eternal value. Instead, seek to accomplish the will of God in your life.
Expect Abuse From Those Facing God’s Judgement
They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
1 Peter 4:4-5 NIV
Within a month of becoming a believer, I found myself in the US Navy, going through boot camp. Overall it was a wonderful experience for me, and I am grateful for it. But it was also very challenging. I was surrounded by other young men who, like myself, were free of home and its constraints. Time to experience the world and all that it had to offer. Something that, until a month prior, I had every expectation of experiencing myself.
But Christ captured me. And that desire was gone. And I mean gone without a struggle. But my fellow sailors had a hard time understanding why I was not interested in doing what they did. Why I spent my free time with my nose in a Bible. I will confess that I did not get much real abuse over it. But it was confusing to them.
Peter encourages us to live for God. And expresses that the world will not understand why we do. And they may become abusive over it. But they will have to give account to God for it. For their abuse of believers. And for their refusal to turn from the ways of this world and come to him. Rather than be upset over those who ridicule us, we should pity them. They have to stand before the judge of all the earth and give an account of their lives. That will not be pleasant.
Preaching To the Dead
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
1 Peter 4:6 NIV
This is another verse that is a bit challenging. The gospel was preached to those now dead. As in 1 Peter 3:19, we might ask what was preached, and who was it preached to?
The proclamation to the imprisoned spirits in 1 Peter 3:19 would appear to be a proclamation of victory by Christ over the forces of evil. But here it is the gospel itself that is preached. The good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
But was it preached to those who had died before Christ came? Or was it referring to those who had died after hearing the gospel? Those who would argue for the former alternative see this as referring to Old Testament saints. Those who were faithful in life before Christ came were given the gospel. A gospel they would gladly receive.
The alternative is that Peter was referring to first-generation believers who had begun to die, either naturally or from persecution. Which alternative is correct is something that was likely clear to Peter’s original audience, but much less so to us today. Which is right is beyond me.
Believers seem to face the same fate as unbelievers, at least physically. Both are subject to death, bringing an end to the life we know. No matter how you live your life here, the end result is the same. Death. At least from the perspective of the unbeliever.
But the end is actually quite different. On the one hand, are those who will face the judgment of God. And who will face eternal destruction. On the other hand, are those who will experience eternal life in the presence of God.
And that is why the gospel is preached, even to those now dead. So that, even though we face the same physical death, our final end will be different. Those who receive the gospel message, and live for God in this life, will live with him through eternity. But those who reject the gospel message face God’s judgment.
Call to Action
At one time, we all lived to satisfy our human desires. Whether we judged those actions as good or bad, we still lived for ourselves. But now we are called to leave that life behind. Resist the world’s influence in every part of your life. Instead, live to please God. To fulfill his will.
If you do that, the world around you will consider you as strange. And they will likely ridicule you. You may even suffer at their hands. They do not understand you. And your life is a threat to their own way of life. The darkness hates the light and will seek to extinguish it.
But judgment awaits. This physical life will end the same for all of us; in physical death. But the life to come will be quite different for those who have believed the message of the gospel. Eternal life awaits us. But not for unbelievers. The fate of those who scoff now is to experience the wrath of God.
- How do you resist the world’s influence?
- What does it mean to be done with sin?
- Why should you not be surprised when people around you do not understand your lifestyle? Should it be concerning to you if they accept you as one of their own?
- Who are the dead that the gospel was preached to? Why was the gospel preached to them?
- 1 Peter: An Introduction
- 1 Peter: Because of His Great Mercy (1:3-5)
- 1 Peter: Glorious Joy, In All Kinds of Trials (1:6-9)
- 1 Peter: The Mystery of Salvation (1:10-12)
- 1 Peter: Be Holy In All You Do (1:13-16)
- 1 Peter: Living as an Alien, a Foreigner in this World (1:17-21)
- 1 Peter: Love One Another Deeply, From the Heart (1:22-2:3)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen People, A Royal Priesthood (2:4-5; 9-10)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone (2:6-8)
- 1 Peter: Living As Foreigners and Exiles (2:11-17)
- 1 Peter: Responding To Suffering (2:18-25)
- 1 Peter: Instruction for Wives and Husbands (3:1-7)
- 1 Peter: Christian Ethical Behavior (3:8-12)
- 1 Peter: Revere Christ in Your Suffering (3:13-18)
- 1 Peter: Imprisoned Spirits and Baptism (3:19-22)
- 1 Peter: Don’t Surrender to the World’s Influence (4:1-6)
- 1 Peter: Life in the Church: to Love and to Serve (4:7-11)
- 1 Peter: Being a Shepherd, a Rewarding Task (5:1-4)
- 1 Peter: Humble Yourself Under the Hand of God (5:5-11)