Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through 1 Peter in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.

1 Peter 4:1-6 – “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”

The Apostle Peter begins this periscope with a factual statement – Christ suffered in the flesh with that suffering, a reference to His death on the cross. Following this statement is a course of action for the believer that must drive our approach to our daily lives.

To do this, we are told to arm ourselves, a metaphor for having the same type of mindset as Christ. We are not called to die on a Cross; however, suffering and indeed even perhaps dying for the faith should be understood as part of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

A state of readiness such as directed by Peter in 1 Peter 4:1 requires a certain approach. Not just any approach will suffice, since as after all, the example provided is none other than the life of Christ.

Peter begins by noting the importance of properly orienting our way of thinking. The Greek word for thinking (or mind as noted in some translations) is ennoia, a noun meaning “mind, understanding, will, the manner of feeling, and thinking.” The definition of this word covers the entire array of what we do with our mind to include feeling, thinking, action, and how we understand issues of life. Our mindset must be armed at all times, in the same manner, Christ armed His mindset – being fully focused holiness as defined by God.

In 1 Peter 4:2, Peter presents the next element of how we are to arm ourselves. He declares we are to “live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God.” Living addresses our actions. Once the mindset is properly attuned to the things of God, we must ensure our actions are also attuned to the will of God.

Jesus walked in what theologians call “active obedience.” R. C. Sproul aptly defines active obedience as the “whole life of obeying the Law of God whereby He qualifies to be the Savior.”[1] Full obedience to the Law of God is something we cannot attain to in this life. As Christians, we are through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit to be holy. What I’ve just described is why God’s people are to have the same mindset as our Savior, with the result of a life devoted to the will of God.

Thus, the Christian life is not one of mere passivity. God’s people are the recipients of His amazing grace. The Christian life comes with the expectation subsumed in repentance. Christians are to live in such a way that our actions represent a people who have been redeemed from slavery to sin and who are now giving glory to God by how they live their lives.

The true meaning of repentance is found in the meaning of the Hebrew word for repentance – teshuvah. Many approach repentance as a turning from something. The term actually presents a much deeper truth, namely that of turning back to God.

In repentance, we turn from sin and turn to God, creating the situation where our path involves a noticeable change of direction. When we lived according to human passions, our path was the wide path of destruction. When we repent of our sins and turn to God, our path is one that leads to God with the path of righteousness defined by the will of God.

Peter clearly outlines the former path to destruction was a life devoted to “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” As Christians living on the path to the Kingdom, such passions and desires are to be a thing of the past. Since we have turned from those desires and fixed our eyes on God, our lives will inherently look drastically different. In fact, Peter notes the aspect of surprise from those we once associated with, especially when we no longer participate in the lust and pursuits of the flesh.

It is interesting that Peter does not suggest the response of the wicked will be a nice pat on the back and a response of “Oh I hope that Jesus thing goes well for you”. Conversely, the reality is we will be maligned. The word malign is where we derive the term blasphemy from. If we are arming ourselves with the same mindset of Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit, living a life devoted to the will of God, the response of the wicked to Christ will be our lot as well.

Those who ridicule and blaspheme the righteous will not go unpunished if they continue in their pursuit of carnal passions. Peter notes in 1 Peter 4:4 that God, the righteous Judge, will demand of them an account for their evil actions, one with eternal ramifications.

This periscope ends with a message of hope. After declaring our need to arm ourselves in thought and action in the same manner as Christ did while He was in the flesh. Peter then continues explaining the reality that our changed life will bring forth derision, ridicule, and even persecution leading to death. Peter tells us such suffering is but for a time.

Those who walk in the ways of God, who have truly experienced teshuvah, are on the path to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Even if death comes as a result of suffering or if death comes as the part of this current marred existence, we have the blessed hope of the resurrection from the dead. New life will be given to those who die in the faith.

David Helm provides an excellent summation of what Peter is driving at in this passage:

“We have nothing to fear in Christ! We have nothing to fear in embracing suffering in this life. Peter wants us to grasp this as part of our calling. To do so, we need to make three gospel commitments: become a person of resolve, live for the will of God, and leave human passions behind. We must be ready to incur two costs: the surprise of those with whom we once lived in sin and the inevitable maligning and slander that is sure to follow. In all this, though, Peter reassures us with one encouraging reminder: there will be a final accounting for everyone. As those who are in Christ, we shall live on in the Spirit forever.”[2]

With those gospel commitments in mind, let us arm ourselves in thought and action to live to give glory to God, knowing that suffering is but for a fleeting moment.

References:

[1] R. C. Sproul, “Jesus and His Active Obedience,” Ligonier, February 16, 2016, accessed February 24, 2016, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/jesus-and-his-active-obedience/.

[2] David Helm, 1-2 Peter, and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 134.