The Latter Epistles – 1 Peter 4

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.  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.  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.  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.
The end of all things is near.  Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

  • 1 Peter 4:1-19

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

1 Peter 4:1 ‘with the same attitude’: “… there was a very popular book, When God Died, as well as a popular theology which said, ‘God is dead.’  Well, God never died, my friend, and He is not dead today – He hasn’t even been sick.  Christ died in His human body, which He took yonder at Bethlehem.  As the writer to the Hebrews put it, He was ‘in all points tempted like as we are.’  He knew what it was to suffer.  He knew what it was to bleed.  He knew what is was to shed tears.  He knew what it was to be brokenhearted.  He was perfectly human, and He died in that human body.
“Christ brought an end to His relation to the sins of man when He died on the cross because He bore the penalty for sin in His own body. …
“Now Christ is able to make over this benefit to us.  Peter tells us, ‘Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.’  ‘The same mind’ actually means ‘the same thought.’  Some people have said that it means resolution, but that is not quite the idea.  This refers to the thought which leads to a resolution.  His is what Paul spoke of when he said, ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 2:5). …
“If you are living in sin today and you are comfortable in it, I would surely question your salvation.  Someone may ask, ‘Can a Christian do this or do that?’  He might do it one time, my friend, but if he lives in sin there is something radically wrong.  A child of God with a new nature longs to please Christ in all things.  This is the reason that I believe the study of the entire Word of God is essential today.  …  You can live the Christian life only by having the mind of Christ, by having the Spirit of God moving in you to please God and to refrain from those things which bring disgrace to Him.”

  • J. Vernon McGee, First Peter – Thru the Bible Commentary Series

1 Peter 4:2 ‘remaining time’: “I do not know how much time remains, but it cannot be long even for the longest-lived person.  We must not forget that while we are talking about the rest of our life, it is already passed by.  Every moment we are here, we are traveling at an immense rate, speeding onward to the great goal of death.  We must be earnest.  For while we are making up our minds to be earnest, our time is slipping away.  The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little.  The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that we will do everything.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 4:4 ‘doing what pagans choose to do’: “How strange this world is!  It speaks evil of men because they will not do evil.  Yet it has always been so.  Those of whom ‘the world was not worthy’ (Heb. 11:38) have been the people of whom the worldly have said, ‘He should not be allowed to live!’ (Ac 22:22).  The world’s verdict concerning Christians is of little value.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 4:7 ‘expectancy’: “Christians in the early church expected Jesus to return in their lifetime (Rom. 13:12; 1 John 2:18).  The fact that He did not return does not invalidate His promise (2 Peter 3; Rev. 22:20).  No matter what interpretation we give to the prophetic Scriptures, we must all live in expectancy.  The important thing is that we shall see the Lord one day and stand before Him.  How we live and serve today will determine how we are judged and rewarded on that day.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Hopeful

1 Peter 4:11 ‘serving with God’s strength’: “God shaped you according to your purpose.  How else can you explain yourself?  Your ability to diagnose an engine problem by the noise it makes, to bake a cake without a recipe.  You knew the Civil War better than your American history teacher.  You know the name of every kid in the orphanage.  How do you explain such quirks of skill?
“God.  He knew young Israel would need a code, so he gave Moses a love for the law.  He knew doctrine of grace would need a fiery advocate, so he set Paul ablaze.  And in your case, he knew what your generation would need and gave it.  He designed you.  And his design defines your destiny.  Remember Peter’s admonition?  ‘Any who serves should serve with the strength God gives.”

  • Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life

1 Peter 4:12-19 ‘sharing the sufferings of Christ’: “In this final subsection Peter draws the threads together.  His readers must not be surprised at the painful (lit. fiery) trial they are experiencing, because suffering is not something foreign as far as Christians are concerned.  Rather, it lies at the very heart of our existence!  Peter gives three reasons why we should not be surprised:
“First, we are participating in the sufferings of Christ (v.13). …
“Second, because Jesus is already victorious, our suffering is a foretaste of that coming glory, a blessedness that comes to us as God’s Spirit rests upon us.  What a revolutionary understanding!
“Finally, our sufferings are the opening phase of God’s winding up operation, the beginning of his judgment.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

1 Peter 4:13 ‘suffering of Christ’: “If we do not share in Christ’s humiliation, how can we expect to share in his exaltation?  But if worldly people rebuke and reproach us, we may take it for granted that they can discern something of Christ in us.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 4:18 ‘the righteous person is saved with difficulty’: “If even the righteous are so severely tested, what short work will God make of the unrighteous?  The God who tries and tests the best will certainly not wink at the worst.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Peter 4: ‘challenge’: “If we find ourselves irked by external hindrances, be sure we are victims of our own self-will.  Nothing can hinder the heart that is fully surrendered and quietly trusting, because nothing can hinder God.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

My Thoughts

There are two themes here, but they overlap in an odd way.  Yet, each can stand alone.  We must strive to think like Jesus thought.  It is not good enough to ask “What would Jesus Do?”  We should think as Jesus thought.  And once that behavior of our thinking becomes evident when we are around others, do not be surprised that they will react negatively toward you.  This is a fallen world and the brokenness in this world creates at atmosphere that is anti-God.  In the secular culture of today, it should be obvious.

All true Christians have a certain amount of mental change upon being born-again.  We see certain things in our former life, and we are simply not tempted by them anymore, or we are tempted by them and there is a clanging bell saying, “no, no, no.”

Spending more time each day in prayer and Bible study does not guarantee us greater sanctification.  The prayer could be a lot of wasted time telling God what to do instead of surrendering to God’s will.  The Bible study may give us intellectual understanding, but if we do not put that knowledge into practice, have we really grown as a Christian?  I know atheists and agnostics who can quote Scripture better than I can.

But as we become more sanctified, we will be attacked by Satan more.  Those attacks can be within our own minds, with rouge thoughts that come from nowhere.  Or those attacks may come from others, even to the point of persecution, and within persecution, it could be anything from being passed over for a promotion at work to physical abuse to death.

My wife and I watched a documentary on Amazon Prime, No Safe Spaces.  It talks about the attack on the first amendment rights in the USA.  It seems that the movement for a safe space has gone to the extreme.  We are offended by everything, and we want to create a bubble to protect ourselves from everything.  We do not care how many people are harmed in the process, because they are “not me;” they are the “N” o’ me, enemy.  I wonder if the etymology of “enemy” is really “not of me?”

Many will blame that problem of self-centeredness on social media.  It seems our self-worth is measured by how many likes we get, how many friends we have, and how many comments we get.  I was about to say “positive” comments, but the really “popular” people get so many comments that it is impossible to read them, thus they are in such ecstasy that they never notice that the comments are negative or even cruel.

But to have a mind like Jesus, we need to get out more.  We need to love other people for who they are.  And before we get into a mode of total inclusivity, we must remember that Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but He commanded her to go and sin no more.  He loved her in her sinful state, but she could never get where Jesus wanted her to be without repentance (John 8:11).  Jesus loved her at that moment, but for salvation, that moment must be a turning point, a turning away from sin.

Look at the laundry list starting with debauchery, lust, and drunkenness.  Maybe you never had one of those three or two of those three, although three more follow the first three.  But maybe of the six sins listed, you immediately, upon rebirth, dropped one or two without a second thought.  Then there could be one of the six that reenters your mind on occasion. 

The last one in the list of bad thoughts is qualified as “detestable.”  Let’s just say “idolatry” with no qualifying adjective.  Now, can we apply that to a television show where all life stops because that show is on?  I must confess that I was like that at one time about M*A*S*H reruns.  We are talking about RERUNS!  Think back to your youth.  Who were your heroes?  Could they, in your mind, do any wrong?  In my mind as I was very young, like six, seven, eight-years old, I idolized Johnny Unitas.  Johnny Unitas never threw a bad pass.  If it was incomplete, he either wanted it to be incomplete or the receiver dropped it or did not jump high enough.  Any interception had to be the result of the officials not seeing the obvious penalty, because Johnny Unitas never made a mistake.  As I got older, I realized that Johnny Unitas was a human being, but it took many years before I realized that my childhood idolization of an American Football legend was idolatry.

Do you have a favorite sports hero, political hero, historical hero, or, worst of all, Christian hero?  Why is that last one the worst?  I heard Mark Lowry say about Billy Graham, something along the lines of, “We always thought that Billy Graham was the fourth head in the Godhead, but it sure was nice to learn that he had faults.  You know, like he was actually human.”  Can we make a Christian hero an idol?  Sure, we can.  We can love the messenger instead of the message and we often make statues of such people and some worship, at least bow before, such statues.

My point is that while some sins are obvious to us and we repent, there are others that are obvious, but we do not wish to let go just yet and gentle or forceful nudging must take place.  But then there are those sins that we are not aware of until much later, but to have the mind of Christ, we must deal with them as well.  And when we are on the subject of what would Jesus do, the difference in us and Jesus when it comes to sins of thought is that Jesus would not dwell upon those evil thoughts.  Jesus rebuked Satan and sent him packing.

Then, we come to the “Dear friends” in the middle of the chapter.  James said in his letter the same thing, to count it Joy that we are being subjected to suffering for righteousness’ sake.  We are not suffering because we killed someone.  No.  We have been identified as a good person and we are being persecuted.  But even then, are we being persecuted for being “good?”

In the aforementioned documentary, No Safe Spaces, they had a clip from a protest on the California Berkeley campus.  A Christian was elected as a senator on the student senate for the university.  A bill came before the senate that was against Christian teaching.  She did not vote against the bill; she abstained.  She was held to account for her abstaining the vote.  She expressed that it was against her beliefs.  This should have been held private within the senate walls, but it leaked out and in true Berkeley fashion, the far left rioted, broke windows, destroyed, etc.  Then the documentary showed a single protestor who was allowed to speak to the media reporter.  He made one statement that I will mention later, but his point was that, besides that “fact” (that is not fact), how could this woman ever be elected, and never could she serve, and have such views that are against the mob that is ripping the campus apart?  It was unthinkable that she would be allowed to express opinions against theirs.  She must be silenced.  And she was silenced on campus, removed from all social groups and official organizations on campus, lucky to even graduate.

What was the protestor’s opening statement, that he thought was fact?  “Christianity is universally toxic.”

Has Christianity become bad?  I still have not read Stephen McAlpine’s book Being the good bad guys.  Without being able to ask this student at Berkeley whether the gender issues and sexual orientation issues are the BAD, TOXIC thing, could there be anything else?  Frankly, if we looked at the Ten Commandments, there are hardly any that a college-aged student would accept as being a good moral code.  Maybe we could not kill.  Maybe that.  Stealing?  Hey!  My stuff is off limits, but I have heard it often said that if they stole, they needed it, so why not?  Just leave my stuff alone.  I suppose to that average college student on campus, murder is the only true commandment and all other are no longer “sin,” but when will we get to the point of murdering those who disagree with the mob?

So, when the moral code that is built within our DNA is no longer the definition of “good,” how “good” do you have to be before you are truly persecuted for righteousness?

But does that not illustrate where the battle lines are drawn?  Does that not illustrate what the Apostle Peter meant?

We cannot go along with the crowd.  And because we do not, we will be punished for our disobedience, by the crowd.  We are not violating the law.  Those that punish us are violating the written law, at least in most of the western culture, but they are obeying the law of mob rule and the latest social fad.

We live in a world gone insane.  But if one Christian stands against the onslaught, they might be joined by another, and then another.  We might suffer, but we might affect change, change toward repentance, or change toward Christ’s return.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. What thinking hinders your prayer life?  Conversely, what helps?
“2. Which Commands in verses 7-11 do you need to pay special attention to this week?
“3. What is one gift you think each group member has?  How could that gift be used to show love?
“1. When you feel like giving up, what keeps you going?
“2. If you were asked to tell a group of new believers what to expect in the Christian life, what are some things (from 1 Peter) you would tell them?  Why?
“3. We Christians are not persecuted a great deal by our government.  What form, then, does your suffering for Christ take?  Has such suffering for Christ changed, molded, or matured you?  How?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

This chapter of 1 Peter was split into two study sessions in the Serendipity Bible.

The first question 3 could apply to any “group” if not done in a group Bible study.

The second question 3 was written in the Serendipity Bible for a USA audience, but it might be argued that freedoms have been taken away or public opinion has shifted, or social media has done what the government has not done.  Yet, for some countries on this earth at this time, the government has persecuted Christians.  In some cases, the culture persecutes Christians while the government turns a blind eye.  Yet, understanding that some are dying for their faith in this world, it makes a cry for the loss of a freedom of speech or public assembly to sound kind of weak.  But in many cases, that is how greater persecution starts.  While we should examine persecution in our sphere, a group discussion that is diverse would be edifying on the topic of persecution.  What are the issues with each generation (this illustrates what each generation thinks as important and illustrates a differing amount of contact with the secular world) and what escalation in persecution have the older generations seen in their lifetime?

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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