Because Jesus Suffered, We Must NOT Do These Things (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, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2; ESV)
Peter is still writing hope and encouragement to those who are suffering as Christians. Peter repeatedly relies upon the example of Jesus’ suffering. Jesus suffered for doing right. Jesus suffered as a just person for the world who was unjust and unrighteous. When Jesus suffered, he still acted righteously. He did not retaliate and return evil for evil. Knowing that Jesus suffered in the flesh in this way, we need to prepare our minds for the same way of thinking. Since Jesus suffered, we need to understand that we will suffer. We need a firm resolve (HCSB) and attitude (TNIV) that we will suffer as Jesus suffered because we are followers of Jesus.
We show spiritual maturity when we arm ourselves with the mind to suffer rather than sin. Jesus chose to suffer rather than sin because he was dead to sin. Jesus consistently chose to obey God, even though it meant that he would suffer for that choice. We need that resolve. Too often our attitude is to avoid suffering. We would rather not suffer. So we will commit sin to avoid suffering. But we have been called to avoid sin. By avoiding sin we will suffer.
What are we living our lives for? Peter says that we are not to live our lives for human passions, but for the will of God. We have spent enough time in the past indulging in human passions and lusts. Which direction will you choose for your life? If our life is about pleasure and comfort, then we are going to choose the road of sin so that we avoid suffering. We want to look like the world and act like the world so that we are not different and do not suffer. If our life is about Jesus, then we will reject looking like the rest of the world and will arm our minds with the knowledge that we will suffer for Jesus. We will suffer for practicing lifestyle evangelism. We will suffer for responding to evil with righteousness. We will suffer for aligning our lives to the living stone. We will suffer by being preachers of righteousness in this society.
3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like 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. (1 Peter 4:3-5; NRSV/ESV)
We have already spent too much time in sin, living our lives in unrestrained behavior and involved in immorality. We have been acting like the world around us for far to long and it is time to stop. Notice that these sins center around three immoralities: sex, food, and alcohol. Has anything changed? The last one, “lawless idolatry,” also involves sex, food, and alcohol, but uses those immoralities as worship to God. We go around saying that our use of sex, food, and alcohol is acceptable to God or worship to God. I think it is useful to notice that drunkenness is not the only thing condemned but also drinking parties.
According to BDAG, this Greek word refers to a social gathering at which wine is served, hence “drinking parties” (cf. TEV, NASB).
Teenagers often have the difficult decision of going to a party with their friends where there is drinking. But the scriptures do not teach us to “not get drunk” which is how those who want to justify alcohol want to frame the issue. Peter is teaching that Christians are going to be different. They are not going to participate in these things. That is what verse 4 reveals. We are going bring out the surprise of the world and will be maligned by the world because we do not indulge in lusts, do not cave into our passions, do not drink like the world, or give our bodies to unrestrained behavior.
Do you see what Peter is teaching? We have a choice — we can go along with our friends and not stand out so that we do not suffer. Or, we can show them that we are not going to join in with drinking, we are not going to give in to human passions and lusts. This choice will bring suffering. People are going to mock you. So-call Christians are even going to mock you. They are going to tell you that it is not a big deal. They are going to tell you that it is okay. They are going to tell you that sexual activities are okay as long as you do not go all the way. They are going to tell you that drinking is okay. They are going to tell you that as long as you do not get drunk that it is okay. They are going to tell you that you should indulge your fantasies so that you can control yourself. But these are lies, lies, and more lies. They will give an account to him who judges the living and dead. You are not to join with them. Let them malign you. Let them cause you grief. You are following in the steps of Jesus and are ceasing from sin, which will bring suffering.
Now it was for this very purpose that the gospel was preached to those who are now dead, so that though they were judged in the flesh by human standards they may live spiritually by God’s standards (1 Peter 4:6; NET).
Even though we are condemned while we live on the earth by the standards of our society, we are alive to God because we suffered for Jesus and resisted sin. We are alive to God spiritually when we choose Jesus and suffering rather than choosing sin and avoiding suffering.
Because Jesus Suffered, We MUST Do These Things (4:7-11)
For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer. (1 Peter 4:7; NET)
This is not talking about the end of the world, and a few translations do a terrible job in making it sound like that this is what Peter is talking about (cf. NLT). Rather, the culmination of all of God’s plans and purposes were under way. Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension had already occurred. The Holy Spirit had been poured out. Persecution was beginning to increase. The destruction of Jerusalem was coming. The prophecies of God were being fulfilled at that very time, right before their very eyes. So be self-controlled and sober-minded. Stay calm and get focused with prayer. Be earnest and disciplined in your prayers as you experience these rapidly changing conditions. This relates closely to what Peter previously instructed in 1 Peter 1:13. With suffering for the sake of Jesus continuing, Peter explains the things these Christians need to be doing.
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11; ESV/NRSV)
Notice the words, “Above all.” This is really important! Keep loving one another. Persist in love. Peter quotes from Proverbs 10:12 that love covers a multitude of sins. This is not a statement of salvation or that we do not point out our sins so that we can be corrected. We are being reminded that love is longsuffering. We are to bear with one another. We will forgive faults and offenses committed against us.
Be hospitable without complaining. Share your home and share your life with people, even strangers. It is ridiculous that we complain about having people over. It is ridiculous that we think it is such a big deal to share our lives with others. We cannot be Christians in isolation. The word of God condemns this. It is not Christianity if we think we can just have our faith between me and God, and not open our lives or homes to other people.
Use your abilities and gifts that God has given you. I do not believe this is talking about some sort of miraculous spiritual gifts. I believe this is simply teaching that whatever physical blessings you have been given, serve one another. Serve in the strength of the Lord. When we speak, speak the very words of God. Be stewards of the many different forms of grace that God has given you. Money, possessions, home, car, and any other blessing would be used to serve and share with others. Our words will be used to serve others. We all have different blessings to a different degree. We do not use these things for selfish uses, but for serving God.
Let our lives by ruled by these two thoughts: (1) Whatever we do, we do it so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. (2) When suffering, find your strength in God and know you are spiritually alive.