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1st Peter Series
“Arm Yourselves”

As we begin chapter 4, Peter is yet again teaching about suffering. He begins with holding up Christ’s suffering as an example for us:

4:1 “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,”

Christ suffered for us in the flesh. The Savior who now sits enthroned in glory with all power in His hands once lived on earth. While here, He tasted suffering, pain, and death.

What’s more, He never shrank from suffering. He knew from the beginning that He had come to earth to die on the Cross. He well knew the Prophet Isaiah’s predictions regarding Himself, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and acquainted with pain“ (53:3).

In light of Christ’s sufferings on our behalf, Peter exhorts “arm yourselves with the same purpose.” The words “arm yourselves” is from from a word used of a Greek soldier preparing himself for the coming battle by putting on his armor. “Suffering will come,” says Peter, so “arm yourselves like a soldier headed for the battlefield.” Don’t be shocked when it comes, rather be prepared.

Peter knew that his own cross of suffering, which Jesus had predicted for him, was near as he attests in 2 Pet 1:13, “But the Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that my days here on earth are numbered, and I am soon to die.” Peter was arming himself for suffering even as he wrote!

The Apostle adds an interesting thought here: “For he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” A believer who has been persecuted is a believer who has learned how to live the victorious life and to die to himself. He has died to living a sinful, compromising lifestyle.

Which leads to the next result:

4:2 “that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”

We are in enemy territory as Christians. In a battle, few soldiers get by unscathed. In our spiritual battle with the world, flesh, and devil, virtually no one who loves the Lord will get by without some scrapes and wounds.

Peter says that, in order to win the fight, we are not to live our lives out giving way to our flesh or fears. We are to be submitted, as good soldiers, to the will of God and fully live for Him!

To further hammer home the point, Peter turns his readers to memories of how they used to live before Christ:

4:3 “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”

In other words, we might have gotten away with these things as pagans, but that is out of the question now that we are His! The list of past sins he provides is grim and brings back memories for many Christians:

Lewdness refers to indecency, lack of restraint, outrageous conduct. In 2 Peter 2:7, Peter uses the same Greek word to describe the filthy lifestyle of the people of Sodom.

Lusts refers to an inordinate, fleshly desire of any kind, not just sexual. A craving for what God condemns.

Drunkenness is, of course, excess of wine or strong drink. This Greek word is also associated with debauchery—sensual, wasteful living like the kind the Prodigal Son lost himself in.

Revelries is from a word that conjures the picture of a band of rebels, more than half drunk, making their disorderly way down the street, creating disturbances as they go.

Drinking parties refers to the heavy drinking associated with festivals, large gatherings of revelers, or a house party filled with drunken people.

Abominable idolatries refers to the idol worship that so often led to immorality, drunkenness, and even demonic activity.

Such had been the lives of many of them before they met Christ. The encouraging thing with this terrible list is that this is how they once WERE, but have since been delivered by Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit!

In fact, these new Christians had been so powerfully delivered and radically changed that their old friends couldn’t believe the change they saw:

4:4 “In regard to these, your former friends think it strange when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they speak evil of you.”

Our old running buddies scratch their heads when we no longer involve ourselves in prodigal, wasteful living. To them it’s the only way to go. But to the born again Christian, Jesus is the only way to go.

Once saved we receive a transformed nature (2 Cor. 5:17). We discover that the things we used to hate—goodness, clean living, moral purity—we now love. And things we used to love—immorality, drunkenness, selfish and sinful living—we now hate.

We have a brand new nature and the world just can’t wrap their minds around that! So they choose to slander and persecute the new Christian. And Peter warns those who slander us for coming to Christ are going to answer to God:

4:5 “They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Peter testifies that God “is ready” to judge all men, both the living and the dead. Those who abuse and slander God’s people think they can do as they please with impunity. Yet there is One who HEARS all that they say, and SEES all that they do. While they may not be judged in this life, they will most certainly be judged in the life to come.

And not just those who abuse and slander God’s people, but those who slander our Lord will also answer to God. Jude writes,

“The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones 15 to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him (Jesus)” (14-15).

This is speaking of the 2nd coming of Christ when Jesus will appear in the sky at the end of the Great Tribulation period. He will come with His saints, the very ones that harsh sinners slandered and persecuted. At that time the Bible records in Matthew’s gospel:

“All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 41 Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matt 25:32-34;41).

And there are plenty of these kinds of blasphemers and mockers in our day. For instance, there’s hardly a more godless, malicious, irreverent, sick, and Christ-hating group of people in America than the majority of TV’s so-called comedians.

I thought about quoting some of them, like Sarah Silverman, Conan O’Brien, Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, or Jon Stewart, but the quotes were so blasphemous I couldn’t do it. Jude says they will answer directly to the One they’ve mocked!

Next, Peter strangely speaks about Jesus preaching to the dead. He writes:

4: 6 “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

Some believe this is another reference to the fallen angels of Noah’s day. But the word Peter uses for “preach” is evangelizo, meaning “to announce a joyful message.” In 3:19 he uses the word that means “to herald” with the sense of future accountability. So the two are very different.

What Peter is likely referring to is men who, when still alive, had heard the gospel and been saved. Because of their new Christian life they were harshly judged by the kind of men he’s just referenced in verse 5. Though judged by wicked men while on earth, they are now alive by the Spirit, resting with Jesus.

Next, Peter deals with the question, “How shall we then live in the midst of a wicked world that is persecuting our faith and threatening our lives?”

He first tells us what we should SERVE:

4: 7 “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”

The Christians of the first century believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime. It had only been three decades since Jesus had stepped into the sky from the brow of Mount Olivet, so it was very easy for them to imagine His immediate return.

We must remember here that even Jesus had told them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). The timing of His return was to remain a mystery, while they themselves were to focus on preaching the gospel.

Hence, an expectant Simon Peter urges God’s people to be sober, watchful, and to serve God in prayer. The word for “sober” means to think and act discreetly, to use sound judgement and moderation. Jesus could come at any time. Be ready.

Next, the apostle tells us what we must SHOW:

4:8 “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

The word for “fervent” means “to be extended” or “stretched out.” It’s used only one other time in the entire NT to describe the fervent prayer made for Peter when he was in prison waiting to be executed the next day.

The world Peter and the early church lived in was one that hated them. So they must practice fervent, “stretched out,” intense love for one another as an antidote; the agape kind of love. They were to be thoughtful, kind, and forgiving.

Next, Peter tells us what we must SHOULDER:

4:9 “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.“

This is a likely reference to traveling believers busy about the Lord’s work who needed a place to stay. There was no public welfare in Peter’s day. While there were inns like the one Jesus was born behind, they were often places where Nero’s spies would watch to seize Christians. So the need for hospitality with each other was strong. Don’t grumble, says Peter, take your brethren in.

So far Peter has told us what we must serve, what we must show, what we must shoulder, and next:

What we must SHARE:

4:10 “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

We’re to share our spiritual gifts with one another. Notice how Peter says that “each one” of us have received a spiritual gift!

The phrase “good stewards” is from a Greek word used of a manager who is responsible to care for someone else’s estate. As believers, we have received gifts from above. We are to make good use of them, knowing that the Owner will one day return to see how we’ve managed what He gave us!

Peter might also have been thinking about two bodies of water with which he was very familiar—the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The waters of the Jordan River flowed into the Sea of Galilee from the north. Then at the south end the Jordan flowed out again, leaving life and refreshment behind.

Unlike the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea received water from the Jordan but gave nothing back. There was no flow back out. As a result, it was dead—a Dead Sea devoid of life, its waters bitter.

As believers, we’re to be like the Sea of Galilee—receiving in and giving back out, lest we too become bitter and stagnant!