April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
We continue today in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 4:1-6 | Beth Francis
Arm yourselves: the battle continues
Frequently Christians are reminded they mirror Christ to the world through their actions and words. Be it from a sermon, a friend, the Holy Spirit, or even a non-‐ Christian who saw our last stuff up and is now questioning our behaviour as a Christian. We are frequently reminded to be like Christ. And for some this may be a regular thought. To be reminded and to have this thought regularly is a good thing.
1 Peter 4:1-‐6 opens with this same thought. We are to “arm” ourselves “with the same attitude” as Christ. We are, like Christ, called to be different. Not only are we called to be set apart from this world we must mentally prepare ourselves for the battle that continues. Peter uses the term “arm” because he is reminding his readers those before them have fought and now they themselves must fight. But what battle are we preparing for? And why do we need to have the same attitude as Christ?
A battle of slanderous words, persecuted for our choices that don’t conform to the world’s standards of living, temptation to sin and hatred for what we stand for are just a few hardships we may face in this life. We need the same attitude as Christ otherwise we will perish along with sinners. This is what Peter was teaching the first readers of his letter: in order to live for God you must acknowledge your past is exactly that, ‘past’ and now you submit to the will of God with an attitude of commitment like Christ’s.1-2 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
If you read Peter’s entire letter you will see a likeness to many teachings from the Gospels. In order for us to have the same attitude as Christ we must take up our cross daily (Matt 16:24). Jesus sacrificed everything for humankind and now we are free from sin. We must be willing to sacrifice old desires, old ways in the battle against sin. Peter places an emphasis upon the example Christ provides. The necessity of suffering and Christ’s example should be combined in understanding the call to do good. Peter acknowledges that there is an ongoing challenge to do good while also reminding his readers they have put behind them the evil way of life (v.3). They have made a decisive break with sin.
Verses 1 and 2 are an appeal to the Christians who have made the decisive break with their past to continue this break in all their daily decisions. Peter highlights in verse 2 it is not our own lust or desires but the will of God that is to rule our lives and our actions. When we choose the will of God and suffer for righteousness’ sake we abstain from sin, emphasising our decisive break with it. To suffer for what is right not only demonstrates our rejection of sinful human desires but also exhibits the fact that we value the will of God as greater.3 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..
This is a call to Christians to sin no more. Peter reminds his readers that we “have spent enough time in our past” living like the world. Now we are to live like Christ. It is foolish to think that we must experience more of this world before committing whole‐heartedly to Godliness. The sin committed in our past is enough so Peter urges us to remember what we now hold is of greater value: the will of God.4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.
Jesus not only commanded us to enact the Great Commission but he also told us that the nations will persecute us (Matt 24:9). In our lives people will greet the gospel message with joy, others in anger and mockery will criticise us. This was the response of the pagans in Peter’s letter. Peter reminds his readers not to join in the sinful nature of the pagans but instead to embrace the suffering like Jesus. Most of all do not choose sin. To do so is to follow your old ways but you have now embraced God’s will. Stand firm in your armour and be prepared to suffer. Such suffering may include the loss of those we called friends before coming to faith. As a result of living gospel centred lives our associations will change. We may no longer be able to be friends with those who encourage us to return to our former way of life.5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
It can be increasingly frustrating when the consequences for ones actions appear to us as unjust. The same can be said for how we may feel towards those who persecute us. Have you ever wanted to retaliate and have the last word when being persecuted? Verse 5 teaches us that there is no need to resort to sinful retaliation because God is active and ready to settle all accounts. God is judge and we are not. 1
Peter 2:23 instructs readers to entrust their persecutors to our fair judge. We are to be like Christ who himself “did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges fairly.” Sinful actions will not be swept under the rug. Sinners will be called to give an account before God who will judge them. Not even death can separate them from judgment. Death is no escape for the sinner. In contrast to 1:5 where God’s power “at the last time” primarily functions as the promise of salvation for suffering and faithful Christians, 4:5 serves as a warning of judgment and punishment. Therefore be prepared to suffer for doing right and always leave judgment to God, our fair judge.6 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.
Again Peter encourages his readers to arm themselves against the slander and actions of wicked humans. Though they judge us on this earth claiming that Christianity is a list of dos and don’ts where all who follow miss out on “life”, do not fret. Rather, be encouraged as Peter reminds us that we are the ones who are alive in the spirit while what they practice leads to death (v.5). In contrast we are to continue living “according to God’s will” and can do so by having “the same attitude” as Christ (v.1), which is being committed to upholding our decisive break with sin. Those who embrace this truth, the gospel, will triumph over death.
In order to live for God we must hear Peter’s cry to “arm” ourselves “with the same attitude as Christ” (v.1). For if we do not we will no longer say your will God. Instead we will conform to the desires of our old nature that do not lead to life but death. Therefore arm yourselves for the battle continues.