Scriptures

1 Peter 4

Introduction

“Forasmuch then as 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.” 1 Peter 4:1

Living for God

In this chapter Peter reminds us to arm ourselves in our service to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 / Ephesians 6:12.

He has been focusing on suffering throughout his first letter and here, he is reminding us that we need to have the mindset of a willingness to suffer for being a Christian. In other words we need to have the attitude or mind set of Christ Himself, 1 Peter 2:21-23 / 1 Peter 3:18.

Peter has already said to us that we should be willing to suffer for Christ because He willingly suffered for us. He was willing to die for us so that we might live for righteousness sake, 1 Peter 2:24. When we endure hardship for Christ we’re not likely to allow sin to have dominance in our lives, 1 Peter 4:1.

“That you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past time doing the desire of the Gentiles, and having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, carousings, and abominable idolatries.” 1 Peter 4:2-3

We struggle when we see people in the world caught up in sin and see the damage it causes and Peter understood this but he says this is where the real battle begins, this is where the real battle is fought, it’s a battle between a person’s soul and a person’s fleshly lusts.

And what he is reminding us of is that unless we first win the battle for our own soul, we have got ultimately no chance of winning the souls of others. He’s saying we seriously need to take a good long look at ourselves before we can help anyone else, Matthew 7:3-5.

We need to get ourselves spiritually right first before we can help others. What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What truly matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our course for a moment.

Paul says we must work on our own faults, and when we’re spiritually mature enough, we go out and seek to help others in a spirit of gentleness. Because if we go in too soon and we’re not spiritually mature enough, there is a real danger that we may end up getting caught up in the sin too, Galatians 6:1.

Peter says as a Christian we’ve spent more than enough time in the world doing what the non-Christians do and the list of sins mention by Peter isn’t exhaustive, Paul has another long list of them, Galatians 5:19-21.

The point Peter is trying to make is that now is time to live out the rest of our lives for the will of God. And so when we as Christians live out the rest of our lives for the will of God, we need to be prepared for the fact that we will likely be criticised by others.

“And they are wondering that you no longer go with them in this violent wasting of life and are saying evil things of you. Who will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For to this end the Good News was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit.” 1 Peter 4:4-6

Many Christians, especially new Christians struggle with ridicule for a while, but the struggles soon disappear when they realise it’s actually a time to rejoice, Matthew 5:11-12 / 1 Peter 4:13-14.

But what do we say and do to these people who are having a go at us and calling us all sorts?

We respond with love and good conduct and who knows, maybe one day because they’re watching how we respond this may lead them to come to know God and glorify Him, Matthew 5:44 / 1 Peter 2:12. And the biggest lesson that Christians can learn when being ridiculed is that they need to allow God to be the judge.

What does Peter mean when he writes that ‘the gospel was also preached to those who are dead?’ H certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus or Peter preached the Gospel to them when they were dead.

What he means is that Gospel was preached to them when they were very much still alive but by the time Peter writes this letter they are now well and truly dead.

Peter’s point is quite simply, God is the judge and not only is He going to judge us as Christians, but He will also judge all those who aren’t Christians, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13. He is ready to judge all those who live according to the flesh, whether they are still alive or not.

And so if God is ready to judge us all, as Christians we must be willing to let Him do just that, judge, Romans 12:19. God will deal with people justly when it’s time but loved ones until then we need to keep offering peace and mercy and we do that through preaching the good news, telling people that they don’t have to live with their lives full of sin anymore, Jesus is here to help.

We offer peace and mercy to those who live according to the flesh through us living lives which are full of kindness and mercy, Romans 12:20-21.

We have to fight sometimes in this world but not with guns and tanks but with the mind set or attitude of Christ Himself. Yes, there are wars going on throughout the world but there are more important wars to win and that’s the war of sin which we battle with everyday within ourselves. And when we begin to win that war, we can then begin to win others over for Christ.

“But the end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer. And above all things be earnest in your love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:7-8

Peter warned these Christians that trouble is coming and he tells them in advance so that they will have prior warning to get themselves ready.

Now there are a few theories about what Peter has in mind here. Some believe that he is speaking about the end of the world but I’m not convinced by the arguments.

Some believe that’s he’s talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and although this is a strong possibility, I’m still not convinced.

Now remember who Peter is writing to, he writes to the Dispersion, 1 Peter 1:1. He’s writing to those who are scattered throughout the Roman Empire. And so this is a general letter which was intended to be passed around from church to church.

The point is this, if Peter were writing about the destruction of Jerusalem that would bring some comfort to the saints in Judea but what about the rest of the saints living in other areas of the Roman Empire?

I believe that Peter is saying to all the saints living throughout the Roman Empire that the destruction of the Roman Empire as a whole is at hand.

If Peter is talking about the end of the world or the destruction of Jerusalem or even the end of the Roman Empire, we need to make sure we don’t miss the main thrust of the text, which is quite simply, make sure your living a holy life even when this terrible time comes.

Peter reminds us that when we’re praying it’s not so much what we do with our bodies which is important but what we do in our minds. He says because of the suffering which is going to come, he wants them to be sound in mind, he wants them to be self-controlled and he wants them to be sober in prayer.

In other words, if we’re serious about our Christian lives, then we need to stay serious in our prayer lives too. We need to pray when our minds are clear and we need to discipline ourselves to pray regularly and while we’re praying and making our requests known to God we should also be watching around to see what’s happening, Luke 21:34-36 / Ephesians 6:18.

And what Peter is telling us is that we need to be serious about the way we live our Christian lives and we need to watch what is happening around us as we pray. And if we don’t discipline ourselves in this way then we won’t be ready for any suffering which may come our way.

But not only are we to be serious and disciplined for prayer we also need to have the right attitude towards one another, 1 Peter 1:22. Notice that Peter here says, above everything else I want you to love one another sincerely.

He says I want you to love one another from the heart and I want you to make that your number one priority, Colossians 3:14. He’s saying when we finally love each other sincerely, not just lip service, but real love, real concern, real wanting nothing but the best for each other.

He says when we really love each other like we should, then that love will give us the power to forgive. Peter is referring to Proverbs 10:12 and he is saying that real love for each other will do whatever is necessary to restore and forgive the sinner, James 5:19-20.

If we love one another as we should, this will encourage us to live right for God and get rid of any sin which may be in our lives.

“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms”. 1 Peter 4:9-10

Peter says that praying right, loving right and living right for God will also help us in our hospitality towards each other, Matthew 25:35-40 / Galatians 6:10.

There is always a need for hospitality, because Jesus says the non-
Christian will know that we truly belong to Him through our love for one another, John 13:34-35.

Hospitality is very important but so is our attitude whilst we’re doing it. If our hospitality is real hospitality, then it needs to be shown without grumbling. If we give and help each other out whilst grumbling about it at the same time, that’s not real love for one another.

So not only have we to show the proper service to each other but we also need to show the proper service which glorifies God. Peter says every single member of the Lord’s church can serve God in various ways. By God’s grace he says, each of us are to be good managers of whatever gifts or abilities we may have.

Yes, we may all have different abilities and gifts within our number but they need to be used and we need to encourage each other to them in service to the Lord. We all have different abilities to serve the Lord and each other and they are all designed to bring glory to God.

“If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen”. 1 Peter 4:11

Peter gives us two examples to think about which will bring glory to God. Sometimes we can read this text and think those words only apply to preachers and teachers but even if Peter did have preachers and teachers in mind, everyone who is sharing the Bible with anyone should understand they are speaking for God.

And when they do and this is important they should only speak that which God Himself has revealed. It needs to be ‘thus said the Lord’ and not ‘thus says the preacher’ or ‘thus says my opinion’. And when we truly do that then no-one can come along and condemn what we say, Titus 2:7-8.

So we need to speak for God only speaking where God speaks and we all need to serve. Notice how this ties in with what we’ve just said about service to the Lord and each other. We all have different abilities loved ones but those abilities come from God Himself.

There’s no room for bragging about our gifts because it is God who has given us the ability to do what we’re doing. He is the one who gives us the ability to do what we’re doing, He is the one who gives us the strength to serve.

Suffering For Being A Christian

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14

Peter has already reminded us that the people he’s writing too were going through various trials back, 1 Peter 1:6. And he tells them how to prepare themselves for difficult times, 1 Peter 3:13-18. And in this verse and the verses to follow he continues with the theme of persecution but from a different angle.

He tells us how to persevere through difficult times and the first thing he says is this, ‘expect persecution’. We’re Christians and we should expect difficult times of persecution.

The problem is we sometimes think we’re the only ones who are experiencing difficult times. And maybe Peter realised that when he was writing to these saints and so a little later he is going to remind them that they are not the only Christians who are suffering, 1 Peter 5:9.

Peter is reminding them and us today that we are never alone when we suffer, there are other Christians suffering too. Jesus Himself warned His disciplines that hard times were going to come, John 15:18-21.

When difficult times come we shouldn’t be wondering why on earth is this happening to me? Maybe the question we should ask is, why does God allow difficult times to come our way?

Well, Peter doesn’t leave us in the dark as to why God allows difficult times to come our way, he says ‘the trials that we go through actually help to test our faith’. Peter earlier says just as gold is tested by fire, so our faith is tested by persecution, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

We will never know if we have a faith which is strong if we experience nothing but good times. This is why God allows the devil to bring such persecution into our lives.

Remember Job and all the trials he experienced? God allowed the devil to test him in ways we cannot even begin to imagine and we were talking about Job we sometimes just focus on his trials.

But we need to read on because when Job’s trials were over the Bible says at the end of the book of Job 42:10-16, that God blessed him in so many ways for his faithfulness.

And what we need to remember is that just as God blessed Job richly after his trial, God will also bless us richly after our trials, 1 Peter 5:10.

Notice that the suffering has an expiry date, Peter says, ‘after you have suffered a little while.’ And after your suffering he says, God will bless you richly.

When our focus is on the crown of life, no matter how much suffering or injury comes our way, this shouldn’t stop us from continuing the race to reach our goal of eternal life.

Christians in the Bible died for the sake of Christ and Christians in times past have died for the sake of Christ. Paul and Barnabas understood that as Christians we need to go through hard times before we can get to heaven, Acts 14:22 / 2 Timothy 3:12.

We should expect difficult times as Christians but we should also know that God allows them into our lives to help strengthen our faith but when difficult times come what we should be doing is rejoicing.

We sometimes struggle to rejoice because we struggle to understand but when we fully begin to understand why difficult times come our way, it’s then that we too can begin to feel better within ourselves, we too can begin to rejoice again.

Paul says for us to have hope in our lives, we first need to have character in our lives but for us to have character in our lives, we need to first have endurance in our lives but for us to have endurance in our lives, we first need to have suffering in our lives, Romans 5:3-5.

In other words without suffering in our lives we won’t be able to keep going and endure to the end. Without suffering in our lives we won’t be able to develop character in our lives. Without suffering in our lives we won’t have any hope in our lives.

Difficult times call us to believe in the goodness of God, and to trust that He is not only willing but able to accomplish His purposes, no matter what comes our way. Any difficulty, whether great or small, is an occasion for joy, but only when we remind ourselves of the nature of God who loves us and wills only the best for us.

James says suffering produces patience, and patience can help us be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4. In other words, we can’t grow unless we go through trials.

Peter says we can rejoice in our sufferings because when Jesus comes back we will rejoice like we’ve never rejoiced before. Peter says we can rejoice in our sufferings because when we do Christ is glorified.

Peter says we can rejoice in our sufferings because when we suffer God is with us. The point is simply this, when you suffer, make we’re suffering worthwhile.

“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good”. 1 Peter 4:15-19

Peter says a lot of people bring suffering on by themselves. If someone goes out and murders someone, they should expect to suffer the consequences of their actions.

If someone goes out and breaks into someone’s home and steal all their possessions, they should expect to suffer the consequences of their actions.

If someone goes out and does harm to property or people around them, they should expect to suffer the consequences of their actions. Even if someone goes out and starts sticking their nose in someone else’s business, they should expect to suffer the consequences of their actions.

But as Christians Peter says when you suffer, make sure it’s only because you’re a Christian not because of something you’re doing you shouldn’t be doing.

When we suffer we need to self-examine ourselves and make sure our suffering will bring glory to God. When we suffer we need to self-examine ourselves and make sure our suffering demonstrates the grace God gives us to endure it.

Peter reminds us that people are not the only ones who are watching us, he reminds us that the Lord is watching us and it will be the Lord’s church which will be first to be judged by God.

But what is more scary is this, if God is willing to judge His own faithful children, what about those who are disobedient?

If God’s children are heaven bound, if we’re just strangers living in a strange land, travelling through earth until we get to our real home in heaven, what about those who aren’t Christians?

Where are they travelling to? Paul says those who are not Christians will be punished with eternal destruction, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

Peter is saying that we can only make it to heaven, even through our sufferings, if we continue to commit ourselves to God. He says, we can make it to our goal by committing ourselves to God in doing good, no matter what the circumstances.

When people are doing evil things to you, respond by doing good, Luke 6:27-28 / Luke 23:34 / Acts 7:59-60. Even though we have to go through the fire of suffering sometimes, God continues to bless us.

Peter is saying, don’t let persecution be an excuse for sinful behaviour, don’t let suffering be the reason for us missing out on our salvation.

Go To 1 Peter 5

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Ephesians 2:8

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