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. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
Whoever Has Suffered in the Flesh Has Ceased From Sin
The first thing I’d like to try to get our heads around is this statement in verse 1, “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
First, let’s make sure we know what this word flesh means. It appears 3 times here in these verses and once more in verse 6. It is the Greek word sarx and it has a range of meanings depending on context, but here Peter uses it consistently to simply mean physical bodies.
Christ’s Way of Thinking
Next, notice Peter is instructing the believers to arm themselves with a certain way of thinking. And in fact, the word here translated way of thinking might also be translated aim or intention or determination. So, we are to have, or to put on, a certain way of thinking.
And we see that this way of thinking is the same way of thinking that belonged to our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter says, “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…”
From Suffering to Glory
You will recall that the road of redemption that Christ walked to bring us to God was a road that began with suffering and death but resulted in victory over all of His and our enemies. Christ won and is now ruling and reigning over every power in heaven and on earth. And since Christ suffered in the flesh, we are to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking, because everyone who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.
What does it mean that Christ suffered in the flesh? I think it simply means that while Christ was in the flesh (that is in the body before His death and resurrection), he suffered. So, Jesus’ ‘way of thinking’ was a willingness to suffer. That was His disposition.
I think it is of real importance that we remember that Jesus’ very presence among us was an exercise of humility and suffering. The Lord of Glory, who existed in the very form of God, did not count equal status with God a thing to be held onto, but emptied Himself of that honor, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself (further!) by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (paraphrase of Philippians 2:6-8).
The Lord of Glory did not demand the honor He deserved but became a servant and a servant even to rebel sinners! He served us to death.
So, if we were to ask, what does Peter mean Christ suffered in the flesh. I think Peter is describing what every gospel writer (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) has recorded for us from His virgin birth to giving up His Spirit on the tree. Christ suffered while in the flesh.
Willing to Suffer
So, when we come now to Peter’s instruction, he says arm yourselves with that same way of thinking, he is not simply telling us to go around looking for every possible corner to stub our toes on or to try to catch every conceivable sickness, or to go out of our way to annoy the most hostile opponents. No, Peter is not telling us that suffering in and of itself is desirable, but that our disposition ought to be a willingness to suffer (a willingness like Jesus’ had) – this is what we are to arm ourselves with while we are in the flesh.
But let’s make sure the aim is clear. Why did Jesus willingly lay aside His Divine rights and privileges? Why did Jesus willingly become a mere man, live among absolutely selfish sinners, fulfilling and modeling all righteousness, patiently teaching and caring, and finally bearing our sin in His body on the tree? Why did Christ suffer while in the flesh? Was it because there is something inherently lovely about suffering? No.
The Intention: the will of God
To use Peter’s phrase here in verse 2, the ‘way of thinking” we are to share with Jesus has an aim: “…to live… for the will of God.” Christ’s aim was to please the Father. He did not live here for human passions and pleasures and experiences, but for the will of God. Christ willingly suffered for the will of God.
Sin: human passions
Now, in our passage this morning Peter contrasts the will of God with what he calls human passions. These are activities that have nothing to do with the will of God.
He lists: living in sensuality (that is consumed with pursuing physical and especially sexual pleasure), passions (unrestrained desires, lusts), drunkenness (intoxication), orgies (wild parties involving excessive drinking and eating and unrestrained sexual activity), drinking parties, and lawless idolatry (referring to sinfulness of all kinds – God belittling). In the next verse he will call these things a flood of debauchery (recklessness).
I think Peter’s aim here is to show the foolishness and uselessness of sin in this list of human passions. All sin is recklessness. All sin is lawless idolatry and is coming to nothing. I think Peter is trying to show the stark contrast between pursuing the will of God (which Jesus did) and pursuing human passions because these two things are truly diametrically opposed to one another.
Only Two Realms
If you are familiar with the book of Romans you’ll know that Paul tells us that there are really only two realms in which we can exist. The realm of sin or the realm of righteousness. The realm of death or the realm of life. The realm of Adam, the man of sin or the realm of Christ the man of righteousness. Everyone in Adam lives in the realm of sin and death and is a part of this flood of debauchery Peter describes, but when one comes to faith in Christ they are forever transferred from that realm of sin and death and placed permanently into the realm of life and righteousness where Christ rules and reigns and where His Spirit is poured into our hearts and where we pursue the will of God.
So, when Peter instructs us by saying, “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.” I believe he is saying, he who has so armed himself with a willingness to suffer for God’s will while in the flesh has ceased to be ruled by sin – he has ceased from the rule and reign of sin.
Peter is not saying we will never sin again. The NT is clear that until these physical bodies are dead or glorified we will be fighting sinful inclinations. But Peter here tells us that an evidence that we have been saved is that we are willing to follow Jesus as He lived for God’s will and suffered for it.
Let’s make sure we get how this works. Christ entered a war zone with the intention of honoring God and bringing us to God. The result He knew would be much suffering. He armed Himself with this way of thinking to love God and to love others while he was in the flesh. He prepared Himself to suffer. Since Christ suffered while in the flesh, you and I must embrace this same way of thinking, because those who have suffered while in the flesh give evidence that they are no longer under the rule and reign of sin and death, so as to live no longer for human passions, but for the will of God.
Denying our Flesh
Now, Peter makes two points of application here. The first way we will suffer as we seek to follow Jesus is the suffering we experience as we deny our flesh the pleasure it craves.
I am sure you noticed how flesh-pleasing this list of sin is. This list is a brief catalog of activities designed to gratify the body. And they are indeed all very pleasing to the body – even as they are also reckless, rebellious, and coming to nothing.
So, a category of suffer that we can expect to experience which we need to have in our thinking (as people who no longer belong to this world but belong to God and His kingdom) is that we will suffer as we deny the sinful sensual pleasure our flesh craves so much.
We live in a time when many people simply can’t come up with any reason to deny the lusts of their flesh. There are millions of people who have convinced themselves to embrace the slogan, “if it feels good do it, even if you shouldn’t…” In a God-ignoring/God-denying view of the world, it only makes sense to run after and experience as much pleasure as you can get in this life before the end. “Should” and “shouldn’t” don’t really hold a lot of water when you have convinced yourself that this is all you’ve got and God is about as significant as Santa Clause. It is really about what makes you feel good. That becomes the measure of whether something is in fact good.
Now, we would all, I hope, deny that this way of thinking reflects in any way what Peter calls us to here: since Jesus suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking. And as Jesu said, If anyone would follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.
But do our lives reflect that this way of thinking has in fact taken root in your lives? Or are we still living in large measure setting our hope on a pleasant life here? It is without question that we still live with the temptation to live for the gratification of the flesh. As long as we live in these bodies these bodies with crave what they ought not – but are we fighting those inclinations? Or are you embracing a view of the world that says, “my hope is in the comforts this life can offer”?
Perhaps for you it is something explicitly mentioned in this list: drunkenness or some sexual addiction. Your body cries out for satisfaction – for relief from the pain of this life. And instead of setting your hope upon Christ and having the same intention as Christ: to suffer for the will of God, you set your hope upon a moments’ relief and pacify your bodies cravings – pacify them for a moment anyway.
Or, perhaps for you, you read this list and nothing mentioned in this list seems to describe you. But do not each of us struggle with sensuality: that desire to pamper and please our bodies. Not that we shouldn’t be careful and take care of ourselves, but when we behave as if we deserve that quiet evening, or that vacation, or that new toy, or to be served by those around us, etc. it is then that we have left off the mind of Christ and begun to believe that our hope is truly right here and now.
I confess, that I must battle my flesh. As we all must! I confess that I am prone, inclined, bent toward pleasing myself and when I am uncomfortable I am prone to pout and get angry and wonder, “Why is this happening to me?! Why is the fabric of the universe unraveling and my life disintegrating before my eyes?!?” – Oh, you carnal minded man, consider afresh what is truly so! You are forgiven, your are born again, you are an heir of glory, an alien here and a citizen of glory, a beloved child of God, and your Redeemer and Savior has conquered all of His and our enemies, triumphing over sin and death at His resurrection and is coming soon and will not let a hair fall from your head, but for a good and glorious purpose unto your everlasting joy! Oh, brothers and sisters, let us now arm ourselves with the mind of Christ: to live in this world, no longer for human passions but for the will of God!
We can only do this as we are believing the gospel of the glory of Christ. We will only be able to deny our flesh and suffer in this world as be are setting our hope fully upon the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The World Will Be Vicious
Peter goes on here in verse 4 to explain another reason why living for the will of God means we must be willing to suffer while in the flesh. He says,
1 Peter 4:4
With respect to this [you no longer live for human passions] they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
So, Peter says, when you and I come out of the realm of sin and we enter the realm of righteousness we are suddenly in a war zone while we are here in the flesh. When the people of God live among the “gentiles” (as Peter calls unbelievers) there is conflict.
In this context Peter is addressing those who likely walked hand in hand with unbelieving friends and family in the flood of debauchery, but now, because they have come to Christ, had His Spirit poured into their hearts, and they now aim to live for the will of God in this world. They refuse to join in the sin any longer. Their old friends are surprised that they of all people would suddenly act “all holy and righteous.” And so their old friends get vicious.
I think Peter is simply drawing out one application of following Jesus for his original readers. And there may be some in this room who can relate. When you pursue the will of God, you will be moving against the currents of those who are living for human passions.
The principle has far reaching implications. Just as the world was vicious to the Son of God, the world will be vicious to those who follow in his steps. That principle could be teased out in a lot of ways. And I will let you do that.
Death Is Not The Last Word
But, what Peter does next is to call us once again to gain perspective about this life as he beckons us to consider the final judgment and the world to come. He says,
1 Peter 4:5-6
…but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
Let me just give you my understanding of what Peter means by the gospel being preached to those who are dead. The strong NT testimony is that there is no second chances after this life. For example Hebrews 9:27 says,
“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
So, whatever Peter is talking about, it is not a second chance for people to hear the gospel and be saved. Today is the day of salvation.
Rather, Peter is just finished saying the world will be vicious toward those who follow Christ in doing the will of God and he is now calling us to remember that those who are against us now will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. In other words, this life, and the death of these bodies, are not the last word.
What is happening in your life right now and even your death is not the last word – not for unbelievers and not for believers. Unbelievers will be judged whether alive when Christ returns or whether they have died. Believers will be rewarded whether they are alive when Christ returns or whether they have died.
And so, Peter says, for this is why they gospel was preached even to those who are (now) dead, that though judged in the flesh (the body) the way (all) people are (every body dies), they might live in the Spirit the way God does.
Peter is not talking about preaching the gospel to dead people. He is saying death does not have the last word – not for unbelievers they will be judged – not for believers because the gospel they embraced while in the body is the power of God for salvation – even if their bodies have died.
In other words, have no fear even of physical death as you pursue the will of God in this world because in Christ you will live.
1 Corinthians 15:55
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Take Up Your Cross And Follow Jesus
1 Peter 4:1
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking,
When we started I asked: when we think about what a godly person looks like, I wonder what we think of. When we think about Christian maturity what are the kinds of things that come to mind?
Peter is calling us this morning to think of Jesus as we seek to please God in own way of thinking and our own pursuit of godliness in this world. It is Jesus who is not only our great Savior and victorious Lord as we saw last week, but His is also our glorious mentor, model, and pattern.
We must learn from Christ, His mind we must have, His intentions we must adopt, His example we must follow. Let us go to the Word and behold our Lord!
The marks of authentic Christianity are not theological degrees or eloquent words or large religious organizations full of comfortable people. The marks of authentic Christianity are scars on your hands and feet and side because you have loved God and loved your neighbor in this world which is committed to human passions.
The marks of authentic Christianity are scars like Jesus’ because you have sought to love as He did.
Our Lord Himself said in Matthew 16:24-26
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul.
The life of godliness, a life lived for the will of God is a life where we will indeed be giving up our lives in this world, just as Jesus did. Giving them up for loves sake. Not necessarily on a cross or by beheading, though perhaps for some of us that is what God has planned for us, but more immediately in loving one another earnestly, in showing hospitality without grumbling, in serving one another with our gifts and talents and resources. And we will look at each of these more closely next time.
Peter is telling us that one of the great marks that you have embraced the gospel and believed upon the Lord Jesus and have had His Spirit poured into your heart, is that you begin to have the mindset of Christ – willing to suffer and give up your life here to see others blessed, willing to go without in this world, willing to be rejected and despised. knowing that no matter what happens here God will bring you safely home through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us praise our great and merciful God.
Let us press on to love one another.
Let us body let our lights shine before men that they might come to Christ and be save.