1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 1)

Part 1

It might do to recall where we’ve come from. The Lord Jesus Christ changes everything:

Peter wrote to strangers and pilgrims who had lost everything, yet have everything in Christ.

  • New birth/new life because of the resurrection of Christ
  • Un-losable inheritance kept in heaven for them.
  • Once not a people but now the people of God
  • Called to do good in the world (making Christ known) even if they suffer for it.
  • Christ as suffered for them, they willingly endure suffer for him.
  • Submitting to lawful authority is a big part of Christian’s way of life.
  • Jesus’ people can do with confidence because Lord Jesus Christ is in control of everything.

Peter now spells out a few more implications of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus changes everything – particularly how we are to think.

We are to be dead to old ways, alive to new ways (Rom 6 and Eph. 6), always grounded on Gospel.

  • Christ’s death for us means ‘putting old ways’ to death.
  • The Christian’s hope cannot be dented by mocking, or death or judgement.
  • Our present suffering is not forever, so we can use our remaining time well.

Christ’s death means putting old ways to death:

Therefore, since Christ has suffering for us in the flesh, we also should arm ourselves with this same mind, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has been released from sin.

To suffer in the flesh means to die – the reference here is particularly to the death of Jesus Christ.

‘Has ceased’ with regard to sin: This doesn’t mean the our personal death deals with our own sin.

Rather, Jesus’ work on the cross is finished as far as our sin is concerned. When He suffered in the flesh, his people are regarded as having suffered (i.e. died) for their sin.

Jesus died in our place the death we deserve for our bad attitude to God and neighbour.

  • This happened outside of us. Think of it this way: My great-grandfather come to Australia from Ireland in 1877. He acted outside of me – before I was born – but his action resulted in me being born as a citizen of Australia 82 years later. In a similar way, Jesus Christ acted once in history but his act brings benefits to people who weren’t even born then.
  • This happened for us.  By trusting Jesus, we are regarded as having suffered in the flesh (died). The benefits are:
    • The Law’s claim on us at an end – the truth that ‘the soul that sins shall die’ does not apply to Christians in an ultimalte sense.
    • We are forgiven
    • We have friendship with God
    • We have everlasting life
  • We have a new citizenship – We ought to live now as Christ’s people.
    • We must first be a Christian in order to live like a Christian. (Christianity is NOT simply MORALITY.)
    • We died with Christ, we are raised with Christ, we now live for Christ.

My father-in-law came originally from England. He became an Australian citizen, but he had it both ways whenever there were sporting competitions between the two countries. A Christian is not to have it both ways – we are to follow Christ.

As Christians, we still have the sinful attitudes that we inherited from Adam who rebelled. Like him, we retain rebel thoughts and actions.

Dealing with our former deadness is a life long thing. William Haslam (1818-1905) was a minister in the Church of England for 10 years before he became a Christian. He recognised that there were habits that he had developed during his non–Christian life that had to be dealt with. He knew that he had been saved by Christ, but he had remaining sinful habits. It was, to him, as if he were like Lazarus — the man whom Jesus brought back to life from the dead. As he walked out of the tomb, Lazarus had to get rid of his grave-clothes, the cloth that was still wrapped around his now living body. Haslam regarded his remaining sin as grave-clothes that need to be put off. I think it a helpful picture to think on.

In Jesus Christ, we become a new creation.

  • God treats us a new way because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in our place,
  • We begin to think and act in new ways. We want to do things God’s way.

Arm yourselves with this same mind…

  • Repentance is a change of mind. It is a gift of God’s kingly love.
  • Our initial repentance (when we first came to trust Jesus) changed our attitude to God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
    • We once rejected God and good news with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
    • We now embrace God and good news with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
  • On going repentance changes our attitude to everything else because of the Good news of Jesus Christ.
  • We are to ARM ourselves  – put on the ARMOUR of the Gospel of Christ
    • We have a spiritual battle on our hands
    • Not to gain life, but
    • to live our lives as reasonable responses to God’s mercy.
    • Not armed with guns or bullets, but with the love and forgiveness of the Gospel
  • Many things conspire potentially to misdirect our lives as God’s children.
    • Our former attitude to life
    • The people who knew us before we became Christians.
  • We need to arm our minds against attacks from these two sources.

Part 2

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1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 2)

Part 2

Our own former attitude to life – the ‘old man’ referred to by Paul:

The one who has suffered in the flesh is released from sin to the end that [he] no longer lives the rest of his time in the flesh for the desires of men, but for the will of God. For sufficient of our past time of life [has been devoted] to doing the will of the nations, having gone on in immorality, lusts, excessive wine, drunken parties, binge-drinking and wicked idolatries.

Peter gives a list here to encapsulate a mind-set that Christians are to fight against.

Old habits die hard. A violin teacher said “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it make permanent.”

Our old ways of thinking and acting were vain attempts to ignore the true God and avoid our duty to him and others.

  • Immorality – misuse of sex, lying, stealing, disobedient to parents etc.
  • Lusts – wanting things (anything) obsessively
  • Drunkenness — drug culture of any kind – attempt to block out conviction
  • Making a god in our own image – like drug culture, only a ‘spiritual’ rather than a physical trip.
    • Not necessarily a physical object
    • Ezekiel talks of idols set up in our hearts, which is often expressed even within ‘Christian’ circles by a ‘Jesus’ unlike the real Jesus who is presented to us in the Bible.

Life had been all about ‘us’.  These old ways of ours are still with us to some extent.

  • Subdued — their real power broken by Jesus Christ, Yes!
  • But these old ways have a residual power. They can still draw us off course for a time.

We must arm our minds against them. How?

Remember that Christ suffered in the flesh for us.

Jesus has fought our sin to the death & has won forgiveness & eternal life for us.

We too, are to fight our old attitudes to the death (Rom 6).

The other influence that can derail us from following Christ as we should comes from people who knew what we were like before we were Christians.

In this, they think it strange that you know longer run with them in the same unruly excesses, speaking evilly of you.

This pressure to go on with friends, family, work colleagues as if Jesus changes nothing can be difficult to resist:

  • Old paths might still be ‘fresh’ for the Christian and the temptation strong
  • Desire not to hurt feelings is and ought to be with us, but ought not deter us from living a new way
  • Desire not to give the impression that we are ‘superior’ or the ‘judge’ (we are neither superior to anyone nor are we their judges)
  • But, 1 john 1 – if and when we mess up, we still have Christ and his forgiveness.

Nevertheless, living as a Christian in these situations can be powerful, if our minds are armed:

  • New way of life (not morose but happy) – we have been set free from sin and death
  • Living out new attitudes in a humble, gentle way
  • When we mess up in these things (appearing superior, for example) there is the  opportunity to ask our family, friends, colleagues to forgive us.
  • Opportunities to give a reason for hope that is in you – tell the good news.

This last point is important as the issues are serious.

Part 3

1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 3)

Part 3

 The Gospel comes to people under sentence of death

These [who speak evilly of you] shall give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason, then, the Gospel was also preached to those who are now dead so that, they might be judged in the flesh according to men, but live by the spirit according to God.

We should remember that the final judgement is in the hands of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt 7 and 25)

He will acquit the living (those made alive in Christ) i.e. Christians

  • Not because we are better than others,
  • But because he has acted for us – he has made us alive.

Jesus Christ will condemn the dead — those who go on in their rebellion, who reject the mercy now offered by Christ)

  • No one has an excuse – Rom 1
  • It is what all people worked hard to get.
  • It is what justice demands.

Those who keep on rejecting the mercy of Christ try to mess with the message and our heads

  • Judged according men in the flesh .
    Death comes to all people, Christians included. Some in Peter’s day pointed this out in an effort to shake the hope of Christians. ‘Look,’ they’d say, ‘Your friend/Mother/child trusted Jesus, but they still died. Where is the evidence for life that you talk about. What sort of hope is this Christianity!’
  • Alive by the spirit according to God.
    What Peter is pointing out is that reality does not consist only in what we can see here and now. Peter saw Jesus die on the cross, and then saw him alive again three days later. We have the assurance, from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that when Christians die, they go immediately to be with Jesus and have eternal life with him.

The main point here is: The death that comes to all cannot mess with the Christian’s hope.

As we are able, we should tell the message of hope to anyone and everyone, particularly to our enemies. We are to live in light of the message, the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ as there are eternal consequences at stake.

People of hope live in hope

Finally, Peter reminds Christians that their struggle of this life is not forever. The consummation of all things is near.

But the end of all things draws near. Therefore, but sober and watchful in prayer for all, having earnest love for each other, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. Just as each one has received a spiritual gift, serve one another with it as good stewards of the many-sided grace of God. If one speaks, as the oracles of God; if one serves, with the strength God gives so that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever, Amen.

When Peter talks of the end, he is talking about the end of this world-age — from the fall of Adam to the return of Jesus. Peter points Christians to the new heavens and the new earth, where there will be no more sin, or tears, or suffering or death.

In short, he is reminding us that Christians have an eternal hope.  We can live now, and must live now, in the light of that hope.

We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain (it is already kept for us in heaven).

Think like people with hope, Peter says

  • Be sober
    • This is not about being grim or gruff, but
    • Encouragement to  think clearly — don’t be muddle-headed about your hope
    • Be watchful in prayer
      • Pray
      • Pray for things Christ urges us to pray for, namely, the spread of good news, and for the basic needs of people, leaders,  family, friends and enemies)
      • Keep on praying
      • Love one another
      • Forgive one another – love covers a multitude of sin (Peter’s question to Jesus Matt 18 – how many times am I to forgive? Just keep doing it.)
      • Use your abilities to serve
        • Born with abilities – Spirit given (even to non-Christians)
        • Use them to help others
        • The word –
          • Treat with it respect
          • Pass it on as received – no messing with the message
        • Other ways of serving
          • Administrating, cleaning, befriending, feeding, Inviting, and
          • Hospitality, in the context of being pilgrims and strangers in a hostile world.  Sharing without grumbling. This is not talking just about a cup of tea occasionally; these were people in desperate circumstances who needed to help one another in substantial ways.

The purpose in all this is?

  • That our God and Saviour Jesus Christ is to be known, loved, served and respected.
  • That all good is to be attributed to him.
  • That He is to be thanked for it.
  • God is to be praised if you are a Christian, because you are one only because of God’s goodness, not yours.

That is Good News.

1 Peter 2: 13 – 24 (Part 1)

In this section of his letter, Peter talks about submission, and why it is what Christians ought to do.

Our submission to the Lord Jesus Christ is the reasonable response to his rescuing of us from sin and death. Once we were not the people of God. In fact we were his enemies and we were heading toward a well deserved judgement. But we were brought out of the darkness of our rebellious ways by the obedience of Christ. We were saved from death by the death and resurrection of Christ. Those who trust the Lord Jesus have every reason to love, serve and praise him.

Because the Lord Jesus is the ultimate authority in heaven and earth, because he predestined our situation in life — whether we are prime minister or tax payer, slave or free, boss or employee, married or single — we are to submit to him in whatever circumstance we might find ourselves. And we are to submit in appropriate ways for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word ‘submit’ is an interesting one.

Literally it means to ‘arrange yourself under’, so it is an act of will. Again, part of the original Greek word gives us the word ‘tactics’, so submission also implies the use of our intelligence in submitting to authority. We are to submit to, bring ourselves into conformity with, every law made by an appropriate authority because our saviour wants us to do so.

The submission that Peter and the Holy Spirit urges us to show is not blind conformity. It is intelligent and willing obedience to lawful commands from Federal and State Parliaments down to local council by laws.

These ordinances include taxes, speed limits, court-orders, registrations, licenses and regulations (like swimming pool fences).

Why is this important?

One reasons is that our God is a God of order and peace. A peaceful and orderly society is a benefit. It is a good thing.  Nothing is more frustrating, debilitating and dangerous than chaos.

Now you might consider some laws and regulations very frustrating in themselves, but this doesn’t mean that the solution to your frustration is to ignore these laws. If everyone did that the problems and frustrations would just get so much worse.

You might remember the riots in the UK several months ago.  Some people believed an injustice had occurred. They were frustrated and took the law into their own hands. The result was that many more injustices occurred which led to much greater frustration, damage and loss.

There are systems in place in society to suggest and accomplish change. But these means of change are themselves the result of laws and regulations.

Another reason is the point Peter made in verse 12 of this chapter.  We are God’s people who are social outcasts — our faith makes us objects of suspicion. People regard our trusting of Jesus Christ to be offensive. Our confession is a message that people are wrong and will face terrible judgement. Christians believe that our only hope is that a man call Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to save us because nothing else will. So people think of Christians as judgemental and weird.

Our good behaviour within the community, within society, is important because we must not give any ground for just criticism. We are to be careful not to give our Holy and Good Saviour a bad reputation by our bad behaviour. The only thing about us that should give offence, if offence is taken, must only be our following of Jesus Christ.

Peter actually says that our socially responsible behaviour is what God wills so that we ‘might silence the ignorance of unthinking people’.

Our public and private well-doing is to deal with prejudice. It is to correct the wrong thinking of the community. It might even get people thinking about our main message, which is not ‘moral behaviour’ but the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lord Jesus has made us free, but our freedom is from sin and death. It is not freedom from living responsibly in the world. We are not, Peter says, to use our Christian freedom as a ‘cover’, as a reason for bad or disrespectful behaviour. We are not to say, ‘Well, Jesus has set me free, so get out of my way! I’m not going to be restricted by you (insert name)’.

We need to know that the ‘king’, when Peter was writing his letter, was probably someone like Nero. Nero was a moral monster and probably certifiably mad, if the historian Suetonius can be believed. Yet Peter says we are to honour the king since the king or ruling party is established by God (c.f. Rom 13). In showing respect to the king we are ultimately showing respect to the God who, for his own good reasons, put that ‘king’ in power.

For this reason, we need to show respect. We might not like the Prime Minister or the Premier or the local police officer. That is irrelevant. We are to treat them with respect for the sake of their office. These people hold their office because God put them there, and they will hold that office until God removes them.

We are to submit to these powers for the same reason. We are to use our minds in doing this. We are to be tactical (not tricky, but wise) in our dealings with authority. For the most part, human laws do not require us to do anything that God forbids.

Only rarely do circumstances arise that require Christians to say ‘No’ to authority. Peter himself said ‘No’ to the ruling council in Jerusalem (Acts 4), when they told them not to speak of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ had told Peter to speak. Peter, in this particular, case was right to obey God rather than human beings. It is a rare example. Even laws that we don’t like are usually not the sort that call for civil disobedience.

To recap, Jesus did not save us so we could become rat-bags.

We are to treat all people with respect, to love our fellow Christian (even those who irk us), to give reverence to our God and to honour the Government and its representatives.

(continued in Part 2)

1 Peter 2: 13 – 24 (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

We are to treat all people with respect, to love our fellow Christian (even those who irk us), to give reverence to our God and to honour the Government and its representatives.

Why? Because ultimately we are God’s slaves. We have been bought with a price, the precious life of Jesus. He died to bring us back to God. He rose to give us new life and new attitudes. We serve him, in part, by aiming to be good citizens.

We are to submit to our employers as well.

The people to whom Peter wrote were not socially influential. Some of them might once have been employers, and some might once have been rich and powerful. But as outcasts and strangers because they had come to trust Jesus, some were now slaves and others were perhaps in jobs that just keep body and soul together.

A motive to do what the boss says might simply be to avoid a beating if you are a slave, or to keep the job that you need to survive, but this is not the motive that Peter urges on Christians.

Peter tells the household slaves to submit to their masters for Jesus’ sake, because ultimately we are slaves to the best of Masters, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter knows that some masters can be twisted, harsh, unthinking and uncaring. He knows that some masters mistreat their slaves even when the slaves are doing a good job.

Peter tells Christian slaves to submit to them and patiently bear the mistreatment.

But he goes even further.

Peter says it is better to be treated badly for doing good and taking that mistreatment patiently, than to keep doing the wrong thing and taking punishment patiently.

Why? We are to keep doing good while suffering wrong because we are to imitate Christ. We are not to keep doing wrong and taking punishment patiently, because our bad behaviour brings Christ into disrepute. We need to use our minds — to think of consequences beyond our own preferences.

We are to imitate the example – Christ’s ‘copy book’ — that Jesus has left for us.

The Greek word for ‘example’ literally means to ‘write under’. It refers to the way little children learn to write by copying the letters that someone else had written for them. They followed the example given. We are to see the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ, and do as he did. We might not always get it right (see the copybook above), but we are to make our best efforts for Jesus’ sake.

We are to follow in his footsteps – imitate his way of life (walking is a metaphor for living)

What did Jesus do? He…

  •  Did good
  • Did not speak deceptively
  • Did not bad-mouth those who abused him
  • Did not threaten (he has legions of angels at his command but did not use them in his own defence)
  • Committed his case to God who acts justly – (cf. Rom 12)

Christ suffered unjustly – the rulers killed an innocent man – but when he suffered, he suffered for our sins, so that when he died, he died our death for us. The injustice of Christ’s death came from sinful human reaction to his life of obedience to the God we hated. That is where the injustice lies.

God was not unjust in sending His Son to live and die and rise to save us. Those acts of God were not unjust, rather, they were merciful – a demonstration of God’s goodness to bad people. God himself made himself the legal surety for his people. He would pay their debt for them. What God did was just and kind. What we did to him was unjust, because Jesus did no wrong. He had no case to answer when he was accused. What we intended for evil, God intended for good.

When Jesus died for our sins, we died to sin in Him. Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before him, Jesus went to the cross for our sakes, despising the shame, so we might be saved. In suffering unjustly, the Lord Jesus submitted to the will of God and his submission brought about great good for undeserving people like us. When we submitt to unjust treatment, God intends good to come from it.

We were lost sheep, and our good shepherd came for us. He cares for us. He has brought us back to the God we had offend, and he brought us back forgiven and acceptable to our God.

For the sake of the cross of Christ, we are to live a life of submission to the circumstances God has placed us in. We do this so that Christ might be known as a God worth serving, as a God who saves bad people and changes their out-look on life (v.12).