1 Peter 4 – Serving God in the Last Days
A. Attitudes for end-times believers.
1. (1-2) In the last days, Christians should have an attitude of commitment.
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, 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.
a. Since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind: The commitment God calls us to have is nothing greater than the commitment Jesus had in enduring suffering for our salvation. In the last days we need to have a commitment to God that will endure through great struggles.
i. Jesus communicated the same idea when He told us that anyone who would come after Him must take up his cross and follow (Matthew 16:24). Taking up the cross meant that you were absolutely committed and not looking back.
ii. Arm yourself with the same mind: Many of us are defeated in our battle against sin because we refuse to sacrifice anything in the battle. We only want victory if it comes easily to us. Jesus called us to have the kind of attitude that would sacrifice in the battle against sin (Matthew 5:29-30).
b. He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin: When a person suffers physical persecution for the sake of Jesus, it almost always profoundly changes their outlook regarding sin and the pursuit of the lusts of the flesh. That one is more likely to live the rest of his time in the flesh not for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
i. “Whoever has suffered for doing right, and has still gone on obeying God in spite of the suffering it involved, has made a clear break with sin.” (Grudem)
ii. Hiebert observes that the phrase has ceased from sin “Depicts the spiritual state of the victorious sufferer. It carries a note of triumph; he has effectively broken with a life dominated by sin. It need not mean that he no longer commits any act of sin, but that his old life, dominated by the power of sin, has been terminated.”
iii. If we have not physically suffered for following Jesus Christ, we can still connect ourselves by faith to Jesus, who has suffered for us in the flesh. “I beg you to remember that there is no getting quit of sin – there is no escaping from its power – except by contact and union with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Spurgeon)
c. He no longer should live the rest of his time: Peter gave us two time references that are helpful in having the right attitude in our following of Jesus Christ.
· First, no longer should we live in sin, and we should answer every temptation and sinful impulse with the reply, “no longer.”
· Second, we should carefully consider how to live the rest of our time. God has appointed us some further days on this earth; when each of us must answer to Him how we live this time.
2. (3-6) In the last days, Christians should live with an attitude of wisdom.
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 regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 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.
a. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles: Peter realized we have all spent enough time living like the world. Now we are called to live like Christians. It is a profound and foolish waste of time for Christians to live like the world, and we must simply stop being double-minded and start living as Christians.
i. Sadly, many Christians (in their heart of hearts) think that they have not spent enough time doing the will of the ungodly. They want to experience more of the world before they make a full commitment to godliness. This is a tragic mistake and takes a path that leads away from eternal life.
b. Lewdness: This word begins a list of sins that Peter understood should only mark the past life of Christians and not the present. This word means to live without any sense of moral restraint, especially in regard to sexual immorality and violence.
i. Lewdness “denotes excesses of all kinds of evil. Involving a lack of personal self-restraint, the term pictures sin as an inordinate indulgence of appetites to the extent of violating a sense of public decency.” (Hiebert)
ii. When we look at this list (lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries), we see just how little fallen man has progressed in the last 2,000 years. These problems have not been solved in the time since Peter wrote this letter.
c. They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation: When the world looks at our godly living, they think it strange that we do not follow them in their flood of dissipation (wastefulness). If life lived after the flesh is anything, it is a waste.
i. Speaking evil of you: When we don’t participate in the sin around us, we convict those who practice their sin, and they don’t like that – so they speak evil of us.
ii. “It does not matter how your good deeds are received by men. If you are like God, you will find them received with contempt and ingratitude.” (Meyer)
iii. “Since heathen religious ceremonies were part and parcel of ordinary life (e.g., all civic and national activities were bound up with them) the Christians were compelled to avoid what would have seemed to their fellows a wholly innocuous co-operation and to go much further than merely separate themselves from actual heathen worship.” (Best, cited in Hiebert)
d. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge: When this account is required, all who live in the sins Peter described will clearly see how foolish they have been. Even if one seems to live the “good life” living by the world’s rules, his life will be a waste in the measure of eternity.
e. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead: Peter also says that because of this eternal judgment the gospel was preached to the dead. The righteous dead know and live on in constant awareness of the reality of eternity – and are rewarded by this understanding as they live according to God in the spirit.
i. Peter has already told us that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison, preaching a message of judgment (1 Peter 3:19). Apparently during this same time Jesus also preached a message of salvation to the faithful dead in Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:22) who anticipated the work of the Messiah for them. This preaching to those who are dead was not the offer of a second chance, but the completion of the salvation of those who had been faithful to God under their first chance.
ii. In doing this, Jesus fulfilled the promised that He would lead captivity captive (Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8) and He would “proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18).
iii. It may also be that Peter here had in mind those in the Christian community who had already died, perhaps even dying as martyrs. If this is the case then Peter used their heroic example as a way to encourage his suffering readers to also be faithful.
3. (7) In the last days, Christians should live with an attitude of serious prayer.
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
a. The end of all things is at hand: If we really believe that we live in the last days, it is all the more appropriate that we give ourselves to prayer (therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers).
i. “The assertion that the end of the age does indeed stand near and may break in at any time well represents the view of the early church.” (Hiebert)
ii. Many Christians who believe that Jesus is coming soon based on prophecy charts and political events fail to apply that belief in the proper way. They fail to apply themselves to more diligent prayer.
b. Therefore be serious… in your prayers: We must give ourselves to serious prayer. As we see the weight of eternity rushing towards us, we dare not take the need for prayer lightly.
c. Therefore be… watchful in your prayers: We must give ourselves to watchful prayer, primarily having our hearts and minds watching and ready for the return of Jesus Christ. But this also means watching ourselves and watching this world, measuring our readiness for Jesus’ coming.
4. (8-11) In the last days, Christians should live with an attitude of love.
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability 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.
a. Above all things have fervent love for one another: If these are the last days, then it is important for us to love those we are going to spend eternity with. In light of eternity, we must have fervent love for one another.
b. For “love will cover a multitude of sins”: Love does cover a multitude of sins, both the sins of the one loving and the sins of the one who is being loved.
i. “Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts about – to Satan’s perverse delight.” (Grudem)
c. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling: Love will show itself in hospitality. Christians should often open their homes to others and doing it all without grumbling.
i. “‘Without grumbling’ is a frank recognition that the practice of hospitality could become costly, burdensome, and irritating. The Greek term denotes a muttering or low speaking as a sign of displeasure. It depicts a spirit that is the opposite of cheerfulness.” (Hiebert)
d. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another: Love will show itself as we give to the church family what God has given us as gifts. As we do so, we are good stewards of the many-faceted (manifold) grace of God given to us.
i. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul makes it clear that he was what he was only by God’s grace. But at the same time, “His grace toward me was not in vain” because Paul put his own God-inspired efforts to work with God’s grace. The idea is that if we are bad stewards of the manifold grace of God, it is as if that grace was given to us in vain. That grace is wasted, because it only comes to us and doesn’t move through us.
ii. “Manifold grace is many-coloured grace. As when a ray of light breaks into a spray of many hues, so each of us receives God’s grace at a different angle, and flashes it back broken up into some fresh colour.” (Meyer)
e. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies: Every part is important; each has its job to do. Even the smallest, seemingly least important part of the body of Christ is important.
i. A man was rebuilding the engine to his lawn mower, and when he finished, he had one small part left over, and he couldn’t remember where it went. He started the engine and it ran great, so he figured that the part was useless – until he tried to stop the lawn mower, and it wouldn’t stop! Even the smallest, seemingly least important part of the body of Christ is important.
ii. As we serve one another, we do it with the strength God provides, the ability which God supplies – so that to Him belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.
B. Understanding your time of trial.
1. (12-13) Enduring trials with the right attitude.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
a. Concerning the fiery trial which is to try you: Instead of thinking of trials (even fiery trials) as strange occurrences, we see them as ways to partake of Christ’s sufferings. And if we partake of His sufferings, we will also partake of His glory and joy.
i. Peter once told Jesus to avoid the suffering of the cross (Mark 8:32-33). “Once it seemed strange to the Apostle Peter that his Master should think of suffering. Now he thinks it strange that He could have imagined anything else.” (Meyer)
b. Partake of Christ’s sufferings: We can only partake of Jesus’ sufferings because He partook of our humanity and sufferings. He became a man and suffered so that our suffering wouldn’t be meaningless. It is good to share anything with Jesus, even His suffering.
c. Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy: Our tendency is to embrace the glory and the joy and to avoid any sharing of Jesus’ suffering. Or we morbidly fixate on the suffering and forget that it is but a necessary prelude to the glory and joy.
i. We should never deny the place of suffering in building godliness in the Christian life. Though there is much needless pain we bear through lack of knowledge or faith, there is also necessary suffering. If suffering was a suitable tool to teach Jesus (Hebrews 5:8), it is a suitable tool to teach His servants.
ii. To the extent implies a measure. Those who have suffered more in Jesus will rejoice more at His coming in glory.
2. (14-16) The difference between suffering as a Christian and suffering as an evildoer.
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
a. If you are reproached for the name of Christ: Suffering for the name of Christ is a blessing, because it shows that we really are following Jesus, and that we suffer because we are identified with Him.
b. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified: We expect the world to blaspheme Jesus. But He should always be glorified among Christians.
c. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody: Suffering as an evildoer is deserved and brings shame to the name of Jesus. Peter recognized that not all suffering that Christians experience is suffering in the name of Jesus.
i. We understand when Peter writes about the suffering that might come to the murderer, the thief, or the evildoer. Yet we shouldn’t be surprised that he also includes the busybody in other people’s matters. Such people do suffer a lot of grief and pain, but not for the sake of Jesus.
d. If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed: Suffering as a Christian is nothing to be ashamed about, even though the world may despise the suffering Christian. Instead, we should glorify God in these matters.
i. We don’t glorify God for suffering. But we do glorify Him in suffering, and we glorify Him for what He will accomplish in us and through us with the suffering.
ii. “The name ‘Christian’ (Christianos), built on the name Christ with the suffix –ianos, a Latin formation (-ianus), denotes a partisan follower… Christian categorized the followers of Christ as ‘members of the Christ-party,’ not ‘little Christ’ as some popular explanations would have it.” (Hiebert)
iii. Christians were first known as “disciples,” “believers,” “the Lord’s disciples,” or “those who belonged to the Way” before they were known as Christians, first at Acts 11:26. This is the first of three places in the New Testament where the followers of Jesus are named Christians.
· In Acts 11:26 it tells us the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
· In Acts 26:28 Agrippa told Paul, You almost persuade me to become a Christian. This shows that between Acts 11:26 and 26:28 Christian had become a popularized name for the followers of Jesus.
· In 1 Peter 4:16 the idea is that some are suffering because they are identified as Christians. This shows that the name had become very widely used, so much so that one could be persecuted for being numbered as a Christian.
3. (17-19) Committing your soul to God in the midst of suffering.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
a. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God: In the context of suffering, Peter tells us that judgment begins at the house of God. Right now, God uses suffering as a judgment (in a positive, purifying sense) for Christians (the house of God).
i. It is right for judgment to begin at the house of God. “There is equity in it; for Christians profess to be better than others, and so they ought to be. They say they are regenerate, so they ought to be regenerate. They say that they are a holy people, separated unto Christ; so they ought to be holy, and separate from sinners, as he was.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Now is our time of fiery trial (1 Peter 4:12); the ungodly will have their fire later. The fire we endure now purifies us; the fire the ungodly will endure will punish them. Yet we always remember that there is never any punishment from God for us in our sufferings, only purification. For the Christian, the issue of punishment was settled once and for all at the cross, where Jesus endured all the punishment the Christian could ever face from God.
iii. The same fire that consumes straw will purify gold. The fire is the same, but its purpose in application is different, and its effect is different upon the straw and the gold. Even so, Christians do suffer some of the same things the ungodly do, yet the purpose of God is different and the effect is different.
b. If it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Peter’s sobering application is clear. If this is what God’s children experience, what will become of those who have made themselves His enemies? How can they ever hope to stand before the judgment and wrath of God?
i. Christians can rejoice that the sufferings they face in this life are the worst they will ever face throughout all eternity. We have seen the worst; those who reject Jesus Christ have seen the best of life their eternal existence will ever see.
c. If the righteous one is scarcely saved: Since this is true – that the salvation of the righteous does not come without difficulty – then it should make us pause if we ourselves or others seem to have an easy salvation.
i. It isn’t that our salvation is difficult in the sense of earning it or finding a way to deserve it; it is all the free gift of Jesus Christ. Yet our salvation is hard in the sense that the claims of discipleship challenge us and demand that we cast away our idols and our sins. Real discipleship and genuine following after Jesus Christ is sometimes a hard thing, so we understand why Peter quoted the passage from Proverbs 11:31, “the righteous one is scarcely saved.”
d. Those who suffer according to the will of God: Peter again made a distinction between those who suffer according to the will of God and those who suffer otherwise. Not all suffering is the will of God.
e. Commit their souls to Him: The ancient Greek word translated “commit” is a technical one, used for leaving money on deposit with a trusted friend. Such a trust was regarded as one of the most sacred things in life, and the friend was bound by honor to return the money intact. It is the very word Jesus used when He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
i. So when Christians commit their souls to Him, they leave their souls in a safe place. God is a faithful Creator, and we can give ourselves to Him as pliable clay in His hands.
f. Faithful Creator: Much of the agony we put ourselves through in times of trial and suffering has to do with our disregard of God’s faithfulness or of His place as Creator. He is our sovereign Creator, with the right to do with us as He pleases. Yet He is faithful, and will only do what is ultimately best for us.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission