For as much as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. That you should no longer live the rest of your time in the flesh to the lusts of men but top the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1,2).
Peter wrote his first letter as a general letter to the dispersed Christians both Jew and gentile (non Jews) that were spread over a large area. (1Peter 2:10) It was written about 60 AD. from a church in a gentile community, although the named city of Babylon may not be that city or Rome, as the reference is too vague to make a determination (5:13). The theme of this letter is victory over suffering. Suffering occurs 15 times in the letter. 1 Peter is a short book, only five short chapters that take up only a little over three pages in my Scofield Bible, including notes. But it is an intense book that covers all of the Christian experience. I strongly suggest that you study it this week. It’ll benefit you, and prepare you for next week’s blog.
I picked this verse for today’s blog because it fits in with our current COVID-19 crisis. Everyone in the world is suffering to a greater or lesser extent. At a minimum some are suffering simply because of the mask and distancing requirements. Others have contracted the virus, many have died, and others have family members who have died. We all are looking for ways to cope with the pandemic. Peter gives us the guidelines for not only dealing with our current crisis, but with life as well.
The photo shows the spacing of tables in Cinnamon’s Cafe in Albuquerque before restaurants were shut down the last time. They are open again, but only at 25 percent capacity. Photo by author.
Peter’s admonition to arm ourselves with the same mind means to adapt our thinking to the way Jesus looked at going to the cross. It was a vicarious process for Him. He was crucified for us, not for anything He did or somehow for His own benefit. Most of us will have sufferings that are no more than others are suffering. They are common to all people, but they seem very real to us. Jesus tells us that in the world we will have tribulation, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world, and in Him we also overcome the world (John 16:33).
VerseS 4:1,2 give us the clue to living in our COVID world. Peter is saying that suffering is a given. We all suffer. The key to overcoming suffering is to live in Christ and approach our worldly suffering with the same approach that Jesus had in going to the cross in our place. Jesus said to let His light shine out from within us through all difficulties so that others can see His light and how He leads you through problems so that they too will want His light.
Peter tells us that those who suffer in Christ will cease from sin. That does not mean that we do anything of ourselves to stop sinning. Greek has both active and passive verbs. Ceased here means that something is done to you by God, not that you do anything in your own works to stop sinning. Christ died on the cross in your place so that your misdeeds are covered. He paid your penalty. Certainly we all still commit sinful acts or non-acts, but God does not see them, or rather He no longer holds us accountable for them.
We too should live our lives according to the example Jesus set for us. We have to live in the world and of the world for now. But we must not live for the world. In other words, we have to exist in this world temporarily, and we need to work and interact with other people while we’re here. But as Christians we must not live according to worldly secular standards. Christians must live according to the standards God gives us in the Bible, which is our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
Part of Peter’s instructions concern helping other Christians and the church: “feed the flock of God which is among you, asking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for personal gain, but of a ready mind” ( 1 Peter 5:2). You are to take your part in helping the church and it’s individual members. The church isn’t a building or the legal nonprofit organization of the church. The church is the congregation to which you belong and all Christians together. And, you need to do your part to see that the collective church prospers according to the example Jesus set for it. He is the rock, or the foundation of the church which is the body of Christ in the world today (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:24).
We are also to help non-Christians as well. That is what Jesus did while He was here on earth. His whole point in coming to earth was to set an example for His church and most importantly to lead others to Him. He set an example for us so that we would know how to set an example for others. He was God in the flesh, but lived humbly and with humility. And He was a homeless person with “nowhere to lay His head”. I’m not saying we should all sell our possessions, give away the money, and become homeless street preachers. What I am saying is that we must live with humility and humbly like He did. You are no better or worse than a homeless person, and they are no better nor worse than you. We all are imperfect humans and come short of the Glory of God. And, we cannot work our way to becoming perfect. We must rely in His sacrifice in our place to regain God’s favor. Therefore, we are to help others in the spirit in which He helped those around Him.
Setting an example can mean just living a Christian life according to biblical standards. That’s part of it. It also means willingly doing things to help your church prosper with no thought of gain, and doing things for people in need. It means accepting the restrictions placed on us by the pandemic and finding ways to relieve the suffering of others during this time. I’ll have more on ways to help next week. For now, look for ways to help both your church and non-Christians. And witness to the unsaved. Don’t preach in the way some Christians preach at non-Christians, because that’s what they’re doing, preaching at them with little effect. Speak with them in a way they can relate to but from a Christian viewpoint. Let them see how accepting Christ as their Savior is the only way of overcoming the world, and thereby overcoming the pandemic.
Peter closed his first letter by admonishing its readers to greet each other with love, and “Peace be with you all that are in Christ” (1 Peter 5:14; see John 16:33). If you’re not a Christian, the only way to find true peace in this world is by accepting Christ as your personal Savior (John 3:16). I urge you to do that right now.