The First Letter of Peter: Chapter 4:1-6

Study No.14: (1 Peter 4:1-6)

Once more the theme of suffering comes up but it is a different kind of suffering that must be the spiritual experience of every child of God. Peter has already mentioned suffering for our faith in the Messiah our Lord Jesus and suffering even when we do good to others, but he now deals with suffering as it relates to our fleshly nature.  In these verses Peter clearly shows us that we are to live differently than those who are pagans and violators of God’s laws and commandments by the way they live their lives. If anyone had pressure on Him to act in the flesh it was our Lord Jesus, and we saw this in the temptation He experienced in the wilderness from Satan. He never gave in for a moment to the desires of the fleshly nature He had. Even though He was free of a sinful nature the conflict was very real and more so for Him upon whom depended the salvation of the whole world. He knows what this battle between the desires of the Spirit with the flesh is even though He was without sin. As our Great High Priest He enters into our temptations and struggles because He has been there Himself and overcame everything Satan threw His way (Hebrews 5:7-10) (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Exposition: (1 Peter 4:1-6)

(Vs.1) “Therefore, since the Messiah suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”

Now the Lord Jesus never sinned at all yet knew the power of temptation. He had to succeed where Adam had failed. Adam was created without a sinful nature but was a created human being, whereas the Lord Jesus has always existed in eternity and became a flesh and blood man in His incarnation. However, He was not only fully divine but also fully human in every way. He did not cease to be God and equal with God but chose not to use His divine power but instead chose to operate as a man under the control of the Holy Spirit. He placed Himself in the same position as Adam was before the fall. Being fully human the Lord Jesus was tempted in the same way that Adam was tempted but unlike the first Adam our Lord Jesus never gave into it. It was a very real suffering for Him as He had been living in heaven as God the Son without any association with sin. Becoming a flesh and blood man He was susceptible to temptation. If He wasn’t then how could He enter into our suffering when we are tempted as He was?

He had to reverse the curse of sin and its consequences which Adam had placed upon the whole human race through his disobedience (Romans 5:12). The only way to reverse that curse was through the Lord Jesus’ perfect obedience to His Father as one just like Adam who was without sin before he fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. The Lord Jesus had to reverse what Adam had perpetrated on the whole human race (Romans 5:12). On the cross our Lord Jesus became that curse and suffered the consequences in His own body when He was crucified, so that we might have His power to die to sin and to live righteously before God (2:24).

As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “The Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to the Gentiles in the Messiah Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:13-14). The price for our redemption and forgiveness of our sins was His sacrificial blood shed on the cross to atone for our sin and to cleanse us from it (Ephesians 1:7) (Hebrews 9:14). Even though our Lord Jesus as fully God did not have a sinful fallen nature as we have. However, because He was fully human, Satan was able to attack Jesus’ fleshly desires. The Lord Jesus had to deny and fight against Satan’s efforts to get Him to act in the fleshly nature which would have caused sin to enter Him, but no matter how hard Satan tried to get the Lord Jesus to act independently from His Father Satan never succeeded.

Now Satan always tries to gain the entrance into our souls through applying pressure to our emotions, our thoughts and especially our wills in order to get us to act in the flesh independently from God. While Satan cannot make us sin he most certainly works on our fallen fleshly nature, and if we give in then we will be drawn into his web of sin and rebellion against God. As the apostle James writes; “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15).

By the power of the Holy Spirit our Lord Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations and when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness to give in to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and to the pride of life, He used the Word of God to overcome Satan. Three times He said to Satan; “It is written!” This was part and parcel of our Lord Jesus suffering in the flesh. His ultimate suffering in the flesh was in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. When He walked this earth our Lord Jesus was able to resist the desires of His fleshly nature and it was much harder for Him because He had never given into the flesh, whereas we are born into this world already with a fallen fleshly nature that is prone to yield to temptation to sin (Psalm 51:5). Unless we are spiritually reborn from above and receive the new nature imparted to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit we will not be able to overcome our sinful desires and passions that rage to be satiated. In the work of the New Birth God does not patch up the old nature but imparts to new spiritual nature being His very own divine nature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As Peter also wrote in his second epistle; “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

When our Lord Jesus died on the cross He was crucifying not only His flesh with its desires for self-preservation, but taking upon Himself our sinful desires and appetites. He was dying as our substitute and in our place. He was the righteous one without sin, dying for the unrighteous ones riddled with sin which all of us are, to provide for us a right standing before God and His righteousness received by faith (3:18) (2 Corinthians 5:21). As we read in the Book of Romans; “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus the Messiah for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in the Messiah Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24).

Through His sacrifice on the cross as He stayed nailed to that cross he atoned for our sins once and for all of eternity, a sacrifice never to be repeated as we are told in the Book of Hebrews. As He hung on that cross He died to His own will and His temptation to call down the angels of heaven to rescue Him, and by staying nailed to that cross overcame the demands of His flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is that same power that will enable us to overcome our fleshly desires and to crucify the appetites and desires of our sinful nature as we learn to walk moment by moment in step with the Holy Spirit, and that by faith in the Lord Jesus to keep us and to save us to the uttermost (Galatians 2:20; 5:16-18, 22-25).

So then through the same Holy Spirit, who enabled the Lord Jesus to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil, we too, like the Lord Jesus, and through the power of His indestructible life, can be free from the power of sin to control us and in this form of suffering we have ceased from being slaves to sin. As we read in the Book of Romans; “For if we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For anyone who has died has been freed from sin (the power of sin to enslave us) (Romans 6:5-7). Jesus death was our death and His resurrection our resurrection! He is the first fruits of God’s spiritual harvest being all of the redeemed of all the ages (1 Corinthians 15:20-24). So if we have armed ourselves with the same attitude that Jesus had towards resisting and overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil, we have an obligation to fulfil on our part and Peter tells us what this is…

(Vs.2)  “As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

An unsaved person  has no choice to sin because we are all born into this world with a sinful nature and an inward propensity to sin because we are slaves to its power, enemies of God and violators of His laws and commandments and by nature we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). However, if we have been saved, then through the indwelling Holy Spirit deep down on the inside of us God has given us the capacity to do His will and to live in and for His will,  and not to live for ourselves and for the fleshly nature with its sinful and selfish desires, its lusts and its appetites. This is our obligation to God having His supernatural power to do this through the Holy Spirit. We are to be dominated by what the Spirit desires and not what our fleshly fallen nature desires. We have two natures within all of us. We have the new nature that desires to obey God, and the old nature that wants to disobey God, and these are constantly at war within us. The nature we feed the most is the one that will ultimately control us (Romans 8:5-14) (Galatians 6:7-8). In the spiritual life we are as strong and undefeatable as the will of God is strong and undefeatable.

The Word of God is the will of God. The Lord Jesus understood this when He resisted Satan’s temptations to make Him give into his desires of the flesh being self- preservation and to avoid the cross (Matthew 4:1-4). By the power of the indwelling Spirit of God we as New Covenant believers, like our Lord Jesus did, we too can walk in all of God’s will that He has for us to do and successfully complete it. While we at times will struggle to do God’s will in the end submission to His will in all things will prove to be to us the very best and sweetest thing in all the world we will ever experience this side of heaven. When we give God our entire being, including our bodies with its appetites and desires, He gets the contents as well and when we do this we will prove in our daily lives what is God’s good, acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

We all have natural human desires and these are normal. There is nothing wrong with seeking to have a good career, and to have money, or to own a house and to have a good car that runs well, or to enjoy the benefits of personal relationships according to God’s perspective in His Word the Bible. However, if we have these things but are not seeking to do God’s will, then they will become snares in our spiritual walk with God and grieve the Holy Spirit. You see God wants no rivals for our affections. When we put anything or anyone above God then we commit idolatry, and until the idol is put away, we will not know the peace of God that transcends all human understanding deep down on the inside of us. Our life in this world is like a vapour, or like a drop of water in the vast ocean of eternity. It is like the grass or flower of the field that is here today but fades or falls tomorrow. It is only God’s Word that remains and endures for time and for eternity (1:20-24) (Isaiah 40:8).

The apostle James gave us some good advice when he wrote; “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15). In light of what the Lord Jesus did for us at the cross we are not to live the rest of our earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” Peter continues…

(Vs.3-4) “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”

When we gave our allegiance to our Lord Jesus the Messiah we became enemies of the world and enemies of Satan This too is our part in suffering in the flesh and identifying with the Lord Jesus as He embraced the cross which is an offence to the world to both the unsaved and those within wider Christendom. Our Lord Jesus clearly told us that just as He was persecuted so we too who belong to Him will also suffer persecution because we do not belong to this world’s system and lifestyle (John 15: 18-21). The apostle James reminds us of this fact when he writes to professing believers who are at home in the world. James writes; “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

While we are to befriend the lost and seek to win them to faith in our Lord Jesus, and to show them God’s love, and tell them the whole truth including the need for repentance and about the judgement to come, we are not to become entangled with what the world offers by way possessions, fame, fortune and having things good in this world. Did not the apostle John write; “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). As a preacher once said; “A ship in the water is okay but water in the ship isn’t.”

It also needs to be said that we are saved out of this world the moment we repent and invite the Lord Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour. We are transferred spiritually from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (2:9). Having said this, it takes time to get the world out of us and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to do this process of separating us from the world deep down on the inside of us. In doing this He transforms us to be conformed to the image of God’s Son and will give us the capacity to continuously yield up the seat of our affections to God and produce in and through us to others the fruit of our consecration to God (Galatians 5:22-25).

Unbelievers cannot understand why we do not go along with them in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They cannot fathom why we do not plunge into the depths of depravity they eagerly pursue with great lust and vigour.  Indeed we are aliens and strangers to them. We are in the light and men hate the light and prefer the darkness, and only those who come to the light of the world our Lord Jesus will see their dark deeds exposed and repent in dust and ashes as it were, showing their earnest desire to be saved from the dark power of sin and its eternal consequences in the lake of fire and rescued by God from the clutches of the enemy of the soul (John 3:18-21).

The unsaved persecute, marginalise us from their company and hold us in derision because the light of Jesus’ life at work in us exposes the thoughts and deeds of darkness in them. Satan has blinded their spiritual perception to the salvation that is only found in our Lord Jesus the Messiah (2 Corinthians 4:4) (John 14:6) (Acts 4:12). When we stand for the truth and “nail our colours to the mast” as it were, when the spiritual battle starts in earnest in the unseen spiritual realm we will be ridiculed and abused by the world. Our Lord Jesus said this would occur so we must not be surprised when these things happen to us (Matthew 10:19-20) (Luke 21:12-15).

(Vs.5) “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Those who reject salvation will have a day of reckoning where they will have to stand before God to receive sentencing for the things they have thought, said and done in defiance of God’s laws and commandments. When they are in the lake of fire they will see afar off what they could have had, what they should have had, what God had provided for them and wanted them to have, but through their free choice to live in sin they have to spend eternity grinding their teeth in torment at what they could have received but rejected, even when they had actually heard the message of salvation when they were alive on earth (Luke 16:19-31) (Revelation 29:11-15; 21:8-9; 22:14-15).

(Vs.6) “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”

The gospel has always been preached even in the times of the Old Testament. Men are without excuse as God has always revealed Himself in creation and given man a conscience and an innate awareness between what is good and what is evil but because of the sinfulness of their spiritually undegenerated nature they have chosen not to walk in the ways of God that have been revealed to them so they are without excuse. Men will be judged according to the light they have received, so in this matter some will be held more accountable who had more light from God (Romans 1:18-32). Even in Noah’s time the gospel was preached because Noah was a preacher of righteousness. In Sheol the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit also preached to those who had physically died and were in Hades and made a proclamation to them what the ark was all about. They saw that the Lord Jesus was the Ark of salvation and that by repentance and faith they could have joined Noah and his family in the safety and security of the ark. These “spirits” in prison I strongly believe based on the text were in fact those people that physically perished in the flood, and not the spirit beings that co-habited with women before the flood swept them away.

Having said this, down through history from Abel to the present time people have responded to God’s mercy and although they will be physically resurrected but still in their decayed and human bodies, they will be judged in the flesh at the Great White Throne judgement before being consigned to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). This is all those down through history who have not availed themselves of the salvation by faith God has sanctioned and offered them through the Lamb of God, who came into the world to atone once and for all time for sin.  In the Old and the New Testament God was dealing with men on the basis of their faith, a fact that is clearly revealed in the New Testament.

Because the Lamb of God was slain from before the foundation of the world in eternity and out of time as we know it down here on earth, God was able to forgive sin in light of the sacrifice of his Son, an event ordained in eternity and to be manifested in history when the Word of God Himself became a flesh and blood man to be that Passover Lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of all men in both Testaments (John 1:14). The Old Testament points to the cross and the New Testament points back to the cross. All the saints of the Old Testament period recorded in the Word of God were saved by the cross and so are all the New Testament saints down to the present time saved by the work of the cross. The new spiritual rebirth occurred in all who trusted in God from Abel onwards. Without this new spiritual rebirth from above no one could enter into God’s kingdom, a truth from the Old testament scriptures the Lord Jesus was seeking to convey to Nicodemus (John 3:7-10).

Now Peter also mentions “those who live according to God in regard to the spirit.” In the New Testament there is a reference to a man who was a professing believer who was living in an incestuous relationship in the assembly at Corinth that Rabbi the apostle Paul commanded the assembly to hand him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, being his fleshly nature active in his physical body as well, so that his spirit man may be saved on the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5). There will be some believers who will just make it to heaven but there will be no reward because everything they said and did in this life whether good or bad will have been burned up and they will escape as only through fire with nothing to give to God (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

In this case at Corinth the man was still physically alive and while alive if he repented of his incest and left off his sinful incestuous relationship, even though his life was completely messed up by Satan, then his spirit man would still be saved. However, we also know that those who die in unrepentant sin do not enter into God’s Kingdom (Galatians 5:21; 6:9-11). This verse is not easy to understand. In all of these matters we must be governed by what else the Word of God has to say on this subject. Scripture is clear that our salvation is eternally secure in the Lord Jesus who saves to the uttermost those who come to Him in faith, yet scripture does indicate that one who has been saved can fall away, but this is a huge subject open to discussion and not the subject of this study. As for those spirits to whom the Lord Jesus made a victorious proclamation when He was in Sheol, whether the spirits of those men and women who perished in the flood or those wicked spirits imprisoned awaiting the final judgement, they together would not inherit the kingdom of God. Rabbi the apostle Paul put it this way when he wrote; “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Go to Study No. 15