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by Warren Camp

1 Peter 4:1–11 . . .

“Living for God”

Chapter 4 is a natural follow-up to what Peter had told us in the previous “suffering for what’s right” chapter (open Warren’s commentary on 3:13–22). In particular, Peter referred his readers to the example of Christ the Savior. He’ll now exhort them, while keeping their focus on Jesus, to: arm themselves by having the mind of Christ (vv. 1–6); remember that, because the end was near, they were to be earnest and disciplined when praying (v. 7); show mutual love and hospitality for one another, especially during persecution and affliction (vv. 8–9); perform every duty seriously and faithfully (vv. 10–11); realize that they were indeed called to face fiery trials, since it was a privilege to suffer as a Christian (vv. 12–16); and keep on doing what’s right while trusting themselves to God because the righteous will be saved and the wicked will be destroyed (vv. 17–19).

Most people date their lives from their physical birth to physical death. Christians date their lives differently. They look at their time before and after converting to Christ. In today’s passage, Peter focuses on a Christian’s “before Christ” and “after Christ” experiences.

Remember that Christ Suffered for You (4:1–3)

Peter is about to tell us, his readers, about “suffering.” That is, “You’re at the point of suffering for doing righteousness…you’re finished with sin…you’ve been released from its hold as the most important thing to you.” I think the New Living Translation (NLT) communicates Peter’s point especially well in v. 1. In my opinion, the NLT also translates the Greek in today’s verses appropriately.

Living for God
4 1So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. 3You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy — their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols (1 Pet. 4:1–3 NLT).

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Often, in the midst of suffering, we become self-centered, worrying about our future and what people think. Thankfully, Scripture provides the best remedy for enduring suffering: We’re told to become a Christ-centered person by keeping our eyes centered and fixed on Christ. As we remember the Lord Jesus, realize that: His friends and relatives betrayed and denied him in his time of need; false witnesses were invited to lie about him; he was mocked, abused, beaten, and bloodied; he was placed on a cross and separated from God as he bore the Father’s wrath for our sins; he cried out and prayed for his accusers’ forgiveness; and he entrusted himself to Father God. Likewise, in the midst of our suffering for righteousness, we must remember the Lord and all that he’s done for each of us!

Clearly, if you’re willing to suffer for Jesus, and you make a genuine effort to do so, sin will no longer be your priority. It will never again influence and control you (v. 1). Peter is telling us, Jesus lived righteously but suffered greatly. He’s the example we’re to follow and that’s how we ought to live. Jesus lived to do the will of God; so should we. We’re obliged to live the rest of our lives away from sin, continually and intentionally following Jesus’ example so that we “will be anxious to do the will of God” (v. 2).

And, in v. 3, Peter reminds us that we’re supposed to live so we’ll intentionally do God’s will, preventing ourselves from living for our own satisfaction and self-indulgence. He’s telling us, Hey, brothers and sisters: Enough already! Whatever you’d done over the years while pursuing worldly endeavors is over! The sex and drunkenness, the pursuit of sinful pleasures, and so on, it all must stop, now and forever, if you’re a genuine Christian.

Peter is speaking to us in these three opening verses as those who are “faithfully in Christ.” Being truly in Christ, we’ve suffered in the flesh, ceased to sin, and been freed from the lusts of the flesh so we can devotedly serve God. Christ has accomplished our redemption from sin, once for all. Assuming that we’re in him, we should have the same mind as Christ, being willing to suffer in the flesh for doing good. In addition, having been freed from sin we must obediently “do the will of God.”

Christians Should be Wise in the Last Days (vv. 4–6)

Peter next explains in v. 4 why suffering for well-doing is evidence of God’s grace in our lives. When people become Christians, their lives change because the Spirit of Jesus is now in them, bringing an end to evil behavior. They worship Father God and his Son, Jesus. Non-Christians can’t understand why their former companions have changed so significantly.

4Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. 5But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. 6That is why the Good News was preached even to the dead — so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit (1 Pet. 4:4–6 NLT).

The unsaved were shocked at the changed lives of those who’d come to Christ. They were astonished that Jesus followers no longer “ran with the pack.” They didn’t understand the reasons for their abrupt change to follow and please Christ. They thought these Christians foolish to abandon their attractive way of living. The unsaved didn’t understand that a new kind of life, having a divine nature, had been placed in Christians causing them to hate those things they once loved. When the world looks at us, living in a godly manner, they become surprised that we “no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do.” And, when we refuse to participate in the sin around us, we find guilty those who practice their sin. They don’t like that so they slander us (v. 4).

The “they” in v. 5 refers to unbelievers who malign Christians. Those who speak evil of God’s children will someday be judged by God. Christians may suffer now at the hands of wicked men, but the wicked will one day suffer at the hands of a holy God. When worldly sinners inevitably face God, all who live sinfully in ways that Peter described will clearly see how foolish they’ve been. Even if a sinner seems to have lived the “good life” by adopting and practicing the world’s evil habits, his life will be for naught, given his lost eternity.

“That is why the Good News was preached even to the dead” speaks further to eternal judgment. In context, this clause possibly refers to Christians who’d died physically after hearing the gospel and then responded positively to it. Peter tells us in v. 6 that, because of this eternal judgment, the gospel was preached, even to the dead. Thankfully, the righteous dead knew and lived in constant awareness of eternity’s reality; they’ll certainly be rewarded; they’ll “now live forever with God in the Spirit.”

How We’re to View Eternity (vv. 7–9)

Peter has writen to Christians, then and today, who were suffering for Jesus’ sake and who’ve taken on Christ’s attitude that hardships for God’s cause are part of our purpose as his people. He now offers a perspective that’s encouraging, however, it comes with a warning: “The end of the world is coming soon.” 

7The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 8Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay (1 Pet. 4:7–9 NLT).

“More specifically, Peter writes that the end of all things in this world “is coming soon.” Everything necessary for history to come to an end has already happened: Messiah has come, lived, died (3:18), been resurrected (3:21), and ascended back to His Father where He now reigns (3:22), ready to judge all who have ever lived (4:5). With other New Testament writers, Peter affirms that we now live in the last days or end times. True, by God’s grace, it’s been more than 2,000 years since Peter wrote these words (2 Pet. 3:9). That span seems extremely long to short-lived humans (2 Pet. 3:3–4), but the day continues to draw ever nearer.

Being a believer in Jesus during the first century would have been an isolating experience. Persecuted for your faith and often stranded from family, one could feel adrift. Apostle Peter’s encouragement to such castaways was to stay disciplined and prayerful (v. 7), look after each other (v. 8), and use whatever abilities one has to get the work done (vv. 10–11). In time, God would bring them through their ordeal “strong, firm, and steadfast” (5:10).

“What’s the right response to being aware that the end of all things is near? Panic?… Isolation?… Indulgence in pleasure-seeking?… Peter’s answer is this: The most rational response is to pray. Such prayer requires strong, clear minds. We should be careful about how we live because our choices seriously impact our ability to think clearly. When we’re self-controlled we can pray appropriately.”[1]

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After telling his readers in v. 7 to pray earnestly, Peter declares what’s “most important of all.” We’re to “continue to show deep love for each other” (v. 8). He summons them/us to love each other deeply because “love covers a multitude of sins.” His readers needed to love one another deeply, fervently, because they were hurting each other. Keeping eternity in view, we ought to love God’s people passionately because he’ll come soon.

Next, Peter presents yet another way we ought to live while keeping our eternity in view: We’re to practice hospitality on those in need. We’re to love strangers “who need a meal or a place to stay.” As the gospel was being spread, hospitality was needed to host missionaries, pastors, and teachers. Although many Christians today gladly provide lodging for visiting missionaries, such hospitality isn’t just for missions; it should be shown daily to every brother and sister. We must fervently and fully love fellow believers.

Using Your Gifts to Glorify God (vv. 10–11)

In v. 10, Peter makes it clear that every believer has been given at least one spiritual gift to be used well at serving other believers.

10God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen (1 Pet. 4:10–11 NLT).

Clearly, Apostle Paul speaks more often and more fully about spiritual gifts. But in these two verses, Apostle Peter also provides very important information about spiritual gifts, which are divinely endowed abilities that empower believers to perform spiritual ministry. These gifts given to Christians are to be used in their stewardship efforts. Apostle Peter encourages all believers in Jesus to become faithful, active stewards as they “show deep love for each other” (v. 8) by sharing the resources and talents God has given them. Christians must not only know their gift(s), they must develop and use them to the greatest possible extent to serve one another (v. 10). Spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love because they have have little value apart from love. These spiritual gifts should be utilized to glorify God (v. 11).

Spiritual gifts aren’t named but fit into two categories: (a) speaking gifts and (b) serving gifts. Every person in God’s church has received a special spiritual gift. The more common speaking and serving gifts include: faith, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, serving, and being merciful. More than likely, you probably have more than one gift and ought to be using it for his glorification.

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  How can suffering change a person’s life for the better?
  • Q. 2  What virtues are needed to remain focused in prayer. How do we develop them?
  • Q. 3  Who is God calling you to love deeply as you forgive their failings?
  • Q. 4  Do you have a focused prayer life? Are you practicing hospitality? Are you using your spiritual gift(s)?

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Summary Video: “First Peter”

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     View several classic paintings of Saint Peter by art world masters: Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rubens, Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Masaccio, Giotto, Correggio, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Veneziano, Tissot, Duccio, Fra Angelico, Galle, Dürer, Palomino, and many more.

This Week’s Passage
1 Peter 4:1–11

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