About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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 Living For God (ch. 4:1 - 11)

 

In chapter 3:19 Peter got a bit side tracked from what he was saying about the cross of Christ.  He now returns to this subject, and you can tell that by the up-coming content and also by the word "therefore" that begins verse 1.  Remember, when you see the word "therefore" you must know why it is there for. 

 

Peter says in verse 1 that "therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourself with the same attitude."  What attitude is Peter talking about here?  I believe our attitude should be to endure suffering as you trust Jesus.  We should be ready, able, and willing, to go through the suffering if need be, because our Lord and Saviour has done this for us.  Of course, we donít go looking for such suffering, but if it comes our way, and the more our society becomes an anti-Christ society, the greater the chance of this suffering will come our way.  Jesus Himself, in John 15:20 said that if the world hates, Him, which it did, it will also hate His disciples.  It's that simple.  

 

In some Christian circles, especially in the 'Hyper Faith Prosperity Movement," there is the belief that Christians shouldn't really suffer if they are truly following the Lord.  This is simply not the case, and Peter makes that very clear throughout his first letter. 

 

Note the words "arm yourselves" in verse 1.  This was a military phrase in Peter's day.  As a soldier would arm himself and get ready for battle, so Christians should arm themselves and get ready for battle with their anti-Christ culture, understanding that Christians do not use weapons such as guns and bombs.  As the Apostle Paul states in Ephesian 6, our weapons are spiritual, not carnal.  

 

The verb "arm" here is an aorist imperative verb.  This means that those to whom Peter is writing must once and for all make up their minds to prepare themselves for what is coming their way.      

 

The second half of this verse has differing interpretations. It says this.  "He that has suffered in the body is done with sin."    To me this means that if we can endure unjust suffering, and trust Jesus in the midst of it, it shows that sin does not have the rule over us.  The trust we have in Jesus is greater than the temptation to sin.  We're more concerned about trusting Jesus and enduring than we are about sinning in the time of grief and suffering.  For many people, the times of suffering are the times they give up.  Giving up is sin.  Along with giving up is a multitude of other sins that follow. 

 

The words "done with sin" from Jesus standpoint was seen on the cross.  Once He died, His existence among sinful humanity ended.  Once He was dead, the sin that He was punished for ended.  Once He was dead the sin that His physical body became, was over.  He was done with sin in all of its aspects.    

 

Notice the word "body" is associated with this suffering.  It is physical suffering.  I suppose you might include mental suffering here, but the text does say body.  That being said, when our body suffers, it does have an affect on the mental side of who we are.  

 

Note that Peter points out that Jesus suffered in His body.  The obvious way of suffering in His body was the cross, but He also suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane .  You might even say that Jesus, being God in a human body, living among fallen sinful people, suffered by just being in this atmosphere.  The ultimate suffering that Jesus endured was unjust, and that was the cross.  Peter is saying that Christians, like Jesus will suffer through unjust suffering. We just need to be ready for it.

 

I think verse 2 helps explain, at least to a degree, what being finished with sin means as we saw in verse 1.  Verse 2 begins with the words "as a result."  So, as a result of enduring suffering and putting away of sin we will live the rest of our lives doing the will of God instead of living for evil desires.  You must note that Peter is not speaking of us living a perfect sinless life.  He is speaking of not living a life of sin.  Occasional sin is not the same as a life of sin.  It thus appears that suffering is one of many ways in which Jesus uses to help us get rid of sin in our lives in order for us to do His will.  I think the point of verse 1 and 2 in regards to sin is that endurance enables us to leave the lifestyle of sin in order to live a righteous lifestyle.      

 

Verse 3 says, "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do Ė living in debauchery (excess of all kinds), drunkenness, orgies, carousing (a mob like mentality living in excess of luxury which can often lead to rioting), and detestable idolatry."  This was once the way of life for these people.  Again, these sins were not simply committed once in a while by these people in their past lives.  These people lived these sins.  They lived in a lifestyle of sin.  In fact, such sins, especially sexual sins were a part of their pagan religions.  Sexual encounters with temple prostitutes were actually a means of worshipping the goddess of sex.    

 

Concerning the above listed sins, we need to understand that these sins were more than private sins.  These were openly public sins done in the name of their pagan religions.  They were culturally excepted sins.  As I said above, they were part of pagan worship.  The point here is that these sins were normal cultural activity in the Roman Empire as they are now in our western world.    

 

The use of the word "pagan" might well back up the idea that Peter was writing to Christian Gentiles, not Christian Jews.  In the beginning of this commentary I mentioned that there is a debate over just to whom this letter was written.  Some say it was written to Jewish Christians while others say it was written to Gentile Christians.  This part of the letter may suggest that it was written to Gentile Christians who once lived a pagan way of life. 

 

The word "idolatry" ends verse 3.  This puts all of the previously mentions sins into their perspective.  They were a form of idol worship as I've said.  Another way the word "idolatry" can be understood here is that paganism is a rejection of the true universal God and in that sense of the word is idolatry.

 

In verse 4 Peter goes on to say that the people who still live in this lifestyle of sin think it strange that the Christian doesnít plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation.  This is why Peter believes so strongly that he is a stranger in this world.  He does not plunge or indulge himself in this sinful pagan lifestyle.  There is a noticeable difference between Peter and the pagan world around him.  There should be such a difference between Christians and the culture around us today, but often this is not the case. 

 

The Greek word "asotia" is translated here as dissipation.  Dissipation means a lifestyle of wastefulness.  The pagan world in Peterís day was caught up in great excesses of all kinds, including material, sexual, alcoholic excess, among other things.  Life was all about one's self, as it is today.  Then beyond this, Peter says that these same pagans "heap abuse" on the Christians for their non-conformity.  As time goes on, and as Christians are seen as being very anti-social, those in the world around us will say the same about us, which in fact they are doing now.

 

The Greek word "syntrecho" is translated here as plunge.  It means to "run with."  Peter is saying that the pagan world finds it completely weird why the Christians don't run with them in their flood of sinful enjoyment. 

 

Peter's use of the word "flood" is good.  The sinful lifestyle flooded the Roman world back then.  Sin wasn't something hidden and covered up.  It ran rampant.      

 

Notice the words "heap abuse" in verse 4.  The pagans did not only think it strange that the Christians did not plunge with them into sin, but they actually heaped abuse on the Christians.  I believe our western culture is in a transition in this respect.  Our culture does, and has, thought it strange that we as Christians don't plunge with them into their sinful way of life.  Thinking this to be strange has now morphed into abuse.  Christians are now suffering verbal abuse from our pagan culture because we do not plunge into their sin.  Our lack of participation in gay pride parades, for example, is not only thought of as strange, but we're now hearing the verbal abuse over our lack of involvement in this sin.             

 

Concerning these pagan abusers, in verse 5 Peter says that their day is coming when they will be judged by God on what the Bible calls the White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20.  Such talk in our modern Christian world is not as prevalent as it once was, but we cannot neglect the Biblical truth that some day, there will be a moment in time when God will bring judgment on all those who have rejected Him.  The Lake of Fire is their destiny.       

 

Peter says that God will judge both "the living and the dead."  When Jesus returns to earth there will be people alive and there will be people in the graves.  God will judge both.  There are no exceptions.

 

Verse 6 is not the easiest verse to figure out.
Peter might be referring to what he said in chapter 3, verse 19 concerning the gospel being preached to the spirits in Noah's day.  See my commentary on that verse.  Peter says "for this reason the gospel was preached to those who are now dead.  Some suggest that the words "are now dead" refer to spiritually did who were alive in Peter's day.  Martin Luther was one who promoted this view.  I have a hard time believing this view is contextually correct.  Others suggest that this is the preaching of the gospel to mankind who are dead in sin before they die so before they die they can live in the spirit. 

 

Earlier I addressed the point that Jesus proclaimed the gospel to those in Hades.  Paul seemed to allude to this in Ephesians 4:8 when he spoke of Jesus descending into the lower parts.  I tend to think, at least at this present time, that this is another reference to that event.  

 

The last part of this verse is just as confusing.  It says, "so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regards to the spirit."  This might well mean that the dead people to whom Jesus preached in Hades; those who believed; though they were dead in a physical sense; would be alive in the spirit with Jesus in paradise. 

 

I believe I can safely say that Jesus proclaimed the gospel to the dead in Hades according to Ephesians 4:8.  One question is, "what dead did He preach too?"  One credible theory is that He preached to the righteous dead on the righteous side of Hades, those who had genuine faith in God during Old Testament times.  Hades, the place of the dead, prior to the resurrection of Jesus was divided into two.  We see this when Jesus spoke of Lazarus and the rich young ruler.  Lazarus was on the good side of Hades and the rich man was on the other side.  There was a big gulf between the two that could not be crossed.  See Luke 16:19 through 31.   When Jesus rose from the dead, those on the good side of Hades rose with Him.  This is my understanding to date.  

 

Verse 7 says that "the end of all things is near."  Most, if not all New Testament writers believed that the return of Jesus was very soon, possibly even in their own life time.  Their thinking was not unreasonable.  They were suffering persecution; something Jesus Himself said marked the end of this age.  You might well understand why the first generation Christian would hold to the soon return of Jesus in judgment.   

 

Centuries have come and gone without the return of Jesus.  One might think that Peter, and really all first generation Christians, were wrong in their thinking.  If Peter was wrong in his thinking, then you may have a problem with the doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture.  If Peter was indeed wrong in his thinking, why did the Holy Spirit inspire him to write these words, assuming the Holy Spirit did inspire Peter?  Some people have suggested that the Holy Spiritís definition of the word "near" may be different than Peterís definition or our definition.  That seems to be the most common explanation, and explanation I think is a bit simplistic.

One thing we should remember about the doctrine of inspiration is that it was not dictation.  The Holy Spirit did not dictate specific words to be written.  He inspired men to write in their own words.  Inspiration is quite different from dictation.  It's quite possible that the Holy Spirit wanted Peter's readers to know that they were to live as though the end of all things was near and thus the reason for what Peter says next.      

 

One thing this tells me is that whatever time in history that one lives, he should be ready for the return of Jesus.  Peter was obviously ready.  Such thinking is meant to motivate us to do the will of the Lord as if He will return this very day.  This might well be why these words are in this passage.

 

Other people suggest that Peter might not have had the end of this age in mind when he wrote these words.  Remember, Christians were under great persecution in those days.  Many were being executed for their association with Jesus.  For them, and that includes Peter, the end of all things as they pertain to their individual lives was a real possibility.  Although there might be some validity to this, I don't lean to this thinking.     

 

An interesting thing to note in verse 7 is that the verb "is near" is a perfect indicative Greek verb.  A Greek perfect verb means that the action demonstrated in the verb has already taken place and it has present implications.  An indicative verb means that the action of the verb is a certainty.  There is no doubt about the action having been taken place.  So what does this verb tense mean to Peter's statement?  What is the action that has certainly taken place?  Is it the end of this age?  Common sense tells us that the end of this age has not yet come, so that's not the action expressed in this verb tense. 

 

What has actually and certainly already taken place is the nearness to the end.  Without any doubt and with all certainty, Peter and first generation Christians believed that the time of the end, or, the last days as stated many times in the New Testament, has already come.  In other words, the nearness to the end has already come, thus the perfect tense of the verb. 

 

If you read Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 you will see that Peter was introducing the fact that the last days had now dawned on humanity.  He did so by quoting from the prophetic book of Joel that predicted the time of the end.  If you read Joel you will see that he was predicting the very end of this age, which, we still await.  Peter was commenting and interpreting Joel's prediction as beginning to come to reality with the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  He was in fact saying that the last days had just begun.  For Peter then, the nearness to the end, as he states here in verse 7, had already come.  That's the imperfect verb tense in verse 7.    

 

One last point about the nearness to the end or the last days should be noted.  There are 2 ways in which the last days are understood in the New Testament.  One way is that the last days refer specifically to the last few years of the age culminating on the very last day.  The other way is that, as Peter said in Acts 2, the age in which we live is the last days.  Peter would have had this second view in mind when he wrote verse 7.      

 

The Greek word "pas" that is translated here as "all things" means "all things" and especially so the way in which the Greek text is written in this instance.  For this reason I believe "all tings" speaks to the end of all things is this present age in which we live.   

 

In regard to Jesusí soon return we should be "clear minded, self controlled, so that you can pray."  This is the stance that we should all take in light of the return of Jesus.  Being clear minded speaks of no distractions, something western world Christians have a hard time dealing with these days.  There are so many distractions that clutter our mind these days that we have a hard time being clear minded.  Self control that Peter speaks of here means not being intoxicated by anything that would distract us from the will of God, and in this instance, the will of God is to pray.  Praying is thus a Biblical mandate and even more so as the end draws near. 

 

In Mark 13 sets forth some of the events marking the end of this age.  In verse 33 He tells His disciples to both watch and pray.  We are to watch, I believe, for the events that mark the end of the age and while we watch we are to pray.  There are many things to pray for as the end gets closer.

 

There has been criticism mounted against those who preach the soon return of Jesus.  Some say that they have an escapist mentality, that they are just sitting around doing nothing but waiting for Jesus to return.  This is not Peterís thinking and I dare say it's not the thinking of most who believe that Jesus could return any day.  Most of us who emphasize the return of Jesus to earth want to do His will prior to His return.  We don't want to be lazy and sit around and wait. 

 

In verse 8 Peter encourages his readers to love one another.  That is, to love your brothers and sisters in Jesus.  The word "love" is translated here from the Greek word "agape."  This is a selfless type of love.  It's not a brotherly type of love; reciprocal love, as the Greek word "philos" expresses.  

 

Concerning Peterís point to love the brothers, he adds that "love covers a multitude of sins."  Once again, we have differing opinions about what this means.  I don't believe that Peter is saying that love gets rid of sin and I don't believe he is saying that love ignores sin.  I believe he is saying that love doesn't push the brother who sins away.  His sin is there.  Like God Himself who loves us despite our sin, we love our brothers and sisters in Jesus despite their sin.  That being said, I do believe that in one sense of the word we are our brother's keepers when it comes to sin.  Paul, in Galatians 6:1 speaks to this issue when he says that we are to gently help such a brother out of his fault, or I'd say sin.  That's just part of agape love.  Some have called this love "tough love."       

 

There are some sins that need to be confronted, especially if they effect a wide range of people, like the church.  A sin that is committed against a brother or sister in Christ does not have to be publicized for all to hear.  In this sense of the word, the sin is dealt with and no one else needs to know because of the one offended by the sin loves his offender enough to let the issue drop once repentance is demonstrated.     

 

Some suggest, and I agree, that the sins Peter speaks of here are sins of weakness.   In other words, they are sins due to our frail human existence.  They are not necessarily sins that people knowingly and want to commit.  In this sense of the word, love covers these sins over without making a big deal over them.     +

 

In addition to what I have just said, Peter is actually quoting from Proverbs 10:12.  The first part of this proverb says that hatred stirs up strife and conflict.  The verse before speaks of a nasty tongue.  The simple fact is that real love will be mindful of what it speaks.  Words spoken in haste, anger, and insensitivity, only cause problems.  Love, on the other hand, will control the tongue and thus will prevent conflict and thus cover any sin that might arise.          

 

In verse 9 Peter admonishes his readers to be hospitable without any kind of grumbling.  The Greek word "philoxenos" is translated as "hospitable" here.  You might recognize the Greek word "philos," meaning brotherly love, in this word.  Hospitable thus suggests a free flow of love from one another and back again. If you are hospitable to others, they will be hospitable to you.  The idea here is to reach out to others in whatever way is needed or works best at any given time.  I believe it means more than just inviting others over to your house for a meal.          

 

In verse 10 Peter encourages his readers to use any gift they have received from God.  The Greek word "charisma" is translated as gift here.  This word finds its roots in the Greek word "charis," meaning grace.  The point Peter is making here is that each one of us as members in the Body of Christ has received gifts of grace from God.  The word grace has two meanings.  One definition is God's unmerited favour given to us.  God gives us gifts even though we don't deserve them.  The other definition is the God given ability to do His will.  I believe both definitions are seen here.  God gives each one of us gifts even though we don't deserve them, but, along with these gifts, He gives us the ability to use them as He wishes. 

 

Peter tells us exactly how to use these gifts here in verse 10.  We are to use them in service to others.  These are not self-gratifying gifts.  They are service gifts, and, if any gift becomes a means of self-gratification, then we've lost the reason for the gifs in our lives.

 

When Peter says that we have received these gifts, that's a Greek aorist active indicative verb.  This means that we have certainly, without a doubt, received a gift at one particular point in our lives that is in active, or present, use.         

 

When we use our gifts to serve others, Peter says that we are faithfully administering our gifts as an expression of God's grace.  We are in fact being used by God Himself to extend His grace to someone.  The Greek word "diakoneo" is translated as "administer" here.  This word means to serve.

 

The Greek word "poikolos" is translated here as "various."  The first part of this Greek word finds its roots in the Greek word "pix," where we derive the first part of our English word "picture" (pic).  "Pix" means variegated colours.  It means a gayety of colour.  Thus are gifts from God come is all sorts of variety, and I'd say, depending on who we are as a person. Two people may have the same gift but because of whom each person is the gift is expressed differently.  No matter how it is expressed though, it is meant to extend the grace of God to others.     

 

In verse 11 Peter gives two examples of gifts of grace that God may give someone.   They are speaking and serving.  Speaking would include all forms of teaching the Word of the Lord.  Those who speak must realize that they are speaking on behalf of God.  This is what teaching and serving is all about.  This places a great responsibility on the one who teaches and preaches.  The gift of speaking is one very serious gift and should always be seen as a gift of service to others.

 

The gift of serving would include all varieties of serving others as I noted above.  Like the speaking gift, you are representing the Lord as you serve.  You are serving on His behalf because He is no longer here in physical form to serve.  You are serving for Him.  You are extending His grace to others.      

 

The goal of distributing Godís gifts of grace is to have people praise and "glorify God through Jesus Christ" as seen in verse 11.  As always, we have to note the connection between God and Jesus.  The God that Christians glorify is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. "To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever," Peter says.

 

The point to be made in verse 11 is that whatever gift or gifts we have, when we use them, they must bring glory, honour, and praise to God and not to us.  Our problem as western world Christians is that many have become well known superstar Christians for their gifts of grace.  They then use their gifts to bring gratification to themselves and not to the Lord.  This is clearly misuse of the gifts of grace.  This should never be.            

  

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