1Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
2so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
Christ “suffered” in the flesh. This word literally means that He endured, felt, experienced, and was affected by life in human flesh. He undoubtedly suffered, which is part of the meaning of this word as well. The thing that separates Christ from our human experience is that He didn’t sin while He was in the flesh (i.e. bodily form). Peter’s call is that, regardless of persecution and suffering, we as believers are to let Christ live out His life in and through us in a pursuit of holiness and purity. We are not to continue in our former ways in which we sought after the lusts of men. Our objective, pursuit, passion, and goal is to be holy in our behavior for the rest of our time on the earth. Will we succeed? We should be doing better and better, walking persistently and consistently by faith in a way consistent with holiness and modeled by the example of Christ. Some act as if they are doomed to be enslaved to sin forever. Peter’s call is to live the rest of our days in holiness. Sure, we will stumble, but we need to set our goals and standards at the mark of holiness rather than failure.
3For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that sin doesn’t satisfy. In fact, it becomes a vicious master, enslaving us to get more and more of it to get the same diminishing level of pleasure. Thus, Peter says that we should have already figured out that the pleasures of sin aren’t worth the effort. Before we were saved, we lived out the desires of the unsaved, sinning sexually, by getting drunk, by reveling, by late night intoxicating parties, and by honoring idols and the devil more than God. The time is past for this behavior to occur. It is time that we live as those who are different, like Christ.
4In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you;
Yet the unsaved are surprised when a Christian stands up against the worldly flow and follows Christ. It is such a statement and shock because so few do it. There is great pressure to not stand for Christ, and even though we all know what is right and wrong, it is still shocking to see a person actually do right. When we do this, not joining them in their consuming sin that carries them away, they will mock and malign us.
5but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
They will be held accountable for their behavior as they sin against God, indulge their flesh, and insult the true followers of Christ. One day, they will be confronted by Christ of their sin and its consequences. They will have to own up to their sin and declare that Christ is Lord. God will judge both those who are living and who have been long dead. No one will escape.
6For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
I don’t believe that this is drawing a parallel to the discussion of the spirits in prison in the previous chapter. The word for “preached” is not the same as the word for “proclamation” in the previous chapter. The word here is not speaking of a public declaration and announcement but of a sharing of good news. The word is literally “euaggelizo,” which is similar to the word “evangel” and not coincidentally has a similar meaning. The gospel is preached for the purpose of calling dead men to life. In light of the fact that God is going to judge the living and the dead, we had better share the gospel with those who are still physically alive, though spiritually dead. Ephesians 2:1 makes it clear that before we came to Christ we “were dead in our trespasses and sins.” We were destined for eternal judgment before God for our sin. But Christ through the working of the gospel has raised us from the dead, spiritually speaking. When we do trust Christ we will be judged in the flesh for being followers of Christ. There will be a division made between us and the world, and we will be mocked for it. We may even be killed for it as Christ was. But, though this is the case, if we know Christ, we can be sure that we will be alive in our spirits by the will of God.
7The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
In light of the fact that Christ could come any day and in light of the fact that our time on earth isn’t very long, we need to be those who think clearly, choose wisely, and stay steadfast in terms of our faithfulness to Christ. We are to remain faithful so that we can continue to pray. This emphasis on prayer demonstrates just how important and powerful it is. The word for prayer means to pray and to go to a place of prayer, gathering with others to pray. Thus, what Peter is saying is that even when things are tough, we must continue to fellowship with one another and pray.
8Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Yet, even more important than prayer is maintaining a fervent love for one another in Christ. We are to do this because love “veils the knowledge of” sin, which is what “covers” means. And it does so for not just a sin or two but for a multitude of sins. We are imperfect people who make mistakes. But if we are also those who take sin seriously and repent when we are wrong, asking the forgiveness of others, we will be able to maintain a pure testimony to the watching world. The world understands imperfection, and they don’t expect perfection in the church. They know better than that. They do, however, expect love. Love is more than mere tolerance of hypocrisy and sin. It is confronting a brother or sister of their sin lovingly. It is not keeping a record of wrongs. It is forgetting what is behind and pressing on toward the goal. Love always receives back a person who has gone astray. Love is always willing to forgive. Love is gracious, kind, and tender. It is patient and longsuffering, not giving up on people. The world can go to the local bar or country club to feel accepted as they are in their sin. What they need to see is a place of love, for this is the mark of God’s people. They need to see people to are serious about living righteous lives, who bear with one another, and who spur one another on to love and good deeds. This is a rare find indeed. Love does not gloss over failure for the sake of preserving “community” or relationship or keeping someone on the membership roll. Love hides sin by not gossiping about others sin, by helping others to overcome sin patterns, and by being a place of forgiveness.
9Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
The church is to have “all things in common.” This doesn’t mean nobody owns anything or that the church owns everything. It means that we hold what we have lightly, always being willing to support somebody in need. This hospitable nature of the body of Christ invites all to share what they have, whether food, shelter, possessions, or whatever else others might need. The remarkable thing is that this is done not grudgingly or with complaining but readily and eagerly. The true family of God is not trying to compete to store up as many treasures as they can, but they understand that all that they have is God’s. They are willing to part with it, knowing that God will provide for their needs (Philippians 4:19) and that He does love a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
10As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
All believers are gifted in some way by the Holy Spirit, though in diverse ways and for diverse ministries (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4). God had made us all unique creations. These gifts are not ours to flaunt or boast because they are gifts from God. Grace allows us to have a gift and to be able to use it. We are to put our gifts to work and not waste them. We are to use our gifts for the purpose of edifying others. We are gifted not for the purpose of serving ourselves or drawing attention to ourselves, but we are gifted for the sake of others. They are gifted, in turn, for building us up. Thus, by God’s design, there is an interdependency between brothers and sisters in Christ. When one doesn’t use their gifts, we all feel it. The goal is that God’s glory and grace is made manifest as He works in and through us to build up His people and advance His kingdom. If we do things by our own power or for selfish reasons, the glory of God won’t be seen. If God works powerfully in and through us, showing Himself strong through our weakness, He will be glorified, and His grace will be made manifest.
11Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Peter emphasizes the point that the function of gifts is to minister and manifest the grace of God working in and through us by the power of Christ. Those who have a gift that is related to speech are to be speaking as if it is Christ speaking through them. Those who serve as to serve as if their hands and feet are Christ’s hands and feet. We are not Christ and our bodies do not become His body literally. But spiritually the goal is to let Christ live out His desires and provide His strength through us and in us. When this happens as we yield and surrender to Christ in obedience, it will be clear that we are beings dependent upon grace. When grace does its work, God is glorified through the work of Christ in us. Christ subjects all things to the Father by using us, His church, as His instruments. What a powerful role we play by the mercy of God!
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
Some people act surprised when they suffer as if God has betrayed them. Peter tells us to not be surprised because God indeed does test His people. As Proverbs 17:3 says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts.” God is looking to make manifest the true state of our hearts so that we have a chance to prove our love for Him or to see for ourselves where are hearts really are. God already knows, of course, but the point is that He wants us to excel in His tests. Testing and suffering are not abnormal experiences. Not all suffering might be testing, but some of it is. Our calling is to be steadfast and holy throughout all of our suffering.
13but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
When we suffer for Christ’s sake and share His suffering (see Colossians 1:24), we should rejoice for we have a chance to experience the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). If we handle suffering well, we will know that our faith is genuine. This will give us great joy and hope for the even greater joy that is to come at the revelation of Christ when we are revealed as His sons.
14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Peter reminds us again that we are blessed if we are persecuted for Christ’s sake because that means that God has chosen to glorify Himself through us. We can be sure that, if we are persecuted for the sake of Christ, that we are indeed Christ’s and blessed by Christ.
15Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;
16but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
Peter again reminds the Christians to not get into trouble and create suffering because of sin and evil-doing. We are not to be like the unsaved, looking for trouble, murdering, hating, stealing, lusting, or committing any other sin for that matter. When we suffer as Christians, however, we should not be ashamed. Our persecution for Christ’s sake is a chance to praise and glorify the name of Christ for counting us worthy to suffer for His name (see Acts 5:41). It is easy to be shaken or discouraged after suffering. The right response is to feel privileged and to praise God genuinely. But if we suffer because of our own wrongdoing, we should be ashamed.
17For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MANAND THE SINNER?
19Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
Peter’s point here is that the righteous are allotted testing and suffering in life as a means of God refining and purifying His people. 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches us that we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be evaluated based upon how we built upon the foundation of Christ in our lives. Were we faithful? Did we continue is sin or decrease in sin? Did we utilize our gifts for the kingdom or spend our time and energy on selfish pursuits? This will be our reckoning, though we will finish in glory and hopefully with many rewards, if we have served well. Thus, if even the godly have to be refined, suffer, and be judged by Christ, how much more will the unrighteous have to suffer eternally and be condemned to hell. Our suffering here on earth is temporary; theirs will be forever. Our judgment can bring forth rewards. Theirs can only bring forth death. Peter quotes from Proverbs 11:31 to emphasize this point. Thus, we who suffer for the sake of Christ or because of suffering ordained by God for our purification need to submit to God and continue to do right, knowing that our souls will be preserved into eternity with God. Living in light of future judgment should motivate us to godliness and good deeds.