1 Peter 5:5-7
Clothing Yourselves with Humility
As Peter has shared his counsel with the elders of the church, he now addresses the younger Christians specifically about a subject which most of us would prefer to ignore. It is the subject of submission.
1. Be Submissive (1Pe_5:5). Peter has already written a great deal about the importance of submission in this letter: we should submit ourselves to every ordinance of man (1Pe_2:13); servants should submit to their masters (1Pe_2:18); wives should be subject to their husbands (1Pe_3:1-5); and angels and authorities and powers are subject to Christ (1Pe_3:22).
Submission is a vital part of authentic Christian lifestyle. We cannot truly follow Christ until we are willing to submit to Him as the Lord of our lives. Peter's initial counsel is to the younger people who are a part of the flock of God. They should submit themselves to their elders (1Pe_5:5). To "submit" is hupotássō which means "to be subject to" or "to submit yourself unto."
To be submissive is to obey. Obedience is vital to Christian lifestyle. One of the great problems of our society is the resistance to submission and obedience—even within the church. A major expression of sin is that of rebellion against authority. Christian young people need to learn to obey Christ, and they will be greatly blessed if they learn to be submissive to their Christian elders.
But young people should not only be submissive to their elders, all Christians should be submissive to one another (1Pe_5:5). All believers, even those with leadership responsibilities, should be submissive to one another. We use another word in our society which will help us understand the importance of submission to one another as members of the body of Christ. It is the word "accountability."
Every one of us is ultimately accountable to Christ, the head of the church. But we need also be careful to place ourselves in positions of being accountable to one another. For example, all of us who are pastors or leaders in the church should make certain that we are accountable to a group of God's people, whether this is a board of elders or deacons or the entire congregation.
This provides a necessary "check and balance" system for our ministry. People who love us and who love our Lord will "call us back" to truth if we should stray. They will encourage us when we are discouraged, and will love, support, and pray for us as we minister. No one should be involved in ministry without accountability to a group of other Christians. This will insure and assist us in our accountability to Jesus as Lord.
In the church of Christ, there should be no one lording over or dominating others. In love and honor, we should serve one another. We should be seeking first not to get but to give; not to be served but to serve.
2. Be Humble (1Pe_5:5-6). Submission and accountability are closely related to humility. Peter's instruction to us is that we should be clothed with humility. Within that context, someone has said, "Many would be scantily clad if clothed in their humility."
To be humble is to have the Spirit of Christ. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Php_2:5-8).
Humility is essential for Christian lifestyle. Only when we are clothed with humility can we come to know Christ better and grow to become more like Him. As Thomas a Kempis wrote, "God walks with the humble; He reveals himself to the lowly; He gives understanding to the little ones; He discloses His meaning to pure minds, but hides His grace from the proud."
Peter quotes from Pro_3:34 when he writes, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore, he concludes, we should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (1Pe_5:6). In other words, we should see God as He really is, and we should see ourselves as we really are. God's hands are mighty. His weakness is mightier than our strength. His foolishness is greater than our wisdom.
He is the Creator, and we are the created. All things were made by Him and by Him all things exist. God determines the days of our lives. Whether we wish to be or not, we are in His hands—at His disposal. He alone is sovereign!
And so He has given us a choice. We can resist Him and ignore Him and even curse Him. We can go our own way and do our own thing. But that way leads to certain death—eternal death.
Or we can recognize Him for who He is. We can respond to His love and grace and forgiveness. We can humble ourselves under His mighty hand. And, if we do, His promise is that He will exalt us in due time (1Pe_5:6). And through Him we will have life eternal. The Scriptures declare, "Before honour is humility" (Pro_15:33).
Because of the humility, submission, and obedience of Jesus Christ, "God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…" (Php_2:9-10). And the Lord will also exalt His children who walk humbly with Him.
3. Be Dependent (1Pe_5:7). As we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we should become increasingly dependent upon Him. Peter says, "Casting all your care upon Him" (1Pe_5:7). "To cast" is epirhı́ptō, which means "to throw upon." That is exactly what we should do. Christ desires deeply to carry our cares. "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isa_53:4). He has invited us, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Mat_11:28-30).
Peter's use of the word "all" is most interesting. He encourages us to cast all of our cares upon Him. For some reason, many of us contemporary Christians seem to be pseudo-sophisticated about such things. Many have worked out quite an elaborate scheme regarding what kind of problems they should bring to the Lord. As one woman said to me recently, "I don't bother God with my small problems. I only bring the big ones to Him."
God desires for us to be deeply dependent upon Him with all of our cares, sorrows, problems, needs, and questions. Nothing is too big for God nor is anything too small. Our Lord cares for a single sparrow and knows the very number of the hairs of our heads (Luk_12:6-7). And He cares about our small problems as well as the large. He desires for us to be dependent upon Him, to trust in Him with all of our hearts, and to lean not unto our own understanding (Pro_3:5).
We should cast all of our care upon Him because "He cares for you" (1Pe_5:7). Think of it. God cares for you. He loves you. He delights in caring for you! In this verse, the word for "care" is mérimna, meaning "to be anxious about" or "to be concerned." God is interested in you; He is concerned about your needs. He cares for you.
We can never know true liberty, we can never be truly free until we cast our cares upon the Lord. A mark of maturity in the life of the Christian is to become increasingly dependent upon Christ. The more we depend upon Him, the more mature and free we become in Christ.
A number of years ago, a successful businessman came to see me. Although he was a professing Christian, he never attended any church. However, he had founded a breakfast group of Christian businessmen and served as its president. He was a man who was always in control of every situation. He dominated his business, his breakfast group, and his family.
He came to see me secretly and out of sheer desperation. He was facing a major problem in his life and didn't know what to do. He couldn't bring it under control. His theology did not allow for such a thing. In his opinion, a Christian wasn't supposed to have problems.
As we shared together, I had the delight of introducing him to the wonderful message of this passage. I told him that he didn't have to carry the problem by himself; Christ wanted to carry it for him. He only needed to cast it upon the Lord.
I will never forget his response. He sat in complete silence for several moments as he contemplated the possibility of committing his problem to Christ. He was a strong, handsome, self-made man, and his will was not broken easily. Then his lower jaw began to tremble. Next tears began to form in his eyes. He tried to deny them, but they would not cooperate. Suddenly he broke into uncontrollable sobbing. The dam had broken!
That day was a turning point in his life. He gave his problem to Christ—but he did much more than that. He heeded the counsel of God's Word as shared by Peter. He began to love in submission to Christ and to his brothers and sisters in Christ; he humbled himself before the Lord and cast his cares upon Him. What a remarkable difference took place in his life, and what a remarkable difference will take place in our lives as we cast our cares upon the Lord and begin to live with the confidence that He cares for us.
1 Peter 5:1-4
What Christian Leadership Is All About
- Priorities for Christian Leadership (1Pe_5:1-4)
- Clothing Yourselves with Humility (1Pe_5:5-7)
- Standing Firm in the Faith (1Pe_5:8-11)
- Final Greetings (1Pe_5:12-14)
God has given leadership gifts to those whom He has chosen to lead His church. For example, in the fourth chapter of Ephesians we read that God has gifted some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and others pastors and teachers (Eph_4:11).
But these gifts were not given as an end in themselves. They were given for the specific purpose of being used for the mutual and corporate benefit of the members of the body of Christ—the church. In short, God has given leadership gifts so that those leaders may serve the saints of God by equipping them for ministry—so that all of the members of the body may be involved in active ministry—so that the body of Christ might be built up—so that there may be a unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Jesus Christ—so that all of us may grow to become more and more like Jesus Christ, measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ (Eph_4:12-13).
That is one of the most important leadership models shared in all the Scriptures. In addition, Peter shares another vital leadership model in this final chapter of his first letter. It is a model all of us need to understand and then put into practice within our church and within our families. Christian leadership is a privilege given only by God. True Christian leaders are chosen by God—not by a mere human political system nor by the casting of lots. The Lord calls and the Lord anoints those who should give leadership to His church.
Priorities for Christian Leadership
As we have noted earlier, Peter, the leader of the church of Jerusalem, was one of the most influential leaders of the first century church. He was the apostle who was a member of Christ's inner circle of three. He was a witness of the Transfiguration of Christ. He was the human instrument upon whom Christ began to build His church, as Peter stood on the Day of Pentecost and preached with the power of the Holy Spirit so that 3,000 persons were added to the church in one day. This same Peter now writes to the elders of the church and identifies himself not as their superior but as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ. That statement in itself is a powerful treatise on the role of godly leadership in the church.
This Peter, who had failed Christ so miserably when he attempted to serve Him in the flesh by falling asleep when Christ needed him the most (Mat_26:40) and by denying Him at His hour of trial (Mat_26:69-75), now teaches us how to give leadership, not in the flesh, but in the power and dynamic of the Holy Spirit. He shares with us four major priorities which we should follow in giving leadership to the church:
1. "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you" (1Pe_5:2). God has entrusted many of us with the marvelous privilege of shepherding His flock in the form of a local church. Notice that the emphasis is upon the fact that it is the flock of God. It is never "my" flock or "my" church. Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1Pe_5:4), and "I," Peter, am merely an undershepherd.
In order to be effective as an undershepherd, we need to be in close contact with the Chief Shepherd who is the Lord of the church. We must live under His lordship and guide the members of the flock to follow Him as Lord. If we ever view the flock as "ours" or the ministry as "ours," we are in serious trouble, and so is the church.
The church at Corinth faced this difficulty. Some of the people decided to follow Paul as their shepherd while others chose to follow Apollos. Paul refuted this error and demanded that they follow neither Paul nor Apollos—but Christ. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" (1Co_3:5-7).
Paul continues his teaching by asking his readers to put the human leadership of the church in proper perspective in the following manner: "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Co_4:1). Indeed, that is a requirement of God if one is to be an effective undershepherd—to recognize that we are stewards of the flock of God which He has entrusted to our care. It is His flock, and we are His servants!
Within this same context, Peter instructs us to shepherd the flock of God. The Greek word for "shepherd" is poimaı́nō, "to tend" or "to feed." It is the precise word that Jesus used when restoring Peter to fellowship with Him following Peter's denial. Jesus said to Peter, "Tend (poimaı́nō) My sheep" (Joh_21:16). Without a doubt, that was the commissioning of Peter by Christ for his special ministry of tending or shepherding the flock of God.
Now Peter shares those same words of commissioning with us. To be the pastor of a church is more than merely a vocational choice. It is much more than merely fulfilling a job description prepared for us by a pastoral search committee. It is a holy calling and a sacred trust given to us by no one less than the Chief Shepherd of the flock of God! No one should be called to pastor a church who has not first been called and anointed by God.
As we consider that sacred and exciting task of shepherding, tending, and feeding the flock of God, the legitimate question becomes, How do I carry on that shepherding in the way in which God desires? In response to that kind of question, Peter continues his discourse on the four priorities of ministry by presenting three specific ways in which we should be involved in shepherding the flock of God:
2. "Serving… not by compulsion but willingly" (1Pe_5:2). We should not serve by "compulsion," anagkastōs, or because we have to. Unfortunately, there is that kind of mentality among many who serve in the church in the present day. The tendency is not to do it willingly or joyfully, but out of a sense of religious duty.
I have counseled with many pastors who are trapped in this syndrome. They feel that they are imprisoned by their calling to ministry. They would prefer to be somewhere else, they are not enjoying their ministry, or they are in a difficult situation from which they would like to escape. To them, ministry has become mere drudgery.
It need not be so! Peter reminds us that we should serve the Lord and tend His flock willingly. To serve "willingly" is hekoúsios, which means "voluntarily" or "willfully." That is the only way in which we can serve the Lord and serve His church effectively. The Lord does not force us or coerce us to be involved in ministry. He calls us and invites us to ministry, but we have the freedom of saying "yes" or "no"!
To serve the Lord under constraint or because we feel compelled to do so against our will, is to not serve Him. If that is our motivation for ministry, it is much better that we not be involved in ministry; for not only do we suffer for that disobedience, but the flock of God which we are tending suffers with us.
3. "Serving… not for dishonest gain but eagerly" (1Pe_5:2). We should not serve for monetary or personal gain. The word here is aischrokerdōs, from a root word meaning "sordid gain" or "filthy lucre." It denotes a spirit of greediness.
Obviously, that should not be our motive for ministry. If we are involved in caring for the flock of God merely for our personal gain or for what personal gain we can derive from it, we are ministering for the wrong reason. The blessing of God cannot be upon us.
Within our society, most of us do not face the temptation for entering the ministry for purely monetary gain. Most persons involved vocationally in ministry could be earning more money in another profession and most lay persons involved in ministry make personal sacrifices in order to be involved. However, there are far more subtle kinds of personal gain which can be our reasons for ministry.
For example, one kind of personal gain which can be a temptation to those involved in ministry is that of personal recognition or personal power. In many churches, the pastor is the center of attention and has great power or authority which can be used for good or for evil.
All of us who are tending the flock of God need to maintain open and sensitive hearts to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to be on guard lest we slip into the trap of being involved in ministry for monetary or personal gain.
Instead, we should minister eagerly; not merely for what we can get out of it, but rather for what we can put into it. Investing in the lives of others is one of the highest callings and greatest privileges which God entrusts to any person. To serve "eagerly" is próthumos, which means to serve with a forward spirit—to serve with alacrity, readily, willingly.
Think of the difference in the effectiveness of our ministry if we are ministering with eagerness, initiative, and enthusiasm as opposed to doing it simply because we have to or because we are seeking personal gain or recognition. It is the difference between a boy carrying out the garbage because his mother made him do it as opposed to that same boy playing baseball because he wants to do it.
We have many pastors who act as if they are "carrying out the garbage" in their ministries. They need to be transformed into those who are eagerly "playing in the game" which God has prepared for them with excitement and enthusiasm, giving it everything they have—to the glory of God. We need to serve the flock of God not for monetary gain, but eagerly!
4. "[Serve not] as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1Pe_5:3). God has not called us to be dictators to the flock of God, not even benevolent dictators. Unfortunately, that is the model being provided for us by many pastors and many local churches in the present day. To be sure, such a form of government may seem very efficient, but it can be very devastating.
Several years ago, I heard of a local church which had been founded and pastored by a sincere man who was such a dictator. The official board of the church was made up of himself, his wife, and his brother-in-law. Needless to say, when he departed, the church was in a state of absolute chaos. In an overreaction to the first pastor's style of leadership, the congregation called a young seminary graduate to be their pastor. For several years they gave themselves to dominating that young pastor and opposing most of his leadership.
After his departure, the church was served by an interim pastor. As he led the church through a wonderful time of healing and preparation for the pastor whom God was preparing to tend that flock, those observing his leadership learned many things about leadership style within the body of Christ. One of the lessons became a deep conviction—it is never the leadership style of Jesus Christ for pastors to lord over the people of God. Rather, God has called us to serve His people, not to dominate them.
As Peter espouses this teaching, he is sharing from his own experience with Jesus. It was Jesus who had taught Peter and the disciples this important truth about Christian leadership, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mat_20:25-28).
Jesus practiced a "servant style" of leadership, and it is that "servant leadership style" which He has entrusted to us. An effective shepherd gives his life for his sheep, and an effective pastor gives his life for the flock of God.
Such a pastor does not merely tell his people where to go or what to do—he leads them; he is their example. In this passage, the word "example" is túpos, from the root meaning of a "die" or "stamp." Also, it means "model" or "pattern" or "print." That is one of the holy roles of a pastor—to be a model for his people. He is not a model of one who has reached perfection, but a model of one who has denied himself, is taking up his cross daily, and is following Jesus as the Lord of his life.
The pastor, like Paul, never attains full maturity in Christ, but he presses "on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Php_3:12-14). He, with Paul, should say, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1Co_11:1). Or, more specifically, "Follow my example as I follow Christ's" (NEB).
That is our four-step model: (1) to shepherd the flock of God which is among you (or entrusted to your care); (2) to serve not by constraint but willingly; (3) to serve not for monetary gain but eagerly; (4) to serve not by being lord over those entrusted to you, but by being examples to the flock.
As we are faithful to the Lord and to His flock, a marvelous promise is given to us: "When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (1Pe_5:4). In other words, we are accountable to the Chief Shepherd for the stewardship of how we care for His flock. He will reward those undershepherds who have been faithful in their ministry.
1 Peter 4:7-9
The End is at Hand
Peter sounds a note of warning and motivation—the end is at hand! And because of this contention, there are some specific ways we should be living in order to do the will of God. Peter leaves the major theme of this chapter, suffering, to share some practical counseling regarding Christian living and ministry. Within these verses, we find three specific commands.
1. "Be serious and watchful in your prayers" (1Pe_4:7). Prayer is always appropriate for the Christian. It is the vital communication vehicle between a believer and his or her Lord. To pray is not merely to talk at God but it is to commune with God. Authentic prayer includes listening to God and responding to Him. In his book Prayer, O. Hallesby gives the most helpful definition of prayer I have ever found. "To pray," he says, "is to let Jesus into your heart!"
The word translated in verse 1Pe_4:7 as "serious" is sōphronéō, which means "sober," or of "sound mind," or to be "clear-minded." This is the word that Paul uses in his letter to the Romans when he instructs them not to think of themselves "more highly than [they] ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom_12:3).
Prayer should never become something we do nonchalantly. Our spiritual vitality, to a great degree, depends upon our prayer lives. When Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing" (1Th_5:17), he is talking about Christian lifestyle. We must take prayer seriously. We need to live in a constant attitude of prayer—in continual communion with God.
We should seek to keep that flow open and constant. John Bunyan said, "Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for such things as God has promised." Andrew Murray had this insight: "Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God's voice in response to mine is its most essential part. Listening to God's voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine." No wonder we should take prayer seriously.
Of course, all of this relates to doing the will of God. D. L. Moody once stated, "Spread out your petition before God, and then say, 'Thy will, not mine, be done.' The sweetest lesson I have learned in God's school is to let the Lord choose for me."
I have found it to be so in my own prayer life. How good it is to go to God with needs and then to allow Him to give the solutions according to His loving will! He is to be trusted.
The writer of Hebrews gives us great encouragement to be involved seriously in the lifestyle of prayer, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb_4:15-16).
The word translated in verse 1Pe_4:7 as "watchful" (nÇphÉ) is to be "sober" or "self-controlled." Paul shares some similar words of encouragement when he writes, "Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober" (1Th_5:6).
As Peter shares these words of encouragement, it is very possible that he was thinking back to his experience on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. As you will remember, Jesus took the eleven disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him. He invited Peter, James, and John to go deeper into the garden with Him. As He prayed, they fell asleep. He awakened them with the words, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mat_26:40-41).
Peter is now sharing that same counsel with us. We must be sober and watchful, for these are crucial days. The end is at hand. He shares that warning not only in this passage but again in chapter five when he writes, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1Pe_5:8). Indeed, let us be serious and watchful in our prayers.
2. "Have fervent love for one another" (1Pe_4:8). As we have seen, "love" (agapÄ) is the mark of authentic Christian lifestyle. Jesus said that it was by this love that others would recognize us as His true disciples (Joh_13:35). Peter tells us not only to love, but to love fervently. The word "fervent" is ektenḗs, which means "intense" or "without ceasing." The New English Bible translates this phrase in a refreshing and helpful way: "Keep your love for one another at full strength."
This fervent love for one another should be a top priority of Christian lifestyle. Verse 1Pe_4:8 says that our love should be "above all things." We cannot afford to let it slip or slide. This love must flow without ceasing. The faucet of love should never be turned off or even partially restrained. It should be flowing at full strength. This is the will of God for us.
How many problems which take place in our lives, in our families, in our churches, and in our communities could be easily resolved if Christians kept their love for God and each other at full strength. "There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance" (1Co_13:7, NEB).
After speaking about the priority of love, Peter now contends for the power of love. This quality of love can cover over all kinds of sins (1Pe_4:8). He appears to be quoting from the proverb which declares, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs" (Pro_10:12, NIV). The word "cover" is kalúptō, which means "to cover up or to hide." This teaching does not suggest that love ignores the reality of sin nor justifies or condones sin. To the contrary, the only solution for sin is forgiveness—and love motivates us to forgive. In addition, love builds up rather than tears down (1Co_8:1). Love focuses upon affirming strengths rather than criticizing weaknesses. It bears one another's burdens and so fulfills the law of Christ (Gal_6:2).
I have discovered this biblical principle to be exceedingly helpful in my own life. When I find myself becoming critical of one of my brothers or sisters in Christ, I ask the Lord to help me love that person with true agapē which is totally unconditional and which flows only from Him. What a difference takes place in my life and in my attitude. It is the difference between living in the flesh or living in the Spirit. The flesh criticizes and tears down, while the Spirit loves and builds up!
3. "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (1Pe_4:9). Authentic love must show itself in action in practical ways, and hospitality is one of the options. The Greek word for "hospitality" is philóxenos, which means to be fond of guests or to be a lover of hospitality. To be hospitable means to share what God has given to us with others including our home, our meals, our resources, and our very lives.
The early church was comprised of Christian brothers and sisters who loved to share with one another. Luke's description of that lifestyle of hospitality tells us, "They met constantly to hear the apostles teach, and to share the common life, to break bread, and to pray… With one mind they kept up their daily attendance at the temple, and, breaking bread in private houses, shared their meals with unaffected joy, as they praised God and enjoyed the favour of the whole people" (Act_2:42-47, NEB).
What a wonderful lifestyle—sharing all they had with one another as they praised God. This is in contrast to the spirit of selfishness and the human desire to protect what we have and keep it for ourselves. That is our mentality when we seek to run our own lives.
The ministry of hospitality continued to be very important in the early church. For example, the qualifications for a bishop or an overseer included the requirement of being hospitable (1Ti_3:2; Tit_1:8).
Peter not only instructs us to carry on this wonderful ministry of love and sharing, but we should do so without grumbling. There is the kind of Christian lifestyle that some practice in which one merely does what he or she is expected to do. It is usually done with grimness and with a legalistic spirit which is devoid of love or joy.
That is not authentic Christian lifestyle; it is hypocrisy and it is religious slavery in its worst form. How tragic it is to try to live for Christ and others merely out of a sense of religious duty. The fruit of the Holy Spirit can be flowing freely only when we are hospitable out of the motive of love and only when we delight to share the good things which God has entrusted to us.
1 Peter 4:1-6
What Suffering is All About
- Living for the Will of God (1Pe_4:1-6)
- The End is at Hand (1Pe_4:7-9)
- You are Called to Ministry (1Pe_4:10-11)
- Suffering as a Christian (1Pe_4:12-19)
Peter's helpful and encouraging teaching on the subject of suffering reaches a climax in this chapter. Throughout the letter, the focus on suffering is balanced with the centrality of hope within the life of the Christian. This is blended with the fact that life on this earth is only temporary. Our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God. Ultimate victory lies just ahead as we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord!
And we are never alone. Christ is with us in every circumstance of life into which we invite Him. We never need to suffer alone. He has suffered for us in the past and He will be with us in our sufferings in the present and future. We need not be fearful of the future—Christ will be with us always. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb_13:5). And so "we may boldly say: 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me'" (Heb_13:6).
Living for the Will of God
Suffering does not take place in a void nor does it take place without purpose in the life of the believer. To ignore suffering or to resist it would be natural, but these are not options for the committed Christian. We have the confidence that all things work together in our lives if we are trusting in Christ Jesus (Rom_8:28).
And we know that if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart and lean not upon our own understanding, but instead, if we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, He has promised to direct our steps (Pro_3:5-6). As we have seen in our commentary on chapter 3 of 1 Peter, sometimes our Lord allows suffering to come into our lives. Just as it was His will for Christ to suffer for doing good, it is sometimes His will for His children to suffer for doing good (1Pe_3:17).
As Peter closes the third chapter by sharing some benefits which come to us as we suffer for doing good, he continues in the opening verses of this chapter to identify some additional benefits of suffering for Christ.
"Arm yourselves with the same mind [as Christ]" (1Pe_4:1). The word translated as "mind" is énnoia which can also be translated as "intent" or "attitude." As we know, our conduct is greatly determined by our mind or attitude. When our attitude is right, our conduct is usually right.
If we were to have the mind or attitude of Christ, what a difference it would make in the way in which we live day by day. Peter's teaching is clear. Since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, we should be prepared to suffer for Him. Jesus said, "'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they have kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (Joh_15:20-21).
As Peter has shared in the previous chapter, there is a kind of suffering which comes from doing good—from being identified with Christ (see commentary, pp. 167). To face such sufferings, we need to have the attitude of Christ such as He had when He agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Mat_26:39). To entrust ourselves to our Father and to His will is always right and always best.
Also in verse 1Pe_4:1, Peter encourages us to cease from sin. Peter shares a very interesting relationship between suffering for Christ's sake and for righteousness' sake. It is natural for us to sin. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom_3:23). We have sinned by choice and by inheritance. No one had to teach us how to sin.
Since all of those things are true according to the Word of God, what could Peter mean when he says, "for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin"? (1Pe_4:1). I believe he means that the forsaking of sin, or repenting of sin, requires two specific steps. First we must, by an act of our will, turn from that sin.
But there is also a second step. When we turn from sin, we must turn to Christ. We must receive Him as Savior and then follow Him as Lord. As we follow Him and allow Him to live in and through us in the person of the Holy Spirit, we receive the fruit of the Spirit (Gal_5:22-23), and the Lord enables us to do good. When we live lives that are good, and when we do good things for others, we will sometimes suffer for that good behavior (1Pe_3:13-18).
Therefore, when you suffer in the flesh for doing good and for doing the will of God, it is an outward symbol of the fact that you have turned from sin or ceased from sin to follow after Jesus. It does not mean that you never stumble or slip into sin; it does mean that the major orientation and direction of your life is to follow Jesus. And it is often true that when we become serious about following Jesus as Lord, Satan becomes serious about attacking us. Indeed, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. But the Lord has promised us victory as we submit to Him and resist the devil (Jas_4:7-8).
Now Peter gets to the very heart of his teaching. That is, the focus of our living should be to do the will of God (1Pe_4:2-6). Doing the will of God must begin with putting off the old life of walking in the flesh. Such a lifestyle is contrary to the will of God and to the life of walking in the Spirit. In verse 1Pe_4:3, Peter reminds his readers of the post-Gentile ways that are no longer to be practiced:
(1) "lewdness" (asélgeia): "without self-restraint, debauchery, filthiness, license." (2) "lusts" (epithumía): "evil desires, a longing for that which is forbidden." (3) "drunkenness" (oinophugía): "an excess or surplus of wine." (4) "revelries" (kÉmos): "carousing, rioting, orgies." (5) "drinking parties" (pótos): "banqueting, drinking bouts." (6) "abominable idolatries" (eidÉlolatría): "the forbidden worship of idols."
Those who still live that way respond to us and the Lord by thinking it strange that we don't run with them in the same flood of dissipation (1Pe_4:4) and by speaking evil of us (1Pe_4:4). However, they will have to give an account of themselves to the Lord (1Pe_4:5-6).
Peter shares some insights regarding "how to live for the will of God" in the succeeding verses, particularly verses 1Pe_4:7-11 in chapter 4. The contrast between doing the will of God and living in the Spirit and doing the will of the pagans and living in the lusts of the flesh is vivid. The two are diametrically opposed to one another. It is the difference between light and darkness, between life and death. Let us examine the truths of the following verses.