1 Peter 4, Verses 1 to 6 and 5, Verse 10 and Victory Over Sin, Part 1 of 2 Parts
by Karl Kemp
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All quotations from the Bible were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless I mention otherwise. I frequently make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious. cf., e.g., means compare, for example
"Therefore [[This word demonstrates the strong connection between what the apostle Peter just said in 3:18-22 and what he will go on to say here in 4:1-6. I discussed 1 Pet. 3:18-22 at the end of my paper "More on God's Salvation Plans for the Nations" that is on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching).]], since Christ has suffered [has suffered death] [[Significantly, as the margin of the NASB rightly shows, the Greek verb "pascho," as it is used here (and often), means "suffered death." Also see Luke 22:15; 24:46 ("and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer [suffer death] and rise again from the dead the third day [He had to die before He could rise again]....' "); Acts 1:3 ("to these [the apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering [suffering death; He had to die before He could present Himself alive to the apostles over a period of forty days]...."); 17:3 ("explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer [suffer death] and rise again from the dead...."); Heb. 13:12 (("Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered [suffered death on the cross] outside the gate [outside the gate of the city of Jerusalem (not that Jerusalem just had one gate)]." Hebrews 13:12 is one of a large number of passages that show that the holiness of believers is based on the atoning death (and subsequent resurrection) of the Lamb of God. I'll say more on this super-important point as we continue.)); and 1 Pet. 4:1b (the use of "pascho" in the second half of this verse). It is very important for us to understand how Peter used the Greek verb "pascho" here in 4:1, especially in 4:1b, as we'll see.]] in the flesh [I would translate "to the (realm of the) flesh," or the equivalent], arm yourselves with the same purpose, because he who has suffered [suffered death (died)] in the flesh [I would translate "to the (realm of the) flesh," or the equivalent] [[The words translated "in the flesh" by the NASB here, and earlier in this verse, are one word in the Greek, the word for flesh in the dative/instrumental/locative case. The idea is that Christ has died to the realm of the flesh and left it behind, and we, in union with Christ (the crucified but now resurrected Christ), and in the power of the Holy Spirit, by faith, are to die to living in the flesh, which includes dying to sin (dying to living in sin) and living/walking by the Spirit as born-again Christians in the righteousness and holiness of God.
For Christians to suffer death (die) to the (realm of the) flesh/to the flesh yields the same result as crucifying the flesh/the old man (see Gal. 5:24; Rom. 6:6); or dying to sin (see, for example, 1 Pet. 2:24 and many verses in Romans chapter 6). The three verses I just mentioned are quoted and briefly discussed as we continue, along with some closely related verses/passages, including Romans chapter 6. (See under verse 3.)
The translation "in the flesh" isn't acceptable for this second use of the noun in this verse. Something like "[suffered death (died)] to the flesh" is required. It must be understood that the only way we can die to sin and (to the realm of) the flesh is through union with Christ in His atoning death (and resurrection), which He died in our place. He bore the guilt of our sin, so we could be forgiven. He bore the penalty for our sin back to Adam (very much including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin), so we could be born again and walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin, being dead to sin (and Satan's evil kingdom of darkness).]] has ceased from sin [[What Peter said here (which is right in line with what he said in 1:13-19 and 2:24, 25, for example, and right in line with what Paul taught [e.g., Rom. 6:1-14; 7:4-6; 8:1-14; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 5:16-25; and 6:14, 15], and is found many other places in the New Testament) is that Christians are called to repent and submit to the gospel in faith and then to live/walk in righteousness and holiness by the grace/Spirit of God on a continuous basis. By doing so we will ensure that we will truly be dead to the flesh (to the old man) and to sin; WE WILL CEASE SINNING! (The old man won't be able to manifest itself in sin.) This is, at least, the ideal, and the New Testament doesn't present it as an unrealistic or unattainable ideal. (These things, including essentially all of the passages I just listed, are discussed in some detail in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" and my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." Both books are available at amazon.com.)
The apostle Peter clearly included the idea here in 1 Pet. 4:1-6, and throughout this epistle, that being faithful to Christ and the gospel will involve some suffering, referring especially to spiritual warfare and persecution (cf., e.g., 1 Pet. 1:6, 7; 2:11, 12, 18-23; 3:9, 14-17; 4:12-19; 5:8-10 [I'll discuss 1 Pet. 5:10 after we finish this study on 1 Pet. 4:1-6]).
Many Christians interpret Peter as saying that after Christians have suffered enough they can begin to experience something of victory over sin. It is true that chastening judgments can help wake Christians up, but this is far from what Peter was talking about here. The sad fact is that many Christians, even most Christians, don't believe that we can ever be dead to sin and walk in victory over all sin before Christ returns and we are glorified. But the victory over sin can only come by grace through faith, faith in God and His Word.
I believe that the New Testament clearly teaches that Christians are called to walk in righteousness and holiness with the victory over all sin (everything that God considers to be sin), and that this is a big part of what salvation is all about. The issue, however, is whether the New Testament teaches victory over sin through the sufficient grace of God in Christ, obtained at a very high cost to Himself, not whether we in our strength can stop sinning - we can't. We don't need more condemnation in the Body of Christ, but we need much more transformation (by grace through faith [faith based on God and His Word] to the glory of God). Amen!
I certainly am not saying that the victory over all sin is automatic or always easy. Powerful enemies are arrayed against us: the world; the flesh (the old man who wants to continue in sin); and the devil and his multitudinous hosts, but the saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ is greater than those arrayed against us, and God hates sin!
The following verses (4:2, 3, 6) strongly confirm the interpretation just given for 4:1.]], (2) so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh [["The rest of the time in the flesh" here (cf. Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 10:3; and Phil. 1:22, 24) means as long as we still live in a physical body in this world. "In the flesh" is a good way to translate the Greek here. For one thing, the Greek preposition ("en"), which is very often translated "in," is used here; it was not used with the word for flesh in either of its two uses in 4:1. The "rest of the time in the flesh" starts when we become born-again Christians and ends when we die, or when Jesus returns and we are glorified.]] no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God [in His truth, righteousness, and holiness]. (3) For the time already past [speaking of the time before they became born-again Christians] is sufficient for you to have carried out the [sinful] desire of the Gentiles [Cf. 1 Pet. 4:4; 1:14, 18; 2:10-12.] [[Peter was writing (at least for the most part) to Gentile Christians (cf., e.g. 1 Pet. 1:18; 2:10). These words make it clear that Peter was speaking of a once-for-all breach with sin, not a gradual break with sin, or a break with sin after suffering enough. The blood of Jesus sanctifies in the power of the Spirit, but we must cooperate with the powerful, sanctifying, saving grace of God in Christ on a continuous basis, by faith, based on what the Word of God says.
Since this is so important, and since so many Christians (the majority) don't agree, I'll cite several clear examples, and many more can be cited. (See my paperback book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" and my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." Both books are available at amazon.com.) 1 PETER 1:14-19: "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance [before they were confronted with the gospel, and repented, and submitted (by faith) to the gospel of new-covenant salvation], (15) but LIKE THE HOLY ONE WHO CALLED YOU, BE HOLY YOURSELVES ALSO IN ALL YOUR BEHAVIOR [my capitalization for emphasis; how could you speak of holiness and the victory over all sin in more clear or powerful terms than being holy in all our behavior as the Holy One who called us is holy?]; (16) because it is written. 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.' (17) If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear [being afraid to rebel and sin against God, which is a healthy fear, a fear that is required of God's people under the old and new covenants] during the time of your stay on earth; (18) knowing that you were not redeemed by perishable things like silver or gold from your futile [and sinful] way of life inherited from your forefathers [We were redeemed out of the pitiful state of being in spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons through the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.], (19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." The Bible is packed with passages that speak of our being sanctified, with the victory over sin, through the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God, including the next four examples that I will cite.
1 PETER 2:24, 25: "and HE HIMSELF BORE OUR SINS IN HIS BODY ON THE CROSS [(my capitalization here and later in this verse) He bore our sins with the guilt (so we could be forgiven) and with the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, so we could be born again and walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin).], SO THAT WE MIGHT DIE TO SIN [quit sinning] AND LIVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS; for by His wounds you were healed. [[These words at the end of verse 24 are extra important because they come from Isa. 53:5. Isaiah chapter 53 is one of the most important prophecies in the Bible that shows that our salvation, very much including our being made righteous with the victory over sin (see Isa. 53:11), comes to us through the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 53:4-6 and 11 are discussed in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" and my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." Both books are available at amazon.com.)
As the words of 1 Peter 2:24 and 25 show, the apostle Peter was dealing first and foremost with our being healed spiritually, but Isaiah chapter 53 and many passages in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) show that physical healing, mental healing, etc. is provided too.]] (25) For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls."
I'll briefly comment on ROMANS CHAPTER 6, which is one of the most important passages in the Bible, if not the most important passage, that teaches victory over all sin through the atoning death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:24, 25 have a lot in common with Romans chapter 6. In Rom. 6:2 the apostle Paul asked, "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" He goes on show that we have been united with the Lord Jesus in His atoning death (He died in our place) and resurrection. In verses 6 and 7 he says that we have been crucified with Christ, have died with Him, and have been freed from sin (freed from slavery/bondage to sin). The victory over sin isn't automatic: Paul exhorts his readers (including us) in verse 11, "Even so, consider [or, reckon (by faith)] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." I'll just quote one more verse, but this entire chapter is filled with this same message, the message that is at the heart of the gospel: "and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans chapter 6 is discussed in some detail in my e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin," which is available at amazon.com.)
Another super-important passage that shows that Christians are called, enabled, and required to walk with the victory over sin, in the righteousness and holiness of God, through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, is ROMANS 8:1-17. Much of the emphasis of this passage is on the fact that since God the Father has condemned sin in the flesh through the atoning death of Christ (Rom. 8:3), we are called, enabled, and required to walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis with the victory over all sin. In Rom. 8:4 he speaks of our fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law (God's moral law, which cannot change; not the ceremonial law of the old covenant) as we walk by the Holy Spirit (by faith) on a continuous basis. Galatians 5:16-25 is a similar passage. In Galatians 5:16 the apostle Paul says: "But I say, walk by the Spirit [on a continuous basis by faith] and you [certainly] will not carry out the [sinful] desire of the flesh [of the old man]." Both passages are discussed in my e-book (mentioned in the preceding paragraph) and in my paperback book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."
I'll also quote GALATIANS 5:24, which is another key verse that shows that Christians are called and enabled to live with the victory over all sin through the atoning death of the Lord Jess Christ: "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh [the old man] with its [sinful] passions and desires." Compare Rom. 6:6: "knowing this that our old self [old man] was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with [our bodies should no longer be used in the service of sin], so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." I'll also quote Gal. 6:14: "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Compare Gal. 2:20.
Now Peter goes on to mention some of the things included in the sinful "desire of the Gentiles" that he just mentioned in the first part of verse 3.]], having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. (4) And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them [like you used to before you became Christians] into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you [This explains where some of the suffering spoken of in this epistle that his readers were enduring came from (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6, 7; 2:12, 18-24; 3:13-17; 4:12-19; and 5:8-10).]; (5) but they shall give account [cf. Matt. 12:36; Rom. 14:10-12] to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. [[Most commentators understand these words ("the living and the dead") of the ones who will still be alive when Christ returns ("the living") and those who will have died before that time ("the dead"). These words are sometimes used this way in the New Testament (cf. Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9; 2 Tim. 4:1]). It is clear that all mankind will be judged at the end of this age, but "the rest of the dead" of Rev. 20:5 (those who aren't part of the believers; they aren't part of God's true Israel) will not be resurrected and judged until the end of the millennial kingdom at the great-white-throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). However, as we will discuss, I believe "the living" here refers to born-again Christians, who have spiritual life by the indwelling Spirit of God, and "the dead" refers to those who are spiritually dead.
Peter is not speaking of God's judging all people (those still living and those who will have died) at the end of this age (but he would agree that all people will be judged at the end of this age, including all of the people who will have died physically before the Lord Jesus returns), but he is zeroing in on His judgment of the Christians ("the living") and those spiritually dead, with special emphasis on those who were persecuting his Christian readers (especially see 1 Pet. 4:3-5). Note that the "they" of 4:5, who shall give account to God, speaks of the same people as "they" of 4:4 (used twice). The spiritually dead will have to answer for persecuting Christians, but (on a more basic level) they will have to answer for rejecting the gospel/for being disobedient to God's Word, very much including the gospel (see, e.g., 1 Pet. 2:7, 8; 4:17; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9).
First Peter 4:5, like all of 4:1-6 and this entire epistle, was aimed first and foremost at the people of Peter's generation, but it also fully applies to the people of the following generations. For one thing, as I'll demonstrate as we continue, Peter was thinking in terms of the Lord Jesus returning VERY SOON, which would initiate the day of judgment. A major theme of Peter in this epistle was to exhort and warn his Christian readers of the need for them to live in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, so they will be fully ready to stand before God the Judge (cf. 1 Pet. 1:13-22; 2:1-3, 11-23; 3:1-17, 21; 4:1-3, 6-19; 5:1-12). This is a dominant theme of the New Testament, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and intended for all Christians of all generations.
I'll quote a few key verses of those I just listed that emphasize that we Christians must live in the light of the fact that we are going to have to answer to God: 1 PETER 1:17, (my capitalization for emphasis in this verse and in the following verses) "IF YOU ADDRESS AS FATHER THE ONE WHO IMPARTIALLY JUDGES ACCORDING TO EACH ONE'S WORK [cf., e.g., Matt. 16:27; John 5:28, 29; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:9, 10; 11:15; Gal. 6:7-9; Eph. 5:6, 7; Rev. 20:12, 13; 22:12; I'll discuss the need for works of righteousness/for a righteous lifestyle (by the saving grace of God in Christ) when God judges Christians under 1 Pet. 4:6], CONDUCT YOURSELVES IN FEAR [having a healthy and necessary fear of rebelling and sinning against God] DURING THE TIME OF YOUR STAY ON EARTH." (This verse is extremely weighty in the context of 1 Pet. 1:13-19, which speaks of the need for us to be holy as God is holy in all our behavior, etc.); and 1 PETER 4:17-19, "FOR 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? (18) AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? (19) THEREFORE, THOSE ALSO WHO SUFFER ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD SHALL ENTRUST THEIR SOULS TO A FAITHFUL CREATOR IN DOING WHAT IS RIGHT." Our faith must be proved genuine when we answer to God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7). As we walk by faith in God, His Son, and His Word, which includes walking by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis, works of righteousness will necessarily be manifested. And if we should sin, we must be quick to run to God with repentance (cf., e.g., 1 John 2:1, 2).
Regarding Peter's perspective on the nearness of the coming judgment when he wrote 1 Peter, see 1 Pet. 4:7, 17, 18, and note that Peter said He "is ready to judge" here in 1 Pet. 4:5. I just quoted 1 Pet. 4:17-19. I'll quote 1 PETER 4:7, which comes right after the verses we are discussing in this paper (1 Pet. 4:1-6): "THE END OF ALL THINGS IS NEAR; THEREFORE, BE OF SOUND JUDGMENT AND SOBER SPIRIT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER [my emphasis]."
There is much difference of opinion regarding whether God the Father is the Judge here (cf. 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:23; Rom. 2:6; 3:6; 14:10-12) or the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 21:34-36; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 1 Tim. 4:1). It is clear that God the Father will be involved in the end-time judgment of the world, and it is also clear that He has appointed His beloved Son to have a major role in the end-time judgment of the world (cf., e.g., John 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42). I'll quote Acts 17:31: "because He [God the Father] has fixed a day in which He [God the Father] will judge the world in righteousness through a Man [God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ] who He has appointed, having finished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
On being born again/having life (being among "the living" of 1 Pet. 4:5) by the Holy Spirit of life in 1 Peter, see 1:3, 23; 2:2, 5; 3:7, 18-21; and especially 4:6; also cf., e.g., 2 Pet. 1:3; Matt. 8:22; John 5:24-26; Eph. 2:1, 5; and Col. 2:13. The concept of being spiritually dead (without the Spirit), or of being spiritually alive (by the Spirit) is, of course, common in the New Testament.]]
We will continue this study of 1 Pet. 4:1-6 in Part 2 of this paper, starting with 1 Pet. 4:6. We will also discuss 1 Pet. 5:10.
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