Summary: Committed to our faithful Creator
Suffering is a regular part of the Christian life, but we do it with joy because we know that God sees and hears us, and that Christ suffered too, but He’s won victory over all our enemies. Everyone who hates Christ and us will be defeated, and He proved that when He preached to the spirits in prison.
But the victory isn’t over just the wicked people who persecute us. It’s actually much bigger than that:
God crucifies our flesh so we may be dead to sin (:1-6)
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
Compare this to Romans 6:5-11:
If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We’ve died with Christ and have been buried with Him. Even better, we’ve been raised to new life to live with Him and for Him. The life we have is dead to the dominion of sin and alive to the one who gave us life!
Suffering is a reminder of this truth that these bodies are as good as gone, but we’re a new creation, so we live according to the new nature:
3For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles,
In other words, we’re done with that. You’ve wasted enough time doing the will of sin,
when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
The Gentiles sometimes worshiped their gods by getting drunk and basically giving in to every passion. Peter says, you don’t do that anymore, and now you’re persecuted because they think it’s strange. They’re saying, “Why don’t you worship our gods anymore?” But don’t worry. They are those:
5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
God has made us new through Christ’s suffering, so we don’t sin like the world, and they hate us for it, so we’ll suffer personally. But don’t worry about that: God will judge them all.
6For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
This is a hard verse, but here’s how I understand it: in 3:18-21 we saw how Christ preached to the spirits in prison who were disobedient to the truth in the days of Noah. He didn’t preach to try to save them; He proclaimed the victory and that He truly is Lord. Here in chapter four we see that the same message was preached to them that are now dead so that they will rightly be judged according to their works in the flesh, and they will be punished forever in their resurrected bodies: “…judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
For this reason we have no reason to fear or worry about being hated for the sake of righteousness. Instead we wait patiently knowing that,
God empowers us to work and wait for Him (:7-11)
7But the end of all things is at hand:
Suffering seems long, but history is coming to a close.
be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
Have your mind right and have your mind in prayer.
8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
The world will hate us, and that’s never going to change. But we can’t hate each other. Our love for each other wipes out our grudges. We can forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive because God’s love is in us and that how He loves us.
9Use hospitality one to another without grudging.