Summary: Live for the will of God and not for our own sinful pleasures.
“What does God want me to do?” “Why has he put me in this school…in this dorm, this job, this neighborhood?” “I’m surrounded by people who give me a hard time? Why?” “What is it that I am suppose to be doing?”
God’s ways are mysterious, to be sure. And oftentimes, it is difficult to know what his will is for us – what job to take; what major to study; where to live, and so on. There are a number of factors to consider in each decision. On the other hand, God’s general will is actually easy to know, because it applies to all circumstances. We’ve already seen that will expressed in Peter’s principle that he has been presenting in his letter. Do you remember it? Live in response to God, not the world. We will see this same principle again, but this time changed slightly. Now he is saying live for God, not for our sinful pleasures.
Done with Sin 1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
Unfortunately, Peter did not make high marks in grammar, and his writing here is confusing. What do you mean, Peter, arm yourselves also with the same attitude? To suffer is not an attitude; it’s an activity. Do you want us to have an attitude in which we act like we are suffering or that we should desire suffering? And who is “he”? Is “he” Christ who has suffered? But then how could Christ who did not sin be done with sin? Is “he” any Christian who has suffered? If so, how are Christians done with sin when they are still sinners?
Let me rephrase what Peter seems to be saying.
Therefore, since Christ suffered death in his body to remove the guilt of our sin and to overcome its power over us; since he is done with having to deal with sin for us, arm yourselves with the same attitude of being done with sin, so that you do not live the rest of your earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
You get the point. Christ died to deal with sin once and for all. Have the same attitude. Don’t keep hanging on to sin. Don’t try to keep one foot in God’s kingdom and the other in the world. Or let’s use another metaphor. Don’t keep dipping your foot in the pool of sinful pleasures now that you have emerged out of it into the sunlight of the gospel.
Even if we follow the alternative translation of verse one, we end up at the same conclusion. That interpretation reads this way: Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body and is done dealing with sin, arm yourselves with the same attitude, knowing that your own suffering for Christ has “burned the bridges” to living lives for sin. So do not live the rest of your earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
In the first interpretation, Christ has dealt with sin by suffering on our behalf so that we would no longer have to live for sin. He ended sin’s ownership of us. In the second interpretation, Christ’s suffering is an example for us: just has his suffering allowed him to deal with sin, so our suffering allows for us to deal with sin. Peter could be thinking of what he said back in 1:6-7 about the way that our trials refine our faith. I prefer the first interpretation, because Peter seems to be speaking of a once and for all break with sin, which even our sufferings don’t really produce. I can see how Christ’s suffering ended sin’s ownership forever; but I can’t understand how any suffering I go through does the same.
Some commentators interpret the phrase “who has suffered” to mean our mystical identification with the sufferings of Christ, similar to what Paul says in Romans 6:3-4: Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. But if that were true, I don’t understand why Peter specifically adds the phrase “in his body.” Peter means real physical suffering.
But again, whichever interpretation we choose to travel along, we end up at the same destination point – be done with living for sin and be on with living for God.
The contrast Peter makes in verse two is between evil human desires and the will of God. The contrast is not between two desires or two wills. The choice for Christians is to give into demeaning cravings or to choose to follow the good and righteous will of God. I am making an important distinction here. One does not choose lust; one does not choose to follow the will of base cravings; one just gives in. There is no exercise of the will in the sense of weighing alternatives and positively choosing what seems to be the best; one is just carried along by the current of self-gratification; the restraints are simply released.